The fight against the Nihil continues, and the galaxy slips further away from the peaceful hopes of both the Republic and the Jedi. Keeve Trennis and Terec have infiltrated the Nihil ranks, but find themselves at a crossroads. How far will they go to convince the Nihil of their cover? And with the return of the Nihil’s most dreaded leaders, the Jedi will be tested within the Nihil and across the stars. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Writer Cavan Scott is never afraid to push his characters to the absolute limits, no matter how unpleasant those may be. Here, he places the role of torturer in front of Keeve and Terec, who must accept if they’re to mantain a convincing cover within the Nihil. Keeve does the mental gymnastics of how far her mandate should go, and whether Avar Kriss calculated this dark path would be placed in front of them. Not only would they be engaging in some terrible things, it would be directed against Myarga the Hutt, a recent ally. Instead of addressing the moral dilemma, Keeve buys them some time by detonating a barrel of unstable fuel nearby. Keeve proposes the Hutt isn’t worth their time and they just kill her later, delaying the situation.
On the other side of the galaxy, Avar and Ceret monitor the situation. Avar doesn’t need to use her notable Force ability of strengthening bonds between Jedi, as Ceret and Terec share a mind in the Force. Ceret interprets Terec’s experiences, but they can’t specifically say what is happening. As the two Jedi evaluate how they can be of aid, Sskeer continues confronting his diminished abilities in the Force. We’ve watched the Jedi Master struggle, and it’s only getting worse for him. While barely able to lift a lightsaber through the Force, an incoming message from Starlight Beacon suggests there may be an answer.
The rest of the Nihil aren’t waiting for Keeve and Terec to come around. Setting the Hutt up for a slow and painful death, they begin shock treatment, despite the Jedi’s attempts to stop it. The two of them try to come up with a plan, but realize the Hutt knows who they are and isn’t going to keep quiet to protect them. Eventually, at the edge of agony, Myarga gives them up.
The Jedi don’t bother maintaining their cover, likely anxious to get out of the wicked games the Nihil play. Bringing their weapons out, the fight isn’t as easy. Myarga is still being tortured, and the Hutt’s pain sends powerful tremors through the Force, hindering the Jedi’s abilities. Keeve and Terec do their best, holding back the horde, but just as they think they might succeed, an adversary they never expected arrives:
Lourna Dee lives! Well, if you’ve been keeping up on your High Republic stories, she’s been alive for some time. Cavan Scott’s audio drama Tempest Runner details how Lourna survived and found her way back to the Nihil, but all you need to know is she’s stronger and fiercer than she’s ever been — if you’re curious about Tempest Runner, check out our review and discussions. Even Avar and Ceret are shaken across the galaxy by her arrival. And Lourna isn’t just making a surprise entrance; she’s brought a weapon we’ve seen do some terrible things.
It’s not stated but we are likely seeing the Leveler, a creature unleashed by Marchion Ro in The Rising Storm. Though we don’t know exactly what the Leveler is or much of the story behind it, Ro fetched this creature from a shrine on his home world, and it’s capable of doing terrible things to the Jedi. At the end of The Rising Storm, we see it turn a Jedi Master to stone while leaving their apprentice in a state of madness. And it appears to be doing the same thing here, while across the galaxy we see Ceret slowly turning to stone and Keeve coming undone.
The Jedi are in trouble, and now Avar is seeing firsthand how deadly the arsenal of the Nihil truly is.
Wow, lots of big stuff in this issue, which certainly changes things. We’re heading toward a new set of novels this January, concluding this period of The High Republic. Cavan Scott isn’t going to let these characters go out quietly, whether they are Jedi or Nihil. When Lourna Dee gets involved, things get real very fast. Avar and Ceret are on their way to help, but it’s not looking good for anyone. The art by Georges Jeanty and Carlos Lopez adds to the horrific undercurrents of this dark issue. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next issue, hoping at least a few of our Jedi come out of this okay.