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Discovering the History of the Star Wars EU: Dawn of the Jedi

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As has been overstated to the point of nausea, I’m a Star Wars fan. From the moment I first watched The Return of the Jedi, I was hooked. [It took a few years and much maturing to finally realize that it was actually The Empire Strikes Back that had the most significant impact on me.] I remember perusing through my grade school library in Wheatland, Wisconsin and finding a copy of Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers. It wouldn’t be until many years later–around the time of my Junior year in high school–that I’d read the novel, but finding the book sitting in the small alcove was my first hint of the world beyond George Lucas’ movie franchise. Fast-forward to high school. There I was, dorky kid spending his free time in the library. Absorbing books almost through osmosis, turning pages minutes beyond the bell signaling study hall had given way to AP Psychology or some other class I dreaded sitting through, I found my nook in the teenage society. There were others, too. I wasn’t alone. I met my core group of high school friends while reading  Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. We could blend with any group, though we preferred our own. We had our own culture, our own language. Where others called Shotgun, we’d call Chewie! [Yes, we actually did that.] We spent what little money we had on Star Wars miniature tabletop figures from Target, sometimes making multiple trips to various stores in the same day. We knew the Force Unleashed line with the Rancor would feel heavier than the rest, but we just needed to find it. My closest high school friend turned out to be a Star Wars geek on a level I’d never imagined. While I could hold my own for the general discussions, his time in the galaxy far, far away surpassed my own, his knowledge Parsecs beyond mine. The divide is what urged me to learn more, read the next novel, watch the movies one more time. I’d get there eventually. Fast-forward again, this time to today. I’ve read something like sixty Star Wars novels, and spent more time than I probably should in the universe. But I’m still not caught up. There are times when I step away from the world of Stormtroopers and Jedi, but I always come back. The world works in ebbs and flows. I always told myself that after I finished the novels through Crucible by Troy Denning (set 45 years after the Battle of Yavin, BBY) I would go back to the beginning and read through everything I missed or skipped. As much as I hated to see the Star Wars Expanded Universe shut off when the rights went to Disney, effectively retconing the novel into their own “Legends” continuity, it also gave me a chance to catch up. I finally knew just how many books it would take me before I completed my journey. I finally had an end-point. So now I’m back at the beginning, and this time I’m going to include a whole slew of stories I left out during my first pass: the comics. I purposefully neglected the comics in the past because the novels seemed like such a daunting feat on their own, but this time I’m not holding back. I want to know all the stories. I want to learn all the history. [Caution: Hyperbole. I will NOT be reading every single Star Wars comic book ever written. That is just not going to happen.] I’ll be discussing some of the comics series I read through, but I’ll also mention some of the novels along the way. For a complete list of the novels. [Note: If a novel and a comic series take place during the same time period, I’ve chosen to read the novel first.] I left Luke, Leia, and Han, I left their children and the generations of characters existing beyond the Yuuzhan Vong, beyond Darth Caedus, beyond Abeloth, and I found the Je’daii Order. Journey back to 36,453 BBY. Mysterious pyramid crafts called Tho Yor travelled through the galaxy and gathered Force-sensitive beings from various planets. The Tho Yor eventually brought their cargo to Tython, a planet strong in the Force, located in an uninhabited section of the galaxy. There the Force-adept beings unified themselves into the Je’daii Order, constructing temples where each of the Tho Yor rested on the planet. (Their name comes from the Dai Bendu words Je, meaning mystic, and daii, meaning center.) These temples welcomed those interested in learning a specific aspect of the Force, such as healing, alchemy, combat, meditation, arts, etc. Instead of Light versus Dark, the Je’daii strived for a balance between the two. They based these aspects off of Tython’s two moons, Ashla (light) and Bogan (dark). If the order as a whole swayed too far one way or the other, Force storms erupted across the planet. Individuals relying too much on Light or Dark were sent to one of the moons to meditate on the other, seeking balance within themselves once again. Throughout the ages, those not strong in the Force left for the other planets in the Tythos system, as Tython is extremely dangerous to them. This is also before Hyperspace travel was available throughout the galaxy. Those in the Tythos system are essentially barred from the rest of the galaxy. The first novel (Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon) and comics series (Dawn of the Jedi by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema) come in at 25,793 BBY. The time after the Tho Yor arrive on Tython has been mostly peaceful for the Tythans, save for the uprising of Queen Hadiya that began the Despot War in 25,805 BBY. Queen Hadiya attempted to united the crime bosses on Shikaakwa and use them to help her take over the star system. By the time the war made it to Tython, the queen had no chance of success. Struck down by the Je’daii Ranger Daegen Lok, a spy among her ranks, Queen Hadiya’s forces disbanded and the war ended. Whereas the novel sticks within the Tythos system, following a Je’daii Ranger named Lanoree whose mission is to stop her brother from setting off a bomb that he thinks would allow Tythans to travel outside of the their system but may instead destroy everything, the comics series ventures beyond. Set in the parts of the galaxy we’ve all become familiar with thanks to the movies and television shows, the Rakatan Infinite Empire reigns. The Rakatan species, capable of using the Force, are a lot like the old-school Sith. They travel throughout the galaxy, enslaving those too weak to fight back. They specifically seek out worlds strong in the Force using their Hounds to sniff out suitable planets. Unfortunately for them, they are losing their Force abilities for some reason. Ostrander and Duursema’s three volume Dawn of the Jedi series is the story of the Rakatan Infinite Empire finding and attempting to conquer Tython and the Je’daii Order.

Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm

Volume one brings Xesh, Predor Tul’kar’s Force Hound, to Tython by order of Tul’kar’s overlord Predor Skal’nas. Skal’nas’ own Hound, Trill, has been unable to find the planet, but Xesh finds it easily enough. Travelling in the Devourer, Xesh and his Predor master make it to the Je’daii world. However, just before arrival the ship explodes, killing Tul’kar. Xesh makes it planet-side by escaping the wreckage in an escape pod. His arrival sparks a Force Storm because his Dark side powers skews Tython’s balance, and sends a vision to three Je’daii Journeyers, Shae Koda, Sek’nos Rath, and Tasha Ryo. Once children on Tython reach a certain age, they set out to train at the various temples. During this time, they are known as Journeyers. Daegen Lok also has the vision of Xesh. We learn the reason later, but Lok, hero of the Despot War, is currently serving his seventeenth year on the dark moon Bogan, and he is known as the mad Je’daii. The Journeyers promptly drop their studies and follow the Force, which leads them into the savage lands of Tython and exactly where Xesh lands. This first volume essentially forms the bonds between the Journeyers and Xesh. Their relationship begins first as rocky–Xesh is trying to kill them after all–but eventually through seeing the Je’daii’s selfless ways, the Force Hound comes to realize that the Je’daii may not be the cruel beings his Rakatan masters claimed them to be. Though the Journeyers and Xesh make amends, the Je’daii Council still considers Xesh a threat. Despite the pleas against their decision, they exile Xesh to Bogan. Also of note, this story is set before the iconic lightsaber. During this time, guns and swords are used instead. The closest weapon we see to the lightsaber is the forcesaber used by the hounds, activated through channeling the Dark Side.

Dawn of the Jedi: The Prisoner of Bogan

The second volume aligns Xesh’s story with Daegen Lok’s on the dark moon of Bogan. Lok is searching for a way off of the moon and knows from a past vision, the same vision that landed him in exile to begin with, that Xesh is his ticket off. There is a Chasm on Tython that no Je’daii may enter. Those who venture within are said to be driven insane by the vision they see. Lok made the attempt years ago with fellow Je’daii Ranger, Hawk Ryo. After warning the council of what he had seen, Lok is deemed insane. Lok turns to Ryo to confirm his vision, but Ryo dismissed the validity of the vision. Lok, who warned of the Rakatan Infinite Empire’s eventual arrival, was sent to and essentially left to rot on Bogan. So when he sees Xesh and learns of the forcesaber, parts of his vision, he knows he was right all along. Lok shows Xesh a downed ship he has been working on fixing, but he does not have a power source to start it. Using his Force energy, Xesh starts the ship, and together they flee the moon. Lok knows the Rakatan are coming, and he must prepare. His plan: build more forcesabers and unite the same criminal bosses Queen Hadiya did during the Despot War to fight off the coming invaders. Of course, the Je’daii do not believe Lok, and instead of aiding him in preparing, the Masters, Rangers, and Jouneyers attempt to stop him. During this time, Predor Skal’nas sends Trill, his Force Hound, to find Xesh. But when the two Hounds meet, Xesh does not recognize her. Through back story, we learn that Skal’nas has blocked Xesh’s memory. Him not remembering her allows Trill to infiltrate the Je’daii Order, and thus lead her Predor to Tython. Also of note, one of the Journeyers is given a holocron to study. A’nang, a Kwa, has recorded his knowledge into the device to explain how the Rakata came into such power. The Kwa built Infinity Gates, allowing beings to travel across the galaxy. During their Infinity travels, the Kwa came to Lehon, home to the Rakata. The Kwa gave them advanced technology, which they quickly learned was a mistake. Though the Rakata were strong in the Force, they channeled the Dark Side. Eventually, they craved the Infinity Gates. The Rakata went to war with the Kwa. The Kwa lost, but not before they were able to destroy a majority of the gates. The reason Skal’nas is interested in Tython is because he believe there to be a hidden Infinity Gate at the bottom of the Chasm that will help reverse the Rakata’s from losing their Force abilities.

Dawn of the Jedi: Force War

One year has passed, and the Rakatan Empire has made it to the Tythos system. Overpowering the under-prepared Tythans, the Rakata conquer many of the system’s planets. With the help of Xesh, the Je’daii have created a great many Forcesabers to use against the enemy; however, since the weapon is powered by the Dark Side, evil begins to seep into the Je’daii ranks. Understanding that Daegen Lok was right all along, the council has revoked his exile and named him a general in the war. Many other Rakata have since joined the battle, one being Sub-Predor Ceh’let. Ceh’let leads her forces, an army of Flesh Raiders, in a siege on the planet Shikaakwa. Luckily, the Je’daii foresaw the assault and were able to plan ahead. Xesh is able to defeat the Flesh Raiders, but is outmatched against another Force Hound. Predor Skal’nas kills Ceh’let when she questions his abilities to lead the Rakatan Empire. Xesh also learns that Predor Skal’nas had affected his mind, causing him turn on his own master, Tul’kar. The Devourer crash-landing into Tython was no mistake, as it was the hound who sabotaged the starship. Skal’nas used Xesh to remove a potential threat against his leadership. The fight comes to Tython and deep within the Chasm, where they find the Infinity Gate. Using the Tho Yor, which the Je’daii discover are also weapons of great strength, they are able to destroy the Rakata invaders. Though the invasion on Tython was foiled, the Infinite Empire continued to rule until its collapse in 25,200 BBY (as is explained in later stories). As I’m sure you have noticed, I’ve skipped over many of the character beats from these stories. My goal is to use the stories as a springboard to delve into the Star Wars history. This is a lot of information to take in, so I encourage readers to pick up a copy the three volumes. While it does a great job of fleshing out a period that was relatively untouched prior, the actual story used to showcase the history is a lot of fun to read. Here is a timeline of all the comics and novels I’ve mentioned. This will be cumulative. I’m also adding several reference points to give readers a clearer understanding of when I’m discussing. BBY=Before the Battle of Yavin (destruction of the first Death Star). ABY=After the Battle of Yavin