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Authors: John Jackson Miller

Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory

BOOK: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory
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By John Jackson Miller

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Precipice
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Skyborn
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Savior
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #5: Purgatory
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

2010 Del Rey eBook Edition

Copyright © 2010 by Lucasfilm Ltd. & ® or ™ where indicated. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.

Excerpt from
Star Wars®: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
copyright © 2010 by Lucasfilm Ltd. & ® or ™ where indicated. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Star Wars®: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
by Troy Denning. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

eISBN: 978-0-345-51942-9


Chapter One


Their afternoon began as it always had. The rake fell, gouging orderly grooves into the black mud. Lifting it for another pass, the wielder brought it down again, neatly bisecting the furrows.

Ori Kitai watched from across the hedge. The young farmer went so slowly. The rake, an insubstantial marriage of hejarbo shoots and flinty rocks, nonetheless parted the rich soil with ease. But Jelph of Marisota seemed to be in no hurry—at this, or anything else.

How monotonous it must be
, Ori thought. All day, every day, the man in the straw-brimmed hat tended his duties, with no place to go or friends to see. His homestead sat alone at a bend of the Marisota River, far from most centers of Sith culture on Kesh. Nothing existed upstream but volcanoes and jungle; nothing downriver but the ghost towns of the Ragnos Lakes. It was no life for a human.

“Lady Orielle,” Jelph said, doffing the hat. Sandy hair hung in a long braid outside the collar of his soaked blouse.

“Just Ori,” she said. “I’ve told you a dozen times.”

“And that means a dozen visits,” he said in that strange accent of his. “I’m honored.”

The slender, auburn-haired woman strolled along the hedge, casting sidelong glances at the workman. She didn’t have any reason to hide why she still came here—not with her family’s future about to be assured. Ori could do what she wanted. And yet, as she stepped through the opening onto the gravel path, she felt meek and fifteen again. Not a Sith Saber of the Tribe, a decade older.

Her brown eyes trained on the ground, she chuckled to herself. There was no reason for modesty. Ori wore the black uniform of her office. Jelph wore rags. She’d passed the tests of apprenticeship on the grounds of the palace, along the glorious promenade walked by Grand Lord Korsin more than a millennium earlier. Jelph’s home was a hovel, his holding less a farm than a depot for the fertilized soils he provided the gardeners of the cities.

And yet the man had something she’d never encountered in another human: He had nothing to prove. No one ever looked directly at her in Tahv. Not really. People always had one eye on what the conversation could mean for them, on how her mother could help them. Jelph had no thoughts of advancement.

What good would such thoughts be to a slave?

Setting down the rake, Jelph stepped from the mud and pulled a towel from his belt. “I know why you’re here,” he said, wiping his hands, “but not why you’re here
. What’s the big occasion this time?”

“Donellan’s Day.”

Jelph looked blankly at her. “That one of your Sith holidays?”

Ori tilted her head as she followed him around the hut. “You were Sith once, too, you know.”

“That’s what they tell me,” he said, pitching the
towel away. It landed in a bucket on the ground, out of his sight. “I’m afraid we don’t cultivate much ancestral memory out in the hinterlands.”

Ori smiled. He was so learned, for a lesser. Jelph cultivated plenty, out of sight of the trail where she’d left her uvak to graze until she was ready to fly again. Behind the house, past the small mountains of river clay he traded with the Keshiri, he kept six trellises of the most beautiful dalsa flowers she’d ever seen. Like the hut and rake, the trellises were made from lashed-together hejarbo shoots—and yet they made for a display that rivaled the horticultural wonders of the High Seat. Here, behind a slave’s quarters in the middle of nowhere.

Taking the crystal blade she offered, the hazel-eyed farmer started cutting the specimens she selected. As usual, they’d decorate the urns on her mother’s balcony at the revels.

“So your event. What is it?” Pausing, he looked down at her. “If you want to tell me, that is.”

“Nida Korsin’s firstborn was born a thousand years ago tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Jelph said, trimming. “Did he become Grand Lord or something?”

She smirked. “Oh, no.” The reign of Nida Korsin had initiated a robust, glorious age for the Sith, she explained. Donellan knew that his father, the Lord Consort, would be put to death on Nida’s passing. That was in Yaru Korsin’s will. But he’d waited too long to make his move. Nida’s only son had died an old man, waiting for his chance to rise to power. It was the end of a dynastic system; following his passing, heirless Nida had instituted succession based on merit.

“So this guy failed, and he has his own day?”

The Sith liked the message of Donellan’s story, she told him. Many Sith were patient about engineering
their ascensions, but it was possible to be too patient. “Donellan’s Day is also called the Day of the Dispossessed. And think about it,” she said, admiring his muscled arms through the slit sleeves. “Has the Tribe ever really
a cause for a celebration?”

He laughed once, a throaty chuckle that made Ori smile. “No, I guess not,” he said. “At least it keeps people in my line of work busy.”

The seven High Lords were always trying to outdo one another in decorating their boxes at the games. Taking the design of her mother’s booth into her own hands eight months earlier, Ori had learned about Jelph and his secret garden from one of the Keshiri florists of Tahv—if indirectly. Sensing a lie when the Keshiri claimed that the flowers were his own, Ori followed him on her uvak one day. The flying beasts still forbidden to the Keshiri, the florist had traveled on foot to meet a caravan of carts bringing fertilizer from the Marisota. She found Jelph—and had found him again many times since, except when he was away on his raft, up in the jungle.

The jungle
. Ori looked over the trellis to the green hills, climbing away to the smoldering peaks of the east. Even the Tribe didn’t go up into that tangle of underbrush and overhanging foliage. “No sane person
go there,” Jelph had said. But what he brought back on his little barge was the secret to his horticultural success—and the successes of all his customers along the line. “By the time the runoff comes downstream,” he’d explained once, digging his hands into a mound of soil, “a lot of the nutrients are gone.” Ori had lain awake nights imagining the man waist-deep in a dark mountain stream, shoveling muck into his flatboat.

Silliness. A hedonistic excess. But she was Sith, wasn’t she? Who else should she please?

Kneeling, he arranged the cuttings neatly upon a cloth draped across the ground. Large, dirt-stained hands worked with surprising gentleness, prying away the buds that had come to nothing. Jelph looked at her keenly. “You know, I can give you the names of my customers closer to Tahv. They’re growing their plants in the same dirt.”

“Yours are better,” she said. That much was true. Perhaps the flowers simply grew better in air closer to their native soil. Maybe it was the workmanship of a human, rather than a Keshiri.

Or maybe it was
human. When she’d met him, she’d imagined Jelph had only recently become a slave. No laborer she’d met, human or Keshiri, had his vocabulary. He must have
someone before, back in the Sith cities. But he’d answered without hesitation: “I’m nobody. I never
anybody, before you.” He’d been born into slavery, and there he’d stay. He, and whatever children he might ever have.

The human slave class had developed soon after the Korsin line ended. While many of
’s descendants were Force-sensitive, those who weren’t had formed their own layer of society beneath those who served the Grand Lord. Free members of the Tribe, this yeomanry helped to keep the Keshiri, who stood at the very bottom, productive. But when any Sith citizen stood condemned by a Lord, birthright could be lost forever. Jelph of Marisota had no surname because his father had none to give. He was better than a Keshiri—she’d
let one of the purple-skinned serfs call her by her first name—but only because he was human, not because he was Sith. Jelph owed fealty and service to the Sith, should they want it, but only Ori had ever prevailed upon him directly for anything.

Such a waste
, she thought, admiring both worker and workmanship. “You know, my mother’s a High Lord.”

“You’ve mentioned it.”

“She’s powerful, but the traditions are so strong,” she said. “It’s a shame there isn’t some kind of path for you to get back in.”

“I never
in,” he said. “And what would I do in Tahv? I’d hardly fit with your beautiful people.” Looking up at her, he winked. In the sunlight, she could see the long, ruddy scar running from his right cheek down his neck. She’d sometimes imagined it as being from some great battle, rather than some farm accident, years ago. But he was right. Even if he had his name, his disfigurement would make him an ill fit for the Tribe.

Jelph stood abruptly.

going to roll those up,” she said, eyes darting between him and the flowers.

“Actually, I have something for you,” he said, pointing a thumb behind him. “In honor of your Day of Dispossession.”

“That’s ‘Dispossessed.’ ”

“Begging your pardon.” He led her farther into the farm than she’d been before, past the mounds to a structure she’d seen only from the sky. Situated near the riverbank, the hut was larger than his dwelling and twice the height.

Ori blanched. “What’s back there? It stinks!”

“Manure usually does. Uvak are pretty rank,” he said, approaching the barred door. Once a stable for a previous occupant who could own uvak, now it provided him a wind-free place to store the loads of dung he needed for mixing his soil. “You don’t want to be around when I have that stuff carted in.” He opened the door.

isn’t your gift to me,” she said, squinting and covering her nose.

“Surely not.” He reached inside the doorway to
retrieve a strange-looking yoke. “It’s something I was working on. I lengthened some waterskins and attached them to part of an uvak harness.” Balancing the center straps on his hands, he showed her how the long pouches hung to either side. “You’ve always had to fly the dalsas back in a moist cloth. With these, you can carry them straight—and you won’t be soaked when you get home.”

Ori opened her eyes wide, even as he shut the door to the rancid place. “You made that for me?”

Jelph looked around. “Hmm. I don’t see the Grand Lord here today, so … sure. I guess it’s for you.”

BOOK: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory
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