Read an Excerpt
It was a huge pit: easily thirty meters deep and almost a kilometer across. Mighty columns stretched up into the sky, reaching for the planet that hung in the blackness like an overripe fruit about to fall. Around her on the ground were a number of ships, some secured in their birthing bays by restraining carapaces, others just lying on the ground in various stages of disrepair and decay.
She knew the place to be an old spaceport—one that was both comfortingly familiar and disconcertingly alien.
She wanted to climb into one of the derelict spaceships and fly off to the planet up above—for she knew that here,
at least, she might be safe—but the dilapidated condition of the ships told her that this simply wasn’t an option.
The spaceport and all its craft had lain unused for many years. It was abandoned, just like the world beneath her feet—as abandoned as she felt herself to be.
Someone was standing behind her. She turned, startled,
and found herself staring at a distant reflection of herself. Only it wasn’t her at all. This person had scars across her forehead. Reaching up, she realized she didn’t carry any such scars. The only scars she carried were the ones on her arms, and they felt completely different. Her reflection’s scars stood out boldly, proudly, and had been carved into the flesh with purpose. Hers, on the other hand, were a product of anger and an intense desire to remove something she’d thought she had seen lurking beneath her skin . . .
“There’s nowhere left to run,” the ghostly reflection said.
In the distance came the howl of the lizard beast.
“Not for you, either,” she pointed out.
Despite obvious effort to hide it, there was fear behind the reflection’s gaze.
“Why do you want to hurt me?” she asked it.
“Because you want to hurt me.”
“I want to be left alone! I want only to be free!”
“As do I.”
“But I belong here!”
The reflection surveyed their surroundings, then faced her again. “As do I.”
The howl of the creature sounded again, louder this time, and closer.
“It can smell us,” the reflection said. “It can smell my fear, and it can smell your guilt.”
“I have nothing to feel guilty for.”
“No, you don’t. And yet there it is, nonetheless.”
She looked into herself, then, and saw the guilt of which the reflection spoke. It had always been there, she knew; she just hadn’t wanted to see it. But now the amorphous and neglected emotion took shape, forming into words that rose in her thoughts, in her throat, finally demanding release:
Why am I alive when the one I love is dead?
And with this came a deafening roar from the lizard creature. It was a roar of anger, of remorse, and of regret;
it was a bellow whose echo called back to her out of the dark over and over again, fading each time until it be-came little more than a far-off whisper, a distant speck in the dark . . .
Tahiri . . . Tahiri . . .
The hand shaking her shoulder did more to dispel the dream than the sound of her own name being spoken.
She blinked, then looked around vaguely at her surroundings.
The walls so close around her seemed small in comparison to the dreamscape she’d just left—so much more restricting.
“Come on, kid—snap out of it.”
Han’s voice was rough and hard, like the hands shaking her. She looked at him through tear-stained eyes and saw his worried and fatigued expression. Leia stepped between them, her gentle features smiling reassuringly at
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m awake,” the girl mumbled hazily. Then, realizing she hadn’t answered the question, she nodded and added: “I think I’m all right.”
Her head was pounding, and the harsh light felt like a naked sun burning into her eyes. She winced, blinking back more tears as she tried to sit up. She felt strange,
confused—and this confusion was only magnified when she saw where she was: lying on the bed in Han and
“What happened?” she asked. Even as she spoke the words, she knew the answer: the same thing that happened before, on Galantos and elsewhere. The illusion of ignorance was her only defense. “What am I doing here?”
“You don’t remember?” Leia asked.
Both of Anakin’s parents were standing over her,
dressed in their night robes.
“I—” she started. How could she tell them the truth when she herself wasn’t even sure what it was? “I was looking for something.”
Leia held out the silver pendant. Its many-tentacled,
snarling visage seemed to mock her from its cradle of soft, human flesh. “You were looking for this, weren’t you?”
Tahiri nodded, embarrassed. “It—it calls to me. It reminds me of . . .” She trailed off, unable to put what she was feeling into words.
“Of who you are?” Leia suggested.
The words seemed to stab a sharp pain in her mind, to which she responded with anger. “I know who I am! I’m
Leia crouched down beside the bed to look up into the girl’s face. Tahiri didn’t want to meet her eyes, but the
Princess was hard to resist. “Are you?” she asked in a low, searching tone. “You don’t seem like the Tahiri I
“What are you talking about, Leia?” Han said, looking equal parts exasperated and tired. “What exactly is going on here?”
“Sometimes I think we forget what happened to her on
Yavin Four, Han.” Leia kept her warm, reassuring eyes on Tahiri as she spoke. Then she stood and addressed her husband fully. “The Yuuzhan Vong did something terrible to her while she was in their hands—something we can’t even begin to understand. They tried to turn her into something other than human. You don’t just get over that easily. It takes time.”
“But I thought she was given the okay. Wasn’t that why she was invited to join us on this mission?”
The two kept talking, but Tahiri had stopped listening.
Although he probably didn’t mean it, there was a suggestion of mistrust in Han’s words that was hurtful to her,
and for a brief moment she felt overwhelmed by grief—a grief that was exacerbated by the way Anakin’s parents kept talking about her in the third person, as if she weren’t even there. It made her feel strangely removed from what was taking place around her . . .
“I wasn’t asleep,” Leia was saying to Han in response to something he’d said. “Jaina told me what Jag found on Galantos; I was expecting Tahiri to come for it. That’s why I instructed Cakhmain and Meewalh to stay out of sight—to let Tahiri come for the pendant.”
As she said this, Leia gestured off to one side, and for the first time, Tahiri noticed the Princess’s Noghri guards standing there.
Han sighed. “I still would have preferred it if you’d told me what was going on.”
“There was no need, Han. I wanted to see what would happen.”
“So what’s causing this?” he asked. “You think it might be Anakin?”
Leia shook her head. “It’s more than that; much more.
She’s hiding something—from herself as well as everyone else.”
The accusation stabbed at Tahiri’s heart, making her jump to her feet. “How can you say that?” she cried,
taking a step forward. But a single step was all she managed before Cakhmain moved to stop her, taking Tahiri by the shoulders to hold her back from Leia. She wriggled in his slender hands but couldn’t break free. “I would never hurt either of you! You’re—” She stopped, remembering
Jacen’s note back on Mon Calamari. “You’re my
Han stepped over to her, then, taking her hands. “Hey,
take it easy, kid.” He wiped at the fresh tears on her cheek with the back of his hand. “No one’s accusing you of anything, Tahiri. Just relax, okay?”
She did so, feeling oddly calmed by the large man’s rough but friendly voice. She saw Leia motion to her
Noghri guard, who immediately released Tahiri and retreated to the shadows.
Leia came forward. “I’m sorry, Tahiri. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Tahiri didn’t know what to say—she felt foolish and ashamed at her outburst—so in the end just nodded her acceptance of the Princess’s apology and said nothing.
“Tell me, though, Tahiri,” Leia said. “Do you have
any idea what’s been going on in your head these last couple of years?”
“I-I—sometimes I black out,” Tahiri stammered awkwardly.
“I have these . . . dreams that—”
“That tell you you’re somebody else?” Leia offered.
This brought her up defensive again. “My name is
Tahiri Veila! That’s who I am!”
Leia took Tahiri’s shoulders in her hands and looked the girl in the face with her penetrating brown eyes. “I know this isn’t easy, Tahiri. But you must try to understand. I
want you to think back to just before you blacked out.
Do you remember what I said to you?”
Tahiri thought about this. “You called my name.”
Leia looked over to Han.
“What?” Tahiri said, angered by the almost conspiratorial looks being exchanged between them. “You did
call my name! I heard you!”
Sympathy shimmered in Leia’s eyes. “I didn’t call you by your name, Tahiri. I called you Riina.”
A feeling as cold as ice spread across Tahiri’s shoulders and ran down her back in a horrible, clammy rush. At the same time, a terrible blackness rose up in her mind,
threatening to engulf her. “No,” she mumbled, shaking her head slowly and fighting the feeling. “That’s not true.”
“It is true, Tahiri. Before, when you blacked out, you were shouting at me in Yuuzhan Vong. You were calling me something that not even Threepio could understand.
You weren’t Tahiri, then.” She paused uncomfortably before pronouncing the terrible truth. “You were Riina of Domain Kwaad, the personality that Mezhan Kwaad tried to turn you into. Somehow, the Riina personality is still inside you.”
Tahiri shook her head again, more vigorously this time,
wanting to deny the spreading darkness as much as the words themselves. “It—it can’t be true. It just can’t be!”
“It is, Tahiri,” Leia said. “Believe me. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner we can start doing—”
“No!” Tahiri screamed in a pitch that surprised her-self as much as it obviously did Leia, who took a step back at the outburst.
As though a dam had burst, she was suddenly in motion.
With the full strength of the Force flowing through her, fueled by her desperation and her need to escape, she snatched the pendant as she pushed past Leia and Han and headed for the door—too quick for even Cakhmain to grab her. C-3PO was standing on the other side of the door when she went through, but she didn’t even give him time to utter a single word of objection; she just shoved him aside as hard as she could, throwing the golden droid clean off his feet and into the wall. Then she was through the door and out of the suite, running as if her very life depended on it.
She saw nothing but corridors flashing by, and could feel nothing but the cool pendant of Yun-Yammka against her palm, grinning in vile satisfaction.
And somewhere beyond the sound of her own sobbing,
she could hear a name being called. That she couldn’t be sure the name even belonged to her made her cry that much harder, and run that much faster.