Hello and thanks for reading.
I’m not making this up. Like with my Old Republic story Darker, the basic plot of this tale is taken entirely from Legends canon. Basically, all the backstory details of Chapter 5 and elsewhere are true to canon. Revan was indeed both a hero and a villain, the three-time (!!) savior of the Republic and a traitor to the Jedi. He is a fascinating character. I will simplify things quite a bit for my plot, as I did with the Battle of Coruscant in Darker. There are just too many twists and turns in the official tale that seem created for a videogame conflict set piece. But the main thrust of my version will be true to the same conflicts as the canon version. Malak does indeed ambush the Endar Spire over Taris looking for Bastila Shan. Revan escapes in a bridge escape pod. Malak does indeed capture Bastila, although that does not happen on the Endar Spire cruiser. I’m skipping a lot in the middle that includes Revan’s retraining as a Jedi and the search for maps to the Star Forge. None of that seems necessary for Revan once his identity is revealed by Malak and his memory comes back.
The diagonal scars on Revan’s cheeks are burn marks from when Vitiate fried him with Force lightning while he was wearing his mask. It literally burns the imprint of Revan the Crusader Jedi into his skin. Gruesome, yes. But symbolic of the man that Revan is—even as a Sith, he’s a bit Jedi and it shows plainly on his face. When Revan is ‘born again’ as Private Evan Chist in my story, everyone wants to erase those marks like they want to erase the memory of the man they represent.
Masks are a big thing in Star Wars. From the bad guys Vader, Ren, and Phasma to the good guys like Revan, Enfys Nest, and Leia disguised as a bounty hunter in ROTJ, the putting on or removing of a mask matters. We put on disguises for the world to see for a reason, but they are rarely the whole story of who we are. The idea of removing a mask to reveal your true self is rampant in Star Wars. What’s neat about Revan’s mask is that even when he takes it off, its vestiges remain.
Masks also symbolize suffering and hurt in Star Wars, and the Old Republic bad guys are not immune from this trope. The half-mask Malak wears is because he lost his jaw and lower face to Revan’s lightsaber in a fight between the two Dark lords. Malak had begun to chafe in the shadow of Revan once they turned Dark and lots of conflict ensued, culminating in Malak’s attempt to kill Revan by firing on the bridge of his flagship. More on that conflict to come in Part Two. It is, of course, a time-honored tradition for the apprentice to attempt to supplant his Dark master. Malak’s great injury comes at the hands of his beloved brother—making it even more of a betrayal. The injury also helps visually complete the transformation between the Jedi Alek and the Sith Malak. Note that when Malak meets Revan again in Chapter 8 he offers him equality in their joint Empire—Malak is done being the apprentice.
There are different versions of Revan in the source materials, and I prefer the ambiguous version. In his original iteration, Revan is a man who is a Jedi but not a Jedi, and who is later a Sith but not a Sith. He sort of straddles the Dark and the Light by accident because he doesn’t really belong in either camp. The official canon book that addresses Revan (which I have not read and do not plan to read) apparently makes things a bit more definitive. You’re all good . . . until you’re all bad. It’s a bit simplistic. I like this guy as an enigma. My Sith Lords always have decent qualities to temper their evil ways—they are never completely bad. But none are like Revan. This guy really exists in the middle. Revan is the only character I know of in the SW universe who is able to move back and forth between using the Light Side and using the Dark Side. (In my fan fic universe, Kylo Ren manages this at the end of The Chosen One and it is the culmination of the story—the teenaged son Kylo thought would be the Chosen One has in fact gone very Dark and Kylo himself becomes the prophet of balance.) The really interesting part is that Revan never sets out for balance and he really has no concept of it in mind. But through his life experiences, he gets there all the same.
Alek—later Malak—was Revan’s closest friend from their Padawan days together. Revan was considered the stronger of the two men in the Force and the more eloquent spokesman for the cause. Revan took the role as the lead strategist for the Crusaders. But loyal Malak was with him all the way, even confronting Vitiate at Revan’s side. Malak gained a reputation as a brutal and reckless warrior in battle. Physically, Malak was a giant among men, muscled and very accomplished in battle. If Revan was the brains of the Crusaders, Malak was the brawn. In my version, Malak begins as something of a gentle giant. He’s a man whose imposing size suggests a domineering personality he does not naturally possess. Malak is the side kick—a committed follower, not a leader in his own right. After the Mandalorian War ends, Malak follows Revan into Darkness and becomes Darth Malak. Mostly because Malak does everything his buddy does.
I like the idea of Revan and Malak calling each other brothers. That’s partly because I like to write the Sith in a family context and also because I like the idea of the Revanchists seeking to recreate among their membership the family attachments that were forbidden to them. When the Crusaders rebel against the Jedi Council, they do it in both big and little ways. I envision a true esprit de corps among the Revanchists. They had to have had a tight knit identity to do what they dared. It’s no small thing to defy the Jedi Council.
In Legends canon, Bastila Shan is a Padawan sent along with a Jedi strike team to capture Malak and Revan. She’s there because she has the rare talent of Jedi battle meditation that allows her to strengthen her allies and demoralize her enemies using the Force. Bastila is the sole survivor of the effort when Malak fires on the bridge of the cruiser the strike team is on while confronting Revan. That day, Bastila saves Revan, a Force bond is formed, and Bastila takes Revan to the Jedi Council. The Jedi Council has the brilliant idea to wipe Revan’s mind using the Force. They dupe him into believing he is a regular Republic army member. Until, of course, Revan starts to remember. Bastila gets assigned to look after Revan and together they try to locate the Star Forge Dark Side weapons factory.
If Bastila is a Padawan, that makes her very young—early twenties at most. I kicked her age back a few years (she’s still a Padawan because she hasn’t taken the Jedi trials) because the age and life experience difference between her and Revan is huge. Revan is in his late thirties at this point. Almost literally twice Bastila’s age if she’s a regular Padawan. I think that age gap is too much. At age 20-22, a guy who’s almost 40 is more like a father/uncle figure than a love interest, if you ask me. (And this is coming from a woman with a husband several years her senior).
The idea to make Bastila an empath came from the Aryn Leneer character who meets Darth Malgus in canon and at the end of Darker. Aryn is something of an emotional Jedi, which leads her to seek revenge for her Jedi Master’s killing at the hands of Malgus. Ultimately, that act gets Aryn thrown out of the Jedi Order. I liked the idea of certain Jedi being less emotionally repressed than others, and I wanted to make Bastila one of those. It made her seem more empathetic in my mind. It also seems to fit with her unique battle meditation talent.
The concept of Bastila working as a Jedi Sentinel in criminal investigation is my gloss. I love to envision the Jedi Order as encompassing all sorts of Force talents and professional skills. I want to see the Jedi as more than just warrior monks, and I think that’s appropriate given their stated desire to use the Force for knowledge and defense. I also love the idea of Jedi using the Force for more than fighting and war, whether it’s Snoke’s Jedi love Shan Damask who is a Jedi archivist and researcher, the Force healing versions of Rey from my Reylo tales, or Bastila Shan here helping to solve crimes and prosecute criminals. Those characters further the cause of knowledge and justice without killing people. It’s a pet peeve of mine to want to see heroes--especially female heroes--who do more than physically fight. There are many ways for a person to be an agent of the Light and there are many ways to be strong and brave as a woman. You don’t have to swing a sword to matter in my stories.
So . . . we have Bastila and Revan from opposite sides of the Jedi civil war and from opposite sides of the Force. Reylo fans take note. Some people think that Revan was an influencing factor in Kylo Ren’s character development. But the canon version of Bastila and Revan doesn’t completely add up for me. Why would Revan fall for a woman who lies to him? Trust is a huge part of love and this woman is not lying about trivial things. She is attempting to convince Revan that he’s someone else entirely. How is that the basis for love? The romance of this story is very problematic for me. Sure Revan is supposedly very charismatic, but what would Bastila ever see in Revan if she doesn’t like his radical ideas?
I’m also just not sure what romance means in our current modern world. This issue really bothers me. Everywhere you look in popular culture/politics/life there is sex. But it all seems so obligatory and almost joyless in a way. Where are the great love stories of our time in the age of Tinder and Stormy Daniels?? Sex in any of its forms ceases to shock these days. We are just so oversaturated by it. Look--there’s Ariana Grande with her legs spread wide singing a gender-bending song about God. YAWN. Madonna did that same thing over twenty years ago. Nothing to see there.
I get it--we are in a time of upheaval in traditional gender roles and sexual norms. The sexual revolution brought us all sorts of social ills. It killed chivalry and a lot of common courtesy as well. Because when you climb down from your pedestal, it can get downright rude. But equality also brought us greater economic opportunity than ever before and many much-needed reforms. Women do things today their grandmothers never dreamed of. And that’s not just things like running businesses and rising to the top of professions, that’s basic stuff like buying your own house in your own name with your own money. There are tradeoffs in life, I get it. And freedom has its responsibilities and downsides too. When you reject the patriarchy, you also reject some of the more benign or beneficial aspects of it as well. But, here we are . . . whether we like it or not. And so many of us (men and women) are super angry and bitter. Justifiably so in many cases. But ugh . . . it seems so negative. Wasn’t the overarching goal of feminism supposed to be allowing women an equal opportunity to reach their full potential? If so, then why aren’t we happier now that we have achieved so much? Why are so many women alone for large periods of their life? It’s the age-old question: what do women want? Only it’s kind of a trick question because apparently no matter what you give some women, it will never be enough.
The prevailing mood of anger is everywhere, it seems. And its ruining romance in entertainment. I accidentally stumbled into it when I read a NY Times article on the new A Star is Born movie remake yesterday. Here I was wanting to read about a movie I thought might be a fun date night outing. Instead, I got a rebuke of romance in general and a myopic argument against some construct called ‘the drama of male sacrifice’ that completely ignores the idea that the trope of sacrifice knows no gender in Western Culture. If anything, it’s often the woman who gives all in the relationship. I just sat through three hours of Wagner’s opera Flying Dutchman on Friday night as a perfect case in point. (Woman dies to ensure the salvation of her eternally damned husband, the ghostly Flying Dutchman sailor condemned to wander the sea until he finds true love). We used to extol these romantic acts as selfless love. Now, we call it oppression. Er . . . what?? When did that happen exactly?
As a person and as a writer, I think I am never going to be able to pretend that men and women are interchangeable. I will never accept that gender is a social construct and that the differences between the sexes are not rooted in millennia of biology but are instead a tool of oppression. It’s not that I want to oppress women or turn back the clock so much as that I don’t want to gloss over the richness of the male and female perspectives. Maybe I’m out of step with modern culture. Or maybe I’m becoming the Camille Paglia of Star Wars fan fiction. But, yeah, blueenvelopes got the memo. Romance is OUT and anger is IN. Certainly, romance is out for my heroine Bastila Shan. She sees herself as the hero and not the love interest. This Jedi nun doesn’t want a man. She’ll gladly suffer and die for her beloved Republic, but not for a man. Bastila is very different from Rey in my many Reylo tales who sometimes suffers greatly for her commitment to Kylo (or their family).
As an aside, I think our current social climate will kill any chance of Reylo. Too many people will be clamoring for a moral comeuppance for Kylo Ren. He’s the Star Wars version of an angry white man who made bad choices and needs to suffer for it. And plenty of fans will be howling if Rey seems in any way less than in control of any Reylo relationship. She’s got to be a strong woman, which for Hollywood means she’s a girl boss who fights people (see also Capt. Phasma and Admiral Holdo who bark orders and start fights because nothing empowers a woman like stereotypically bad male behavior). The world is too political, too polarized, too looking for messages and archetypes in entertainment for Reylo. The sort of forgiveness and understanding that would be at the root of any Reylo relationship—dare I say it? maybe even some nurturing for Kylo from Rey??—has no place in our current environment. Perhaps that’s because Reylo is an old tale. There’s nothing new here. From Persephone, to Beauty and the Beast, to Phantom of the Opera, it’s the story of a young innocent, hopeful girl who takes pity and shows kindness to a tortured/obsessive/controlling/depraved Dark soul who others shun. The plot unfolds differently each time, and the villain is sometimes more or less sympathetic, but it’s the same story. Love of a good woman inspires (and maybe redeems) a bad man.
But what does that mean for Revan and Bastila, the Reylo forebearers in the Force? I don’t know. I’m really struggling with the romance for this fic. These two are supposed to be the great star-crossed lovers of the Old Republic era, except I’m not feeling the love.
I’m not big on lovers whose attraction is primarily physical. That’s just not my personal experience. Don’t get me wrong—I know what I like in a man—but for me so much of chemistry is personality and values. So, I didn’t feel like Bastila and Revan should be hopping into bed with him deep in amnesia. It would feel deceptive of her. Plus, it seems out of character for a conservative Jedi woman who sides with the Jedi Order in all things. Bastila is the last woman who will be enthusiastically stealing kisses with Darth Revan.
So that leaves the angle that Revan would be seducing Bastila because he’s Dark and all. Passion . . . deception . . . betrayal . . . Revan could be very Sith in the tale. Bastila could be the innocent he corrupts to pass the time, like Beatrice to Dr. Faust. I toyed with that idea a bit. But Revan—in all his various videogame and novel iterations--is a very principled character. If he is going to seduce Bastila, it’s to his cause and not into bed. So, it’s #notallSith for this story. These two barely share a kiss in Part One. It’s all sort of chaste.
Bastila and Revan spend a lot of time arguing over Jedi politics. Similarly, in the flashback sequences Revan and Malak worry over what it means to be Jedi. Is Revan still Dark? Was he ever Dark? Is he still a Jedi? It’s a question of identity--what makes you a good Jedi? If you challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of the institution intent on furthering its goals, are you hurting the institution or helping it? It’s a timely topic in different (less existential) settings. Put in our terms, are you more or less of an American because you take a knee during the national anthem? Who knows. I don’t really care about that issue, but lots of other people seem to.
“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” Thomas Jefferson said this in his inaugural address. He’s right that some differences can be tolerated or ignored. But some differences matter, and the ensuring conflict helps settle things one way or another. Sometimes, the result of those conflicts is for one side to prevail and then double down on their views. That’s what will happen with the Jedi Order following the Mandalorian War and the Jedi civil war. They will emerge a mess but ultimately rebuild, more paranoid than ever of Darkness. The Republic that Revan fights for will endure but his views of the Force will be completely rejected.
He won’t be the only one to have that experience. After Revan, the Jedi who dip into Darkness—be they young bereft Aryn Leneer of the Old Republic era or Anakin Skywalker of the prequels—will find no compassionate understanding within the Order. Even poor Luke Skywalker ends up terrified of Darkness in The Last Jedi. (Blowing up huts, judging totally self-taught Rey for going straight to the Dark Side, deciding to kill his young nephew who he sees going Dark rather than to even attempt to talk to him.) Through the ages, the concept of balance is something of an anathema to the Jedi Order. These guys are completely paranoid. Who thinks in absolutes? The Jedi. I’ll be interested to see how this ‘balance of the Force’ idea develops in Episode 9 of the sequel trilogy. Kylo Ren’s best chance of being the anti-hero is to be some version of Revan, I think. Revan is the bad guy who ends up saving the good guys who don’t realize that he was the good guy all along. He’s using bad means to save the good. I tried to write a version of that plot in Son of Darkness. It didn’t succeed very well. Maybe I’ll try again.
Anyhow, Last Jedi definitely influences this story. The whole concept of the Jedi Order in flux (and possibly in schism/reformation) is the main theme of the Old Republic Revan storyline. It makes the Old Republic era feel very current in Star Wars. That’s why Revan has some Kylo lines. He also gets some Anakin lines but in my mind the Anakin figure here is Malak, not Revan. Revan is more Qui-Gon Jinn than any other existing character. Qui-Gon is how I envision Revan’s personal demeanor as well. He’s patient, insightful, and slow to anger. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or annoyed at times. But even then, he’s not snarky and pissy. He’s never going to have a temper tantrum. He’s too darn mature and committed for stunts like that. This man has been a leader for years—he’s not growing into the role.
I didn’t know anything about the Old Republic era until recently. I don’t read SW books and I don’t play the videogames. But honestly, this era has great stuff thematically and plotwise. I particularly love the female characters of the Old Republic. Meetra Surik—one of Revan’s generals who loves him like brother—is fantastic. She’s the one—not Revan—who gives the order to use the pyrrhic superweapon on Malachor V. In Legends canon, she is the only Jedi Crusader who returns to defend her war crime to the Jedi Council. They exile her—she becomes known as the ‘Jedi Exile’ because they don’t even say her name. Meetra tells off the Council and stabs her sword into the floor of the Council chamber when they demand her lightsaber. I loved that bit so much I put it in this story. Revan also has two female Jedi Masters—which I think is fabulous. One gets thrown out of the Order for an adulterous affair with a Republic general that produces an out of wedlock child. There’s a story, eh? So, Revan is already being raised by a Jedi Mommy who is a bit of a hellraiser. Revan’s other Jedi Master follows Revan on his Crusade and turns Sith. So basically, the person the Council would hope to influence Revan for the better turns out to be one of Revan’s followers. In the original and prequel trilogies, everyone is lacking a Mommy but in the Old Republic there are Mommy Jedi everywhere doing big things that matter. No token female characters here. Disney: take note.
In the Old Republic, Jedi seemed to fall to the Dark Side like they were catching a cold. And it never seems to have real lasting impact. Those Dark Jedi get redeemed just as easily. I’m not big on that idea. In the prequels, Jedi switching sides had major ramifications. Dooku took others with him to the Separatist side and helped topple the Republic. Anakin turning Dark ended the Clone Wars and culminated in Order 66 and a new Empire. Similarly, when Anakin was redeemed, there were momentous consequences. And in the sequel trilogy, Ben Solo going Dark matters for more than his family and Luke. That’s as it should be, I think. Flipping from Team Jedi to Team Sith like your changing your shirt seems too contrived. It’s too small stakes for melodrama loving me. When the Force and the galaxy are on the line, your choices matter and they have consequences for you, for those you love, and for innocents along the way.
Spoiler Alert! This story— the Legends canon version—gets grim from here. But, as with the tragic outcome of Malgus and Eleena in Darker, it’s not my idea. I’m writing a version of what the Lucasfilm guys intended. Honestly, I’m struggling with how Part 2 will be anything other than a downer read. Originally, this story was supposed to end with the revelation that Evan is Revan. So, if I can’t find something good about Part 2, I might not publish it. We shall see. I never set out to be the super downer fan fiction writer but I think I have cornered the market on depressing tales. I guess people know not to read my stuff if they need a happy ending. Still, I like to think that there can be substance and enjoyment in something even if it doesn’t neatly tie up in a happy ending. That’s what I mean when I say I write ‘adult Star Wars.’ It’s not adult in the sense of a lot of gratuitous sex and violence, but it’s adult in the conflicts and how those conflicts get resolved.
To be clear, Bastila does not deserve the fate she gets in canon. Arguably, Revan doesn’t either but at least he’s making his own choices along the way. Bastila is more in the nature of my other heroines in that she gets caught up in the consequences of Revan’s actions and the surrounding climate of war. Yes, she is more than a victim. But to say that Bastila has control of her outcome would be a stretch. Nothing ends up quite like she wants. But that is how the story goes. And that’s how life goes sometimes too. The life you plan to lead isn’t always what you end up with. But again—I’m not making this up. But I will, kinda sorta. Because as usual, I have my own gloss on what happens. Still . . . fair warning that you may get triggered or just turned off by how this story unfolds. Everyone ends up in the Light, but that’s not to say it’s a happy ending.
Revan’s role in Star Wars history is huge for two things—(1) how enormously important he was to the Republic and (2) how marginalized his ideas were by the Jedi Order. Revan is the guy who figures it all out except no one listens to him. Revan is the prophet of the Force teaching tolerance and balance who gets ignored. Balance is a very dangerous concept and not everyone is capable of it, as we shall see in the character of Malak in Part Two. All of the themes of this story are in place now and all the conflicts are going to unfold to fruition.