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'Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi - Into the Void': Explore a Whole New Period of 'Star Wars' Lore - EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

By Christian Blauvelt, Hollywood Staff

On May 7, Star Wars fans will be able to journey back further into the history of that Galaxy Far, Far Away than ever before. Tim Lebbon's Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi - Into the Void takes us to the earliest known period of galactic history: when the Jedi were called Je'daii and carried swords instead of lightsabers, long before the creation of the Galactic Republic.

In Lebbon's novel, the young Jedi Ranger Lanoree Brock, pictured below, was separated from her brother after he failed the Je'daii trials. The Force just didn't flow through him. Years later, though, she's tasked by the Je'daii Council to track down the leader of a fanatical cult who's trying to open a gateway to uncharted space via a method that could destroy an entire star system. The fanatical cult leader in question? Her brother, of course! Yeah, getting cast out of the Je'daii can mess with your psyche, I guess.

Click on the image to open a gallery showing the progression of the cover art by artist Torstein Nordstrand, with commentary from Random House art director Scott Biel. And below that, read our exclusive excerpt from the novel, available for order on Amazon in hardcover May 7.

Learn How The Into the Void Cover Art Was Created

Chapter Three THE GOOD AND THE GREAT

Not every Journeyer will complete their Great Journey. Some will fall victim to Tython's many dangerous landscapes or creatures. Some will lose themselves. Some may even lose their way in the Force and leave Tython far behind, scattering out to the system, lost in a much more fundamental way. But as Je'daii we must accept this, because this is not an existence of absolutes. Life is a challenge, and facing that challenge is what makes the good great. - Master Deela jan Morolla, 3,533 TYA

Even though she had been away from home for four years, Lanoree still kept to Tython time. She was used to it, it suited her natural sleep patterns, and she saw little point in adapting her ship to Standard Time. In her less-guarded moments she might also admit that it reminded her of home.

The computer calculated the optimum flight path from Tython to Kalimahr for the time of year and current planet alignments. And before committing to the route Lanoree also calculated it manually. The computer was never wrong in such matters- the navigational elements were programmed and designed by the Je'daii's most experienced space travelers- but she was always pleased when her calculations came out the same. Rather than questioning the computer, she was testing herself.

Pushing her Peacemaker to its limits, it took a little over seven days to reach Kalimahr. She used this time to meditate, prepare herself for the coming mission, exercise, and review every aspect of the information downloaded to the Peacemaker's computers. There wasn't much. Whatever contacts had informed the Je'daii of Dal's scheme had not been very thorough. Rumors, speculation, and a few hazy images. But even in those grainy images of covert meetings and mysterious exchanges, she recognized the face of her brother.

He looked older, of course. But she was surprised at how much older, as if he'd lived three lifetimes since she had last seen him, not nine years. He was taller, thinner, his child's sadness translated into adult bitterness. His dusky skin had turned darker and more rugged. And there was something haunting about his blurred visage. Lanoree berated herself for letting her thoughts of his death cloud how she viewed him now. Yet the idea remained. Seeing those images of Dal felt like looking at a ghost.

"We'll meet again," she said to the screen, "and I'll ask why you let me think you were dead all these years."

For the first few days of the journey she left Dal's image on the cockpit flatscreen, also feeding it through to a screen in the living quarters directly behind the cockpit. A reminder of who she sought and who she had lost. But seeing him there only confused her more, so by day five she left the screen blank.

Lanoree had visited Kalimahr twice over the past four years. The first time was to act as mediator in a troublesome deal between three landmass developers, all of them bickering over an island called Hang Layden in the planet's vast Southern Ocean. Normally a Je'daii would not have been concerned with such matters, but the Je'daii Council had sent Lanoree because of the island's suspected archaeological importance. Though the island appeared bare, it was believed that an ancient structure- possibly of Gree origin- existed a kilometer beneath the surface. Her presence had been resented, but she had taken an active role in the negotiations, ensuring that each of the three inter-ested parties had a portion of land to develop. More important, she had covertly protected the cave network that might lead deep down to that ruin from ancient history. The Force illusions she had left behind of rockfalls and impassable ravines would last for a hundred years.

Her second time on Kalimahr had been less peaceful. That time, her sword had been wetted with blood.

Even so, she did not pretend for a moment that she knew this place. A good Je'daii was always on guard and ready for surprises. Especially a Je'daii on a mission as important as hers.

As she entered the atmosphere and her computer contacted air traffic control, she saw two Kalimahr Defense ships shadowing her thirty kilometers away. They would be no threat. It was more likely that the pilots were excited at spotting a Peacemaker, and they'd go home that night to tell their families and friends that they'd seen a Je'daii arrive! They followed for the next hour, and just before peeling away they made contact. She replied with a gentle push of grace and humor, responding to them while revealing nothing.

If we met in a tavern, we might even be friends, she thought, smiling. It was a subtle Je'daii talent, but one that often served her well. They disappeared from her screen when she was more than a hundred kilometers from her destination.

She approached Rhol Yan above a startling azure sea. The Peacemaker shuddered as she passed across the waves. She was so low that spray from the sea misted the windows, but she enjoyed flying like this. Out in space there was no context - she could fly for days with the starscape changing hardly at all. Depth was infinite, and distances were so vast that her mind could barely grasp them. But down here she was close to something. Sometimes closeness mattered.

Rhol Yan had been built on an archipelago stretching out into the Southern Ocean. There were five large islands and countless smaller ones, all of them developed, and hundreds of bridges both large and small spanned the spaces between landmasses. Gleaming white spires reached stark fingers to the sky, and several classes of Cloud Chaser airships drifted between them like lazy birds flocking around ak trees back on Tython. Lower down, buildings and streets clung to the islands and sometimes protruded out over the ocean on slender stilts, and beautifully wrought bridges stood in isolation over the waterways. Ships dotted the ocean, and the inner waterways were busy with smaller watercraft. The white metal spires pulsed here and there with colored lights, illuminated even during daytime to identify an island, a building, or a street. It was an attractive city, and most of its money came from tourism. People traveled from all over Kalimahr to holiday on Rhol Yan. And with tourists came the vultures and parasites who preyed on them.

She was directed to a landing platform on a high tower on one of the outer islands. There were scores of gracefully wrought landing pads and bays around the tower, and exterior elevators whisked up and down its uneven sides. Even the city's air and spaceport was beautiful.

As the Peacemaker settled, Lanoree prepared herself for what was to come. Her mission started here.

"Keep an eye on the ship," she said to the droid. It grumbled and clicked. "Yes, I'll have my comlink." She felt the sliver of tech in her lapel just to make sure. Then she stood within the cabin and smoothed down her clothing, checking that her sword was strapped correctly to her thigh, ran fingers through her hair. She used her metal Je'daii star to fi x her cape around her neck. For now, there was no need to hide.

She was surprised to realize that she was nervous. Somewhere at the end of this mission, her brother waited.

Like any visitor who had landed on one of the spacecraft platforms, Lanoree was directed through to a large room with lines of interview pods. One entire side was a window offering staggering views across Rhol Yan and the glimmering sea beyond, and the opposite wall was splayed with extravagant artwork that labeled it the Welcome Hall. But its real purpose was obvious. Kalimahr's security services were efficient and discreet, and even a Je'daii was not simply waved through. She respected that. And by the time she was ushered from her interview pod, the three officers inside also respected her privacy. A subtle push, a gentle word. Perhaps in a few days' time they might start to question their decision to let her in so lightly, although by then she would be long gone.

But by the time she had traveled on three elevators down through the tower to ground level, Lanoree began to suspect that she was being followed.

She paused in the vast lobby of the port tower, bought a drink from a vendor droid, and melted into the shadows beneath a wide, low tree. There were tables and chairs there, and a massively fat Zabrak woman was harvesting large insects from the tree's lower canopy, flash-frying them, and selling them to eager customers. Lanoree decided she was not hungry.

As she drank, she watched the bank of elevators she had just left. Her sense of being followed was strong, but though she waited for a while, none of those exiting the elevators seemed to be looking for her. Strange. She was certain it was not one of the customs officers.

"Lady, you're a fine one," a voice said. A tall robed figure had approached, and she was annoyed with herself for not noticing. "I'm drinking," she said. "So drink with me." "No, thanks." "Come on, Ranger. You're young. I'm almost two hundred years old. Got experience. Got three bottles of chay wine in my rooms, almost as old as me, just waiting for a special occasion."

She rested her hand on her sword's haft. The Force was calm and settled, and the weapon was part of her. "Would losing your life constitute a special occasion?"

He stared at her from beneath his hood, amused, uncertain. Then he waved a hand and turned to leave. "Ach. Je'daii. So tightly wound."

She finished her drink, then moved out across the lobby area. There were hundreds of people there, a varied mix of the many species who had spread out from Tython to colonize the system. Humans and Wookiees mingled with Twi'leks, with their prominent head- tails, and red- skinned Sith. Near- human Zabrak, with their vestigial horns, walked alongside Iktotchi, whose heavy horns gave them a fearsome appearance. Kalimahr had been the first planet settled after Tython and its moons, and it remained the most racially mixed and diverse. It was proud of its diversity, and it was a pride well earned. Even on Tython it was rare that so many species were seen in one place at any one time, and Lanoree paused for a moment in the center of the lobby to feel the ebb and flow of so many people in transit.

She paused also to try to spot any pursuer. Still nothing. She'd seen no one obviously stop when she had. And although some people looked at her as they passed by, she sensed that it was only out of interest when they recognized the Je'daii star. And on occasion, perhaps even distaste. She knew well enough that some Kalimahr thought themselves above the Je'daii.

I'm alone too often and for too long, she thought. Perhaps a subtle paranoia was a natural part of being among so many people once more.

Leaving the spire's lobby, she passed a group of Dai Bendu monks chanting one of their strange, haunting ululations. A small group of travelers had settled around them, and some were swaying slowly in time with the song. Just outside the main doors, down a wide, long ramp that led to street level, a circle of feline Cathars was meditating upon an image of their god painted on the ground. The image was beautifully wrought, and their meditations had drawn several smoke snakes up from the ground to dance in a slow, hypnotic pattern. Lanoree had heard of the Cathars' smoke snakes but never seen them.

Such diverse beliefs being celebrated in such close proximity. Her immersion in the Force meant that she believed neither, but it was still pleasing to see such inclusivity.

The streets outside were bustling with people, trade stalls, performance artists, religious groups, speakers, security officers, and children and adults alike pointing and chattering in delight at their surroundings. She felt almost unnoticed, and she welcomed that. But she also knew that it was an ideal environment in which to be followed, and that feeling persisted. Though she cast her Force sense around, there were so many people that her thoughts were confused. She would have to remain alert.

Cloud Chasers floated above, and occasionally drop ships came down to pick up passengers. But Lanoree had studied maps on her ship and knew that the tavern she sought was close by. She chose to walk.

"Bet you've never seen one like me, eh? Eh?" Tre Sana grinned at her over his glass of wine. His yellow eyes and blazing red skin gave him a fearsome appearance, but she perceived a gentle intelligence behind the startling exterior. "Your coloring is quite rare," Lanoree said. "Rarer still for a Twi'lek, the extra lekku." "Rarer? Oh, yeah, rarer indeed." He stroked the third head- tail that grew behind the usual two. "Least you use the right terminology. You wouldn't believe what some people call these things." "I probably would." "They call me freak." He growled suddenly and leaned forward, baring teeth that seemed to have been fi led down to points. "A scary freak!" "You don't scare me," she said. "Hmm." Tre's lekku- those three long, curious tentacles growing from the back of his skull- twitched a little, one tip stroking over his left shoulder, the other two pointing like fingers tapping at the air. " 'Yeah, well, this bitch is a Je'daii,' " Lanoree translated. Tre's eyes opened wide. "You know Twi'leki!" "Of course. That surprises you?" "Huh. Huh! Nothing about the Je'daii can surprise me."

"Oh, don't be so sure." Lanoree took a drink and looked around Susco's Tavern. With more than fifteen settled planets and moons and spread over sixteen billion kilometers, there were places like this all across the Tythan system. Places where people gathered to drink, eat, and talk, no matter what their color, species, creed, or breed. Where music played in the background- either a local tune, or perhaps something more exotic from another continent or another world. Where travelers found common ground, and those who chose not to travel could hear outlandish tales of faraway places. And it was in these taverns that tongues could be loosened, news spread, and secrets overheard.

Lanoree loved places like this, because often after a drink or two she could have been anywhere.

The drink she was sipping now had been recommended by Tre- a local wine, made from deep- sea grapes and fortified with swing dust from some of the air mines at Kalimahr's north pole. It was incredibly strong, but she used a gentle Force flow to make sure the potent drink did not impede her senses. She might enjoy such taverns, but she had been attacked in places like these. And she had also killed in them.

"Master Dam-Powl vouches for you," Lanoree said. Tre Sana's eyes glimmered with humor. "Oh, I doubt that." "Well, she says to watch you. And that I should kill you the first moment you display any hint of betrayal." Lanoree looked around the tavern but probed for Tre's reaction. Strange. She felt nothing. She turned back to him and said, "But Dam-Powl assures me you don't have a traitorous bone in your body."

Tre raised his brows and his lekku, resting now over his shoulders, performed a gentle, almost sensuous touch along their tips.

"Good," Lanoree said, smiling. "Then let's take a meal and at the same time share some information."

"The sea beef is very good here," Tre said. He raised a hand and caught the attention of the barman. A wave and a click of his fingers, and the barman nodded back, grinning.

Lanoree probed outward and touched the barman's mind. She took a startled breath- she could never really prepare for experiencing another's thoughts, as the first rush was always overwhelming- but she quickly filtered out the random, the violent, the sick and disgusting, and narrowed to what she sought. Tre so cool so calm so red sitting there with her that Je'daii and he'd be lucky, she'd eat him alive. She broke away and stared at Tre until he averted his yellow eyes. But she said nothing. She knew she was attractive, and if he was thinking of her that way, there was no real harm.

"I'll be very open with you," Lanoree said, "very honest. That's a good way to begin, for both of us. There's something about you I can't read, but I don't need the Force to understand people. You're haughty and superior. Maybe that's just you, but right now I think it's because you think you have me at a disadvantage. Perhaps because Dam-Powl has told you most, if not all, of what I know and why I'm here."

Tre blinked softly, his lekku touching in gentle acknowledgment.

"And so, you know whom I seek. You'll know that he's my brother. I have rumors and stories told in taverns, secondhand information from sources I can't verify and don't trust. And the sum of all the information I have gives me virtually nothing to go on. I don't even know what planet he's on right now."

"You can't- " he waved his fingers, raised his arms up and down. "- Force his location?" Lanoree glared at Tre. His childish display did not warrant a response. "Master Dam-Powl sent me to you and said you might be able to help. I hope so. Because I don't know how much more of this piss I can take." Lanoree emptied her glass in one swallow.

"And now I'll be very open with you, too," Tre said, suddenly serious. "Along with talk of your brother, I hear rumors of Gree technology."

Lanoree inclined her head, raised an eyebrow.

"I don't mean the hypergate. Anyone with half a mind knows of the theories about the Old City being of Gree origin." Tre leaned in closer, glancing around. "I mean what drives the hypergate."

"I don't understand," she said, but already she was thinking of what the Masters had told her back on Tython. Dark matter . . .

"I mean there are whispers of design plans. Tech details." Tre shrugged. "Blueprints. And all Gree."

Lanoree leaned back in shock. Gree? Really? So little was known about that ancient people. There were theories that the Gree had once inhabited the Old City on Tython, but theorists were split as to whether the Gree had built it themselves. Though the Gree were long gone from the galaxy, it was suggested by some that the Old City was even more ancient. Lanoree had met a man on Tython- not a Je'daii but someone allied to them in outlook- who had spent his life researching the Gree and their legacy, and even what he knew could be relayed in little more than an hour of talk. And now this mysterious Twi'lek who, if what Dam-Powl had told her was true, undertook criminal activities, was claiming that Dal had found something the Gree had left behind.

"Blueprints?" she asked. "Only what I've heard. More wine?"

Lanoree bristled. He was toying with her. Playing a Je'daii Ranger as he would a weak- minded petty criminal looking to muscle in on some nefarious deal. She leaned back in her chair and feigned tiredness, but behind her drooping eyelids she felt the Force flow, stirring her senses, boosting them, and she probed outward once again to touch Tre's mind.

But he was closed to her.

Tre's eyes went wide, and for a moment he looked unaccountably sad, shoulders dropping and lekku slumping down exhausted. He looks like a battered pet, Lanoree thought. She wasn't sure where the image came from, but she had grown to trust her first impressions. The Force resided in her subconscious, too, and sometimes it spoke.

He would not meet her gaze, staring instead into his half- empty glass.

She sensed around the fringes of his mind but could not get in, and it was something she was not used to. Some species were very hard to read- the Cathars' minds worked in a very different way, thinking in symbols and abstracts rather than words and images- but usually she could at least touch another's mind, whether human or alien.

Tre's had a wall. It seemed to encircle his consciousness, and her efforts rebounded from it, almost hinting that there was no mind at all. Yet she knew that was not the case. Tre was very much his own person, intelligent and alert, harboring desires and aims, and she could see that he knew himself well. Very well.

"Tre, what's been done to you?" she asked, because she sensed that he wanted to talk. The feeling was nothing to do with the Force; it was merely the empathy of one sentient being for another.

"Just another slave spy used by the Je'daii." "You're altered," she said, realizing the startling truth. "Genetic?" "Deep and permanent." "No Je'daii would do that," she said. "Ha!" Tre spat. A few people nearby glanced around at his outburst, and he stared them down, red and ferocious when he wanted to be. They went back to their drinks. "But it's . . ." Lanoree said, but she did not finish her sentence. Forbidden, she was going to say. But she had that ongoing alchemy experiment on her ship, and she knew that some Je'daii would frown on that. What was considered forbidden to some was exploration to others.

* * *

"I'm Dam-Powl's toy," Tre Sana said, quieter now. "There are promises made to me." He sat up straighter, proud. "And they'll be kept! Money. A new identity. An estate on a Ska Goran city ship." He nodded firmly but his lekku writhed, displaying uncertainty and vulnerability.

Lanoree wasn't sure what to make of him, and the fact that he was closed to her gentle probings unsettled her. But she could also not help admiring Dam-Powl's work. Whatever subtle genetic adaptations she had performed, whatever strange alchemies kept Tre's mind purely his own but made him very obviously hers, were perhaps immoral, yet startlingly brilliant.

"And you'll get all that," Lanoree said. "Master Dam-Powl is a Je'daii of her word." Their food arrived. Tre started eating immediately, chewing and swallowing with barely a pause. He seemed ravenous. "The Gree," Lanoree asked. "The blueprints. I need to know more." "And now you're here, we can know more," Tre said, spitting half chewed meat across the table. Some of it landed on Lanoree's plate. "When?" "I need to find someone," he said. "Someone who's not easy to find. But . . . on my own. A Ranger will attract attention. You know the saying, 'When a Ranger comes calling, trouble quickly follows.' Well, so, they hear of you with me and they'll melt away. Maybe for a long time. So leave it to me, meet me here at dusk. I'll know where they are by then." "Who is this person?" "A rich Kalimahr. A dealer in swing dust and other air spices. And a Stargazer." "That word again," Lanoree said. Tre wiped his mouth and took a drink. "Not one that many know. Don't use it too freely." He nodded down at Lanoree's plate. "You going to eat that?" "No. Help yourself." Tre pulled her plate across to him and started eating. It was as if every bite was his first. "So, here, at dusk," Lanoree said. "Hmmm." He nodded without looking up from the food. He exuded indifference, yet he had called himself a slave. A conflicted character, complex, troubled. Exactly who she would not want guiding her during her investigations.

"Fine," she said. As she stood to leave, she saw faces turning away from her, and she walked to the doorway in a bubble of silence broken only by awed whispers of Ranger! and Je'daii! and darker mutterings of trouble. She hoped the old saying Tre had reminded her of could be put to rest on Kalimahr.

But hope alters nothing.

And soon after leaving Susco's Tavern Lanoree knew that she was being followed again.

''From the Book, STAR WARS: DAWN OF THE JEDI: INTO THE VOID by Tim Lebbon. Copyright © 2013 by Tim Lebbon. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.''

Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt

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