I, Luke Skywalker, have taken it upon myself to complete the journal of Anakin Skywalker, my father.
I don't know why it took me so long to do this. Five years have passed since I last saw my father, and during that time I have read and re-read his journals and Jessa's appended message. Perhaps it was because in my heart I felt that leaving his journal unfinished would somehow mean he would be compelled to return and complete it himself. Or perhaps I simply didn't want to record anything on these pages without his consent. At any rate, this record has been incomplete for some time… and it's time it was finished.
As I read my father's journals, I recalled something Fett told us all long ago – that those closest to you can prove to be the most complete of strangers. I thought I had come to know my father's identity during our travels. But within the pages of his memoirs I discovered a far different Anakin Skywalker than I had ever imagined, one that was far more complex than the father I knew. Perhaps I will never fully know exactly who he was.
As for the end of his story… Jessa provided it.
It was almost six months after I had said my final goodbye to Jessa and my father when a package was delivered to the newly restored Jedi Temple. No one seemed to have any idea where it had come from – it was as if it had appeared out of thin air on the doorstep of the Temple, like a foundling.
Of course, I knew who the sender had to be, and once I had taken it to my quarters I tore it open as eagerly as a child opening a birthday gift. Inside I found the books… and the ring.
At first I took the ring to mean my father had passed away. I opened the journal detailing our travels with the fellowship and skipped ahead until I reached the point just after our separation. I read about his landing on Earth, his reencounter with Grievous… and his separation from the ring.
And sandwiched between the page bearing the final entry and the back cover was a folded note, written in a careful hand.
Hey Luke! How's life after our jaunt treating you? Heard on the news that your Academy opened up on Corusant. Congrats! Hope they aren't working you too hard.
I've settled down with General Grievous now, and I've never been happier. But you didn't open this hoping to hear from me, I know. You want to know about your father. I'll explain it as best I can, but it was such a strange night that I'm not sure my words can do it justice.
After I left your father for the last time, I went with Grievous to retrieve the shuttle from the plateau, just in case some nosy Earthlings came calling. He'd sent some of his human henchmen into town to take care of some business, and we were just sitting down to talk about my adventures since we'd last met.
Up until that point it had been a relatively calm night, but all of a sudden the wind picked up. And I do mean picked up – I think the only reason the two of us didn't up and blow away is because we're mostly metal and heavy. And for some odd reason, all I could think about as the wind did its best to topple us over was the Shadow, and how it was always so windy around her place…
It took us some time to get to La Copa de Muerta because we had to fight against the wind to get there. I thought we would never reach the end of the canyon. Part of me didn't even want to reach it, because I was scared of what we would find there.
Your father was there. He'd spent most of the day there. And now… now he stood within the center of that Place of Power, back to us, eyes fixed on the Indian dragon painting before him, his arms spread as if he were about to fly.
Something told me to keep my mouth shut. But you know me – I was never good at shutting up.
"Darth!" I cried out to him. I never could get used to the Anakin bit, but I'm not sure it would have made much difference. At any rate, he turned at the sound of my voice.
I'll never forget what I saw next. He was still Darth Vader, still in the armor… but there was something changed about him, something unreal, dreamlike. He seemed to shimmer with power, as if I was seeing him through a wall of hot air. And his eyes… they glowed blue through the lenses of his mask. The image was so eerie that I still see it in my dreams sometimes.
Grievous took a step back and pulled me with him. We could only stare at what happened next.
And what happened next… wasn't what I expected. In the movies, shape-changing is always a big deal. You watch whatever it is that's changing morph from one form to the next, or become a liquid and take on its new shape, or there's a lot of light and noise and smoke involved. Not here, not now. It was just… one moment an armored man stood there, the next…
Funny. I always thought he'd be black. If not to match the armor, then at least to resemble his father. But he wasn't. He was red, a deep shining red, as if every scale had been carved from ruby. He was huge, easily as big as the rancor at Jabba's palace, and somehow I got the sense that he wasn't finished growing – after all, he's still pretty young for his kind. He shone under the moonlight, so beautiful I felt like crying. And his eyes…
They were human, and blue, and shining with a fire that could only be magic.
He was truly the Son of the Dragon now.
He bent his head low, and Grievous tried to pull me away. But the dragon meant us no harm – he only pushed the package closer to me, as if to remind me of my promise.
Then he spoke two words – "Remember me."
Then he leaped into the sky, his wings spread so wide they seemed to fill the sky with ruby, and I watched with tears in my eyes as he circled like a hawk on the wind, soaring higher and higher until he was a blood-red star high above… then gone.
I wish you could have been there to see it, Luke. The privilege of seeing him off was rightfully yours. I'm sorry it could not have been you that saw his transformation. He looked so happy, not just to be whole again, but to finally be what he was truly meant to be.
Dang it, I'm crying now just thinking about it. I'll hurry and finish this before I drip on the paper.
May the Force be with you, Luke. And may we meet again.
I read her message several times, absorbing the contents until I felt as if I had been standing there with her, witnessing the incredible transformation. How I wished I could have been there.
Of the others of our company… to this day I have not heard from any of them. No golden phoenix or Force-sensitive bounty hunter has arrived at the Academy to discuss old times. I have yet to come across an exceptionally intelligent acklay or a Mandalorian trainer in my travels. And though I continue to hold out hope, I have not seen or heard from my father or his kin.
Not yet, anyway.
I never told anyone in the Alliance aside from Leia and Han precisely why I was gone for so long, and they have yet to ask. I suppose they figure they shouldn't meddle in Jedi affairs. I dislike keeping secrets from them… but at the same time, what we shared on that journey is something intensely sacred to me, and so long as they keep silent on my absence, I see no reason to tell.
Sometimes my youngest students will come into my quarters at night, seeking comfort after a nightmare or fighting off a wave of homesickness. They'll often peer into the locked transparisteel case I keep by my bed, asking about its contents, and I'll hold them on my lap and tell an amazing and only slightly embellished tale about a brave warrior holding off a pack of griffons, a magic bird rescuing a princess and her beloved, a dragon-man facing down an alien army, a Jedi Knight slaying a hideous beast to protect a village, a droid with the voice of an angel taming a savage killer, an Imperial soldier turning to the side of justice and saving a city…
And sometimes, when I'm alone, I open the case and turn the pages of the journals, or I touch a multicolored feather, a yellowed tooth, a jappor pendant, a trooper's ID card, a griffon-bone carving, an electronic music player, or a weathered lightsaber, just to remind myself that they are not just stories, but real.
The ring has a place of honor outside the case – it hangs from a thin chain around my neck, under my robes, at all times. And on occasion I remove it from the chain and test it on my fingers. It's always too small, but I can never quite shake the feeling that someday it will fit.
For sometimes in my dreams the ring slides easily on and stays there, and a blue-eyed red dragon returns to take me on another adventure, and a silver-robed sorceress awaits our return…
This is going to be LONG, I will warn you, and some might find the information herein boring. The reader is under no obligation to read this.
I have been accused from time to time of trying to cross absolutely everything I read or watch with Star Wars. This is, in my opinion, an unfair assumption. I am perfectly capable of reading a book or watching a movie – and enjoying it – without plotting a fanfic mixing it with my favorite space saga. Besides, I think attempting a Star Wars/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants crossover would seriously be pushing it.
When I first read Mary Brown's The Unlikely Ones, a fanfic of any kind, let alone a crossover, never crossed my mind. Likewise, though Pigs Don't Fly ended with a cliffhanger, no plot bunnies came to call. The final book in the series would surely answer my questions, I thought.
But when Master of Many Treasures cut off just as abruptly, leaving too many unanswered questions for my peace of mind, and my search for the sequel turned up fruitless, I cast about for a possible sequel of my own.
And so Heir to the Ring was born.
Sometimes writing a crossover can be a struggle – the worlds don't mesh very well, facts from one world contradict facts from another world, characters clash, etc. But as I put together Heir to the Ring, I was startled to find that the pieces just seemed to fall together naturally. And though my final vision is certainly far different from what Mary Brown had in mind, I at least hope that I have paid a respectful homage to her work.
Most of my fics are set during the old trilogy, especially in that year's time between ESB and ROTJ. This time I took a different approach – I set Heir to the Ring in a post-ROTJ world. It was interesting to explore a galaxy in chaos after the death of the Emperor, to think of what changes might take place… and what might stay the same through all the turmoil. I might revisit this territory someday…
A note on characters and their quests:
Jasper and Ky-Lin: Jasper appears in Pigs Don't Fly and Master of Many Treasures, the Ky-Lin in Master of Many Treasures. I have tried to keep them true to their counterparts in the books, though I eliminated the Ky-Lin's tendency to talk endlessly about Buddha and reincarnation, two concepts that would only have served to confuse our friends. (And for those who don't know, the Ky-Lin is also known, somewhat inaccurately, as the Chinese Unicorn).
Shadow: An entirely original character despite her connections to both Dickon and the Ancient from Mary Brown's work. The books are not specific on whether or not Dickon fathered any offspring, but seeing as his character was constantly in and out of brothels in Master of Many Treasures, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Shadow had plenty of half-siblings.
Many journey stories are guided along by an omnipotent sage or magician, but I decided that, for Heir to the Ring's purposes, the Shadow would be just as flawed and fallible as those she served. I wanted a mentor figure that the characters would be able to connect with, and giving her weaknesses and shortcomings made her less of a godly character and more accessible to the characters (and, I pray, the reader).
Ash: Also my creation, though I did draw heavily on mythology to put her character together. I can imagine that living forever, while it would have its perks at first, would eventually become tiresome and weary. It was interesting, if rather mind-boggling, to look through her eyes and try to comprehend outliving everything you once knew.
Kruvex, the site of Ash's quest, isn't on any galactic maps – I made it up (Almania, Raxus, and Anijj are "real" Star Wars planets, however). Kruvex was previously featured in my story "The Armor of Vader," though its native alien species was absent this time around. As for Tyra and Blade… maybe they deserve their own spinoff story?
Nightwind: Yes, there had to be a talking animal somewhere in this story, as they seem to be Mary Brown's trademark. For some reason the acklay was the one arena beastie in Episode II that caught my imagination, so I had to put him in here. I was disappointed to find little information available on his species, so I made most of it up. His homeworld of Vendaxa and his sensitivity to light, however, have been established already by official material.
I have no idea if krayt dragons come in red, or if a monster one haunts Mos Eisley, but then, that's the beauty of writing an AU. I was slightly disappointed when Lucas never chose to expound on the lives of Anakin's friends and foes on Tatooine after his departure, so I felt compelled to revisit them on Nightwind's quest, especially Anakin's childhood friend Kister.
Fett: I've written two other stories featuring a post-sarlaac Fett – the Eye of the Storm series and Catacombs. In both of those, Fett emerges from the sarlaac pretty much unscathed. In Heir to the Ring, I opted for the more realistic outcome – a Fett seriously ill from the effects of the beast's stomach acids. I apologize that the Fett in this story was not the kick-butt hunter everyone's familiar with, but I hope you enjoyed his presence all the same.
The Mandalorian history related during Fett's quest is accurate as far as the Star Wars Insider is (Issue #80, "History of the Mandalorians" by Abel G. Peña). I borrowed heavily from Greek and European mythology to create the griffons, though their hunger for magic is my own twist. The concept of griffons having two hearts comes from Peter S. Beagle's story "Two Hearts," a long-overdue sequel to his novel "The Last Unicorn" that is available in the October/November 2005 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Tuck: I've always liked stormtroopers and was slightly disappointed to learn from Episode II that they were clones. But the clone aspect did serve to open up further paths to be explored via fanfic. I believe that the character of Tuck is my first serious attempt to address the clone issue, as I can imagine that any difference, no matter how small, could make one an outcast in the clones' "family."
Wayland is a Star Wars planet, but I could find no information on it and so was left to my own devices to craft its climate, economy, and standing in the Empire. The elio plant is my own creation. Flame-carpet missiles come from Bossk's tale in the novel Tales of the Bounty Hunters.
Luke: Ever since Episode II came out, I've been wondering if and when Obi-wan and Yoda would ever drop the bombshell that virtually kicked his father out of the Order – "A Jedi shall not know love." I can imagine that, if Luke ever learned of that part of the Code, he would be upset to say the very least, especially seeing as it was his love and the love of his father that ended up destroying the Sith and saving the galaxy. I know I've addressed the whole love issue in other stories, but I couldn't pass it up in this one either.
My knowledge of the Ewok culture comes from the two made-for-TV movies Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor as well as selected episodes of the old Ewok cartoons. Yes, the Ewoks have horses; official sources confirm it. I take no credit for the taozin – it comes from the Michael Reaves novel Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter.
Jessa: Blatant Mary Sue. There is no other way to put it. She gets more than her share of screen time, she falls for a villain and turns his heart around, her knowledge of the ring saves the group time and again… you get the drift. All the same, I at least hope she was an enjoyable Mary Sue.
General Grievous was an interesting character that got too little screen time and died way too early, so I decided to reincarnate him for this fic. Beyond that, not much to say regarding Jessa's quest.
Vader: Perhaps the character whom I took the most creative license with in the course of this fic. The concept of the midichlorians conceiving Anakin – a sort of Immaculate Conception – just didn't seem to click with me, and despite all Lucas' claims to the contrary I could not stop drawing parallels between Anakin's birth and Christ's. And in all honesty, though I love Star Wars, I draw the line at comparing Darth Vader to Jesus Christ. So when Master of Many Treasures left the fate of Jasper and Talitha's child in limbo, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. (I probably maxed out the weird factor with that, but what the hey…)
I have only read one New Jedi Order Book (Dark Tide I: Onslaught), so my information regarding the Yuuzhan Vong comes from and various miscellaneous articles and stories in Star Wars Insider. Yes, I brought them into the mix too early, but according to what I've heard they've been watching the galaxy for years. Maybe a faction of them jumped the gun, who knows?
And now… I just discovered our library carries the REAL final volume in the Unicorn Ring series, Dragonne's Eg. I now intend to read it and find out just how much my sequel deviates from Mary Brown's. Probably a great deal.
Once again I must thank you for your time and patience with this creation, and I sincerely hoped you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed crafting it.