The High Republic: Aggressive Negotiations

Excerpt from “A True History of the Folk Jedi” by Domus Cielo:

“The first thing to know about the Folk Jedi is that they’re awfully hard to define. While we know the general period of their emergence—the end of the High Republic era—as well as the region in which they dwelled—the Outer Rim territories of the Third Republic—much else about them remains vague. For example, do we include in our definition all Jedi who were stationed near the Republic’s frontier? Considering the militarist inclination of some Temple outposts, this would surely be inaccurate. Do we instead judge them by their professed doctrines? This is even more confusing, for most Folk Jedi saw themselves as no different than the rest of the Order. If anything, some considered themselves its most genuine expression!

Ultimately, a rough combination of factors must suffice as our working definition. The Folk Jedi were relatively heterodox Outer Rim Force users affiliated with the Jedi Order, who tried to syncretize traditional Jedi doctrine with local religious ideas in order to foster peace and understanding between the peoples of the Republic’s frontier. Their interaction with the region’s indigenous populations likely reinforced the coalescing of the latter, who would gradually organize themselves into the faction we know as the Nihl.

Even though the Folk Jedi and the Nihl both lacked any formal leadership, much of their development can be credited to the cooperation of two important figures: Jedi Grandmaster Sarulu Devot, the most senior Jedi in the Outer Rim, and the enigmatic representative known as “the Last Sage”, whose real identity remains unknown to this day. While neither of them would live to see the true culmination of their work, their foundational efforts should still be recognized. Without them, it is likely that the colonial expansion of the High Republic would have merely been a sordid footnote to its greater success. It is thanks to these great organizers—both natives of the Outer Rim, as far as we can tell—that the people whose land was mercilessly occupied by the Republic’s settlers could begin to imagine a different path. A road to freedom.”

A small city stood on a steep hill, surrounded by a vast plain of dry grasslands. Only where a narrow river ran did this landscape get any greener, and most of that area was taken up by various grainfields and orchards. Near the city, though set some distance from the river, was a rather large nomadic camp, probably capable of holding several hundred humanoids. The camp was of a markedly different design than the city, which featured a more conventional ‘Republic Colonial’ architecture. Even those without any further information would be able to see that this was a clash of cultures on display, an enmity expressed environmentally.

That said, Alboran Kuai did know a little more about this situation, which he studied from above as the Jedi’s shuttle approached its landing zone. This was Pajoda III, a relatively isolated planet which had only recently been colonized. The city before him was its largest, and yet lacked any official name beyond “Pajoda III City I”, which was surely insufficient to those who lived there. But whatever they called it among themselves, he was sure that a different, less flattering name had been given to the town by Pajoda’s indigenous inhabitants. Owing to their nomadic nature—and the sloppiness of private survey expeditions—these people had not been detected before the colonists had long settled in, and periodic conflicts over water rights had brought their mutual hostility to the boiling point. Now the Folk Jedi were here to de-escalate the situation.

Alboran was still skeptical. How were they going to appeal to these natives? Sure, he could understand their surprise or even anger at the Republic’s settlement, but the reports made it sound like they were attacking the settlers with an undue ferocity, going so far as to kidnap or murder some of them! Alboran could not understand it. Why didn’t they just make their case to the Senate? As he had heard the new Chancellor say in her inauguration speech, they were all the Republic. Rejecting newcomers was just not the right way to go about this.

The Jedi’s shuttle set down just outside the city, and Alboran emerged from it alongside Helfir and a third Knight, a horned Devaronian who had introduced herself as Alke Muxite. One of several Jedi aboard the Hope’s Vanguard, Helfir had told Alboran that she was one of the sharpest diplomatic minds among them, and would therefore lead the de-escalation efforts between the settlers and natives. All they had do was stand by and look like Jedi.  

Side by side, the three Knights made their way towards a single nomadic tent, which stood about halfway between the city and the native encampment. Several colonial militia members were standing nearby, eyeing their indigenous counterparts warily. From within the tent, a mutual clamoring could be discerned, a cacophonous back-and-forth between a handful of voices. Clearly the ‘negotiations’ had started without them.

As the Jedi entered the tent, a tense scene awaited them. Representatives of either faction sat at opposite sides of a low table, with an impressive array of local beverages set in between them. Apparently it had become their custom to exchange homebrewed drinks during these negotiations, though the intoxicating nature of some of them did not exactly dampen their hostilities. Indeed, the two parties were shouting at and over one another, a volley of Galactic Basic on their left matched by more local insults on their right. Only when Alke Muxite stepped forward, and drew herself up with the full authority of her Knighthood, did some of the voices begin to fall silent.

Alke began. “Good people, there is no need to argue so! I am Jedi Knight Alke Muxite, here to represent both my Order and the Will of the Force. As an agent of galactic justice, I will mediate this dispute at your request, and see if we can’t reach an equitable solution to your quandary. Ah, and to certify my goodwill…”

Alke reached into her robe and pulled out a tall flask.

“I have brought a refreshment.”

The native emissary to her right gave a slight nod, and the colonial representative gestured for her to take up a spot in-between the two parties, along the far side of the long low table. In turn, she signaled for the two Jedi to join her, and they took up their place at her sides, with Alke herself sitting slightly in front of them. With everything arranged, it seemed like the negotiations could finally begin.

Except they didn’t. Instead, one of the native negotiators spoke up, in surprisingly fluent Basic.

“You Jedi are mediators. You are welcome here. But you are mediators of the Republic. Hardly neutral. Thus, we bring a mediator of our own.”

The one who had spoken looked towards the tent opening, where a large person-shaped silhouette was now cast against the midday sun. As the figure entered, they appeared to Alboran like an exceedingly tall humanoid, until he realized that much of their length was made up by a mask. It took the shape of a wide ellipsoid, curving back over their head so as to obfuscate its shape, with an additional veil hanging from its sides to cover the remainder. As a result, Alboran had no idea what species this person might belong to, other than that they were some kind of humanoid. The mask itself seemed to be made of a smoked transparent glass, with two dimmed lights indicating the figure’s eyes. Though some kind of head shape was visible underneath, Alboran was pretty sure this was another illusion. In terms of their attire, they wore similar robes to the natives, though adorned with white stripes of every kind: sashes, armbands, necklaces, and so on. It gave the clear impression of a commitment to peace, which he assumed was intentional.   

Still, Alboran had no idea who this peaceful figure was, until one of the natives turned to announce them: “Jedi Knights, this is the Last Sage, ambassador of the Outer Rim. They will speak on our behalf.”

To his surprise, Helfir was the first to react. “Yes, we have met the Last Sage before. Be welcome, ambassador.”

They knew who this was? Alboran had not been told about them. Presumably they had caused those hushed tones back on the ship. Did that mean they were an adversary?

Finally, the Last Sage themselves spoke: “Thank you, Master Jedi. I hope the Force will guide us towards a peaceful and mutually beneficial conclusion. Now, let us begin.”

Their voice was as masked as their face, though the distortion was more elegant than Alboran had expected. Their tone was neutral, almost feminine, although he still could not tell what kind of person might lie beneath.

The Last Sage sat down at the opposite end of the table, their back to the tent’s opening. Noting the gifts on the table, they pulled a slim glass bottle from their robes and set it among them. At last it was time to negotiate.

The next few hours were filled with the boring turmoil of colonial diplomacy, as Alke and the Last Sage exchanged courtesies, requests, and demands, each intent on fulfilling the role their people had granted them. Mostly this came down to discussing the particulars of Republic resource law, with the Last Sage trying to carve some kind of indigenous entitlement from this legal labyrinth. Alke, while still sensitive to the needs of the natives, knew it was her task to argue otherwise. So their dialectic proceeded.

As this went on, and Alboran’s presence proved mostly decorative, he fell back into a semi-meditative state, by force of habit as much as active effort. Resting in the Force, he found an opportunity to focus on his fellows, to see how the Force flowed through friend and adversary alike. Predictably, he found that great currents of light flowed through the Jedi beside him, an intense experience for even an average Miralukan. However, he then discovered that a similar energy emanated from the figure before him, the Last Sage. Even if they seemed to obscure it through careful Force-masking, this in itself left a trace one could pick up on. Indeed, it was rather weird that this person thought they could hide their Force signature from him, let alone the other Jedi. Surely they had picked up on it too?

But there was an even greater mystery here, for the Force was not merely a way to identify people. It contained the deeper secrets of the self, a chain of being that stretched through one’s entire lifetime. He could catch snippets of the Last Sage’s past experienced as focused on their presence, and even got a sense of their ever-uncertain destiny. Indeed, it was the latter impression which captivated him in particular. As Alboran sat in this tent, his demeanor that of a calm yet stalwart protector, a great storm was raging inside him. Whatever variable fate flickered through the Last Sage’s essence, it was continually tainted by the promise of bloodshed, a future of war and sorrow. Though the strength of this omen wavered, never did it shift into anything hopeful. The Last Sage was a bringer of death.

Once again, he was struck by the ignorance of his companions. How could they not sense this awful portent? It only made sense if one considered that the Force always expressed itself uniquely, with its precise form being different for each who wielded it. With such a panoply of perspectives, no two Jedi would see things the exact same way. This was why only a few of them made for good oracles. Until now, Alboran had thought that his premonitory skills were rudimentary at best. This vision, however, was stronger than any he’d had before. He saw these futures as clear as the present. A bead of sweat slowly ran down his forehead, an expression of the strain which both the Force and his reaction to it had put upon him. What was to be done?

Right then, he figured out what to do, though his temporary sense of relief only turned into a greater feeling of dread. He had noticed the present vulnerability of the Last Sage, and realized that now might be the only time to strike them down. While there was no honor to this calculus, it only made more sense the longer he thought about it. Nobody present knew of his strong fighting skills, which he had honed through a strict regimen of battle meditation training. Combat was one of the few reprieves from his otherwise constant anxieties, a comfort which had only reinforced his dedication to it. Even as he knew that such a martial focus could be dangerous, a sign of dark inclinations, he had immersed himself in its harsh simplicity. Now his abilities would serve him well.

A single, sudden strike would be sufficient. None here suspected an attack, least of all one that came from this young and inexperienced Jedi Knight. The Last Sage themself was still caught up in their negotiations, their attention almost entirely on Alke. Slowly, subtly, Alboran moved his hands towards his belt, laying them over the hilt of his lightsaber. The way he was sat, few could take note of the maneuver. Then, it was only a matter of time, as he waited for the Last Sage to drop their guard even a little more. He steeled himself through preliminary battle meditation, adapting his breathing to the rush that would soon be demanded of him. Beyond the attack itself, he had no real exit strategy; survival was not his priority. He would simply take out his lightsaber and stab forward, piercing the Sage’s body with its yet unfurling blade. It would be over in less than a second.

In this preparatory manner, Alboran waited for almost half an hour, until a particularly frustrating part of the negotiations seemed to occupy the Sage completely. The Jedi’s thumb hovered over his lightsaber’s activation switch, and the rhythm of his breathing reached a silent crescendo. Finally, the Force gave its signal: strike now! As the Jedi leaped forward, his sword stretched out before him, he saw the Last Sage turn his head towards him. In that moment, he knew that his attack had been expected all along. Before he could even process this revelation, his arms were jerked violently aside, along with the rest of his forward momentum. Awkwardly, horizontally, he landed on the low table, crashing into bottles and spilling their contents all over. Attempting to recover, he used one hand to lift himself into a lounging position, while the other aimed his lightsaber at where the Last Sage had been. A bright glow shone from this direction, and it took the dazed Jedi a second before he recognized it as another lightsaber. A pure white blade, its golden hilt held by the Last Sage themself. They had deflected his attack.

Naturally, the moment after his strike was pure pandemonium. Beyond the clattering of bottles and furniture, there was the shocked and outraged screaming of most people present, with native curses and settler exclamations all mixed in a discordant cacophony. Even the Jedi had jumped to their feet, set off by the sheer disturbance which his outburst had caused in Force. Only the Last Sage seemed calm, a bizarre display considering they had been his target. As they kept one hand on their golden lightsaber, holding it so as to block another attack, they waved the other across the calamitous scene. Even though the settlers and natives had drawn their weapons by now, ready to tear each other to pieces after the unprovoked aggression, the Sage’s gesture visibly calmed them. Alboran could not tell whether this was a trick of the Force, or else an effect of their charismatic aura; the Sage’s power was palpable regardless.

With everyone now turning to the one who had pacified them, it was left to the Last Sage to make sense of the chaos. Thus, they turned to Alboran. “Well, young Jedi,” they said, “it seems you have tried to kill me. Come along, won’t you? I believe we have some things to discuss. They glanced up at the Knights behind him. “And you as well, if you please. Let’s step outside for a moment.”

Realizing that he had no other option, Alboran turned off his lightsaber and got himself standing. He tried his best to ignore the present awkwardness, but the harsh glances at and around him were a constant reminder. Standing next to the Last Sage (who had similarly sheathed their saber), the latter took him by his arm and guided him outside. Their touch was surprisingly gentle considering his recent hostility; it was as if the Sage had not taken any offense. This situation was growing ever more absurd.

Outside, the sun was already setting, as the early evening made way for true nighttime. Just enough light was left in the sky for Alboran to spot a lone and barren tree just beyond the encampment. The Sage was steering him towards it, with the other Jedi following close behind. As he approached the tree, Alboran saw that its thin trunk was covered with an almost greasy light-colored bark, with its few branches wrapping around it in spirals. He struggled to imagine how it looked in this region’s wet season. Still, its morbid state made for a good background to the present proceedings. Coming up to the tree, the group halted, turning to stand in a rough circle. The Last Sage let go of him, and raised their arms towards the sky. Closing their eyes, they seemed to muster a great deal of concentration and Force power as the last bit of daylight slowly faded around them. Since even the ambient noise of the city and the grassland insects was getting quieter, Alboran realized this effect was both artificial and intentional: the Sage had isolated their gathering through the Force. He had never seen a power like this practiced by the Jedi. Where had they learned such a mysterious technique?

These questions arose without end, but Alboran was hoping for some answers. However, he found more than he had bargained for, as the Last Sage put their still raised arms to their helmet and lifted up. They held it in front of them now, and even in the dim light of this Force-enhanced dusk, Alboran caught every detail of the face revealed. They appeared female to him, with dark red skin, two  glossy appendages running down from the back of their head. They were Twi’lek, he recalled, a species that had only recently been incorporated into the Republic. About thirty years ago, if he was correct, and they were clearly older than that. A true native, if that’s how you defined it. Now they tried to keep other peoples from their own planet’s fate. Curious, although it didn’t explain their Force powers. This they would now explain themself:

“Hello, Alboran Kuai. You know me as the Last Sage, but I am also someone else. My other name is Sarulu Devot, and she is a Jedi Grandmaster. The Galactic Council on Coruscant knows her as the leader of the Folk Jedi, so I am that too.” A slight pause followed. “Do you have any questions?”

He had nothing but.

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