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Beyond - Legends Metamorphosis (AU, 47 ABY, Jacen, Vergere, vignette, Haiku Poetry Roulette)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by ViariSkywalker, Oct 20, 2021.

  1. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    Title: Metamorphosis
    Author: ViariSkywalker
    Timeframe: 47 ABY, a few weeks after Here There Be Monsters
    Characters: Jacen Solo, Vergere, mentions of OCs & ECs
    Genre: AU, introspection, mild angst, vignette, one-shot

    Summary: Jacen Solo has had plenty of time to think. He thinks about being a student. About being a teacher. Being a Jedi, and a Sith, and a traitor. Most of all, though, he thinks about being a shadowmoth.

    Notes: This vignette takes place in my Enter!verse, and it's my response to @Mira_Jade's Haiku Poetry Roulette Challenge in the mini-games thread. Talk about a spot-on perfect prompt. ;) Like The Lands of the Dead and Here There Be Monsters, it was influenced by Matthew Stover’s Traitor, and there are a few direct quotes from that book throughout. Links to other stories in this 'verse are included at the end, if you're interested!

    Disclaimer: Still playing in the darker corners of the SW sandbox, probably for longer than might be considered normal or healthy. I don’t own these characters, or the novels they come from.

    Thanks to @Gabri_Jade for looking over this and for silencing all my doubts. [:D]


    A caterpillar,
    this deep in fall -
    still not a butterfly

    —Matsou Basho



    Jacen Solo stands alone on the ridge, eyes turned to the hazy, darkening red-orange of Korriban’s sky. The air is so close now, and he can sense the creatures of this world reacting to that closeness, that inevitability. Beasts that cower to no man flee now in search of shelter. In this way, they’re not unlike most other animals he has known and cared for. Shelter well, my friends, he whispers to them. This will be a harsher night than most.

    The storm sweeps in with little additional warning – as most storms on this planet do – charging the air with such violence that he half expects it to call forth lightning unbidden from his hands. But this is no rage-induced red tide washing him away from indecision and questions of morality. No, this is the startling clarity of having stood at the summit of the highest mountain peak, of having beheld the valleys and plains and lesser mountains around it while breathing in the clean, crisp air. This is the purity of the Force, and he is a conduit for its power.

    He looks away from the sky, down at the wide valley below. Lined on either side by statues of long-dead Sith, the Valley of the Dark Lords is a grim, desolate, occasionally awe-inspiring monument to a golden age of darkness. Jacen cares little for what lies buried in those tombs. He has already plumbed their depths in search of knowledge and come up largely empty. That doesn’t mean his time here has been wasted, though. Not at all.

    He turns his gaze to the ancient fortress at the far end of the valley, from which the One Sith rule over their growing empire and train the next generation of their initiates. He has just returned from another week of instruction in that brutal, dreary place. He thinks of his own years at his uncle’s Jedi Praxeum on Yavin IV, and how stark the contrast is with what he has witnessed in those halls. Failure is met with mockery and violence, success sometimes even more so, and the instructors pit their students against one another in an effort to cultivate the strongest, most determined, and most ruthless warriors.

    The One Sith have also figured out something that few dark side cults have – they understand the value of hope. Oh, they’d never admit it outright. In fact, he has heard many speeches about the illusion of hope, how clinging to such illusions keeps people in bondage and makes them weak. But these Sith offer their trainees a different kind of hope: that one day they will rise from the ashes of their lost childhoods and return to the galaxy as the masters of their own fate.

    Jacen bows his head and shakes it before turning his back on the Sith fortress. Controlling fate… now there’s an idea worth pursuing.

    The clouds grow dark overhead as he reaches the small cave he thinks of as home. He has fashioned a door from speeder scrap he found in Dreshdae, and the interior is furnished with a simple cot, a small round-top table, and a kitchenette formed around a portable hotplate and a few barely-functioning appliances. It’s so far less than the accommodations available to him in the fortress, and yet he would much rather be here in the wilderness.

    He retrieves a weathered tea kettle from the old shelving unit he uses in place of cabinetry, and he places the kettle on the hotplate, filling it with water he has stored. Despite its age, the hotplate heats up quickly, so he won’t have to wait long. The tea blends he purchased in Dreshdae are one of the few comforts he indulges in these days, and he picks one out, along with a chipped ceramic cup, kiln-fired black.

    As he waits for the water to boil, he plays the last week over in his head. Most of Darth Krayt’s Sith still regard him as a curiosity, or a nuisance, maybe. Pathetic for all his failures, and yet there’s always an undercurrent of wariness whenever he shows up. They don’t understand why he keeps coming back, or rather, why he leaves in the first place. Yet they’re only too happy to hand off their initiates to him for training, because they know he’s still one of the best fighters they have. And he goes along with it because it suits his purposes, and because it wouldn’t do to upset the strange balance he keeps with the Sith – not while Roan and his mother are still living among them.

    Sometimes he thinks about taking his son away from here. If it weren’t for Roan, he might have stopped returning to the Sith altogether. He might have dared to leave Korriban and risk the secret of his survival being made known to the Jedi and the galaxy. He might even have renewed his search for the daughter he lost.

    The kettle lets off steam with a low whistle, and Jacen reaches out to remove it from the hotplate.

    So it’s only Roan keeping you here?

    His hand stills, hovering centimeters from the tea kettle. It’s only a voice, as it always is, but he can still picture her in his mind’s eye: legs folded under her as she sits, leaning forward, her head propped up by sharp-taloned hands, the feathery crest on that head shimmering as it changes color to reflect her mood.

    He lowers his eyes for a moment. “What other reason have I to stay?” he asks innocently as he picks up the kettle and pours the boiling water into his cup, fully aware of what her answer will be.

    Why, the boy, of course.

    And there it is. He’s actually surprised she hasn’t mentioned him sooner. He waits for her to say more, and after a lengthy pause – as if she’s allowing time for his tea to steep, how thoughtful – she finally does.

    You’ve returned to the Sith with unusual frequency ever since he joined the ranks of the initiates.

    He recalls the training session he watched yesterday evening, the impromptu one that Darth Malleus had sprung on the initiates after a full day of grueling conditioning. The boy had been clearly outmatched in his fight against a much larger, stronger opponent, and he was the only student to be repeatedly and brutally knocked to the ground. Still, as exhausted and bloodied as he was, he kept getting back up, and he kept fighting.

    Jacen picks up the cup and blows gently across the steaming surface. “He’s certainly more interesting to observe than all the others.”

    So he’s uniquely gifted.

    “In a way, I suppose. He has survived what very few people could.”

    You know a thing or two about survival.

    “I’m not sure I could have endured what he has. Not at his age.”

    You were always stronger than you gave yourself credit for.

    “Maybe.” He lifts the cup to his lips, pausing to inhale the spicy aroma of the tea. He sips it slowly. “Not nearly strong enough, though.”

    Feeling sorry for yourself again?

    “Merely stating a fact.”

    Another long pause, and he can feel the weight of her inquisitive gaze, even though he can’t see her. Even though she’s been dead twenty years.

    How is your tea?

    He smirks over the rim of his cup. “Hot.”

    You know, sometimes I forget what a funny boy you are.

    He knows that comment should take him back to the child he once was, with his terrible jokes and his friends and all of his dreams stretched out before him, still attainable and pure. Instead, he thinks of that day only a few weeks ago, when he encountered the boy in the mountains and saved him from a particularly angry tuk’ata. When asked what he’d been planning to do before Jacen intervened, the boy was silent, but in the Force his sardonic response rang out clear: Die.

    I see. Her voice is quiet, with a quality he can’t quite pin down. You’ve grown attached to this child.

    “Hardly,” he replies, taking another sip.

    Oh, Jacen. After everything I taught you.

    He smirks a little at that. “Is it what the teacher teaches, or the student learns?”

    How frustrating you’ve become. Should I be irritated or proud?

    “A little of both, probably.” He lowers the cup, cradling it in both hands as he stares down at the dark, steaming liquid. “I visited once, in the middle of—” He pauses as he remembers, wondering at his own hesitance. “He didn’t know I was there, but I watched. Right before he passed out, I looked into his thoughts. Do you know what I saw there? I saw a boy defending a threshold, determined that none should pass. Ready to die defending it.”

    You saw Ganner.

    “Yes. And no. Ganner was Ganner, just as Anakin was Anakin.”

    And only Jacen can be Jacen.

    He nods and sets his tea cup on the scuffed tabletop, fingers still curled around it. “No one can be anyone but who they are,” he says quietly.

    And this boy? Who is he?

    He traces his fingers around the base of the cup. “He’s no one.”

    Lie to me all you want, Jacen, but everything you tell yourself—

    “—should be the truth. I haven’t forgotten.” He watches wisps of steam curl in the air over the cup, fainter than before. “It’s not attachment, exactly. When I look at him, I see me, the way I imagine you must have seen me.”

    Your own little shadowmoth.

    “Yes.” Her story has stayed with him all these years. The shadowmoth forever crippled by her well-intentioned efforts to help it.

    You can’t help a shadowmoth by cutting its cocoon, he’d told her. It needs the effort; the struggle to break the cocoon forces ichor into its wing veins. And as they’d discussed what help she might have instead offered the poor shadowmoth, Jacen had realized the story was theirs. His and Vergere’s. Even if it was a lie, it was a good one.

    He closes his eyes at the memory, her words as clear to him now as they were back then: And also, perhaps, you might stop by from time to time, to let the struggling, desperate, suffering creature know that it is not alone. That someone cares. That its pain is in the service of its destiny.

    How surprising it was to enter the lab that first time, to see the quiet, solemn boy strapped down on the doctor’s table. To see the scars that already riddled his thin body. He’d heard there was a child who’d survived time and time again without breaking, and he was morbidly intrigued to finally meet him. No one had mentioned he was a twin.

    Ah. We come to the truth at last.

    “The truth,” he murmurs as he opens his eyes and stares off into space. “You know the truth is always bigger than the words we use to describe it.”

    Then let us speak in partial truths, you and I, and perhaps come to a better understanding of what might be considered true.

    He pauses, then sighs. “You’re not really here.”

    Perhaps. But then that only means you’re talking to yourself right now, and everything I’ve said is what you’ve been thinking all along.

    Ah. This old mental game. How many times has he played it with himself? “Partial truths it is, then.”

    You like this boy.


    You miss your daughter.

    He resists the urge to rub his hand across his mouth, to conceal his reaction. “Yes,” he murmurs.

    Your vision showed you reuniting with her one day, but only with help from a pair of twins. A pair of Sith twins.


    The boy and his brother—

    “—will lead me back to her.” His Allana. How he has longed to reach out to her, just once. But it’s still too soon.

    Visions are tricky things, Jacen. You know that better than most.

    “I do.”

    You could be wrong.

    “I could be. But I can’t always know the right path, or all the outcomes, can I? I can only choose, and act.”

    Are you prepared to accept responsibility for your choices, and to face the consequences, whatever they may be?

    “Of course,” he says quietly. “What do you think I’ve been doing?”

    Now that— She pauses for emphasis, lingering over the words. —is a question worth asking.

    He can feel the scowl creasing his features, and he works quickly to smooth it away. He’s long since passed the point where he can afford to have doubts.

    Are you ready, Jacen? Are you truly ready to transform again?

    He thinks of Allana and Roan and of all the people he has loved, and he shrugs. “Yes. I have to be.”

    And what of the boy?

    Jacen shakes his head slowly, thinking of the shadowmoth in his childhood collection, the one he’d nurtured to maturity before watching it emerge from its cocoon to spread its great, dusky wings and soar off into the night, the trill of its moonsong filling the air. The one whose agony and desperation he had shared throughout the long night as it struggled to break free from that same cocoon.

    Vergere’s words return to him; old words, decades old: If I had understood what was happening – if I had known what the larva was, and what it must do, and what it must suffer, to become the glorious creature that it could become – what should I have done that you would call, in your Basic, help?

    He doesn’t say anything, and neither does she; and the silence stretches on in a way that he might have found unbearable, once upon a time. Outside, the wind howls as rain begins to beat against the earth.

    Will his destiny be worth all that pain, do you think?

    He wants to answer, to remind her of what he learned long ago, that sometimes pain is the only bridge to where you want to go. That the best help you can offer a shadowmoth is to watch over it, and protect it from predators, and leave it alone to fight its own battle, even though it hurts. Instead, he lifts the cup once more to his lips and sips at his tea.

    I knew you would be transformed into something greater, something beautiful and glorious. My gentle shadowmoth, who loved the whole universe.

    “Yeah,” he says with a small, mirthless laugh. “Whatever happened to him?”

    He’s still in there, I have to hope.

    He nods – just barely – and focuses his gaze on the cup in his hands. “Shadowmoths don’t live long.”

    No, they don’t.

    “And there’s nothing beautiful or glorious about what he’ll become.”

    No. There isn’t.

    He nods again, and takes another sip.

    There is no place for this boy in the future you will create.

    The tea has gone cold, and he rests the cup in his lap; and he recalls the look in Dorian’s eyes as he staggered to his feet over and over, and the faint smirk that curled at his lips the very last time he stood.

    Jacen turns toward the sounds of the storm raging outside. “I guess,” he whispers to no one at all, “we’ll just have to see what happens.”



    Yikes, this ‘verse is getting big. I like to think you can jump in wherever, so I’ve organized these stories by the characters they focus on. Each section is in chronological order, more or less. Enjoy!

    Main Story:

    Enter the Foreign – in which Anakin Skywalker winds up in Ben Skywalker’s crapsack future and joins his fight against the Sith Empire; also featuring Allana Djo Solo, Tahiri Veila, and many more (51 ABY; epic)

    The Way Out Is Through – Ben Skywalker has lost so many people to war, and still he survives; decathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics (42-52 ABY; vignette collection)

    Turn Ourselves Into These Ashes – Darth Festus and Darth Ferrus lead a surprise attack on a hidden Jedi enclave; missing moment/alternate POVs from Ch. 18 of EtF (51 ABY, vignette)

    Chaos Twins stories:

    The Lands of the Dead – 8 years before the events of EtF, the Starskip twins are captured by the Sith and must fight to survive. (43-49 ABY; short story)

    Here There Be Monsters – Dorian Starskip almost dies (twice) and has a nice chat with Jacen Solo. (47 ABY, vignette)

    HK-47 and the Super Evil Chaos Twins of Evil – Festus buys a droid, Ferrus is annoyed, and HK-47 is surrounded by meatbags. (52-53 ABY; vignette; humor/crack!fic)

    Thunderbolt and Lightning – meet the Chaos Twins; a Festus & Ferrus decathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics (33-58 ABY; vignette collection)

    Allana/Festus stories:

    Where the Waves Shatter – feelings are hard, especially for a not-quite-former Sith Lord; Festus & Allana (54 ABY; vignette)

    What If This Storm Ends? – five times Darth Festus definitely wasn't in love with a Jedi princess, and one time she definitely wasn't in love with him; Allana/Festus (43-61 ABY; one-shot)

    Forces of Gravity – in which Festus has terrible people skills and Ferrus has terrible aim; Allana/Festus (55 ABY; one-shot)

    In Dreams We Dwell – Allana attends a masquerade ball and deals with a dangerous uninvited guest; Allana/Festus (59 ABY; short story)

    Our Weakness Is the Same – she can’t escape his orbit, and he can’t escape hers; Allana/Festus decathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics (43-61 ABY; vignette collection)
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
    Kahara, Pandora, RX_Sith and 5 others like this.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Your writing of the impending and then actual storm is very vivid! Jacen's thoughts and 'talk' with Vergere is very thought-provoking and multi-layered as it touches on destiny, past hopes and current doubts. [face_thinking] An exquisite use of the lovely haiku, the moth breaking free of a cocoon to become something gorgeous. =D=
    ViariSkywalker likes this.
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Loved the dialogue between Jacen and Vergere
  4. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Okay, so. I've loved your writing since way back when you were a wee whippersnapper (VoS, where's the rest of the story, get on it), and EtF was amazing all on its own, and then it became your very own expanded universe and I love it all, but there are certain installments that just have an overall sweepingly poetic feel that I adore (*mentally places a bet with self as to how long it will take you to text me demanding to know which other ones are on that list*), and this is one of them. Which is one heck of an achievement, because I've disliked Jacen pretty much forever. To be fair, I didn't read YJK. Maybe he was tolerable then. I have my doubts. But in the NJO he was a tool, and then LotF gave us Sith tool Jacen, and just oh my gosh, why did we ever spend so much time on this milquetoast dude? The only time he was ever interesting to me was - hmm, Traitor. Well, whaddaya know :p Anyway, if you'd asked me if I'd actually love a vig featuring Jacen and only Jacen, the answer would have been a resounding no, and yet here we are. Excellent work :*

    Gorgeous, visceral description, per your usual. I can see the sky and feel the air :cool:

    This is absolutely fascinating to me, that he can be a Sith and deliberately and repeatedly kill the people closest to him, and also still like animals.

    This passage is also fascinating, because it can be spoken from so many different viewpoints. It's what the Jacen of the pre-Traitor NJO yearned for, the clarity of thought and morality and purpose whose lack all but paralyzed him. It's what the Jacen of Traitor apparently came to agonizingly comprehend, with successive veils falling from his eyes. It's what the post-Traitor NJO Jacen believed could transcend everything else (insofar as I understand it, it's been ages since I read most of the NJO, tell me if I'm wrong :p). It's what LotF Jacen seemed to think he possessed as a Sith that all the Jedi lacked. The only word that seems to potentially diverge catastrophically from light side philosophy and actions is "power" - and even that can be seen as depending on your point of view. It's certainly not as though Jedi aren't conduits for the Force's power. And yet, is that the way they should think of it? RotJ and TTT Luke would disagree. After he lost his way (thanks so much, EU authors who apparently missed every bit of Luke characterization established in the OT), it was specifically the rejection of raw power that put him back on the proper path. So you can read this entire paragraph from almost any point of view, right up until the very last word reveals that we're reading Sith reasoning, which is just brilliant. It's an oblique yet perfect demonstration of how deceptive the dark side can be, all wrapped up in pretty words.

    See, I think this is a bit of genius. The One Sith claim to reject hope, mock it as a concept, and yet they knowingly use it as one of their fundamental tools. They just don't admit it, thus using even a more light side-oriented part of human (sentient?) nature to their advantage without acknowledging that they're doing so.

    This is where Mara would mention songbirds in an ore-crushing facility. Or possibly realize that things have gone far past that point, and evacuate everyone she could from the path of the storm, and begin making contingency plans.

    What do you know, even Sith can occasionally have good taste :p

    I love this aside more than I can say, because it's exactly the whole Jacen-Vergere dynamic in a nutshell, because it's skillfully applied pacing, and because proper steeping is crucial to the whole tea experience [face_coffee]

    This feels like such a difference from LotF Sith Jacen, who was astonishingly bad at objective thinking.

    Have I mentioned that I hate LotF with all the white-hot heat of a thousand bursting suns?

    I read Traitor exactly once, when it first came out, and yet I clearly hear Vergere's voice throughout this vig. I think that's the mark of truly excellent writing, to be so very in character and capture the same feel and cadence so well that it evokes such an old memory.

    Also? This feels like exactly what Jacen's truly awful childhood sense of humor would have matured into: a dad-joke-adjacent sort of humor that makes you roll your eyes without being really irritated.

    And this is the sort of Sith Jacen should have been, if the EU just had to go that way: Vergere-style, playing with words and philosophy and hiding behind the concept of never truly being able to establish clear-cut right or wrong, convincingly claiming that life is far more complicated than that, while all along being sure that he could somehow manipulate it all for the greatest benefit, a not-quite Sith who walks the walk while rejecting the talk, who thinks he's successfully balancing on the knife's edge between light and darkness.

    Stover could have done it. The other EU authors couldn't, and shouldn't have tried. So what does that say about you, my brilliant darling, who is managing it so well? [face_batting]

    And how's that for a heartbreakingly pervasive theme?

    More perfect Vergere characterization. So either Jacen has well and truly absorbed her teachings right down to the bone, or some aspect of her is there after all. And honestly? I wouldn't put money on either option. It really feels like either is possible, and both are valid. The ambiguity is delicious.

    One of the very few areas where Vergere and Mara would have agreed, these words right here. Of course they'd have disagreed the very moment you went beyond their surface depth, which makes the dichotomy all the more rewarding, if you ask me. But also, it's interesting that clearly every so often Jacen knows a flicker of doubt despite it all. He then absolutely smothers it under Vergere-style "choose, and act" philosophy, but there's a difference between erasing something and burying it.

    Dang, man, shadowmoths; look at all they have wrought :p

    Honestly, sometimes in reading this Enter!verse, you make me want to reread not just Traitor, but the entire NJO, specifically to better understand your Jacen. Do you realize how unthinkable that is? Thousands of pages of a story I mostly didn't care for the first time I read it, yet every now and then I consider the prospect, not because of those authors' writing, but because of yours.

    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    First off: everything @Gabri_Jade said. I can't put my thoughts into words any better myself, but I'm going to flail at you a bit and try anyway. ;) [:D]

    THIS OPENING. [face_hypnotized]

    Poetry, all of it! (We have another Space Lord Byron on our hands, don't we?) And I really liked this glimpse of Jacen as we knew and loved him among the, well, Jacen he is now. How he can be so cruel and merciless and yet still love animals, after a sort, really is something. Figure that one out? o_O

    I LOVED this imagery. I could feel the violence of the storm sweeping in and that crackle of lighting building. =D=

    Is that how he'd describe it? o_O

    Anyway, there's no more terrifying a villain than one who somehow thinks he's doing the right thing. But, the evocative description of his introspection is a testament to your skills as a writer. =D=

    This was such a terrible, brilliant observation that says so much. [face_hypnotized] And that the One Sith do it so unknowingly really is the kicker, isn't it? They may decry hope as a weakness, but there's even hope in a lust for power, in a way, even if it's selfish and twisted. And for so many of these trainees who have had no choice in the matter and just want to survive and become stronger than the trauma they've endured . . . it's all hope in a sense.

    . . . is it, now? [face_thinking] [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    Hey, even the Sith have their creature comforts. [face_laugh]

    I really enjoyed reading these little details.

    And his mother. Do we know what happens to her yet??

    Also: strange balance really sums it up doesn't it? It's bad when the One Sith think you're something to be leery of and maybe more than a little too mental, even for their tastes.

    DORIAN!!!! [:D]

    This comparison was on point!

    And, just like that: Jacen and Vergere's twisty turny dynamic, captured in just a few words. You channeled Stover in all the right ways throughout the entirety of this vig, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. =D=

    The great thing is that I can't tell who, exactly, scored the point following this exchange. But, that's just Jacen and Vergere's wordplay at its best. Again: just sooooo good!

    That refrain about choices again! [face_thinking]

    This metaphor will never not kill me dead!

    Truth, indeed! [face_mischief]

    You know, surviving without breaking and that indomitable bond between Dorian and Veeran - even when they are definitely more at odds than Jacen and Jaina were on the surface - makes you wonder what kind of parallels Jacen sees in these two, and Dorian especially. Even before his vision of the future. [face_thinking] =((

    It's fascinating how these two go hand in hand. JACEN, WHY???

    That said, how would their dynamic work in another time and place? Maybe in a happier AU . . . [face_whistling] [face_batting]

    The ULTIMATE question, and don't think for a second that I didn't notice how you failed to give us even one clue as to an answer throughout this entire vignette, you sneaky author you. ;)

    Transform again. Does that pertain to Krayt? Or something more . . . [face_thinking]

    This really is the metaphor that just keeps on giving. ;)

    =(( =(( =(( Well, there go those dang ninjas again. Everything is horrible and everything hurts, especially knowing that this is all in Jacen's head . . .

    What Jacen took from Vergere's teachings versus what she intended for him to take is another interesting subject to consider all together. Darn, but you're making me want to give Traitor another try again. :p

    The cold tea, that quintessentially Dorian image, the storm, and those final words: masterfully depicted, all!

    This was such a thoughtful vignette, full of great imagery and tension from start to finish! Thanks for taking part in the challenge, and sharing this powerful interpretation of your haiku with us! =D= [:D]
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    "That said, how would their dynamic work in another time and place? Maybe in a happier AU"

    Yuppers, I'd read that in a minute. :D @};-
    ViariSkywalker and Mira_Jade like this.
  7. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 13, 2006
    Great to see Jacen's slow descent towards becoming Darth Caedus. It puts a lot of introspection into the fall from good to bad and with Vergere noticing the changes that are taking place, she realizes that it is too late to change the course that Jacen is taking.
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    I love how you've delved into Jacen's character here and how you have him wrestling with big questions as part of his transformation and metamorphosis (what a fitting title indeed, especially considering the haiku that inspired this piece).

    This passage was fascinating to read. So much is said and also left unsaid here.

    I love the little flickers of wit we get from Jacen in terms of his "is it what the teacher teaches or the student learns?" question. What a wonderfully cheeky thing to say, haha. And also his "a little bit of both" answer is great.

    And I think this is the core question behind so much in life whether in our own world or in a galaxy far, far away.

    Well done with this piece about transformation and asking the big questions in life!
  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Enjoyed this darkly intriguing piece! I don’t know the era or the characters well, but I can still see clearly that Jacen is poised on the brink of a transformation and getting advice—I guess one could call it that!—from a strange and enigmatic mentor. His conversation with Vergere (part spoken, part mental, I’m guessing) was wonderful, by turns emotionally proving and snarkily humorous (“How’s your tea?” “Hot.”) One of the few things I do know about Jacen Solo is that he does end up making the transformation into being a Sith—but in this story there’s almost a hint that the transformation could go either way—either in the Sith direction or in a better, happier direction, with Jacen’s thoughts of his loved ones leading the way. And of course the image of the shadowmoth dying when someone else tries to free it from its chrysalis is very striking—I don’t know if that’s canon or not, but it is an absolutely spot-on match for your haiku prompt. Very well played, there, on multiple levels, and thanks so much for sharing! =D=
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2021
  10. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    Replies, finally! :p

    Also, if you're interested in reading a lengthy essay on the subject of shadowmoths, scroll down to my replies to @Findswoman's comments. [face_whistling]

    Thank you! I enjoyed trying my hand at Jacen and Vergere's complex dynamic. [face_mischief]

    One of these days! Thanks for reading! :)

    Thanks! I loved writing it. ;)

    Awww, Gabri! [face_blush] :* [:D]

    This all means so, SO much to me. [face_love] (And I will get back to the VoS sequel one day, I promise! :p)

    Also, thanks to the magic of time zones, it was what, an hour? [face_laugh]

    I really didn't expect this vignette to have such an impact on you, so I'm positively giddy that you love it so much! :D

    I didn't read all of YJK, and at this point I hardly remember what I did read, so my foundational experiences with Jacen were in the NJO. And I felt much like you did, up until Traitor. And even after Traitor, I still didn't fully connect with him. But now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser and have spent more time reading through Traitor and parts of the later NJO, I've come to care pretty deeply about Jacen - so maybe that's part of why I was able to write this the way I did. [face_thinking]

    This whole scene sort of smacked me in the face with amazing clarity, so I'm glad I was able to make you feel the atmosphere here.

    That was one of the things I disliked about his fall in LotF - he was barely recognizable as the character we knew before. And I get it, it was probably supposed to be indicative of how the dark side corrupts and twists and destroys the person under its sway... but I've always felt that characters who fall to the dark side are more compelling and realistic if they're shown to still retain some of their natural personalities. You want to make Jacen unsettling and twisted? Show how he still has empathy for all of these creatures, and then contrast that with the way he uses his empathic abilities to manipulate people. I don't know, there's so much the pros could have done without mangling the character, if they'd tried. And I find this "friend to all creatures" Sith Lord much more interesting and threatening than one who would kick puppies or whatever. o_O

    I love that all of this came through so clearly for you! That's the thing: Jacen is not a good guy here. Not at all. This section was actually inspired by Stover in two ways. The first was the metaphor of the red tide, from Traitor, which was how Jacen experienced his own overwhelming rage and the clarity of the dark side. When he was in thrall to his anger, everything became clear, and all those pesky questions of right and wrong, good and evil? He suddenly knew the answer to them, and the answer was pain and the fact that he held the power to choose. And after those moments, when he was swept up in this dark, bloodthirsty current, he was horrified by the things he'd done. But I kept coming back to that clarity he felt, and it made me think of something else Stover had written in another of his SW books: the conversation between Palpatine and Anakin in RotS, after Palpatine reveals his true identity. I haven't read that part in years, so I may be remembering it all wrong, but I thought I recalled a passage where Palpatine talked about the dark side in terms of standing high on top of a mountain and being able to see everything clearly, and being able to choose what's important to you, and what's not. (I'm probably mangling it.) So anyway, that was my jumping off point for this introspection from Jacen, and it's perfect because it was inspired by the ultimate Sith Master himself, using the same sort of logic that twisted up in Anakin's mind and made him think that what he was doing was right.

    This is something that came up because I’ve been exploring Sith doctrine and ideals a little bit in working on the Ferrus fic, and the ideas sort of bled over. (In that story, we'll see it from Veeran’s POV, which is markedly different from how Jacen perceives it.) I'm not super familiar with most other dark side cults in the EU, but for the most part they've struck me as sort of one-note. (And I include the Sith in this, too, a lot of the time.) Fanatical, hyper-violent, eschewing all forms and expressions of love or affection, obsessed with arcane Force techniques and relics... and it's not that any of those things are necessarily bad for a villain group or indicative of poor development. But how many people do you know in your day-to-day life who are all or even one of these things? And I think that's where my approach to the One Sith stems from, a desire for them to feel like real people with real feelings that you can actually understand and (horror of horrors) maybe even relate to a little. Which is not to say that they aren't hyper-violent or cruel or fanatical - I mean, come on, the doctor literally vivisects people - but these Sith are more militaristic than religious, and they understand that people who are fighting for something - a cause, their families, themselves - make better soldiers in the long run. So you can go ahead and beat the tar out of your trainees, but you still have to give them some kind of hope, even if you tell them hope is an illusion that makes them weak. In a way, it's not all that different from one of the lessons Vergere tried to teach Jacen, when she said she gave him a gift, by freeing him from the hope of being rescued. Instead of focusing their hope on some external thing, these Sith trainees are taught to rely on themselves, to put hope in themselves and their own power and abilities. Hmm.

    Apparently I've thought about this way more than I'd realized. :p

    Yeah, trying to control fate never seems to work out well, does it? o_O

    I'd been wanting to expand on hermit Sith Jacen for a while, and given where we are in EtF, now seemed like the perfect time. Every time I write more about these Sith and find myself spending more time in their world, I'm forced to start thinking about what that world looks like. We don't usually think about what the Sith do in their free time, or if they have free time, or what their interpersonal relationships are like, other than to say "they hate everyone and everything and want to burn it all down". But that can't really work for most villains, and especially not the One Sith, otherwise they wouldn't have lasted long enough to become any kind of threat. So I suppose this was also me throwing in some subtle worldbuilding, because if there's a place in Dreshdae where Jacen can buy tea, then that must mean there are people living in Dreshdae, which means the Sith who are living in the fortress are not the only people on Korriban. Thousands of years ago, Dreshdae was a bustling city with deep connections to the Sith. I honestly can't remember if there was anyone there by the time we got to the Legacy comics, but meh, I'm already going wildly AU anyway, and I like the idea of the Sith revitalizing Dreshdae as a sort of base for their military forces at the very least.

    Also, I just liked the idea of Jacen being a tea-drinking hermit, and he's not exactly going to hop a flight offworld to buy some, you know? :p


    You know what's really funny? I wrote the tea-drinking section of this fic (and most of the dialogue) before I wrote the tea-preparing section, and when I went to join the two together, I realized I hadn't given Jacen enough time for his tea to steep, so that's where this came from. And you're right, it actually worked perfectly for the Jacen-Vergere dynamic, so I was pretty happy with that.

    (I'm glad I started drinking tea so that I could have this real world experience to pull from. :p)

    I'm always relieved to have written an improvement over LotF Sith Jacen. ;)

    (You may have mentioned it once or twice... [face_whistling])

    :D [face_blush] It really is such a huge compliment that you feel this way.

    Agreed! Plus, there were times when he really did bring the snark, and I wanted to touch on that, too. He was definitely enjoying the chance to be difficult with Vergere, the way she so often was with him. [face_mischief]

    Aw, shucks. [face_blush] Obviously you know what a compliment that is, too. [:D]

    Right??? =(( :_|

    :D [face_mischief]

    I think it says a lot that he does have those doubts occasionally and has to force them from his mind, rather than being so doggedly assured that he's 100% right and everyone else is wrong. It feels truer to his character that he would continue to think about his choices, even after he's made them and set his own plans into motion. He's not letting his doubts paralyze him into inaction, but he still has them from time to time.

    I knooooooow. [face_laugh] Seriously, though, they've worked so perfectly for my purposes, and it's not like I even meant to craft Dorian's story around them. As you know, I didn't even include the shadowmoth metaphor until the very end of writing TLotD, and then once I wrote that happy AU scene a few weeks later and somehow made the shadowmoth metaphor work again, I realized this was going to be a Thing with him. And I love it.

    Er... did that make any sense? 8-}

    That is some of the highest praise you could give me, Gabri, truly. Wow. I'm still blown away every time I read this. [face_love]

    [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]

    Thank you for this wonderfully insightful feedback, dearest! I enjoyed it more than I can express! [:D]

    Aww! [:D]

    You know, of all the Solo kids, I can see Jacen being the one with the Lord Space Byron tendencies. [face_thinking] :p And that really was my goal here, to give a glimpse of the Jacen we knew amid his current darkness.

    Me and my storms. :p

    I'm really glad you liked it! And I definitely agree, those types of villains are often the most frightening.

    Yes, this. Everyone needs something to fight for, something to keep them going, even if that something is as simple as the chance to survive and come out stronger on the other side.

    [face_whistling] [face_whistling] [face_whistling]

    I really enjoyed writing them! :D It's been fun fleshing out hermit Sith Jacen.

    Not yet! I don't have a specific story in mind to deal with this question, but I do have an answer. You know, the Ferrus fic might be a good place to expand on this just a little... [face_thinking]

    Most of them really don't know what to make of him. I mean, when you betray an ally, that ally usually doesn't come back to you willingly. So why is he here? And they know he's powerful and that once held sway over much of the galaxy, so why would he be content to live in their shadows now? Jacen and his relationship with the One Sith is one I can certainly see myself exploring more in the future.


    There really are a lot of similarities between them. [face_thinking]

    [face_blush] That really is such a huge compliment! :D

    I did enjoy writing their back-and-forth in this. [face_mischief]

    Exactly. And that was kinda the whole point of Traitor, the question of "who is Jacen Solo?" He couldn't be his brother, or his uncle, or his mother, or anyone else. He could only be himself, and sometimes that's more a matter of choosing than anything else, isn't it?

    So I guess the question now is... who is Dorian Starskip? [face_thinking]


    I think it would be impossible for Jacen to not see those parallels, honestly. :(

    Very fascinating, yes. [face_thinking] [face_batting] (I just love the complexity of the tangled web between Jacen and Allana and Dorian, as you well know. ;) [face_mischief])

    One of these days I'll get that AU ficlet thread off the ground, or write a full-length happy AU story, and then maybe we'll finally see what that dynamic could have been. [face_batting]

    [face_mischief] [face_whistling] [face_batting]


    (It really is!)

    Aw yeah, one more for the potential Traitor reread. [face_dancing] [face_mischief] :p

    I feel like these last few lines might be the closest this Jacen comes to being the Jacen we knew, if that makes any sense at all. And notice it's the only time Jacen ever refers to Dorian by name, either here or in HTBM.

    I love that you pointed out that quintessentially Dorian image... because while this vig relies on the Jacen-Vergere relationship to ground it and give it context, it's really more about Jacen and Dorian than anything else. Dorian might be a means to an end for Jacen, but he's never been just that. I suppose the question of Dorian's significance to Jacen might seem like a moot point, given how all the other stories play out. Then again, I still have more stories to tell, and as Jacen says here, we'll just have to see what happens. [face_mischief]

    Thank you for the excellent inspiration! It really couldn’t have come at a better time. ;) I'm so glad you enjoyed this vig, and thank you for the lovely and thoughtful feedback! :D [:D]

    I'm glad you enjoyed this! This story is actually an AU, and Jacen has already been Caedus for many years at this point. But I did try to approach Jacen's fall in a different way and bring him more in line with how I feel he should have been depicted. Thanks for reading! :)

    Thank you! I did a double take when I received the haiku, because it could not have been more perfect considering all of the other stories I've been writing lately. ;)

    It's always interesting trying to find the right balance of what to have the characters say and what to show through their actions, and it's rewarding to know when I've done it well. :)

    Ha, "what the teacher teaches or what the student learns" was one of those callbacks to Traitor that I sprinkled in throughout, and considering how proud Vergere was at the end of that book to see her student surpass her, and what a sharp contrast that has to be to how she would see Jacen now, at a time when he's fallen so far... well, I couldn't resist that. Plus, I just liked the role reversal, with Jacen getting to be the snarky, ambiguous jerk in the relationship. :p

    Thanks again! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D

    Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it even if the characters were a little less familiar to you! Jacen is in a very interesting place here: by this point, he's gone through a few transformations in his life. The two most notable of these would be his time as a prisoner of the Yuzzhan Vong, when he was mentored by Vergere; and the other is of course his fall to the dark side, when he became Darth Caedus. In canon, Jacen/Caedus died in 41 ABY at the end of the LotF series; but since the Enter!verse branches off very early on in that series, I've circumvented (and flat-out ignored) most of what happens there, and that also means Jacen did not die. Here he's been Caedus - he doesn't think of himself by that name anymore, but it's what the other Sith call him - for many years. I imagine him to be much like old Ben Kenobi once was: a mysterious yet powerful hermit living alone in the wilderness, occasionally chatting with his dead mentor. YMMV on that one though, because is Vergere really there? Maybe she is, or maybe Jacen really is talking to himself. [face_thinking] As for his loved ones... I would definitely say that his love for them is leading him in a certain direction. The question is, what direction is that, and is it the right one? [face_mischief]

    Okay, so... let me tell you all about shadowmoths and why I love them and think they're an amazing and versatile metaphor and think that Matthew Stover is an unexpected (or not so unexpected?) genius for creating them. And also why I keep stealing them for my own purposes. (Omigosh, I did not intend to hijack your comment in order to write a dang thesis, but apparently I had some thoughts. Feel free to skip past this enormous essay that you definitely did not ask for, and please forgive me for using this reply to indulge in some meta... [face_hypnotized])

    First of all, the ringed moon shadowmoth is indeed part of the Legends canon, first appearing in Stover's Traitor. They live as larvae for years, storing up energy for their metamorphosis. Then they enter their cocoons, and when they finally emerge as fully grown shadowmoths, they have these wing flutes that allow them to “sing” to the moons. Shadowmoths’ lives are very short; they only live for one summer, and then it’s all over. But while they’re alive, they’re beautiful, gentle creatures whose only purpose is to sing to the night sky.

    Now, in the beginning of Traitor, Jacen is a prisoner of the Yuuzhan Vong, and he's being held in their Embrace of Pain – a living torture organism, basically – and it's freaking horrific. (Stover is an amazing writer, but omigosh the paaaaaain.) Anyway, Vergere is there, and though she doesn't seem to be facilitating the torture, exactly, she's also not doing anything to prevent it. (One could argue that she couldn't stop it even if she tried, because they’re surrounded by the fanatical Vong, but like so many things about Vergere, it's ambiguous.) So one day, after Jacen has been hanging in the Embrace of Pain for a while and feeling totally hopeless and frustrated, Vergere tells him that she’s actually helping him by freeing him from the hope of being rescued. Jacen is, understandably, not impressed with Vergere’s idea of help, and he tells her as much. Vergere agrees that their problem is one of linguistics, so she tries another tack – she tells him the shadowmoth story. And it goes like this:

    Once upon a time, when Vergere was young, she found a shadowmoth at the end of its metamorphosis, fighting to get free of its cocoon. She could sense the desperate creature through the Force, and she also felt that the shadowmoth sensed her and was crying out to her for help. So she decided to use a utility knife to slice into the cocoon and allow the creature to go free.

    At this point in the story, Jacen becomes very sad, because he’s already familiar with shadowmoths (having raised one of his own), and he already knows how this story ends. Because the shadowmoth needs to fight its way out of its cocoon; that’s the only way to fully develop its wings and wing flutes. If you “help” the shadowmoth by freeing it prematurely from its cocoon, you will cripple it, and it won’t be able to fly or sing. Jacen knew all of this, which was why – when he was caring for his own shadowmoth – he didn’t interfere with the process, and his shadowmoth eventually emerged as the beautiful creature it was always meant to be.

    Vergere continues her story, telling Jacen how her shadowmoth was indeed crippled, and how she could feel its bitter envy throughout that summer as it listened to the other shadowmoths singing to the moons. And then, of course, the summer ended, and the shadowmoth died – a tragic creature robbed of its destiny because she helped it.

    So then Jacen gets a little indignant, because that’s obviously not what help means either. Vergere says she saw a creature in pain and tried to ease that pain and fear – isn’t that what Jacen means by help? And he explains that she didn’t understand what was happening, to which Vergere replies:

    “Neither did the shadowmoth. But tell me this, Jacen Solo: if I had understood what was happening—if I had known what the larva was, and what it must do, and what it must suffer, to become the glorious creature that it could become—what should I have done that you would call, in your Basic, help?”

    Jacen’s answer to this question is virtually identical to the answer he gives in Metamorphosis: you could watch over the larva and protect it from predators and leave it alone to fight its own battle. And Vergere adds that you might also stop by from time to time to keep the suffering creature company and let it know it’s not alone and that someone cares… and that “its pain is in the service of its destiny.”

    Well, at this point, Jacen realizes there’s more to this story than just a breakdown of linguistic differences. He’s pretty smart, after all. He’s begun to understand that Vergere isn’t talking about shadowmoth larvae at all – she’s talking about him. About the two of them, Jacen and Vergere. At this, Vergere tries to peace out, saying that it’s time for some more torture, but Jacen isn’t going to let it go. (He also realizes that shadowmoths are indigenous to Coruscant, so if Vergere came across one in her youth, that means she must have lived on Coruscant at one time, and omigosh what does that meeeean? Short answer? It means she was once a Jedi, but he doesn’t find that out until later. See how Stover made his shadowmoth story do double, even triple duty? It taught a lesson about pain and struggle, hinted at Vergere’s true intentions with Jacen, and clued Jacen and the reader into the fact Vergere might have once been a Jedi. Genius, I tell you.) Anyway, Vergere’s only answer to all of Jacen’s startling realizations is this: “Everything I tell you is a lie.”

    All right, so that’s the shadowmoth story. But I said I was going to tell you why I think it’s an amazing and versatile metaphor, so I will try to do that now.

    The first metaphor is obviously about transformation achieved through pain. Not all pain is torture. Athletes train until their muscles are sore, mothers endure the rigors of labor to bring forth new life, and how many people learn to ride a bike without getting a few scrapes and bruises? As Jacen realizes in the aftermath of Vergere’s storytime, “sometimes pain is the only bridge to where you want to go.” Pain isn’t pleasant, but sometimes it’s necessary and unavoidable on the way to achieving one’s goals.

    The second metaphor concerns the relationship between two people: someone in pain, and someone else in a position to ease that pain. You might also say it’s about the relationship between a student and their teacher. One of the frustrating things about being a student is that you can’t always see the path ahead, and you don’t know why your teacher makes you learn or practice certain things. Sometimes it seems like you’re going in circles, not accomplishing anything at all. Sometimes doing the work is painful. Teachers, on the other hand, have usually already walked the path. They understand how all the lessons will add up to a greater whole, a greater truth; but they can’t always come out and explain that to their students, because doing so often deprives them of the lessons they’re trying to teach in the first place.

    Now, there’s a whole lot of other stuff that happens in Traitor, but ultimately, Jacen achieves victory not by winning a fight or killing some people or doing crazy awesome Force stuff (although he does do those things throughout the story), but by making a friend (the World Brain) and accepting that all things (including the Yuuzhan Vong) are part of the Force and the universe whether the Jedi can sense them or not. And by the time you get to the end of the NJO as a whole, Jacen has become an enlightened hero who defeats the evil Vong overlord by reaching a brief but incredible state of perfect oneness with the Force. Despite everything he has suffered, Jacen comes out better on the other side. He becomes something beautiful and glorious.

    This probably seems like a far cry from the Jacen in my Enter!verse, and I’m not going to dive too much into the how and why of what caused him to change so drastically. The profic wanted him to fall to the dark side, so he did. Whether it was a long time coming or the result of poor interpretations of prior works, is a matter that is still debated. I think he could have fallen to the dark side, but I don’t think it was done at all well in the novels. I have tried to course correct in my own writing so that Jacen’s fall is at least somewhat plausible. In Metamorphosis, Jacen has long since turned to the dark side. He’s become Darth Caedus, been defeated, and retreated to Korriban to live adjacent to the Sith allies who betrayed him. He’s produced a child with one of them, he trains their initiates, and he has stood by and done nothing while the Sith doctor operates on and murders countless innocents.

    Which brings me back – finally – to shadowmoths and why I keep stealing them to use in my own stories.

    Metamorphosis is about transformation, it’s true; but it’s also about students and teachers, and the unintended consequences of the lessons imparted from one to the other. It’s about a broken, lonely person looking for a way back to the daughter he lost, and how, in doing so, he ends up replicating his own strange and twisted not-apprenticeship with a boy who reminds him a lot of himself. It’s about Jacen finding his own shadowmoth in a Sith initiate named Dorian Starskip.

    You see, Dorian is the shadowmoth metaphor taken to its darkest conclusion. He endures unspeakable horrors and unimaginable pain, but he doesn’t come out better on the other side, because Jacen doesn’t need a noble savior or an enlightened hero. Jacen needs a Sith Lord – two Sith Lords, actually, and twins at that – and that’s exactly what Dorian becomes. Dorian isn’t crippled, like Vergere’s first shadowmoth, but neither does he become something beautiful or glorious, like her second one (Jacen) – instead, he comes into his own as a totally twisted creature of violence. He becomes Darth Festus.

    I’m sure there are many other ways to use shadowmoths as a metaphor – the juxtaposition of gentleness and strength, the seasons of life, beauty and art for their own sake – but I want to touch on one last one before I close this out: the lifespan of a shadowmoth, and what it means for these characters.

    Shadowmoths don’t live long. They get one summer, one chance, to make the most of their lives and their gifts. They bring music and beauty and joy, and it’s so very fleeting, but no less wonderful because of it. And then they die.

    Maybe it’s somehow fitting, then, that Jacen Solo ascended so high and became such a shining beacon of enlightenment and goodness and love, only to come crashing down, throwing everything and everyone he loved into chaos. Because a shadowmoth’s life is short, and after he’d done what Vergere hoped he would, after he’d saved everyone, it eventually had to end.

    Maybe it’s also fitting that Dorian would be essential to Jacen’s plans for the future, and at the same time, superfluous to that same future. Because again, a shadowmoth’s life is short, and a dark, twisted shadowmoth that brings nothing but pain and destruction? Well, that isn’t the sort of creature that should be allowed to exist alongside anything beautiful or good, is it? Certainly not in the world Jacen wants for his daughter.

    I suppose if you take nothing else away from Metamorphosis, I’d want you to take this: Jacen knows how far he has fallen. He knows how terrible it is that he has done nothing while children are brutalized, and while this one boy in particular is in need of saving. He has convinced himself that it’s all necessary to bring about something better. And he’s also fairly certain that when all is said and done, Dorian Starskip will have to die.

    But even with all that certainty and the weight of all his plans and his visions bearing down on him, he’s still waiting to see what happens.

    Okay, I’m pretty sure I’m just rambling away at this point, and I’ve very likely made everything even more confusing. I hope you enjoyed this unexpected foray into the world of Traitor and shadowmoths and literary analysis and my Enter!verse and whatever else I threw in there. And I apologize once again @Findswoman for using your comments to dive into all the meta about these characters that has apparently been swirling around in my brain for quite a while now. Like I said, I had some thoughts. :p

    Anyway! Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for reading my fic and putting up with my ridiculous essay! [face_love] :D

    And you know, to everyone else who actually read my whole shadowmoth thesis... [face_blush] 8-} [:D]
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2021
  11. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 6, 2012
    Vi, this is -- without a doubt -- the most profound deep dive of Traitor I have ever seen, and that includes the intro to 'Only Right' on FFN. The shadowmoth story is only, what....a page? In paperback. Meaning it's a few paragraphs at best. But it is the backbone of what Jacen, and by extension NJO, becomes by the end of the story.

    We can use a useful comparison to a Game of Thrones character here: Varys. Does Varys like serving King Robert? No. Did he like serving King Aerys? No. Did he like Joffrey? Again, no. Why, then, does he continue to serve as Master of Whispers? A) As he so often tell us, he serves the realm. B) They'll kill him if he resigns. Self-preservation is a powerful motivator.

    We get Vergere's story of her capture (from Rogue Planet, I believe. Which remains the best in-universe tie-in of the EU.), and her story of how she let them believe her abilities decrease with distance from her galaxy. Once she spins that tale, she really can't unspin she has to act 'powerless'. Could she have stopped Jacen's torture? Probably. Would they have then killed them both? Most definitely. So what good does a rescue at that point do? None.

    Traitor, essentially, teaches Jacen three things: Living can be painful, you cannot always rely on outside help, and there is no Dark Side...only dark people. There is no question that the first two are undoubtedly true, which means that we can really only debate the third...something I won't do here. Analyzing further, this means that LotF and FotJ are really only trying to shed 1/3 of what Vergere was trying to teach. It means that the remainder of the EU spent three series, 20-odd books, to undo a few paragraphs in Traitor.

    Vergere could only use the tools she had at her disposal, with her own (partly self-induced) limitations to rescue Jacen. If we remove her from the story, does Jacen survive? I doubt it.

    With your permission, I'd like to copy some of your treatise above and put it in the 'Jacen Solo Fanclub' thread.

    Thanks for the deeply profound, and deeply moving, thoughts on shadowmoths!
  12. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    I'll be back to reply to the rest, but for now I wanted to quickly say yes, you have my permission to quote this essay in the Jacen thread. [face_peace] (And thanks again for your comments, both here and over on ff.n!)
    SiouxFan and Mira_Jade like this.
  13. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 6, 2012
    Thanks! Just posted over there.

    Of course! I probably should have reviewed here first because it's fun to participate in the debate....but I wasn't lying when I said I was so awed by this story that I had to review straight away.
    Mira_Jade and ViariSkywalker like this.
  14. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    @SiouxFan: I took way too long finishing up this response, but I'm here, finally!

    Having read the intro to Only Right a few times myself, I was sort of speechless at this, and I'm so pleased that any of my ramblings could be considered comparable! The shadowmoth story is short, like you said, but it really is the framework for the whole of Traitor, and I can't help but be impressed by Stover's brilliance in using it as such.

    I read Rogue Planet when it first came out (I was thirteen), but I didn’t start reading the NJO until late 2004, so that didn't enter into my perception of Vergere at all. And yeah, as far as I can recall, Vergere reads as a pretty normal Jedi Knight in RP. Based on that one book, I wouldn't have had a clue that she'd develop the way she did in the NJO. It’s really interesting to me to think about how her interactions would have been different had she returned to a galaxy where the old Jedi Order was still around, possibly even meeting some of her old peers. But that’s not the galaxy she returned to, so here we are. And yes, I think even though Vergere is meant to be ambiguous when seen from Jacen’s POV, it’s still pretty clear that her options were limited in terms of what she could do to actually help him. As you said, it seems very unlikely he would have survived if Vergere were removed from the story.

    Welp, I was trying to keep this short, but I guess I had a lot of thoughts stemming off of this, and I’m probably going to be all over the place. (This isn’t so much a direct response to your comments as it is me just processing and articulating some things those comments inspired.) Anyway, here, have a mini essay. :p

    What's really interesting to me is what the whole "there is no dark side" thing means to different people and why some fans (including eighteen-year-old me, once upon a time) were averse to it in the first place. For my part, the first time I read Traitor, I remember being overwhelmed by Jacen's pain and inner struggle, and frustrated that he was so often dumbfounded by Vergere's questions, because I was pretty sure I could have answered a lot of them better than Jacen did. (Of course I did. I was eighteen, and I was reading a book, not fighting in a war or being actively tortured.) And then we got to the big reveal, the great lie of the Jedi, that the Force doesn't have sides, and my brain just went, "er… but that's not what the movies say? Nope, don’t like that."

    And that's really the crux of the issue, isn't it? We – the audience, the readers – were used to viewing the world of SW through a certain lens, and when Traitor came along it felt like a refutation of all that had come before, and the true messages of the book became lost under the weight of our frantic denial. Of course, there were plenty of people at the time who welcomed this paradigm shift because it reflected what they had always felt to be true, and they were glad to see SW move away from a black-and-white, light side vs dark side mentality. My own views, it may or may not surprise you, now lie somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. But I’ll circle back to that in a minute.

    After Traitor, I think a lot of people wanted clarification about what the dark side of the Force is actually supposed to be. Is it an aberration or is it natural? Is it an entity with a will of its own that ensnares and possesses the user? Is it some kind of cosmic manifestation of the darkness lurking in people's hearts? Or is it something else altogether? But… was that really the question we should have been asking? Because when it comes down to it, whether the dark side is external or internal or nonexistent is sort of irrelevant to the stories being told – the specifics are window dressing, because the light side and the dark side are a narrative device used to illustrate choice, and the consequences of those choices. Do we want our characters – our heroes – to fight against an invisible bogeyman that will snatch them up if they’re not careful and force them to do bad things? Or do we want heroes who struggle the way we struggle, facing up to their flaws and making choices and deciding the kind of people they want to be, even when it's hard, even when their own darkness is staring them in the face? I think the latter is what lies at the heart of Traitor, and I think it’s also what lies at the heart of SW.

    Switching gears just a tiny bit here: I watched a video a few months ago that detailed why Luke Skywalker is a different type of hero, and it had some fantastic insights into the tradition of heroism that SW follows and how it differs from the model of heroism in most other modern stories. (I’ll include a link at the end of this, in case you’re interested.) I rewatched this same video again recently after spending way too much time thinking about Jacen Solo, and I realized something (and I’m probably very late to this party): Jacen’s character arc in Traitor and the NJO isn’t all that different from Luke’s in the OT. (And I don't just mean that in a "Hero with a Thousand Faces" sort of way.) In fact, as I watched this video again, I felt like it almost could have been talking about Jacen, especially in Traitor. And it really hammered home for me that even though Jacen’s journey might have seemed like a radical departure from the SW norm, it was still faithful to the overarching themes of SW as seen in the OT. The whole video is 15 minutes and worth a watch, but one of the points that stuck with me after was this: “…it’s misguided to think that the Star Wars movies’ vision of good and evil is just black and white. Lucas isn’t telling stories about good people and evil people; he’s telling stories about characters who can choose good or evil. The light side and the dark side are the two paths these choices take them down.”

    Stover wasn’t rewriting the mythos of SW by declaring there was no dark side, and the movies aren’t as black-and-white as is often believed. In fact, I’d say Stover was pretty much dead on, and you’d need look no further than his RotS novelization, which contains a lot of similar themes and imagery as Traitor. (Anakin’s dead-star dragon vs Jacen’s shadow worm, anyone? Or how about the ways Anakin and Jacen experience rage and deal with their inner darkness while being pushed to their emotional and/or physical limits?) Despite their different approaches to storytelling, I really believe Lucas and Stover’s ideas are essentially in alignment.

    What does that mean for the post-NJO EU, and for the story decisions made in the planning and writing of it? As you said, it does seem like a great effort went into discrediting the one aspect of Vergere's teachings that seemed to contradict established lore (but that really wasn't all that radical in and of itself), at the expense of the rest of the story. I can't speak to the editors' and authors' intent in crafting those later storylines. I generally like to believe that everyone who contributed to the EU did so with the best of intentions and a love of SW. If that's the case with DN and LotF and beyond, I guess I'd simply say I strongly disagree with their approach and feel that they missed the takeaway from the NJO and also weren't up to the task of dealing with the psychological complexity of the characters, especially Jacen and Vergere.

    There's a lot more I could say about Jacen's character arc in the novels and what makes him similar to and different from Luke, or either of the Anakins, or anyone in SW, really; but I think I'll have to save that for another time. ;) Here's the aforementioned youtube video, and if you like it, I do recommend the other videos from that channel.

    [face_blush] I'm really happy to have had this sort of impact. Like I said elsewhere, the shadowmoth essay was really just me trying to explain their significance to anyone who wasn't familiar, and also why that particular metaphor has had such an effect on me and my current crop of stories. I'm glad it was enjoyable to read!

    This really means more to me than I can say. I honestly didn't expect anyone else to care about this story as much as I do. I admit, the shadowmoth imagery has become something I've increasingly associated with Dorian’s character (part of the reason I think it's such a versatile metaphor), but it's still intrinsically bound with Jacen's story, so it just made sense that a reference to Dorian’s metamorphosis had to be viewed through the lens of Jacen's.

    Thanks so much, again, for all of your comments! I've been a bit long-winded in my response, but I know you don't mind. ;)
  15. SiouxFan

    SiouxFan Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 6, 2012
    The video is really quite thought-provoking. My main take-away? I do think that Lucas cannot really make up his mind on what he wants the Force to be, so he hedges his bets. What do I mean? We have Obi-Wan telling Luke: Vader was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. We also have Yoda's quote: Once you start down that path, forever does it control your destiny. Both of these imply that the Force is something 'real' and that the Dark Side is a Witch in a gingerbread house, just waiting to tempt wayward Jedi with power, fame, or fortune. (Or cookies). But yet, in what is probably the most profound scene in the OT, we have Luke's battle in a cave on Dagobah (is it really a cave? seems awfully well lit for a cave). This scene tells us that our biggest enemy is ourselves and that darkness comes from within. We're told that Some of the truths we hold depend on a certain point of view. We also see Anakin overcoming his demons and rescuing his son from certain death.

    What does this all meeeeaaaannnn??? There are entire threads on here that have tried to figure that out, but mostly I think that it means that Lucas doesn't really know what it means, either. As you said, the movies...especially Empire...are a lot more complex than they look at first blush.

    I think, we as SW fans and we as people, want a definitive answer to the question: Where does evil come from? In the end, no one really has an answer. Lucas spend 6 movies trying to explain how Anakin fell, and it still falls a bit flat. Rowling spent 7 books doing the same, and her answer doesn't feel complete either. It's easier for us to think that evil is a Dark Side that lures us with cookies, than it is to realize that evil is sometimes just incremental -- that there are some people that just keep getting away with larger and larger wrongs until it takes a war to stop them.

    Was Yoda wrong? Depends, right? History is filled with people that didn't get off that dark path....but there are also people who have. Are truths sometimes subjective? Of course. Were the Rosenbergs traitors, or did they save the world from being dominated by a malevolent US?

    Looping back to Traitor one more time: It is ironic that the only lie Vergere told Jacen was when she said, Everything I tell you is a lie.
    ViariSkywalker likes this.
  16. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Apr 13, 2005
    Well, this one is certainly dark and deep. I first read it when you posted it last year, but I couldn't think of anything worthwhile to write. I still can't, not really, but here I am, making the attempt. I will say that I will take this version of Jacen as deluded Philosopher-Sith over the entire nine books of the Legacy of the Jedi series. Which I will freely admit I never read: I only lurked in the relevant threads for the last few books in the Literature forum for the "lolz." (Then the next nine-book series came out, and it was too bad for "lolz.") I haven't read Traitor, either, but I have picked up enough about it over the years I have been registered here to know who Vergere is, so I knew enough not to get lost here.

    This is not only a dark story, it is a quiet one--just Jacen alone in his cave as the storm closes in. (Or is he alone: is that a true ghostecho of Vergere's voice, or is he just talking to himself? Or does it even matter which it is?) It's clear that he has fallen from the light, and that he did so long ago. But he could not be more different from the sort of over-the-top evil laughing Sith the Emperor is the epitome of, obsessed with power for its own sake--and he is far more interesting. After everything he has done (and as a reader, I get the impression of a long and ugly story there) he still has his empathy for animals, one of the last traits left of the "funny boy" he once was.

    He is also keeping somewhat apart from the Sith of the One Sith--and that may be why in part that he is able to see aspects of their worldview, and their training, they not only can't see, but would absolutely deny are there. The Sith, and Dark Side cults in general, do seem to have the most joyless, wretched existences. It's all power, power, unlimited power, and destroying and killing whoever one must to get to it--but at some level, people can't live like this. They need more. In order to endure their training, the initiates need to see something beyond it to survive for--and that more or less is "hope," call it what you like.

    (Though Jacen wasn't always quite so apart from them--and I have questions about the woman who is Roan's mother, who he doesn't even bother to think of by her own name.)

    It's also a story about becoming, through Vergere's old story of the shadowmoth. Once Jacen was the shadowmoth in the story, and now it is Dorian, the future Darth Festus. He is suffering, and Jacen knowingly does nothing to stop that--because while I think he is fond of him in his dark way, and impressed by his ability to endure what he goes through, ultimately he cares most for Dorian and his brother for how he can use them. The twins who led him to his daughter (that Skywalker trait of elevating one person above all others, above the very galaxy!) in his vision were Sith. Thus this is what they must become. And well, Jacen knows what must happen at the end of the story he's writing.

    But Jacen is himself still in the lifelong process of becoming. He is preparing to leave his identity as Darth Caedus--who is already dead to the rest of the galaxy--behind to transform again. I'm guessing into Darth Krayt. Another name, another persona.

    (As I write this, a predicted storm is closing in, and the first thunder has crashed across the valley. So fitting I have to note it.)
    ViariSkywalker and Findswoman like this.
  17. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    It took far longer than planned to get around to these replies, but here I am! :oops:

    One of the things I enjoy about that scene is that - like Vergere's shadowmoth story - it has multiple layers of meaning that only become clear once you've seen/read more of the story. And it's always interesting to see how many different interpretations of that scene there are - barring differences in translation, we're all watching the same scene, and yet the things we each take away from it exist across a broad spectrum. I think that's fascinating.

    And then: it can hardly be a coincidence that there's an entire section of Traitor called "The Cave"... [face_thinking]

    I imagine it's not so much that Lucas didn't know what it meant, but rather that, like most of us, his ideas have changed and evolved over time, so whatever meaning he might have originally intended, he has probably tried to use later stories to layer those scenes with deeper meaning. I know that's something I've done quite a bit myself in developing my own particular 'verse. Sometimes you don't fully realize what you have on your hands until much later.

    Indeed! Thank you for your reply!

    First, I have to apologize for taking so long to reply to your lovely review! I'm always thrilled to read your thoughts - they're plenty worthwhile. ;) I also have to apologize for the length of this response; there were times when I rambled on quite a bit. :p

    I've certainly enjoyed writing Jacen as deluded Philosopher-Sith far more than I enjoyed reading what they did to him after the NJO. Which sometimes feels weird to say, considering I haven't actually been any nicer to his character, and YMMV as to whether the end result is essentially the same as the profic. (I like to think it's not, and that I've done it better.) LotF had some ideas that were worth exploring, but on the whole, it was just a hopelessly depressing ball of suck. I don't expect the characters I love to live happily ever after - in fact, I want to see conflict, because what is a story without conflict, and what is Star Wars without some form of epic struggle? But in the midst of all that, I want to see people trying to be better even if they keep failing, and I want to see families that actually act like families (with all the good and bad that entails), and I want the characters to be, you know, in-character. And yeah, as for Fate of the Jedi... those books don't even register as any version of canon for me. I know they are, but whenever I've read anything about them, it's like reading a thread in Lit where people talk about "well what if this random weird thing happened, wouldn't that be awesome?", and I'm just like, no, no that sounds really stupid actually. I don't see a story, I see a bunch of decisions made by a group of authors and editors in a committee, and it doesn't feel real. For all their faults, DN and LotF had a few things in them that stuck with me enough that I've written this sprawling AU, so they still sort of nebulously exist in my brainspace as a place to draw inspiration from, even if only to do it better.

    I did enjoy writing the ambiguity of Vergere's presence here. There may be a "right" answer, certainly, but in some ways it really doesn't matter which it is. What matters more is how Jacen responds to her, and what that reveals about him. I do feel as though my version of Jacen exists in this weird limbo where he's not really the Jacen/Caedus of LotF, but he's also not the Jacen who would have existed post-NJO if the editors and authors had actually followed the threads left dangling at the end of The Unifying Force and created something new with them, rather than doing a tired best hits mash-up of the PT and OT. (Narrative parallels are great! I love narrative parallels and recurring themes and generational echoes. And it pains me that so many professional storytellers don't know how to handle those things properly.) I've tried to write a believably dark continuation of the Jacen from Traitor, because that's my favorite Jacen: empathetic, compassionate, intelligent, principled, funny (and snarky), powerful but indecisive (though part of his journey in that story is learning not to be paralyzed by indecision, an arc that I find very relatable), and someone who loves his family - all of his family - with all his heart.

    That's one of the problems I've had with most dark side cults - they're so obsessed with power and destruction that they don't feel quite real. Sure, there are people who fit that mold, and the cackling, over-the-top villains have their place and their uses, but what about the rest? It's easy to look at the bad guys and say "I'd never be them," when in reality, no one starts out bad. So how do you get someone to that point? And how do you get them to bring others down with them? How do you keep the cycle going? Why do you want to keep the cycle going in the first place? There has to be some goal, some reward, some benefit that they can't receive otherwise. And I think I'm sort of losing the thread of what I was getting at, but basically, yes, I think Jacen's own upbringing and experiences and his purposeful detachment from the One Sith allow him to observe them with a critical eye and see things about them that they wouldn't acknowledge are true.

    Ha, this was partly an unfortunate side effect of my not having given Roan's mother a name yet when I wrote this. I actually considered whether to name her in this story, because I specifically didn't want to imply that Jacen was so cold to this woman that he didn't bother to think of her by her own name; but at the same time, I thought readers might be confused about who she was if it wasn't mentioned that she was Roan's mother, since I'd never named her before. I didn't want to distract from the main focus of Jacen's thoughts, which was his children, and I ultimately decided that it was in keeping with the characterization I'd established in Here There Be Monsters, that Jacen would intentionally distance himself from anyone among the Sith he may have begun to care for, because at the end of the day, he's using them.

    Yes, exactly!

    It's always gratifying when someone picks up what I'm laying down. ;)

    How very fitting indeed! I love it. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your excellent thoughts. I'm so glad you enjoyed this story! :D
    Last edited: May 23, 2023