We’re only a few weeks away from the long-awaited arrival of The High Republic, and more excerpts arrive from A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, the young adult novel focusing on Avon and her padawan Vernestra.

“How about a please?” J-6 said. A compartment in her chest opened up, and a silver rod extended out and above her head. There was a crackle as a blue dome of energy emitted from the slender stick, creating a canopy of cover.

“Get over here, Honesty. Unless you have Force powers to protect you, as well,” Avon said, pushing the goggles up onto her forehead. Vernestra realized she had unconsciously been using the Force to keep the few random rain drops from hitting her, and a glance over at Imri revealed that he had been doing the same.

But using the Force in that manner was not sustainable, so Vernestra cut loose a couple of broad leaves and used the Force to levitate them over her and Imri’s heads. That would keep them dry.

Honesty crowded in close to Avon and J-6, and the three of them walked forward awkwardly. The little scout droid flew back through the trees, beeping a cheerful melody. “Go ahead and follow Essdee. He’ll take you to the cave he found. I can track his beacon, and we’ll catch up with you,” Avon said to the Jedi, eyeing the rain with concern.

“We can also track their progress no problem,” Honesty said, pointing to a charred branch, the aftermath of Vernestra’s hacking and slashing. “More important, does this area flood?” Honesty asked, looking around at the ground.

“Let’s hope not,” Vernestra said. If the rain was caustic enough to burn through clothes, then a flowing river of the stuff was going to be disastrous for any nonnative organic life-forms. Crude matter they might all be, but no one wanted to end up melted by a rainstorm.

“Imri, with me,” Vernestra said before redoubling her efforts on the foliage blocking their path. The two of them began to slash at the thick growth, and as they did the rain’s pace increased from intermittent to more regular. The broad leaves over their heads grew heavier, and Vernestra had to concentrate to make sure the leaves remained at an angle so the water could sluice off harmlessly. The foreboding Vernestra had sensed blossomed into dread, the feeling a heavy weight in her middle. She could clear the brush faster, but that would mean showing the true nature of her lightsaber. She glanced at Imri. He was intent on using his blade to cut through the brush. But he looked as tired as Vernestra felt.

He could handle the truth.

“Imri, stand back,” Vernestra said. They’d traveled far enough ahead of the others that there was no one else around to see what she was about to do, and some of Vernestra’s anxiety drained away. “I can do this faster but I need you out of the way.”

“Vern, what are you talking about?” he asked, but still stepped back as she had asked.

“Watch.” Vernestra twisted the front ring on her lightsaber, and the single blade fractured and split before falling in a sinuous strand of purple light. Vernestra swung the lightwhip so that the deadly beam cut through the growth in front of her, clearing the same path as she and Imri had been clearing in a fraction of the time.

“Wait, how did you figure out how to do that?” Imri asked. He didn’t sound judgmental about the unorthodox weapon, merely curious. “Did you study one of the light weapon archives?”

“No, the entire design came to me in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. I couldn’t sleep until I’d finished the modification.” Vernestra swung the whip in a horizontal figure eight, letting the bright violet blade work from the residual momentum. She’d started training with the whip in secret, and even Douglas had not known of the modifications to her lightsaber. Imri was the first to see.

“Lightwhips are used by the Nightsisters,” he said. Vernestra turned to look at Imri out of the corner of her eye. She’d learned very early on that the whip required more attention and care than the lightsaber. One wrong move and she could be slicing through one of her own limbs.

“During the Sith Wars the Jedi also used lightwhips,” Vernestra said, clearing the path and walking forward at a brisker pace. Philosophical conversation or no, they still had a massive rainstorm bearing down on them, and they could not levitate leaves over their heads forever. “Have you read the testimonies of Cervil the Uncanny? She states that the whip was sometimes used to defend against the Sith Lords who used the Forbidden Forms. Besides, I was led to this design by the Force. I cannot believe that the dark side directed its construction. Do you feel any of that anger and discord in me?” Vernestra did not mention that she hadn’t told anyone else about the change to her lightsaber, not even her former master, Stellan Gios. The Padawan didn’t need to know everything.

Imri shook his head as his cheeks pinkened. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to question you.”

“Questioning me is fine, Imri. I should have questioned the design, as well. But look! It’s already proven useful.”

Vernestra cleared one last group of saplings and then the greenery fell away, revealing a small clearing and a rise. SD-7 was just beyond, hovering in the steady rain.

“Imri, you see that rock?” Vernestra asked, turning off her lightwhip and holstering her weapon. “It looks like there might be a cave under there. Can you clear it?”

Imri nodded and reached out a hand toward the cave. At first the massive boulder didn’t move, but then it began to roll right toward them. It gained speed as it hit the incline and Imri grunted from the effort of trying to stop it, shaking and sweating as he reached the limits of his strength.

A heartbeat before the boulder crashed into them, Vernestra pushed it to the left, sending the enormous rock careening into the thick underbrush. The sound of its passage down the hill was loud enough to compete with the thunder overhead.

“Sorry,” Imri said. The large boy was bent double, hands resting on his thighs. The leaf overhead protecting him from the rain fell as he lost his focus. Raindrops sizzled where they hit his tunic, charring the pale material. Vernestra moved her cover over so it floated above the Padawan, as well.

“It’s okay, Imri. You did well, you just have to learn to focus on the whole task. My master taught me that it helps to envision the entirety of the task, not just one step at a time. We can practice once you’ve had a rest. Come on, let’s check out this cave.”

Star Wars The High Republic: A Test of Courage
  • Hardcover Book
  • Ireland, Justina (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 01/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Disney Lucasfilm Press (Publisher)