On a Blockade Runner command deck, Leia dreams of Alderaan and her father. Captain Chedaki wakes her to report arrival at the Shiva System, at the edge of known space. Sent to spy on Imperials on Shiva IV, their shuttle hits an antimatter micromine while launching. Roak, the first officer, sends Jubilee to help them as he tries to get the ship out of the mine field. Jubilee finds Chedaki dead and tells Leia that they can't jettison the shuttle due to damaged firing circuits, so she pilots it out, sacrificing herself to save others and crashing on Shiva IV.
Warlord Aron Peacebringer of the Calian Confederacy, Demarch Kéral Longknife of the T'syriél Twelve Tribes, and Jain Havero and Ygal Delois, Aron's aides, travel days later by anti-gravity hovercraft to K'avor, an Outlands city, to learn why it cut communications with Aron's throne city, Illÿriaqum. Seeing renegade T'syriél, Outcast Raiders, chasing Leia, they jump to her rescue. Outriders, mounted Raiders, join the fight but are driven off. Seeing them flee, Kéral is ashamed, for before their treaty, no T'syriél would flee a human, whom his people call "Nightskins." Aron introduces himself but her translatacomp can't decipher his language. She goes with them to K'avor, passing a city leveled by nuclear war. Finding K'avor polished and radioactive, Leia recognizes the Cherenkov Effect of an Imperial anti-matter bomb and gestures to turn back. As they leave, none realize Delois is responsible. Weeks later, rumors spread in Illÿriaqum that gods destroyed K'avor to punish Aron for uniting his world and slaying the death cults, and he knows coup d'etat is imminent. After making love, he and his wife, Alisande, discuss his fears and Leia's warnings of the Empire, while their pet, Chiba, vies for attention. As Leia enters, Aron hides his feelings for her and the trio join guests to celebrate the anniversary of the Concordat of Peace . Leia dances with Delois, then runs out of the room, crying for Alderaan. Aron follows and helps her grieve, but giant Commando Stormtroopers drop from a TIE Interceptor and capture them. As Jain notices them missing and alerts Alisande, Aron and Leia are taken to an ancient fortress to meet General Sk'ar, the alien head of an Imperial conqueriing force on Shiva IV. Seeing Outcast Raiders and Calians among the strike force, Aron vows to defeat him.
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