|Chronological and political information|
- Edell: "You are the Caretaker. You alone know the old tongue--and you known the old ways better than anyone. You will guide our people well."
- Bentado: "You have redeemed our faith in Korsin."
- Neera: "Where no path existed, you found one wide enough for all. Alone, you have my trust."
- Sith leaders: "All hail Varner Hilts--the new Grand Lord!"
- ―Leaders of the Lost Tribe of Sith factions kneeling before Hilts[src]
Varner Hilts was a Human male who served as the mild-mannered caretaker of Sith lore for the Lost Tribe of Sith in 3000 BBY. He grew up during the tumultuous Time of the Rot which lasted almost a millennium and devastated much of the continent of Keshtah Minor. As a historian, Hilts hoped to use the wisdom of the ancients to reunite the Tribe. By that time, the Lost Tribe had descended into violent infighting, and the true origins of the Tribe had been forgotten. Unlike many of his Sith contemporaries, Hilts was very open-minded and forward-thinking. He even related to Keshiri, the purple-skinned humanoid beings indigenous to the planet Kesh, as his equals. Varner Hilts also developed a warm relationship with his Keshiri assistant Jaye Vuhld, who was a brilliant mathematician and theorist.
In 3000 BBY, Iliana Merko, the leader of the Sisters of Seelah, attempted to coerce Hilts into giving her and her faction political favor on Testament Day. This attempt failed after Hilts tricked her into believing that the holocron of Yaru Korsin, which contained Korsin's Testament, would only activate on Testament Day. During Testament Day, the Tribe discovered an older transmission beneath Korsin's Testament which revealed that the Lost Tribe were actually descended from slaves of the Red Sith which ruled the former Sith Empire. This development sparked the Great Crisis which resulted in much rioting and unrest across Keshtah Minor. Following the disastrous Testament Day which destroyed Hilts' beloved archive, he and Jaye resolved to unseal the ancient Kesh Sith Temple and the starship Omen in order to find the secrets aboard the vessel which might hold the key to the Tribe's survival.
There they encountered Iliana Merko, who was seeking refuge from her Sith rivals during the Great Crisis. After much difficulty, the three explorers discovered the Tapani heritage of the Lost Tribe's ancestors and learnt that Kesh had another continent known as Alanciar. Through these discoveries, Varner Hilts was able to unite the various Sith factions and set the Tribe on a new mission of reaching and annexing this new continent. Hilts was unanimously elected by the other Sith as their new Grand Lord. Hilts subsequently married Iliana, who subsequently adopted his family name. While an ancient law stipulated that the consort of the Grand Lord was to be executed at the latter's death, Hilts vowed to protect her. Their marriage later produced a daughter named Takara Hilts.
Grand Lord Hilts' reign would be remembered by later generations as the Hilts Restoration and was regarded as a time of peace, stability and reconstruction. Under Hilts' leadership, the Lost Tribe undertook a massive programme to explore and colonize the other seas and landmasses on Kesh beginning with Alanciar. Hilt's endeavors would be supported by his wife Iliana and several other Sith including Edell Vrai and Korsin Bentado, who had earlier been bitter rivals during the Time of the Rot and the Great Crisis. These efforts succeeded with the relatively peaceful annexation of Alanciar in 2975 BBY. The Tribe successfully convinced the Alanciari man Jogan Halder that the Sith were actually the mythical Protectors who were fighting against the malevolent Destructors. Hilts himself pretended to be the Bright Tuash, a legendary avian messenger of the Gods, and helped support Halder's message. Acknowledging the strong influence of Adari Vaal on Alanciari history, he claimed that Adari was a well-meaning but misguided servant of the Bright Tuash.
Following the consolidation of the Lost Tribe's control over Alanciar, Lord Hilts turned his attention to exploring Kesh's South Pole Eshkrene in 2974 BBY. He theorized that the Keshiri legends of the Protectors and Destructors originated from an earlier group of offworlders who had discovered Kesh millennia earlier. Hilts enlisted the services of Parlan Spinner, an outlaw and assassin who had tried to kill him. Spinner and Hilts' daughter Takara sailed aboard an Alanciari sailing ship the Southern Star to Eshkrene. There, they discovered the Doomed, the descendants of ancient Jedi and Dark Jedi from the Hundred-Year Darkness who had devoted themselves to protecting the Keshiri and finding a balance in the Force. Spinner freed the ancient Sith Lord Remulus Dreypa, who had been imprisoned for millennia within an oubliette.
Spinner and Dreypa returned to Keshtah Minor where Dreypa resolved to return to the stars and instigated a slave uprising against the Tribe. Dreypa defeated the Tribe's forces and the Doomed with his Leviathan sithspawn. Hilts' wife Iliana narrowly survived being devoured by a Leviathan but was artificially aged. However, the Sith Lord was defeated through the combined efforts of Spinner and Hilts' daughter Takara. This ended a major threat to Grand Lord Hilts' rule while validating his earlier theory that the Lost Tribe were not the first group of offworlders to discover Kesh. In return for his services, Lord Hilts made Spinner his new Hand and the young man developed a romantic relationship with the Grand Lord's daughter.
- "Trying to score points with the boss, Jaye?"
"I-I'm sorry for pushing you, Master Hilts. I was passing this way—"
"Calm down. Just a normal day in 'the Crown of Kesh.'"
- ―Hilts and Jaye, his Keshiri assistant and friend
Varner Hilts was a male Human who was a member of the Lost Tribe of Sith, a group of stranded Human Sith who lived on the remote Wild Space planet of Kesh. Hilts grew up during the Time of the Rot, a nine-hundred period of turmoil and civil war which engulfed the Lost Tribe. When Hilts was still a child, his father, Slippery Hilts, died following an accident with his shikkar blade. Hilts' father had attempted to assassinate a certain faction leader with that blade but had failed to fasten the dagger's sheath. His mother also died shortly later during a failed attempt to seduce another faction leader. While her minions had delivered her inside a massive urn to that leader's private bedchambers, the lid was stubborn and she subsequently suffocated to death. Despite being orphaned during his childhood, Hilts persevered and developed an interest in the Tribe's history.
Hilts eventually became the Tribe's caretaker and was in charged of providing the Tribe with accurate timekeeping and maintaining its historical archives. Hilts lived and worked in the capital city Tahv's capitol building, which had been the traditional residence of the Grand Lord. Hilts was accepted as Caretaker since few other Sith candidates were interested in that job. Most of the Sith were more interested in fighting for power. Varner Hilts' staff consisted of several Keshiri clerks who assisted him in his work. Unlike his other Sith contemporaries, Hilts treated his Keshiri staff as equals and eventually befriended Jaye Vuhld, a mathematician who helped maintain the city's Sandpipes, which were used to measure and record time.
For over nine-hundred-and-sixty years, the continent of Keshtah Minor, the Tribe's domain, had been devastated by civil war which had been triggered by the death of Grand Lord Lillia Venn in 3960 BBY. Since Venn had failed to designate a successor, this had created a power vacuum as rival Sith factions fought for power. By 3000 BBY, there were over twenty rival factions competing for the Grand Lordship. Due to the fighting, many of Keshtah's cities including Tahv lay in ruins and most public infrastructure including the waterworks and roads had broken down. The only time that the various Sith factions gathered together peacefully was on Testament Day, a holiday held every twenty-five years where the Testament of Yaru Korsin, the founder of the Lost Tribe was read out.
While Hilts had not been able to participate in the first Testament Day when he was ten standard years old due to his young age, he committed himself to sufficient study and training. By the age of thirty-five, Hilts was able to manage that year's Testament Day due to his position as the Tribe's Caretaker. Due to his position as Grand Caretaker, Hilts had the power to convene the Pantheon's Peace which allowed a reading of Yaru Korsin's Testament from a holocron, an ancient Jedi and Sith technology which predated the Tribe. By the age of sixty, Hilts could memorize the contents of Korsin's Testament by heart. He was widely regarded within the Tribe as an expert on the Tribe's past. Due to the self-serving nature of the Sith and his dead-end position, Varner Hilts never found a long-term mate. Prior to 3000 BBY, Hilts encountered a Sith lover who seduced him and attempted to kill him. While Hilts survived the encounter, he was left with a scar which ran from his left eye to his temple.
- "That's funny. I just told him the same thing. We have to talk, Caretaker—and I hate being interrupted"
- ―Iliana's first meeting with Varner Hilts
In 3000 BBY, Hilts was walking through the streets of Tahv when he narrowly survived being hit by falling debris from a ruin aqueduct. He was saved from death by his Keshiri assistant Jaye who pushed him out of the way before the debris could crush him. While Hilts regarded that incident as just a normal day in the Crown of Kesh, Jaye regarded that near-accident as a narrow conjunction and an omen. Aware that there was a group of quarreling Sith nearby, the two men departed for the safety of the Caretaker's office within the Sith capitol building that dominated the Circle Eternal, a historic square in the heart of Tahv. Testament Day was twelve days away and the Circle Eternal's atrium was open to the public for the first time in twenty-five years. The atrium contained a massive Sandpipe which was carefully maintained by workers.
While in the atrium, Jaye revealed that he and his fellow Keshiri mathematicians had calculated that Kesh's calendar was actually eight days behind the Galactic Standard Calendar, making today actually the fourth day prior to Testament Day. Jaye also revealed that year's Testament coincided with the Festival of Nida's Rise, a festival which commemorated the accession of Nida Korsin to the Grand Lordship every 79 years. Initially, Hilts was disinterested in Jaye's reports and merely commented that they would be able to save on wine this year. However, the two were interrupted by the arrival of Iliana Merko, a young woman who was the leader of the Sisters of Seelah, a Sith faction that revered Seelah Korsin, the estranged wife of Yaru Korsin.
While Iliana's armed followers waited within the palace atrium, Iliana herself confronted Hilts. She threatened Hilt's Keshiri assistant Jaye Vuhld with her lightsaber in order to draw Hilts' attention. Iliana also expressed her displeasure that the palace atrium contained no statues of Seelah Korsin but only contained statues of her estranged husband Yaru Korsin and her daughter Nida Korsin. Millennia earlier in 4975 BBY, Seelah and her son Jariad Korsin had plotted to overthrow Yaru Korsin. This coup failed and ended with Korsin killed and a crippled Seelah being banished to the Omen, the Sith warship that had brought the ancestors of the Lost Tribe to Kesh during the Great Hyperspace War. Since the failed coup, all statues of Seelah had been destroyed.
Iliana wanted to talk with Varner Hilts about the contents of Korsin's Testament before the other Sith arrived for the conclave in twelve days time. Hilts responded that everyone already knew about the contents of the Testament since it had been transcribed many times. Iliana reiterated that she knew the basic facts but then revealed the true reason for why she had come. Iliana was aware that Korsin's Testament had been used by different Sith factions to support their claims and to denigrate Seelah. Since the Sisters of Seelah had little to gain from Korsin's Testament, she tried to convince Hilts to change the Testament to favor her faction. Iliana wanted Varner Hilts to tell the other Sith that he and his Keshiri workers had discovered Korsin's "true" Testament which declared that Seelah and those who followed her teachings today were the legitimate heirs to power on Kesh. As part of their plan, the Sisters had produced a fake scroll that purported to be Korsin's "true" Testament.
By producing Korsin's "true" Testament, Iliana intended to uplift the Sisters of Seelah's standing within Sith society. However, Hilts was unwilling to cooperate with Iliana's scheme. While he admired the Sith woman's initiative, Hilts explained that Iliana's plan would not work because the Caretakers in reality did not actually read Korsin's Testament. He revealed that the Testament was actually read by a holo-recording of Yaru Korsin himself which was kept inside a holocron. In an effort to buy time until Testament Day, Hilts lied to Iliana that the holocron would only activate on Testament Day. This did not stop Iliana from fiddling with the holocron in a vain attempt to activate the projector. 
- "Caretaker, I'll never understand why you never challenged to rule the Tribe. You're wiser in the ways of the ancient Protectors than anyone."
"Too wise. These are the days of the Fragrant Fool, my friend. Knowledgeable men like us can't get far."
- ―Jaye and Varner Hilts
Over the next four days, the Sisters of Seelah occupied the Circle Eternal's grand palace and held Varner Hilts' staff captive. The Sisters' presence attracted the attention of several rival Sith factions including the Korsinite League, Golden Destiny, Force 57. Over this period, the number of visitors which included the Human Sith and their Keshiri followers grew which increased the risk of violence on the streets of Tahv. These Sith factions initially held off on violence but instead exploited the mass public gathering as a change to recruit people to their causes. While there was a festive atmosphere due to Testament Day and Nida's Rise, there was also a risk that violence could escalate due to the deep rivalries between the Sith.
During this time, Hilts and his assistant Jaye noted the Tribe's desire for a strong leader but lamented the poor quality of leadership within the Tribe, which had contributed to the Time of the Rot. When Jaye suggested that Hilts take up the mantle of leadership since he was well-versed in the ways of the ancient Protectors, Hilts responded that he was "too wise" for that position. Hilts knew that knowledge would not get him that far due to the toxic political environment. When Jaye responded that any free man or woman could become the Grand Lord, Hilts commented that it was a "fine thing" to believe in. However, he conceded that the "right to rule" had been abused by the Sith and had led to failure. For Hilts, the poor quality of leadership within the Tribe reflected the deep schisms within Sith society about the identity of the Tribe.
Hilts concluded that it was too late for him to assume a leadership role within the Tribe; likening himself to Donellan who never assumed power since his mother Nida had outlived him. When Jaye disagreed with Hilts' pessimism, Hilts responded that the former should never contradict a man of "advancing years" since that would shake his faith in his omniscience. When Jaye asked whether this rule applied when the person was wrong, Hilts replied that this rule indeed applied even when the person was wrong. Hilts then turned his attention to Iliana who was still preoccupied with trying to activate the holocron. Due to her lack of success, she was becoming increasingly impatient and frustrated. Frustrated at Hilt's unwillingness to help her to activate the Holocron, Iliana ordered her followers to harm Hilts' Keshiri secretary Jaye if he refused to cooperate. Left with no choice, Hilts reluctantly took the Holocron in his hand and agreed to activate it.
At that point, Varner and Iliana were both interrupted by the arrival of two rival Sith factions: the Korsinite League and Force 57. The Korsinite League was a Sith cult that had been founded by a former slave a century earlier which emulated Yaru Korsin and Nida Korsin. Each member adopted the name "Korsin" as their first name and their leader was Korsin Bentado. Meanwhile, Force 57 were another Sith cult that practiced ritual mutilation and scarring and were devoted to the original non-Human 57 aliens that were aboard the Omen. Since Seelah Korsin had destroyed all origins related to the Red Sith, no living Sith or Keshiri could remember how they looked like. 
Before further lives were lost, Hilts was able to bring peace to the three factions by offering to do a reading from the holocron. After interceding between Iliana and Neera, the leader of Force 57, Hilts reminded the various Sith factions that the Circle Eternal was not the place for violence. Korsin Bentado suggested that the three Sith factions take their fight outside into the streets where several other factions had gathered. Hilts was unwilling to let bloodshed take place and offered to do the holocron reading. When Iliana realized that Hilts had lied, he retorted that lying was a Sith characteristic.
Bentado reiterated that the Korsinite League would not accept a reading of Korsin's Testament on any day besides the anniversary which was scheduled to occur within eight days time. At that point, Hilts convinced his Keshiri assistant Jaye to present his calculations concerning the Sandpipes. Jaye explained that the first Sith colonists had brought their Galactic Standard Calendar to Kesh which differed from the planet's length of days and years. Millennia earlier, the Sith had calibrated their Sandpipes to the magical chrono aboard the Omen prior to abandoning the ship. However, the Sandpipes in Tahv flowed one second slower than those aboard the Omen. This time difference meant that the Standard Calendar was eight days ahead of the Keshiri calendar. Hilts and Jaye then deduced that Testament Day and the Festival of Nida's Rise actually occurred on that day. Thus, Hilts was legally obliged to declare the Pantheon's Peace and ordered the assembled Sith to bring the other Sith leaders into the atrium.
An Inglorious PastEdit
- "No, it can't be. It can't be. You! Caretaker! The Sisters got to you earlier. Did you tamper with that?"
"I wouldn't know where to begin."
- ―Korsin Bentado and Varner Hilts
Varner Hilts presided over that year's Pantheon's Peace which was attended by the twenty leaders of the Sith factions. Per Sith tradition, all Keshiri including Hilt's trusted friend Jaye were excluded from the Pantheon's Peace since it contained sensitive secrets about the Tribe's origins. The Tribe's founder had been mortally wounded during Seelah's failed plot and had recorded his final testament to the Tribe. During the recording, Korsin expounded about the importance of the Tribe as a survival mechanism for the Human Sith on Kesh and how the Tribe's hierarchical structure should be managed to prevent future uprisings. Iliana was visibly angry when the late Grand Lord suggested the practice of killing the spouses of deceased future Grand Lords and talked about banishing Seelah. Meanwhile, Hilts was worried that the holocron recording contained no resolution that would end the infighting between the rival Sith factions or protect his staff and his position.
Following the end of Korsin's Testament, the assembled conclave descended into a verbal match. Korsin Bentado argued that the Tribe needed to adhere to Korsin's ancient tribal structure while the leader of the Golden Destiny argued that the Tribe should reopen the Omen and return to the stars. Due to the loss of historical knowledge during the Time of the Rot, Vrai mistakenly believed that Yaru Korsin was a "great conqueror" and that the Sith came from a powerful people who ruled the galaxy. Hilts fiddled with the holocron recorder and discovered that there was an older transmission underneath Korsin's Testament. It turned out that Yaru Korsin in the distant past had used the holocron as a communications device during his servitude to the Sith Empire.
The assembled Sith quickly learnt the true history of the Lost Tribe. Rather than being conquerors from a glorious past, the Human Sith were actually slaves to the Sith Lord Naga Sadow. The "vaunted" Yaru Korsin was merely a "delivery boy." The Omen was a dreadnought which had been tasked with delivering Lignan crystals to Sith forces on Kirrek during the Great Hyperspace War. It also transpired that the "Original 57" and their leader Ravilan Wroth were actually a species of aliens known as Red Sith. These revelations about the Lost Tribe's true origins sparked anxiety and panic among the attendees. Iliana herself commented that his "inglorious past" motivated Seelah Korsin to aspire for all members of the Tribe to be pure specimens. She deduced that Seelah was "sanctifying" the Humans on Kesh.
Korsin Bentado accused Hilts and Iliana of tampering with the holocron. Hilts responded that he would not have known how to tamper with the device. The Caretaker concluded that the Keshiri Sith were a "lost" Tribe that had ended up on Kesh because Korsin was unwilling to go back and face Sadow. Ashamed at the stigma that the Tribe's ancestors were merely runaway slaves, Iliana ignited her lightsaber and used it to destroy the holocron and the pedestal it stood upon. When Hilts asked Iliana to justify her actions, Iliana warned the Sith that their ancestors did not want them to know about their "inglorious past." Due to the Tribe's origins as Sith slaves, Seelah had destroyed all records relating to Ravilan's people. Yaru Korsin had also recorded over this message to preserve this secret.
While Hilts was open to telling the true story of the Tribe's origins, Korsin Bentado feared that this would inspire a revolt among the Keshiri. Neera vowed to kill anyone who revealed this secret while Iliana stressed that such measures would not be necessary since she had already destroyed the holocron. Despite efforts to preserve the secrecy of the Testament Day, a drunk Sith revealed the truth behind the Lost Tribe's origins to the Humans celebrating the Festival of Nida's Rise. This sparked a series of violent riots across Keshtah Minor, known as the Great Crisis, which resulted in the razing of several cities. Within eight days, the unrest had spread all over the continent. Since the Tribe had been reduced to a few thousand individuals, the ensuing bloodbath threatened the viability of the Tribe itself.
Saving the TribeEdit
- "There's only one thing to do. We're going to unseal the temple. We're going aboard Omen!"
- ―Varner Hilts
Due to his mild-mannered personality and poor combat skills, Varner Hilts did not take part in the fighting. During the riots, the Tribe's historical archive at the Kesh capitol building was destroyed; leading to the loss of Hilts' substantial collection of rare maps which depicted the continent of Keshtah Minor. The caretaker's large Sandpipe was also destroyed, which upset Hilts' assistant Jaye greatly. Hilts regarded the recent Testament Day as a disaster and feared that the ensuing violence would endanger the Tribe itself. While Jaye believed that this was the "end of times", Hilts recalled that Yaru Korsin had mentioned during his Testament that "there were some secrets he had always kept and that the true power lay behind the throne." Korsin had instructed his descendants to search for this "secret" in the event that disaster befell the Tribe.
Believing that Korsin had left a postscript, Hilts resolved to travel to the ancient Kesh Sith Temple and unseal it. The temple was the final resting place of the Omen, the ancient Sith vessel which had brought the Tribe's ancestors to Kesh. Hilts and Jaye returned to the Temple where they gathered some supplies and then travelled to the Kesh Sith temple, which was located at the northern tip of a long, mountainous peninsula which ran parallel to mainland Keshtah Minor. This journey lasted about a week and was fraught with danger and violence due to the Great Crisis. For safety, Hilts had brought Jaye with him to dispel fears among local Keshiri villages that he was on a murderous rampage. During the day, Hilts and Jaye took shelter in Keshiri shacks and only travelled at night.
During his travels, Hilts managed to obtain a Sith lightsaber from a deceased Sith warrior who had died outside Kesh. Since they lacked any uvak steeds, Hilts and Jaye had taken the long-way to the Kesh Sith temple which involved walking along the dry and barren southern coast. This region had little shelter and sustenance for travelers. Hilts and Jaye had not eaten for several days. After seven days, the pair arrived at the base of The Blocks, a series of massive granite barriers which had been placed in a narrow pass by Nida Korsin to prevent anyone from accessing the Temple. Hilts and Jaye discovered several strong vines were growing among the stone's crevices; which they used to climb up the barrier. While climbing up the barrier, Hilts was trapped within a thorny web of vines which tightened around his limbs.
After some difficulty, Jaye managed to free his master. After climbing the final barrier, the pair traveled up a path which led to the Temple. While walking up this path, Hilts noticed an uvak with a rider wielding a lightsaber above them. Hilts then fell into a posthole but was unhurt. Instead, he and Jaye used the posthole as a brief resting place. Throughout his career as the Tribe's historian, Hilts had memorized the contents of Yaru Korsin's Testament and the entire layout of the Kesh Sith Temple. Thus, Hilts knew that the Omen was buried beneath part of the upper plaza. They then climbed down a set of stairs which led them to the middle terrace. There, they found a freshly-killed uvak, the same one which Hilts had seen earlier.
Sensing the presence of another visitor in the wardroom, Hilts activated his lightsaber and investigated that structure. He also warned Jaye to run away if Hilts encountered trouble. Hilts noted that a statue of Seelah Korsin, the Mother of the Tribe, was built outside of the Wardroom. There, he encountered Iliana Merko, who was in a despondent state. Iliana had taken part in the fighting which accompanied the Great Crisis. During the fighting, her own Sisters of Seelah had splintered and Iliana had fled to the Sith Temple to escape her pursuers particularly Korsin Bentado, the leader of the Korsinite League whom she had seriously wounded earlier. In the Temple's wardroom, Iliana had discovered the remains of her idol Seelah Korsin.
Merko was despondent because she could not come to terms that her ancestor had died alone. She was distraught that her forebears had left Seelah to die alone and forgotten on the Sith Temple. Iliana expressed her anger at the unjust treatment of Seelah. She also revealed to Hilts that she had experienced a Force vision during her childhood of Seelah telling her to avenge her. When Hilts asked Iliana whether this was how she learned how to braid her hair, Iliana replied that she had seen Seelah washing the feet of the Sith quartermaster Ravilan Wroth. The revelation of Seelah's lowly origins destroyed the Sisters' unity of purpose and splintered the group. Enraged at this revelation, she smashed Seelah's skull against the wall which shattered into pieces.
When Jaye revealed his presence, Iliana was startled but Hilts assured her that the Keshiri was on his side. The Caretaker Hilts succeeded in convincing Iliana to follow them since they might need her help to find what they were looking for. Hilts also surmised that Iliana was at a dead end while he and Jaye actually had a plan. Iliana reluctantly complied and she accompanied them to the Omen which was situated directly beneath the Sith Temple's main plaza.
Inside the TempleEdit
- "I'm not your little clerk. Why should I follow you anywhere?"
"Because we may need help to find what we're looking for—and you're at a dead end. You said so yourself. Meanwhile, I actually have a plan."
- ―Iliana Merko and Varner Hilts
Hilts, Jaye and Iliana managed to find an entrance passageway which led beneath the Sith Temple's plaza where they discovered the Omen. Jaye also brought several glowrods to provide the explorers with lighting. The Omen resembled a lanvarok, an ancient Sith weapon. The ship had been preserved and protected from the elements by being sealed within a polished stone hall. While Jaye believed that he was unworthy to be here with the Sith due to his Keshiri ancestry, Hilts urged him to forget about that belief and to shine more light. They eventually managed to enter the vessel where Hilts found several ebon panels with words in Sith characters including telemetry, hyperspace and astrogation. Little knowledge about interstellar travel had survived the destruction which accompanied the Time of the Rot.
While none of the ship's machinery worked, Jaye and Hilts found that the ship's chrono still worked. The chrono was the model for the Tribe's Sandpipes which had been used for millennia to record time. This discovery validated Jaye's earlier theory that the Sandpipes at Tahv were eight days behind the Galactic Standard Calendar. However, Iliana was unable to find the command chair which was usually at the center of the command bridge. Hilts reasoned that the command chair was not inside the Omen since it have been moved by Yaru Korsin to the colonnade of the temple for use on the days when he received visitors. Iliana was perplexed that Korsin had ordered everyone to move from the mountain to Tahv. While their generation may not have been able to repair the Omen, she felt that Korsin was foolish to have stopped work on the ship entirely.
Hilts responded that Korsin had wanted the Tribe to commit to living on Kesh based on the fact that they had built the Sith Temple around the Omen. Shortly later, the three explorers heard the voices of eight newcomers including Korsin Bentado and Edell Vrai, a young member of the Golden Destiny. These newcomers were disturbed that the Omen had been used to transport slaves eons ago and was the cause for their ancestors' "imprisonment" on Kesh. Bentado wanted the Tribe to meet its end with hatred against fate. Iliana reasoned that they would not be able to destroy the Omen due to its vast size and the lack of explosives. Hilts vowed to find a way to discover what Korsin had left behind before it was too late.
Hilts, Jaye and Iliana eventually made their way to the Temple's cupola where they observed thirty Sith warriors from various factions engaged in a massive engineering project. The participants included several members of Iliana's former Sisterhood and Neera, the former leader of Force 57. They had planned to use several uvaks to pull the stone tower onto the chamber that held the Omen. Hilts knew that this would effectively destroy the chamber and the starship below. Iliana commented that Bentado and Vrai did not need to destroy the vessel since it was already dead and buried. Despite their fierce divisions, a desire to eradicate their "shameful" past had brought the Sith together. Meanwhile, Jaye had discovered a latch which led to the Sith Temple's rotunda. There, the three explorers found Yaru Korsin's vaunted command chair and a brazier.
Since they were unable to see inside the planetarium, Iliana ripped Jaye's tunic and used it to start a small fire with the brazier in order to create a source of light. While Jaye was worried that their fire would attract the attention of the other Sith, Iliana was determined to discover Korsin's secret. The three explorers quickly realized that they were inside a planetarium which depicted the stars above Kesh. However, they could find nothing behind the throne and the star map above contained no clues to Korsin's secrets. Iliana sat on the throne and justified her actions on the basis that the outsiders were either going to bring down the Temple underneath them or they would find them.
Iliana commented that the star map above was useless since it only showed the sky at one time of the year. Hilts then reasoned that Korsin's secret was hidden inside the chair. He borrowed Iliana's shikkar knife and used it to cut a hole through the upholstery behind the seat. Hilts discovered a glass vial was sewn to the upholstery which contained a single rolled-up sheet of transparent film. Hilts brought it to the fire and discovered that it contained the old cant of the Tapani, the language of the Humans under Sith rule. This film contained a message from Yaru Korsin's mother Takara Korsin to her son prior to his fateful delivery run to Phaegon III during the Great Hyperspace War. Takara had a vision that their descendants would be ruling a great people one day free of the Red Sith. She also told his son that he had enough wisdom and purpose to guide their people.
Discovering a New ContinentEdit
- "Which one of you did this?"
"What difference does it make? He as a Keshiri. His presence profanes this place."
"What? The Keshiri helped to build this place. And profane? You're the ones trying to destroy the Temple, and Omen in it!"
- ―Hilts confronting Korsin Bentado about the murder of his assistant and friend Jaye
Varner Hilts and Jaye quickly realized that this message was what motivated Yaru Korsin to find the strength to go on in Kesh. While Iliana dismissed the document as "cheerleading claptrap" from a doting mother to her son, Hilts defended Takara Korsin as a wise woman who foresaw that the Tapani ancestors of the Lost Tribe were not always destined to be slaves and had a future. Hilts believed that he could use Takara Korsin's document to reason with the other Sith and dissuade them from destroying the Omen. Iliana disagreed and argued that the other Sith were not willing to reason. Instead, she offered to rally the other Sith to her own cause. Hilts then realized that Korsin's holocron message had mentioned that the "true power" was literally behind the throne.
Iliana dismissed Yaru Korsin as a dying fool and refused to see Hilts' point. Hilts defended the Tribe's founder by pointing out that he was smart enough to conquer a whole native people and to train his daughter Nida Korsin for war under everyone's nose. Hilts then explained that this message was important to Korsin but that it was not what he meant. He concluded that the star map was merely decorative and that Korsin's real focus was on building an empire on Kesh. Iliana recalled that Yaru Korsin had made his final testament after he had been mortally wounded on the Temple's and had made his way back to the chair to record the Testament. However, Hilts disagreed and pointed out that the room was too inaccessible for a seriously wounded man to have made the recording. Jaye then reasoned that Korsin had made his recording in the chamber beneath the Omen.
While Hilts was skeptical of this hypothesis, Jaye pointed out that the Omen had landed on a slope and that its surroundings were completely leveled up with stonework. The three explorers had entered the Sith Temple through an open passage at the twenty-third step on the staircase from the middle terrace. However, he recalled that they had passed a sealed door at the seventh step and theorized that there was another chamber at the base of the Omen's support structure. Hilts and Iliana decided to test Jaye's theory especially since the other Sith were closing on them. The three explorers made their way to the sealed chamber at the seventh step. After reaching it, Hilts sent Jaye to search for glowrods while Iliana and him made their way into the chamber.
Iliana and Hilts discovered that this chamber was a map room which contained a stone-carved map which depicted the continent of Keshtah Minor. This room also contained six stone panels that were the same size of the map of Keshtah Minor. Iliana was uncomfortable because this room was a dead-end. Hilts agreed and speculated that Korsin had died in this room from his injuries. Hilts speculated that Korsin's chair had been left upstairs in the planetarium by Nida as a ruse to mislead people into thinking that Yaru had spent all his time contemplating the cosmos and their return. Iliana commented that Nida should have left some windows in the room where they kept the ship.
At that point, Jaye entered the room. He had been mortally wounded by the other Sith and sustained several wounds on his chest which resulted in his death. Jaye's last words to Hilts and Iliana was that he had been trying to find some glowrods for them to use. Shortly later, Jaye's murderer Korsin Bentado entered the room wielding his lightsaber. He was followed by several other Sith including Neera, Edell and several Golden Destiny companions. Several of these Sith were eager to seek revenge against Iliana for wounding them during the Great Crisis which accompanied the recent Testament Day. Iliana was prepared to fight them to the death. However, Hilts interrupted them and demanded to know who murdered his Keshiri assistant Jaye. Hilts was personally grieved and angered by the killing of his best friend and confidant.
Jaye's killer Bentado was unremorseful and dismissed the late Jaye as a mere Keshiri whose presence "profaned" the Temple. Hilts angrily retorted that the Keshiri had helped build the Sith Temple and condemned Bentado and his followers for trying to destroy the Temple and the Omen. Neera responded that "all life was profane." Hilts attempted to reason with the other Sith by telling them that everything they knew about the Tribe was a lie and that there was no sense in clinging to ancient sites like the Sith Temple since it contributed to infighting among the Tribe. Hilts argued that the Tribe was not doomed but Edell and the other Sith disagreed. In desperation, Hilts used the Force to yank the metal spikes covering the six stone panels.
It turned out that these six stone panels depicted the map of another continent lying to the far side of Keshtah Minor. This continent was known as Keshtah Major and was much larger than Keshtah Minor. This amazed all the Sith who quickly laid down their arms including Iliana to marvel at this new continent that would be their hope. Hilts also discovered some writings which had been inscribed onto the wall by Yaru Korsin. It turned out that the Omen's cameras had recorded an image depicting Kesh's landmasses and oceans. Over the years, Korsin had hidden the camera and transferred its information to the map panels in this room. The crystals on the map represented the various cities on Keshtah Major. Korsin also stated that the existence of Alanciar could one day provide a cause the would unite the Sith on Kesh. This discovery shocked and amazed the other Sith in the room.
Hilts then presented the other Sith with Takara Korsin's letter to her son Yaru Korsin. When Bentado asked whether there were guides to the Tapani language, Hilts replied that they had been destroyed during the Great Crisis. Hilts was now the only person who knew the "ancient language." When Iliana asked why Korsin had not bothered to tell anyone, Hilts replied that Korsin was preoccupied with subduing Keshtah Minor and had to contend with his feud with Seelah and Jariad. However, Hilts argued that the discovery of Keshtah Major would provide a cause that would unite the Sith. When Edell Vrai asked how the Sith would get there, Hilts replied that reaching this new continent would be the biggest thing the Tribe would ever undertake in its history.
Hilts urged the other Sith to abandon their differences and to work together as in the old days. Edell Vrai knelt and promised to support Hilt's vision. He praised Hilts for being the Caretaker and for his knowledge of the Tapani tongue and the "old ways." Edell's Golden Destiny supporters also bowed before Hilts. The other Sith including Korsin Bentado and Neera also followed suit. Bentado congratulated Hilts for restoring their faith in Korsin while Neera lauded the old man for finding a path for everyone where none had previously existed. She placed all her trust in him. The assembled Sith including Iliana then elected Hilts as their new Grand Lord, marking the beginning of a new era in the Tribe's history.
Ruler of the TribeEdit
- "If I am to be Grand Lord, I will need a wife."
- ―Varner Hilts
As the new Grand Lord, Hilts would name his era the Hilts Restoration to signify the end of the Time of the Rot. Edell Vrai, Korsin Bentado and Neera fanned out throughout mainland Keshtah Minor to announce news of Hilts' elevation and the discovery of Keshtah Major. Hilts appointed the mathematician Vrai as his chief engineer and tasked him with developing a means of to travelling to Keshtah Major. He theorized that if the Keshiri rebel Adari Vaal and her followers had reached the new continent with their flight of stolen uvak, the residents would know the Sith existence. The challenge of a new continent waiting to be conquered reinvigorated the old man.
Sensing Iliana's ambitions for power and seeking to protect her from Bentado and his companions who still harbored ill feelings towards her, Hilts named Iliana as his wife. Iliana accepted his offer of marriage and married him on the colonnade outside the mountaintop Sith Temple. To incorporate Seelah's legacy into the Tribe, Iliana wore Seelah's ancient Tapani commitment band during the wedding. When Iliana expressed concerns that the spouse of the Grand Lord would be executed in the event that the monarch died, Hilts promised to protect her by protecting his own life. This wedding was attended by many Sith and Keshiri alike who welcomed Hilts' succession as an end to centuries of infighting and poverty.
Hilts and Iliana later produced a daughter named Takara Hilts, who shared her mother's fiery temperament. While he was never certain whether Iliana loved him, Hilts was contented that their relationship worked. But, the same could not be said for many other Sith couples on Kesh due to the Sith code's emphasis on only looking out for themselves. Beside protecting her husband, Iliana also attended to Hilts' health which occasionally irritated him. On one occasion,Iliana brought Kesh's best skin experts to attend to the dermatological needs of her husband. However, Grand Lord Hilts had them banished because they wanted to apply an organic poultice on his skin which vexed him.
As Grand Lord, one of Hilts' first actions was to allow Force-sensitive Keshiri individuals to join the Tribe, thus providing them with an avenue for social mobility. This policy was intended to commemorate the sacrifices of Jaye, who had been his best friend and had helped discover the map of Keshtah Major. Over the following millennia, several Keshiri would become Sith Tyros and Sith Sabers. Hilts also oversaw the rebuilding of Keshtah Minor's cities and infrastructure which had been damaged or destroyed during the Time of the Rot. He also restored the former Kesh capitol building to its former glory.
Due to his role in discovering Keshtah Major and reuniting the Tribe, Hilts became a revered figure in Sith society on Keshtah. His wife Iliana was placed in of managing the Tribe's politics and commanding the Tribe’s military forces. Still, other Sith vied for his position including Bentado Korsin, the former leader of the Korsinite League who had become a High Lord. While no one had indirectly challenged him directly, Hilts was not naïve to not take security precautions. To minimize tensions among the Sith, Hilts resurrected Yaru Korsin's traditional power structure by creating a hierarchy consisting of High Lords, Lords, Masters, Sabers, Apprentices, and Tyros. Under this system, ambition was restrained and advancement into the Tribe was by merit rather than violence. As a symbolic gesture of meritocracy, Hilts elected not to appoint his daughter Takara Hilts as successor. She instead became the Prefect of Police of the Tahv Constabulary.
Despite the destruction of the original holocron recording, copies of Korsin's original Testament still existed at the libraries in Orreg and Elvarnos, which had escaped destruction. However, Hilts believed that Yaru Korsin's testament was no longer appropriate for contemporary times. Instead, he and a team of scribes wrote a new Testament which would serve as both a manifesto and a legal document that would emphasize Sith identity and outlined the political structure. In addition, it served as a historical document which outlined the Tapani origins of the Tribe, their emancipation from the Red Sith and their subjugation of the Keshiri. Based on his historical research into archival documents, Hilts learnt that the Tribe traced its ancestry back to House Nidantha, a lesser Tapani house which had ventured into the Stygian Caldera, the domain of the Sith Empire. While Hilts' Testament was read every Testament Day, the Keshiri were only allowed to read a redacted version which hid the Tribe's experience as Sith slaves.
Despite the progressive nature of Grand Lord Hilts' rule, slavery still existed. Generational slavery was still prescribed as a punishment for Human Sith who violated the political order. The Tribe also continued to use the port town of Eorm as a dumping ground for disenfranchised Human Sith, who were forced as slave laborers. Many of these Human Sith were the descendants of a group of Sith rebels led by Ermon Parrah who had unsuccessfully attempted to steal the crippled vessel Omen and return to the stars eons ago. Some Sith Lords like Lord Galathos were also not above terrorizing slaves that failed to meet their work quota.
Despite these injustices, the peaceful and stable nature of Hilts' rule convinced the Doomed, the descendants of stranded Jedi and Dark Jedi from the Hundred-Year Darkness, not to intervene on Keshtah. These exiles lived in the planet's southern polar continent of Eshkrene. The Doomed respected Hilts as a wise man who had protected the native Keshiri.
Reaching Keshtah MajorEdit
- "We're wasting an airship on him [Bentado Korsin]. That man is his own gas bag."
"He's in such a hurry. He should wait for Edell to return. He's taking all his people to drown."
- ―Varner and Iliana discussing Korsin Bentado's ill-planned invasion of Alanciar
Undoubtedly, the most important element of Hilts' rule was the annexation of Keshtah Major. Under the leadership of Chief Engineer and High Lord Edell Vrai, the Tribe made efforts to find a way to travel safely to Alanciar. Despite the limited scientific and technological knowledge of the Sith and Keshiri on Keshtah, both recognized that Kesh was a globe. While the Tribe's scribes worked out that the western oceanic route to Keshtah Major was shorter than the eastern route, the Tribe's explorers were unable to make any progress due to the strong tidal currents. While the Sith attempted to use uvaks for exploratory flights, the distance was too far for them. The Tribe then experimented with building boats. However, Keshtah's hejarbo shoots and vosso hardwoods proved unsuitable for ocean travels.
After twenty-five years of experiments, Vrai developed airships. These airships were lifted afloat by hydrogen, an element that was extracted from methane and other noxious gases from the volcano Sessal Spire. The hydrogen was stored within fabric gondolas and the airships were guided by several uvaks. After further experimentation, the Tribe succeeded in developing a large fleet of airships. By that time, Hilts was 90 years old and had given much of the running of the Tribe's governance to his wife Iliana. The ageing Grand Lord granted Vrai approval to lead a small exploratory force consisting of three airships —the Candra, Lillia and Dann Ita—to Keshtah Major. His mission was to sail east and explore the continent before returning to Keshtah Minor by sailing across the small ocean to the west of the Tribe’s domain.
Edell Vrai's airships managed to reach Keshtah Major. However, they were intercepted near Point Vigilance and shot down by the local Keshiri who had developed a militaristic society based on resisting invasion from the Sith. Vrai and several of his followers managed to survive and capture two Alanciari locals: the Wardmaster Quarra Thayn and her lover Jogan Halder, a soldier of the Alanciari military. They learnt that the local Keshiri called their continent Alanciar and referred to themselves as Alanciari. From Thayn and Halder's private library, Edell learnt that the ancient Keshiri Herald Adari Vaal, who had befriended the Tribe's founder Yaru Korsin before launching a failed uprising against the Sith, had fled to Alanciar where she had founded a new civilization.
Following Vrai's contact with Keshtah Major, High Lord Korsin Bentado requested an audience with the Grand Lord and his consort. The ambitious and violent Bentado advocated militarily invading Keshtah Major with his fleet of sixty airships known as the Ebon Fleet. However, Hilts and Iliana wanted to wait until Edell returned. Iliana's thought criers had sensed emotions of surprise, shock and confusion during Edell's message and feared that some harm had befallen him. However, Bentado was impatient and insisted in going ahead with the attack even though the Lost Tribe had no reliable intelligence on the military capabilities of the Keshiri on Alanciar. When Iliana speculated that Edell and his airships may have crashed into the Southern Ocean, Hilts replied that he was still alive since he would have sensed his death. In the end, Hilts reluctantly gave approval for Bentado to launch an invasion of Alanciar. In private, Hilts and his wife regarded Lord Bentado as a hot-headed fool who was sending his forces to a watery death. However, they were willing to sacrifice Bentado and his men since that would eliminate a potential rival.
Back in Alanciar, Vrai and his followers successfully commandeered the Alanciari trawler Mischance after overpowering its crew. Vrai and his followers managed to make contact with Hilts and Iliana's thoughtcriers in Tahv. Edell informed the Grand Lord that he has successfully made contact with Keshtah Major and updated him about the recent events. Hilts ordered Vrai to bring the Mischance and the captive Jogan Halder back to Keshtah Major. The Tribe intended to gain access to the Alanciari sailing vessel and Jogan Halder, along with his collection of books which included the Keshtah Chronicles, a historical tome written by Adari Vaal which gave the Sith invaluable intelligence on the society and cultural mindset of the Alanciari. After dropping Vrai and Thayn on a ground reconnaissance mission of Alanciar, the Mischance returned to Keshtah Minor. Vrai had also successfully convinced Thayn to serve as his guide in exchange for protecting her lover.
A Grand StrategyEdit
- "...You [Edell Vrai] people snicker at me and my histories. But history is important. It can be a weapon—for both sides...It was clear that the Keshiri in Alanciar had once been like ours in the beginning—right down to the same myth of the Protectors and the Destructors. And now, like then it was simply a matter of convincing them of who were were in the story. And that meant also choosing a role for Bentado."
- ―Varner Hilts explaining his plan to Edell Vrai
Now that the Tribe was aware of the Alanciari's military capabilities, Varner Hilts faced two problems. He had to conquer the new continent without draining the Tribe's manpower and resources. In addition, he also had to eliminate a potential rival: Korsin Bentado. Now that the Tribe had captured a prisoner, Jogan Halder, Hilts saw an invaluable opportunity to convince the Alanciari that the Sith did not pose a threat to them. Despite the Sith crews' inexperience with sailing ships and the turbulent ocean conditions, the Mischance safely arrived at Keshtah Minor with its valuable prisoner. Upon landing, the captive Jogan Halder was blindfolded and transported by cart to the Sith capital Tahv. Meanwhile, Vrai's lieutenant Peppin flew ahead with the copy of the Testament to Tahv, where Hilts was able to make preparations for Halder's arrival. Upon arriving in Tahv, Halder had his blindfold removed and was allowed to roam the city freely.
Unknown to Halder, Hilts had already staged a "grand deception" operation to mislead the Alanciari warrior into believing that the Sith were benevolent and did not pose a threat to the Alanciari. Thus, the Tribe brought their most loyal Keshiri servants onto the streets of Tahv and created a festival atmosphere to generate the impression that Keshtah was a utopian paradise. These Keshiri claimed they were happy to live under the Sith, whom they dubbed the Protectors. Meanwhile, the Sith themselves withdrew from public view in order to foster this utopian atmosphere. Everything went according to plan and Halder received a warm reception from the Keshiri in Tahv. Halder was also allowed to visit the Tribe's "capitol" and befriended the Circle of Lords.
Ultimately, Hilts and the other High Lords managed to convince Jogan that the Sith did not actually pose a threat to the Alanciari. While they acknowledged that Adari Vaal had been right about the presence of "Destructors" among the Sith, the Tribe claimed to have purged the Destructors one day after Vaal and her followers had left. Jogan was also told that a servant of the Destructors had risen wo thousand years later but had been driven from Keshtah. This same individual had also built a fleet of airships and sought to conquer Alanciar. Finally, the Tribe claimed that Edell Vrai and his airships had been sent in pursuit of the "servant" of the Destructors. According to the Sith, the clash between the Alanciari and Vaal's forces had been an unnecessary misunderstanding.
Convinced that the Sith were not a threat to Alanciar, Jogan became their "ambassador". Thus, with one masterstroke, Hilts was one step closer to realizing his goal of conquering Keshtah Major. Having learnt about the military capabilities of the Alanciari from Vrai, Hilts had intended to send Korsin Bentado and his forces to Alanciar. This plan provided the Alanciari with a fight that they could win. As planned, Bentado's airships reached Keshtah Major but were wiped out by the Alanciari ballistae and uvak squadrons. Despite the destruction of the Ebon Fleet, Bentado and several Sith managed to survive and regrouped. They then infiltrated the Alanciari capital of Sus'mintri where they killed the entire Alanciari War Cabinet. Thus, the Sith succeeded in wiping out the entire Alanciari leadership with one stroke which effectively deprived the Alanciari military of a central command. Still, the tribe had to contend with the substantial military capabilities of the Alanciari.
After Bentado seized control of the War Cabinet's headquarters Vaal Hall, he contacted the Grand Lord to inform him of his success in decapitating the Tribe's leadership. This pleased Hilts who ordered Bentado to remain in his position and await his arrival. The Grand Lord then departed on his airship Good Omen to Alanciar with his new ambassador Jogan. Meanwhile, Bentado's Keshiri assistant Squab learnt about his master's plans to assassinate Hilts by shooting down his airship and create a "Second Tribe" on Keshtah Major. Since Squab was actually loyal to Hilts, he secretly contacted Hilts and warned him about Bentado's plot. He also sought to countermand Bentado's orders while appearing to serve him. Squab was one of Hilt's loyal Keshiri servants. Five years earlier, Hilts had assigned Squab to serve as Bentado's personal aide. Squab gained the trust of the High Lord but remained loyal to Hilts. Now, the stage was set for Hilts to realize his most important goal in life while simultaneously eliminating a major political rival.
Winning hearts and mindsEdit
- "That was the worst blasted thing I've ever done."
"The costume, or riding on the airship?"
- ―Varner Hilts and Edell Vrai following the "unification" of Alanciar and Keshtah
As planned, Varner Hilts' rival Korsin Bentado was killed following a confrontation with Edell Vrai, Quarra Thayn, and Squab. Vrai had refused to support Bentado's plans to assassinate the Grand Lord and start a Second Tribe on Alanciar. Bentado had also attempted to order Squab to tell his thoughtcriers to order the Alanciari signalers at Port Melephos to shoot down Hilts' approaching airship. Unknown to Bentado, Squab had countermanded the former's orders by ordering the signaling crew at Port Melephos to allow Hilt's airship Good Omen to land at Port Melephos. While Bentado was preoccupied with Vrai and Thayn, Hilts ordered Squab to send his "regards" to Bentado. Squab then killed Korsin with Thayn's lightsaber, which had been obtained from Adari Vaal's secret library at Vaal Hall. Following the death of Bentado, Vrai used the Force to reassert control over Bentado's remaining men and the signaling devices.
Grand Lord Hilts' airship Good Omen landed outside Port Melephos at front of the Keshiri ballistae. Hilt's "ambassador" Jogan Halder appeared on the airship's forward balcony and greeted the Alanciari uvak-riders. Jogan succeeded in convincing the Alanciari at Port Melephos that the Sith did not pose a threat to Alanciar but were actually the benign Protectors, gods in Keshiri religion. Unlike the Ebon Fleet's ships, Hilts' airship had been painted in white colors and adorned with decorations to create a friendly impression. Whereas Bentado and his followers had looked like the "face of evil", Hilts had appeared to be nothing more than a kindly old man. Following their warm reception at Port Melephos, the Good Omen travelled to the Alanciari capital of Sus'mintri where it was greeted by thousands of Keshiri. There, Jogan repeated his message to the local crowd. Among those present were Vrai and Quarra, the latter of whom realized the Tribe's deception. However, she decided to cooperate with the Sith in order to protect her people.
During his speech, Jogan explained that he had been taken to Keshtah Minor by the Sith. They eventually reached the Sith capital of Tahv where he was greeted by the Keshtah Alanciari who successfully convinced him that the Lost Tribe were actually the benign Protectors and that the Keshiri were happy to live under the Sith. He also explained that Adari Vaal was right in warning about the presence of the malevolent Destructors among the Sith. However, he claimed that these malcontents had been eliminated from the Tribe on the very day after Vaal had left Keshtah Minor. Jogan also told them that Bentado and his Ebon Fleet were servants of the "evil ones" who had recently emerged in Keshtah Minor but had been expelled from the continent. Finally, he assured the Keshiri that Edell Vrai was a "trusted friend" of the Protectors who had been pursuing the Destructors.
The Tribe in reality had tricked and coerced Jogan into distorting the events of the Sith invasion in order to win the "hearts and minds" of the Alanciari. This ploy worked and Jogan was welcomed as the new "Herald." Jogan was immediately followed by Grand Lord Hilts, who had disguised himself as the "Kesh-born minion" of the Bright Tuash, a legendary Keshiri deity. He claimed that Adari Vaal, the revered founder of Alanciari civilization, was his daughter and that she had been well-meaning but misguided. He backed Jogan's account and professed to be saddened that the Destructors had attacked and killed the Alanciari leadership. He also assured the Alanciari that the Destructors and their leader had been defeated by his agent Edell Vrai and the Alanciari woman Quarra. To facilitate peace between the two continents, the "Bright Tuash" decreed that both Human and Keshiri relief workers in white robes would arrive from Keshtah over the next few days to promote reconciliation and unity.
Grand Lord Hilt's deception worked and the Alanciari Keshiri willingly submitted to Sith rule. Jogan's message was transmitted across the entire continent through the Alanciari semaphore system. Hilts was greeted by large crowds of friendly Alanciari. In private, Varner confided in Edell that he had been able to manipulate the similar histories of the Alanciari and Keshtah Keshiri to orchestrate this grand deception. He also explained that the Tribe had withdrawn from public view when Jogan visited Tahv while putting their most loyal Keshiri on the streets. Hilts regarded the act of bringing the Alanciari Keshiri willingly into the Sith's service as a greater victory than capturing new slaves in combat. Edell was subsequently appointed as the new de-facto governor of Alanciar. As part of the reunification process, the Alanciari Keshiri publicly destroyed their balliste. New plays focusing on Jogan were also commissioned to replace the patriotic plays associated with Observance Day. Thus, Hilts succeeded in realizing his most important goal of conquering Alanciar. That same year, he also presided over the Testament Day ceremony where his new Testament was read to the Sith. It was updated to incorporate the annexation of Alanciar but still stressed the Sith desire to return to the stars.
The Death SpiralEdit
- "Order serves those already in power! The rest of us can't wait!"
"Hmm. Impatience. That could be useful now that we have wooden ships from Alanciar. Perhaps your energies would be of service exploring a new frontier."
- ―Parlan Spinner and Varner Hilts
The following year, Grand Lord Hilts faced a new threat to his rule: the outlaw Sith Parlan Spinner. Spinner was a descendant of Ermon Parrah, a Sith rebel who was enslaved following a failed attempt to steal the crippled vessel Omen and return to the stars. Parrah's descendants were condemned to eternal servitude and were forced to spin a cord that would reach the stars. They labored for millennia in the port town of Eorm and became known as the Spinner family. Parlan Spinner was the only member of his family to rebel against this tradition and vowed to "use this rope" to reach the stars. He became the leader of a group of outlaws known as Spinner's Web who perpetrated many acts of vandalism and mischief against the Tribe. Unlike other threats to the Tribe, Spinner was only motivated by a desire to cause upheaval and disruption.
Spinner's activities eventually attracted the attention of Hilts' daughter Takara Hilts, the Prefect of Police of the Tahv Constabulary, and became the subject of an intelligence report titled Enemy of the Order: The record of Parlan Spinner, vandal and would-be revolutionary. The Sith authorities recruited one of Spinner's associates as an informant. This informant informed them that Spinner and his gang had planned to disrupt the impending commemoration of the arrival of the Omen on Kesh. A plan was immediately put in place to kill or capture Spinner. This document was forward to Hilts and his Consort Iliana Hilts. While his wife and daughter wanted to kill Spinner, Hilts ordered the Constabulary to capture Spinner and bring him before the Grand Lord himself, who would decide his ultimate fate.
As planned, Spinner and his associates disrupted the Founding celebrations in Tahv. Unknown to Spinner's accomplices or the authorities, Spinner had secretly planned to kill Grand Lord Hilts, who was reported to be riding in a sedan chair. He charged towards the Grand Lord's sedan chair with the intention of stabbing Hilts with his shikkar blade. However, the Sith authorities had prepared for this possibility and Spinner encountered Takara herself. She used the Force to disarm and push Spinner to the ground where he was quickly apprehended by several Keshiri constables. During the struggle, Spinner managed to wound one of the constables but was overpowered. Takara Hilts ordered her subordinates to beat up and torture Hilts.
During the early hours of the morning, Hilts had Spinner brought into his private parlor. Hilts was studying a Keshiri tapestry while Spinner was tied up and seated beside an altar containing a burial urn. After introducing himself, Hilts explained that he did not take part in the Founding festivities because he felt that state functions took time from his research. He also commented that it was folly for the Sith to think that power was everything when time was really more valuable. Hilts then told Spinner that if he wanted to see "true power", he should look for someone who had broken the "chains of time." Spinner dismissed Hilts as a "decrepit" excuse of a Grand Lord. However, Hilts did not react adversely to that comment and merely replied that while Spinner could blame the Founders for that problem, they had done well for slaves on an errand.
Hilts then discussed how the Tribe's ancestors had been slaves "on an errand" who had been delivering lightsaber crystals to the Dark Lord of the Sith, Naga Sadow. But when the crashed on Kesh, they met the native Keshiri and saw a chance to rule. Hilts then elaborated that the Keshiri believed that an ancient cataclysm had been caused by a war between the legendary Protectors and Destructors. The Sith Tribe had simply convinced them that they were the Protectors. Not many people knew this story. Spinner replied that he was not surprised because this history made him sick. He commented that Sith should not want to protect because it was their character to destroy. During the conversation, Spinner managed to loosen his restraints and attempted to strangle Hilts while the latter was looking away.
However, Hilts' daughter Takara intervened and smashed a burial urn on top of Spinner's head. True to his absent-minded personality, Varner merely asked if that urn had belonged to someone important. Takara then revealed that further investigations had confirmed that "Death Spinner" was actually the working-class vagabond and slave Parlan Spinner. Spinner then angrily responded that her tribe was to blame for casting out his families many generations earlier and reducing them to pauperism. He reiterated that they still remained Sith who could use the dark Side of the Force. Takara, however, had little sympathy for the outlaw youth, dismissing him as a vandal who had earlier been convicted for attempting to desecrate the Keshiri Burial Cairns beneath the Circle Eternal. She described Spinner as an irreverent miscreant who would kill anyone for any reason.
Hilts' wife Iliana then entered the parlor. Like her daughter, she was hostile towards Spinner who she believed should have should have been executed in the street along with his associates in the street. However, Lord Hilts was unconcerned and merely explained to the youth that killing him would be unwise since Spinner lacked the necessary qualities to succeed him as Grand Lord. Hilts further lectured Spinner and his family about the complex power structure his ancestors had established to channel their ambitions. With its collapse in 3,960 BBY, the Tribe had nearly gone extinct after nearly nine hundred years of turmoil and civil war known as The Time of the Rot.
However, Grand Lord Hilts had used his knowledge of history to restore order through a series of reforms known as the Hilts Restoration. Spinner remained unmoved by Hilt's words and commented that the current political order only benefited the elite while the masses remained powerless. Grand Lord Hilts then sensed that Spinner was impatient but reiterated that he could be put to good use. Following the annexation of Alanciar, the Grand Lord had commissioned the construction of a new fleet of wooden ships as part of a program to explore new frontiers in Kesh. His wife Iliana chided her husband for allowing his enemies to live since that would threaten the family's grip on power. Despite the objections of his wife and daughter, Spinner was allowed to live and become a sailor aboard the Alanciari captain Chegg's ship Southern Star, which had been sent on a mission to explore the southern polar continent of Eshkrene.
An Ancient EnemyEdit
- "I certainly hope so. I see the feeble leader in your thoughts. I will enjoy killing those who elevated such a fool and then I will kill the fool himself..."
- ―Remulus Dreypa threatening Hilts' daughter Takara
Ultimately, Varner Hilts underestimated the level of damage that Parlan Spinner was capable of wrecking. Spinner travelled with the Alanciari crew of the Southern Star to Eshkrene. Unknown to Hilts, his daughter Takara also stowed aboard the Southern Star with the hope of travelling to Alanciar. In Eshkrene, Spinner and Takara discovered the Doomed, the descendants of ancient Jedi and Dark Jedi who had become stranded on Kesh during the Hundred-Year Darkness. Spinner also freed the ancient Sith Lord Remulus Dreypa from his oubliette.
Baron Dreypa was determined to return to the galaxy and seek revenge against the Jedi and the Galactic Republic. Seeking to settle scores with the Tribe, Spinner allied himself with the Sith Lord and returned to Keshtah Minor where they instigated a slave revolt in Eorm. Dreypa and Spinner's slave army then marched on Tahv with the aim of overthrowing the Tribal leadership. During a conversation with Takara, he derided her father Varner Hilts as a feeble leader and fool, and vowed to kill the Grand Lord himself. While Dreypa and Spinner had planned to use Iliana's daughter Takara as a hostage, she escaped with the assistance of the Doomed's leader Kaliska. These two returned to Eshkrene where they brought all of the Doomed with the purpose of defeating Dreypa once and for all.
Due to his advanced age, Hilts remained in Tahv while his wife Iliana led the Tribe's forces against Dreypa's rebel army. The two armies met at the Marisota Floodplain, which had been the site of many battles during the Time of the Rot. Dreypa's rebellion marked the first open conflict during the Hilts Restoration since the Great Crisis. The Tribe's military commanders initially assessed the unrest as a mass slave revolt. However, Iliana noted that the slaves had never reached the same level of organization in the past and viewed them as a serious threat to the Tribe's leadership. Dreypa's forces initially held the upper hand against the Tribe's infantry formations. However, the Tribe's air force, the Skyborn Rangers, inflicted heavy casualties on Dreypa's army and drove them to Sessal Spire, a volcano located on the southwestern coast of Keshtah Minor.
Certain of victory, Hilt's wife Iliana and the Tribe's troops pursued the rebels to the slopes of Sessal Spire. However, Dreypa turned the table on his pursuers by using his dark side powers to summon several hibernating Leviathans from the lava pit. These were reptilian Sithspawn that were capable of draining the life energies of sentient beings. Dreypa's Leviathans quickly attacked and devoured both his pursuers and former supporters. While Takara arrived with the Doomed, even these were no match for Dreypa's Dark Side powers and Sithspawn. In the end, the former enemies Spinner and Takara joined forces to save the latter's mother from being devoured by a Leviathan. Together with the Doomed leader Kaliska, they managed to escape the battlefield.
Prior to her death, Kaliska revealed that the ancient Jedi forebears of the Doomed had hidden an ancient Jedi Starship, the Last Hope, beneath the Keshiri burial cairns under Tahv's Circle Eternal. She convinced Takara and Spinner to destroy the starship in order to deny Dreypa a means of returning to the stars. Spinner agreed to return with Iliana to Tahv on an uvak while Iliana stayed behind to hold back Dreypa. However, she was captured by the Sith Lord who intended to use her as a bargaining chip with Spinner. Dreypa had already learnt about the existence of the Jedi Starship. Meanwhile, Spinner arrived in Tahv with Iliana. After the uvak tenders took the uvak back to its stable, Spinner disappeared into the Keshiri burial cairns beneath the Circle Eternal.
By this stage, news of the events that had transpired at Sessal Spire had already reached the Sith capital of Tahv due to the Tribe's network of thoughtcriers. The return of the malevolent Destructors in the form of Dreypa and his Leviathans caused much panic and anxiety among the Sith and their Keshiri serfs. The Tribe rallied every able-bodied citizen including Sith, Keshiri, slaves and freedmen for the defense of the city. Grand Lord Hilts had learnt about the destruction of the Tribe's forces at Sessal Spire when his wife Iliana entered the room. Hilts was shocked to discover his haggard and wizened wife who had been artificially aged by thirty years. Iliana was despondent at the loss of her youth and did not want Hilts to look at her. Hilts comforted his wife by assuring her that she did not look horrible and that she looked better than himself.
Since Dreypa was approaching the city, Iliana feared that she would be unable to lead the Tribe's military forces in her weakened state. She was unable to lift a lightsaber with her hands and the Tribe's alchemists could find no way of restoring her youth. Hilts assured his wife that there was nothing wrong with her appearance or diminished abilities. He explained that if the Tribe's alchemists had somehow been able to restore youth, he would have done it years ago. Hilts also told her that power originated in one's mind, something which Iliana had never understood. He then argued that one did not have to grasp a sword to strike down others. Hilts reiterated that the "smart Sith" was one who convinced the others to strike for him since Sith were deceptive by nature. He urged her to act the part and the rest would follow.
After commenting that Takara was with the Tribe's forces, Varner Hilts asked about the whereabouts of Spinner. Since Iliana was ignorant of Spinner and Takara's secret agreement with Kaliska, she assumed that he had slipped away at the stables. At that point, the ground beneath the Kesh capitol building began shaking and the garden in the Circle Eternal's courtyard was torn apart from beneath. Meanwhile Spinner had reneged on his promise to destroy the Jedi Starship and had instead decided to take it for a joyride above Kesh. His departure caused much damage to the Circle Eternal including the city's waterworks. However, Spinner was able to reach the atmosphere above Kesh within seconds due to the ship's advanced engines. As Spinner departed for space, Hilts could only comment that it was the sound of plan changing and that Spinner was heading for the stars. It seemed that the young outcast had fulfilled his ancestor's ambition of returning to the stars.
From Foe to FriendEdit
- "Glad to see you back, Spinner. A bit different from our first meeting, no? Er--you're not going to kill me again, are you?"
"Not today, old man. And certainly not..."
- ―Hilts and Spinner meeting under happier circumstances
Varner Hilts' wife Iliana led the defense of the city during the Siege of Tahv. Meanwhile, Hilts and his scribes began evacuating the scrolls at the Caretaker's archive in the Kesh capitol building. However, a Leviathan breached the building's walls and pursued him. Hilts attempted to ward off the monster by offering to read scrolls to it but it decline. Before the Leviathan could devour him, the creature was caught in the tractor beam of Spinner's Jedi Starship and destroyed with the ship's laser cannons. While the battle had initially seemed to be in Dreypa's favor, the tide change when Spinner decided to return and save his people. This change of heart came after the Sith outcast received a holographic message from Lord Dreypa. The Sith Lord threatened to harm his love-interest Takara if he did not hand the starship over to him. Ultimately, Spinner's love for Takara made him decide to abandon his quest to reach the stars and return and save Tahv from Dreypa's Leviathans.
Spinner proceeded to destroy Dreypa's leviathans with the ship's laser cannons which enabled the Lost Tribe to regain the upper hand. Iliana and her men witnessed these events and quickly evacuated the area to avoid getting him by flying debris either by accident or on purpose. In the end, Spinner rescued Iliana's daughter Takara from Dreypa and his remaining Leviathan. Dreypa was killed when he was lured aboard the Jedi starship and sent on a one-way trip into Sessal Spire. This ended Dreypa's threat to the Lost Tribe but also destroyed the last known starship that could allow the Tribe to reach the wider galaxy. Spinner and Takara survived the fall. Following the end of the siege, the couple subsequently developed a romantic relationship. Spinner's crimes were conveniently forgotten and he became regarded as a "hero" to the Tribe.
Grand Lord Hilts and his wife Iliana oversaw the rebuilding of Tahv's damaged Circle Eternal. He also had a reunion with Spinner, who joked that he was not going to kill Hilts today. Spinner then asked Hilts whether his trip to Eshkrene had not been by chance and whether he had suspected someone was there. Hilts admitted that he had suspected that Eshkrene had been home to another community of offworlders. Based on his study of the ancient Keshiri tapestries, Hilts had noted that the Keshiri acceptance of the Tribe's ancestors eons ago had not been a mistake. He thus hypothesized that the Tribe were not the first offworlders to arrive on Kesh. He realized that if the mythical Protectors and Destructors still existed, the Tribe would be no match for them. When Spinner asked why he did not send his own people to investigate, Hilts replied that they would have used what they had found for political gain to fracture the Tribe.
Thus, Hilts explained that he sent a slave since he knew that Spinner would have misused what he had found. If an outsider stood against the Tribe, the Tribe would be able to unite. However, Hilts had not taken into account the fact that his daughter Takara had stowed aboard the Southern Star. However, he was happy that everything worked out best for the Tribe. While holding the skull of a fallen Doomed, Hilts expressed his regret that he did not have a chance to meet the Doomed. Following the Siege of Tahv, a second exploration vessel had been dispatched to Eshkrene and discovered that much of the former City of the Doomed had succumbed to the elements. Hilts theorized that it was only their Force will that was protecting their city from the elements.
Spinner privately admitted to Hilts that he had wished the Doomed had left another starship. However, Varner disagreed since he believed that the Tribe was not ready to interact with the wider Galaxy due to their disunity. In the past, Iliana had used to managed the various elements in the Tribe but her weakened state meant she could no longer fulfill that role. Due to the recent political turmoil, the Grand Lord now needed an agent who would act on his behalf. He preferred a political outsider like Spinner who had no political ambitions of succeeding him. Instead, Spinner would become the Grand Lord's Hand, his personal hatchet man. Initially, Spinner was reluctant to consider the offer since he did not want to become someone's slave and to prop up a system which he disliked. However, Hilts managed to convince him that as a Sith, Spinner belonged to the tribe and that his destiny was with the Tribe.
Hilts also praised Spinner's family for bringing them closer to the stars through their elaborate tapestries. While the other Sith families had been squabbling for the past millennium, he reasoned that Spinner's family had been doing something productive with their lives. The Grand Lord commented that a spinner like Hilts knew how to merge opposing strands into a strong rope and believed that was the youth's destiny. Sensing that the youth had a desire to rule the Tribe, he exhorted Spinner to make sure that the tribe survived so that he could gain control over it. After his meeting with Hilts, Spinner went out for a date with his former enemy Takara, who expressed her happiness that he had not been put in chains.
Hilts and his wife Iliana watched as Spinner and their daughter Takara left for their date. Both parents approved of their daughter's relation with Spinner. Iliana gave Takara credit for performing well during the events of Dreypa's rebellion and noted that Takara took after her in terms of physical appearance and temperament. Varner concurred with his wife and suggested that Takara lived up to her namesake: Takara Korsin, the mother of Yaru Korsin. He also explained that he had kept Takara out of the Tribe's hierarchy to avert a succession struggle. For Varner, a Sith needed to strive for something and he was proud that his daughter had been successful in her endeavours. Iliana also expressed her objections to Spinner leading the Tribe on the grounds that he was an outsider. She also criticized her husband's decision to appoint Spinner as his special agent while overlooking their own daughter. Varner disagreed with his wife and pointed out that Takara and Spinner would make a good team as "Hands".
Personality and traitsEdit
- "...The Grand Lord is old—but wise."
"You like him. He's your friend."
"Yes, I suppose he is. If you had to liver under a Sith, you'd rather live under him—and me—than Bentado. Trust me, we've had much worse."
- ―Edell Vrai and Quarra Thayn discussing Varner Hilts' reputation
In comparison to other Sith, Varner Hilts was known for mild temperament and his rational thinking. He was fascinated with history and was one of the Tribe's best known experts on the Tapani language, the ancient tongue of the Tribe's forebears. Unlike many of his Sith compatriots, Hilts was not interested in politics or combat. In contrast to many of his Sith kin, Hilts treated the native Keshiri as equals and accorded them with respect. He developed a close friendship with the Keshiri mathematician Jaye Vuhld and expressed grief and outrage when the latter was murdered by Korsin Bentado. However, he was not above using deception when it benefitted himself. On one occasion, he lied to his future wife Iliana that the holocron containing Yaru Korsin's Testament would only activate on Testament Day. On a second occasion, Grand Lord Hilts concocted a "grand deception" to convince the Alanciari that the Sith did not pose a threat to them but were rather the benign Protectors.
Varner Hilts also desired a female companion but was unable to find a mate prior to 3000 BBY due to his dead-end position as the Tribe's caretaker, an archivist and museum-curator tasked with guarding the Tribe's historical records and timekeeping. Following his elevation to the office of Grand Lord, Hilts married Iliana. This marriage was intended to constrain Iliana's power ambitions and to protect her from her former rivals particularly Korsin Bentado. While Hilts was never certain whether she loved him, Hilts was contented that their relationship worked since many Sith relationships were destroyed by the Sith lust for power. In return, Iliana became the commander of the Tribe's military forces and managed his politics.
Powers and abilitiesEdit
Varner Hilts was not proficient in lightsaber combat or using the Force for defense. His lightsaber skills were also so poor that he was told during his youth that no one would stand beside him for fear of accidental dismemberment. While he had received the same training that his Sith compatriots had during his childhood, his Force powers were limited to deflecting chunks of falling debris from Tahv's aqueduct. Even as Grand Lord, Hilts relied on his spouse Iliana to protect him. However, his poor combat skills were compensated by his high intellect and rational thinking.
Behind the scenesEdit
Varner Hilts was created as a key character for John Jackson Miller's Lost Tribe of the Sith novella series. He first debuted in the online novella Pantheon which was released on July 18, 2011. He also appeared in its sequels Secrets and Pandemonium which were released on March 5 and July 24 2012 respectively. He is the main point-of-view character in Pantheon and Secrets and is allocated one chapter in Pandemonium, which is mainly told from the point of view of the Alanciari Wardmaster Quarra Thayn and the Sith High Lord Edell Vrai. Hilts also appeared in Miller's stand-alone comic series Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral which ran from August 8 to December 12, 2012. For the comic series, he was drawn by Andrea Mutti, inked by Pierluigi Baldassini, and colored by Michael Atiyeh.
- Lost Tribe of the Sith: Pantheon (First appearance)
- Lost Tribe of the Sith: Secrets
- Lost Tribe of the Sith: Pandemonium
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 1: Spiral, Part 1
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 2: Spiral, Part 2 (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 3: Spiral, Part 3 (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 4: Spiral, Part 4
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 5: Spiral, Part 5
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 Lost Tribe of the Sith: Secrets
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 Lost Tribe of the Sith: Pantheon
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 1: Spiral, Part 1
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 Lost Tribe of the Sith: Pandemonium
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Testament of Varner Hilts
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 3: Spiral, Part 3
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 2: Spiral, Part 2
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 4: Spiral, Part 4
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith 5: Spiral, Part 5