Spoiler warnings: the info revealed here comes from the last third of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
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Every great sci-fi universe has a precursor race nestled deep, deep, down in its history. A mysterious, often highly advanced group of people – or things – who absolutely nailed the concept of civilization, before … well, cocking it all up. Royally.
Alien had its Space Jockey Engineers, The Fifth Element had the Mondoshawans and now, thanks to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the galaxy far, far away now has the Zeffonians (among others). Through much study of the holocrons, ruins, and databanks available to us, we’ve gleaned info on how their way of life aged about as well as blue milk. More important than that, their ruin offers us some valuable lessons and far-reaching implications for the future breed of “grey area” Force-sensitives like Kylo Ren and Rey.
TL;DR: the new “burn down the past” rethink on the Jedi/Sith dogma isn’t just a solid theory; it has more legs than a Greater Krayt Dragon.
Who are the Zeffonians?
Hailing from the planet Zeffo, the topic of today’s discussion are essentially a millennia-old space-faring species who rose to prominence and then, mysteriously, fell into ruin. We do know that Force-sensitives were common in Zeffonian culture, the phenomenon was known to them as “Life Wind,” and those who became exceptionally skilled users were known as sages (the rough modern equivalent of Jedi Masters).
Of these revered ones, we currently only know of three: Eilram, Kujet, and Miktrull. These masters of their craft were interred in especially ornate tombs, both on Zeffo and on other worlds, and passed almost completely out of memory. We now know of these sites thanks to the tireless (borderline obsessive) work of one Jedi Master Eno Cordova, a Purge-era scholar who became fascinated by the long-extinct Zeffonians.
“My friend, in the rotations since I left Bogano I’ve uncovered more about the Zeffo than I believed was possible. It appears that many, yet not all the Zeffo could wield the Force! […] I’ve informed the Council, to lukewarm reception. They have become too focused on Jedi history, but the history of the Force belongs to us all.” – Eno Cordova
Archaeologically speaking, our understanding of Zeffonian culture is patchier than the Millennium Falcon’s hull. However, the Psychometry Force Technique of former padawan Cal Kestis has provided us a living memory of this species which offers some truly amazing insights. Along with a few nightmare premonitions for Kestis. But yeah – you get that …
First of all, we know this species was big into ceremony and ritual. When they passed on, they were interred in huge mausoleums and sarcophagi on a grand scale. Scans indicate these old burial vaults were built out of karnite, a hard stone rich in minerals, and the inner walls of these sanctums were decorated with metallic plating and inscriptions. (Sadly the glyphs that adorn these don’t return results on any galactic databank, suggesting the language has been lost to time.)
Interstellar pilgrimages to these sites were expected from grieving Zeffonians and decorative sacrificial artifacts were to be offered. Also, they seemed to have loved a good wind chime and carving huge statues of the dearly departed. Especially if the relief allowed them to slot in a representation of the Zeffonian power sphere, technology which allowed them to breathe life into tomb mechanisms and security measures.
Speaking of, the Zeffonians went to great lengths to keep sentient beings out of their business. Eight-foot automaton Tomb Guardians are your first line of defense, and infest most sites. Panicked Imperial communiques suggest that these nasty “little” surprises have made short work of many a guileless stormtrooper detachment sent in on grave robbing duty.
That said, they wouldn’t have had much luck beyond that first barrier anyway – the second line of Zeffonian defense includes doors and/or mechanisms that may only be manipulated by a sufficiently powerful Force user. Interestingly, it seems these mechanisms started out as meditation relics, used to train the Zeffonian equivalent of padawans. These fancy devices appear to simulate the gravitational pull of the planet Zeffo and were subsequently repurposed into crypt security measures, presumably when everything went to Bantha poodoo for the species.
A Legacy Dug Up
As previously mentioned, our modern understanding of the Zeffonians can be almost singularly attributed to Eno Cordova. This especially curious Jedi Master began his investigations on a tomb located on the planet Ontotho, one of many worlds to which the Zeffo immigrated. Presumably, the Force-related security features are what drew his attention to the site in the first place, and he cunningly repurposed those features to hide a holocron that held sensitive information on undiscovered younglings.
Retracing Cordova’s footsteps in the year 14 BBY, Cal Kestis managed to divine the location of the Zeffo homeworld, along with a secondary tomb on the planet Dathomir. Trying Zeffo first, the young padawan-on-the-run then discovered the tombs of two powerful Zeffonian sages, Miktrull and Eilram. Furthermore, a relief carved in the wall of one of these sites offered a clue to the Zeffonians having had contact with the planet Kashyyyk.
Eventually Kestis discovered a Cordova hologram message that advised him to seek out a Zeffonian device called an astrium to unlock the original vault on the planet Bogano. An astrium is a handheld device that allows a force user to perceive the mysteries of the vault. Oddly, all evidence of these devices appear to have been destroyed, possibly by the Zeffonians themselves, in an effort to forever lock away their secrets. Apparently there were at least two of these left in working order in 14 BBY – one claimed by Eno on Kashyyk and another one hidden on Dathomir. Both are curious hiding spots that open up a bunch of interesting questions…
The former location is interesting as it shows a Zeffonian fondness for the greenery of the wookiee’s homeworld. Going so far as to carve images of wroshyr trees on their off-planet tombs and to inter one of their sages, Eilram, under a stone wroshyr tree is significant. It makes one wonder if they had a hand in nurturing (or even planting) the Origin Tree itself. It’s also feasible that modern wookiee culture might have fresh memories of this mysterious and ancient race – the wookiees are, after all, a very long-lived race (an individual’s average life expectancy is 400+ years).
Conversely, we have the worrying fact of another site located on Dathomir, a planet aligned with the dark side. Do the Zeffonian ruins that exist here (in this case the tomb of Kujet) predate the darkness that’s inextricably tied to the flora and fauna inhabiting this place? Or has Dathomir simply always been a nexus of evil power — a Zeffonian equivalent of the Sith vacation hotspot known as the planet Korriban.
Oddly, the entrance to Kujet’s tomb was secret, hidden, even in the time it was built – a complete contrast from the open, ostentatious tombs of the other sages. Our investigations point to Kujet’s legacy being that of a tyrant. He or his followers destroyed the precious astriums and the lives of any who opposed his rule. There is evidence that many a brave rebel Zeffonian fell to his might.
There’s no denying the ruins here are potent spot for Force visions and just bad juju in general. Much like the swamp cave on Dagobah, places like Kujet’s resting place give Force sensitives dangerous and disturbing introspective moments that can reveal their deepest fears. Some visitors can resist the dark whisperings, others, like Taron Malicos, can be turned onto a dark path. The implication here is clear: the Zeffonians had their own version of a Jedi/Sith war, and it’s fair to assume that’s what precipitated their downfall.
Kestis’s Psychometry Force Technique yielded possibly the most important bit of info we could ever hope to glean from the Zeffonians: a warning not to follow in their footsteps. The general advisement is to rethink what we “know” about the Force.
“I offer this record of our civilization to those who will follow. Despite our wisdom and technological achievement, we face extinction. Dogma blinded us to the path of balance and gradually we allowed our pride to corrupt us. The greater control we sought, the further we fell into ruin. I lead the remnants of my people into the great unknown, hoping that we finally find peace.” – Unnamed Zeffonian sage
Clearly the current way of doing things – an unyielding and literal black-and-white view of the Force – will be the path to mutually assured destruction for the Jedi and Sith factions.
Fortunately, the concept of moving beyond the rigidity of this two-party system is taking root in the current times of 34 ABY. On the one hand we have venerable Jedi Masters like Luke Skywalker and Yoda burning down the last remaining vestiges of their Order (at least symbolically). And at the other end of the morality scale we have Kylo Ren, a Sith inheritor who’s seeking to “burn down the past — killing it, if he has to.” That said, whether this shift in sensibilities will be enough to prevent history from repeating itself remains to be seen.
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