**Spoilers for The High Republic Phase One**
The High Republic Phase One is comfortably behind us. And as we approach Phase Two, which takes place 150 years before the events of Phase One, there is plenty of time to dive into theories on where Phase One characters will end up by the time Phase Three arrives.
Two characters set up in Phase One are Jedi Padawan, Bell Zettifar, and the Eye of the Nihil, Marchion Ro. Both have ended the Phase in a vastly different place from where they started: Bell was a Padawan whose biggest concern was the weight of expectation of being renowned Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm’s Padawan. On the other side, Marchion Ro was an afterthought to the other Nihil Tempest but secretly the puppet master of The Great Disaster.
By the time the Starlight Beacon crashes into the sea of Eiram near the end of Phase One, Bell is still a Padawan by choice, and Ro’s id has taken over, announcing to the Republic that he will take what he pleases, and no one can stop him.
I have discussed Marchion Ro’s motivations in my post, Marchion Ro is no Darth Vader, but here I want to focus on Ro’s journey compared to Bell’s as the two are more connected than might meet the eye.
Light of the Jedi is not only the starting point for The High Republic but also for these two characters, who have persevered and dealt with their trauma in opposite ways.
Light of the Jedi
When we first meet Bell, he and Loden are two of the first Jedi to arrive on Hetzel Prime. Bell witnesses his master use words as a Jedi instead of force to persuade guards to let citizens evacuate the planet on a starship. At the same time, they have to fight off marauders who are trying to hijack the ship. At first, the two use their lightsabers (which Bell is a natural at versus other Jedi skills). But when that does not succeed in stopping the pirates and almost makes things worse, Loden uses the Force to relieve the marauders of their weapons, lifts them into the air, and drops them. Bell watches as his master stops the fight without killing.
Later, when the two are at the Jedi outpost on Elphrona with fellow Jedi Indeera Stokes and Porter Engle, Bell continues training, attempting to learn how to control a dissenting fall. He fails miserably, plummeting quickly towards the bottom of a cliff, letting fear get the best of him before being saved by Indeera.
Bell wonders why Loden keeps making him do this if his master knows he will fail. Indeera replies, “one day, you’ll fall off a cliff for real, and he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try to keep you from dying when you do.”
Bell is open about his fears and concerns, while Ro conceals his true personality. When they answer a distress call for a local farming family, the two characters unknowingly cross paths in the first of many reveals of Marchion Ro’s true intentions. Ro caused The Great Disaster, he led Kasav into a death trap dogfight with Republic forces, and he manipulates Lourna Dee into kidnapping to lure a Jedi, Loden Greatstorm. Bell is left without a master and refuses to complete his Jedi trials for knighthood without his master (believed to be dead but missing in action).
The Rising Storm
The Rising Storm finds the two on challenging missions. Marchion Ro is successful in his mission by committing several acts of violence and confrontation. Ro seeks something powerful and uses a Force-sensitive Nihil named Udi Disk as a guinea pig. Ro, Udi, and Ro’s cousin, Kufa, make a perilous journey on the ice planet of Ryland to see the Leveler but run into a cobonica, a giant beast.
Instead of retreating, Marchion Ro immediately attacks the creature with the lightsaber he took from Loden despite protests from his cousin. In the end, Ro gets what he wants and kills Kufa and Udi, who have outlived their usefulness to him.
Bell, trying to overcome the immense trauma of the past year, is on a mission with his new master, Indeera Stokes, to the Cyclar shipyards. They sensed a disturbance and arrived just in time as a Nihil strike came to raid the ship. Using his lessons from Master Loden, Bell helps defeat the Nihil but gets impaled in the gut by a harpoon. He has a moment where the Cosmic Force feels close, but he refuses to die.
Even though Bell turns away from becoming one with the Force, he starts to cut himself off from it. Elzar calls him out on this, and Bell offers an excuse of recovering from his injuries. Amid the attack on the Republic Fair, Bell comes to terms with why he is cutting himself off: Fear of the connection to Loden and missing his former master. Of attachment.
But he puts that fear aside to save people, bringing them hope and, in turn, hope for himself. And near the novel’s end, Bell’s struggles appear to be rewarded. He finds Loden, in bad shape but alive, having escaped with the help of Mari San Tekka.
Bell’s high point and joy of fighting alongside Loden contrast with Marchion Ro’s low point standing in the ruins of a destroyed Nihil base. Having sent the Nihil to the Republic Fair to avoid them turning against his leadership, Ro has his father’s voice in his head, telling him he is weak as he observes Bell and Loden:
The ghost of his father tells him if he releases his weapon, it will be the end of him. Marchion Ro counters that it is only the beginning.
Ro releases the Leveler (a being that only affects Force-users), and Loden is the first victim of a horrific end. He becomes a petrified husk. And Bell is left, once again, in mourning because of Ro.
The Fallen Star and Eye of the Storm
Bell begins The Fallen Star similarly to The Rising Storm: On a mission. But instead of defending a valuable ship, they are on the offensive against the Nihil. Bell desperately wants to make the Nihil feel the helplessness they have put upon him and the other Jedi.
At the same time, Bell is still recovering from the trauma of losing his master, then finding him only to lose him again. But Bell has also grown stronger in the Force, being one of the first Jedi to sense that something feels wrong on Starlight Beacon. He is also the first to consider that the Eye of the Nihil is someone other than Lourna Dee.
Also, given that the Leveler (a creature we find out in Trail of Shadows) overpowers Jedi Masters like Loden, Nib Assek, and the Wayfinder Orla Jareni, it is peculiar that Bell survived a similar encounter in The Rising Storm. Does this foreshadow Bell overcoming a future encounter with this mysterious beast which is now another level of protection for Marchion Ro?
When Nihil sabotage Starlight Beacon, Bell is quick on his feet. Facing losing his new master, Indeera, he rises to the challenge of getting the medical wing of Starlight Beacon to safety before the station crashes.
Because Burryaga’s fate is unknown at the end of The Fallen Star, Bell decides not to give up and leaves the Jedi Order to search for Burryaga in hopes of rectifying what he considered a mistake of not searching harder for Master Loden.
During this time, Marchion Ro slowly replaces his entire ship’s crew with droids as he executes his master plan of destroying Starlight Beacon.
But perhaps Asgar Ro was right about the end for Ro. Loden’s death instigates the beginning of Ro’s descent into isolation. Like the lesson in Light of the Jedi, Bell has built the skill to fall and catch himself. Marchion Ro has lost his greatest strength: Being underestimated.
At the end of Phase One, Ro has revealed himself as the sole mastermind of all the disasters, removing the Nihil or any organic being from his ship (except Ghirra Starros and his assistant, Thaya Ferr). Bell is becoming a stronger Jedi. Alternatively, Ro has become a weakened villain. Marchion Ro has his ultimate victory, a part of the galaxy sectioned off from Republic access to rule. And he has made himself the prime target of both the Republic and the surviving Nihil members he has stepped on along the way.
Bell has overcome every challenge that the Nihil and Ro personally have thrown at him to become a stronger Jedi. Maybe strong enough to defeat Ro.
Ro has gotten used to winning and being the most intelligent guy in the room that he has become disillusioned with power. And the two men could be on a collision course for a showdown of light and dark.