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Fanfic / On the Edge of the Devil's Backbone

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On the Edge of the Devil's Backbone is a Star Wars Rebels fic by Bedlamsbard, who also did the Ouroboros series.

Ten years after she vanished during an Imperial raid on a Twi'lek colony, Cham Syndulla sees his daughter Hera for the first time in a hologram — now wearing the uniform of an Imperial agent and apparently working closely with a human Inquisitor. All Cham wants to do is to bring his long-missing child home to what remains of her family, but he soon finds that Hera Syndulla is only interested in two things: her duty to the Empire and her loyalty to her crew, a mismatched collection of outcasts brought together by Hera and her pet Inquisitor.


With Cham and the Rebel agent known as Fulcrum in pursuit, a new mission takes Hera and the crew of the Ghost to the planet Lothal, where a chance meeting with a Force-sensitive teenager awakens something long buried in the Inquisitor once known as Kanan Jarrus... and has dire consequences for Hera, their crew, the Empire, and the fledgling Rebel Alliance.

A sequel, The Devil's Lair, is in the making.


On the Edge of the Devil's Backbone contains examples of:

  • Academy of Evil: The Crucible, the Inquisition headquarters on Mustafar, where Kanan was turned into an Inquisitor. Also the Imperial Academy, where Hera and Sabine were trained.
  • Action Dad: Cham Syndulla.
  • Action Mom: Alecto Syndulla.
  • Adventures in Comaland: A low-key version when Kanan, recently rescued from the Crucible, makes a mental version of the Jedi Temple and stays there for a while. Ezra enters his mind but finds he's mostly okay, and he comes out of it on his own.
  • Affably Evil: Barriss is actually rather polite when she isn't actively trying to get on Ahsoka's nerves.
  • All There in the Manual: Bedlamsbard's Tumblr is full of writing updates/snippets, worldbuilding for Ryloth and Twi'lek culture, commentary, and meta.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Both of the Pau'an Inquisitor's hands are cut off by Ahsoka in their brief duel.
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  • And the Adventure Continues: The Inquisitors (particularly Patience, Hangman, and Amity) are still out there, Barriss is still out there, Ezra chooses to stay with Kanan over Ahsoka, Ezra attains a kyber crystal from a destroyed Inquisitor lightsaber, Hera and her family tie up loose ends, and the Ghost crew parts with Free Ryloth to continue their own fight against the Empire elsewhere.
  • Arranged Marriage: Secchun Fenn tries to arrange one between Xiaan Syndulla and her son. It doesn't go over well.
  • Author Appeal: One of the author's favorite comic book series from the Star Wars franchise is the Republic series (and some of the other Ostrander-Duursema works like Legacy as well). Republic had emphasis on Twi'lek characters like Xiaan Amersu and Aayla Secura as well as delving into Ryloth a bit, which explains some things about the fic. And of course, when in tandem with the author's love for Hera, who also happens to be a female Twi'lek that is stunning yet strong and independent with a past of depth, combined with the author also having a passion for Roman history, and this fic is the result.
  • Awful Truth: Ahsoka delivers one to the Syndullas: Hera is alive as an Imperial Security Bureau agent in a relationship with an Inquisitor.
  • Bad Boss: Agent Kallus recruits the Ghost crew for the attack on Free Ryloth only so Hera can be used as a hostage.
  • Battle Couple: Hera and Kanan, Cham and Alecto.
  • Berserk Button: Ahsoka has learned not to talk about Luminara Unduli in front of Barriss, or ask her why she keeps coming to their meetings.
  • Big Good: Ahsoka Tano, also known as Fulcrum.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Hera's handler, ISB Agent Roberto Beneke, who she believes has her best interests at heart but is actually extremely emotionally manipulative of her.
  • Blue Blood: The Syndullas are an old family from Ryloth's patrician caste, and so is Secchun Fenn. Alecto and Doriah are an exception, as they're distant enough cousins that they don't count.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Cham kills Agent Beneke
  • Bullying a Dragon: Agent Beneke taunts Cham about Hera. Cham responds by killing him.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Hera is not pleased when Cham and Alecto turn up after ten years and try to "rescue" her despite her not wanting to be rescued.
  • The Cameo:
    • Neeyutnee is mentioned as having become Naboo's senator after Padmé's death.
    • Sammo Quid and Tai Uzuma, Caleb's "friends" in the Kanan comic, make unnamed appearances when Kanan envisions himself in the Jedi Temple.
  • Codenames: Ahsoka is Fulcrum, and she has several contacts who she also refers to by codenames. Barriss is "Cannon" (as in loose cannon) and she has another one on Naboo called "Siren", also known as the Flower of Ryloth, Ojeda Syndulla.
  • Cool Starship: The Forlorn Hope, Separatist frigate turned flagship of the Free Ryloth fleet. Ahsoka Tano's personal starship, the Aegis. And of course, the Ghost.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Hunter was no match for Ahsoka Tano.
  • Cyanide Pill: The Hunter takes one of these to prevent Ahsoka from extracting information out of him after she defeats him.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the show it's based on, although mostly because it can actually show things that the show can only hint at due to its rating. But even then, it still goes pretty far, like prostitution and sex scenes (though nothing too explicit), characters dying more often onscreen, and so on.
  • Dead All Along: Luminara Unduli, as in canon.
  • Death of a Child: Baby Lika Syndulla is killed offpage during the raid on Zydossa Stix. As well, several of the children in Project Nemesis other than Hera were eventually executed.
  • Double Agent: Barriss supplies relatively minor information to Ahsoka despite continuing to actively work against her as an Inquisitor.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Agent Beneke, Hera's handler, participated in Project Nemesis because he genuinely believes that incorporating non-humans will make the empire stronger. His goal is to install mass re-education systems on non-human species, indoctrinating them into the empire.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Lake House on Naboo, which is a sexual slavery operation, considers the sixteen-year old Blue Opal of Pantora to be too young to sleep with clients yet. It's not much of a standard, though, since they still treat her terribly.
    • Barriss and Agent Beneke are mutually disgusted by each other.
  • Fantastic Racism: As a non-human in Imperial service, Hera Syndulla is subjected to a lot of this. Notably averted by Agent Beneke, who believes the Empire needs to drop this trope if it wants to survive.
    • Barriss refers to Hera by the racial slur "tailhead" several times purely to annoy Ahsoka.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Aleema Syndulla, Hera's aunt, who is killed shielding her from a grenade during the raid on Zardossa Stix. While it was offscreen, Lika Syndulla's death was implied to be this. And then Agent Beneke's brains are blown out by a blaster bolt.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Ryloth is one to the Roman Republic.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Agent Beneke acts like Hera's friend but is actually an emotionally-manipulative Jerkass to her, which everyone but Hera can see.
  • Flashback: There are many throughout the story showing what the Empire did to Hera and Kanan.
  • Food as Bribe: Another incentive Barriss has to keep passing information to Ahsoka is that it's her only opportunity to eat actual food. Even something as simple as ice water isn't allowed to Inquisitors.
  • Friendly Enemy: Barriss and Ahsoka, although only by the loosest interpretation of the word "friendly". They occasionally meet up to attack each other without seriously intending to kill the other and manage to be barely civil while Barriss gives Ahsoka information.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Ahsoka and Kanan disarm each other early in their fight, so they spend most of it trying to gain the advantage in hand-to-hand.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ahsoka has a few brief ones after she learns what happened to Luminara and after she realizes that she, Barriss, and Kanan might be the only Jedi left alive despite none of them actually being Jedi anymore.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Aleema Syndulla jumps on her niece Hera to shield her from a grenade at the cost of her own life.
  • Honey Trap: The Flower of Ryloth, Ojeda Syndulla is also the rebel informant known as Siren. She gets information from her ISB clients and passes it off to a Naboo resistance leader who works for Fulcrum, who is actually Sabé Ledoyen, former body double of Padmé Amidala.
  • Hostage Situation: Kallus only recruited the Ghost crew for the mission so that he could use Hera as a hostage against Cham and Free Ryloth. Ends up not working due to intervention, and while Hera is shaken up, she tells the others the next chapter that regardless of this, she is still loyal to the Empire.
  • Hot-Blooded: Alecto. She gets furious at Cham for not stunning Hera and taking her with them regardless of her wishes, and later throws a chair across the room after watching some of the ISB's tapes of Hera. It's also mentioned she once punched Secchun Fenn in the face.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Patience is very excited to meet Kanan.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Ahsoka prefers to have her meetings with Barriss in various bars. Barriss has that effect on her.
  • Insistent Appellation: In her meeting with Barriss on Tatooine, Ahsoka refuses to call Barriss by her name and only calls her "Inquisitor". Barriss is seriously angered by this and returns the favor, referring to Ahsoka only as "Fulcrum".
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite all the changes, the Ghost crew still ends up together, Ezra still becomes Kanan's apprentice, and the ending arc of season 1 is echoed in chapter 19 and 20.
  • Irony: In the battle in Chapter 29, Secchun accepts that Thamir is traitor and may have to be killed for the greater good, while Alecto is relieved that Hera is fine and can't wait to reunite with her afterwards.
  • I Want My Mommy!: The Blue Opal of Pantora is introduced crying for her mother, Riyo Chuchi.
  • Jerkass: Agent Beneke.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Aleema actually jumps on Hera rather than the grenade, but it has the same result.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Aleema Syndulla. Later, Agent Beneke.
  • Killed Offscreen: Lika Syndulla during the raid on Zardossa Stix, Seku and Clotho Syndulla between the prologue and the present day.
  • Kissing Cousins: Xiaan and Doriah Syndulla. To be fair, they're so distantly related (fifth cousins) that it doesn't really count.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Fulcrum is Ahsoka Tano, as revealed in the canon Season 1 finale.
  • Lured into a Trap: Just like in canon, an Inquisitor lures a former Padawan by using the actually-dead Luminara Unduli as bait. Unfortunately for the Hunter, Ahsoka Tano was much more than he could deal with.
    • Ahsoka thinks that Barriss' request for her to destroy the kyber crystal shipment was an attempt to kill her and the Free Ryloth fleet after it explodes. In reality, the crystal was sabotaged by Kanan.
  • Made a Slave. The Syndulla family members captured by the Empire, apart from Hera. Alecto, Doriah, and Xiaan managed to escape at some point in the intervening ten years; the others are still missing.
  • Mama Bear: Alecto Syndulla, who completely ignores Fulcrum's advice and rushes off to rescue Hera. Cham's sister Aleema in the prologue is also this, staying behind to give her children a chance to escape.
  • Meaningful Name: The Mercy Kill. In the final battle, Secchun ultimately has the Mercy Kill fire on her own son after he refuses to leave the Empire out of Undying Loyalty to his captives and coming to hate his family that much.
  • Mirror Universe: Only for the Ghost crew, who work for the Empire. Everyone else (with the possible exception of Barriss) is on the same side that they are in canon.
  • My Skull Runneth Over:
    • Ezra accidentally senses every living being on Lothal at one point. It's completely overwhelming, and it's only thanks to his street instincts that he escapes Kanan moments later.
    • In a mix between this and These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, Kanan is given some sort of drug that leaves no barrier between him and the Force during his training at the Crucible. With Mustafar being a shatterpoint, Kanan is forced to see and feel everything, and has to be restrained from tearing his own face off in a desperate attempt to stop it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Alecto ruined any chance of Hera coming with them by insisting on repeatedly trying to kill Kanan.
    • Ironically given her extreme distrust of 'Fulcrum,' if she had listened to Ahsoka's advice not to do anything about Hera until they had more information she would have known more about the manipulation Hera had been subjected to, and probably been much less likely to say the exact things that would inadvertently confirm to Hera that her parents really were the enemy now.
    • The Syndullas' intervention (hurried on the logic that Hera might disappear again and they would have lost their chance to "rescue" her) was also the reason Hera disappeared from the only location they'd ever known for a fact they could find her; she had intended to stay much longer to oversee wrapping the operation up, and left in a hurry because she didn't want to risk Alecto taking another potshot at her partner. Waiting a few days for more information would have actually increased their chances of keeping an eye on Hera.
  • Not Brainwashed: While she has been emotionally manipulated and fed propaganda, Hera is not brainwashed and has come to truly believe in the Empire.
  • Not Me This Time: Ahsoka believes that the exploding kyber shipment was a trap by Barriss, and for once Barriss is actually completely innocent.
  • No Yay: The Hunter is very...possessive of Kanan in the Crucible flashbacks.
  • Offing the Offspring: Secchun resorts to ordering the Mercy Kill to kill Thamir when he continues to work for the Empire.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Members of the Inquisition give up their names and are officially only known as the Inquisitor. This being rather confusing when there's more than one around, they have a variety of nicknames. Due to being written prior to the reveal of the number motif within the show, the Pau'an Inquisitor is "the Hunter", the Seventh Sister is "Patience", Kanan is "the Jedi", "the Hound", or "the Stray", while Barriss is simply "the First" because she was the first one.
    • The slaves at the Lake House on Naboo, most prominently the Flower of Ryloth, the Red Star of Zeltros, and the Blue Opal of Pantora. Who are otherwise known as Ojeda Syndulla, Zaidi Farseer, and Khiry Chuchi.
  • Original Character: The story has dozens of them. All of the Syndulla family members other than Hera and Cham, most prominently Hera's mother Alecto.
  • Papa Wolf: Cham Syndulla, who completely ignores Ahsoka's advice and rushes off to rescue Hera.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Ahsoka and Barriss' meetings are made of this, and it gets pretty ugly.
  • Pet the Dog: While meeting with Barriss on Nal Hutta, Ahsoka orders a bowl of nuts that Barriss used to enjoy back when they were Padawans.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Due to having been planned prior to/during Season 2, things such as the inner workings of the Inquisition, Sabine's backstory, etc. differ from canon.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Agent Beneke tries, in his own twisted way, to combat the empire's racist policies because he believes non-humans can be valuable members of the empire. He still believes non-humans are inferior, but in a more paternalistic way than most Imperial officers.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: A Tear Jerker variant in Chapter 29, Secchun, after apologizing to Thamir for failing him, bids him goodbye and has the Mercy Kill fire on him.
    Secchun: Thamir, when you see your father and your brother, tell them they'll have to wait a little longer for me.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted with Agent Beneke's death, who gets the back of his skull blown out.
  • Promoted to Parent: Doriah Syndulla protected his younger cousin Xiaan when they were enslaved together, and even after their escape he's practically the only person she really trusts. Their relationship ended up becoming more of a romantic one.
  • Psychic Radar: While Kanan and Ezra are on Mustafar escaping the Crucible, they sense a lingering presence from the Force of two Jedi Knights who have or will duel there.
  • Rape by Proxy: Offscreen example, in Flower's last scene at the Lake House, it is implied that her last client made her and Opal have sex with each other.
  • Reality Bleed: Mustafar has a mental version of this, thanks to being an Eldritch Location. While being interrogated, Kanan sees glimpses of the past, the canon timeline, and possibly the future.
  • Rebel Leader: Ahsoka Tano is this for the Rebel movement in general, while Cham Syndulla is this for the Free Ryloth fleet.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Alecto is red, Cham is blue.
  • Reforged into a Minion: The goal of the Empire's Project Nemesis, turning the children of prominent anti-Imperial activists into model Imperials. Hera is one of it's greatest successes. Similarly, the Imperial Inquisition does this with former Jedi Barriss Offee and Kanan Jarrus.
  • Robot Buddy: QT-KT, formerly Aayla Secura's astromech, serves as this to Ahsoka Tano.
  • Secret Keeper: Cham Syndulla is the only member of the Free Ryloth fleet who knows that Fulcrum is Ahsoka Tano. Later expanded to include Alecto.
  • Secret Test of Character: The whole reason Ojeda Syndulla was at the Lake House was to set up one to test Hera's loyalty. She never visited the Lake House (despite numerous offers), and thus passed the test by not taking it.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Aleema Syndulla's attempt to buy time for her children to escape turns out to be this, as they are captured by the Empire shortly after her death.
  • Sex for Solace: Hera and Kanan in Chapter 20.
  • Sex Slave: Averted for Hera. While Cham and Alecto initially assume that her relationship with Kanan is this, it is actually completely consensual.
    • The slaves at the Lake House on Naboo, a brothel frequented by officers from the nearby regional ISB Headquarters.
    • Patience implies she would use Kanan as this if it wasn't for the Hunter "protecting" him.
  • Shower of Angst: Ahsoka takes one after she discovers the fate of Luminara Unduli.
  • Show Some Leg: Ojeda distracts two stormtroopers this way so Ahsoka and Doriah can knock them out in order to get into the ISB Headquarters.
  • Sick and Wrong: Kanan's reaction to the giant kyber crystal.
  • Succession Crisis: As Hera is obviously not an option even after she's discovered to be alive, the Syndulla clan has one of these in the works if Cham were to die. The direct heir is Cham's niece Xiaan, but she's an extremely emotionally traumatized teenager who wants no part of the job. Cham could adopt Alecto's nephew Doriah and name him heir, but won't do it officially because Alecto would see it as giving up on Hera for good.
  • The Handler: Agent Beneke is Hera's, and on the rebel side the Rainbow Lady Sabé Ledoyen is Flower/Siren's.
  • The Sociopath: The Hunter, full stop.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Alecto calls Cham out for trusting Ahsoka without question and apparently caring more about fighting the Empire than rescuing their daughter.
  • The Rival: Secchun Fenn is this to Cham Syndulla.
    • Beneke and Kallus are stated to be rivals, although this is never shown directly as Beneke is killed before they ever share a scene.
    • The Hunter and Patience have shades of this too, mostly in their fight over Kanan.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Force-sensitives have a natural veil that keeps them from fully perceiving the Force. Kanan getting his torn down nearly kills him.
  • Training from Hell: Kanan and Barriss both went through this at the Crucible.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Ahsoka realizes that Luminara's survival is too good to be true and is most likely the bait for a trap, but she walks into it anyway because even if she isn't alive, Ahsoka thinks that the chance to discover her fate outweighs the risk.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Kanan's hair was shaved when he arrived at the Crucible.
  • Troubled Abuser: Barriss constantly tries to get under Ahsoka's skin during their meetings because, despite part of her recognizing that Ahsoka is the only thing she has left anymore, it's the only form of emotional stimulation she understands anymore after fifteen years of being abused by the Empire.
  • Troll: Barriss likes trying to make Ahsoka angry.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Hera reacts violently to her family's attempted rescue of her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Hera was ordered to take her partner Kanan to meet Darth Vader, she didn't know Kanan was really a Jedi until it was too late. Because of this Kanan was forced to become an Inquisitor.
  • Villainous Crush: Barriss is implied to have some form of this on Ahsoka, ironically, due to Ahsoka being the only living emotional connection she has left anymore. It's the reason she keeps coming to her secret meetings with Ahsoka despite Ahsoka not giving her information in exchange, although it doesn't stop Barriss from verbally abusing her or occasionally attempting to murder her. One of her greatest fears is Ahsoka coming to simply not care about her, and she finds that the easiest way to prevent that is to make Ahsoka hate her.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Free Ryloth fleet can't agree on anything other than opposing the Empire. Ahsoka is alarmed by their disunity when one of the ships tries to hail her as she goes to land on Cham's ship.
    • Alecto does not trust Ahsoka, especially after she accidentally leads them into what appears to be a trap.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Rebel leader Ahsoka Tano and Inquisitor Barriss Offee. What little hope there was of repairing their relationship after Barriss framed Ahsoka for treason ended once the Empire turned Barriss into an Inquisitor.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 18, where Hera decides to rescue Kanan from Mustafar, essentially committing treason.
  • What If?: What if Hera Syndulla was captured by the Empire when she was fourteen?
  • What You Are in the Dark: Unknown to anyone, Kanan sabotages the Empire's giant kyber crystal, hinting that some of his identity as a Jedi has survived.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: What Hera is trying to be seen as by the Empire.
    • Played straight with her former piloting instructor, Captain Haiduk.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Cham to Hera. He was wrong.
  • Zerg Rush: Comparable to a pack of wolves, the Inquisitors do this. Doesn't always equal success, though; in the final battle in Chapter 29, it's a bloodbath for them, courtesy of Kanan and Ahsoka.

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