Sometimes, the things that Zolph Vaelor experiences in this trilogy can make the Del Rey Legends books seem tame by comparison and make the Teen rating it is given on some websites seem dubious at best.
- Valkor's Forceless Collective could potentially give the Yuuzhan Vong a run for their money in the Primal Fear department. Aside from their usually creepy appearances, Forceless are also capable of possessing other creatures by entering through any openings in the body. To make it even worse, the hosts are consciously aware of what is happening to them and can do nothing about it. Not only are they forced to watch themselves do things they wouldn't do from inside their heads, they also feel everything that happens to their body including the various mutations. Not helping matters is that not only do they have a surprisingly large army (thanks to multiple galaxies already being conquered by it to pool from for resources and Black Matter being self-generating), they are senselessly cruel in their methods of subjugation.
- As their name implies, Forceless are quite literally a void in the Force. By the Star Wars universe's standards, almost every living thing is connected to the Force. In theory, Forceless shouldn't exist, yet they do. What Force-sensitives feel when they are around Forceless is something like death, similar to what Obi-Wan Kenobi felt when Alderaan was destroyed, essentially making the Forceless undead Lovecraftian blob parasites. There's a reason for this: Forceless are a by-product of mass genocides; the Force's rushed attempt to patch up the wound it received when so many people died simultaneously. Apparently, the Force doesn't always work in the galaxy's favor. If there's any solace to take out of this, a lore entry by the author on Forceless in general suggests that not every Forceless Collective is Always Chaotic Evil or an immediate threat like Valkor's.
- It gets worse after the revelation in the last arc of Episode II. Contrary to what Zolph, Grein and others thought, killing the hosts doesn't save them from enslavement by the Collective and let them become one with the Force as usual. Their consciousnesses are trapped in an endless void so Valkor can use them however he sees fit later. This means not only can Valkor use this degree of control over life and death to psychologically torture people and win over potential followers, he can also use this power to resurrect his Archfiends (and he does exactly that in Episode III), effectively undoing Zolph's victories against him.
- Maesterus killing Alec Vaelor, but not of his own volition. Alec is very protective of his own son towards what is possibly another Dark Jedi, but Maesterus has been hesitant to kill anyone throughout the attack on the Angelion, and everyone else he's killed was only because they attacked him first. When whatever is inside his body takes over and makes him impale Alec, Maesterus is clearly horrified by what happened. It becomes even harsher after his backstory is revealed: Maesterus, AKA Seferin Vaelor, is one of Alec's ancestors. In other words, the Forceless symbiote inside him just forced him to kill one of his own descendants. It was only after this incident that Seferin became resistant to the symbiote's body-jacking.
Chapter 2: Old Wounds
- While Maesterus is not all that villainous, the carnage he leaves behind can be somewhat unnerving, especially with some troopers and Jedi pinned to the walls by his bone-spikes. Oh, and about those spikes, some of the later artwork featuring them has some of his own blood running from the rupture points in his palms and down the spikes.
Chapter 6: Invasion
- The Forceless invasion of Sleheyron. Lots of innocent people either die or are possessed. Zolph is naturally horrified that he's being forced to kill innocents if they are possessed (he and Grein were even forced to kill a child and his mother in defense). And the worst part, both he and Grein know they won't even be able to save half the planet's population.
- It's not much better with the less innocent people either. One of Girdretto's lieutenants is pretty horrified about what's happening to some of his associates and is fearful of being possessed, and he can be heard being possessed over comlink.
Chapter 10: Crippled
- Doctor Thilid. She's a Quarren interrogator that likes to eat people's brains when she's done with them by pulling them out through their noses, a practice mostly associated with the Anzati in that universe and another race of squid-headed creatures she's named after. She would've eaten Menbar Mun's brain had Zolph not stuck his lightsaber in her. Even Maesterus finds her disgusting.
Chapter 11: Possession
- Hydrojus. To describe its abilities, think of bloodbending when at its full deadly potential. Even the Galactic Alliance troops that accompany Zolph to either seal or kill it are horrified when they see what it can do. It also manages to temporarily hijack Grein's body.
Chapter 13: Parasite
- Dynn Manthis's fate. You know that arm she got to replace the one Zolph cut off? It's sentient. The longer she has it, the more horrible things it does to her, like repeatedly bending itself backwards (as part of exploiting a Force Bond between her and Zolph, and they can both feel it). Once it figures out her attachment to him, it mutates (or rather, mutilates) her body to the point of dependency on the arm for survival, she loses control of her body while she remains conscious, and there's nothing she can do about it; she can't even say anything about it. Once Zolph catches up to her Krantisi, it taunts him with the fact that one of them is going to have to die. Either Zolph lets it kill him and Dynn be subject to both physical and psychological torture for who-knows-how-long or he save her from torture but compromise her life in the process. The latter of the two happens.
Chapter 14: Despair
- The results of what happened at the end of the previous chapter aren't much better either. Dynn's apparent death prompts Zolph to go on a rather violent killing spree of Valkoran personnel (not just for grafting that arm, but for having a part in the deaths of his parents as well, even though only a few of the Valkoran had anything to do with it). When Grein finds him, he is clearly slipping close to the Dark Side, and has to kick his ass to bring him to his senses. Even six months later, these events have still affected him.
Chapter 2: Guilt
- Zolph is lured into a certain cave on Dagobah by a Valkoran probe droid, and suffers an In-Universe example of this. Zolph is then attacked by a psychotic apparition of Dynn Manthis (which is taking on her mutated form when he mercy-killed her back in Episode I), has his prosthetic arm torn off, his eyelids cut open, and then disemboweled by her while she is pinning him on the ground before blacking out.
- What's worse is that in the cave, most people get premonitions of the future, but in Zolph's case, he was reliving an alternate scenario based on one of the worst moments of his life, and that the apparition was created as a result of Zolph's guilt for being unable to prevent Dynn's possession and death. Thankfully for him, none of those injuries actually happened to him, but he still would have been killed by one of his own hallucinations had Juganak not knocked him unconscious.
Chapter 3: Remorse
- Mandoculus continues the tradition of unusual biology among Archfiends, but he's also one of the largest Archfiends encountered so far and his eyes are on his shoulders and his tongue. Then comes the fact that he's only willingly fighting for the Collective so he won't be fully taken over. For him, Zolph shoving a grenade in his throat may have been a mercy for him. How many other Forceless-possession victims are willingly serving just to avoid this fate?
Chapter 4: The Damaged
- Zolph and Grein travel to Korriban to eliminate the next Archfiend, the former still going through rehab over his PTSD. How much worse is it than Dagobah? Dagobah had a strong Dark Side presence in one cave, but Korriban has it all over the planet. And it takes a Sith ghost mind-raping Zolph to make him run into that apparition of Dynn again. And what's worse is that no matter what Zolph tries to do, she won't go away. Shoot her in the head? She'll reappear behind him and regenerate it. And she gets angrier the more Zolph tries to flee from her. And later, she reappears as a Faceless Eye on the ceiling with multiple arms.
- What's worse is the reason she's so persistent about killing him: Zolph subconsciously wants her to because he thinks his life lost all meaning when he failed to keep her from dying. As Zolph himself points out, if not for Grein's constant intervention, he'd either be dead or corrupted by the Dark Side.
- Away from the topic of Zolph's mental health, there's the idea that a Sith Lord was able to create Forceless to serve him. If what Lord Azath says is true, then it's possible there may be other Forceless Collectives aside from the one they are currently fighting and that there's no true end to them.
- Neur is usually an adorably optimistic human-Twi'lek hybrid, but if her prosthetic lekku malfunctions, she will turn outright psychotic. Even worse, according to her backstory, she was raised by the early Nightisters, who hadn't even come to accept cross-breeding yet. As a result, she was abused by her own people and was lobotomized as a child under the pretense of her lekku being tumors.
Chapter 5: Resolve
- As soon as you'd think the Dynn hallucination wore out her welcome, she's stopped trying to pressure Zolph's previous Death Seeker tendencies and tries to bring up the idea of everyone (including his friends) being possessed by the Forceless Collective, while he - being immune to Forceless possession - will be alone and possibly killed by them. Thankfully, Zolph doesn't give in.
Chapter 7: The Return
- Zolph discovers a new addition to his Forceless possession immunity: the ability to convert any symbiotes that get into his bloodstream into Force power and temporarily turn into one of the most powerful users in the galaxy. Unfortunately, the first time he does this, his body channels the symbiote passively and since he's under a lot of stress at the time, he goes berserk and kills Harphscor gruesomely with little effort by Force-crushing his skull and would have killed Maesterus had he not known what was going on with Zolph.
- Maesterus reveals what was inside the holocron from Bast Castle: It was Darth Vader's log on experiments involving another Forceless symbiote, which he tested on rebels and surviving Jedi, the last person tested being Zolph's grandfather before he was executed along with the symbiote. While the modern Jedi history in the Legends continuity acknowledges that Anakin Skywalker was eventually redeemed in time for his death, it doesn't ignore the fact that he committed horrible acts as Darth Vader. On the flipside, these experiments showed that even in his then-nihilistic outlook on life and loyalty to his Emperor, Vader realized knowledge about Forceless was too dangerous even for Palpatine to know about.
Chapter 8: The Enforcer
- This chapter formally introduces Emperor Valkor into the story. Almost everything about him is terrifying. When he's first introduced, he threatens to eat Arcidus for refusing to take orders from him. And what's even scarier? As Mursama Kur'Ada learned, the people eaten by him don't die. They suffer far worse. And when she meets him, she can sense that there is absolutely nothing biological or natural about him (this is because this Valkor is actually a robotic avatar infused with Black Matter inside it, namely a piece of Yalbdalaoth). After the Kur'Ada leader's "execution", he tries to have the rest of the Kur'Ada warriors in the enclave rounded up to be eaten too. Maesterus and Arcidus think it's much more merciful to kill the warriors or get them to commit suicide (something, as former Jedi, they are naturally uncomfortable with). With such power at his disposal (and a number of people "disappearing" after trying to decry him), it's no wonder only a few people in the Valkoran Empire are directly opposing him.
- Arcidus's backstory is as horrifying as it is depressing. As a child, Aiken accidentally incinerated his own home and parents due to not knowing how to control his own Force potential. The training he received as a Jedi was to teach him how to restrain Force Combustion, and that training was carried out in an isolated environment. Once Seferin was kicked out of the Order, it did not do wonders for his psyche.
Chapter 9: Lab Rat
- Gestroma's revealed to be more than just a psychotic mercenary. He's a violently human-o-phobic Mad Scientist who also happens to be a Forceless Herald trying to create his own army to Kill All Humans. Where does this army come from? A bunch of kidnapped humans (or near-humans) he claims to have killed on his bounty contracts, drastically mutated and had possessed with his own symbiote. Gestroma himself is a mutant too.
- The former Galactic Alliance soldier Shiera Hond is an example of when the mutations go horribly wrong and the subject is made a cognitive invalid on life support. Instead of being killed, she's just one of those used as guinea pigs for other mutagens. She's so badly mutated that she's unable to kill herself and asks Hiriss to Mercy Kill her and the other "lab rats".
- This chapter confirms that Forceless symbiotes are born as a result of wounds in the Force, AKA large scale massacres. Gestroma's symbiote was born from the destruction of his homeworld Despayre, the Death Star's construction site and the first planet it destroyed. Considering that the Star Wars Legends continuity has many instances of genocide, who knows how many more Forceless symbiotes - Heraldless or not - are out there because of crazed, petty warlords (and how many of them pose a threat to the galaxy)? This bit of Fridge Horror is discussed in the same chapter.
Chapter 10: Defector
- The Hands of Stythanyx. Not only do they look creepy, their methods of killing are outright terrifying. Their usual method involves sneaking up on prey and sucking out all their blood. However, if the prey escapes and has seen all four of them (which is hard to tell since they all look the exact same), they will have four days to live until they die as a result of a "death curse" (unless Stythanyx, the Archfiend they are a psychic extension of, is killed before the curse passes), all while the victim suffers from hallucinations of being stalked by the Hands. Worse, because the Hands are extensions of Stythanyx, they are intelligent enough to make sure their prey catches this curse. This curse is so bad that Valkor simply opted to only have Stythanyx (who controls them) possessed and not the Hands out of concern that the curse might accidentally pass to the Forceless Collective as a whole.
- Out of all the Valkoran leaders aside from Emperor Valkor, Masochus is by far the worst. In addition to flaying himself alive and forcing himself to move like a string-puppet, he comes as a very sadistic bully that kills and tortures people for fun, essentially making him a Star Wars equivalent of Ramsay Bolton. As a former Sith Lord, even the other Sith found him repulsive and had him exiled for killing for too many of their underlings.
Chapter 11: Deranged
- Armogeist, AKA Balos Oiren, is Masochus's apprentice. While he didn't end up as insane as his master, he's still a very broken man. The "training" he got was really just torture, and as a result, he still fears him just as much as he hates him despite no longer being his pupil thanks to Valkor needing everyone around (and this apparently doesn't stop Masochus from trying to torture him). Aside from destroying his body and binding his life force to a figurine (he wasn't put in the much more mobile suit of armor until after Masochus came to Ockla Prime), Masochus forced Balos to skin his parents alive.
- Gahmah Raan, while suffering from Xixixix's passive hallucination inducement, reveals that his father was the head priest of the Cult of Xixixix. And Gahmah ended up becoming who he is today not because of spice as suspected in his first appearance, but because his father wanted to enlighten him as a child by exposing him directly to Xixixix (the father was eaten not long after), making him insane even by the Krishari's usual standards (who were already somewhat eccentric at best thanks to Xixixix's planet-wide influence).
- According to some supplementary material, Xixixix was considered a liability even by the Forceless Collective, as while they thought it was an asset, its madness-inducing powers could also affect the Collective as a whole thanks to the Hive Mind, resulting in its symbiote being cut off from the Hive Mind. This is why it was one of the first Archfiends to be successfully summoned as early as the Infinite Empire.
Chapter 13: The Weapon
- Zolph has his first duel against Emperor Valkor. It does not go well, but what happens after he loses is even worse.
- Rather than kill him immediately, Valkor decides to torture Zolph by lightly squeezing on his heart while his hand inside is chest. Why? Because after trying to get rid of him for so long, he wanted to get at least some satisfaction out of doing so.
- General Ven Choi tries to take Valkor on, too. He does a little better Zolph and even damages Valkor's face, but is brought down by Valkor simply ripping off Choi's respirator mask. Rather than finish him off or let him suffocate to death, Valkor tries to eat him like Mursama Kur'Ada. Knowing enough about Forceless and what's about to happen, General Choi triggers his suicide pill before Valkor can eat him, robbing him of the satisfaction of further torturing him.
- After General Choi's suicide, Valkor calls out Mortaqa, a Grim Reaper-like character that was the real superweapon he was planning to use on Christophsis. He order her to kill every living being on Christophsis except for the Valkoran forces and Zolph while the latter is helpless to watch, and she does so by simply draining the living Force out of almost everyone planet-wide, forcing Zolph to experience to psychic backlash from so many people dying around him (much like what Obi-Wan Kenobi experienced when Alderaan was destroyed). Zolph was only spared from the initial massacre because Valkor wanted him to know how he was going to die. When Zolph proves to be resistant to it (he can still feel his own life-force being pulled on), Valkor opts to simply have decapitated by Mortaqa's lightscythe, albeit slowly.
- After Maesterus helps Zolph escape from his execution, Vaelor punches off a piece of Valkor's helmet, revealing he doesn't have much of a face underneath to begin with. In the last scene of the chapter, has him to take off the whole helmet to deliberately unsettle Maesterus.
- Valkor's sudden rage after Zolph gets free, contrasting his initially cheery but sadistic demeanor. He threatens to eat one of his general's family if he doesn't capture or kill Zolph. However, the massacre of Christophsis has demoralized a good chunk of the Valkoran army on the planet, making them reluctant to continue following Maesterus. Choosing not to endanger his family but wanting to continue to serve Valkor, General Kosar intentionally lets Zolph kill him. Meanwhile, the trooper Privater Varson tries to blow his own brains out of guilt, but is only stopped by Zolph reminding him that Kosar wanted him to live.
- Good news: Grein survived the massacre of Christophsis. Bittersweet news: She only survived because Mortaqa is her long-lost sister, Emilin, who barely had enough willpower to stop Facadma from killing everyone. Another offhand comment confirms that Emilin had her breasts cut off some time after possession, with later confirmation that Masochus did it.
- To put it in perspective, even R9-C4 is horrified by the massacre of Christophsis.
Chapter 14: Facade
- The opening makes it crystal clear that, with someone like Mortaqa loose in the galaxy and Zolph - the one known person in the galaxy that can resist her power - having been incapacitated for a month, things are very bleak for the galaxy. So much that even Luke Skywalker has been constantly on the move and other potential key figures have to stay scattered. Valkor has always had access to this one-person superweapon. He was just holding back the big guns until then.
- Facadma is Valkor's highest-ranking lieutenant for a reason, as she is shown to be one of the cruelest Archfiends in the Forceless Collective in addition to being one of the most lethal on the merit of being able to Life Drain anyone with without even laying a claw on them (and can enhance this power's reach by possessing another Force user). Before their duel, she can be seen mentally abusing Emilin for not only trying to keep her from killing everyone on Christophsis even after a month, but to try to break her to the point that she will lose hope of Grein trying to save her, which is comparable to a domestic abuser (and it's implied this has been happening for about four-thousand years). After everything she's been through, you can't really blame Emilin for wanting to die.
- As far as appearances go, Facadma looks like a giant, pale, more humanoid version of a Warrior Ing. And she has a hollow head with a single eye-crystal using three eye-sockets (and supplementary materials implies that she wasn't like that pre-possession). And she is one of the only Archfiends alongside Harphscor - an Archfiend that was almost as cruel as her - to have light-colored skin post-possession, making her look almost skeletal.
- As well-deserved as it is, Facadma's death is brutal. After getting her arms and the top half of her head cut off, the Living Force she has stockpiled over the centuries is trying to rip her apart from the inside now that she is too weak to contain it. Considering that by this story's lore, the Living Force is comparable to a soul, and they are not happy about Facadma storing them for nourishment. It gets to the point that Facadma begs Zolph to help her. Zolph rightfully doesn't trust her (since she's made it clear that she needs to feed on the Living Force to survive, she'll go right back to it if saved, and Valkor would have her fully possessed if she truly tried to have a change of heart), and only kills her quickly because he draws the line at slow, painful deaths. Good Is Not Soft, indeed.
Chapter 15: Ancestor
- The end segment introduces Forceless sleeper symbiotes, which are symbiotes that can lay dormant inside an individual and be undetectable even to Force users. Apparently, Dynn's Forceless arm was once just a regular human arm that was infused with a sleeper symbiote. Meanwhile, despite it being a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment, Valkor puts one of these in Masochus, because for all his sucking up to him, he doesn't trust an ex-Sith Lord to not backstab him later.
Chapter 16: War's End
- During her search for Masochus, Grein wanders into his laboratory, which predictably has a lot of horrific experiments, one of them being a person who's been turned into a Frankensteinian mockery of an astromech droid. This is a partial reference to a Artoo Meat-too, a joke character Matt Mosher once created, but unlike Meat-too, the Black Comedy is very downplayed in favor of showing Masochus's depravity.
- Zolph and Maesterus have seemingly defeated Valkor after cutting him in half, but then Valkor starts laughing and is quick to remind them that it shouldn't be so easy. All the Black Matter in his body forms into a grotesque Blob Monster while holding up the upper half of Valkor's avatar like a sock puppet. And then it's revealed that the Forceless Collective has officially joined the Battle of Ockla Prime.