A collection of anthology Star Wars stories was recently released, Stories of Jedi and Sith, and one story in particular caught my attention.
“Masters” was a short story about Palpatine and Yoda written by Tessa Gratton, marking her first contribution to Star Wars, though she has also joined the team of The High Republic and is writing both The Path of Deceit and Quest for Planet X in Phase Two (which begins this fall). This short story is set just prior to the Battle of Endor, as seen in Return of the Jedi, as Emperor Palpatine waits aboard the Death Star for what he believes to be the Empire’s imminent victory. Yet he finds his thoughts drifting toward Master Yoda and their duel two decades earlier.
Palpatine has looked for Yoda and sent his Inquisitors in search of him, but has never found him. This isn’t a concern to the Emperor, since he knows he has already defeated the old Jedi to the point where Yoda can’t stop him, but he still wishes to kill him. Yet Palpatine, still faintly sensing Yoda’s presence at times through the Force, realizes that he hopes Yoda still lives just so that the Jedi will feel the final defeat of the Republic when the Rebellion is crushed at Endor before long.
But the story then cuts to Yoda, on Dagobah, definitely not thinking about Palpatine. Instead, as his life nears an end, he talks with Luke Skywalker about what is soon to take place. Though Palpatine is fueled by a quest for revenge, Yoda is at peace. And then, as seen in the film, Yoda becomes one with the Force.
Palpatine senses his death in the Force, and realizes that “it is as if Yoda has not existed at all to the Empror, and suddenly he is all around. Everywhere in the Force.” Palpatine laughs, thinking he’s gotten the victory, when suddenly Yoda stands before him in the Death Star Throne Room – as a Force ghost. Palpatine taunts him by saying that Yoda will now witness his final victory, but Yoda simply tells him, “Win, you cannot,” before he disappears into the Force once more.
As best I can remember, this is the first instance in canon of a Force ghost appearing to a Sith, as previously they appear in select situations to Jedi. But it makes sense that they could appear to the Sith at times, depending on the will of the Force, and it’s cool that in-between Yoda’s final conversation with Luke and Luke’s appearance before the Emperor, Yoda paid Palpatine one last visit.
The story is also a well-told contrast between the two Masters, and it highlights just how impossible Palpatine’s victory is. Like Ben Kenobi told Vader, should the Sith Lord strike him down, he would become more possible than imaginable. For the Jedi who has learned to become one with the Force, death is not something to be feared, and there is a pathway to immortality, a way to live beyond life itself. The dark side only leads to suffering and death, so just moments before Palpatine keeps himself from dying aboard the Death Star by transferring his spirit to Exegol, Yoda appears to him from beyond the grave. The light is truly stronger than the dark.