None can lecture me on the Dark Side. There are few who have known it as I have.
Norvan Cheval was a male Human who brought the Cheval family to prominence and was, throughout his life, an Emperor's Hand, a member of various Imperial factions, a member of the New Jedi Order and eventually a member of the Jedi High Council and a Jedi Weapon Master. Born on Coruscant in the aftermath of the Clone Wars, Cheval was raised from childhood to be a servant of the Galactic Empire and its leader, Emperor Palpatine, who secretly led a double life as Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith. Cheval learned from both Sidious and his apprentice, Darth Vader, and shortly after the Battle of Yavin was named Hand of the Emperor. Driven by hatred for the Rebel Alliance, Cheval undertook his duties with ruthless efficiency, mercilessly killing anybody who stood between him and favour with the Emperor. Following the Battle of Endor and the death of both the Emperor and Vader, Cheval fled toward the Unknown Regions.
At some point, Cheval rendezvoused with Grand Admiral Thrawn and joined his campaign against the New Republic. However, after the Grand Admiral's defeat, Cheval found himself once again lost. Cheval abandoned the Imperial cause for good, and he became a freelance mercenary and bounty hunter for a short time. Eventually, Cheval encountered Vula Karto, a Jedi Knight, who invited Cheval to journey with him to Yavin 4 to join the fledgling New Jedi Order. Despite being sceptical about the Jedi, Cheval believed that they were the only thing left in the galaxy to give his life meaning, and he requested of Grand Master Luke Skywalker that he be allowed to join the Order. Skywalker agreed, and Cheval's new life as a Jedi began.
Not long after his induction into the Jedi Order, Cheval assisted his fellow Jedi in defeating the forces of the Empire Reborn and, later, the Disciples of Ragnos. Shortly after the Reborn Crisis, Cheval met fellow Jedi Vetta Milan, and the two quickly formed a firm friendship. While serving together during the Almanian Uprising, the two realised that they were in love and soon consummated their relationship, a union which produced a son, Asaln, and in 20 ABY, the two married. Their happiness was soon shattered, however, by the onset of the Yuuzhan Vong War. The war was enormously destructive and trillions of sentient beings died. The New Republic was shattered to its core and was reorganised into the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances. Though the invaders would, eventually, be defeated it would take many decades for the galaxy to fully heal.
The following decade was spent rebuilding what had been destroyed in the cataclysmic war against the Yuuzhan Vong, and for Cheval it was also spent teaching his son Asaln, as well as his daughter Bella who had been born during the Yuuzhan Vong War, the ways of the Jedi. Both Norvan and Vetta Cheval had become Jedi Masters during the war and were both granted seats on the Jedi High Council. The peace proved only temporary, however, when a new conflict against a hive of Killiks and their allies in the Chiss Ascendancy, though this war was neither as long nor as devastating as the Yuuzhan Vong conflict. Four years later, a new war erupted. Originally fought over the desire of the planet Corellia to be more independent of the Alliance, the conflict rapidly escalated. Cheval briefly found himself reunited with Gilad Pellaeon at Fondor, before the latter's assassination. The war was brought to an end soon after when Jaina Solo succeeded in killing her twin brother, Darth Caedus. Nine more years would pass before the next great galactic conflict, this time waged by a new Sith Empire. Shortly into the war, Cheval was killed on Deralia by Darth Nathemus, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Sith. However, his family, and therefore his legacy, would continue to influence the galaxy for decades to come.
Early Life and Training
Norvan Cheval was born on the ecumenopolitan world of Coruscant mere weeks after the end of the Clone Wars, a galaxy-spanning conflict that had seen the Galactic Republic transformed into the Galactic Empire. Born strong in the Force, Cheval was taken at a young age to the Imperial Palace by Darth Vader, where he was trained for years in both lightsaber combat and in the application of the Dark Side of the Force. Officially, Cheval was one of Emperor Palpatine's personal servants, but this was a ruse deigned to explain his constant presence to the Imperial Court. In actuality, Cheval was trained to become one of the Emperor's Hands, a position which - like his fellow hands - he believed that he was unique in occupying.
In order to become a Hand of the Emperor, Cheval was put through an intense training regimen, which involved participating in the training of the Imperial Guard, learning how to operate as an intelligence agent and learning how to fight with a wide variety of weapons in a wide variety of conditions, including underwater and in zero gravity. In addition to his rigorous training, Cheval formed a telepathic link with Palpatine himself which allowed him to communicate with his master across the galaxy.
Hand of the Emperor
You will be an extension of my will, the enforcer of my commands, and you will bring terror and death to those who do not obey me.
—Palpatine, describing to Cheval his role as an Emperor's Hand
Cheval thrived during his training as and, after successfully assassinating Thana Lawo, a former member of the Jedi Order, was officially named Hand of the Emperor. This occurred shortly after the Battle of Yavin and the destruction by the Alliance to Restore the Republic of the Imperial superweapon called the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station - colloquially, the Death Star. Palpatine was eager to use his Hands, Cheval included, to reap revenge on the Rebel Alliance. To that end, he gave Cheval a standing order to find the pilot who had destroyed the Death Star, whose name Palpatine had recently discovered was Skywalker. The Emperor dispatched Cheval to the ancestral Skywalker homeworld of Tatooine, where he learned from Doggan, a Toydarian whose father had once had a vested interest in the Skywalker family, that Skywalker had been friends with a young human named Deacon. Tracking down Deacon, Cheval tortured him for information on Skywalker, and learned the names of many of Skywalker's other childhood friends. Cheval hunted them down one by one and tortured each of them for information on Skywalker's life, leaving each one of them alive in the hope that they would inform Skywalker of Cheval's hunt, and thereby draw him out to protect his friends.
Cheval's plan failed to work as he had envisaged, however, and Skywalker refused to allow himself to be drawn out. Forced to adopt a new plan, Cheval retraced Skywalker's steps from Tatooine, visiting first the asteroid field that was all that remained of the planet Alderaan and then moving on to the Yavin system, where he arrived in time to participate in the four-way battle that was fought between the Empire, the Rebels, a group of pirates and the criminal organisation known as the Zann Consortium, who were rapidly gaining power in the galactic criminal underworld. The battle ended in a tactical victory for the Empire, although the Zann Consortium managed to capture datapods that had been jettisoned from the Death Star prior to its destruction. Though Cheval had no way of knowing at the time, these datapods would eventually lead the Consortium to the Eclipse, which would in turn begin a series of events that would, through the twists and turns of history, lead to the Darkness War.
From Yavin, Cheval moved on to Vactooine where Skywalker's trail ended. Certain that Skywalker was somewhere to be found, Cheval persisted in his hunt, journeying back to Tatooine in the hope that he might find further information there. However, he was recalled to Coruscant by Palpatine not long afterwards and given a new mission. Vader, he was told, was now hunting for Skywalker, and it would be Cheval's mission now to serve as Palpatine's enforcer on worlds that the Emperor deemed likely to join the Rebellion. Dispatched first to Naboo, Cheval rooted out and killed several Gungan leaders who had been fomenting rebellion among their fellows, as well as hiding several members of the Rebel Alliance, all of whom Cheval tortured for information and summarily executed each one when they did not give in to his demands. From Naboo, Cheval was sent to Kessel, where he succeeded in leading the suppression of a prison riot on the penal colony and personally executed many of the riot's ringleaders. Around this time, Cheval, almost by accident, discovered the Rebel outpost on Cataalda. Informing Imperial Intelligence of the outpost's existence, Cheval made his way next to Lirra, where he was instrumental in persuading the Jhank Shel Hutt clan into surrendering the planet, and the surrounding systems, to the Empire in what was a largely peaceful takeover.
Cheval then received a new assignment from the Emperor, shortly before the Battle of Hoth. He was tasked with spying on the Imperial Inner Circle and reporting on the movements and machinations of each one of them directly to Palpatine. Ars Dangor, Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana were, in particular, singled out for surveillance, as well as Mas Amedda and Sly Moore. After months of thorough searching, Cheval found evidence of a plot, that was headed by Mas Amedda but mostly included Moffs and Admirals, to overthrow Palpatine and redistribute power within the Empire. Cheval brought his information to Palpatine while Amedda was in the Emperor's throne room, and Palpatine executed the Chagrian on the spot.
Final Year as Hand
For that final year the Emperor kept me around like a vornskr. I wasn't his guard - he had the red robes for that. I was a threat for those in the Inner Circle who didn't fear Vader. I'd brought one of them down, I could do it to them all. And they knew it.
—Norvan Cheval reflects on the nature of his relationship with Palpatine
After foiling Amedda's plot Cheval was kept at the Emperor's side almost constantly, acting as a living reminder of what happened to those who tried to plot against Palpatine. Most of the Inner Circle had never feared Vader, and Palpatine suspected that it was not just Amedda who had ambitions to overthrow him. Therefore, Cheval served perfectly as a device to keep the Circle in its place. For a year following the failure of Amedda's plot and the Chagrian's execution, Cheval was a constant shadow in the Emperor's presence, never drawing attention to himself but making his presence known nonetheless. As a result of the Emperor's desire to have Cheval constantly at hand, he spent most of the final year of his time as an Emperor's Hand on Coruscant or at the Emperor's Retreat on his homeworld of Naboo. However, just prior to his visit to the under-construction Death Star II, Palpatine assigned Cheval to serve aboard the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Visage, whose commander - one Admiral Terans - was suspected by Palpatine of harbouring secret Rebel sympathies.
Cheval was still spying on Terans when the Visage was assigned to the Endor system as part of the fleet being massed to combat the Rebel force gathering at Sullust. When the Rebels appeared in the Endor System, the Imperial fleet immediately countered them. Cheval led the defence of the Visage against boarding attempts, defeating three Rebel attack forces. However, the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader, followed shortly by the destruction of the fleet's command vessel, the Executor. The loss of the Executor also meant that a great number of the best and brightest political, tactical and strategic minds in the Empire were lost, thereby plunging the Imperial forces into a state of chaos. As the battle quickly became a one-sided slaughter, Cheval stole a TIE/In interceptor from the Visage's hangar and fled the Endor System. With Palpatine dead, his life as an Emperor's Hand was over, and he fled toward the only safety the he could think of: Coruscant.
Flight of the Hand
On Coruscant, Cheval sold the TIE/In interceptor back to the Imperial Navy, and with the credits he earned from the sale bought a fourth-hand smuggling vessel on the black market that he named the Ulterion. Not staying for long on the Imperial capital, fearing that the Rebels would be closing in, he fled to Bast Castle, Vader's private fortress on the acid rain-soaked world of Vjun, and from there to Prakith to inform the Inquisitorius of the events that had transpired. After attempts by first Sate Pestage and then by Ysanne Isard, the Director of Imperial Intelligence, failed to bring Cheval back into the Imperial fold, he was declared a Rebel sympathiser and a traitor to the Empire. Hunted by both the Rebels, now calling themselves the New Republic, and by the Empire Cheval remained constantly on the move for the next four years.
Four years after Endor Cheval received a message while hiding on Anaxes from an unknown source. The message's originator stated that they knew of his identity and wished to give his life purpose once again, and that if this met with his agreement he should travel toward Chiss space, where he would be met on the planet Celwis in the Vaagari Corridor by a representative of the messenger. His curiosity and desire to feel useful again peaked, Cheval did as the note instructed and travelled to Celwis, selling the Ulterion once he arrived.
On Celwis he was met by Voss Parck, who informed Cheval that he represented the last surviving Imperial Grand Admiral. Parck stated in enthusiastic tones that his superior was a genius and that there was no being more likely to defeat the New Republic and return the Empire to its former glory. Feeling that the Empire, even a remnant of it, could offer him more than the New Republic could, Cheval agreed to journey with Parck to meet the mysterious Grand Admiral. Parck had arrived on Celwis' surface in a Lambda-class T-4a shuttle, and once both he and Cheval were aboard it he piloted the craft out of Celwis' atmosphere and then on to a waiting Imperial I-class Star Destroyer, which Parck identified as the Admonitor. Once aboard the Admonitor, Parck formally introduced Chevan to Grand Admiral Thrawn.
The Thrawn Campaign and Leaving the Empire
Although Thrawn was familiar with Cheval by reputation, and knew that he was a capable Force-user and lightsaber duellist, one of the Grand Admiral's first orders to Cheval was that he keep his talents a secret from everyone except Thrawn himself, Voss Parck and Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard Rhuk. This group would soon expand to include Gilad Pellaeon, who joined Thrawn's cause not long after Cheval. To that end, the official version of Cheval's recruitment, that he relayed to any colleagues who asked, was that he was a fighter ace from the Empire's glory days. Recruited into Punisher Squadron, a TIE/In interceptor squadron assigned to the Admonitor, Cheval served as the squadron's commander following the death of its previous commander, Praetoris Kavan.
Cheval led the squadron during some of the bloodiest battles of the Thrawn campaign, including during the Battle of Bpfassh, where he and Punisher Squadron were responsible for the destruction of two New Republic capital ships. He also flew during the Battle of Sluis Van which, while ending in defeat for the Imperial forces, saw Punisher Squadron shoot down dozens of New Republic starfighters. Later in life, Cheval would attribute his and his squadron's success to the guiding influence of the Force, though at the time he believed that his and his squadron's success was down to skill alone.
In subsequent battles, such as the Battle of Sarka and the Battle of Hettsk, Cheval further distinguished himself, shooting down, over the course of several engagements, over a hundred enemy starfighters single-handedly. At the Battle of Qat Chrystac, Cheval set a new personal record, recording eighty-seven confirmed kills in a single battle, a record that he exceeded by a single kill at Ketaris soon afterwards. At the Battle of Bilbringi, Cheval succeeded in shooting down thirty New Republic starfighters before receiving information from Gilad Pellaeon that Thrawn had been assassinated by Rhuk, and that the Imperial fleet was to perform a wholesale retreat toward the Unknown Regions. Cheval, however, saw no reason to stay in light of Thrawn's death, and instead piloted his TIE/In interceptor to Csilla, where he exchanged it for a pre-Clone Wars vessel called the Centurion. Cheval then took the Centurion to Coruscant, where he went into hiding once again.
Life as a Bounty Hunter and Joining the Jedi
Within weeks of the end of the Thrawn campaign, Cheval had resorted to bounty hunting in order to earn credits. He soon found that his proficiency with the Force, as well as his training as an Emperor's Hand that had made him proficient with a wide variety of weapons, gave him an advantage over much of his competition. Accepting bounties from any and all parties, Cheval quickly gained a reputation for effectiveness and was soon contracted by the New Republic itself through Leia Organa Solo, a member of the newly reconstructed Jedi Order, who hired him to hunt and, if necessary, kill Mal Rakan, whom he was informed had been another Emperor's Hand. The revelation that there had been other Hands beside himself, a direct contradiction to what Palpatine had always told him, aroused anger in Cheval, an anger which he nurtured and allowed to flourish while he hunted his quarry.
Finally tracking Rakan down to the world of Dathomir, Cheval engaged his opponent in a lightsaber duel, the first that either of them had fought for several years. However, neither had allowed their skills to deteriorate, and the duel became a true test of skill for both combatants. Eventually, however, Cheval emerged victorious, killing Rakan and taking his lightsaber as proof. Returning to Coruscant to present his proof to Organa Solo, Cheval was stopped on his way to the old Imperial Palace, which had since been adopted by the New Republic as its seat of government, by an aging male Human claiming to be interested in Cheval, who introduced himself as Vula Karto, a member of the old Jedi Order and of the new. Informing Cheval that he was aware of his actions on Dathomir, Karto told Cheval that he believed that he had potential to be a Jedi, and that he sincerely believed that Cheval could be a great asset to the Order. After concluding that his life otherwise held very little meaning, Cheval agreed to travel with Karto to Yavin 4, where Luke Skywalker, whom Cheval had hunted while an Emperor's Hand, had established a training academy.
Once on Yavin 4, Cheval was formally introduced to Luke Skywalker, who made it clear from the onset of their meeting that he was familiar with Cheval's Imperial past but that he did not see that as a barrier to embracing the Light Side of the Force and becoming a Jedi Knight. Feeling that he could enjoy a better life as a Jedi than as a bounty hunter, Cheval agreed to apprentice himself to Karto, thus beginning the life of a Jedi Knight that he was to continue down for the rest of his life.
The Jedi are far more reasonable than the Empire. Take Natasi Daala, for example. She has all the self-restraint of a starving nexu surrounded by helpless shaaks, and twice the bloodlust.
—Norvan Cheval gives his reason for joining the Jedi and expresses his dislike for Natasi Daala
The early years of Cheval's apprenticeship were spent combating threats to the Jedi Praxeum. These threats originated in a variety of places. Natasi Daala and Gilad Pellaeon attacked the academy shortly after Cheval's arrival, though they were beaten back through a combination of traditional tactics and the Force. Some months afterwards, the Empire Reborn, led by the Chistori Dark Jedi Desann, attacked Yavin 4 as well. The Reborn's aim was to completely destroy the New Jedi Order and to win a major strategic and propagandistic victory, which would in turn serve as the first step on the road to the Empire Reborn rebuilding the Galactic Empire. However, the Reborn forces were outclassed by the Jedi and Desann himself was killed by Kyle Katarn.
The death of Desann was a setback to the Reborn movement but not its end. Many of the survivors rallied behind Desann's apprentice, Tavion Axmis. In the aftermath of the Reborn's defeat, Axmis and many of her followers formed a cult revolving around the worship of the ancient Sith Lord Marka Ragnos, who had ruled the Sith Empire over five millennia before the Battle of Yavin. This cult emerged two years after the defeat of Desann, siphoning the dark side residue from many locations across the galaxy, including the Great Massassi Temple on Yavin 4 itself, the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah and the remains of Byss. The cult managed to pose a threat to the New Jedi Order before being defeated by the Jedi, including Cheval, on Korriban.
Between these two crises, Cheval was introduced to Vetta Milan, another of Master Karto's apprentices. Four years Cheval's junior, Milan had been born into the noble House Milan on Serenno, and had had to keep her Force-sensitivity a secret during her formative years, for fear of the Empire discovering her latent abilities. After the Battle of Hoth she had secretly joined the Rebel Alliance, acting for them as a messenger. It had been in this capacity that she had met Vula Karto, who had taken her as first his informal apprentice and then, after the establishment of the New Jedi Order, as his first official apprentice in over twenty years. Cheval and Karto developed a friendly rivalry during their time as Karto's apprentices, something which later developed into a mutual admiration. Between themselves, they agreed to both teach and learn from each other, a rare practice known among the Jedi as reciprocal apprenticeship. This was made possible by the fact that while Cheval focused his training mostly on lightsaber combat, Milan focused mainly on her Force abilities, and by teaching each other they were both able to attain a well-rounded education in the Jedi ways.
Two years after the Disciples of Ragnos Crisis, Cheval and Milan were sent by Karto to investigate reports of an Imperial scouting force operating in the region of Monaxes, a border planet between the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant. Upon their arrival in Monaxes' capital city of Potyk, Cheval and Milan, whose personal connection had been deepening since the commencement of their reciprocal apprenticeship, asked around at a local cantina for information on the recent reports of Imperials. Gaining only a little information from a male Rodian named Qurnan, who told the two Jedi that the Imperial had headed north, Cheval and Milan followed up on what scant information they had and pursued the Imperials. Eventually, they found the scouts' corpses, torn to shreds by some unknown foe. As Cheval and Milan wondered what could have killed the Imperials, they were ambushed by three Acklay, whose nest the Imperials, and subsequently they, had accidentally invaded. Forced to kill one of the Acklay to escape, and only narrowly escaping being killed by the remaining two, Cheval and Milan fled. Upon reaching safety, in the heat of the moment, the two shared a kiss. While both would try to act in subsequent weeks as though this had not occurred, the mission was the cataclysm for a change in their relationship.