Star Wars: Two Massive Enemies Just Teamed Up Against the Republic
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older, on sale now.
When the Drengir, an evil plant race bent on devouring the galaxy, were first introduced in Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark, they fought with every humanoid they came across, including the band of pirates turned cult-like army known as the Nihil, because they viewed them as “meat.” Ever since, the Drengir and the Nihil have both launched separate campaigns of terror across the Outer Rim, but the Jedi have held fast against both groups' onslaughts. However, in Daniel José Older's Star Wars: The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower, these two foes team up briefly to cause chaos and destruction on Valo before ultimately betraying each other.
In an interview with starwars.com, Older explains how the Nihil and the Drengir, while both chaotic, differ. He states, "The Nihil are ruthless. They travel in packs and have a very specific attack pattern. They aim for soft targets. There is a brutality to them." In contrast, Older states, "[The Drengir] are rooted in a very dark, dark side of the Force. [...] They have a hive mind and [...] different 'branches' of them and how they function. They're a bit like wild beasts—they are sentient, but they are also driven by... hunger." Older uses complexities between the two villains in Star Wars: The High Republic: Race to Crashpoint Tower to also show why and how any alliance between the Nihil and the Drengir will eventually fall apart.
At the beginning of the Star Wars novel, Padawan Ram Jomaram is alerted to malfunctions at Crashpoint Tower by his droid, V-18, who also makes Ram aware of security breaches on the planet. Ram correctly deduces that the Nihil may be behind the issues, especially with the Republic Fair beginning. With the help of Bonbraks, small, furry creatures adept with mechanics, Ram upgrades V-18 to also serve as a vehicle, to V-18's delight. Together, they set off to repair the tower.
When Ram reaches the tower, he engages with the fleeing Nihil, but they leave before he can capture them. He also notices that they left behind some pods, but the Nihil sabotage of the tower takes precedence. After Ram repairs the damage, he tries to alert the rest of the Jedi, but the Valon Security Force mistakes Ram for a criminal, and he is taken into custody. He does manage to send a message to alert the Jedi, which reaches Vernestra Rwoh and Lula Talisola. They travel to Valo, and they also alert the Starlight Beacon to the Nihil's plans, but they are unaware of the full extent of the horror the Nihil plan to unleash on the planet.
During the Nihil attack, Ram escapes with the help of Ty Yorrick, and he joins forces with Lula and Zeen Mrala. When the group returns to Crashpoint Tower, they learn that the Nihil are not their only enemy. Ram notices sentient plants attacking soldiers, and he realizes that the pods contained seeds. He then concludes that the Nihil "left behind a time bomb, basically. One that would sprout and grow and take over Crashpoint tower." Lula informs Ram that those seeds are Drengir, and the trio watches in horror as the plants begin to consume the members of the Valon Security Force. This moment shows how disconnected parts of the Outer Rim are; while Ram is fully aware of the Drengir threat, he has not yet heard of the Drengir. It also reveals that the Nihil are willing to make deadly alliances with creatures who want to devour all those they consider "meat" to achieve their own objectives.
Lula fights the Nihil, and Zeen distracts the Drengir while Ram attempts to repair Crashpoint Tower once more. After Zeen and Ram get the Drengir to talk, the sentient plants reveal that the Nihil promised them the entire population of Valo to feast upon. The Drengir also specify that they are only interested in live prey. Ram and Zeen realize that the Nihil lied to the plant monsters, and they can use this information to their advantage. They reveal to the Drengir that the pirates are slaughtering people throughout Lonisa City, people that the Nihil had promised to feed to the carnivorous plants. Enraged, the Drengir turn on the Nihil, commandeer one of their ships, and leave the planet.
With the Nihil and the Drengir thwarted at Crashpoint Tower, Ram completes the repairs. This moment proves pivotal in the Jedi's fight to protect Valo, both in this novel and in Cavan Scott's Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm. Still, this brief alliance shows that the Nihil are willing to use every resource at their disposal and lie to gain advantages, and it may foreshadow other such alliances between foes in the future of the High Republic Era.