"I am but a leaf blown by the winds of the Force. I trust my purpose in being anywhere will eventually be revealed to me."

Zao was a blind, elderly male Veknoid Jedi Master, and an accomplished chef, who served the Jedi Order during the final years of the Galactic Republic. He did not accept missions from the Jedi High Council, but followed the will of the Force as he traveled about the galaxy. Those who ate Zao's cooking often found that its taste, whether good or bad, reflected the degree to which their current mental state was in harmony with the Force. In spite of his blindness, he remained a formidable and lethal adversary, wielding his unique long-handle lightsaber with frightening accuracy.

Biography[edit | edit source]

A wandering Jedi[edit | edit source]

Master Zao

"The war is already won or lost as the Force wills. We are all leaves blown by its wind."

A Force-sensitive Veknoid, Zao was educated in the ways of the Force by the Jedi Order, attaining the rank of Jedi Master, by which time he was blind. By the time the dark side of the Force began to grow more potent, Master Zao no longer took on formal missions for the Jedi High Council. Instead, the Veknoid Jedi traveled as he believed the Force directed him, moving from one world to another as the currents of the Force flowed. At some point, Zao constructed a blue-bladed lightsaber cane, using it as a walking stick, weapon, and cooking instrument.[1]

In 30 BBY, Zao was serving as a chef to the Aqualish crime lord Gorto Zaga on Kiffex.[1] Through his cooking, Zao attempted to teach his philosophy to those who consumed it: whether the food tasted bad or good was determined by the balance within the consumer. Those who were not in balance with the Force would find the food foul or bitter; those with good balance would enjoy the meal. As Zaga was an immoral criminal, he found Zao's cooking to be unpleasant.[3]

Departing the crime lord's company, Zao stumbled upon Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, who was in search of his missing Padawan, Aayla Secura. Believing the Force had brought them together for this very purpose, Zao aided Vos and Master Tholme in fighting off Zaga's guards. Soon, however, the planet's feral population of Anzati stormed the Black Hole cantina. Discovering that Secura was leading the feral Anzati, Vos and Tholme set out to free her from the thrall of the dark side of the Force; Zao took his leave of the other Jedi and departed the world.[4]

Clone Wars[edit | edit source]

Zao eludes Order 66

When the Clone Wars erupted a decade later between the Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, Zao invoked the Right of Denial and did not take up his lightsaber in the fight; the Veknoid believed the war was in direct violation of the will of the Force. Instead, Zao continued wandering between the stars; the High Council so seldom heard from Zao that many believed him dead. By the last year of the war, Zao had set up a food-selling hovel on the streets of Saleucami's capital city.[3]

During his stay on Saleucami, Master Tholme came across the aging Veknoid's food stand and took a meal with his old colleague. Investigating rumors that Dark Jedi Sora Bulq was amassing a large army of cloned Morgukai warriors, Tholme asked for Zao's assistance. Despite Zao believing that the Order was misguided in serving a corrupt Republic, the old Master agreed to point Tholme toward the hidden entrance to Bulq's underground cloning facilities.[3]

Great Jedi Purge[edit | edit source]

Several weeks after his encounter with Tholme, the Republic and the Jedi Order were destroyed by the machinations of the Republic's Supreme Chancellor, who was in fact the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious. Despite the lingering presence of members of the Grand Army of the Republic on Saleucami and their new standing orders to execute all members of the Jedi, Zao was able to avoid detection. Dressed as a beggar, Zao's anonymity ensured his safety during this time.[5]

Having survived the early stages of the Great Jedi Purge, Zao eluded detection until his meeting in a refugee camp on Arkinnea with Jedi Master K'Kruhk, a Padawan named Chase Piru and nine younglings under the Whiphid's protection. After briefly mentoring the younglings, Zao confided in K'Kruhk that he sensed great danger in the camp and suggested they leave immediately. The Jedi escaped the encampment. K'Kruhk then stole a wagon while Zao led the younglings to gather food from the farmlands. But as they made their way into the mountains, they discovered that the militia had massacred the refugees and dumped their bodies there. They were soon spotted by the militia. K'Kruhk tried to draw them away while Zao escorted the younglings to safety, but the militia captain Relik sent a group to kill them. While fleeing, Zao and the others encountered the native Yunu, who were also subject to the militia's attacks. Zao defended them all by pulling a boulder out of the ground. He told the younglings to flee, but one of them, Sidirri, pushed the boulder onto the militia in anger, killing them.[2]

The Yunu brought the Jedi to an abandoned Jedi outpost, and soon K'Kruhk also joined them. There the Jedi were able to hide from the Empire for several years. Sidirri eventually ran away, and Zao left to find her. His fate is unknown.[2]

Powers and abilities[edit | edit source]

Zao was a powerful yet mysterious Jedi who relied on the Force to control almost all natures of his life due to his blindness. He was skilled with his lightsaber staff, despite his blindness. He also created a soup that, according to him, was completely in harmony with the Force: those who tasted it experienced different flavors depending on their own balance within the Force. Tholme and T'ra Saa, for example, thought it was delicious, while Quinlan Vos tasted nothing, and Vilmarh Grahrk found it disgusting.[1]

In combat Zao could deflect a blaster bolt from an Arkinnea Militia soldier, and telekinetically "squeeze" a rock formation out of the ground to act as a shield.[2] He was also a skilled telepath, as he aided Tholme and T'ra Saa in their efforts to help Quinlan Vos remain in the light.[6]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

Zao's name was adapted from "Tao"—the oriental philosophical system. The way of Tao is very similar to Zao's beliefs.[7]

Zao was originally going to die in Darkness, but according to artist Jan Duursema, "Zao would have been toast in Darkness, but we were asked not to kill him."[8]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

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Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Star Wars 33: Darkness, Part 2
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Star Wars: Dark Times—Fire Carrier
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Star Wars: Republic: Trackdown
  4. Star Wars 34: Darkness, Part 3
  5. Star Wars: Republic: Into the Unknown
  6. Star Wars 35: Darkness, Part 4
  7. The Official John Ostrander Discussion Thread on the Jedi Council Forums (Authors and Artists board; posted by jfostrander on 9/23/05 7:52am) (backup link) "I was thinking of killing her off early, just to up Quin's angst quotient, but Jan's daughter Sian asked us not to. I'm glad she did!"
  8. Legacy #1 (pre-release discussion) on the Jedi Council Forums (Literature board; posted by Jan_Duursema on 3/25/06 7:36am) (backup link)
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