Perhaps one of the best characters from the Legends continuity and former 1.0 powerhouse, today we look at Soontir Fel, Baron of the Empire, Ace of Legend, and leader of the feared 181st Fighter Group.
Normally there’d be a spoiler alert here, but as Legends are no longer “canon” and every book involving Fel or a member of his family is at least half a decade old, I’ll skip it and dive straight into the good stuff! I’ll warn you all now, this is going to be a long one!
Name: Soontir Fel
Year of Birth: 28 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin)
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Brown
Affiliation: Galactic Empire, Rebel Alliance, Empire of the Hand, Chiss Ascendancy.
Born to a family living on a Corellian Agro-Combine (basically farming community), Soontir Fel followed in his father’s footsteps to become a pilot. As a teenager, he covered for his father when the elder Fel was unable to work, but incurred the wrath of his family’s employers by defending a young woman from sexual assault, injuring the perpetrator, the child of a senior manager in the process; taking the case to Corellian Security (CorSec), the manager’s son was arrested. The managing directors of the company, rather than allowing Fel to testify at the trial, contrived to secure him a position at the Imperial Academy which would force his immediate departure from Corellia. Fel excelled at the Imperial Academy, quickly becoming the best pilot in his class until one Han Solo arrived and contested that position; the two were not friends, but Fel considered Solo a heroic officer with a bright future ahead of him. (Oh the irony – Author.)
Fel served with the 6th Squadron of the 37th Fighter Wing against Lortan Fanatics, eventually rising to command the squadron and achieving the rank of Captain. Following two tours in TIE/ln Starfighters, Fel accepted a transfer to Fleet Command and commanded patrol ships working for Imperial Customs, though he longed to command one of the massive Star Destroyers, and only rose as high as to command an elderly Dreadnought. While engaging the pirate band of Drea Renthal, Fel ignored orders to retreat and abandon the TIE pilots still engaged in battle, a moral choice that he considered might impact or even end his career in Imperial service.
Transferred back to Starfighters (with the demotion to Starfighter Corps Captain), Fel was assigned to the Imperial Naval Academy on Prefsbelt IV as an instructor. Fel trained his Cadets hard, hoping to instil the values of the Empire and pressed his Cadets to become the best pilots they could be; among them legendary pilots such as Tycho Celchu, Biggs Darklighter, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian.
At some point in this time, Fel ended up being stationed at the Imperial Classified Flight Yards, acting as a test-pilot for various experimental TIE fighters; including the Aggressor, Hunter, Defender, and Phantom.
Fel’s performance as an instructor attracted the attention of his superiors, and it was believed that when his tour was over, he would be assigned to a sufficiently prestigious posting – possibly Tarkin’s personal bodyguard unit itself. These dreams were dashed when Biggs Darklighter and “Hobbie” Klivian, Fel’s pupils, mutinied, stole the Rand Ecliptic, and defected to the Rebel Alliance. Fel was instead transferred to command the 2nd Squadron of the 181st Fighter Wing, also known as The One Hundred Eighty Worst.
The Wing was a mess, discipline was sorely lacking and it’s commanding officer was more interested in his arboretum than commanding men in battle. Finding this unacceptable, Fel strove to drive his command to the greatness he had expected of his Cadets. The 2/181st’s first mission was to retake the world of Ord Biniir from the Rebellion; outnumbered several times by Rebel Y-Wings, the 2/181st drive the Rebels from the planet at the same time that Biggs Darklighter was killed in the destruction of the Death Star. To distract the public, Fel was promoted to Major during a gala event on Coruscant, and meeting famous actress Wynssa Starflare, who he began dating. The 18st was transferred to Coruscant, and Fel began filling the 2nd Squadron with elite pilots such as Turr Phennir. After a year of dating, Fel proposed marriage to Starflare, who revealed she had a secret; her real name was Syal Antilles, older sister to Rebel Ace Wedge Antilles. Despite the shock, Fel did not care, and the two married and made plans for Syal’s safety if the truth of her real identity were revealed.
The 181st saw action at Derra IV, in which a Rebel convoy was ambushed and annihilated by Imperial forces. For his part in the battle, Fel was promoted yet again, made Baron of the Empire, and granted command of the entire 181st Fighter Wing. Fel began to doubt the Empire’s humanocentric policies and the war itself, as the ambush at Derra IV had been planned by a blue-skinned Admiral with red eyes (I wonder who that might be? – Author), and he took no pleasure in massacring a mostly-defenceless convoy and minimal fighter escort.
The 181st became attached to Darth Vader’s Death Squadron, serving at the Battle of Hoth with the assignment of picking off the fleeing Rebel transports, as they had done at Derra IV. Soon after Hoth, the unit was upgraded to the TIE Interceptor; those pilots of the 181st with more than ten kills also began marking their TIE Interceptors with red stripes along their wings, which would become a distinctive sign of the 181st Imperial Fighter Group; such was their skill and dedication, few if any pilots failed to meet the ten-kill requirement.
Fel and the 18st fought at Endor, where they destroyed many fighters from the Alliance’s Blue and Green Squadrons. However, due to the large number of Alliance vessels and the contradictory orders that he had received from his superiors, Fel was powerless to avert the destruction of the Death Star or the scattering of the Imperial Fleet. As the Empire began to fragment, Fel gained a rival in Countess Iran Ryad; a politician who joined the Starfighter Corps having purchased herself a TIE Defender. When Ryad went rogue, Fel hunted her down and killed her.
By this time, Fel was a legend among Imperial forces. A normal pilot considered himself lucky to survive a year of combat service in a TIE; Fel had not only survived but excelled for over six. A propaganda hero in the ailing Empire, his likeness was used on recruiting posters, and academy instructors spoke of him to their students as the ultimate example of piloting talent. To new Cadets, he was a legend, while those he had actually trained felt even more strongly of his skill, having seen it firsthand. Rumors throughout the pilot corps had the renowned Darth Vader himself fearful of Fel’s talent in the cockpit. Many younger Rebel pilots had not heard of Fel, as those who faced him rarely lived to tell the tale, but his reputation was well-known by Rogue Squadron members Tycho Celchu and “Hobbie” Klivian, whom he had trained prior to their defection.
The 181st was assigned to the defence of Brentaal IV by Ysanne Isard of Imperial Intelligence, propping up the defences of the depraved Admiral Lon Isoto, himself interested more in debauchery than his position as regional governor. During this time, Fel rejected a suggestion by Phennir to depose Isoto and become a warlord with Brentaal IV as his throneworld; though he had his doubts, Fel was still loyal to the Empire. Initial engagements favoured the 181st, but Fel soon began to realise that they were on a fool’s errand; Brentaal IV was an unwinnable situation, and they were considered expendable by those now running the Empire. During the final engagement of the battle, Fel’s Interceptor was disabled by Colonel Horton Salm and he was taken prisoner as the remaining Imperial forces fled the system.
Captured by the New Republic, and his wife now in hiding with their children, Fel made the New Republic an offer; if they helped him locate his wife, he would fly with Rogue Squadron. The offer was accepted and Fel was immediately put to use as a propaganda tool, showing that even the Empire’s “Ace of Legend” could be made to see the evil of the Empire.
Many of his fellow pilots, however, were mistrustful; suspecting Fel of being a spy or still loathing him for his Imperial past, while others felt that his defection, even if genuine, was too little too late. “Hobbie” Klivian and Tycho Celchu, however, were much readier to give him a second chance, having known him personally and being former Imperials themselves. Even several months into his defection Fel remained distant from his fellow pilots, spending much of his time alone, longing to reunite with his wife. He recognised this as negative behaviour, but felt isolated from the unit.
Fel flew with Rogue Squadron during their attempt to rescue former Imperial Grand Vizier Sate Pestage, and was present during the ambush by Admiral Delak Krennel’s forces. Pestage was killed, and Fel’s status as a traitor was revealed to all – the Empire vilified him in the media. Fel continued flying with Rogue Squadron long enough to get to know Luke Skywalker, and his confidence in his choice was vindicated five months later when he was reunited with his wife who, now safe in the New Republic, dropped her Imperial stage name and went by the name Syal once more. Reunited with his family, Fel served a few more months until his key role in defeating Isard’s forces in a critical battle caused her to take steps against Fel. With his disappearance approximately one and a half years after Endor, he was presumed dead.
Fel was not dead, however, he had been taken to the Unknown regions by Grand Admiral Thrawn, the alien that had masterminded the events at Derra IV, and who showed him the myriad terrors lurking outside of known space. Fel joined forces with Thrawn at the secret Hand of Thrawn facility on Niruan, joining the Empire of the Hand – a force comprised of Imperial and Chiss forces under Thrawn’s personal command. Fel accepted a position in the organization, convinced that it was doing vital work and that it was not the corrupt Empire of Palpatine or Isard but an unprejudiced, non-oppressive government of the sort he had once believed himself to be fighting for.
When Thrawn departed the Unknown Regions in order to assume control of the Empire’s military, Fel stayed on Niruan and retained command of the Empire of the Hand’s fighter corps, serving as a top lieutenant to Voss Parck, who was now an Admiral and had been
appointed as the steward of the Empire of the Hand. Fel provided the genetic material for Thrawn’s Mount Tantiss cloning facility, where hundreds of his clones were produced and seeded across the New Republic and Empire in sleeper cells ready to rise up if called upon or if the galactic invasion Thrawn feared were to take place. When Thrawn was killed in 9 ABY, Fel was devastated, but continued on with faith in Thrawn’s promise that, if he were ever reported dead, he would return in ten years. Fel was present when the con-artist Flim impersonated Thrawn ten years after Thrawn’s reported death, when he had a brief reunion with now-Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. In the wake of the events, Fel was made aware that Thrawn’s return had been a hoax, and the Empire of the Hand opened opened cautious relations with Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet Gilad Pellaeon, a protégé of Thrawn, and Chief of State Leia Organa Solo of the New Republic, though they concealed the extent of their territory and never cooperated very strongly. By 22ABY, Fel remained a prominent member of the Empire of the Hand and was the only high-ranking officer of the original three leaders seen to give orders; given his age, it was possible, though unproven, that Parck passed away and Fel inherited leadership of the Empire of the Hand.
In the face of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, the Empire of the Hand detected Admiral Pellaeon’s call for all remaining Imperial Forces to unite, and Fel sent out three squadrons, including force Spike, to the aid of the Imperial Remnant, led by his son Jagged. Jagged participated in the defence of Ithor, where he served valiantly and was
reunited with his uncle Antilles. Fel recalled those squadrons not long after, finding them better put to use at home, as he felt they were not receiving full enough support.He felt that the New Republic could handle the fight on its own while the Empire of the Hand fought its own battles, though his wife attempted to persuade him otherwise. In 27 ABY, Fel learned of the Battle of Coruscant. He was deeply concerned by that development, and now felt that the New Republic needed his aid. He called Jagged into his office, now in one of his secret bases, and they discussed once more deploying Empire of the Hand forces to aid the New Republic; Jag wished to do so, but Fel was more reluctant. He finally decided to send Jagged and his Chiss wingmate Shawnkyr Nuruodo to learn more of the Yuuzhan Vong and formulate tactics before large-scale forces were deployed against them. He was deeply uneasy, knowing that he might be sending his third child to die, but knew that hard decisions must be made in war.
By 28 ABY, Fel and his family had moved moved from the Empire of the Hand to the Chiss Ascendancy itself, with Fel taking the rank of Assistant Syndic in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force and gaining an estate on the capital world of Csilla; a move that was public enough to be made known to the Skywalkers. Fel was one of the very few Humans to meet the demanding Chiss standards for acceptance, though they desired more Humans to bring galactic experience into their previously insular society. This incorporation occurred during the Chiss Civil War, with Fel coming in on the winning side, helping to destroy some of the three losing families. During the Dark Nest crisis, Jagged Fel brought dishonour upon the Fel family; he gave the Jedi Lowbacca his parole after capturing him, and the Wookie Jedi later used his freedom to attack a Chiss facility. Unable to pay for all the damages caused by Lowbacca, Fel was dishonoured and impoverished.
Fel would not remain in dishonor forever; in 41 ABY, with the aid of Jaina Solo and the Jedi Zekk, Jagged succeeded in restoring the family’s good name. Jagged soon after became the head of state of the Imperial Remnant as part of the Second Galactic Civil War’s peace settlement and in 43 ABY became engaged to Jaina Solo. Eventually, Jagged reestablished the office of Galactic Emperor and took the throne of the Imperial Remnant, transforming it into a new Galactic Empire which Soontir Fel’s descendants ruled for at least three generations.
Well, where to start? Fel is one of those characters who has never been the protagonist of a story, and yet has appeared so often as a secondary character that the source material is extensive.
Fel was raised to take duty and loyalty very seriously, and believed that while the Empire brought stability and security to the galaxy, he did not for the excesses or the political machinations of those who inherited it from Palpatine. Fel and Syal Antilles were deeply in love, though their family life would be beset by tragedy; he was distraught when she disappeared, and they would suffer the loss of half of their children; something he accepted as a military leader, but was nonetheless deeply saddened by. They were soldiers, but they were still his family. The only member he was unwilling to risk placing in any danger was his wife.
Soontir Fel was created by Michael Stackpole for the Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic series when editor Peet Janes asked Stackpole to come up with an “Imperial Red Baron” to complement the New Republic aces of Rogue Squadron, a concept Stackpole thought was in line with fan desire to see an Imperial fighter pilot perspective (something we’d only seen with the TIE Fighter game, which Lucas reportedly detested – Author). Stackpole used Fel throughout the X-wing series in order to explore issues surrounding the Empire, and had intended to explore Fel’s story further in the X-wing comics before they were cancelled, telling the story of his return to Imperial service. Later, Timothy Zahn decided he could use the character, causing Fel’s appearance in Zahn’s Hand of Thrawn Duology; Zahn and Stackpole worked together to outline Fel’s entire career as backstory material in preparation for his appearances
Fel’s only other novel appearances were in The New Jedi Order: Dark Journey and The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic II: Refugee, though he received frequent mention throughout the New Jedi Order series and subsequent Dark Nest Trilogy and Legacy of the Force series due to the prominent role of his son Jagged in those series.
Despite his relative scarcity of appearances and his existence solely as an Expanded Universe/Legends character, Fel has a significant fan-base, especially among X-Wing players, which I think shows just how awesome he really is! He’s essentially the anti-Wedge/Luke/Han in that he is a pilot of equal (or superior) skill, but fighting on the other side.