- "This one is constantly thinking, analyzing, strategizing. He showed no fear, but was curious, studying me in turn."
- — Palpatine
Mitth'raw'nuruodo, better known by his core name Thrawn, is the only non-Human Grand Admiral in the Galactic Empire. He is regarded as one of the best military strategists in the galaxy, and despite the Empire's non-Human policies, he has risen to a position of power to become Regent of the government.
Thrawn served as an officer in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force for many years, where he demonstrated his brilliance. However, many of Thrawn's ways were contrary to that of Chiss society at large, and so he was exiled. Palpatine had already learned of Thrawn in 27 BBY, and knew his command skills. Over time, Thrawn climbed the Imperial ladder, and in 2 ABY became the thirteenth Grand Admiral in the Imperial Navy. He would spend much of his time in the Unknown Regions building the Empire of the Hand before returning prior to the onset of the Xen'Chi War and taking command of the Empire after the death of the Emperor Damascus.
- "I do not need permission to fight on their behalf."
- — Thrawn
Reports current during the last years of the Galactic Republic claimed that Thrawn was a high-born son of the Nuruodo bloodline, one of the Ruling Families of the Chiss Ascendancy. However, it appears that the truth was rather different. Thrawn was born a commoner, and gained status by pursuing a military career; on earning his commission in the Expeditionary Fleet, he became a merit adoptive of the Eighth Ruling Family—the Mitth family, not the Nuruodo.
In broad terms, this was a standard part of a military career path; but whereas most Chiss officers lost their Family affinity on leaving the military, Thrawn was designated as a trial-born of the Eighth Family. This additional status, apparently awarded in recognition of his personal ability, offered him a chance of permanent adoption into the family—a course already taken by his older brother, Syndic Thrass.
By 27 BBY, Thrawn was the youngest ever Force Commander in the Expansionary Fleet, commanding Picket Force Two based near Crustai on the Ascendancy's frontier; while here, he became convinced that the long-term threat from the piratical Vagaari required more aggressive action than was countenanced under the rules of engagement laid down by the Defense Hierarchy.
During this time, Thrawn intervened in a skirmish between Progga the Hutt and the Corellian smuggling ship Bargain Hunter. Destroying the Hutt ship in a short fight, he impounded Bargain Hunter and her crew: Captain Dubrak Qennto, his partner and co-pilot Maris Ferasi, and navigator Jorj Car'das. Over the next few months, the three Corellians remained largely with Thrawn aboard his command ship Springhawk, their status somewhere between that of prisoners of war, strategic pawns, and an unofficial cultural exchange. In this time, Car'das and Thrawn formed what seems to have been a lasting friendship, while there were some hints of romantic feelings between Thrawn and Ferasi. Car'das and Ferasi taught Thrawn Basic, and in turn, Thrawn taught Car'das and Ferasi the Chiss language, Cheunh and the trade language of Minnisiat.
Thrawn's provocative actions fell under scrutiny from the Defense Hierarchy, the Mitth Family, and also the Chaf family; however, Thrawn willingly went against Chiss protocol as he seized a gravity well projector from the Vagaari fleet besieging the Geroon homeworld. He was injured in the battle, his life saved by Maris and Car'das.
Destruction of Outbound Flight
When he had recovered, Thrawn took his full picket force (consisting of only twelve small ships) to investigate the arrival of an unknown task force within the patrol area: these turned out to be a powerful Trade Federation battle squadron, sent by Darth Sidious to intercept and destroy Outbound Flight. Thrawn destroyed the fleet with his superior tactics, leaving only the flagship Darkvenge intact, at which point the expedition's leader, Kinman Doriana, sued Thrawn for parlay. Doriana told Thrawn of his mission, giving a negative account of the Jedi, one of whom was Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth.
Negotiations between Thrawn and Outbound Flight leader Jorus C'baoth failed, as the Jedi Master refused to return home or take another route out of the galaxy, while the Chiss Commander maintained that he could not risk letting the Jedi go any further. Thrawn lured Outbound Flight into conflict with the Vagaari, which resulted in all but fifty-seven of the 50,000 personnel aboard Outbound Flight being killed, while only a remnant of the Vagaari was able to escape. Near the close of the battle, C'baoth fell to the dark side and Force-choked Thrawn, nearly killing him, but the timely intervention of Doriana finished off the insane Jedi Master.
A standoff then developed among the Chiss, with Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano of the Chaf Family, Syndic Thrass, and Admiral Ar'alani of the Hierarchy, which was resolved when Thrass and Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler took Outbound Flight to lightspeed. In spite of protestations from Chaf'orm'bintrano, Ar'alani ensured that Thrawn escaped with only informal censure, and also that the Hierarchy acquired the Vagaari interdictor technology. Thrawn was perhaps most well known amongst the Chiss for his destruction of Outbound Flight.
However, if the Ascendancy's disapproval was expected to discourage Thrawn, they were sorely disappointed. Doriana had reported back to Sidious, who made several overtures to the capable commander. Thrawn could not honorably leave his post, so he decided to engineer his own downfall, continuing to press for preemptive strikes. After attacking an enemy ground installation that was manufacturing weapons, Thrawn was sentenced to the traditional Chiss punishment of exile on an uninhabited world.
The Clone Wars
- "I think he needs discipline. Something horrid. Make him finish your drink."
- — Thrawn to Tolly, regarding Kasr
Near the start of the Clone Wars, Thrawn was found and picked up from his exile by Doriana and brought before Palpatine, who revealed himself to be the same Darth Sidious Thrawn had spoken to during the Outbound Flight incident. The two spoke of the dangers lurking in the Unknown Regions and how the galaxy would need be stronger to resist what was out there. Towards that end, Palpatine sent Thrawn to study under the Sluissi technological genius Ptolemy Alexander, or “Tolly” as he liked to be called, to better educate himself on the advancements that had been made outside of Chiss space.
While studying under Tolly, Thrawn met the Sluissi’s other student, a Human by the name of Reng Kasr. Although not initially impressed with Kasr, Thrawn quickly learned that he was a worthy rival. The two constantly vied with each other as a sort of competition about who could learn more from Tolly. By the time Tolly’s lessons were concluded months later, the two men parted not as friends, but as respected comrades.
Kasr left to fight in the Clone Wars, but Palpatine had something different in mind for Thrawn. While the war was raging, Thrawn was assigned to the Victory-class Star Destroyer Strikefast under Voss Parck to scout out the Unknown Regions. He would remain there for the duration of the conflict and not return until the formation of the Galactic Empire in 19 BBY.
During the scouting mission into the Unknown Regions, Parck began training Thrawn, but the student quickly surpassed the master, and Thrawn engaged in a long period of private tutoring with the Empire's greatest minds. Thrawn climbed through the ranks of the Imperial Navy, much to the chagrin and in spite of the speciesism exhibited by many of its Human officers. He did have powerful supporters, however, most notable among them being Kasr. Although the two men rarely had time to speak with each other, Kasr worked to use his own influence to indirectly help Thrawn up until Kasr's trial and supposed death in 3 BBY.
Thrawn rapidly attained command rank, appearing in public with Palpatine and other high-ranking dignitaries at significant events such as the commissioning of Executor, and serving as captain of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Vengeance. Palpatine stationed Thrawn there in order to "babysit" the ambitious Force-user High Inquisitor Jerec, who often used the Vengeance, and who Palpatine suspected might be trying to attain the position of Emperor.
Once he had his own command, Thrawn recruited an exceptional cadet out of the academy by the name of Nichalus Dreadstar who would go on to become one of Thrawn's finest officers. Dreadstar would eventually get his own battle group under Thrawn's command and become highly respected and admired by his crew. He served Thrawn loyally for several years, learning under him, and demonstrating a keen instinct for strategy and tactics during several conflicts.
Thrawn also found time to pursue his own interests, and was on S'krrr to study the artistic merits of the Sikadian Garden when an outbreak of Drog beetles killed Vengeance officers Wolver and Tier. Thrawn investigated the killings, and as the outbreak spread, was later forced to work with the S'korr warrior-poet Sh'shak, a Shi'ido sentientologist named Mammon Hoole, and Hoole's two Alderaanian wards, Zak and Tash Arranda, in order to survive.
After a further brief sojourn in the Unknown Regions, Thrawn returned once again shortly after the Battle of Hoth, this time with the ostensible rank of Vice Admiral, and a fleet including three Imperial-class Star Destroyers and the flagship Grey Wolf. He was tasked by Navy command with the duty of pacifying the Pakuuni system, an area plagued with Rebel Alliance and pirate activity. Conducting the campaign from Stalwart, he decisively crushed the insurgents and established the outpost NL-1 to bring order to the system. While inspecting the station, Thrawn's craft came under attack from Rebels and pirates but they were driven off by Maarek Stele.
It was also during this time that Thrawn first encountered the members of the Eden Alliance. Thrawn and the people of Cecil’s Moon - protected by the Eden Alliance - would end up clashing several times in the years following.
Grand Admiral Zaarin's Insurrection
- "Yes, Emperor Palpatine. I have studied Zaarin's ways closely. He will not resist the bait that I have laid out for him. Soon, he too will meet his end."
- — Thrawn
During 3 ABY, Grand Admiral Demetrius Zaarin attempted a coup d'état against the Emperor in the Ottega system, using the TIE Defender starfighters he had developed for the Navy against loyalist forces. Responding in a timely manner with Vanguard, Thrawn managed to rescue Palpatine from capture, with the assistance of Darth Vader and Maarek Stele.
The Emperor assigned Thrawn to deal with the traitorous Grand Admiral who wasted no time in striking out against loyalist Imperial facilities after his failed coup. Thrawn oversaw the evacuation of the TIE Avenger factories in the Omar system as they came under attack. During the same campaign, shortly after his forces captured magnetic pulse technology, his flagship Sceltor was trapped by Zaarin's Interdictor Grappler, but Thrawn employed mag pulse warheads against it to make good his escape. After recovering the prototypes from Zaarin's TIE Defender research facility in the Parmel system, Thrawn developed the Missile Boat to counter the Defender. Leading his forces into the Eva-T system with Grey Wolf to battle the Rneekii and Nami pirates as well as Rebels and Zaarin's forces, Thrawn ended the potential proliferation of TIE Defender technology by destroying Ali Tarrak's factory. For his successes, Thrawn was appointed to Grand Admiral by the Emperor, taking the place vacated by Zaarin.
After his promotion, Thrawn continued his efforts to pursue Zaarin. The two had skirmished for months, with the traitor's forces being slowly whittled down by the loyalists, but Zaarin was able to keep his flagship, the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Glory, and therefore himself, unscathed. However, Thrawn knew that former Admiral's core weakness was his desire to possess new military technology, so he had an unstable cloaking device developed for the corvette Vorknkx. As predicted, Zaarin did put Glory in harm's way to seize the corvette, and thanks to a tracking device, loyalist forces were able to follow and surround the traitor's flagship. Zaarin fled the destruction of Glory in Vorknkx but the corvette exploded when it attempted a hyperspace jump, putting an end to the traitor once and for all.
Command and Influence
3 ABY was a busy year for Thrawn. After his promotion, he stayed on Coruscant and engaged in the politics that accompanied his new rank as vigorously as any battle. He took quickly to appearing in the Emperor's Court and standing alongside the Emperor and Darth Vader at publicized events. This inevitably brought Thrawn into conflict with Rufaan Tigellinus, a power hungry fellow Grand Admiral. Vader's departure to accompany Death Squadron to the Outer Rim removed Tigellinus's primary concern, allowing him to focus on Thrawn. Despite Tigellinus's efforts, Thrawn continued to climb the ranks of Coruscant society without the aid of strong political factions.
The apex of his ascent came when Thrawn was inducted into the elite Order of the Canted Circle by the Emperor's personal invitation and support. Thrawn became a trusted commander in Palpatine's fold, even going so far as to refuse orders to engage in battles he deemed impossible to win on several occasions. The first time Thrawn did this, Palpatine stripped him of his rank and sent another officer in his stead, but saw his loyal commander reinstated when the Imperial force was destroyed as Thrawn had predicted. After this, Palpatine gave Thrawn's opinion considerably more weight.
Few in the Empire guessed at Thrawn's true importance as he made numerous trips back to the Unknown Regions. Most didn't realize that Palpatine was using his most able commander to explore the Unknown Regions and nullify or exploit any potential threats he encountered. Thrawn became such a trusted advisor to Palpatine that he was present with Darth Vader, Mara Jade, and James and Delth Ardin, when Damascus was brought before the small group and revealed to be Delth's true father. He stood witness as Vader was ordered to castrate Damascus for an affair with James' mother. Palpatine's subsequent sealing of Delth's power in the Force and removal of select memories meant that Thrawn was one of the few to retain knowledge of Delth's true parentage.
- "Rumors later placed him in the Unknown Regions. An embarrassment, clearly, that the Emperor wanted hidden far away from Imperial Center."
- — Soontir Fel
Thrawn's time on Coruscant was short lived. As Tigellinus and other Imperial courtiers closed in on Thrawn, the Chiss and Palpatine hatched a plot to satisfy both their long desire to bring the Imperial Starfleet to the Unknown Regions. Thrawn feigned defeat in the political battles and was sent away by Palpatine. He was given Captain Niriz's Admonitor alongside the formally downgraded Parck and set out on his mission.
Thrawn continued to map out large swathes of the region and defeated local threats like the Ebruchi, founding a command-post at the ancient fortress known as the High Tower on Nirauan, and forging a network of alliances and colonies which would develop into the neo-Imperial hegemony known as the Empire of the Hand. The Empire of the Hand was based in a vast information complex known as the Hand of Thrawn, which had been established by Thrawn even before his promotion to Vice Admiral.
Some of the members of this Empire were Baron Fel, and Thrawn's old comrade, Voss Parck, who was an Admiral at the time. Many Chiss flocked to the Empire of the Hand in order to receive protection from many of the threats in the Unknown Regions. As well as standard tools of Imperial power, such as Star Destroyers and stormtroopers, Thrawn rallied local forces to his cause, most notably the Chiss warriors of his personal guard, the Household Phalanx. This new faction crushed the Ssi-ruuvi Imperium and prepared for many more dire threats.
Return to the Known Galaxy
He returned from the Unknown Regions with his flagship Admonitor, to assist Darth Vader in his campaign against Prince Xizor and Black Sun. Thrawn worked with Vader in planning the Battle of Derra IV. While Vader presented the briefing, the strategy had been developed by Thrawn, as pilot Soontir Fel recognized that it did not have the trademark of the Dark Lord. Though the battle resulted in the destruction of the Rebel convoy and the Renegade Flight X-wing squadron for little loss, Thrawn received no official recognition for this success, and was instead quietly reassigned to less publicized campaigns as the Empire wanted such a potential "embarrassment" kept away from Imperial Center. Thrawn, however, did not ultimately go unrewarded, as Vader gave him control of the Noghri. Years later, Thrawn successfully convinced Fel to switch his allegiance back to the Empire, which was facilitated by the Imperial ace's view that the Admiral was an unprejudiced, non-oppressive leader, in contrast to the corrupt Empire of Palpatine or Isard.
After Xizor's death, Thrawn was sent to retrieve a Sith Holocron from an old student and friend, Tyber Zann. However, Zann expected a trap and brought a fleet with him. This led to the Battle of Carida, which ended with the bounty hunter Bossk stealing the holocron and bringing it to Thrawn. Thrawn then fled the system with the valuable artifact, and left his fleet behind to finish Zann and his forces off. Tyber and his fleet destroyed Thrawn's forces and escaped, Tyber knowing that his lieutenant Urai Fen had placed a homing device on the holocron which he later used to lead him to one of the Emperor's storehouses on Coruscant.