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The culmination of a saga twenty-two years in the making.

The Empty Chair is a Pocket TOS novel – the fifth and final novel in the Rihannsu series – written by Diane Duane. Published by Pocket Books, it was first released in November 2006.


From the book jacket
They call themselves Rihannsu – the Declared. To the Federation, they are the Romulans. By any name they are adversaries as formidable as they are inscrutable. Self-exiled from Vulcan in ages past, they retain an ancient martial philosophy and a code of conduct that has sustained them through centuries of hardship, warfare, and thwarted ambition.
Now their empire is gearing for war once again. Armed with the revolutionary Sunseed technology, which can destabilize entire stars, a Romulan vessel is warping toward the heart of the Federation. Its target: Earth's sun.
But this offensive comes at a perilous time, as a growing number of Romulan worlds are joining a revolution – one led by the renegade Commander Ael t'Rllaillieu of the warbird Bloodwing, with the aid of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise™ and the Hamalki physicist K's't'lk, the Federation's foremost authority on Sunseed technology. As the threat to Earth looms ever larger, Bloodwing and Enterprise lead an armada toward the Romulan homeworld for a final reckoning that will decide the future of the Rihannsu people.

Excerpts of copyrighted sources are included for review purposes only, without any intention of infringement.

The Free Rihannsu Fleet, along with Enterprise and Bloodwing engage nine Grand Fleet vessels at Artalierih. During the battle, both the Klingons and the colony ship Tyrava appear. All of the Klingon ships except one are destroyed, and the Grand Fleet vessels are either co-opted by the Free Rihannsu or destroyed. Kirk and Ael meet Veilt tr'Tyrava, the captain of Tyrava, and they begin to formulate battle plans for their next big engagement, which they believe will be at a star named Augo.

Meanwhile, on ch'Rihan, Arrhae becomes increasingly worried about maintaining her cover during the period of civil unrest. She is even more alarmed to learn that "The Three" (the triumvirate of Praetors that secretly dominates the government) have sent a cloaked long-range probe towards the Terran system, carrying a nova bomb that will cause a cataclysmic ion storm and wipe out all life on Earth.

The battle at Augo begins according to plan, until most of the Grand Fleet shows up, equipped with a new cloaking device that renders them completely undetectable. However, the battle also marks the appearance of several Starfleet vessels, along with Kaveth, another supership like Tyrava. Another (though unknown) advantage of the Free Rihannsu is that Arrhae convinced one of "The Three" (the triumvirate of Praetors that secretly dominates the government) to divert ten ships from Augo that might have led to Grand Fleet's victory.

Several days after Augo, while at the market, Arrhae discovers that Ffairl, whom she previously knew as a steward on board Gorget was, in reality, a Federation spy like herself. They plan to help the Free Rihannsu fleet when they arrive at ch'Rihan

On board Bloodwing, Ael is devastated when she realizes that her friend and chief surgeon, tr'Hrienteh, is in reality a Grand Fleet spy, and that was how Grand Fleet knew to send so many ships to Augo.

The Free Rihannsu fleet is victorious in their invasion of ch'Rihan, largely because the Three foolishly send thousands of troops to ch'Havran, sparking off the uprising they were trying to prevent, and because much of ch'Rihan's ground forces are unwilling to fight against their own people.

Even with forewarning, Starfleet is unable to intercept the nova bomb before it impacts the sun, but in the nick of time, Enterprise and Bloodwing's crew manages to cause a reaction in the Eisn system's star (which ch'Rihan and ch'Havran orbit) which "synchronizes" with Sol's star and defuses the reaction.

The Ruling Three flee, and are later turned over to the new government. Several new Senators are chosen (including Arrhae), and Ael (much to her own consternation) becomes the first Empress of the Rihannsu, with the Enterprise crew's full approval.

Kirk, who was under secret orders from the Federation President himself to retrieve a vital piece of technology from the Romulans, is nonplussed when Ael voluntarily turns it over to him. She adds that she cannot guarantee that the Romulan Empire which she plans to rebuild and restore honor to will always see eye-to-eye with the Federation, especially after her death, whenever that comes. Kirk understands, and assures her that the Federation prefers an honorable warrior like her to a cabal of genocidal tyrants like the Three.

When he returns to Earth, Kirk cuts loose the banner carrying Ael's name that he hung from an olive tree and lets it drift into the sea, Ael's name and honor having been restored in her homeland.

Memorable quotes[]

"I promised the captain there would be no creative physics!"

- K's't'lk

"This is all your fault."

- Ael to Kirk regarding her position as Empress

Background information[]

  • The ending of the Rihannsu saga had been planned out by author Duane as far back as The Romulan Way. Duane knew that, with Star Trek: The Next Generation on the way, it was likely that the Romulans would be used, and so felt it would be important to devise "how to leave [the Romulans] in a situation which would seem to lead naturally to the new canonical material which was even then starting to be established". However, with a shift in the approach of Pocket Books towards more stand-alone stories without recurring characters (often attributed to Gene Roddenberry and Richard Arnold's dislike of the Rihannsu works [1][2][3]), Duane did not expect to be given the opportunity to close out the story. It was only through the decision of Pocket editor John Ordover to revive the series that it was concluded. (Voyages of Imagination, pp. 153, 155)
  • The Empty Chair had originally been intended to release alongside the third volume, Swordhunt (which was itself later divided into two novels). However, a series of health issues prevented Duane from completing work on this final instalment until a significant time later. (Voyages of Imagination, pp. 153, 155) The first draft manuscript was sent to Pocket on 14 September 2005 [4]; the revised manuscript was delivered on 6 January 2006. [5]
  • In 2016, Duane published the original outline for what became the three novels (originally planned as two) Swordhunt, Honor Blade, and The Empty Chair. [6]
  • An extract from this novel appeared in Star Trek Magazine issue 129.
  • The eBook edition of the novel was released in advance of the official publication, on 23 October 2006. [7]
  • The novel's title, The Empty Chair, refers to a sacred relic of the Romulans, introduced in The Romulan Way.
  • Ael mentions that she and her people may "close their borders" while they remake their Empire, implying the reason for their long isolation which was finally broken in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Ael also remarks that she will endeavor to learn where her niece (the Romulan Commander) has been exiled, implying that she may be recalled home.


Eveh tr'Anierh
Rihannsu Praetor, one of the Ruling Three
Arrhae i-Khellian/Terise LoBrutto
Rihannsu Senator/Starfleet deep cover agent
Urellh tr'Maehllie
Rihannsu Praetor, one of the Ruling Three
Ahrm'n tr'Kiell
Rihannsu Praetor, one of the Ruling Three
Ael i-Mheissan t'Rllallieu
Veilt tr'Tyrava
Clan-Chief of the Tyrava Ship-Clan
Thala t'Kaveth
Clan-Mistress of Kaveth Ship-Clan, a former student of Ael's
Starfleet Commodore
Hikaru Sulu
Pavel Chekov
Leonard McCoy
James Kirk
Gurrhim tr'Seidhri
Rihannsu Praetor
Giellun tr'Keirianh
Bloodwing's master engineer


chicken sandwich; cloaking device; coffee; "The Enterprise Incident"; Firefalls of Gal Gath'thong; fizzbin; plomeek soup; poker; Sigma Iotia II; tribbles

External link[]

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The Bloodwing Voyages Pocket TOS
Unnumbered novels
Crucible: The Fire and the Rose
Rihannsu  Final novel in series