And welcome to book 2 of A New Player in the Force.
For continuing readers, welcome back. For newcomers, this is the second in a series of stories dealing with Cameron Shan in the Prequel era (while having access to a limited form of the Gamer system).
The first story is on my profile, though I should warn you that the early quality is... limited. However, I won't be going back to fix mistakes as doing so risks derailing the momentum of the adventures of Cameron Shan.
This story is, for now, crossposted on Questionable Questing and Archive of our Own. I may add it to Sufficient Velocity and Spacebattles at a later date.
As normal, you can find me on Discord at:
Server for this series:- Heart of the Force: /UM89QfyQk3
Server for my ASOIAF story:- Game of Kingdoms: /9Z8HqYAFBU
(Be advised the server is sparse as the story is still new)
Shiro's Gaming Omniverse: /wd3tUYWVCd
Emerald Library: /6SpP4tmHHM
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Mandalorian Words/Phrases: (mainly just curses in Mando'a)
Adiik – Child under 13
Alor – Chief/leader
Cin Vhetin – White Fields (Duke Adonai's personal cruiser)
Dini'la – Insane
Evaar'verd – Young warrior
Gett'se – Balls
Haili cetare – Tuck in!/Enjoy!/Fill you boots!
Hut'uun – Coward
Ik'aade – Babies
Kaden – Angry
Mand'alor – Traditional leader of the Mando'ade
Me'shab – What the fuck.
Mirdala – Clever/intelligent
Olarom – Welcome
Osik'palon – Shit-hole
Naast be Me'suum – The Destroyer of Worlds aka Revan.
Ner'sheb – Shove it up your arse.
Shab – Fuck
Shab-gar – Fuck you.
Riduur – Spouse/Partner
Te Taylir Mand'alor – Canderous Ordo
Verd – Warrior
Verd'goten – The traditional rite of passage of Mandalorian culture.
Vor'e – Thanks (informal)
Vor entye – Thank you (formal)
A fog that seemed to infect my entire body slowly lifted and I let out a groan.
"Easy there, verd," Said a voice that I knew I had heard before but couldn't instantly recognize (which was odd, seeing as Eidetic Memory should've told me immediately who was speaking). "You've only just recovered from a rather incredible adventure."
I blinked for a few seconds as more of my faculties returned to me and my head started to clear.
"Don't push yourself too hard," the voice, who I was now able to recognize as Duke Adonai's personal physician, admonished lightly. I felt a gentle pressure against my left shoulder as I attempted to rise.
[Relax, Cameron. You are in a safe place and those who attacked you have been dealt with.]
Fay's voice echoed in my mind, and I sensed both her and Dooku nearby. Slowly, I cracked open my eyes, only to scrunch them up at the influx of light. I knew it wasn't that bright, but it felt a touch disorientating to look around.
[Master? W-where am I?] I asked as I tried again to open my eyes. This time the light wasn't as befuddling, so I blinked rapidly to help my sight adjust.
"You are in the private medical centre of Duke Adonai in Sundari." Fay replied quietly. Her voice sounded off as if she was talking to me through water or a door, but that was likely from the same thing that'd caused my eyes to struggle with the low level of light in the room.
As my eyes adjusted, I was able to make out Fay and Dooku, who were both standing at the bottom of my bed, while Doctor Harvik was hovering over me near my left shoulder.
"Ah." I managed to say. My throat felt hoarse, though not dry. I licked my lips, tasting something sour on them.
"That's the bacta you're tasting. We've had you in a tank for just over a week now." Harvik explained as I felt the bed vibrate and begin to shift. "While your injuries were extensive, thanks to Master Fay we were able to keep you stable until we could return to Mandalore and place you in a tank. The bacta did its job, though we left you in a few extra days in the hopes the scars would heal. However, that wasn't the case." The doctor continued as the bed lifted my upper body until I was in a seated position.
I frowned, though it felt weird to do so as if my skin wasn't comfortable with itself. Likely that was because I'd spent the last week in a tank of bacta, but since it was my first time in the substance, I couldn't be sure) "Scars?"
"Yes. From where the dragon struck you during your hunt. Your back took the worst of that, and while the scarring had diminished, they're still easy to see. The same is true of the blaster bolt that struck your shoulder. And you're lucky that shot was for accuracy over power. A full-powered blaster bolt would've sheered your shoulder clean off." Harvik explained and I gulped at hearing how close I'd come to following in the tradition of the Skywalkers and losing an extremity so early in my career.
"With additional bacta patches, or perhaps channelling of the Force, the scarring will completely fade." Harvik continued, her brow creasing slightly as she spoke of the Force. "As a doctor, that is what I'd suggest, but as Mando'ade, I'd think about keeping them. A memento of your hunt, and how close you came to death, would be a good reminder that even with your Force, you're not untouchable."
"Ah." I replied eloquently. I shifted my gaze to my right shoulder (since seeing my back would require getting out of the bed and heading to a mirror) and saw that I was wearing those annoying medical gowns that seemed to exist in every universe. Cautiously, I clenched my right hand and lifted the arm. I moved slowly, and while there was no pain from the arm, I felt a jolt of discomfort from my back. I ignored it and continued lifting my arm, but the feeling must've flashed across both my face and the Force as Harvik leaned closer (a scanner had seemingly appeared from the ether into her hand) while Fay took a step closer. Dooku stayed still, but the barest movement of his brow let me know he too was concerned.
"Cameron?" Fay asked as she placed a hand on my lower leg while Harvik ran the scanner over my arm and side.
"Hmm, this is odd. There seems to be some residual damage that the bacta didn't fully heal." Harvik stated before playing with the scanner for a moment. "And it didn't show up on my previous scans. Most peculiar."
"So long as the issue is minor, I do not think Cameron will need another bacta patch. The Force will guide us to a solution that doesn't divert your attention or resources from patients in more dire condition." Dooku stated in a tone that to most might sound dismissive, but I knew was just him stating a fact with little care for social niceties.
"Yes, very well." Harvik replied slowly. Her discomfort (or was it distrust?) around discussing the Force was easy to sense. She slid the scanner back into a pocket near her waist and smiled. "I'll leave you in the capable hands of your masters, and I'm sure after they've finished speaking with you, you'll have new visitors. I'll check back in on you in a few hours, but if you feel unwell before then, just press the button here and either myself or a nurse will pop in to check on you." She finished, indicating a blue button on the wall to my left (though well within my reach).
"Vor'e." I replied in Mando'a, which made her smile grow.
"Olarom, Evaar'verd." She responded before turning to Fay and Dooku. "Master Jedi."
"Doctor." Fay answered with a nod of thanks for Harvik's work. Dooku didn't reply, but that was hardly a surprise to me. The man was stoic to the point of almost appearing sociopathic at times.
The room was silent until the doors hissed closed behind Harvik, leaving me alone with my masters.
"What is the last thing you remember?" Dooku asked the second the doors clinked closed.
"Um, a bright red light." I replied slowly as I quickly replayed what had happened on Tatooine in my head. It didn't take me long to realise that the red light had been from me channelling the Dark Side into (what I thought would be) a last, final attack against the Trandoshan that had almost killed me.
"To be clear, we are not angry or upset about your actions." Fay began as she stepped to where Harvik had been standing. "You felt you were dying and lashed out, as any being without a deep bond to the Force would do. However, we would like you to lead us through your thoughts and feelings in those final moments. Whatever you did… The Force reacted violently to you. If not for the presence of Duke Adonai, I likely would've passed out, while Master Dooku easily sensed what had happened to you thousands of light-years away."
My head whipped from one master to the other. While I was concerned that Fay had almost blacked out from my rage-induced attack on the Trandoshan, thanks to my teachings on the nature of the Force and the bonds formed within, I could accept that had happened. But to hear that Dooku had sensed my anger and fury several sectors away...
"Indeed, though thankfully the unexpected spasm from the Force did not compromise my actions at the time." Dooku began, which had me wondering what exactly he'd been doing to think the Force-feedback he'd felt could've potentially compromised him. "Nor was I the only one who sensed what had happened to you. Padawan Keto and Master Drallig reached out to me. It seems your… friend sensed your brush with death almost as easily as I did, yet she was even further from Tatooine than I."
"And Master Yaddle reached out to me, once we had recovered your… body." Fay continued. "Several members of the High Council sensed a moment of uncontrolled rage in the Force and Master Yoda was… concerned that it centred around you. I eased their concerns, but I suspect that when we return to the Temple, the Council will wish to speak with you."
"About a great many things." Dooku tacked on.
"Indeed." Fay agreed with a small smile, which I mirrored, at her mimicking Dooku's common comment. "Additionally, the young lady Vizsla claims she sensed something was wrong as well, though I do not believe she understood what it meant."
I gulped hard as I processed what my masters had just revealed. I didn't deny that, in that moment where I thought I was going to die, I'd given into the Dark Side and lashed out. And while I didn't regret blasting that over-grown lizard, the fact my moment of weakness had been sensed by many across the galaxy was... mind-numbingly terrifying.
Putting to one side the fact that Sidious had likely sensed my usage of the Dark Side (along with Plagueis if he was alive at this time), the fact that those close to me could sense my actions through the Force really drove home how all-encompassing the Force truly was. I mean, I knew that people could sense each other through it when close, but to be able to feel - and partially experience - what happened to me at great distances. That was insane.
Part of me was concerned as if they could do that, it spoke to the power I had at my disposal. The power to affect others from hundreds of light-years away. Another part of me was worried that so many people sensing my actions would increase the interest in me – from both Orders – and might cause me problems with my goals for the near and medium-term future. Yet the biggest part of me was still trying to come to terms with me wielding such power.
I'd gone from just one cog in the war machine of my country, if a highly skilled one, to a being capable of (potentially) shaping the course of a galaxy. Now, I'd accepted that I could use the Force, and was beginning to grasp a little of just what it could do, but every time something like this – something unexpectedly powerful – happened with the Force, well, I grew nervous at having such power at my fingertips.
And then there was the fear that, if they could sense me almost dying, what would happen when someone I shared a bond with died? Would I be overwhelmed by it to the point my own life would be in danger? Part of me wanted to pull back or go into hiding to avoid that possibility, but the greater part of me knew I had to push on. I had to learn to accept these powers, and all that they could do, if I was to continue with my goals.
My moment of introspection over, I shifted my focus to retelling what happened after killing the greater krayt dragon (though I did wonder briefly what'd happened to my kill). "Well, once I was, uh, attacked by those… whoever they were..."
"Duke Adonai was able to… convince the few survivors to talk. They claimed to have been hired by Decca the Hutt." Dooku answered my unasked question. Though he spoke calmly, I felt the barest hint of cold anger from him through the Force and saw the area around his eyes tighten. "If you recall, he was the one we inconvenienced by freeing the Lokella and removing his access to the phrik mine."
"Ahhhh," I muttered, letting my breath out in a long sigh.
That did make sense, though how they'd known to target me on Tatooine was confusing. I doubted that anyone would've recognised me in Bestine then passed that on to Decca, which made it likely that someone on Mandalore (I'd be willing to put a bet on who) had leaked my location to the Hutt.
"Well, after I recovered enough from the blaster shot to regain my bearings, I began to fight back. One of the bracers had been damaged by the dragon. The other one malfunctioned and refused to come off. I still fought back as best I could. I remember taking out two of the combatants, but then the red light...I don't know what happened..." I trailed off.
Fay looked over at Dooku, and after the faintest of tilts of his head, she returned her attention to me. "After your… moment of weakness, the mercenaries were stunned long enough for the duke's first strike team to reach you. Other teams secured the attacker's ship and second group. After I recovered from the backlash of your outburst in the Force, I helped Doctor Harvik stabilize you and bring you aboard the Cin Vhetin. We left the planet soon after, though I learnt on our return voyage to Mandalore that Duke Adonai secured the mercenaries' ship, and along with hiring a large freighter that was hired to haul your kill, had the vessel brought back here for examination."
She paused and a small smile crept onto her lips. "I must say that the shock the crew expressed at you taking down a greater krayt dragon was only equalled by their respect for doing so, and their fury at someone attacking a child at their moment of weakness during the hunt."
I felt a smirk creep onto my face at her words. Hearing the reactions of the Mandalorians to my hunt – and what had come after – was amusing and would likely, as the story was passed around, help to improve my reputation with the general populace. Well, save those devoted to the New Mandalorian cause (though in my mind, I didn't consider those people to be Mandalorian.)
"Master Fay speaks truthfully, on all counts." Dooku added. "And if I had not seen the dragon with my own eyes, our Padawan or not, even I would have had a difficult time believing you killed such a beast without access to the Force. Impressive." Even if his face stayed stoic (bar the slight upturn at the corner of his lips) I could sense his pride and admiration through the Force.
The only downside I could see to how the locals would react to my kill (and thus me joining the ranks of the Mando'ade) was the sense of wonder that many would now develop for me. Yes, having a large number of Mandalorians respecting me would likely be helpful in the future (the Battle for Naboo being the first time I hoped to use that respect), but there was a risk it would go too far and turn into devotion.
"Thank you." I replied even as I considered the effect my kill would have on the locals. Though my thoughts soon turned to more immediate issues. Like what krayt dragon steak would taste like. Or how many pearls there would be inside. If the one Revan had taken down, which had been a more common krayt dragon sub-species, held several then a greater krayt dragon would have to hold… a dozen? More?
"The mercenaries?" Fay asked, drawing my thoughts away from my kill – even as my mind had wandered onto wondering what my sigil would look like – and back to their attack. The taking down to the first two, while brutal, wasn't something I felt my masters would have a major issue with. No, their concern was centred around how exactly I'd taken down the Trandoshan. There was no Force Power that I knew that generated a red light, and no new power notification had appeared. Or at least none had shown when I'd woken, but maybe there was a time limit before a notification disappeared.
"Right. Well one bracer was destroyed and the other was… being stubborn. I tried to disable it, but it shocked me when I entered the deactivation code." My brow creased in annoyance at remembering that. "My right arm was all but useless, and with a disrupted connection to the Force, I knew I had to move fast if I wanted to survive. I began to move, but the Force seemed to hint that they were adapting to that. Probably due to a tracker of some sort."
"A bounty hunter tracker was found with one of the bodies." Fay supplied. "Master Dooku has already contacted the guilds to ensure that there isn't a bounty out on you, which there isn't, and they have no idea where the tracker came from."
"Ah, ok." Learning that there were ways to track someone across planets, and likely sectors, based on (I assumed) their DNA was scary. Still, knowing that there wasn't a bounty on my head was reassuring. I'd rather not have to worry about people like Cad Bane and Jango Fett coming after me. Well, at least until I was ready for them.
"Anyway, with the Force hinting at danger, I caught sight of something thrown at me. Thanks to my time here, I realised it was a grenade and sent it back to them." I felt my lips twitch at the shock they'd have had as the grenade returned to them then exploded. "As it blew, I used the limited connection I had to the Force to help me move."
"Though, the pain slightly impeded my movement. My arm and back were… Anyway, I knew I had to move, so I kept going and managed to take out two of the combatants before another grenade exploded close by. Given to the ringing in my ears afterwards, I'd say that one was a sonic grenade, and I was still close enough that the shockwave launched me backwards."
"Likely from the Trandoshan you killed." Dooku commented. "I suspect you will be relieved to hear that he, and the two others of his species, are no longer an issue. The first died when you… lashed out. The second was gunned down by a Mandalorian attack squad while the last, well, let us just say Duke Adonai is a formidable warrior."
Now I was wondering what Adonai had done to earn Dooku's praise. Hopefully, I could get someone to tell me about it, or maybe the Cin Vhetin had been low enough that their sensors caught the event.
"After I landed, and before I could regain my bearings, the Trandoshan came over, yanked me upwards then tossed me over a nearby dune. Before I could recover, he drove his knife into my gut and began to taunt me." My hand instinctively went to my stomach, and while I couldn't feel the scar, there was a small bacta patch over the area. "He talked about a scorekeeper, then tried to take my necklace." At this, my hand shot from my stomach to my neck.
Feeling the comforting shape of the gemstone-and-teeth pendant between my fingers – and sensing the reassuring wave in the Force that came with knowing it was there – helped settle my mind as I worked through my memories of my near death.
I took a deep breath before continuing. There was no point in hiding that I'd used the Dark Side to kill the alien – not when it'd been felt by others half-a-galaxy away – yet I wasn't looking forward to how I suspected Fay and Dooku would react to my actions.
"I… I was angry. I, I was going to die, and that… walking lizard was gloating about it and going to take the one thing that I have that links me to both of you." I could feel my anger and rage at the Trandoshan begin to build, begin to seek to be embraced and unleashed once more. Yet the comforting presence of the pendant in my hand helped still thoughts desires and helped me keep my centre; or close enough to it that I remained in control.
"So, I… lashed out. With what little energy I had, I called on the Force and lashed out. I… I wanted him dead."
As I finished, I closed my eyes and concentrated on settling my inner turmoil as best I could. The anger, the fury that I felt when I'd killed the Trandoshan was easy to draw upon (likely because it felt as though it had only happened mere minutes ago to me) but I knew that letting that rage grow and fester would be dangerous.
I didn't agree with the Jedi approach of denying all emotions for fear of what the more negative ones could unleash. Yet, after having experienced the power that came from just giving in and taking the quicker – and possibly more powerful – path, I saw that there were some words of wisdom in their warnings about the Dark Side of the Force.
"Cameron." I opened my eyes and turned my attention to Fay as she spoke. "While we are… grateful that you are still with us, and haven't become one with the Force, we are concerned about what you did."
"You willingly drew on the Dark Side." Dooku continued. His voice was firm but not as emotionless as usual. There was a gentle undertone of reassurance and patience (though that only became clear because of what I sensed from him through the Force.) "Yes, you used it in self-defence, but to do that, even if it was, as you claim an emotional reaction, is still… worrying."
Fay took over. "We know you are aware that many in our Order are concerned about your heritage, least of all elements of the High Council. Those concerns have likely grown since your outburst was sensed by senior members of the Order, and there may even be some who would prefer to lock you away as a potential threat than understand why you… lashed out. Therefore, once you have recovered and the celebration of your successful hunt is over, we will journey to another, quieter sector where both Dooku and myself will discuss with you fully the dangers inherent in embracing the Dark Side."
"But I didn't mean to use the Dark Side." I countered, ignoring how pathetic and childish I sounded.
While I agreed with both my masters regarding the dangers of the Dark Side – particularly now that I'd had my first true taste of the power it held – the idea of meditating and discussing the nature of the Dark Side was less than appealing. Yes, I understood the need for those discussions, but somehow I knew that this would be for more than just a few weeks and the idea of being locked in meditation for a month (or more) was… less than appealing.
Still, I knew that I needed to spend some time doing so as my initial ideas about the Dark Side had been… lacking. Actually, they'd been woefully pathetic.
Without having even brushed the Dark Side of the Force or tasted the temptation to embrace it and the sense of unlimited power it offered, I had dismissed its threat. I'd treated it as something that was only a threat to a Force-sensitive if they didn't have control over their emotions. Now, I was beginning to see that even if I did have control of my emotions, the risk of giving into that temptation again was always going to be there. And while I could likely counter that entirely by using Player's Mind, I would prefer to not do so. Player's Mind left me feeling… less than human afterwards. Having all emotion removed from my decisions, and not letting them be a part of me, felt fundamentally wrong. Though if I ever faced a situation where I felt at risk of the Dark Side overwhelming me, I would not hesitate to use Player's Mind now. The risks of not doing so were far, far greater than the drawbacks of that unique ability.
The other issue was that any power listed as Dark Side in nature – such as Force Lightning which is what I think I'd used to kill the Trandoshan, even if I had no concrete idea as to why it had been red as the few times that I'd used it the lightning had been blueish white – by the Interface. Having experienced the Dark Side now, I suspected that those powers only truly worked properly when the Dark Side (or at least darker emotions) were channelled into them. Though learning if this was true, or if the Interface was going to explain this to me, would have to wait until I was alone; and I'd managed to go through the various notifications that were waiting for me to read.
"We are aware of this; however, you did draw upon it. Given your family's history, and the dangers the Dark Side poses to any Force user, let alone one of your potential, we would be criminally negligent to not speak with you extensively about the dangers of actively trying to tap into the Dark Side of the Force." Dooku countered logically.
"Even as just your friends Cameron, we would still speak with and help you meditate on your actions, and the temptations of the Dark Side." Fay tacked on.
"And again, to be clear, while we are worried that you have now shown some inclination for the Dark Side, we are grateful that you are still living. A brush with darkness is preferable to an early, and unfortunate, death. Particularly when neither of us feel that, at the current time, your death serves a purpose to the Force."
"Yes, masters." I replied with a sigh.
"Good. Now, since several people wish to speak with you, we will delay any further discussions about your actions." Fay said as she leaned closer and placed a hand on my shoulder. "As Doctor Harvik stated, you are well on the way to a full recovery, scars notwithstanding, but I would suggest not getting too animated while speaking with your friends. Particularly when they ask about certain rumours that have spun up around your verd'goten."
"Indeed." Dooku responded, I turned my attention to him to see a slight twitch of his lips indicating his amusement. "It seems that Duke Adonai is keeping what you killed under wraps until the feast to celebrate your, elevation into their ranks. However, it is well known that when you returned from your hunt, the duke had to hire a second ship to transport something back from the hunt."
"But why is he keeping it a secret?" I asked. Not because I wanted to shout it from the rooftops that I'd killed a kriffing greater krayt dragon, well not entirely, but because when Serra killed her dragon (and the idea that we'd both killed 'dragons' resulted in me having to fight off a smirk) it hadn't been hidden.
My masters shared a look before Fay answered. "He has his reasons. Though only some of them deal with you. However, he has asked that you don't reveal your kill until the celebration. Something about wanting to see the looks on everyone's faces when they see what you took down."
An image of a room full of Mandalorians being stunned into silence as the head of the dragon was wheeled in came to mind, and a large grin spread over my face. "Yeah, I can see how much fun that's going to be."
"Indeed. We will return at dinner to speak with you once more. Until then, enjoy your… moment of fame." Dooku stated before the two turned and left the room.
With them leaving, and there likely to be a small break before anyone else came in, I turned my attention to the Interface.
The first half of the notices were to tell me that my injuries had been healed – which I already knew from what Doctor Harvik stated – and that if I wished, I could heal the scars left with Force Heal. I was in two minds about that as on one hand, removing the scars would make sense on some level as they were things that most people would have removed. On the other hand, leaving them would mean I'd have a constant reminder (at least until I removed them) of how close I'd come to dying, of failing in making any significant change on the course of history and how I'd been undervaluing this second life I'd been granted. Though any thought of on which way to go slipped from my mind as I perused the second half of the notices.
You have been recognized as an adult by one of the major cultures of the galaxy.
All remaining adult skills have been unlocked.
How easily you can counter stamina drain during adult activities.
Your ability to arouse and please a partner during intercourse.
Your ability to arouse and please a partner during adult activities when not engaging in intercourse or oral sex.
The ability to arouse and pleasure a partner with your mouth and tongue.
"The fuck?!" I growled out as I read the list of new skills.
After discovering that Kissing was a skill (though I was still less than impressed with how I did) I'd expected there to be some skills like this, but to get them unlocked now…
I closed my eyes and took a few deep, calming breaths, getting my emotions under control so as to not worry Fay and Dooku enough that they'd return. Once I'd regained my control over my anger at The Powers That Be, I returned my attention to the notifications.
I didn't need, nor want, those skills unlocked now. Yet, to the Mandalorians, I was now considered an adult, so TPTB unlocking them now made (a prevented kind of) sense. Though I had no intention of seeing how those skills worked until I was older; like only once I was an adult by Republic standards. Yes, at seventeen that was a year higher than in the UK, but I didn't want to start a relationship until both myself and the other person were mentally and physically mature enough to do so. A cold shiver shot up my spine as I wondered if Serra thought that me being an adult to the Mandalorians like her would mean we could start…
I shook my head to clear those thoughts. Seeing her in that way, especially as she was now… I felt an urge to take a long shower in acid then jump into a lava flow on Mustafar.
My mind turned to why TPTB would want me to have such powers. I remembered a throw away comment back when I'd been In-Between about someone/thing having a bet about me sleeping with a character from Star Wars, but why would they think I'd want to see my… abilities at such things as skills?
You're in a galaxy far, far away.
Surrounded by attractive beings of many different species.
Male, female and other.
Knowing how good you are at pleasuring others are useful skills to have.
So why wouldn't you want such skills?
I sighed. So much for me thinking that line had been some sort of bad joke on the part of TPTB.
No. We were entirely serious.
Though are you telling us that you aren't curious about what a certain future Queen looks like under her robes?
Or where the sweet spots on a Twi'lek or Togruta are?
Are you telling us that you don't want to enjoy yourself?
Are you a eunuch?
Realizing that arguing with the ones that had administrator access to my unique powers was not the best idea, I sighed again and shook my head. Yes, I would, once I was older and physically mature, want to enjoy myself. And yes, I couldn't deny that I was curious about how the Force helped one to… enhance their fun. But that was not going to be for years, and no amount of hinting or pressure was going to change my mind.
We will see.
I barely managed to suppress a growl at TPTB's final words, and it was a good thing I did as not a second later the doors to my ward slid open.
"Well look who's up and about." Bo commented with a smile as she and Naz entered the room. Both were dressed in casual wear (which meant they still had their chest plates and gauntlets on but no other part of their armour and only had a single pistol at their hip), but the way Naz moved quickly to my bed and Bo scanned the room as her smile failed to reach her eyes told me neither was relaxed.
"I'm not dead just yet." I retorted as Naz reached the side of my bed, then gripped my right arm in her hands.
"Don't say that!" Naz snapped as her fingers dug in slightly. "We were worried you'd been killed when the Cin Vhetin came back. Everyone was so secretive about what had happened," She added as she seemed to bounce from one foot to the other.
"Yeah. And my dad looked like he wanted to murder someone." Bo added as she reached the bottom of my bed. While she wasn't as outwardly worried about me as Naz was, the way her eyes clinically travelled over my body made it clear she was concerned. "He's barely talked to me since then other to confirm you were recovering from your hunt." Seemingly assured that I was in one piece, she leaned back and crossed her arms. "So what did you kill?"
As Bo asked that, Naz's grip loosened, and her fingers began to trace their way up my forearm.
I smirked. "Sorry. I've been asked by my masters and your father to not say." Naz pouted theatrically, which made me smirk, while Bo flicked her ponytail back over her shoulder.
"Can you tell us anything? Which planet did you go to? How big was it?" Naz asked in rapid-fire. She blinked a few times and smiled alluringly in what was a clear attempt at trying to coerce me into answering. However, with the recent reveal of my new skills in my head, it resulted in me pulling back a fraction, which made her freeze.
"What type of animal was it?" Bo added, clearly thinking there was a chance I might slip up and reveal something. "How did you kill it?"
Naz's fingers began to move once more, creeping ever closer to my shoulder. A small gasp escaped her lips as her fingers touched the area where I'd been shot. That meant that the scarring there was easy to feel through the medical gown, though I'd not felt any pain from it when I'd moved my arm earlier.
"Hey!" I called as without asking, she pulled my gown down enough to expose my shoulder, and I saw the white starburst scar from where the blaster bolt had struck. While I couldn't see my back, nor had Doctor Harvik said anything, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a corresponding exit wound on my back.
"This is from a blaster bolt!" Naz snapped, her tone jumping an octave. "What the shab happened?"
Bo's eyes narrowed as her attention was drawn to my scar, though they quickly moved to lock with my eyes. I realised there was no way I couldn't reveal what had happened in the aftermath of the hunt (though I should be able to avoid mentioning what I'd killed), so with a sigh, I explained what had happened.
"After I'd finished my hunt, I was attacked by a group of mercenaries." Naz's fingers once more dug into my skin – this time on my shoulder just above the scar – but I ignored her and kept my focus on Bo (mainly because I was getting concerned about Naz's behaviour.) "From what I've been told, a sniper's bolt struck my shoulder, which added to a few injuries I'd taken during my hunt, and no, I'm not going to reveal what I killed." I tacked on to hopefully cut off a later question about what had injured me. Bo huffed but didn't interrupt. "It didn't take me completely out of the fight though. I was able to take down three of them before my injuries overwhelmed me and I lost consciousness."
I heard Naz inhale sharply at my comment, but I stayed focused on Bo. Even without actively using the Force, I could sense her emotions were beginning to overwhelm her.
"If not for Master Fay and the duke, I'd have died on that… osik'palon of a planet." Honestly, if not for the fact I still had to go back to collect Anakin and Shmi, I'd likely have done my best to never, ever return to Tatooine. Well, I suppose I could be persuaded to return, if it was only to glass the entire kriffing planet, again.
"Why did they attack you? For your kill?" Bo leaned forward as she asked her latest question. Her face tightened and her muscles tensed as she spoke. For some reason, the attack on me had angered her, which was odd as I hadn't thought we were that close. Probably it was just because I'd been attacked during an important trial to the Mando'ade.
"From what my masters just told me, it was retribution for my actions in freeing and defending a group of slaves who took over a mining operation run by a minor Hutt." I explained as simply as I could. I'd likely have to explain who the Lokella were (provided Dooku hadn't already filled in those blanks for Duke Adonai), but I'd move heaven and earth to make sure no one heard of my title with them; or that I had a seat on their governing council.
"So you were on a world where the Hutts have significant influence?" Naz probed, linking the attack with the Hutts. Which made sense and was accurate. As such, I stayed silent and let her keep her assumptions.
"What happened to these, hut'uun?" Bo asked, returning to the merc who'd attacked me. Seemed she wasn't willing to let the matter drop. "Were they all killed for their interference?"
"Barring the ones captured by your father for interrogation, I'd assume so." I replied, which earned a short, sharp nod from the redhead. "Though I'd check with him to be sure. And learn what he did to impress Master Dooku."
Bo's brow rose at that comment, and her stance relaxed, but she said nothing about it. "So even after your hunt and being shot you still killed three of these mercenaries?" I nodded in confirmation. "Good. A warrior of your calibre shouldn't be an easy mark for that kind of scum."
"Thanks, I think." I replied as I tried to understand her behaviour. Likely, it was just the idea that the mercs had attacked me just after I'd completed my verd'goten that her so on-edge. I was still miles ahead of either in single combat (and when they tried to double team me) and was a two-time Akaan'lor of the Institute, so the fact the mercenaries had seemingly gotten the better of me must've annoyed her greatly.
"So, the beast you killed hurt you enough that the mercs were able to get a jump on you?" I turned to Naz at her question and wished I hadn't. She was close enough that I could feel her breath on my face and smell the fruity hints of her last meal. Plus, the way her eyes darted from mine to my lips then sent a cold shiver up my spine. Doubly so with the new skills that'd just been unlocked.
"Um, yeah." I all but whispered out as I began to devise ways to get her to move back.
"Hmm, so that means you're now Mando'ade." She stated, her voice barely above a whisper, before she licked her lips and used one hand to move a lock of my hair out of my face.
"Y-yeah." I gulped hard before opening my mouth to say something else. "Mmffgh."
My words were cut off as Naz chose that moment to plunge forward, closing the small distance between us, and force her lips against mine.
I froze in place as her breath slipped into my mouth (it seemed she'd eaten something sweet before coming here) as my mind processed that someone was kissing me. Again.
While it wasn't a bad kiss (Naz clearly knew what she was doing as her tongue flicked against my lips) my mind suffered a blue screen of death as I processed the kiss while my mind instantly went back to the newly unlocked skills, and the words of The Powers That Be.
Her tongue slipped past my lips, and my brain rebooted, and I moved to push her back, I swore I heard a faint growl come from Bo.
"Naz!" I snapped once I'd been able to push her back far enough that I could risk speaking within her trying to kiss me again. While I was comfortably stronger (thanks to the Interface) doing so from a seated position while she leaned down over me had made it harder than I'd expected.
"Why?" I responded to her question with one of my own, because I thought I'd handled her emerging feelings for me about a year ago. "Why did you do that?"
"What? You don't like it?" Naz answered back with another question as she licked her lips. She smirked and pulled back from my grip (which was only to stop her from trying to kiss me again) then flicked a bang of her blonde hair back behind her ear. "Bo likes it. And other things."
"I…" I paused as, the image of the two kissing – and other things – flashed through my mind. Both were fifteen, so I really, really didn't need those images. Stupid body going through puberty.
That acid shower was looking good right about now.
"Naz, I'm thirteen." I finally finished my sentence once my brain had gotten past the images that had flashed through it.
"You're Mando'ade." Bo replied. My head whipped around to her so fast I swore I heard the bones in my neck crack. My eyes widened at her seeming indifference to her friend (with benefits) kissing me. Yes, her lips were very thin, and her hands were clenched shut, but there was no anger in her stance or tone directed at me. "You're an adult now."
"I'm thirteen!" I snapped at Bo before turning to Naz. "Look, Naz, I…"
"What? You want Serra? I can share." Naz offered as she licked her lips and for the second time in a minute, I froze as my mind was assailed by images I didn't want or need.
Once I was out of here, I was skipping the acid shower and going straight for the molten lava.
Stupid Mandalorians and their insanely young age of consent.
Once my mind rebooted (again) I started to speak.
"I'm thirteen and a f-kriffing Jedi, Naz." I all but spat at her once my mind had rebooted (again.) "Hells, I'm not even a Knight yet. This isn't happening!" I snapped, my anger at the images my mind had created bleeding into my tone. I knew I should reign in the anger, but right now, I just wanted this matter over and done with.
Naz's expression morphed rapidly from one of adolescent desire into fury. Her lips pulled back to expose her teeth as she snarled back at me. "FINE! SHAB-GAR!"
As she spun on the spot and stormed towards the door, I realised that I might've let my anger cloud my judgment and over-reacted in my response.
"Naz…" I began but she ignored me as the doors opened and she marched out of the room, her arms and legs seeming to shake with anger. As the doors closed behind her, I sighed and looked up at the ceiling.
Right now, that month plus of mediation and discussion about the dangers of the Dark Side wasn't looking so bad.
"That could've gone better." Bo muttered and my focus snapped to her.
"You think?!" I snarled only to sigh once more and pinch the bridge of my nose. "Sorry."
"It's fine." Bo replied with a lazy wave of her hand. "Naz has been so focused on you becoming Mando'ade she's forgotten that you weren't raised here. You might now be one of us, and I'm fine with that by the way, but you weren't born one of us. You don't truly understand our ways or know our values, not yet."
I took a moment to process what Bo said, and added in what I'd learnt over the last year. It would make sense that there would be things that could only be learnt by fully committing to the culture, which I wasn't willing or able to do currently. Just like Serra, I was both a Jedi and Mando'ade, and there was always the possibility that those two identities would come into conflict; though I hoped that day would never come.
"That… makes sense." I said slowly. "And because I've completed my Verd'goten, and have now proven I'm a Mandalorian, she feels I'm old enough to..." I frowned as Bo nodded. "And you're ok with that?"
Bo's eyes narrowed for a moment before relaxing. "Yes. While I don't share Naz's interest in you, you are now one of us and have proven yourself worthy to pursue. What we have… we're open about who we pursue and see, and while I am angry with you about how you both behaved, I can understand your feelings as well as hers."
Bo moved around the bed as she spoke, bringing herself closer to me. "While Serra was the first Jedi to become Mando'ade in millennia, she is not a leader. You, as much as it galls me to admit, are." She paused as she reached the position beside my bed that Naz had been at before she stormed off, though Bo made sure to keep enough distance between us that I wasn't concerned about her trying to kiss me. "To many, you could be the second coming of Tarre Vizsla or Revan. If you reject the Jedi, embrace our ways… many would unite behind you, some may even try to proclaim you Mand'alor. With all that potential, with all that power, does it surprise you that Naz, and others, would want to be close to you?"
I didn't respond instantly. Instead, I took the time to ponder Bo's words (which were more expansive than I'd expected, mainly because until now, she'd preferred to keep our interactions focused on combat.)
Everything she'd just said was logical. I wasn't a born-Mandalorian, not that it made any difference, and while Serra was the first Mandalorian Jedi in millennia, Bo was right in saying that Serra wasn't a natural-born leader. Hell, I wasn't really a natural at it either, but my learned skills drawn from my past life gave the illusion that I was. While I'd come here to build the basics of a potential fighting force for the wars I knew were coming (and yes, in those scenarios I'd pictured myself being the one to issue commands), I'd never considered becoming the leader of these people before coming here, at least not in a cultural sense.
The idea that I could possibly lead the Mandalorians had been subtly hinted at by others over the last year – well, really the last five months or so – and I'd given it some thought. There were certainly benefits to me trying to claim the title of Mand'alor, and it would make gaining the Mandalorians as allies much easier, but the drawbacks (rallying a war-like people in a time of peace, the fight to unite all the clans, dealing with the fallout from the Senate and the Jedi, and the fear certain races would have about a resurgent Mandalorian sector) were greater, at least at the current time.
Yet, now knowing that some were beginning to see the potential in me, and when combined with Naz's earlier affection towards me, everything she'd done made sense.
"I kriffed up." I muttered as I returned my focus to Bo. "She's going to be kaden with me for a while, isn't she?"
Bo smirked. "Aye. Should make things fun until you leave." The smirk hinted that she would find what would happen fun, though I highly doubted I would. "Give her time though. Just as you need to remember she was born Mando'ade, she needs to learn and understand that you weren't, and that you're less forceful in taking what you want."
"True." I nodded at her words, then tilted my head to the side. "When did you become mirdala?"
Bo caught a laugh that threatened to escape as she punched my shoulder (landing the shot right where the scar was.) "Funny. Just because I prefer to focus on combat and have none of the interest in playing politics as you do; doesn't mean I don't understand what's going on around me. Plus, even if I'll deny it to anyone you tell, just like Naz, you're my friend, and having your friends squabbling like ik'aade isn't fun to be stuck between."
I sighed. "Aye, you're right." I ignored the spike in pain from the(less than gentle) punch to my shoulder and shook my head. "I really kriffed that up," I sighed once more then met Bo's eyes. "When she's calmed down, can you let her know I'm…"
"Do it yourself." Bo stated, cutting off my attempt to get her to lay the groundwork for me making things up with Naz." She took a step back. "You may be my friend, but Naz is my closest friend. No way I'm taking your side over hers." She paused as a chuckle escaped her lips. "Besides, watching you flail around trying to make this right is sure to be fun to watch."
"Ow, my beating heart." I replied, theatrically placing my hands over my heart. That draw a louder chuckle even as she turned and walked towards the doors.
"Tatooine." I called out just as they started to open, making Bo stop and turn back to face me. "I won't tell you want I killed, or how the fight went – I'm not breaking my word to your father and my masters – but you can tell Naz I was on Tatooine."
Bo smirked. "I already knew that, but I haven't told Naz because my father swore me to secrecy. Though since you've now told me, if he gets angry about Naz knowing I can blame you."
"You're welcome, I think." I replied, letting an exaggerated look of confusion spread over my face. Bo laughed at that, before stepping through the open doorway.
"Well, that was fun." I muttered as the doors closed behind her.
Yeah, I'd massively overreacted to Naz's approach, and while I'd been out of sorts because of the newly unlocked skills, it wasn't an excuse. I'd kriffed up and would have to work on making things right with Naz before I left the planet and sector.
Naz, beyond being very close with Bo, and having a clear interest in me that I'd be interested in responding to – once I was older (like out of my teens) – was the daughter of Pre Vizsla. Having her as a friend and ally had the potential to, at the very least, undermine Pre's leadership of Death Watch. It would also help if (and it was a big if) I attempted to recruit Pre to my side (which by that point would likely be a small, but growing, faction that wasn't aligned with the Republic or emerging CIS.) Losing her friendship would likely result in her falling into line with her father, and thus having us face off across the battlefield. While I had no doubt that I'd win if it came to that, it was better to have her (and others) fight for me, than against.
Any thoughts I had on ways to make things right with Naz were cut off as the doors to my ward opened, allowing entry to my teammates (bar Tiber, thank the Force) from the Institute.
"See, this is why you don't send a Jedi to do a Mandalorian's job." Huzu commented with a smirk as she led our team towards my bed. "They don't have the gett'se to do things right." The rest of our team laughed at that while I shook my head at my former 2IC's comment.
"I'd say 'ner'sheb', but I think you'd enjoy that." I replied, making her laugh, and increasing the laughter from the others.
All of them enjoyed hearing me curse in Mando'a, which made sense as hearing those words from a Jedi had to be funny and was why I'd replied as I had.
Once the laughter died down, Andeeld, who had moved to my left and crossed his arms, smirked. "So what did you kill?"
I barely managed to fight off the urge to roll my eyes. I'd expected every Mandalorian to be curious about it, but were they always going to lead with that question?
It was a few days after I'd woken up before Doctor Harvik and finally signed off on my leaving the Sundari Medical Centre, and I was glad when that day came. Spending time sitting in a medical bed (and being constantly scanned by the various sensors in the room) was boring and not conducive to anything but meditating. Well, save for the intermittent, yet regular visits from my classmates, all of whom constantly probed about what I'd killed for my verd'goten.
The only downside of getting out was that I'd spent the last week in isolation with Fay and Dooku as they began our discussions and meditation on the Dark Side and the inherent dangers it posed to one as young and gifted in the Force as me.
During the week that we'd been in isolation, Fay had spent most of it (when not politely reading me the riot act for using the Dark Side, however unintentionally) preaching from the Jedi hymn book on the dangers of the Dark Side, and anything connected to it. Thankfully, she seemed more understanding than the instructors during my brief time as an Initiate had been, and often spoke of moments where even one as old, wise, and revered as her had been tempted by the Dark Side; of the ease with which she could've just given in and lashed out. Not that she ever had, mind you. But hearing that even someone like Fay had heard the temptations was strangely reassuring.
Dooku, while agreeing with Fay on her points, didn't add much of his own. Now, I knew that in the unaltered timeline he'd have likely been close to quitting the Order by now, and even with me as his new Padawan, there were hints that he was slowly turning into a Jedi-In-Name-Only (what many would call grey Jedi, but I wasn't a huge fan of the term.)
Because of these talks, and the fact I knew both would be looking for any hint that I was not heeding their warnings or trying to use the Dark Side, I'd chosen to avoid training most powers during our joint meditation sessions (save Valour: Passive and Levitation) and instead used the time to try to commune with the Force.
That had been… strange. I could always feel the Force around me as it flowed and connected everything it touched together in a giant web, but I'd never really given much thought to just letting its essence wash over me.
What I'd found was that it was alive yet wasn't. At least in any sense that I could understand. Fay compared the Force to a river that guided us to where we needed to be to bring balance, but I felt that wasn't a great analogy. The Force felt simultaneously stronger and calmer than would fit in a simple river analogy. It was also far, far vaster in scope than any mortal could perceive. As if it was an infinite ocean and our connection to it allowed us to sense the currents beneath its surface. It was something so beyond, yet above, my understanding that I was both memorised and concerned by it was capable of.
Still, the week of meditation and discussion had meant that (bar my evenings) the last month had been a wash regarding training and levelling up any skills or powers. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't complaining. Yes, in the sense that almost nothing had increased, it was wasted, but I didn't consider it such. I'd killed a dragon (that was never going to get old), glimpsed what the Dark Side was capable of (and been terrified of how easily I'd been able to use it), and had spent time with both my masters simultaneously. Dooku had even hinted that after we left the sector, he would begin to fully train me in how to integrate more offensive Force techniques into lightsaber combat. That was something I was looking forward to as bar applying approaches from my old life a few times, I'd generally not merged my powers offensively into my fighting style.
Before and after the retreat with my masters, I also made sure to spend time talking via the Holonet with both Serra and unexpectedly Padmé. I'd reached out to Serra the moment I was freed from the medical centre as while I knew she'd been told that I was alive and well, I could still sense her anxiety over the thousands of lightyears between us; and that was both incredible and disturbing. Serra had been relieved to speak with me and hear from my lips that I was ok. She'd explained what'd happened when she'd sensed my 'almost death' and apologised profusely for revealing that I'd done the verd'goten in the Temple. She was curious about what I'd killed, but beyond telling her it was something else called a 'dragon', I hadn't revealed anything. The Holonet wasn't, at least in my mind, entirely secure and the risk that someone at the temple – Like Windu – discovering what I'd killed, and what had happened afterwards, was too great. Serra hadn't been happy about that, but she'd accepted it; on the basis that I gave her a memento of my kill when we next met.
Discovering Padmé had sensed my lashing out in the Force was… surprising, and a little disconcerting. The girl wasn't particularly Force-sensitive, nor was our bond that strong, so I'd been confused as to how she'd sensed anything. My mind had wandered to KOTOR2, and I wondered that if because of the Interface and my other unique powers, I'd developed a bond with her similar to how Meetra Surik had done in that game. Regardless if that was the case or not, Padmé had sensed my 'almost death' and reached out to Serra. Seeing her face, and the relief I'd just barely been able to sense from her when we'd first spoken had lifted a small weight from my heart I hadn't realised had been there, and the same was true of Serra. Then hearing how her new classmates teased her about how (potentially) close she was to the author made me laugh. She'd thanked me repeatedly for getting her an advanced copy of 'Return of the King' (though I'd had to arrange for a copy to be sent to Serra as Padmé had revealed her novel to the other girl) and stated that she'd have to find a way to pay me back for it.
However, despite my efforts, I'd not been able to speak with Naz to apologise, either before I'd left for the week with Fay and Dooku, or after I'd returned. During any of the few meals that Fay, Dooku and myself had shared with Adonai, Pre, and their families, Naz had chosen not to attend. Pre claimed she was handling clan business, but I'd used Observe on him to learn that he was happy that some distance had formed between me and Naz. A distance he hoped to increase once I left the sector. After discovering that, I'd asked Bo for help, but she'd once more chosen to stay out of things (bar her continued subtle supporting of Naz) leaving me with no chance to fix my mistake.
Hopefully, she'd be at the celebration of me joining the ranks of the Mando'ade, which I was currently waiting to be escorted to with Fay and Dooku. While her seeing my kill wasn't how I wanted to create an opening (I suspected once it got out what I'd killed I'd be mobbed by a lot of people offering congratulations) it might be my only chance to begin to heal the small rift that had formed between us. At least before I left the sector.
I glanced to my right and saw Fay looking serenely out of the window of the small room where we were waiting for our escort to the royal banquet hall of Keldabe to arrive. Prime Minister Worra had been furious when he discovered that Adonai wished to celebrate the kill in the old capital, but I was glad we weren't having the feast there as Sundari was a symbol of the New Mandalorian ways. Location aside, this venue was still markedly different from Serra's celebration as then Adonai had only acquired a small hall for the celebration.
I'd asked my masters why Adonai had booked a much larger venue, and Dooku had explained that Adonai was likely using the size and awe of my kill to enhance his political strength. Fay had then explained that many were still unhappy with Jedi training alongside their children and that the more traditional-minded Mandalorians were beginning to grow restless with the duke's alliance with the New Mandalorians (both of which I was already aware of). She also hinted that it wasn't uncommon for alliances between clans to occur at these celebrations, thus Adonai might be using the event to secure his power base, something I hadn't considered but that did make sense upon consideration.
Though what was beginning to get to me was the wait. We'd been in this room for nearly an hour and I was growing bored and wondering how much longer we'd have to sit here and twiddle our thumbs.
Thankfully, a moment later a chime sounded, and Fay and Dooku both stood. Both were dressed in their robes, yet unless I missed my guess, they'd both had their robes cleaned – Dooku's even seemed to shine in places as he moved. Fay gave me a warm smile as she approached the small table I'd been sitting at.
"Are you ready for this?" Fay asked as I stood slowly.
While I was also wearing my Jedi clothing, on top of that I was wearing the armour I'd used on my hunt; or what was left of it. Apparently, it was a tradition for new warriors to wear the armour from their hunt to the celebration, though Serra hadn't been able to do this as her armour had been badly charred and cut from her body by the medics (though I was happy it'd done its job and protected her from worse burns.) This armour would never see combat again, but it was wearable for today.
"Is it wrong to say I'm looking forward to everyone's reaction?" I returned, which made her chuckle.
"No. While most Jedi wouldn't admit to enjoying it, there is nothing wrong with taking enjoyment in your success." Fay replied. "Though only if such things don't lead to one growing prideful."
"Indeed. A hunt such as this deserves to be enjoyed. And it will serve as a reminder that while Mandalorians are capable warriors, against any true Jedi, they are outclassed." Dooku added and I turned to him and was taken aback to see him smiling. Even if his hand still hovered near his lightsaber, seeing the usually stoic (almost sociopathic) man smiling openly was… a touch disconcerting.
I could sense his pride through the Force – though he was doing his usual job of keeping his internal emotions under tight control – though my eyes were drawn to the small crate he was carrying under his arm. It wasn't that large, perhaps thirty centimetres cubed, and clearly wasn't hard to carry, yet when I'd asked about the crate when we'd been led into this room, both he and Fay had claimed it was a surprise that they'd reveal during the celebration.
I was thinking about probing them again about what was in it – mainly because I was bored, not because I expected them to cave in and reveal what was inside – when the doors to the room opened. I turned around to see Dorgo step into the room. Unlike almost all the other times I'd seen him, he was wearing his full armour bar the helmet and jetpack (the former of which was under his arm, and the latter of which I was unsure if he even used) with a pair of blasters strapped to his waist (with force knows how many weapons hidden elsewhere). Gauntlets were strapped to both forearms, though neither hand was wearing a glove. All in all, he looked like he was almost ready to go to war, though from what I'd observed of the people in Keldabe, that was simply the normal way of dressing. His armour was mostly grey, though the gauntlets and pauldrons were red while other places had pale green edging.
He paused a few steps into the room and lowered his head. "Master Jedi, Alor Cameron. I am here to escort you to the celebration." He lifted his head and turned ninety degrees, taking position beside the door. I frowned at being referred to as Alor (chief). I wasn't a member of any clan and Serra never mentioned this happening to her (nor did I recall anyone referring to her by such a title) until after the celebration was over.
"Thank you for the escort." Fay replied as she and Dooku stepped towards the door with me falling into step behind them. "We are ready."
Dorgo nodded and lead us out of the room. The walk to the hall was short, but as we entered through a large door, I let out a small whistle at the size of the room. For Serra's celebration, there'd been maybe a hundred and fifty people present – mainly students from the Institute – however, that hall hadn't been full.
The hall Adonai was using for my celebration was much larger – perhaps five times the size, with tables for maybe three to four times the number of people – and almost all the seats were already taken. The centre of the hall was empty, and as Dorgo led us towards the front of the hall, I noted that the central area leading from the main tables to the far wall was empty. Likely that was for the dragon's head, but the doors at the end of the hall were far too small to allow it to be brought in, so I was curious as to how that feat would be managed.
I saw a few familiar faces (mainly other trainees from the Institute) scattered around, but most of the people were new to me.
"We are honoured today as over four dozen clan leaders have journeyed here." Dorgo began with a voice louder than normal voice – so we could hear him over the din of the hall – as he led us through a row of tables and into the central aisle. "Rumours about what exactly you hunted and killed have spread across the sector. My father has used that to invite many to this celebration, though he has been unusually secretive about it."
"Understandable." Fay replied and while I couldn't see her face since she was in front of me, I could sense her amusement, and a spike in Dooku's pride, at the young man's words; and the hidden question within them. "Cameron's kill was most… dini'la."
I chuckled once at Fay's non-answer to the unasked question, and I'd be glad that soon I'd no longer have to face that question. However, I suspected that I'd be asked to regale many with how I managed to take down the dragon.
"Ah, Alor Cameron, Master Fay, Master Dooku. Good, good." Adonai called out as we neared the main tables. The noise level in the hall had dropped a touch as we'd entered, though it had still been very rowdy. Yet the moment Adonai addressed us from his seat at the high table, the noise level fell far enough that I suspected everyone could hear the duke. "Come, your seats are here."
Adonai was standing at the highest of three tables that dominated the room, and he was pointing at three seats to his right that were empty. The seat to his right was also empty but based on the fact that Dorgo's wife Sellena and Bo occupied the next two seats, it was safe to assume that was Dorgo's seat. Seated below Clan Kryze were Pre and his children, likely indicating Pre's importance and (presumed) loyalty to Adonai. Tor gave me a friendly nod as our eyes met and Pre remained impassive, yet my focus was on Naz. She didn't nod or smile, instead choosing to narrow her eyes as she saw me looking at her, meaning her anger hadn't dissipated that much (if at all.)
My brow rose as I looked to the right of the three seats reserved for myself and my masters. There Duke Torrhen and Lady Asta were seated with their children. I knew the youngest – and the one furthest down the line – was Ebbe, but the other two were newcomers. Thanks to Observe I quickly learnt that the daughter, Alys who was rather pretty, was seventeen, was curious if the stories about me were true. The eldest son and heir, Osto, was twenty-two and even sitting down, it was clear to see he was built like a bear.
The Ordo's being there was a surprise, as they were no fans of Adonai's alliance with the New Mandalorians. However, based on what Dorgo had said about nearly fifty clans being present, and having already worked out that Adonai was using this as a way to play politics, them being here did make some sense. As we reached the stairs to begin our walk up to our seats, I wondered if this was the beginning of the re-establishment of the alliance between House Ordo and House Kryze, and the severing of Adonai's alliance with the New Mandalorians in Sundari. I quickly realised that my presence here was likely the catalyst for that to have happened, and saw first-hand an example of a ripple my actions were having now – even as my mind began to ponder how this ripple would alter the events I knew happened in the canon timeline.
Sat below the Ordos were a dark-skinned family I'd never met before. I knew the man was named Baston Tyri (and that he was loyal to House Ordo) by bothering to use Observe on the man. Baston, like others in the hall I suspected, was curious about me and what I'd killed/done to earn the respect of the two dukes.
Between Vizsla and Tyri, sat Commandant Kraviss and Rangemaster Marod. Given to their location, I had to assume that they were filling in for where a loyal ally or servant of my clan (if I had one) would be seated. The lowest of the three tables held the other instructors from the Institute (along with Nia's sons), and surprisingly Drayy'ven Jral. The game hunter gave me a wink and lifted his glass as our eyes met, and while he didn't seem upset that I'd killed the dragon he'd been hunting, I was still confused as to why he was here.
Yet, as we passed the lowest of the three tables, I returned my attention to the top one. There was clearly more going on here than just my celebration, and my curiosity was growing as to what was about to happen. As the continued to climb, my mind began to run through scenarios that could happen, and plot ways to use them to help my plans for the future. Though even if there was little I could do today in that regard (beyond the reputation boost I was going to get when everyone saw what I'd killed) I would try to help Adonai and Torrhen with their plans as a strong and friendly Mandalore sector had far greater potential than the… waste that existed in The Clone Wars.
As we reached the top of the stairs, Adonai stepped out, as did Torrhen, and both shook hands with me and my masters before directing us to the empty seats. I sat between my masters with Fay next to Adonai and Dooku next to Torrhen. The latter duke sat down, letting the host, and my sponsor to the Institute and into Mandalorian culture take the floor.
"Mando'ade, today we are assembled to recognise a new warrior joining our ranks." Adonai began, a large booming smile spreading across his face. As he spoke, I let my eyes drift over the hall, wondering how they were going to get the massive skull of the dragon (there was no way they could get the whole beast in here without removing the roof and flattening dozens of tables) through the small doors.
"Just over one year ago, two young Jedi came to our sector, eager and willing to learn the ways of our people. Many considered my decision to allow them to train beside our children as foolish, ill-disciplined, and a disgrace to our heritage. However, in those two, and in particular the one we recognise today, I saw… a spark. A spark of something that reminded me of what our people had once been, of what many of you feel I have abandoned with my choices over the last few years."
"These two Jedi adiike trained with our children, listened, learnt, respected our ways, and quickly proved that while they may be Jedi, their hearts beat to the drum of a warrior. They do not shy away from battle, nor reject the ways of our people. And today, we celebrate the triumph of Cameron Shan for completing his verd'goten and recognise that armed with nothing but a single blade and his wits, slew a beast worthy of record in the annals of our people. Today we honour his success and raise a new clan into our ranks."
There was some clapping around the hall at Adonai's words, but many seemed sceptical, and I had to agree. Adonai's speech had been… theatrical and not at all fitting with what I'd heard at Serra's celebration, nor what I'd expected at my own.
"Duke Adonai, if I may." Duke Torrhen stated and after a nod from Adonai, he also stood and addressed the hall. "Mando'ade, while I am not challenging the word of Duke Adonai regarding Cameron of Clan Shan's kill, I must state that we are not raising a new clan." My brow creased so much I must've looked like I'd aged fifty years in a second. What was Torrhen on about?
"No, today we are restoring a Clan founded under the orders of Te Taylir Mand'alor." As a few gasps echoed around the hall my brow uncreased and shot into my hairline. I knew the pair were likely up to something, but linking it to Canderous Ordo… Yeah, I hadn't seen that coming. "Under his leadership, Te Taylir Mand'alor raised two new clans into our ranks. For over three thousand years both those clans have lain dormant, but from this day forward, that will change. In the name of my ancestor, I, Duke Torrhen of Clan Ordo stand and recognise the restoration of Clan Shan among the Mando'ade."
Most of those assembled roared their approval, which shocked me. Why would it matter so much more that I was restoring an old clan than creating a new one? Something told me there was more I'd have to learn about this culture to understand why that was.
Torrhen turned to me and raised his glass. Ignoring my confusion, I returned the gesture and did the same with Adonai.
"Duke Torrhen, Duke Adonai, if I may." A voice called out from those seated in other places and I turned my attention back to the hall to see that Aundars Wren had stood. "While I, like everyone here, are overjoyed to hear that an ancient clan, even one with no battle honours, has returned to the ranks of Mando'ade, there is an issue. We still have no proof of the boy's kill, nor of his claim to the bloodline."
My frown returned as he spoke. Aundars challenges seemed odd as he was an ally of Adonai's yet was openly challenging him and Torrhen. My frown broke as I realised that this was theatre, a show for the masses to cover a challenge the two dukes must've known would come. By having a loyal ally make the challenge, it probably cut off a threat of someone else challenging my kill and causing bad blood between them and the dukes. And with many in the hall nodding in agreement, it seemed that would've been the case if Aundars hadn't acted quickly (too quickly for anyone who should've been caught off-guard by Torrhen's declaration.)
"While my words carry little weight here, as I am not Mando'ade, my long-dead partner was." Fay began as she stood. "And as a Jedi Master, I can speak for the Order in saying that we have confirmed his heritage and accepted it as fact. As have the Republic Senate and the current and former Chancellors." Fays' words were soft yet carried easily over the hall. Yet, what had me confused was the faintest hint of trepidation and worry that I could sense from her. Why would she be concerned about what she'd said unless it had to do with who the Mandalorian she'd been close with had been…
"Forgive me master Jedi, but I know of no Mandalorian who has wed a Jedi." Aundars stated softly.
That sense of trepidation from Fay spiked for a moment before she responded. "That is because we were joined centuries ago, not long after the Dral'Han was carried out by the Jedi and Republic." OK, revealing that she'd been alive during that attack, would explain the concern and the few murmurs that began in the hall at its mention certainly had me thinking that was why there was a small amount of worry within her.
"Master Fay has been confirmed by her Order to be over seven hundred years old." Adonai added, which made the murmurs grow in volume. "As for who her partner was, that is a private thing. However, she has confided in myself, Duke Torrhen, and a keeper of sigils who her riduur was, and confirmed their personal sigil." Adonai pointed to an old man who sat to the far right of the hall.
The ancient man stood, which had the murmurs die off almost instantly, and gave he gave a single nod before sitting down once more. No new murmurs were heard, meaning this keeper of sigils had a position of utmost respect within their culture.
Aundars bowed his head. "Then I remove my concern about the boy's heritage. However, my concerns about his kill still stand."
Even as this set off a new round of whispers and hushed tones, my eyes widened as I saw the far wall begin to lower. It took me a few seconds to realise that this was a design feature and that it was how they planned to reveal my kill to the room (and the space that I could see behind the horns of the dragon suggested it could also be used to expand the size of the room for even larger gatherings.
"Then to you, and to all I present the kill of Cameron of Clan Shan: The greater krayt dragon of Tatooine!" Adonai voice rose to a roar as he extended an arm to point to the now-lowered far wall.
As I locked eyes with the beast that had almost killed me, a small shiver shot through me, though I quickly beat it away. The beast was dead (a point proven by the missing eye where I'd driven my blade into its brain) and was no longer a threat. Yet, even dead and with just the head now present, it was still an imposing sight. The repulsor-lift that was carrying it was being pushed by (at least three people) and even to the top of the skull, it was taller than any man present; to say nothing of the crest-horns, which reached so high that they scraped against the lights suspended from the roof high above the hall.
"Osik!" I heard someone mutter, and while I agreed with the sentiment, my focus was on the skull; specifically, its one remaining eye. Seeing the missing eye was reassuring, but I still felt a shiver go up my spine as the remaining eye seemed to lock onto me. I knew it was dead, but seeing it again resulted in the memory replaying in my mind, releasing all the fear and panic back into me.
A hand came to rest on my shoulder, and I felt a warm sensation flood through me. Slowly, with more effort than normal, I turned my head and smiled at Fay. She smiled back before removing her hand, mere moments before Adonai resumed his speech to the now deathly silent room.
"Traditionally, we would have our newest Mando'ade detail their hunt for you, let you reveal in their retelling of the hunt. However, with a hunt this impressive, I doubt simple word of mouth would suffice. Therefore, another option has been arranged." The volume of Adonai's words had fallen – since there was little need to shout over the hall to be heard – but they carried to everyone. "From the recordings starting on my personal cruiser, the Cin Vhetin, I give you the battle of the dragon versus Mando'ade from my perspective."
The lights dimmed and a large, circular, holographic display appeared (with the dragon's head being inside the screen so as to not disrupt anyone's sight) with the screen flickering to life at the moment I would forever remember. The moment when I'd come face to face with the apex predator of Tatooine.
From the recording, I saw a chunk of the sarlacc the dragon had ripped off just before this and idly wondered if that monster had survived the injury. It'd lost its main stalk but –
- -RROOOOAAARRRRRR- -
My thoughts about the sarlacc were cut off as the dragon roared. My hand shot to where I knew my lightsaber was hanging, finding comfort in the familiar ridges of the hilt, as the entire hall seemed to shake from the intensity of the challenge the dragon had sent at me.
The curse came from a female voice to my left, and the recording of me began to run, I suspected many others in the hall shared the sentiment. For me though, it was worse, as seeing how massive the dragon was compared to myself, and how easily it stayed close to my recorded self, had my mind travelling back to that day, reliving the chase.
As the recording of me stumbled, I felt a hand come to rest on mine and I looked down to see that Fay had been the one to do so. A glance at my hand let me see my knuckles had turned white as I gripped the table in a death grip.
Even though I knew the overall chase had only lasted about ten minutes, watching it begin all over again seemed to take forever, and as the recording of me stumbled and fell to my knees, I felt my terror spike.
As the dragon swiped at me with its massive tail, I heard someone whisper out "How…" Likely they were shocked that I'd avoided being skewered by the massive tail of the beast. My hand not being held by Fay moved towards my lightsaber, though I stopped the movement once I realised I was doing it.
A few minutes (that felt like hours) later, gasps echoed around the hall as I stumbled out of the canyon and into the dune sea. Those gasps were likely from people who knew enough about the predator and planet to understand I'd just stumbled into its natural habitat. The number and volume of the gasps grew as the dragon's tail swatted me out into the dunes.
For the first time since the recording had begun, something other than fear flowed through me, and a small smirk crept onto my face as, even as I saw myself fly through the air then smash through a dune, the dragon pulled its tail back and looked at; reacting to the fact my beskar knife had managed to hurt it.
After recovering from the shock of my wild attack irritating its tail (no way it did any real damage), the dragon dove into the sand, disappearing from sight. Or at least it would've if not for the fact the recording was able to track it based on the movement of the sand as it swam beneath the dunes. Murmurs broke out around the room, likely due to people wondering how I managed to take down the beast in its preferred environment.
Though what caught my attention, was that as the chase had continued, the picture had grown steadily clearer, with the smaller details of myself and the dragon coming into focus. That meant the cruiser had been descending the entire time the chase had been happening, but I'd neither heard nor seen it as my focus had (rightfully so) been entirely on surviving or escaping the monster.
A hum of anticipation seemed to vibrate around the hall as the dragon turned towards me, then erupted in a cheer as, at what looked to be the last second, I dove to the side. Seeing how close I'd been to losing a leg to those massive teeth sent a shiver through my body. I heard a faint scratching but kept my focus on the recording. I needed to see this again, to know that I'd made it through and process the unbelievable amount of panic I'd felt during the chase and fight. I hadn't focused on it the time as that was what got you killed, but now, sitting here reliving it, I was forced to confront how terrified I'd been.
Another roar erupted around the hall as I once more dove out of the way of the monster's massive maw, then an even louder one as I was able to slash one of the dragon's paws during its third attack. Though the third roar of approval died quickly my recorded self was knocked away by the force of the dragon's momentum and struck the sand hard, losing my grip on my knife.
I could feel their building anticipation as the recording of me scrambled towards the cliffs. Even without the Force letting me sense their emotions, the slowly growing tension was easy to see. For a brief moment, I felt a wave of anger surge through me as I realised that everyone here was enjoying seeing me almost die, but I pushed it away as it was an entirely natural way to behave, at least for those used to fighting. And of course, because the dragon chose that moment to rear back and stand over the recording of me.
A deathly silence fell over the hall as it became obvious just how much more massive the dragon was in comparison to me – not like there was any ever doubt of that. Seeing the thing stand up so high that, for a moment, the cruiser's cameras couldn't seem me, made it clear just how minuscule I was compared to the mighty beast.
Somewhere in the hall, something fell from a table, but no one reacted. Everyone's attention was transfixed on the recording as I shared a face-off with the dragon of Tatooine.
"Me'shab?" I heard Bo mutter (or at least I thought it was Bo), and even though I knew what was about to happen, I had to agree. Seeing a massive dragon pause and look down at prey no bigger than one of its claws definitely was a 'what the fuck' moment.
Almost as one, everyone inhaled as the dragon's head dove towards the recording of me then watched in morbid silence as I leapt. As the recording of me seemed to kick the dragon's nose (more by accident than on purpose, but I doubted anyone cared) a rumble began to build in the room.
As I desperately grabbed onto one of the crest horns (my eyes briefly darted to said horn on the head below, confirming to myself once more that the dragon was dead) the rumble drew steadily louder.
- -RROOOOAAARRRRRR- -
Once more the roar of the dragon echoed around the room, though unlike the times during the chase, it wasn't muted. The plates, cutlery, and goblets on the table I was at visibly rattled at the power and volume of the dragon's roar and I swore I saw several Mandalorians cringe or lift their hands towards their head. Yet none of their eyes left the recording. Everyone one of them probably could sense the end was near.
And they were proven right as, when the roar ended and the dragon fell forward, the recording of me swung around and drove the knife into the dragon's eye.
A brief muted cheer when up at that, though it died the instant the dragon recoiled and roared out in pain. Though the moment I pulled back and drove my arm in once more, this time sinking in up to my arm, the cheer returned; louder than before.
The cheer of the hall was drowned out as I was flung clear of the dragon, and it threw its head back and roared to the heavens in pain. Watching myself bounce off and over the dunes was hard to do as it brought back phantom pain surges where I'd struck the sand.
The final roar of the dragon seemed to transfix the hall as I could barely tell if anyone had breathed, never mind moved. All were watching in trepidation to see if this was the moment the beast fell.
As the dragon's final, pained roar died, and it fell to the sand, silence fell over the hall, yet the moment the recording of me stood, a rhythmic banging began. Around the hall, slowly at first, then louder as more joined in, Mandalorians of various colours, genders and species began to slam their fists and stomp their boots in a pattern that I instinctively knew was a type of war cry.
As the recording of me turned from looking towards where the dragon to the sky, then roared (I still wasn't sure if that was more in relief, disbelief or as a challenge to the galaxy) the hall roared along with me.
"Taung sa rang broka Mando'ade ka'rta. Dha Werda Verda a'den tratu, Manda'yaim kandosii adu. Duum motir ca'tra nau tracinya. Gra'tua cuun hett su dralshy'a."
Chanting filled the room as the plates, cutlery and goblets began to bounce from the noise the warriors in the hall were making, and I saw a few empty chairs also bounce around.
"Kom'rk tsad droten troch nyn ures adenn. Dha Werda Verda a'den tratu, Manda'yaim kandosii adu. Duum motir ca'tra nau tracinya. Gra'tua cuun hett su dralshy'a."
For over a minute, the hall was full of the chant as the warriors assembled sang their hearts out. My eyes once more found the remaining eye of the dragon, letting the energy of the room wash over me, and push the last vestiges of residual fear I'd felt from the chase. Reliving that had been more terrifying than the actual fight, but now that it was over, and I had faced that hidden fear, I felt better. In my old life, I'd never enjoyed hunting – likely because my work involved me killing people for a living – but here and now, I felt understood why people did; at least those who hunted something that had a fair (or in my case, insane) chance to kill you instead.
The swelling pride I felt at having faced off against a beast that could've, and should've, killed me and not only survived but won… Words failed to do justice to how amazing that felt.
The chanting began to die down as a loud bang came from my left and I brought my attention back to the hall and turned to see that Adonai had stood. While there was a clear smile on his face, his focus was on trying (rather unsuccessfully) on gained the attention of everyone present and getting them to quiet down.
It took a few minutes from when Adonai had first banged his goblet on the table before the chanting and general volume in the hall dropped to a level where the duke felt comfortable talking.
"Count Aundars, I hope this allays your concerns regarding the kill?" Adonai asked, drawing chuckles from many in the hall, including Aundars himself as I saw a large smile on his face as he stood.
"Aye Duke Adonai." He paused and looked at me directly. "On behalf of myself and my clan, I apologise for doubting your kill, and offer my congratulations." He raised his goblet. "Cameron Shan!"
As one, the whole hall rose, goblets, glasses, and mugs in hand.
"CAM-RON! CAM-RON! CAM-RON! CAM-RON!"
I couldn't stop a large smile from breaking out on my face, though I admittedly didn't try too hard. Being accepted by warriors, being made one of them… My thoughts drifted back to my old life, my old team and for the first time since my rebirth, I finally felt like I was somewhere I belonged.
The chanting seemed to die down for a moment, only to be replaced by a more general roar. I frowned in confusion until Adonai tapped my shoulder and I turned. He pointed behind me and I rotated enough to see what was there.
Two banners had unfurled behind me. The right one was the same image of the Star Forge that I'd used during the trial fight, however it was the left one that drew my attention. That one was of a black dragon's skull; specifically, the dragon I'd killed on Tatooine. The eye that I'd pierced was coloured purple, while there was a red slash over it – signifying how I'd kill the beast much like the blade into the head of the spark-dragon on Serra's sigil signifying where she'd killed that dragon – while the teeth were dark crimson.
Thanks to my time on Mandalore, I understood what all the colouring meant. Black signified justice and a sense of personal honour, red to honour a parent, purple to signify luck – which, even if there was no such thing where the Force was concerned, I'd seemed to have on my side to take down the dragon – and crimson for defiance. All in all, the colours made sense and a broad grin spread over my face as I looked at the banner.
"A worthy sigil." Dooku commented from beyond Fay. "Though I do not expect the High Council to care for the colour choices."
I chuckled at that, as black and red were seen by the Jedi as colours of the Sith. "Indeed."
As I turned back from seeing my new sigil (and getting confirmation that the Star Forge was going to stay as Clan Shan's sigil) I noticed that the cheering had died down, many of the tables were talking among themselves, or to a nearby table; often while gesturing at the massive head that dominated the room.
Adonai lifted a blade and tapped his goblet with it. Once he'd regained their attention, he continued.
"With nothing but a blade, this blade," he lifted the knife high above his head as he spoke, "Cameron of Clan Shan took down a beast of great renown. To mark this feat of incredible courage, I've had the blade reforged to a weapon worthy of such a feat while the hilt is now made of one of the great teeth of the dragon."
He held the knife which now seemed as thin as a hair, though I doubted that mattered because it was beskar, it had been lengthened into something resembling more of a short sword, gently curved and darkened to almost black, its simple guard had four downward-facing spikes that looked like they could do real damage, I suspected the High Council would have issues with them, along with the entire blade in general.
"To honour this achievement, I present this altered weapon to him." He continued as he turned to me and indicated for me to stand. "May it bring you glory in the battles to come." He stated as he passed it to me.
Slowly, almost reverently, I took the blade by the offered hilt. The spikes on the hilt weren't made of beskar – at least they didn't have the distinctive ripple effect I'd come to associate with the metal – but they looked sharp enough to do some real damage. The hilt was smooth, yet seemed to fit easily in my hand (or as easily as it could given that I was still too small to grasp it properly).
As I turned it over in my hand, I saw that where the hilt met the blade – which I now realised was a giant fang from my kill – there was a small engraving of my new sigil, which made me smile. While it could never compare to the necklace from Fay and Dooku, nor the bond I felt with my lightsaber, this blade instantly became one of my most treasured possessions.
"Vor entye, Alor Adonai." I said quietly as I twisted the blade around for show before placing it down on the table. I considered sliding it into my belt, but that would make sitting down a challenge. Plus, if it was as sharp as it looked, then it'd likely slice through my belt without any effort.
"A weapon such as that needs a sheath equal to it." I turned at Torrhen's voice and saw he had stood. He reached down and pulled a leather object from under the table. "One made from the hardened skin of your kill. Capable of resisting both blaster fire and lightsaber strikes." He explained as he passed the sheath to Dooku who turned and then passed it to me.
I picked up the blade, and carefully slid it into the sheath – which shimmered dark grey in the low light with my new sigil near the top. The blade slid in easily, showing that they were meant to be together; much like they were meant to be with me.
"Vor entye, Alor Torrhen." I said loud enough for all to hear as I placed the now sheathed blade on the table.
Torrhen gave me a nod in reply as his wife then stood. "Nearly four thousand years ago, our ancestor, Canderous Ordo, Te Taylir Mand'alor, stood as an ally and friend of your ancestor, Naast be Me'suum. The Jedi and Sith Lord known simply as Revan. Today, we wish to restore that alliance."
As she spoke her eldest son, Osto, stood and took a step back from the table. I had to crane my neck upwards to look at the young man. He was very broad and with the braids in his hair, he honestly reminded me of a Viking.
"We understand that you are a Jedi, much as Revan once was, but to mark the restoration of this alliance between our Clans, we offer you a gift." Asta continued as Osto lifted a small bag from behind his chair then moved to towards me. From the bag he pulled out a dark grey cloth that, like the sheath, had been cut from the dragon's skin.
"Made from the hide of your kill and modelled on the style worn by Jedi during the time of Naast be Me'suum, we present you with this cloak." Asta stated as Osto handed me the cloak. As I held it, I noted that it was a touch darker than the sheath, but the leather felt surprisingly smooth as it shimmered while my fingers gently slid over it. There was a faint scaled pattern to the cloak and I wondered if that was a natural feature of the dragon's skin (I had no interest in reliving my memories to confirm that) or if it was an effect added in by the tanners. "Like the dragon itself, this cloak will protect you from blaster bolts and lightsaber strikes, though they are no substitute for true armour." Asta continued, drawing a chuckle from many in the hall, myself included. "And once you are old enough for the Jedi to allow you to wear robes, we would be honoured to commission them made from the same material.
I smiled at both her and her son. "I thank you for the gift and would be honoured to accept an alliance between our clans. However, I am a Jedi and my responsibilities to the Order, and my masters, are my current priorities." I said slowly hoping that I had avoided insulting them with how I'd worded my reply.
I suspected that there would come a day when I'd leave the Order, but for now, my path was with them. A large chunk of the Order was… less than keen on my continued training as a Jedi, nor on allowing me the freedom to roam the galaxy. While the same could be said of the Mandalorians concerning my training and cultural assimilation – particularly when I'd arrived on-planet over a year ago – they had done more in the last year to truly make me feel like a part of their society than the Jedi– bar a few members – had done in five.
"We understand and had expected this Alor Cameron." Torrhen replied with a smile as Osto returned to his family. "However, know that should the moment ever arise where you require help, House Ordo will stand by your side."
"Then with my master's permission to serve as an acceptance from the Jedi Order, I happily agree to the offer of an alliance. I promise that if the time comes where you are in need, I will do what I can to help." A cheer broke out at hearing that, and I and the Ordo's sat down.
"Alor Cameron." Putting aside my discomfort with being referred to as a clan chief when I was the only member of said clan, I turned at hearing my name come from the Kryze side of the table and saw that Dorgo had stood and was now looking at me. "In recognition of your hunt, and in the hopes of seeking an alliance between our two clans, Clan Kryze would also like to offer you a gift." He explained as Bo stood and walked towards me, a small box in her hands. "We present to you vambraces made of beskar. Though, in keeping with your other role as a member of the Jedi, we have taken the liberty to remove all but the defensive and non-lethal options standard to such devices."
Bo opened the box which contained two vambraces. I picked one up and turned it over slowly in my hands. Similar to the cloak that Ordo had given me, they looked a little large, but that would leave me room to grow into them, and just above the display was my personal sigil. A quick check of the visible options, and the interface confirmed that the vambrace only had options such as a grappling hook or shield generator. There wasn't the flamethrower or combat blaster that was common of vambraces (unfortunately), though there were slots in the design, and options in the menu, to allow the vambraces to be customized further at a later time.
I placed the vambrace back with its partner, smiled and Bo and took the box from her before returning my attention to Dorgo. "I thank you for the gift, Heir Dorgo and accept the offer of alliance under the same conditions I explained to Alor Torrhen."
Dorgo's smiled and gave me a nod. "Of course."
That set off another round of cheering in the hall, and after waiting a few moments to ensure that no one else was going to spring a surprise alliance on me, I sat down.
[Gifts such as these are not normal for a new warrior.] Fay said to me telepathically to ensure none of the Mandalorians would hear. [An making allies of two of the most powerful clans will have repercussions; both here and back on Coruscant. However, the choice is yours and we will respect it.]
[Indeed. Though I am hesitant to allow you to keep the blade until I am sure you can wield it properly.] Dooku added and I turned enough to see that a rare smile had crept onto his face as he lifted the crate he'd brought onto the table [While I know you can fight with a knife, a blade such as that is not to be twirled around indiscriminately.] he continued, indicating my sheathed blade with a tilt of his head.
[I am aware of the repercussions, masters. However, I suspect the two dukes have used me as a way to subtly re-establish their own alliance. While they do seem to genuinely respect me, and carry my great-grandfather in high regard, if only one had allied with me, it would've run the risk of destabilising their dynamic. By having both ally with my clan of one, they removed that issue, offer me some protection from others who might try to target me as a single member clan, and a Jedi, and gain a backdoor to begin restoring their own alliance.]
While that was all conjecture on my part, they were the only reasons I could come up with on the spot as to why both dukes had allied with me.
Feeling brave, I also added a shot to Dooku. [At least now I have an excuse to start practising Jar'kai more since the sizes are similar.]
Dooku's brow rose in disdain, yet the corner of his lip tugged upwards. [We shall see.]
"If I may have your attention." Adonai called out as he stood once more, cutting off any further comment on my theory from my masters. "With the honouring of our new warrior, and the establishment of alliances now concluded, it is now time for the feast."
At this, various side doors opened, and several dozen repulsor-carts were pushed in. The smell of grilled meat quickly filled the air, making many (myself included) salivate at the chance to enjoy a dragon steak. With krayt dragons being such dangerous beasts, eating a steak from one was considered a rare delicacy; to say nothing of the fact this was steak from the greater krayt dragon.
As one of the carts floated up towards my table, I idly wondered just what had happened to the pearls (there had to be more than one from a beast that size), and where they were being stored. I had no fear about Adonai trying to take them as it would be a gross violation of honour and shatter our newly formed alliance, but I was still curious as to where they were being stored.
Once everyone at the main table had a steak in front of them, Adonai turned to me. "AlorCameron, if you would do the honours."
Realising what he was referring to, a large smile broke out on my face. As I stood, I carefully unsheathed my new blade and sliced off a large chunk of my steak. The blade sliced through the meat incredibly easily; far better than any bladed weapon I'd used before, and I began to understand why Dooku was insistent on me learning to use it properly before allowing me to carry it with me.
Stabbing the slice I'd cut with the blade, I lifted it to my mouth and happily ripped a chunk off with my teeth.
A loud cheer went up as I did so, but my focus was entirely on enjoying the taste of the dragon. I could remember tasting juicier and sweeter steaks before, but the sheer satisfaction that came from dining on the very beast that had almost killed me meant that no meal would ever come close to beating this.
After chewing and savouring the taste, I swallowed the bite. Raising my blade above my head, the steak sliding down it as gravity and the incredible sharpness of the blade worked to further cut it, I smiled out at the crowd.
That set off everyone else, and as I brought my blade back down to take a second bite, knives flew into the steaks.
While I would forever hate the fact that I'd come close to death fighting the dragon and had a newfound understanding of why Anakin hated sand, I would savour this day and everything that had led up to it, for the rest of my life.
The ash of the Taung beats strong within the Mandalorians' heart.
We are the rage of The Warriors of the Shadow,
The first noble sons of Mandalore.
Let all those who stand before us light the night sky in flame.
Our vengeance burns brighter still.
The gauntlet of Mandalore strikes without mercy.
We are the rage of The Warriors of the Shadow,
The first noble sons of Mandalore.
Let all those who stand before us light the night sky in flame.
Our vengeance burns brighter still.
To be very clear, there will be no lemons/smut in this story, and Cam won't pursue a relationship until he's at least 17/18.
And to any who complain about Cam being considered an adult by the Mandos, their society isn't ours. Don't judge them by our standards.
Still, I hoped all enjoyed the chapter, and until next time.
May the Force be with you. Always.