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(L,F&E 77) Points of View


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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 08:32 AM | #1
Istara Sharlina Andal felt a bit out of sorts. She wasn’t uncomfortable, not really. Ashla sang in her veins and she knew her strengths and weaknesses better than most. No, what bothered her was what she was doing at this very moment. She was walking onto a ship filled with Mandalorians. So far, she had passed two dozen fully armed and armored forms, all bristling with the readiness to fight. She could barely think for all the danger that crowded the atmosphere. The Bladeborn’s new Grandmaster shook her head slowly and spoke to her companion.

"Just to ask..." The Bladeborn’s voice was pitched to carry only to the ears of the armored woman walking beside her. “Are you sure I don’t have any open bounties on me at the moment?”

Trava Kalan, one of the Elders of the Mandalorian colony of Nova Ordo, snickered a bit. “Relax, Istara. If they were going to kill us, we would be dead.”

Istara sighed dramatically and shook her helmeted head. She was wearing her usual silver armor. She had attracted more than few glances, both curious and covetous. Her armor was not Bladeborn armor, not Sith armor, and certainly not Mandalorian armor. Many of the Mandos were looking at her, and their senses in the Force were speculative. “Oh that is so comforting, Trava.” She paused. “Do you?” She asked carefully.

"Actually yes." The Mandalorian woman in gray armor shrugged. “A bit of this, a bit of that. Mandalore has called for my presence, so I am safe until I speak to him. No one wants to cross him, with good reason. After? We shall see.”

Istara shook her head at the fatalism in the older woman’s voice. Trava Kalan was a downright dangerous woman. Tough, capable and forged in fires that would have destroyed lesser women, the Mandalorian Elder was one of the few beings that Istara could truly say she respected unreservedly. Istara didn’t always trust the Mandalorian -that would have been foolhardy- but she respected Trava and liked her. “I take it this kind of thing does not happen often.” She asked after they passed yet another strong point packed with soldiers who eyed them both warily.

"Nope." Trava shook her head. “Not many people actually question the Mandalore’s orders. Fewer ignore them. Not that we have, but he doesn’t know that. Likely he doesn’t care. He probably just wants to know why our clan has been acting the way it has.”

"Right." Istara blinked and spoke softly again. “Uh… And you are going to tell him… What?”

"Me?" Trava shrugged and her voice was as impassive as her armored visor. “The truth.”

"Oh." Istara looked at her friend and shook her head. “And this will go over well?”

"Go over well?" Trava snorted, a darkly humorous sound. “I doubt it. The good news is that you are in no danger unless you bring it on yourself. Or unless some young fool… Osik…” She cursed softly as a form in red armor barred their way.

Istara looked the Mandalorian over and shook her head slightly. The young make was obviously psyching himself up to do something. Probably planning to try his luck against her. Istara’s voice was soft when she spoke, but the temperature in the corridor seemed to plummet. “I wouldn’t.”

The red armored form laughed at her. “Should I be afraid of you, darjettii?” Whatever he might have expected, he could not have expected Istara to laugh in return. Trava was chuckling softly as well, but let Istara answer. It took a moment for Istara to stop laughing. And she was not laughing sarcastically, or bitterly. No, she was laughing with honest to the Force amusement. The red armored Mando seemed to freeze momentarily and Trava looked at Istara who shrugged.

"Yes you should, actually." Istara was still chuckling as she stepped forward. When she spoke it was humorous but lecturing. “Fear is a normal thing for anything mortal, Mandalorian. Everything that lives feels fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of, even for warriors. Without fear, how would we know what courage was? It is what you do with that fear that makes you strong or weak. Do you control it, or does it control you?”

The boy, because that was what he had to be, snarled at her. “You know nothing, aruetiise..” He broke off as Trava coughed loudly.

"You are going to die young." The Elder of Clan Ordo shook her head. “Beware boy. You insult a descendant of Kiana Luko.”

Whatever Istara might have expected, the hush that swept from all the armored forms that had surrounded them now was not it. The red armored Mandaloran snarled. “I don’t care if she is a descendant of the Sith Emperor, she has no business here among our vod…”

He broke off as a large hand grabbed him from behind and his armor made a ringing sound as it impacted the floor. He looked up and froze in seeing several blaster rifles pointed at him. One of the figures that ringed the two armored females now spoke.

“Some of us do remember.” The Mando said coldly.

Istara inclined her head to the speaker. “Thank you.”

The Mando who had spoken snorted in ironic humor. “We just don’t want to clean up the mess you would leave, Istara Sharlina Andal.”

Istara looked at the speaker. It was a Mandalorian female in light gray armor. “Have we met?”

"No." The woman shook her head. “But I have seen you in action. I was actually hunting you before the bounty was called off. It would have been an honor to kill you.”

Istara bowed formally. “It would have been an honor to fight you. But duty comes first.”

The female nodded and there was smile in her voice as she turned to go. “Don’t keep Mandalore waiting.” Then she was gone and the group broke up, most of the Mandos seemed amused by the scene. The red armored one on the floor was sputtering but everyone ignored him.

Istara started off again, Trava at her side. After a moment, Istara spoke. “Who was that? Her sense in Ashla was… odd.” The woman had resounded with danger and competence. But at the same time, there had been something else, something that Istara hadn’t been able to identify. A softness? No, it hadn’t been a weakness. Whatever it had been, it had been ephemeral, hard to see, let alone describe. She put it out of her mind, it wasn’t important.

Trava sighed quietly but kept pace with the Bladeborn. “That was Shae Visla, Istara. You do attract some high powered eyes, don’t you? Just try not to tick her off please, it would get so messy…”

"Well..." Istara shrugged, as if it were every day that she met one of the most infamous bounty hunters in the galaxy. “I will try, but I won’t back down either.”

Trava laughed out loud at that, drawing more than one eyeslit their way. “Istara, you are genetically incapable of backing down. Ah, what a Mandalorian you would have made. Pity the Bladeborn found you first.” The two women were chuckling softly as they made their way deeper into the rancor’s den, towards the lair of the Mandalore.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 08:39 AM | #2
As the two women walked, the tension level ramped up around them. This was a big ship, Istara wasn’t sure how big, but it was big. In typical Mandalorian style, it was not stylish, it was functional. And she didn’t need to be a pilot or naval type to understand exactly how many guns they had seen through various viewports as they walked. The rest of the ship seemed a little shoddy to Istara’s inexpert eyes, but the guns and other battle systems were in fine shape.

"Okay." Istara blew out a breath and spoke quietly as they walked. “Anything I should know or do?” It wasn’t every day that one met the leader of the Mandalorians after all.

"Nah." Trava shook her head. “Just be yourself. Try not to pick a fight with him though. He might take you up on it, and then, no matter who wins the fight, we lose. My clan will lose. I don’t want that. I came here to try and keep from getting them all killed.”

Istara shook her head slowly. “Right. That it?” She nodded towards a door they were approaching. The four guards at the door wore regular Mandalorian armor. But all were heavily armed and were eyeing the two women warily.

Trava nodded. “That’s it. You ready?” She asked quietly as they approached the door. Istara nodded silently and the two women walked forward only to pause as the four guards lowered their weapons into firing position. Trava’s voice was soft. “Is there a problem?”

One of the guards spoke sourly. “Mandalore has no time for traitors. Get lost aruetiise. Both of you.”

"I see..." Istara felt the shock that emanated from Trava, although it was not evident in her posture or words when she spoke evenly. “You are making a mistake. I was asked to come here, to explain my clan’s actions. I know that some of you…” She nodded to the four guards. “…don’t care about orders, circumstances, or anything else besides getting to kill as many people as you can. But I was ‘ordered’ to speak to Mandalore, so I will.”

"Get lost." The guard snorted. “Go away, and take your tame darjettii with you.”

Istara bristled at the insult, but stayed where she was as Trava moved forward a half step. The Elder’s voice was soft, silky and very, very cold. “So, you would deny me my right to audience. I see. How much did the Empire pay you to sell out your vode?”

At that all four of the guards froze. The spokesperson snarled at Trava. “Get lost, ordinii. And expect obliteration soon.”

"No." Trava sighed and shook her helmeted head slowly. “I think not.”

The male Mando laughed. “Well, then, I guess we get paid for your heads.” He swung his blaster into firing position only to freeze as the distinctive snap hiss of lightsabers igniting silenced everything in the corridor.

"Right." Two silver blades hung negligently from Istara’s hands. All eyes were on her now and she spoke slowly and carefully. “Let me make something perfectly clear, Mandalorian. You threaten my friend. I do not fight for money, I do not fight because of addiction, I do not fight because someone has blackmail material over me.” Three of the guards shivered a bit in turn as Istara spoke as if she were speaking to each one separately. “And I certainly do not fight because my idiot son decided to try and prove himself against a foe far beyond his abilities. I fight when I must, how I must. If you attack my friend, you and your allies will die here. You will not stop us, all it will cost us is time.”

The Mando snarled at her. “You are not invincible darjettii…” He broke off and choked a bit. All the blasters aimed at Istara now, and she just stood there, a small smile visible though her helmet visor.

“Ashla is great for grabbing things, including private parts.” Istara’s voice was hard now. “Bring it, fools. I am sick of being nice to people like you.” Her blades were in a ready position now. No one moved, it was uncertain if any of the Mandos or Istara were breathing.

Everything stopped as Trava coughed, breaking the stillness. “For the record, ordinii…” Trava said slowly. “Istara could have killed that moron. She chose not to. Is that weakness? Maybe. But… You want my head? Come take it.” She lowered her hands to her sides and bowed her head. “And then you can explain to Mandalore why I was not able to answer his questions.”

The Mando managed to get his breath back. “We will tell him you attacked us. He is already displeased with you. He will believe us.”

"Oh?" Istara smiled a little. Only an idiot would have called it a friendly smile. “Will he?”

The Mando readied his weapon, but then froze as another voice spoke. “Indeed. Will I?”

Istara did not move as another Mandalorian appeared. This one had his helmet off, but his face... Even without the golden armor, Istara would have known who this being was instantly. His sense in the Force was hard, tough and capable. As hard, tough and capable as regular Mandalorians were, this man was more so, and there was something more about him, a charisma that Istara could not help but admire a bit. His scarred face scrutinized her and Trava and then he turned his gaze back to the four guards who stood frozen.

Istara inclined her head in formal greeting, neither subservient nor disrespectful. “Mandalore.”

The being who led the Mandalorian clans nodded back to Istara, and his voice held just a hint of humor now. “Istara Sharlina Andal, your infamy precedes you. You can put your blades away, these are leaving.” All four guards lowered their blasters.

Istara waited until the blasters were not pointing at her before extinguishing her blades and putting then back where they belonged. Using lightsabers felt wrong to her, she never had liked using them. They were efficient, but… They just felt wrong to her. All four of the guards walked away, their stances worried.

Mandalore looked at Trava and then focused on Istara. “You could have killed them. You could have killed that idiot Stephanus. Why didn’t you?”

"Yes I could have. But..." Istara shrugged and her voice was measured. “Didn’t want to make a mess on your decks. I am a guest after all, right? Wouldn’t be polite.”

Mandalore laughed heartily at that. “Ah, you Bladeborn. Always the polite sorts until someone ticks you off. I like you, woman. Thank you for not fouling my decks.” He sobered as he turned to Trava. “Elder Kalan.” Trava nodded to him. “Come in, I was expecting you. But even leaders of empires have to answer the call of nature.” Istara smiled a little and Mandalore looked at her. “Bladeborn?”

Istara shook herself and relaxed. “I was just thinking how unheroic and unglorious it would be to tell some enemy that you need a break in the middle of a fight to use the refresher.”

Mandalore snorted. “I was warned about your sense of humor.” He led the way into another room. It was not what Istara had expected. Instead of a throne room with courtiers and retainers all around, this room was bare and empty.

"Ah..." Istara’s eyes narrowed as she saw a three chairs. None within reach of the others. She paused and shook her head. “No offense, Mandalore, but I don’t trust other people’s chairs. The floor works well for me.”

Mandalore smiled, but there was no humor in it. “Me too. You and I are somewhat alike, are we not? Weapons forged to fight and kill.” Istara nodded.

"Yes." The Baldeborn’s voice was soft, but clear as she knelt in formal pose on the floor near the middle of the room. “I was forged by the Bladeborn and you were forged by the arenas. We are the sum of our experiences, good and bad.” Istara froze as Trava sat in one of the chairs and an audible click sounded. “Trava…”

"Be at ease Istara." Trava sighed and spoke evenly. “I know. If Mandalore chooses my death, I am dead. I knew it was wired when I sat, but I am Manda. I did not come here to fight, Istara. I came here to speak my case and to have Mandalore choose life or death for my clan.”

Mandalore’s words were soft and respectful as he looked from Istara to Trava and back. “Oya Manda. Speak, vod. Why have you ignored the call? Why have you sided with our enemies?”

Trava reached up and undid her helmet. She set it down in her lap and spoke softly. “This may take some time, Mandalore.”

Mandalore smiled a bit sourly. “I cleared my schedule.”

Istara chuckled but did not move as Trava nodded. “Our colony was set up by Mandalore the Preserver, 300 years ago. When he did, he ordered us to stay hidden. This has grated on many of us.” Mandalore nodded, but did not interrupt. “We did. We obeyed our commands. Until a rather special individual dropped into our laps. Will Kalenath is not a normal soldier by anyone’s reckoning.”

Mandalore stiffened slightly at that name. Trava nodded and continued. “It was a bit… difficult… keeping him imprisoned.”

Istara chuckled. “Yep, you could say that. How many times has he escaped from jails and prisons?”

Trava smiled but continued. “Yes, he… He is Mandokarla, Mandalore. He is Mando. Even if he does not wear the armor, or answer the call, he is Mando, a perfect weapon honed, trained and ready to fight or kill.” Mandalore looked at her, his face impassive, and she sighed. “It was self preservation. We didn’t want any other clan to get him. So we adopted him.”

"I don't believe it." Mandalore shook his head slowly. “You…adopted… one of the most wanted men in the galaxy?”

"Well..." Trava sighed in memory. “It …wasn’t quite that easy…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 08:47 AM | #3
<Nine years pervious, Mandalorian colony Nova Ordo>

“…that… man…” The green armored Mandalorian medic was cursing in at least four languages as he strode from the area the clan had set up as a prison. As prisons went, it was fairly comfortable. But it was still a prison, with guards and all.

The gray armored Elder shook her head and spoke softly. “Still the same, huh E’hn?”

The Mando hawked and likely would have spat, except he was wearing a buy’ce and it wouldn’t have had anywhere to go inside the helmet. “He is refusing treatment, Elder. Idiot can barely sit up and he tried to slug me.”

Trava Kalan, Elder and leader of part of this madhouse called Nova Ordo ,shook her head again. “Does he have a death wish? The man can barely move without vomiting and he is attacking people trying to help him? Attacking the guards I can see, but…” She sighed. “How hard did you hit him?”

"I wanted to really hurt him." E’hn, one of the few medical professionals the colony boasted, shrugged. “Hard enough. He will be out for while. Are we getting anywhere with the Wookiee?”

"No." Trava shook her head again, and this time her voice was sour. “This doesn’t make any sense. Why won’t they talk to us? We are not enemies.”

Another voice answered her. “They don’t know that, Elder.” Trava turned to see one of her friends approach from nearby. Olia Ordo was an older woman, but still fit and strong. Her son, as always, was right behind her, a quiet and deadly blue shadow. Trava’s eyes flicked to the boy and then away. It was none of her business how that family managed things, as long as they did. If they killed each other, well… She looked at the red armored woman and inclined her head for Olia to continue. After a moment, the woman did. “I did some checking, Trava… There was nothing on his ship of a personal nature. Weapons, rations, spare parts. Nothing else. No mementos, no nothing. No dirty magazines! How often do men fly around in a heavily armed smuggler type freighter with no dirty magazines? That ship is sterile, Trava. Someone set it up that way in case it had to be abandoned. He, or the Wookiee, wiped the nav data, so we have no idea where the flarg he came from. Trava… Something does not add up here. Something is wrong.”

"I agree." Trava shook her head slowly. “Should we try harsher methods of interrogation?” This was directed at the boy behind Olia as much as Olia. He shook his head silently. Trava bit back a sigh, Cyare never talked anymore. He never actually connected with anyone. Ever since his sister had grabbed him and brought him back against his will, he had been a mute statue in public with everyone but his mom and sister. “Why not?” She bit out. It came out harsher than she had planned, but the boy was infuriating!

"I don't know who he is, but I do know what he is." Olia sighed. “That man is a hard case, Trava. You know this. Can he be broken? Sure. Anyone can be. Will it be easy? No. And we have no guarantee it will work at all. Trava… He has been interrogated before, by the Sith.” Trava hissed at that, but nodded. Sith interrogations left scars that were easy to recognize. The Elder unconsciously rubbed her leg where her armor covered a scar left by Force lightning. “The man is obviously a soldier. And there is something about him…” She shook her head.

Trava sighed deeply. “I will talk to him.” She paused as Cyare spoke.

“Good luck.” Then he was gone.

Olia stared after him for a moment and sighed. “Stubborn men…” She said with a mix of hate and worry in her tone.

Trava looked at her friend. “How are you doing?” She and Olia had been friends for a long time. To lose her mate the way Olia had…And then the rest of it, her boy running off and staying away for years, only to be dragged back by his older sister and sat down with his mother to talk. According to gossip, the girl had stood over both of them with a rifle just to make sure they did talk… Trava wondered at times if Olia was sane, but she was no danger to the colony and that was what mattered.

"I am okay." Olia shrugged. “One day at a time, Elder.” She snorted. “And Jirina has a large club ready for both of us if we get too far out of line.”

"Yeah." Trava had to laugh at that. She could just see the daughter of that family doing just that. Then she sobered. “If you need to talk…” Her voice trailed off as Olia nodded.

Olia’s voice was strong and proud now. “We will manage Elder. We will survive.”

Trava smiled under her buy’ce. “Oya Manda.” She sighed and started towards the room their ‘guest’ was sequestered in. When she opened the door, her hand flew to her blaster. Their ‘guest’ was not only conscious, but had managed to get the cover off the door controls and had been trying to hack them. “Where do you think you are going?”

The man was a mess. He had been slammed around in his restraints during the dogfight over the planet where he had managed to take out no less than six(!) pirate fighters. The doc had seen some odd neurological damage as well as the various scrapes and bruises that unarmored forms sustained when they impacted hard objects. The bandage around his head was for the worst of the superficial wounds. Head wounds bled a lot, they always did. His black hair was a mess, from the wound and E’hn’s treatment. He was not the gentlest of medics, but he was very, very good at what he did. He was odd, even for one of Trava’s odd kin, but he was very good at what he did. Even if he DID insist in being called Three, Ehn in Mando’ade, instead of his birth name. Trava knew why, and let him have his quirks.

This man though… His green eyes bored into her helmet and he stood coiled and ready to spring. Trava shook her head. “Do you really want to do this? We mean you no harm. You did us a service. Killing those pirates. All of our ships are elsewhere, the scum would have done a lot of damage, maybe made off with some of our people.”

The man kept his eyes fixed on her. “Mandalorian.” Trava nodded. “You serve the Empire.”

"No." The Elder shook her head. “No, we don’t.”

The man’s eyes narrowed. “You could be lying.”

Trava smiled a bit sadly. “I could be, but I am not.” She holstered her blaster. “Do we fight now or talk? Either way is fine by me.” The man’s eyes held bafflement for a moment before they returned to their impassive stare. “Let’s start with names. Mine is Trava Kalan. I am an Elder of this colony.”

The man shook his head slowly. “You don’t know who I am? Really?” He asked somewhat incredulous.

"No." Trava snorted. “We don’t have a lot of contact with the outside. We are a seeder colony, set up centuries ago to hide, to wait for the call of a true Mandalore. Not the puppet the Imperials used to trick most of the clans into following them. We are not slaves, and we will not be slaves.”

The raven haired man shook his head slowly, but did not take his eyes from Trava. “I don’t know a lot about your people. The few times I have met Mandalorians, it has been in battle.”

Trava would have answered, but her com chimed and she paused before answering it. “Kalan.”

The voice of one of her sons came up. Ric sounded worried. “Buir, we have identified him. Get out of there!”

Trava blinked. Her son was brave and strong. What could scare him so badly. “Why?” She asked quietly.

"He is wanted. Says he is very dangerous." Ric’s voice was strained. “He is Will Kalenath, former Republic soldier, fighter pilot and member of Dragon Squadron. Buir… The Imperial bounty on him is 150k, the Republic one is 75k, both are alive only.”

"Hmmm." Trava’s voice was soft as she looked the man over. “Are they? I will call you back.” She cut his strangled protest off in mid syllable.

Will smiled, a feral gleam entering his eyes. “You just IDed me.” It wasn’t a question. Trava nodded. “So, you are going to sell me to the Empire.” Trava shook her head and Will looked at her. “Then to the Republic?” Trava shook her head again. “Well... I don’t know of any others with big bounties on me. Have I missed any?”

Trava shrugged. “I don’t know. But I have a better idea, Will Kalenath.”

Will stared at her. “Oh?”

"Yes." Trava grinned under her helmet. “How would you like to join our family?”

Will stared at her and then snarled. “No way in hell.”

Trava sighed. This might be a long day. But at least it would be interesting. “Look, we can offer you a lot of things. Security for one…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 08:57 AM | #4
<The present>

For a long moment after Trava finished speaking there was silence. Then Istara shook her head slowly. “So you gave Will a place. Dangerous that.”

"Self preservation." Trava snorted softly. “Better to have him as an ally than an enemy.”

Istara laughed at that. “True, very true.” She glance to where Mandalore was sitting, he had remained silent through the entire recitation. She discarded subterfuge and spoke bluntly. “Are you going to kill my friend and her clan?”

Mandalore sat for several minutes, thinking hard. When he spoke it was soft and careful. “Trava Kalan, will you swear allegiance to me?”

Trava bowed her head and then, slowly reached up and put her buy’ce back on. She met his eyes calmly with her view slit. Her voice was sad when she spoke. “We can’t. We are not your enemies, but you serve the Empire. There are many more lives at stake than my clan’s.”

"Yes." Mandalore nodded slowly. “I know. What possessed you to put that Enclave on your world, Trava?” At his quiet words, both women reacted. Trava’s hand flew to her blaster, but froze on the handle. Istara’s hands flew to her sword, but she froze as well as Mandalore raised an empty hand. “The Empire doesn’t know.” Both women’s eyes went wide.

Istara hand her hand on her sword hilt now and didn’t move. She knew this man was dangerous, possibly a match even for her in hand to hand combat. Anyone who survived for as long as he had on the arenas on Geonosis was good. He had to have some kind of backup as well; someone like him did not invite a Bladeborn into a meeting without some kind of backup.

"You..." The Bladeborn’s voice was soft now. “You didn’t tell the Empire?”

"No." Mandalore sighed and spoke calmly. “No, I didn’t. The information was intercepted from a bounty hunter working from a scum named Zim. That is how I knew where your clan was, vod. Yes, there is massive bounty on the Stormhawk, justifiably so from what I understand. Yes, the Empire would pay a great deal for information on where their dependants are hiding. But they are not my enemies. They have actually done me a service a time or two, unknowingly.” He sat back, as if he didn’t have a care in the world that two dangerous women had hands on weapons close by.

Trava was shaking her head. “Mandalore… I…” She sighed and took her hand from her gun. “I can’t. That leaves me with one alternative, doesn’t it?” She made as if to rise, despite the explosive charge underneath her rump. Istara bit back a cry of alarm, but Mandalore shook his head.

When the man who led the Mandalorian clans spoke it was soft, tired almost. “Trava, wait… You know… I never really wanted this job. I just wanted to be the best. And then that moron Mandalore the Lesser pushed things and I had to shoot him, and now I am stuck with it.” He shrugged. “It has its fun parts, but they seem fewer and fewer these days. We, the clans, are in a bit of a bind at the moment, Trava.”

"Oh." Istara blinked and then nodded slowly. “You don’t want to serve the Empire.” It wasn’t a question.

"Me?" Mandalore made a face. “No. Their history is not one for making people happy with working for them. But the Republic has its problems as well.”

"Yeah." Trava snorted sourly and when she spoke it was caustic. “I’ll say. Have you seen anything on what the Special Branch of Republic Intelligence has been doing?” Mandalore nodded and Trava snarled. “I and my clan are after their shebs. We don't want to fight other clans. Our orders were clear, but… It seemed so easy. Adopt Will, get him to add to the family, back us up, maybe get some training in flying. But then… The rest of them, and then Maria and Sara… It got out of hand. I know that. I knew that if Mandalore called we would have to answer, but I never expected it. We were ready of course, but…”

"I know." Mandalore nodded slowly. He spoke slowly and carefully now. “I could ignore you until your fleet interfered with that darjetii Zelkin Infinium and his stupid schemes. You were seen, your ships were noted. Old ships with the best modern tech are fairly distinctive, Trava.”

"Yeah, Worried about that." Trava sighed and slumped in her chair. “It was a great fight. You should have been there.” She gave a feral smile.

Mandalore smiled thinly. “I am sorry I missed it. But then you attacked a Sith fleet with the Stormhawk… Trava, Trava…” He sighed. “The Empire has put pressure on me to do something about you. And no matter how strong the clans are, we cannot fight the Empire. We have to remain neutral.”

Istara blinked. “Neutral…” She mused. Both of the others looked at her and she shook her head slowly. “Mandalore, what does the Empire say about me?”

"You?" Mandalore looked at her and shrugged. “Nothing. The rest of the Bladeborn are wanted fugitives now. You are not. There are actually three bounties out for your head, none greater than 20k credits, and no hunter is going to dare try and take you for that low a sum.” He smiled at her expression. “That idiot Stephanus was trying to make a name for himself. And he has, from now on I am calling him ‘Idiot’.”

Istara smiled a little and shook her head. “Do you know who put them out?”

Mandalore smiled, it was not a nice smile. “Two of them were posted by people who are no longer among the living, but the bounties have not been cancelled. The third…” He paused and pulled a datapad out of a pouch. He perused it and nodded. “The third is anonymous. It is posted as a vengeance killing for someone you killed on Coruscant. But it doesn’t feel right, which is why none of my people have taken it. It feels like someone is setting bounty hunters up to get killed. I mean… What kind of fool puts a measly 20k on you? 100K or more and serious people would get involved. You will be facing wanna-bes, has-beens and idiots like Stephanus.”

"Okay, good to know." Istara’s eyes narrowed. “Hmmm…” She shook her head and shrugged. “Nothing I can do about that. Am I going to be attacked on this ship?”

Mandalore laughed sourly. When he spoke it was cold. “Any idiot who does, you can feel free to kill. Anyone dumb enough to try for such a measly sum we can do without.”

Istara smiled right back, her smile just as cold. “And Trava?”

"That is harder." Mandalore shook his head slowly. “I cannot have clans running around not listening to me. If I let that happen, my authority will evaporate. I cannot make exceptions.” Trava bowed her head and sat quietly, but Istara nodded slowly.

"I understand." The Bladeborn’s voice was curious now. “What if… instead of being rogue, she and hers had been working for someone? At that time and now?” Trava jerked in place, but froze as she remembered the bomb under her seat.

"Working?" Mandalore looked at Istara, his gaze appraising. “And who might that have been? It would depend greatly on who it was.”

"Well..." Istara nodded and her face was serious now. “They were not working for me. I didn’t even know they existed until recently. But technically, I recently found out that a lot of what I have been doing has been in the interests of another group.” Trava glanced quizzically at Istara but remained silent. “Don’t you just love it when you find out that you have been working for someone you have never heard of?”

Mandalore snorted in sour amusement. “No. Continue.” He said quietly.

Istara nodded slowly. “I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but Special Branch is not the true threat that we are facing now.”

Mandalore looked at her, a puzzled expression on his face now. “Is it that thing called Bob? I lost half a dozen hunters figuring out he is not human.”

"No." Istara shook her head. “You know I am an ambassador to the Empire, do you know to who?”

"I got a report." Mandalore looked at her and nodded slowly. “A race called the Sitolon, one I have never encountered. No records exist of them, so they hide better than anyone I have ever seen.”

"Not entirely correct." Istara smiled thinly. “Records do exist, but they are ancient and hard to find. They have been fighting a war for millennia, essentially a civil war. They also hunted Trugoy for an ancient betrayal. They have been manipulating events behind the scenes for thousands of years.”

"Oh?" Mandalore looked from Istara to Trava. “And you work for them?” He asked quietly.

"Uh..." Trava‘s eyes were wide and her voice was stunned. “Not that I know of…”

Istara smiled, but there was no mirth in it. “The Sitolon are as neutral as you are. We do not serve the Empire as slaves or servants. We are uneasy allies. We have a nonaggression pact at the moment. It helps that we can hide very well.”

Mandalore gazed at Istara speculatively. “We?”

"Yes, 'we'." Istara nodded. “I count myself among them now. I am Bladeborn, true Bladeborn, not Trugoy, Morey or Bob’s sects.”

Mandalore blinked, slightly confused. “Who is Morey?”

Trava grimaced as Istara scowled. The mando woman spoke softly. “You know his other name, the Bladeborn will not speak it now. He was called Ravishaw.”

Mandalore snarled and looked like he wanted to spit. “Ravishaw… He is Bladeborn? I could hardly believe that.”

"He was." Istara nodded. “He was cast from Trugoy’s sect and the name he chose on the completion of his trial was wiped from the memory of all Bladeborn not affiliated with him.”

Mandalore shook his head slowly, bemused by this new information. “You should have killed him.”

"Well..." Istara sighed and looked tired suddenly. “It wasn’t for lack of trying. But he had Trugoy’s Bladeborn pegged. His masters set them up to be branded renegades.” Now her face was hard. “I will find him again, and when I do…” Her voice trailed off as Mandalore nodded.

The leader of the Mandalorian clans nodded slowly. “Fair enough. So… Trava’s clan is actually employed by allies of the Empire… That changes things…significantly.”

Trava was shaking her head. “Mandalore…We follow the Preserver’s ways. We cannot swear to you.” She slumped and stood in one swift motion. But nothing happened. She stared at the chair and then at Mandalore who smirked.

“I don’t want to kill you, Trava Kalan. You are true Mando. Your friend here has given me reason not to.” He held up a small remote. “Try to be a bit more circumspect in the future. You keep killing Sith and leaving witnesses, then they get ticked off. If they get ticked off, I will get ticked off. Clear?” Trava stared at him and nodded slowly. He continued in a cold tone. “If you move against me, I will kill you and every member of your clan down to your pets. However…” He turned to Istara. “I know the threat you face, Istara Sharlina Andal. You will need all the help you can get.”

"I know." Istara nodded respectfully. “Thank you.”

"Well, that is done." Mandalore smiled and nodded. “Will you join me for a meal?”

The two women exchanged glance and in unison replied. “We would be honored.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:05 AM | #5
Mandalorian meals were certainly not for the faint of heart, Istara mused as she ate another bite of a casserole that was very good. It was also a high yield nuclear assault on her taste buds, but she just smiled as she swallowed. It would take a lot more than spicy food to upset her. Mandalorians were a simple people, but at the same time, very complex. They existed for the same purpose Istara did, to push themselves, to better themselves through conflict. On one level, it was what the Sith were trying to do, evolution through struggle, not that Istara had any inclination to say that here. She enjoyed her health.

She took another bite and swallowed, listening politely to what the neighbors were saying. Her appearance beside Mandalore, with Trava still alive beside them both, had silenced any potential mutters. She had to admire Mandalore. The man was seriously cunning. Simply by appearing without explanation as to why he had spared Trava, no one dared ask. Questioning Mandalore was likely a very quick way to die. She realized that the Mando male at her side had asked a question and smiled pleasantly. “I am sorry. I was enjoying the Tingillar. What did you say?”

The man, who had been introduced as Huril, nodded to her with a smile on his face. “Yes, that is a good batch. I asked if your people remembered Kiana Luko.” A hush swept around the table they were sitting at as the Huril’s words were heard.

Istara looked at Mandalore, who smiled and nodded. Istara nodded. “We do. A lot of information has been lost over the centuries, despite my Order’s best efforts. I am afraid that Trugoy let us forget she had been Mando.” A hiss of disapproval swept the room but stopped as Istara continued. “I found some other records recently and we will not forget again. But... We have a rule: Once we take our oaths, accept our burdens, we are no longer who we were. We are Bladeborn, no more, no less. I think…” She paused. “I think it was to shield Kiana while she healed that that tradition started.”

"What?" Huril looked confused. “Shield her? She was one of the deadliest combatants in your or our history by all accounts.”

"She became so, later." Istara nodded and her face was bleak now, she hated even hearing about children in distress. “But remember, when Trugoy found her, she was adiik still.” Her use of the Mandalorian word for ‘child’ had more than one mando nodding soberly. “She had not passed her verd’goten, her trial to adulthood. Her clan was dead… And she was… not happy.”

Huril snorted in sour amusement. “I cannot imagine she was a great student.” A laugh swept the room and Istara joined in.

Istara shook her head and looked at Mandalore. “No. No she wasn’t. With your permission Mandalore?” She asked politely. Wouldn’t do to insult the man in his own eating hall.

"Go ahead." The acclaimed leader of the Mandalorian clans nodded with a smile. “I have heard the story, but I bet your version is a bit different from ours.”

"Right..." Istara grinned. “Remind me not to bet against you any time soon.” The Mandalorians around her cracked up laughing. They enjoyed good jokes and betting against the man who had risen from obscurity to become the leader of the Mandalorian people was a joke. She sighed and spoke softly, but easily audible to all the listeners who paid close attention now. “Yes, Kiana was a bit of a handful…”

<A bit over nine hundred years previous>

“…and I don’t care what you say, midget!” The young woman snarled as her balance shifted again. The fact that she was standing on a surface seemed to be rotating was not helping her. It also did not help that her shoulder was not even close to healed yet. “I will not call you ‘Master!’ Mandalorians call no being master! I will have my revenge!”

"oh?" The small brown form who sat nearby watched impassive as the girl he had rescued from death at the hands of the Julioc clan tried to keep her balance. His voice was just the perfect tone, insolent and demanding. “And how will you manage that, ‘girl’? You can barely stand upright, let alone walk. How are you going to kill an entire clan of fully trained, armed and armored warriors like you are?”

Kiana Luko snarled at the small brown form. “Julioc are not warriors!” She bit out as she took another step and nearly fell, snarling as she forced herself back to her feet. “I am!”

When she had woken, she had known that she was no longer on a planet. The air and gravity were different. Not bad, just different. She had never been in a spacecraft before, but this was everything she might have expected. The room she had woken in was small and Spartan, but comfortable. Her injuries had been tended and her arm… She glared at the cast that held her arm rigidly in place, and the straps that held her shoulder immobile. She had broken her collarbone, and her arm muscles had been badly wrenched as well, or at least that was what the strange metal thing had said to her when she had woken confused. It had called itself M3-T6. She had never seen anything like it. It was totally unlike the robots that her father and brother had used to dig. Her family had not been poor, per say, but miners had no need for medical droids. One survived, or they did not. It was a hard galaxy. She broke her thoughts off as the being who had called himself Trugoy scoffed.

The small brown being’s voice was scornful. “You? A warrior? Even by Mandalorian standards, you are fairly pathetic girl. You have not even passed your trial to adulthood.”

"You...!" Kiana had taken all she would from this being. He had saved her, yes. But he was so arrogant! She so wanted to wipe that supercilious smile off the tiny being’s face! “Die you vaar’ika!” She charged the being, her good hand outstretched to rend and tear. Even unarmored and clad in a patient gown with one arm immobilized, she would defend her family’s honor.

Trugoy let her come, a smile on his face. A smile that vanished as Kiana stopped in mid swing and delivered a perfectly balanced snap kick. She didn’t need both hands to be dangerous. But then Kiana’s eyes went wide as her ankle was caught by two strong tiny hands. A yank and her center of balance went somewhere other than she had planned. She gave an unconscious cry of fear as she went flying through the air. No matter how big this being was, he was strong! She cried out again as she landed on her bad shoulder, but rolled to her feet as she had been taught. She didn’t bother to try and fight now, she darted for the hatch that was closest, only to freeze as the tiny form flew over her head and landed barring it. She didn’t move, scared out of her mind as the small brown being strode towards her. He was beyond dangerous, beyond deadly, something far, far more. He was so far beyond her ability it just wasn’t funny.

"Ah..." Trugoy stopped just out of reach and shook his head slowly. “I never asked you to call me ‘Master’ girl. If you had bothered to listen to what I said, you might have heard what I actually said.” He sighed and then, with two swift moves, pinned her chest down on the floor. The pain was excruciating, but Kiana was not whimpering as her good arm was pulled out behind her. Trugoy spoke into her ear as she struggled against his quite unbreakable hold. “Think, girl… What did I say?”

"I..." Kiana tried again to break the hold, but couldn’t. Pressure on her wrist had the bones cracking and she bit back a scream as the small brown form that was astride her now applied more pressure. “I won’t serve you!” She snarled as she tried to roll the insignificant seeming mass off of her back.

Then, her cheek stung. The pressure that was holding her in place vanished and a soft touch pulled her chin up. Trugoy’s eyes were so deep, so blue… She was drowning in them. His voice was soft and comforting now.

“I am not asking you to serve me, girl." Trugoy said gently. "I am asking you to let me help you, to let me teach you. I can help you gain your revenge. But you need to understand that if I do… Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing can bring your family back, Kiana.”

"I..." Kiana felt her eyes burn, but she managed to keep the tears from falling. The physical pain from her arm and shoulder were only the smallest parts of what was causing the tears. “Why?” She managed to speak in an almost normal tone. “Why help me?”

"Because I can." Trugoy sighed, but kept his gentle grip on her chin, keeping her eyes locked on his. “Because it is the right thing to do. Kiana Luko, I see a potential in you I have not seen in centuries. I see a chance for my own redemption in you. But mainly, you are hurt, you are alone, and you are grieving. Let me help.”

"I don't understand." Kina could only shake her head, utterly baffled. “Why?” She repeated softly, disbelieving. “Jetii and Darjetii don’t help, they take, or kill. They fight. They don’t help Mandalorians…”

"I know. But..." Trugoy smiled sadly. “I am not Jedi, Dark Jedi or Sith, Kiana Luko. I am Bladeborn, something in between. Your pain calls to me, and I want to help you. Will you let me?”

"I... I don't know..." Kiana shook her head slowly, utterly baffled. When she spoke it was soft and scared. “I don’t know what to do… Nothing is the same anymore…” She slumped.

"No..." Trugoy sighed and then somehow, she was on her back and her head was lying in his lap as he stroked her hair, calming her as she cried. “No it’s not, child. This will be a hard road, filled with pain and fear. But it is one that you can travel, with my help.”

"What...?" Kiana stared at the being who held her, who suddenly did not appear as a small brown form. No, his form was light, white with dark streaks through it. But now, for some odd reason, she wasn’t afraid. She could… feel… his compassion, his worry, his fear for her. She stared at him and then he was back to what he had been the first time she had seen him, a small brown almost comical form with long ears and huge eyes. Her voice was soft now. “What do I do, Master Trugoy…?”

"First thing..." Truguy smiled at her, “Call me ‘Teacher’, Kiana.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:07 AM | #6
Despite all of her training, despite all of her ancestral stubbornness, Kiana was scared out of her mind. It had been along four years since Trugoy had found her and taken her in. She focused as she had been taught and breathed deeply. The scratching sound came again and she looked around slowly, her blind eyes trying to find what sought her in this cave. There had been no light at all since her glowlamp had fallen from her hand into a crevice and vanished when she had stumbled. Her sense in the Force had kept her from falling into pits several times, but then she had heard the scritch of claws on stone. Something was in here with her.

When Trugoy had taken her out of her usual daily regime of exercise and study, she had been thrilled. Her first solo mission, she was ecstatic, but at the same time, worried. What if she messed up? Admittedly, go and retrieve a tablet of Sith runes without looking at it was not a strenuous exercise. Or it shouldn’t have been. Trugoy would not be happy with her.

She didn’t want to disappoint Trugoy. She snorted, darkly amused. The small brown being who she had hated at first had become more than a teacher, more than a friend. He had assumed the role of father in her life and she found she missed his quiet counsel. She even missed his not so quiet counsel. She rubbed her head again where he had tagged her with the pommel of his lightsaber the last time and smiled a bit. His methods took some getting used to after her father’s teaching. Her birth father had been a hard man, utterly uncompromising and unable to accept anything less than the best from his offspring. She had known he had loved her, but… This was different. Trugoy was no less demanding, indeed, he was MORE demanding than her parents had ever been. But then again, she was no longer a thirteen year old. She had studied a great deal of anatomy and biology with Trugoy, so she knew her body was changing, growing, maturing. She felt differently now, things looked and smelled…

Kiana paused. Smell. What did she smell? She was wearing armor, but the helmet was open faced, for better visibility under normal circumstances and… Hair? Why would she smell hair? Or fur? She froze. She froze in place as something growled nearby. Her hand forged steel blade was in her hand and she stretched out with her feelings, trying to sense what was threatening her. What she sensed surprised her. Something large and furred stood between her and something that felt…wrong…in the Force. That had to be what she was after. But the large furred thing wasn’t moving.

Kiana swore in the recesses of her mind. Never the easy way. She shook her head and took a step. The growl deepened. Kiana’s voice was loud in the cave although her voice was pitched softly. “I have no quarrel with you.”

She laced her soothing words with the Force, trying to promote peace. Fighting was always supposed to be a last resort for Bladeborn, Trugoy had always said. Often it was needed, and needed quickly. But it was never supposed to be the FIRST resort. Kiana, raised as she had been in a warrior society, had taken a long time to learn that and she still had trouble at times. The growl intensified and Kiana sighed. So much for being a peacekeeper. She opened herself to the Force as the beast sprang.

As the beast charged her, she waited until it was committed before dodging to the side. Her blade licked out, quick as a whip, severing the tendons of one foreleg. The beast fell in a heap as one of the legs it had planned to land on did not support its weight and then rolled to three legs to charge again. Kiana stood ready to meet the charge. Even with no light at all to see by she could take this thing easily… Her thoughts broke off as she sensed something else. Something that she had not expected, but something that made perfect sense. The beast charged again and this time, Kiana let it come. Her armor took the impact and she rolled with the creature, keeping its fangs and claws from her as she moved it just right.

“Gotcha.” Kiana said quietly as she touched the beast on the side of the head, ignoring the snapping jaws. The Force flowed from her into the beast, soothing, calming, sedating. The beast’s sense in the Force was confused and then it collapsed in heap beside her. A high pitched wailing scream came from nearby and Kiana rolled to her feet as another form, this one much smaller, charged her. Kiana grabbed the small beast by the neck and held it at arm’s length as it snapped at her. “Now, now, none of that adiik. Your buir is alive. Sleep.” She projected soothing thoughts to the small creature and it subsided slowly. It curled up on itself, whimpering and Kiana sighed as she laid it down next to the slumbering mother.

Kiana stared in the pitch blackness for a moment and then sighed. She couldn’t leave them like this. Both would die if the mother could not hunt. A Mandalorian would likely just kill both, maybe take the skins to sell, maybe not. But Kiana was not Mandalorian anymore. She didn’t think so anyway. She shook her head and opened her kit. No one sane went into a cave with only one form of light. She had four different kinds in her small kit, but this would require quite a bit. She activated the flare she carried and laid it on the far side of the cave. It might attract other predators, but she could not leave a youngling, even a beast one, to die alone in the dark. Her hands flew as she checked the wound she had done to the mama beast’s leg and repaired the damage as well and as quickly as she could. Trugoy had taught her a lot in the last four years and while she had never studied this creature’s anatomy, some things were universal. A tendon was a tendon no matter what kind of creature used it.

She had finished her work and was backing away when the mama beast woke. It was immediately on its feet, growling at her in the harsh light of the flare. In the light, it was even more impressive, black fur and lots of teeth. It was obviously dazzled by the light, but could see her well enough to snarl. Then the beast looked confused as Kina did not react in fear or anger. Instead, Kiana bowed to it. “I apologize for disturbing your den, mother. Your young one is safe.”

There was no way to communicate between the two, but somehow Kiana knew when the beast looked away that she had understood correctly. The beast, as horrific as it looked, had been protecting her young. Almost any mother would react the same way. The beast stared at Kiana and then at her side where the young had curled up beside its mom. Confusion swept through the Force from the beast and Kiana nodded. “I mean you and yours no harm. It was a misunderstanding. We are not enemies. You are not my food and I am not yours.” The words were not as important as the tone, and the beast slowly, ever so slowly, relaxed. Kiana continued in that same soft tone. “I apologize for hurting you. I have done what I can to help. I need the thing at the back of your den. I will leave and trouble you no more once I have it.”

The beast stared at Kiana for along moment, obviously unsure. Then, with a huff, it grabbed the young by the scruff of the neck and carried it away from the light. Kiana waited until she was sure it was gone before moving to where she could see the tablet glinting in the light. She stood there, looking at it for a moment, before reaching down to touch it.

Without sense of transition, she was in a well lit area and something was charging her. She spun, her blade coming out to meet another. But this one was a blue bladed lightsaber! For a moment, the saber and the Force enhanced sword locked before she jumped out of reach to scrutinize her surroundings as she had been taught. She was standing in a circular room, light came from large windows all around, plenty of light to see the three forms in brown robes that stood well out of the way and the form in armor that stood where she had been, staring at her. Her eyes narrowed as she realized that under the robes of the being who had attacked her, the armor looked Mandalorian. A Mandalorian Jedi? No way…

Four to one odds were not good and the armored form was her match, she could feel it in the blows they had exchanged. One of the robed forms spoke. “You cannot win.”

"No, but..." Kiana shook her head slowly, her sword vanishing back into its sheathe. “Winning is not everything.”

"What?" A derisive snort came from the armored form. “Some Mandalorian you are.” The voice was familiar, but not quite. Ashe knew she should know it, but she couldn’t bring it to mind.

Kiana stared at the form, her gaze serene. “Do I know you?”

"No." The Mandalorian Jedi snarled. “I have nothing to do with dar’manda scum.”

At that, Kiana froze in place. Dar’manda, the state of not being Mandalorian. It was worse than being an outsider, it meant one who had either given up or lost his or her heritage. It was the single worst possible fate for any Mandalorian. The old Kiana would have responded with anger, with hate.

"You are in error." Kiana’s voice was soft, but unyielding. “I am not dar’manda, traitor.”

The voice of the woman, yes definitely a woman in that armor, was angry now. “Die, you scum!” And Kiana backpedaled as the form jumped to engage her again.

This was not right, something was not right. Kiana fought with everything she had as the blue saber came in from everywhere. Finally, she had an opening and she took it. Her blade licked out, severing the tendons of the right arm, but the Jedi just kept coming. Now the odd Jedi’s attacks were sloppier, if no less powerful. A kick sent Kiana reeling and the Jedi moved in for the kill, only to meet a solid strike from the pommel of Kiana’s sword against the side of the helmet. Kiana’s natural progression move, a sweeping strike at the neck, had no counter and the head of the Mandalorian female flew to land nearby as the body fell, its motor control gone. Kiana breathed heavily, her gaze on the three Jedi who hadn’t moved. Something drew her gaze to the visored helmet at her feet in time to see the front of it vanish. She screamed as she saw her own face staring at her with dead staring eyes.

She came back to herself still screaming. A gentle grip held her as she sobbed, her head pillowed on something. Trugoy’s voice came to her ears and something flowed into her soothing, calming, sedating.

“Well done, Bladeborn.” A deep purring sound was heard and she stared into the eyes of the mother beast. Trugoy’s voice was soft now. “You have made a friend, Kiana. Sleep now, daughter.”

She took those kind words and the warmth of the beast’s affection into slumber with her.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:09 AM | #7
She did not walk alone. Her faithful companion was at her side as always now. For some crazy reason the Tuk’ata mother had fixated on Kiana when Kiana had beaten her in that cave during her test. The pup had come with her, so often Kiana had two massive deadly shadows that paced her as she went and did what she did. Today, she only had one. She had never expected to return to this world, this planet called Averum. Not many people lived here. It had been a Republic colony, and then it had been taken over by the Mandalorians when the Republic one had failed. Trugoy had never actually said anything about her not doing this. So she figured ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ would work. She would be punished of course, but this was necessary. She had time until her next assignment.

Her last assignment had been an assassination, and it bothered her still. It didn’t make sense, what she had been ordered to do. Kill an enemy, sure. Kill his family? That stank to high heaven. But orders were orders, and Trugoy had confirmed them. He hadn’t been happy, but he had confirmed them. She had not followed her orders to the letter however. She made it quick and painless for them all, she had sliced their throats as they had slept. But the kids, those really bothered her. They had looked so innocent.

Innocents were killed in wartime, it happened. But this was not a war, not yet. The resurgent Sith Empire was biding it’s time, building its military to return and crush the Republic. Kiana was of two minds on that. On one hand, she lived to fight and enjoyed pushing herself. On the other, she knew firsthand the horrors of war, and the Sith made her flesh crawl.

A soft growl at her side had Kina focusing on her destination. The small cantina ahead had been a favored hangout of the Julioc clan when her family had still existed. Her father and brothers had been involved in brawls I the place more than once. Her eyes narrowed under her helmet as she saw three forms in beskargam in front of the place, just lounging. What kind of lazy warriors lounged? They did not ever rise as she approached. Of course, she was not heavily armed by Mandalorian standards. She carried a blaster and her sword. The sword raised some eyebrows anywhere she went, it was not a normal blade.

Her sword was unique to her. According to Trugoy, every Bladeborn made a blade that suited him, her or it. She had asked a time or two, what had happened to the original Order, and Trugoy had never answered. The look of pain on his face had always been enough to get her to stop asking. She loved that small brown being, now more than ever. He was the father she had lost and more. He could be the single most infuriating thing in the galaxy and then the most tender, caring thing she had ever encountered. She smiled and focused her mind into the edge of her sword as she had been taught. Kiana made a hand gesture. Her companion vanished into the soft shadows of the buildings nearby as she walked into sight of the loafers by the door to the cantina.

"Well..." One of the Mandos nodded to her. “Hello sweet thing. You got business here?” The leer in his voice was clearly audible.

"Yes." Kiana’s voice was soft as she strode past him. “I have business with your clan.” Her tone was respectful, but something in it had all three rising. She stopped just out of reach.

The Mando who had spoken looked her over. The robe that covered her armor was gray and her armor was not like anything he had likely seen. Bladeborn armor was fairly unique, but common enough looking to pass even close inspection even by people who knew armor. The Mando’s voice was suspicious now. “Who are you?”

"Me?" Kiana stepped into her reach and stopped. “No one of consequence.”

None of the Mandos seemed to know what to make of that. Finally the spokesman found his tongue. “What kind of business?”

The boredom in Kiana’s voice had all three stiffening. “None of yours. Move. Now.”

The Mando who had spoken had a smile in his voice when he spoke again. “Now honey, don’t be like that. I can give you a good time. Why be so…?”

He broke off as Kiana moved. Before any of them could blink, her meter and a half long blade was poised and ready. It had two edges and a blood groove along the middle about half the length of the blade. The hilt was long enough to hold comfortably with both hands, and the guard was circular. It was long and heavy, but Kiana had spent years developing the muscle mass to move it effortlessly. It was made to slice through armor, specifically to slice through beskargam. Just looking at it, it had obviously been well used and cared for.

Kiana’s voice was silky now. “I said ‘move’.”

The Mandos all laughed, they had no idea, none at all. “You got stones woman, coming here, threatening us. What you want?”

Kiana didn’t move and a low growl sounded nearby as her ally came out of the shadows. All three Mandalorians tensed as the Tuk’ata bared her teeth. “My business is my business, ordinii. Move.” None of the three liked being called a fool, that was clear to see, but between Kiana’s ready blade and the large beast that stood nearby, they were outmatched and knew it. “Is your clan leader still within?”

The Mando stared at her. “You have business with Geog?” He froze again as the point of Kiana’s sword caressed the body stocking over his throat. The Mando snarled at her and tried to grab the blade. Then he was down, his throat spurting from a horrible gash. The other two Mandos reacted, weapons coming out and up, but it was far too late. Kiana swept the legs out from under one and her ally had the other down and a high pitched scream as cut off in mid note. Her blade came down and pinned the legless Mando to the planking. The body quivered once and was still as Kiana retrieved her blade. Her ally looked at her and Kiana smiled as she stepped forward.

“Go ahead, vod.” Kiana said quietly. On one level, it was very strange calling this beast ‘sister’, especially when the Tuk’ata started munching her way through the armor to feast. On another it was perfectly normal. Kiana was as much a monster as the Tuk’ata was. What was worse, Kiana didn’t care anymore. She had nothing to live for now, besides this.

She cleaned her sword on a convenient cloak, sheathed it and pushed her way into the cantina. She waited for a moment while her eyes adjusted. Figures in Mandalorian armor were everywhere, and weapons were in evidence as well. Many of them were pointed at her as she took another step forward.

“Who are you?” A harsh voice croaked as she stopped just inside the entryway. She nodded slowly, most of the warriors of clan Julioc were present. An older Mando warrior stepped away from the bar, a blaster in hand. From the descriptions she had heard, this had to be Geog Julioc, the being who had ordered and commanded the death of her family. “Well?” He asked sourly when she didn’t answer.

"Hello." Kiana smiled, a death’s head grin, and her blade jumped into her hands. “My name is Kiana Luko, you killed my father, prepare to die.”
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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:17 AM | #8
It really wasn’t fair. The Julioc clan had no idea at all what had just walked into their midst. Kiana’s sword was half again as long as any of the vibroblades that the clan warriors carried and that was leaving out the fact that she had the Force. Add to that the fact that her sword had been designed to cut through beskargam and it added up to a slaughter. But she held back, she was not completely gone. Not anymore. To her eyes these Mandalorians were beyond pathetic. But she was not here to kill all of them, just one.

Goeg Julioc laughed at her. “Luko? You? Sheesh girl, you got gett’se I will give you that. Not a lot of sense, but gett’se.” His blaster was in hand and many other blasters were pointing at her now.

"You are dead, Goeg Julioc. But I would like to know one thing." Kiana did not blink as he drew his blaster. Her sword point did not waver. “Where did you get the gas?”

More than one of the warriors stared at her, their senses in the Force confused. They must have been new, maybe adoptees. Maybe they hadn’t been adults yet when her family had been slaughtered. It didn’t matter, her focus was on the clan leader. His eyes narrowed.

"What?" Goeg Julioc’s voice was cold now, but Kiana was unmoved. “What are you talking about?”

"The nerve gas you used on my clan." Kiana smiled, that same death’s head smile and more than one of the Mandalorians in the room shivered a bit. “You could not face the Loku clan in honorable combat. Every time you did, you got trounced. So you used gas, and then artillery to kill everyone who was left. You could not be bothered to face them honorably? Or was it just that you feared them so much?”

The leader of clan Julioc snarled at her. “You don’t know what you are talking about girl. I fear no one! We won!” He raised his blaster but paused as Kiana laughed.

Kiana’s voice was so cold it seemed as if the temperature in the room dropped a few degrees. “Yes, you did. The only way you could. Using gas to kill unprepared warriors while they worked in the fields, using artillery on a bunker filled with adiik, oh yes. That is honorable. But honor always takes a backseat to survival, doesn’t it?” Her steely gaze swept the room. “Doesn’t it?” More than one of the Mandalorian warriors looked away from the rage that burned in her eyes, rage that she fought to keep under control. She shook her head and sighed softly. “Ah well, not my problem if you all are a bunch of hut’unn like your leader. I came here for you, and you alone, Geog Julioc. How many of your warriors must die to protect you, I wonder?”

When she called him a coward, Georg Julioc flushed and then his face went red. That was the single worst insult in Mando’a. But then he laughed. “You are not worth my time girl. Sinto, kill this ordinii.”

A Mando nearby aimed carefully, but when he fired, Kiana’s hand detached from her sword hilt and blocked the bolt. The blaster shot rebounded from her palm, stinging it severely even through her armored gauntlet, but it tracked back where she wanted it to go, hitting the Mando who had fired square in the eyeslit. He fell in a heap. All of the Mandos stared at her now and fear was writ large on their senses in the Force. Kiana put her hand back on her sword hilt and smiled that same cold smile.

"And you call me a fool?" Her voice was silky soft now and it pattered around the room on dark claws. “Did you really think I would come in here, and say what I did, hut’unn, unprepared? You are ordinii as well as hut’unn. Well, bring it. How many of you will die for this aruetiise?”

Her calling him a coward was having an effect. When she called him a traitor, she could see his eyes flash with red rage, but common sense prevailed. He knew he did not have a chance against her. His voice was almost as cold as hers now. Almost. “You won’t leave this room alive, girl.”

"So? And your point is?" Kiana laugh swept the room and more than one Mando stiffened as she chuckled. “I have no intention of leaving this room alive, scum. But neither will you.”

Geog Julioc snarled at her. “I have twenty six men here…!” He broke off as Kiana shook her head.

"Not anymore." Kiana’s voice was clinical now. “You have twenty two remaining. All armed with blasters which cannot hurt me, and in pathetic forms of beskargam.” Geog’s eyes went wide as he realized she had killed the guards outside and no one was going to attack her from behind. “Really... One shot and they go down? How many of them must die for your cowardice, Geog Julioc? You killed my clan, every last one of them. For that I will kill you. I am sworn to kill you, by blood and by steel. I loved my family, Goeg Julioc. I would have died for them, but that was not my fate. Does your clan feel the same way about you? Will they die for you?” More than one of the Mandalorians around her lowered their weapons and stepped back, removing themselves from the scene.

"Cowards!" Geog snarled. “I will deal with you traitors later! Shoot her!” He raised his blaster. “She can’t block all of our fire!”

Kiana smiled widely now. “I don’t have to.” Then she was in motion. He fired, but she wasn’t where she had been. She dodged to the side, and then with a long horizontal jump, was close enough. Her sword licked out like the tongue of a dune lizard, it’s razor sharp blade slicing almost without resistance though the armor that surrounded his wrist. The blaster fell along with his hand as she followed up. Julioc screamed, a scream that turned into a cough as she slammed the flat of her blade into the side of his head. He went down in a heap, coughing. Then he screamed again as her armor clad boot impacted between his legs with enough force to crack the beskargam. He curled up on himself, whimpering. Kiana’s eyes swept the room and none of the Mandos in it had weapons raised. None of them would meet her icy glare.

Kiana’s voice was soft, but commanding now. “Let me make something perfectly clear. If you want to kill each other, that is fine. Mandalorians endure. That is what you do. But when you do things like what this piece of trash did to my family, eventually it will come back to haunt you. Killing people with no chance of them fighting back was not battle. It was murder. Is there honor in that?” Without her expression changing, her blade came down like a gory thunderbolt, pinning Julioc to the floor through his abdomen. “I have learned a great deal about honor in the last ten years.” She twisted her sword and the man skewered by it screamed loudly. “Well?” She challenged them. “Are you Mando or aruetiise?”

"Are you?" One of the armored forms took a step forward. The female warrior shook her head. “He has no chance against you. Is that honorable?” The question could have been accusatory, or provocative. It wasn’t.

"Indeed." Kiana nodded politely to the speaker. “I swore by my buir’s blood that I would kill this man. I could have crept into your compound and killed all of you as you slept. Instead, I came here, now. Does than answer your question?”

The female Mando thought about that for a moment and then bowed her head. “Oya Manda.” Vengeance was a fact of life among Mandalorians. But to do it like this…? “You are correct, there is no honor in that one. We all knew it, but could do nothing. He was our clan leader.”

"I have done what I came to do." Kiana wrenched her blade from the now still body at her feet and sighed deeply. “What you do now is none of my concern. You wish to gun me down? Shoot me in the back as I walk out?”

"No." The female Mando shook her head. “No one will shoot at you, Kiana Luko. No one would dare. Oya Manda.”

"Oya Manda." Kiana bowed her head and then met the female Mando’s gaze calmly. “Kiana Luko is now dead. I am Kiana of the Bladeborn. Kiana Luko’s final words to you are this: ‘Without honor, there is nothing.’ Remember those words the next time some scum says that the end always justifies the means.” Her sword came down again and this time it severed the head from the body at her feet. “And know this: I am watching.” With that, her form seemed to fade out in front of the startled eyes of the Mandalorians. It was several minutes before any of them dared move.

***

Kiana was breathing hard as she walked from the cantina towards where her ship was hidden. Her ally had not yet returned and she was tired. Tired, sick, sore, and now, she was empty. The head of her enemy swung in a bag at her side, but… She was empty. Her vengeance was done, but…

Kiana paused as she passed a structure near the edge of the small village. Something… She heard something odd. Someone was crying. Someone young. She walked to the door and opened it. Inside it was a Mandalorian dwelling. Weapons and armor hung near the door. But what caught her eye was the young human in chains who sat near a wall. He was perhaps five standard years old and his hair was black. He was crying. Kiana was moved to speak.

“Why are you sad, child?” She asked gently.

"I... No..." The boy did not look up. “I… I am not…” He bowed his head and his tears stopped. He flinched as Kiana stepped inside the dwelling and closed the door. As she did she saw something that made her freeze. A table was behind the door and it was covered in blood. It had restraints set into it, straps set for a being much smaller than an adult. “Please…” the boy’s voice was scared now, and he would not meet her gaze. “No more please…”

Kiana shook her head and stood where she was. “Boy… Look at me.” There was no bite of command in her voice, just soft and gentle persuasion. “What is your name?”

"What?" The boy looked up slowly and his brown eyes went wide as he saw Kiana. ”Who…?” He started and then stopped. “You should not be here. My… My master will return, he will beat me again… He says he will beat the evil from my blood.”

"Oh child..." Kiana shook her head slowly. “Goeg was your master, wasn’t he?” The boy bowed his head and nodded silently. Kiana smiled as she stepped forward. “He won’t bother you again. Come, oh…” She paused as she saw recent wounds on the boy’s body. The clothing he was wearing was barely enough for modesty purposes. Kiana snarled. “Here, boy, a present for you.”

She tossed the bag she carried to him and he caught it. He opened it and recoiled, shocked out of his mind. His voice broke as he stared at the dead eyes of his former master. “That… I can’t… he…”

Kiana sighed as she knelt down beside the child. “Its okay, youngling. It’s okay. What is your name?” She asked gently as she started working to get the shackles off his wrists and ankles. It took her a few minutes, and the boy could not seem to tear his gaze from the head. “Come here…” She said quietly as she hoisted the child up into her arms in a gentle embrace. His arms flew around her neck, partially choking her for a moment, but then they eased. Tears were falling from her eyes and his as she carried him from the house. No one was on the street as she started off. “I need to know what to call you, I can’t just call you ‘boy’.”

"My..." The boy was obviously in shock, but he managed to croak out words. “My mother called me Sean. They… They killed her…They…”

"Okay." Kiana gave the boys short hair a ruffle as she carried him away from his horrid past and hopefully to a brighter future. Her ally came up beside her, sniffed the bundle in her arms and then paced her as always. Kiana’s voice was tender now. “Well, Sean. I can’t change what happened to you, but I can help you now. You do not have evil in your blood. You have the Force.”

Sean stared up at her, his eyes wide. “The what? You… Aren't you one of them…?” A small hand waved back towards the village they had left.

Kiana smiled a bit sadly. “Ah, boy, that is a long story.
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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:28 AM | #9
<Many years later>

Kiana was very tired. It had been a hell of a ride but now, she knew it was almost time to get off this merry go Ronto. She looked at her wrist with its prominent brand and sighed softly in memory. Trugoy had been less than enthused with her going off by herself to kill Goeg Julioc and it had taken literally years for her to gain back his trust. Eventually however, she had proved herself to him and he had elevated her to a new rank. Masterblade was an odd title, she mused. Who cared how many people, lightsaber wielding or otherwise, she had defeated? With the title had come more responsibility, enough that she felt crushed much of the time. Bad enough only to be responsible for herself, but to be responsible for the entire Order?

She shook her head slowly in reflection. The Order had grown. When she had brought Sean back to Trugoy, at first the ancient brown being had been totally dead set against training another being. ‘One master, one apprentice’, he had stated on numerous occasions. But eventually, she had persevered. Sean himself had matured into a fine man, still haunted by what he had endured as a child, but not driven by it anymore. He was well on his way to Masterblade rank himself, but Kiana knew that it would take years more training and discipline to attain. She didn’t mind, he would always be her first recruit with a special place in her heart.

She shook her head again. So many changes, since Trugoy had first found her. Her training had never really stopped. She had assumed that eventually she would reach some kind of level where she would have learned everything about being a Bladeborn, but the more she learned, it always seemed that the less she knew. The Order had grown from the two of them, to almost twenty beings, many from broken backgrounds. And she loved them all. The Jedi and the Sith both frowned on love. The Jedi because it led to uncontrolled emotion, which they considered very bad. The Sith frowned on love because it led to mercy, which was totally anathema to their point of view. Mercy to a Sith was a horrible, horrible thing, something that upset the balance of hate and fear that they thrived on. But Kiana was neither Jedi nor Sith, she was Bladeborn.

She did not react as the Force flowed through her again. It didn’t hurt, per say, although she was sure it should have. She was no stranger to pain. Pain had been her life almost from the moment she was born. A soft female voice spoke from the darkness around her.

“Come on, ma’am. There is no need for this.” Kiana didn’t bother fighting the restraints that bound her to the table, they were far beyond her ability to break. “Please don’t make us hurt you.”

The mission had been simple. Get in, get some information, get out. But no one had expected not one but THREE Jedi to be on site. Kiana was good, no question, but she had been overwhelmed. The Jedi were formidable combatants, but their knowledge of the Force had been Kiana’s downfall. While she had fought defeated one of them, and fought another, the third had knocked her out with the Force. She hadn’t spoken since she had woken in a cell, minus her sword, her armor and anything that might be used as a weapon. They had tried to interrogate her, using the Force, and then using drugs, but she was Bladeborn. She was proof against that kind of thing for a time, and eventually, she would manage to free herself or die. It was odd though. Basically, the Jedi used the Force to try and read her emotions, to see if she was telling the truth. It was kind of defeated by the fact that she had not spoken.

Kiana tensed in her bonds as a door hissed and a new voice spoke from nearby. “Anything?”

Her interrogator, a female who wore Jedi robes sighed. “No, she has given up nothing at all. Anything on your end?”

"No." The new voice sounded male. He sounded tired. “Nothing. No records, no nothing. The only identifying mark on her is that odd brand on her arm. But no slaver band on file has anything like it. Republic Intelligence wants her. She is a null, no file in the Archives or any Republic database that I have been able to search.”

"No..." The woman hissed in displeasure. “Master… If we give her to them…”

The male replied in a sad tone. “I know.” Now he addressed Kiana. “Ma’am, I know you can hear me. We need to know where you sent the data you stole.” Kiana did not move a muscle and the male voice sighed. “Ma’am… please…Give us something, anything. We don’t to turn you over to Intelligence.”

The woman who had been interrogating Kiana spoke again, and her voice was disbelieving. “You cannot… You know what they will do…”

The Jedi master sighed again. “Padawn, control yourself. She stole information vital to the Republic, of course they are going to want to interrogate her themselves. I protested, all the way to the Council, but… The information she stole is sensitive enough that the Republic is sending a team of specialists.”

"I... No..." The female gasped. “Master, we cannot allow that. She is our prisoner, not theirs.”

The male voice was soft now. “Tell me true, SinLeia, Do you think we can get anything from her?”

The female voice was soft but adamant now. “No, but this is wrong! She fought well and honorably. She could have killed me, you know this.” Kiana did not regret not striking the Jedi down when she had the woman at her mercy. The woman had fought to the best of her ability, she had just been outmatched. “She does not deserve this.”

The male voice was very sad now. “Deserve has nothing to do with it. Come, we go now.”

Kiana froze as the lights in the room came up and she had her first glimpse of her interrogator. The blonde haired young human woman looked as if she was about to cry. She wore the same Jedi robes she had worn when she had confronted Kiana, but now a cast was visible on one arm and bruises shone all over her face. Kiana had not pulled any of her strikes until the Jedi had been unconscious. The girl met Kiana’s eyes and her eyes glistened.

“Please… Tell them what they want to know… Please… You are not evil, I know you are not evil. I can sense the good in you.” Kiana did not respond and the Jedi slumped. The Jedi turned and left the interrogation room without another word.

The other Jedi stood for a long moment, scrutinizing Kiana. She felt tendrils of the Force seeping into her mind, but as always, she managed to hold them off. He shook his furred head. The brown furred Bothan was very sad. “You should tell us. The information you stole has the entire Senate up in arms.” Kiana did not reply and the Bothan slumped. “I don’t know who you are, or what you are protecting, but thank you for not killing my Padawan. I know you could have.” Her turned as well, but paused at the door. “May the Force be with you, Ma’am. You will need it.”

Kiana focused on keeping her breathing steady as a medical droid entered the room followed by two figures in white and brown uniforms. Neither spoke to her. The droid came close, an appendage extended, a hypo hissed and Kiana was floating. The two beings were a male Mon Calamari and a female Zabrak. They unhurriedly pulled a pair of cases in and started unpacking them. Anticipation, Kiana knew, was just as much an interrogation tool as pain or drugs. This was hardly the first time she had been tortured.

The Zabrak spoke quietly. “Anything you want to tell us now, ma’am?” Kiana did not reply and the Zabrak nodded. “ Very well. Phase one.” Both had shining instruments in their hands now as they approached Kiana.

Her world dissolved into pain and fear. Even Bladeborn felt pain and fear. Anything mortal did. She was dimly aware of the medical droid working occasionally to keep her alive, but the pain crowded in and surrounded her. Once she was aware of water being poured into her mouth, in an obvious attempt to make her gag. She refused to let them direct her, and she could feel their consternation as she nearly drowned. Then they were hurting her again. For the most part, she completely ignored the pain as it swelled and ebbed. Time blurred.

Suddenly it all stopped. “Stop this!” Came a shout from close by. Kiana could barely raise her head as both torturers stepped back from her. The female Jedi who had interrogated her first stood in the door way, her green lightsaber ignited in hand. She was crying. “You will not break her. All you are doing is hurting her! She has thwarted you and now you are hurting her because you can. I didn’t understand what the Force was trying to tell me. She is not evil, you scum are!”

Kiana could only watch in shock as both of the torturers turned weapons on the Jedi. The bound Bladeborn stared as both fired, only to have their blaster bolts deflected by the girl’s green lightsaber. Then the Jedi was in motion and neither had time to scream as the girl’s bright light blade cut both down in two quick movements. Then the Jedi was at Kiana’s side, her face contorting. “I am sorry… I am sorry…” She mouthed as she undid the restraints and tried to staunch the flow of fluid from Kiana’s wounds.

Kiana felt her life fading now but she smiled sadly and spoke for the first time since she had been captured. “Not your fault, child. My… My blade… is it…?” She could barely make her voice heard.

The Jedi stared at her and then nodded slowly. The door hissed open again and the other Jedi stood there, a shocked look on his face and Kiana’s blade in his hand. It floated to her waiting hand. Kiana smiled as the young woman stepped back. But the Bladeborn had no strength for anything else.

“You.. Jedi are…worthy opponents. It was my honor…to face you…in battle. However…” She smiled thinly. ”You need to work on your acting, young lady.” The girl stared at Kiana who smiled. “Your blade never entered their bodies.”

Both ‘slain’ interrogators rose, staring at Kiana, who smiled weakly now. The Force tried to snatch her blade from her hands but her grip was strong. She couldn’t reverse it; the blade was too long for her to hold easily on the table as she was. But the edge was keen as it bit into her neck, actually it bit deep enough to slice most of the way through simply with its mass. A shocked scream came from the female Jedi, and the medical droid moved close, only to have Kiana use the last of her energy to slam her blade into its housing, knocking it to the floor sparking. Her life was flowing out through the gaping hole in her neck but her mind was clear as life faded.

I die as I have lived. Free…

She smiled as the Force reached out an embraced her for the last time. As hearing faded, she heard the medical droid trying to work, and a shocked whisper nearby from the female Jedi. “Who the hell was she?” Then she was free at last.
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kalenath
08.11.2012 , 09:30 AM | #10
<The present>

For several minutes after Istara had finished speaking, there was silence in the eating chamber. Mandalore finally spoke softly. “Thank you for sharing that tale with us, Istara Sharlina Andal. Death will come for all of us. But while we remember, the dead are never truly gone. Mando’ad draar digu.”

“ Mando’ad draar digu.” Came a murmured acknowledgement from around the table.

Istara nodded. “Bladeborn do not forget either.” “If I may, Mandalore, I have something for you and your clans.” Mandalore looked at her and she smiled, sadly this time. “I knew I would be coming here and I am an ambassador for sorts, so a gift would not be amiss, would it?”

Mandalore looked at her oddly. “Depends on what it is.”

Istara nodded, she understood these people fine. She keyed a comlink. “I sent for something from my ship.” A silence descended that was only broken when a door opened and a Mando from Trava’s clan came in bearing what was obviously a large wrapped sword. He laid it on the table in front of Istara, nodded to her and left without a word.” It took some time, and not a little effort, but we managed to recover her blade from the Jedi.”

Mandalore stared at Istara and then at the sword. “The blade of Kiana Luko? You honor me, Istara Sharlina Andal.”

Istara smiled a bit sadly. “The Jedi archivists apparently did not know or care about preserving steel blades, so it was in sorry shape when we recovered it.” She stripped off the wrapping. She drew it and held the blade up. It was immaculate. She sheathed it again. “One warrior to another, Mandalore, I offer this sword as a gift, with no obligation. I offer it to you and your clans as a symbol of honor and loyalty.” She extended the sheathed blade hilt first to the clan leader of the Mandalorian clans.

Mandalore rose, and with him every single Mandalorian in the room rose as well. He stepped forward and took the blade from her. He smiled as he held the sheath in both hands, examining the hilt. “I almost expected you to hand it to me point first.”

Istara snickered. “Do I look that stupid? Don’t answer that!” she hastily added as more than one Mando laughed. “We are not enemies this day. Perhaps someday. But not today.”

Mandalore smiled and nodded. “Not today.”

***

It was very quiet on the small ship that Trava and Istara had taken to visit the Mandalore on his battleship. For that, Istara was grateful. It had been a hell of a day. She had expected to be able to persuade the Mandalore not to kill Trava, who she truly liked, but beyond that… The fact that the Mandalorians not only remembered Kiana but almost revered her had been a bit shocking. They had been underway for a while, but she was still coming to grips with the feelings that the story always woke in her. Love, pity, hate, fear, anger, devotion, all of these and more were the hallmarks of Kiana, the first Masterblade of Trugoy’s Bladeborn. She didn’t move as Trava entered the bay and sat down nearby.

Trava did not have her helmet on, but her face was as impassive as a visor might have been. “We need to talk Istara.” The Mandalorian Elder’s sense in Ashla was muted, but worried.

"Yes." Istara nodded slowly, and met the Mandalorian’s eyes. “I expected this. You have questions. Ask.”

Trava shook her head slowly. “You were not lying, were you? To Mandalore? About us working for the… Si…the Si-whatever you called them.”

Istara smiled a bit. “Si-To-lon. Sitolon. It took me a while to get so I could say it without biting my tongue.” She shook her head and her hair fell in dark brown waves, she had let it get longer than she liked. “No, I wasn’t lying to him.” She laughed sourly. “I don’t know if I could have lied to him, to tell you the truth. There is something about the man… He is the kind of leader I would have dreamed to follow if I wasn’t Bladeborn.” Istara shook her head again. “I would have liked to spar against him, but it wouldn’t have been wise.”

Tarva snorted a dry laugh. “No… That wouldn’t have been a good idea.” She slumped and her façade cracked for a moment. “Istara… What can I do? If they have been manipulating us for so long… I…” She paused as Istara leaned forward and put her hand on the Elder’s armored shoulder.

Istara sighed and her voice was soft when she spoke again. “Trava, they are not enemies. We are not enemies. I am one of them. It was the only way to keep your clan from being in opposition with Mandalore. And it wasn’t a lie. They have used you and your clan over the centuries. Tell me you have not wondered how many of your people found ways off planet to seek their fates, but no one ever divulged the location.”

Trava blinked and then nodded slowly. “I have, on occasion. I just thought they felt loyalty to us.”

Istara nodded soberly. “They do. It was encouraged. I know for a fact that one of your people wound up on Kuria, where he helped train Nia , specifically because of the Sitolon’s influence.”

Trava nodded soberly. “Canaak… He was… a great man. A great leader. If he had wished, all of us would have followed him. If he had sounded the call, most of the clans in the galaxy would have followed. He was the only man I ever met before the current Mandalore I could say that about. But he didn’t want to gather the clans. We pressured him to do so, and he vanished.” She shook her head. “He died on Kuria, alone and forgotten. What a waste of potential.”

Istara shook her head. “I disagree. No one knew at the time what was on Kuria except us. We told the Emperor, and he ordered us to hold a site on the planet. To guard it with our lives.” She paused and her eyes went far away. “I thinkI met Canaak. I met a Mandalorian once on Kuria. I was young and stupid. I had just been inducted into the Bladeborn, and I was a mess. I wasn't there long. He… Yes…” She mused slowly. “He was the same kind of man. He exuded command and confidence. He had the same charisma that Mandalore does.”

Trava blinked and her voice was just a little husky when she spoke again. “Do you know how he died?”

Istara shook her head but she looked at her friend and her voice was soft when she spoke. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there for long. From records I have seen, I was sent away just before Will crashed on planet. I doubt that was a coincidence. Just as it was not a coincidence that most of us were gone when the planet was attacked and the colony wiped out.”

Trava sighed. “Probably not.” Istara looked at the Mandalorian, something in her sense in Ashla…

“Who was Canaak to you, Trava?” Istara asked quietly.

The woman who was one of the Elders of Clan Ordo looked away. For long moment, Istara was unsure of the Mandalorian would reply at all. When Trava did speak, it was quiet, almost inaudible. “My father.”

Istara nodded, her face sad. “I understand. My own father died just after I was born. My mother and I…well…” She shrugged. “We had some rough times.” She shook herself. “If you want answers, I can get you some.”Trava looked at her and Istara smiled thinly. “I know someone who was there.”

"Uh..." Trava looked at the Bladeborn oddly. “I thought you said everyone who was there was killed.”

"Well." Istara sighed. “Yes and no. Everyone is dead, but I can get you answers if you wish.”

"Huh?" Trava blinked and then put a sour look on her face. “Is this a Force thing?”

"Sort of." Istara shrugged, her face impassive. “Sort of. But you want to meet the Sitolon too, don’t you?”

Trava smiled now a bit more openly. “Yeah, I guess. If they are employing me, I guess I better meet them. If only to save having to lie about it.”

"Right." Istara nodded and a small smile played across her face. “When we get back to the Dia's Gift, we can take mine. Gute will have rendezvous info somewhere I am sure. He won’t tell me half of the nav information anyway and I am glad of it. What I don’t know I can’t divulge.”

"You know..." Trava smiled a bit sourly now. Istara’s pilot took some getting used to. “You should learn to fly yourself.”

"Eh... No..." Istara cringed dramatically. “Every time I try… I either use the autopilot or I crash. Gute would flay me if I did that to his ship.”

"That is... weird, but okay." Trava shook her head slowly. “Can’t you at least get him to change the name? Unobtanium Monkey is just…wrong…”

Istara sighed. “What can I say? He is a pilot. They are crazy. one and all.”
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