Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

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Adenn Mirshko
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Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Freedom watched his daughter run through the field in front of the Aden house and smirked. Kata was enjoying her life which made him happier than he ever remembered feeling. Her long black hair was pulled back tightly in a braid though a few strands had come loose from exertion. She was playing tag with one of the new Dha’Karir pups. Kera had stated if they were worth what people wanted for them Kata would never so much as see one of the highly sought after canines again before they were gone. Most parents wouldn't have let their children play with such a creature. Most children weren't like Kata either, even Mandalorian ones.

He wished that sentiment was simply one of her being part of the ever growing Aden-Nadd clan but instead it was due to the fact she was literally a genetic unknown. The ‘mutation’ as the doctors had called it came from Freedom’s genetic code. An alteration that had been made sometime in his life after puberty but before his twenty-first birthday. At least what he had assumed was his twenty-first birthday. After studying Freedom’s DNA the doctors determined his age was an unknown. He had traces of DNA manipulation and even genetic coding changes. After extensive testing it was determined that Freedom barely aged but the consequence of that was that his daughter aged far faster than normal.

They had been deemed lucky that her genome was able to be manipulated back to normal aging standards but not before Kata looked like she was twelve even though she was barely a year old. Freedom on the other hand could not be ‘fixed’ as the doctors had worded it. This development had shocked everyone, most of all Freedom and Kera. He had no memory of any alterations to his body. He knew something had happened in his life to alter his memory but he had no idea that he had been basically turned into a slowly-aging genetic freak. It would take another six months for the genetic treatments to fully slow Kata’s aging, the doctor estimated that she would end up physically being somewhere around the age of fifteen when that happened.

He remembered every minute of it. He didn't sleep for days, for weeks he used the Force to keep himself going. Kera curled up in small chairs and in his lap crying, wailing, begging for her to survive. Kata laid up in hospital beds for weeks while doctors came and went. He swore Kyr had moved Mandalore’s position in the galaxy because traveling distance was not an option to any medical personnel that came along. He remembered the smell of the place, he remembered the walls, the lights even the type of tile they used. Most of all though he remembered the fear. Not a ‘Force-user I’m going to fall to the darkside fear’ it was something far worse than that...the helpless fear of a father unable to do anything about it. The type of fear that surpasses all other fear and leaves you cut so deep you can do nothing but hurt because you are terrified you are going to lose your child.

That fear, it stuck with him for a while. He and Kera both had to deal with it. Problem was, he had to deal with both sets of emotion while she only had to deal with one. Kyr had drug him out to hunt, had sparred with him and even beat him senseless to break it. Fyjati had stood vigil and Nomi had taught him three new fighting techniques. Deegan told jokes and Nasrey reassured. Each of them had filled their role perfectly. None of them touched the fear though. He had to face that by himself. By talking, by doing everything that didn't make sense. Kera went cold for a while. He knew that side of her, the side that killed and compartmentalized. She was trying to cope and it didn't work. It all bled together, running all over the place and leaving nothing untouched.

Months had passed leaving them to watch Kata grow older physically, be fitted for armor, and having to teach her to blend in. Kyr had even broken his normally stoic manner and seemed to be at a loss at times. His granddaughter for a moment had been destined to die before he would see five more years of his life. What made matters even worse was that Kera had gotten pregnant again. This time with a son. She had given birth three months prior and he was the spitting image of both his parents. They had named him Aran, it meant guard, or in every sense of the word to both of them guardian.

Freedom had felt helpless, Kera felt out of control. To each other they were the solid, non-moving point in each other’s galaxy however. They focused on each other no matter how bad it got. Freedom learned just how deep his resolve ran and Kera learned that he wasn't going to run. There was no other option. He learned that it was time to take a stand for a few things as well. His family was strong, one of the strongest on Mandalore. There were uprisings and rebellions popping up all over the sector. Kyr’s Shadow Warriors had been called in here and there but his family had been called in to handle various situations quite a bit more.

Fyjati, Deegan, Nomi, Kera, Näle, Jahaal and Drosk had each seen action on every world in the sector along with Kyr and Freedom. Carud and Tal Wa’yan had been called in as well. Freedom had even watched Kyr take Beviin along to supplement them. Freedom’s Dha’Karir, his dark wolves, were even being used. They had become the Mandalore’s personal hit squad and Freedom could tell even Kyr was growing tired of it. Freedom knew Kyr had a breaking point and he watched the man pass it. Something had changed. The orders had stopped coming in, or more precisely, they had stopped responding to them. A standing order had been given that any and all communication between the Mandalore and Clan Aden was now terminated. How exactly that had even been possible was something Freedom would never understand but he was slowly beginning to see just how much power Kyr had at his disposal.

Freedom had become part of Kyr’s inner circle about six months prior to the communication blackout and it opened his eyes. There were things he suddenly was asked opinions on and notifications he received that seemed unfathomable only weeks prior. He had thought that he had been involved in planning before, now he realized that he had simply been refining plans that had been gone over with a fine comb for weeks prior to him even seeing them. It was part of his job to speak up when he didn’t agree now. Before it was taken as council through experience by Kyr, now it was taken as an equal by those Kyr respected and trusted most. It was through his being brought into the inner circle that he saw the writing on the wall regarding the blackout. It was also through his position he was able to partially wrap his mind around just how Kyr was able to remove himself from the Mandalore’s sphere of influence.

He had seen power, in its raw form and in its focused nature. Kormoron, Damascus, Cameo Naton, Cazzik, the Xen’Chi. Each powerful in their own right. Each influential to a cause whether that be fear, companionship, respect, awe or brute force. Kyr had his own form of power and it wasn’t like the rest. It was respect, brute force, companionship and loyalty all wrapped into one. Nasrey had smiled when he tried to explain it to her, Jahaal had done the same. Finally after talking to multiple people Deegan had put it in perspective. “All those Jedi who followed you in the war without question. All those people who died in commando units during the war. Shadow Saber, Raquor Squadron, heck even when we visited the Jedi Temple to drop off those holocrons and you don’t realize what it is? It’s called family Freedom. Not just the kind of family that we have but the kind of family that makes you want to just up and go die for someone. Simply because you know they’d do the same for you and that they’re worth dying for. Those kinds of people are rare. They inspire, rally and reach down into a part of you that you didn't know existed. You would do anything they asked and then keep going because letting them down isn't an option. It’s called being a leader. A true leader. What you see in Kyr Freedom? A lot of people see in you.”

Deegan’s admission and description had caused another ripple to enter an already chaotic pool of thoughts and emotions but he began to understand. He had a responsibility to lead properly or to not lead at all. It was up to him which way he wanted to live his life but at the same time he didn't have a choice because if he wasn't going to lead he would spend the rest of his life miserable and without purpose or direction. It was with this knowledge he had gone to Kyr and had a heart to heart. The kind of heart to heart that men who have gone to war together have. The kind that brothers have, that a father and son can have. Freedom put everything on the table he was feeling. Kyr had listened and seemed to have known the conversation was coming. As the former Jedi spoke he began to realize that Kyr had been grooming him for this very conversation. Kyr wasn't old but he wasn't young either. He would stay the patriarch, the decision maker, the leader of his Clan, of the Shadow Warriors and of his family. It was time for him to share that responsibility though. To have a second in command as it were and Freedom was firmly positioning himself as just that. Freedom wasn't trying to replace Jahaal, he had earned his place. That birthright would never be taken away. This was different, this was a matter of who would hammer Kyr when he needed it and who would lead when Kyr was off handling something else.

After everything they had gone through it was time to solidify alliances, call in favors and establish the fact they were indeed an entity that held sway outside of normal Mandalorian bloodlines. They were a family first. Each and every person involved with them knew that. It was always family, clan, the mandalorian people and then the Mandalore. There was no debating it. It would always be this way. Jahaal had been working on various people in the sector. The man was a diplomat far more than Freedom ever would be. Those that called the Aden clan home were returning home. The lines of battle were not being drawn in the obvious sense, they were being etched over time as each ship coming from off world was another giving loyalty to Kyr. It also kept the house full, which kept danger at a distance.

Freedom saw everything that was happening around them as a way to find a small bit of peace. Thinking back on everything that happened with Kata and Aran he couldn't fathom a worse situation. He would have rather had the Xen’Chi come back than deal with the past few months. The influx of political tension was a nice vacation from it all. “Cyar’ika, you’re being awful quiet.”

Kera’s voice pulled him from his thoughts and brought a smile with them. She was sitting between his legs her head resting on his chest. His arms wrapped tightly around her. “Just thinking about how lucky we are. We have our family, we have our aliit and we have each other.”

Humming an agreement Kera snuggled tighter to his chest and he went back to watching Kata play tag with the pup. My how a year can change things...
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Adenn Mirshko
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Keldabe Market Day…

There were few things on Mandalore that actually showed the planets diversity. Beyond the armor, variety of weapons and species even those from the planet could forget they were all different with a common goal. To outsiders they were all the same. They strived to be seen that way, the armor added to the mystique surrounding their culture as a whole. They were the perfect killing machines and their society, community, training and specializations dictated that they put Mandalore before their own lives thus the impeccable training. This unity was what the rest of the galaxy saw at all times. If they were ever present on a market day in Keldabe however they would know that not only was every Mandalorian different, they were also not as friendly to each other as they might let the rest of the galaxy think.

Clan Aden arrived as a group knowing they were going to face some resistance. Normally it would have been two or three placing orders and waiting for their delivery. Instead they decided it best to head out as a family. There was nothing unusual about an entire clan showing up for market day, as a matter of fact it was commonplace. What wouldn’t be usual would be the vehicles they would land in, Clone War era Low Altitude Assault Transports. The LAAT/i’s were old beat up ships but Freedom and his small crew of mechanics had done their best to restore them to fighting trim. Drosk had done his best with the engines on both ships but even he could not fix something without the parts to do so. Rust spots, worn and bare metal and old Republic marks still could be seen on the ships while the internals had been overhauled as much as possible.

Both ships were as Deegan had called them ‘old dogs with new tricks’. Freedom looked at him sitting in the opposite open side door. Propped against the bulkhead leaning back with one leg out of the vehicle. His helmet was off, blonde hair being tossed about in the wind. The former Jedi smiled as he watched his friend. Deegan had grown up over the past few years. Far more than Freedom had. He remembered back to the day they met. The wide eyed trooper straight out of Ops school…

...“Private Deegan Lorn reporting for duty sir.”

Taking the orders out of Private Lorn’s hand Freedom looked them over and then nodded in approval. “Comm, Nav, Medical, long range rifle were rather busy in training weren’t you.”

Looking down unsure of himself Private Lorn tried to hide an embarrassed blush. “I wanted to be as well rounded as a could be, I took to Communications more than the rest though sir.”

Handing the datapad to his executive officer Freedom sized the young man up. Barely eighteen, first time away from Commenor and he joined to help fend off the Xen’Chi. There were plenty of men who joined Special Operations for that reason, many who had no idea what that actually meant. “You’ll be assigned as the communications specialist for now. If you need anything let Lieutenant Shale know and she will get it for you.”

Moving to help the young man with his bag Freedom caught him moving to intercept. “I’ve got it sir, I don’t want to trouble you with my gear.”

Stepping back the Jedi smiled. Turning toward the private he saw the young man’s eyes go wide. His voice raised an octave and he began to actively try to not stutter while also speaking as quickly as possible. “Oh, sir! I’m sorry I didn’t...I, ummm, is it sir? Colonel? Major? Master...uh...Jedi?”

Raising an eyebrow Freedom realized the young man had seen his lightsabers. Taking it all in stride Freedom took a datapad from another new arrival. “Colonel is fine, sir works as well. None of that Master Jedi business. Only my apprentices call me that and it drives me kriffing nuts.”

Lifting his bags Private Lorn slung a bag over his shoulder and nodded nervously. “Sorry sir. You are the first Jedi I’ve ever seen…”

Freedom smiled at the memory. It didn’t seem like that long ago but it was. So much had happened in the years since they met. He was as much a brother to Freedom as any blood relation could be. His humor had kept him on an even keel and his adventurous, just shoot something attitude had reminded Freedom of who he was at more than one juncture in his life. Feeling the ship jolt as the landing gear extended he let himself be pulled from his memories. Keldabe’s smells and sounds overwhelmed his mind pushing the memory back to his subconscious. Pulling on his helmet he ran his hands over his armor double checking his kit. He wasn’t wearing his ‘full kit’ but he did make sure certain weapons were present including both srraka blades, the tomahawk given to him by Kyr as a wedding present, both thigh mounted Merr-Sonn 434’s along with his lower back holstered custom slug throwers. His lightsabers swung on his hip like old friends. He left his more ‘mission oriented’ kit back at the house and hoped he hadn’t made a mistake in doing so. The threats at the house had been trickling in through various means and now they were all going to be out in the open.

Jumping out of the side of the transport Freedom used his HUD to take in the spaceport. Designed like most other small world spaceports it was divided into landing bays. Luckily for Freedom and the rest of his clan the landing bay they had just occupied was also home to three other atmospheric only craft, meaning no lockdowns were going to happen. Checking his feeds he saw the other craft had been completely unloaded and they were already moving toward the main thoroughfare. Staying together would have been wise but it also left them open to one centered attack. They would stay spread out but close enough to watch each others backs. Each team checked in over comms and Freedom looked to his team. Kera, Kata, Tal and Rang each stood waiting for him. Taking the massive wolf to market might have seemed dumb to some, even setting a target on his back but given that Kata was with them he didn’t care.

Tal had stepped up to teach her how to blend in and the basics of combat. Kera and he both welcomed it. Kera was overwhelmed trying to teach a one year old why her body was acting like it was twelve. Freedom was trying to teach her the basics of the Force and figuring out ways to help her mind to catch up to her body so any help that could be given was a welcome addition to the already mentally straining situation. The open streets of Keldabe were full of Mandalorians in armor. So much so the dust kicked up by their boots was trampled right back down. The armored residents parted as the wolf led the way. It’s armored hide bumping those who didn’t suggesting they move. Every so often it would stop, look back at Freedom and continue moving. They made their way to the market while Fyjati’s team reached one of the weapons dealers.

Walking through the various fruits and vegetables they picked and poked a few here or there. Kata, Tal and Rang had continued down the street. Kata wanted to talk to the armorer about customizing a few things on her armor. It didn’t take long for their fourth team, the one that hadn’t showed up with them to tag who was following them. Drawing out their enemies was one reason they had shown up, the other was to make a statement that they weren’t going to hide. Freedom followed behind Kera carrying a box as she dropped the produce she chose in the box. She had quickly filled four of them and he knew she was simply buying time. They had already handed the owner their order and it would be delivered by the end of the day. Freedom watched as the tagged target moved around behind him and the comms finally lit up with something besides playful banter. “Two up your six Tal, Freedom you’ve got three approaching from your west. Kera, one on the row with you two steps ahead.”

Setting the box on the counter Freedom finally saw them. “Ghode, you know they are?”

“From what I can tell, looks like Mav Priest and a few of his aruetii friends. Tal’s tails are definitely Priests but one of them I’ve never seen before. She’s young, maybe his daughter.” Kera continued going about her business while Freedom waited patiently. Stepping passed the counter he watched Tal’s HUD shake while Kata’s spun. Kera stepped back and suddenly the market became a face-off as Tal’s HUD showed he was running with Kata in hot pursuit.

“Tal, give me a click if your safe.” Freedom kept his hands away from his waist while Kera spun and armed her vibroblade planting it against the base of one of the Mandalorian’s spines. All she had to do was flinch her fingers tighter in a fist and the man would never walk again. A click from Tal let him know his daughter was safe. As Freedom looked at Mav he caught Fyjati’s team out of the corner of his eye. They had their own tail. This was not where they wanted to have a firefight but setting some things straight seemed like a fairly good idea. Walking to the center of the street Freedom stopped and turned around like an old gunfighter. Kera stayed on his hip the Mandalorian infront of her not putting up a struggle.

Tal had stopped running but was also staring at the sky. He lay roughly fifty yards from Freedom. Rang was no where to be seen but that didn’t worry him. It had been too quiet for the wolf to have been killed. Kata stood with her hands away from her body while the Mandalorian who sat on Tal’s chest held his own blaster under Tal’s chin. Smirking inside his helmet Freedom decided it was time for the show to begin. “So, this is where you make your play Priest? Your aruetiise aren’t bad but they aren’t Mando either.”

The career bounty hunter snarled under his helmet so hard it was audible. “Don’t go calling my men aruetiise, jetii. You aren’t born or bred of this world. You Aden boys think yourselves untouchable, I’d say you’re rather touchable.”

The added emphasis on touchable raised the hairs on the back of Freedom’s neck. He watched as more Mandalorians joined the stand off, more than a few of them siding with Priest but that wasn't a surprise. Kyr’s loyalty lay outside the major city where the majority of the Mandalorians who made Mandalore their permanent home lived. While this was the capital city there were more mercenaries, bounty hunters and smugglers who spent time here. They were the ones who would profit the most from Garen’s ideology. Freedom had planned this with the team he had now, for this very moment in this city for that reason. Stand your ground and don’t back down in the center of their front yard. If needed, bloody a nose or two and then leave. Mav kept talking even though his taunt had already made his point. “It would appear you are even less welcome here than you previously thought. There is more to this planet than your tiny little family Nadd.”

Freedom closed his fist twice and his HUD sprang to life in tactical mode. Suddenly each member of his team was feeding him information. His comms erupted in chatter which he silenced with a squawk. Ghode, Deegan and Carud were positioned at various points outside and above the chaos of the crowd. A double click from Carud let him know he was good to take the confrontation to the next level. “Mav, you need to wake up. You think Garen is going to make everything better? You’re no better than Dred and his dead girlfriend Isabet. It really shouldn’t surprise me that you’d side with someone of his ilk. I’d rather see you resurrect the Death Watch than support the di’kut of a Mandalore we have now--”

There was no chance at a response as Mav threw a punch at Freedom. A growl filled the air as Rang sprang from his hiding position. The Mandalorian who was sitting on Tal’s chest suddenly found the massive wolf tearing at his chest armor. Freedom sidestepped the punch and shoved Mav to the ground using his own momentum. Kera held her prey steady not yet ready to shed blood in the middle of Keldabe. A blaster shot rang out and suddenly the situation escalated again. Freedom shouted into his comm and each team member stated none of them had taken a shot. Mav was getting to his feet when the unknown, black armor clad Mandalorian woman Ghode had spotted earlier shot the ground next to Mav’s right hand. Her voice gave away the fact she was definitely still a teenager. “Enough Mav, you end this or I will end you right here.”

Standing Mav barked back. “This isn’t your fight Sarai, back off. You were warned if you came along and got in the way you’d end up dar’tome. I will not let you--”

Freedom watched on as Mav moved to draw his pistol and this unknown Mandalorian put a bolt right through the man’s right hand. The entire situation had gone from avoiding violence to preventing it for his teams. “Anyone got a shot on her, we want her sleeping not dead.”

“She’s already sleeping if you want her to be.” Ghode’s grim, baritone voice added even more tension to the situation. Freedom knew his demeanor, he’d rather be ending her but he obeyed orders without question.

Mav went to pull with his other hand and again the woman shot, this time hitting his gauntlet. His hand was thrown back and Freedom decided enough was enough. Blaster whines filled the air as Mav’s team drew their weapons. Giving the signal Freedom watched as three stun shots hit the female in the chest, moving quickly he drew his slug throwers and put one to the side of Mav’s helmet. “I believe that is our queue to leave.”

As two members of Mav’s team stepped forward Freedom shook his head. “Armor piercing, bes’kar made slugs boys. I suggest you take a few steps back.”


The teams made short work of their exit routes and soon after the two transports had left the city. Circling several times the craft made their way back to the compound on a lazy, time consuming route that let the overwatch team get back in time to prep for any issues they might encounter in flight. Looking at the now conscious female Mandalorian who occupied the floor opposite him Freedom pulled off his helmet and set it down next to him. Looking at her he tapped his head and she obliged by removing her own buy’ce. He figured the first place to start would be with her name, after that he’d figure out what he was going to do with her. “So why exactly did you shoot Mav, and who are you?”

Pushing her lengthy blonde hair out of her face the woman locked her steel grey eyes on him and smiled as she put her hair back up into a ponytail. “My name is Pirud.”

Shaking his head Freedom looked at her and nudged her slightly with the Force. “Jedi, remember? You can’t lie to me.”

Her grin becoming even wider she nodded slightly. “You heard Mav call me by my mother’s name for me, ‘Sarai’. Mav is my half-brother. My given name is Pirud Starfall. The name I have been called my whole life is Sarai Priest. I’m Garen Starfall’s bastard daughter and I shot Mav because I want to see my dikut’la father and everyone who follows him dead.”

Freedom sat back a little more against the bulkhead as that sank in. Kera couldn’t hide the shock on her face while Deegan started to laugh nervously. Trying to wrap his mind around that news Freedom joined him.

My how a day changed things…
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

The main room of the Aden house was quiet, dark and warm. The fire burning in the center caused shadows dance along the stone and wooden walls while the circular structure that held the logs radiated warmth just well enough to heat the room and also allow those who wished to sit around it comfortably. Freedom sat in the dark watching the fire as did the half dozen or so Mandalorians who had joined him after dinner. Kera was in her usual place curled up under his right arm while the new arrivals including Sarai Priest joined Jahaal, Fyjati, Carud, Tal, Ghode and Jeston Kadil. Discussion was light, humor dominated the room in various forms though most of it centered around embarrassing stories and ridiculous attempts by targets to survive being hunted.

Kera kissed the underside of his chin to reassure him she stood behind his decision to allow Sarai to stay as the newly arrived woman tentatively began to tell a story. Her reassurance was welcome after the very heated argument that had taken place upon their return regarding the teenager. Ghode had immediately taken to her which was no surprise to anyone. Her way of handling Mav had appealed to his more violent nature while Deegan had kept his distance but slowly felt her out like a kitten in a new environment. Fyjati stayed quiet, his normally gregarious vocal and humorous nature taking a back seat to processing the fact they were literally painting a target on their backs. The tension was palpable when they all came back together and Carud broke the tension, literally, by trying to break Freedom’s face.

The fight had been short in terms of length but long in words unspoken. Carud was furious that Freedom would allow her to be near the home. His anger was not because of Sarai but because of what she represented. Mav’s father had served in the Death Watch and as such was a representation of everything Carud fought to remove from Mandalorian society. His parents, brothers and sisters had been raped, murdered and worse yet hung by the Death Watch as part of their ‘cleansing’ of the Mandalorian bloodlines. Clans had been purged from existence much like the Jedi had been erased from the very face of the galaxy by Vader and his hunters. The Way’an clan had been reduced to Carud alone until he married. He now had two sons, one of which was Tal. His wife had left with his other son not long after his birth leaving him nothing but a home and his eldest child. Even now years after everything he tried to keep his distance and push it out of his memory but there were those that didn't let him as any caring family member should have done. Nomi was the main antagonist in forcing him to face it which went against nearly every Mandalorian cultural standard.

She often talked about the clan purges and in doing so brought up emotions that were unwanted by some of those around her given they were only a generation removed from actually happening. Her husband, Fyjati, insisted she keep going though. She was a compassionate person. Someone who sought answers, did research, read history. Her knowledge of the libraries in the Jedi Temple had been impressive even at a young age. Had she chosen to stay with the Jedi Order instead of following Freedom to Mandalore she would have become an impressive Jedi in his estimation. One full of wisdom and knowledge that would have rivaled even the greatest of Masters. Her Force skills had never been that great, Cal had seen to setting that back even further in his misguided attempt to remove Freedom of his connection to the Force. He had hit her in his rage and while he had not been powerful enough to remove her connection to the Force he had set her back years in being able to access it’s power.

She was Freedom’s greatest accomplishment in some ways. Her overcoming her weakness in the Force through persistence and never letting him become idle in teaching her even after he had completely renounced the Order showed he did have qualities that made him a Jedi. One that would have been valuable to the Order, perhaps even given him a seat on its Council had he chosen to stay. His path had been different though, his training regiment for his students, the way he accessed the Force, his mindset and even how he saw the Jedi role in the galaxy at large was a contradiction according to the Jedi Order. He could still recite every line of the Code:

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no death, there is the Force.

He saw this as too restrictive and far too narrow minded of an approach to a mysterious and very misunderstood power. Ignoring emotions left him frustrated because it was at its core the very thing that allowed every Jedi to connect with the Force. Peace came from within, from the Force itself on occasion. Ignorance was not the opposite of knowledge. Instead he saw ignorance as a lack of wanting to learn whereas knowledge was gained through a willingness to learn. Passion was something that he had more than any other emotion and every Jedi he had ever known had it as well. If you were a Jedi then you were passionate. You were passionate about being a Jedi, about defending those in need or about life as a whole. Serenity was something that was achieved through meditation. As you sought the Force it provided you with serenity over time the more you came to understand it. Death, death most definitely existed in his eyes. While it might not have been finite it most certainly existed. Whether someone was killed or died of old age they ceased to exist in his daily life. He saw that as being dead. He also saw someone who lived without purpose or cause as dead.

Each of these thoughts brought everything back around to the very first line of the code though, There is no emotion, there is peace. The Jedi were fooling themselves if they thought they existed without emotion. Serenity was an emotion, peace was an emotion, courage was caused by emotion. He could not deny his emotions, no Jedi who was worth their weight could. When it came down to it even in the heat of battle a Jedi might have been at peace and completely able to concentrate on the task at hand because they were able to have a clear mind that was not blinded by their emotions but they definitely had them. The Jedi would forever be their own weakness in his eyes and until they realized that in order to be who they wanted to be they would have to teach control over emotion not the negation of it they would never be more than a nuisance to the galaxy and a punch line to most governments who knew how much discord dominated the Order or could at least on any given day.

Pulled out of his memories by the laughter that filled the great room as Sarai finished her story Freedom visibly saw her relax as acceptance started to set in. Ghode started in on his adventurous stories as Kera moved slightly to look up at him. “What’s with the silent treatment? Normally you’re leading the charge on embarrassing stories.”

Locking eyes with his wife Freedom half smiled and pushed her hair behind her ear. “Just thinking about how much we've all changed. Thinking about how far Nomi has come, about Carud and his past...about the Jedi and how much I've realized just how different I am from them. I feel like I’m growing up and I’m not sure when it happened.”

Kera giggled and adjusted herself to put her back against his side with his right arm wrapped around her stomach. “I can tell you cyar you are definitely not grown up.”

Freedom chuckled and pulled his wife a bit tighter. Freedom’s eyes found his latest stray and watch as Sarai listened to Ghode finish his story intently. She was exactly who she said she was and after she had let Freedom read her in the Force he was able to see she meant every word she had told him. Where it came from he had no clue but it was a stark contrast to the teenager who was was sitting opposite Kera and he in the massive circle of seats. Her left leg was pulled against her chest while her right hung relaxed off the bench. She was listening with genuine fascination to Ghode while he finished his latest story. He had yet to get to know the young woman at all but before long he had a feeling he would know her just as well as the rest of those sitting around the fire. If she was willing to she would become another member of a rapidly growing family. To those at the house it didn’t matter if you were a Priest, Way’an, Bralor, Aden, Viso or clanless if you put your heart into the house and those in it then you were family. Any one of the Mandalorians sitting around the fire could have been called an Aden and Kyr wouldn’t have looked up. Family was family and it didn’t matter if you earned it from the blood in your veins or the sweat off your brow in Kyr’s home, his aliit’yaim, was just that. A home for his family.

Everyone started laughing including Freedom as Ghode finished his story and the noise was nearly loud enough to drown out one of the two massive front door of the home opening allowing the sound of mandalorian iron against stone to go echoing through the main room as their owner stepped inside. Anticipation levels rose as the laughter died down through the group as to who it would be but Carud started the next story anyways. They did not stop their evening gatherings for anyone, including Kyr, unless something important needed to be said. This was their decompression time, their bond outside of planning missions and battle was far more important than those formed during those intense moments. The soft footfalls of the now bootless feet entered the front room followed by two more sets of feet. Freedom grinned at the sight of his former executive officer while Kera nearly leapt over the fire to hug her. They were sisters in every sense of the word without the actual relation and she had been gone too long.

Jess Shale, or more correctly Jess Aden-Shale, had been gone for nearly four months. Her mission had been confidential and completely shrouded in the secrecy of a mission that would never exist should she fail. Her compatriots kept their distance but Freedom approached them anyways. He knew them both very well, they were family just as much as they were old friends. Hugging them both he introduced them to the room while they did their best to feel at home. Roan Crevil and Casi Zel were the oldest of Freedom’s friends. They had grown up in the Jedi Temple alongside him and had left the Jedi Order shortly after Freedom had but their reasons had been completely different. Roan left the Order because he felt it was too restrictive and after his brother had been murdered he wanted to know why, the Order had told him he no longer had a brother and that caused a few problems. Casi left because she was madly in love with Roan and after watching what happened to Freedom saw no reason to stay when Roan went to walk away from the Order as well.

Freedom could tell the two Jedi turned smugglers were decidedly uncomfortable. Their history of run ins with Mandalorians notwithstanding the two had been in far more dangerous places so it surprised him somewhat. He had a feeling it had more to do with the fact these people were trained to hunt and kill Jedi like baby nerfs and less to do with the fact they were trained killers. They sat together, stiffly, after introductions had finished. As the conversation slowly resumed they kept themselves at a palpable, uncomfortable, distance. Fyjati started on another story but Ghode interrupted him. Leaning forward the broad chested, shaven headed, tan skinned Mandalorian ran his knife through a fruit he had pulled from somewhere and bit it. Positioning his elbows on his knees he smirked to himself. “I wasn’t aware that Zeltran’s had belly buttons.”

The whole room started laughing and Casi slid more toward Roan relaxing even though she still didn’t know how safe she actually was. Her response to Ghode commenting on her state of dress in her twangy draw let Freedom know it might take a minute but they’d be just fine. “It’s one’a ‘da first tings they install in us afta we get our fingas screwed on.”

Making her point by showing him her middle appendage on her right hand Ghode smiled and slide back into his seat. Fyjati kept right on going with his story while everyone enjoyed her rebuttal. Another hour would pass with Jess joining in even Roan telling a few stories. Even though time had passed and they had not seen each other in months the time for catching up would come, tonight was about the bond. There was no asking about missions, targets, payouts or equipment. Those were topics that could be covered during the daylight hours. This was the time when you built family, no matter how badly you wanted to ask the question. Listening to Carud telling a story about the first time he ever sparred with Freedom he felt a subtle shift in the Force. Without even looking he felt Rang leave his place behind the massive seat Freedom and Kera shared with Jess and slowly pad toward the door, ears up and alert. Reaching out with the Force he felt three other Dark Wolves moving around the massive house while a fourth moved outside.

Kera felt him tense before he even moved. She tapped his chest with a single finger twice and he took an extra deep breath to let her know something was up. She shifted slightly to allow him to stand when the doors to the house suddenly erupted inward. Built as both a defensive outpost and a home the room they were in was protected from the blast but that did not mean they did not feel the blast as it punched the air violently. Moving silently the Mandalorians each moved to various objects for cover while Kera and Jess made their way directly toward the hallways the children were sleeping in. If things got bad they would take the children out another exit. Freedom honestly felt bad for anyone who got that far though because behind the two women were three dark wolves, one in each room and another in the hall itself.

Standing behind a durasteel reinforced stone column Freedom motioned for Fyjati to move to a better viewpoint of the door. Tal was talking into a commlink while Ghode, Carud and Jeston each took up positions to flank Fyjati to cover him while he moved. Roan and Casi held their positions in the center of the room knowing better than to try and get involved unless things got out of hand.

Rang silently continued moving toward the front doors and then disappeared into the smoke. After a few moments Fyjati shrugged as he looked toward the door nearly at the same time Rang barked twice to give the all clear. Moving toward the massive doorway Freedom noticed the amount of scorching and shook his head. He scanned the horizon but knew whoever had done this had done so as a warning. Reaching down and scratching Rang between the ears the silence finally broke as Jeston spoke. “Something tells me that was the warning we’ve all been waiting for.”

Freedom nodded as Jess and Kera joined them. Jess spoke while they got to work cleaning up the mess. “So….anyone want to tell me what exactly I missed? When I left we weren’t being threatened on our own we’re getting bombed…as a warning?”

Letting out a sigh Freedom used the Force to lift one of the two massive doors and set it down so it was leaning against the outside of the house. “Once we get all this sorted Jess I’ll fill you in, we aren’t exactly the most popular of people on Mandalore anymore.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.

make (someone) afraid or anxious.
deter someone or something from involvement or action by making them afraid.

Excerpt from the book Analysis of Mandalorian Culture vs the Normal Nature of Sentient Beings

Mandalorians tend to react differently than the rest of the galaxy to attacks. They do not scare easily, they rarely become intimidated and in order to frighten one you have to do things a normal living being would arguably die from. Using explosives is seen as a necessity on missions, bombings were seen as coward to most of the race as a whole however. Deploying bombs against homes, especially those with innocents inside regardless of the target is viewed as a declaration of war or worse. It was more often than not a direct and immediate way to admit you have a death wish. Even this however does not necessitate an immediate negative response from them. Mandalorians have shown an impressive ability to compartmentalize their anger or want to be violent toward a target until necessary.

Setting a cup of caf on the low standing table in front of him Freedom took a seat on the leather couch that sat parallel to a second one and ran perpendicular to one of several fire places in another section of the Aden house. Jess positioned herself opposite him on the other couch her back against the arm while she read over a security brief that had been written up regarding how the clan would react to the situation they had found themselves in while she was on her mission. Placing the datapad on the same low standing table when she was finished reading it she swung her legs off the couch and looked at Freedom who took a sip of his caf and set it back down. “So Garen basically used you all as his personal kill squad and when you decided you were done being his Neks he got pissy?”

“There’s quite a bit more to it than that but yes, that’s the basics of it.” Freedom adjusted himself on couch while he grabbed his mug and Kera leaned against him. She was rubbing Kata’s head idly while their daughter slept with her head in her mothers lap. The explosion had woken her and Aran but the boy was resilient for an infant and had gone back to sleep quick. He knew nothing of danger while Kata understood it too well for someone her age regardless of what her size might have misled about her actual age. Taking another sip of his drink Freedom continued talking. “After we cut communication with the Mandalore and his chain of command our reputation among the clans changed.”

Nodding at the datapad in acknowledgement she had read that much Jess handed it to him and he brought up some new information with his free hand and handed it back to her. “We caused a rift between the clans. That list is who has at some level showed us support either via supplies, intel or physical bodies. We have more support not listed but those are the ones who we need to stay in the shadows for now. A line was drawn in the sand by Kyr and without even asking people decided to stand on our side of it.”

Biting her lower lip the Bastion native realized that something didn’t add up. “So Kyr decides to stand his ground with Garen and tells him to go shove it in terms of being his personal death squad, you all kill communication and then go dark. By standing your ground you make a statement to Garen that you don’t agree with but suddenly we’re getting bombed for it? Did I miss something?”

Kera looked at Jess and nodded grimly. “Yeah, in cutting off communication my father also called for the Shadow Warriors and the Protectors loyal to him to cease all actions in support of Garen without actually verbally giving the order. That means he lost every Shadow Warrior along with a good number of Protectors. Not all of them came to our aid but they decided to ‘sit this fight out’ basically. They aren’t going to keep doing Garen’s dirty work but they aren’t going to stand with us either.”

Looking toward Freedom he gave her a nod and she decided to put the rest of it on the table. “My fathers influence has become a major point of contention. He hasn’t given a single order to the men who serve under him yet they have followed him without questioning anything. He has stayed quiet but the conflict has slowly gotten worse. There are those that believe my father is betraying the Mandalore and those that believe he needs to at least make his stance known. He has been attacked in public and his character is all but assassinated by his most vocal opposition. Freedom has taken to being a rallying point for those on our side in the fight. He didn’t mean to do it but when you stand in the middle of a bar in Keldabe and threaten to remove body parts for insulting my father you tend to cause an issue or two.”

Snorting a laugh Jess eyed Freedom who was remarkably quiet as Kera continued to explain everything that had happened. Freedom had left the Protectors as he had the Jedi Order and stood shoulder to shoulder with his family. He had grown since the Xen’Chi war and not just physically. He was a far more competent leader and more thorough in his preparation. Each day was routine for him, each day he knew what his purpose was and knew his place. He had men who would follow him into a fire without question and he didn’t take advantage of that but instead he acted like it was one of the most important parts of his being a leader and treated them with the respect that trust deserved. He treated them like family because most of those under his command were family and those that weren't he treated like they were.

“So you caused the doors to be blown off of Kyr’s house by a bomb, how exactly do you think he’s going to take that?” Smiling behind her own cup of caf Jess watched Freedom’s reaction with amusement.

Freedom raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “I am fairly certain that having the doors to his house blown up is childs play in terms of how much I’ve caused his life to get more interesting. I did marry his daughter and in doing so made him go against everything he had ever told me about what he wasn’t going to allow me to do.”

Smirking Freedom started to laugh which caused Kata to stir. “I would say having the doors blown off his house isn’t the worst thing I have ever caused to have happen to him.”

Jess pulled her knees up to her chest and looked at the three individuals across from her. Kata had woken up after Freedom started laughing and crawled into her fathers lap like a small child. Burying her face in Freedom chest she pulled her arms tight against her own and her knees were as close to it as she could get them. Freedom leaned further back into the couch as his daughter once again fell asleep. Kera leaned against him as well reading a datapad with a calm intensity. Taking it all in Freedom looked at her and frowned slightly. She could read his lips like he was saying it out loud. This is your family too.

Nodding Jess felt a swell inside herself at the words he spoke taking the sting out of her life choices that had left her without a family of her own. Freedom was right, this was home, this was her family. She smiled and said it again to herself. Her family…
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Morning found the Aden compound covered in fog and surrounded by dew and cool air. Winter was moving in and snow would soon follow the cold to the foothills where the homestead was located. Morning also found Freedom standing among the trees enjoying the quiet as he reached out with the Force and monitored the perimeter. Jess was coming back from walking a patrol with Kata, Kera was still sleeping, Nasrey and Kyr were stirring in the main house while the rest of the Mandalorians were either going about their duties or slowly beginning their days. He thought back to the days after the Xen’Chi war and longingly wished for the peace that came with it. He could deal with contracts for bounties, being a mercenary for a war and even the mundane nature of supply runs but this threat to his family was eating at his nerves. Breathing in and out he cleared his mind of the emotions and then turned as Jess approached. “So, what do you have to show me?”

Motioning with his head toward one of the smaller buildings Freedom led her in and tapped a few buttons on a datapad. Holding up his gauntlet he placed his hand on the screen and after a few moments a wall slid away revealing a door. Stepping through the doorway Freedom led Jess down a flight of stairs to a room unlike anything she had ever seen. A massive curved screen dominated the far wall of the room with a few figures in front of it controlling it via the consoles in front of it. There were other screens, some controlled via touch, some with gauntlets and others by consoles as well. Each of the smaller screens was around a center screen that was made in a circle up high while a tabletop screen sat under it projecting images above it. Jess looked around and Freedom finally spoke. “Welcome to the Burrow, or as we’ve come to call it nau’ur beskar or just nau’ur for short.”

Jess looked at Freedom quizzically, “the iron forge? or the light? My mando’a is a bit rusty but that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Freedom smiled and half nodded. “You’re partially right. It means ‘iron forge’ or if you take it at our literally meaning for it ‘the Forge’. A forge is a sacred thing to Mandalorians, their armor is like a second skin but it is also part of who they are as a person. Those that make the armor, the goran, they are seen as priests would be in other societies. They give birth to the very soul of a Mandalorian in some eyes, others view them as creators of life in terms of how they make the armor. Regardless of how important they might be viewed, the art, the process, the forging of the metal is seen as birth and creating something new. The forges of Mandalore are the greatest thing on this planet. I will tell you that nearly every Mandalorian on this world or in the galaxy would give his life to keep those forges safe. They may not be much to anyone outside this world but what happens in those forges, the specifics of making our iron in the way we do makes those forges sacred.”

Holding his arms out Freedom pointed to a few screens and continued talking. “This place, it is where Mandalore will get its new beginning. Garen and his people have lost their way…”

“...We are going to help them see that our current Mandalore is a di’ini’la jare’, Kyr’s baritone voice filled the room cutting through the din of beeps and communications, ‘and if our silent response to their attacks doesn’t give them an answer then we will make our responses as loud as necessary.”

Jess stared at Kyr like he had appeared out of no where and Freedom leaned in and whispered into her ear. “He said Garen was a stupid, worthless, insane, fool.”

She looked back at him with a look like her mind had been overwhelmed with information and nodded. He knew the look well considering he had been in the same position before. Kyr waved Freedom over to the main screen and as the man’s executive officer began to brief him on the information and the Forge itself. “You saw it in the first stages but this is our Forge. Kera’s been running off world or having things delivered through means not using our normal supply lines or ships.”

“We have various coded communications channels open to our supporters though they know that we don’t necessarily appreciate them calling themselves that. We simply call them assets at this time. After the first few incidents were tracked we started to notice a pattern not to when but to whom. There has been no issue with Dragor Vetz or his people since the incident at the Mandalorian Iron Works yet we continue to track him via the nanites. Garen’s lieutenant, Jesik Regar, has been determined as a moderate threat along with his aliit. The raid our supply transport in the city of Bralor was his son and a group of Death Watch recruits lead by Priest.”

“Which brings us to Mav Priest,’ Freedom tapped his gauntlet and the tabletop screen projected an image of Mav’s upper torso. The blonde haired Mandalorian looked to be younger than his age but the scars on his face made the argument against it. His face was covered in small scars while a large one ran from his right ear all the way across to the right side of his chin, a mark thanks to his fighting against the Xen’Chi.

“We have had three run ins now with Priest and his comrades though this last one was the first that escalated into any sort of violence. He has been adamant and considerably vocal about his opinions regarding our stance toward Garen. The first two run ins were verbal altercations while this last was a clear attempt to try and garner a response. While we showed no violent intent he clearly had his men looking to cause issues, outside of Kera pulling a blade and Rang handling Tal’s attacker there were no unnecessary or overly violent moves on our part. This was also the first time any violence was aimed toward Kata as well.”

Kyr continued to stand silently though he noticeably stiffened as Freedom mentioned the incident with Kata in sync with Freedom’s voice tightening. Jess raised a hand feeling a bit like a schoolkid as she did. “You’re saying that the bomb that was detonated was in response to Kera pulling a blade on someone who was following her and Rang not killing the person who he had pinned down after he had a blaster pointed at Tal?”

“That would be correct.’ A short nod added to Freedom’s answer.

“Why the bombing then? It doesn’t make sense.’ Moving toward the projector Jess motioned toward an outside monitor that showed all the other incidents including the minor ones. “None of you have shown any pattern of violence toward them, each time you were challenged to responded without incident and even yesterday’s conflict was brought on by their own actions. What isn’t adding up is that you aren’t doing anything besides taking a stance against actions you view as negative in impact upon the Mandorians as a whole so why the bombing?”

Jess’s points were valid and Freedom had already been thinking on the last one she made. “I have been trying to figure out the same answers though I cannot state for sure what caused it. The two more popular theories are that they were looking for a violent response to justify an attack or they were trying to gauge how far our support network actually runs into their own cadre.”

Freedom moved to another screen and brought up data that added smaller images of people to the tabletop screen and shrunk Mav’s own image. “These are Mav’s men, or more precisely these are the members of the so called reborn Death Watch. He isn’t the leader of the movement to reestablish them but he is an integral part of their rebirth. He is arguably the most vocal of any of them though. My personal theory is that the new Death Watch is using Garen’s more aggressive approach to spread their agenda.”

Walking around to the other side of the table Freedom looked at Jess. “These people may share a similar stance toward the basics of Mandalorian culture but that is where the similarity ends. They believe in the old Sith War era Mandalorian ways. Their stance is if we aren’t fighting, conquering or killing we aren’t living up to what our ancestors wanted for us. I believe that they are the ones who have been spreading the propaganda about Kyr, the clan and that they are responsible for the bombing of the house as well. They are not to be messed with regardless of the bombing until we know exactly where to hit them back without collateral damage and not until we get the word. Mav will make a mistake and when he does we will be ready.”

Jess took all of the information in and realized just how tense things had become. This wasn’t a war that was being fought with blasters or blades. This war was being fought in the back rooms of houses, the bars and gather rooms of buildings. Politics weren’t her strong suit, Freedom was even worse though he could hold his own when needed. Kyr was a soldier, not a negotiator and worse yet he was in a position to become Mandalore if things kept going the way they were looking. She realized they weren’t being hesitant but pragmatic. They knew their enemy and also knew they needed more leverage. Attacking Kata and Tal was pushing them a bit further than they had before. Bombing doors to a house had given them a warning shot and was a minor intimidation attempt.

Looking around the room Jess took it all in and had no words to say. There were questions she wanted to ask but knew that the answers would come in time. This wasn’t the time to start pushing the buttons of her superiors even if they were her family. In this room, at this time she wasn’t family she was a soldier. Ranks didn’t exist, only the hierarchy did. If the time came where ranks were needed they all knew their place. Commanders, Captains, Generals, Lieutenants, Privates, Sergeants, these were relative to Mandalorians. Ranks meant nothing more than who you listened to in that moment at that time. Right now, Freedom was the leader. Kyr was his superior yet he deferred to the much younger man. In this room, Freedom was the commanding officer, on the battlefield Kyr was the CO. Her questions about when and where the strikes would happen would be answered and right now the best thing she could do was let those who led her, lead.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Smoke filled the air as a multitude of small fires burned around a charred and burned through speeder. Bodies laid at odd angles around the crash having been thrown from the speeder during the explosion. Blaster fire filled the air as those who survived the accident defended themselves from those that had caused it. Laying on his back a Mandalorian in orange and blue armor tried to make sense of everything but found he couldn’t focus. His suits reading didn’t make sense, his vision was blurred and more importantly he found he couldn’t talk. It wasn’t because he wasn’t trying, it was because his brain couldn’t remember how to work his mouth due to the concussion he had sustained. Panic welled up inside the man and he raced to find a thought to counteract it…

“Calm down kid! Calm down! Breath!” Freedom’s voice filled his mind as the Jedi leaned over him. The shooting had started and he had frozen like a nek pup in front of an oncoming speeder. The sounds of war were happening everywhere and nothing made sense but through it all he could hear his commanding officers voice. He felt his heart slowing down as he began to control his breathing, eyes wide under his helmet as he fought off the shock of the battle. He felt his CO grab his armor and lift him by it. “Point and shoot! Point and shoot kid!”

Not understanding what was being said he felt his gun raise and his brain took over through muscle memory. He began to target and shoot like he’d been trained, his breathing became controlled and suddenly his panic attack was over…

He didn’t understand it. He heard voices yelling yet he couldn’t comprehend what was being said. He knew it was him they were yelling about though because he heard his name or at least he thought it was his name. He could remember part of his name he thought but couldn’t be sure if it was actually his name. He coughed again and felt himself start choking on his tongue as it slid back in this throat. Panic set in again and he rolled onto his side forcing his tongue to slide forward. He realized he had a broken jaw and clearly his nervous system was damaged because muscle function was difficult and slow. His mind registered that there were things wrong but he could not remember what made him so sure of it. Trying to sit up he felt an explosion go off nearby and the concussion rolled him across the ground. He felt a cry of emotion and pain leave his body and tried to focus again on another memory to dull the pain…

Kata ran across the field toward him with her stubby legs barely holding her upright moving as quickly as she could. Her arms outstretched and eyes full of happiness as she got closer and closer yelling ‘vod! vod! He smiled as she called him brother over and over and he dropped down to one knee and wrapped his arms around her as he stood. She tapped his armor and started talking in mando’a faster than he could interpret it. His smile got wider and wider and she didn’t even notice he had stopped and was talking to Kera about supplies. Kissing her forehead she made a funny face and he put her down. Waving to him as he went to the armory she ran up to him again and he stopped turning around. Wrapping her arms around his leg she looked up at him. “Cyar ori’vod.”

Kera looked at him and smiled as she ran back to her mother. “She’s been practicing that every day for weeks so she could tell you when you came home. It means ‘love you big brother’.”

Tears ran down his face as he coughed again and his mind began to allow him to fully comprehend his injuries. His memory of Kata gave him motivation but he knew from his readout that unless a miracle happened he had only moments to live. His armor could seal off wounds, tighten around broken bones and compress internal injuries but one thing it could not do was deal with massive injuries all at once. No matter how much it had been altered there was nothing that could be done to save him. Mandalore lacked the amenities of most coreward worlds including medical centers that had state of the art bacta tanks.

He heard his name again and blaster fire ripped into the lines of his friends. He knew they needed him, they were pinned down but he could do nothing to help. His communications skills were worthless, his marksmanship abilities were wasted and he felt helpless as they continued to take blaster fire. He could do nothing as a medic that would save anyone because he was injured himself. He felt his right leg being lifted by pressure but he couldn’t actually feel anything as he was moved. He rolled his head and grunted as he moved his left arm toward where his blaster would have been had he still had a left leg. Looking up through his visor he saw Näle’s blue helmet and forced his mind to try and find something else to concentrate on. He tried to contain another cry from escaping but he realized that it might not be possible to stop…

Waking up he saw her laying on her stomach with her head turned toward him. Her short jawline length blonde hair tousled from her sleep. His heart swelled with the love he felt when he looked at her. She was his first and only love. He had never even seen a girl naked before her and here she was sharing her bed with him. He could have asked for nothing better and he felt like the luckiest man in the galaxy because of it.

Another explosion pulled him from his memories and he found himself sitting up with Näle’s glove being run over his body while she spoke. Freedom’s voice came back loud and clear while hers was filled with emotion and the obvious signs of someone crying fiercely. He knew it was decidedly un-Mandalorian to cry on a battlefield and even more so was decidedly unlike Näle to even show emotion yet he knew no one would look at them differently for it. They were family and losing family hurt more than anything else and he was going to die. He looked at her and felt himself starting to slide sideways when she grabbed him and sat him upright again. Screaming over the noise of combat she kept saying the same thing, “un’amur cyar’ika, un’amur!” Her cries made him yell in anger past his broken jaw as he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her. She meant the world to him and as she kept yelling ”Don’t die love, Don’t die” he knew he couldn’t leave her…


Oribru! Oribru! Emergency! Emergency! This is a stage five alert. We are under attack, repeat we are under attack. Coordinates are sixty-seven minutes five seconds north, fifteen minutes twenty two seconds west. I repeat sixty-seven minutes five seconds north, fifteen minutes twenty two seconds west. Multiple injuries, many severe. Let Freedom know Deegan is hurt badly...he might not make it.”

The news hit the Forge like a sledgehammer, the Aden compound as a whole got the message broadcast into every room causing an organized, methodical chaos to begin. Freedom started shouting orders and they all ran toward the LAART/i’s. They weren’t that far away that they would need to bring an actual ship but it would be a possibility if the injuries were bad enough. Kera ran toward the hangar that held her ship to ready it for standby while Drosk chased her ready to assist. The LAART/i’s were off the ground in under five minutes as the teams suited up while they flew and the Verda Kot hissed as Kera started the process of powering up the vessel. Freedom looked around him and saw his team in various states of dress but each of them had the same look of shock due to the fact one of their own had been critically injured. His mind raced and he saw each team member deep in thought remembering the man they called “Kid”. He was a kid at the ripe age of twenty one and for him to be killed without cause would make this entire situation turn into a blood bath.

Näle’s voice filled Freedom’s comm again and he tried to calm her as best he could. She was distraught understandably and he finally got her to pay attention when he yelled into his comm. “Näle I need you to give me a medical sitrep on Deegan. The Doc is going to need details on him if we’re going to have a chance at saving him. Switch to channel Five-Five-Two to speak to the doc.”

The comm went silent and Freedom finally got information out of Fyjati regarding the fight they were flying into. They were surrounded by an unknown force with no less than ten enemy combatants. Freedom gave the pilot and gunners the order to unload on the enemy positions they were being sent to without prejudice and watched as the they swung around the combat area once they arrived before making their run. Standing in the doorway he saw the supply speeder laying in two pieces both being used as cover by the survivors. Deegan was obvious even from this height as a trail of blood followed from his original position to where Näle was trying to provide emergency triage. Fyjati had the other three living members of his team doing the best they could though there was no way they would hold out much longer.

Dropping in altitude the two transports began to unload everything they had on their targets and the ‘whoop whoop’ of concussion launchers filled the air. The pilots were going to make sure no one was living when they set down to make the extraction easier. A few of the attackers moved to run while the transports set down to unload their passengers. Giving instruction to his pilot Freedom jumped out of the transport and ran to the team. As ordered the second transport lifted off again and flew toward the fleeing Mandalorians. They would not survive and any who were unlucky enough to would not live to see the next dawn. Grabbing Fyjati he looked at the man and saw a few scrapes and one massive black spot on his armor, a grenade more than likely, and helped him to the transport as his right arm hung limply at his side. After the moveable survivors were loaded Freedom watched as the doc tried to stabilize Deegan to move him.

“Come on doc we need to get him back to the compound so he can be treated!” Freedom’s impatience was starting to show and the doc shook his head.

“I can’t move him until I know he’s stable.”

Drawing on the Force Freedom squeezed Deegan like a toy and the man screamed. Picking him up in the Force he knew even the tiniest slip up would kill his friend. Setting him down on the transport Freedom looked at the doc and waved him onto the ship. Motioning to the pilot the man took off and Freedom listened to the chatter coming from the transport pursuing those that ran. As the transport took off Freedom set off in a Force aided run in pursuit of the fight and found it quickly enough. Three of the Mandalorians had been captured alive along with their swoops, speeders and transport. Stepping off the swoop Freedom look at Jess and Sarai who simply by body language alone let him know they were ready to kill all three.

Crouching in front of one of the men he saw the Death Watch insignia and his blood began to boil. He asked each man their name, clan and allegiance and nodded after each one answered. It was a basic answer they could give without betraying anyone. He then asked one that would require them to betray someone and none answered. “Who commanded you to attack?”

They remained silent and Freedom nodded toward Sarai. Her blade found the second man in the lower back between kidney and spine. He wouldn’t die from it, he would still be capable of functioning but his right leg was now useless to him until he found himself a bacta tank. “I’ll ask again who commanded you to attack?”

They still didn’t answer and he let Jess put a blaster bolt into the same man’s genital region. Freedom quickly shot the man full of adrenaline and morphine to keep him conscious and alive and asked again. Again no one spoke and Freedom held up a hand to keep the two women back. Looking at the three men he felt them in the Force and found the leader of the three. Without even thinking twice he ignited his lightsaber and beheaded the man. Looking back at the two remaining men he heard the second transport coming in for landing and shook his head. Activating his helmets loud speaker he spoke over the din of the engines. “You should have told me because now you two get to deal with Priest, Jess, myself and Kyr. I will tell you now that what the three of us can do he has forgotten about and has far more ways to extract information from you.”


Deegan couldn’t remember why it hurt so bad and he had no idea how he got moved on to the transport but was thankful for it. His mind was slowly slipping toward unconsciousness while someone kept telling him to not fall asleep. His helmet was off but his comm was still hooked to his ear. He felt Näle’s hand in his which made him feel better but the doc was making him panic a bit. Laying on his back he knew something was really wrong when the doc’s armor went from green to blood red in a matter of seconds after examining his lower extremities. Letting out a frustrated cry Deegan felt tears running down his face and felt the eyes of everyone in the cabin of the transport on him. He saw everyone looking at him and tried to look away in shame when Fyjati squawked on the comm. “Hey Deegan I just wanted to let you know that was some brave stuff you pulled out there. I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for you mate.”

Several others came over the comm saying the same thing while he tried to remember what he had done. His tears began to drip on to the deck and suddenly his world started to slide toward the darker side as his vision began to fail. He felt himself getting groggy, his mind began to slip away and he felt sick. He heard Näle start yelling at him, the doc started moving him but he knew nothing but darkness. He felt it approaching, the manda was calling out to him and he could do nothing to stop it. Drawing breaths became harder and his mind seemed lethargic and unwilling to fight. His heartbeat started to reverberate on the back of his eyes and he felt something inside him change. He screamed inside his own mind letting go with all the internal hurt, external pain and fear he had. His breathing got rapid, his body began to seize and he was able to see again before passing out looking around and as he did he felt the dropship falling out of the sky...


Freedom lept out of the transport as it landed in front of the compound not even bothering to roll using the Force to steady himself. Running toward the medical bay he reached out in the Force and felt Nomi, Casi and Roan already there. Pulling off his helmet he stepped in a room full of people and watched them part as he approached Deegan. He lay on his back, armor plating removed with his body suit cut open from groin to throat and ripped off his body. He glanced at the various monitors and heard the doc telling the med droid what to do. Nomi, Casi and Roan each stood around Deegan trying to aid his body but he knew that only Nomi had the ability to do any healing and she was no where near as trained as she needed to be. “Jasper, what’s his status?”

The question sounded mechanical and it was all Freedom could do to keep from breaking. He needed his training to take over because without it he would be useless to his friend. The doc shook his head and Deegan’s heart missed a beat. “He seized while we were landing and it has left him in a very dangerous position. The bleeding from losing his lower left leg has been stopped, the compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula have been set, he broke every rib on his left side and all but two on his right plus his sternum. His left arm somehow sustained only a few gashes that require stitches while his right bicep was nearly torn in half. He has a broken jaw and hearing loss in his left ear as well. His buy’ce saved his head from most of the damage it could have sustained but that won’t matter if we can’t get his vitals to stabilize. His seizure did nearly as much damage to his heart and mind as the explosion did to his entire body. I have got to stabilize him Freedom or he will die.”

Looking over at Näle Freedom saw her and knew exactly what was running through her head. Turning toward Nomi he grabbed her hand and motioned toward the young Mandalorian woman. Nomi immediately left Deegan and slid down the wall to sit next to Näle. Freedom grabbed a stool and placed his hands on Deegan’s chest feeling him in the Force. Using what knowledge he did have of healing Freedom could tell that this was out of his league and that there was only one way to save Deegan unless they could get a bacta tank and even that wouldn’t be a guarantee. Without looking up Freedom started talking to Jasper. “How much time does he have?”

Jasper looked at the monitors and then back to Deegan. “If I keep him stable maybe a day, if things get worse he won’t make it much longer. We have limited bacta supplies so that could help if I can get his lungs to function properly.”

Freedom shook his head angrily and heard Kyr’s footsteps coming down the hall followed by others. “I need you to give me five days.”

“I--,’ Freedom cut Jasper off and his voice immediately changed tone. “I wasn’t negotiating. You are going to give me five days by whatever means necessary. If you have to put him in a coma, stasis pod, or pump him full of stims to keep his heart going you are going to do it. Is that understood?”

Jasper looked at Freedom and knew there would be no arguing with the man. He would rather kill him trying to save him then simply let him die without trying everything possible and there was a level of respect there the doctor could appreciate regardless of his own personal feelings on the matter. Turning away from the bed Freedom moved to leave and saw Kyr. The man’s face said everything the former Jedi needed to know about his adoptive fathers thoughts. He stopped next to Kyr as he approached the doorway. “I’m going to kill whoever was responsible for this and I’m about to call in a favor so unless you can get bacta here prepare to have at least one more Jedi in your house.”

Kyr looked toward Freedom and while he wasn’t keen on another Jedi there was no arguing this. There were times to argue and now was not that time. He might not have agreed with calling in a Jedi but he did agree with killing whoever was responsible and so long as a member of his family, even extended, lay on their deathbed in his home whatever needed to be done would be done to keep him alive. Necessary risks were always fluid and needed no approval most times and calling in someone who was experienced in saving lives was a necessary risk at this point. Kyr could tell Freedom had reached a point where there would be no stopping him and internally wanted to crack a smile at the thought of him in combat though externally he stood staring at Deegan. Deegan was the one person in their entire group outside of Kata that was the worst possible man for the Death Watch to have injured. Their response would be swift, brutal and without remorse. He would begin planning the attack as soon as he knew he had fighters that weren’t emotionally compromised.


Kera ran passed Freedom as he walked down the hall and stopped to grab her husbands arm to turn him around. Looking into his eyes she saw a look she had only seen once before. She knew immediately her husband was trying to fight the emotional overload of the threat of losing one of his best friends. Sliding her arms around him he stopped her. “No, not yet. I need to be able to function for a few more minutes. Go help Nomi with Näle and then come find me. I promise you I will be ready to fall apart as soon as I send this message. I cannot fall apart while he needs me Kera, I can’t. If I do and he dies because I didn’t at least try to save him I will never forgive myself.”

The desperation and pure helpless sound of his voice broke her heart and she began to feel the emotions setting in. Grabbing her husband and pulling him close anyways she planted a kiss on his chin quickly and then walked into the medical bay. Freedom walked into the comm room of the building and saw Drosk, Nasrey, Jahaal and Sarai busy trying to locate another doctor and also bacta on world or within the sector. Moving to one of the consoles Freedom took a cord and plugged it into his suits gauntlet. Information began to transfer between the two systems and he pulled up the list of his own comm channels. Patching the signal in that he wanted he grabbed the microphone in front of him and spoke as clearly as possible. “This is Freedom Nadd broadcasting on the Jedi Temple emergency channel requesting immediate response to the coordinates attached to this message, respond.”

The room fell quiet and all four individuals turned to look at him in various levels of disbelief. He met their gaze and talked again, “I repeat this is Freedom Nadd broadcasting on the Jedi Temple emergency channel requesting immediate response to the coordinates attached to this message, respond.”

Setting the mic down he saw Nasrey’s face and knew he was about to put her in a tough position considering her hatred toward Jedi. This wasn’t going to be one of Freedom’s long time friends or trusted colleagues. This would be an unknown entity and someone none of them knew more than likely. Drosk seemed perplexed by the call, Jahaal knew exactly what was happening though it still surprised him and Sarai looked ready to punch Freedom till he gathered his wits. “You may not agree with this but if that were you lying on that table right now and we needed help I would be doing the same for you and I believe you would be grateful that I did everything I could to save you.”

The channel squawked static before a voice came through. “We register no Jedi by the name of Freedom Nadd, please state how you got this channel information.”

Growling Freedom shook his head. “Clearly you haven’t been doing your history lessons if you have no idea who I am. Put someone on the line who is actually worthy of the title Jedi before I send a message to Master Daer’gunn about how you cheated your way through that class.”

A new voice came on the radio and the mood changed. “What is the nature of your emergency?”

“I am in need of a Jedi Healer. At the coordinates attached to this message. Immediate response required.” Freedom’s voice was tight and hiding levels of impatience and irritation that he had never truly felt before.

“When you punch in the coordinates you will understand that this request is not made lightly and that in making this request we are requiring your assistance in the matter of saving a life.” Freedom knew that this was completely against any regulation the Jedi Order had regarding the usage of their healers. They seldom left the Temple worlds and when they did it was only because a war was going on. To request a Jedi Healer to come to a world for one individual, specifically Mandalore at that, was going to require a few mountains to be moved. He knew if Daer’gunn or Kalja Leidas were on the world the message might be recieved a bit better but given he knew nothing of the Order at the moment he also knew they might not be present at all.

The silence at the other end of the transmission was deafening to everyone and Freedom began to grow sick as his stomach started to take the brunt of his adrenaline dump. Leaning heavily on the console he felt Nasrey come up behind him and place a hand at the small of his back. He looked at her and her eyes softened. He found himself once again thankful that while he had found a fully one-hundred percent Mandalorian blood clan that they also had the family side of the Mandalorian culture just as ingrained and held it to as much of an important place as fighting and tradition were. The transmission suddenly became static and Freedom dropped his head. Tears began to fill his eyes and then the static disappeared. “We have notified the MedCorps of the situation and they will have their decision within the hour. We will send a response on this channel when we are granted permission to send it. Know this however; this channel is not for these situations normally, you have violated multiple protocols by sending this message and we ask that you do not repeat doing so again.”

Nodding Freedom couldn’t speak as his legs began to give out and Nasrey took over speaking. “We will keep that in mind in future emergencies, the channel will remain open as you have requested.”

Muting the mic Nasrey helped Freedom to the doorway as he finally composed himself enough to stand up straight. Stumbling his way back toward the medward Freedom felt his legs begin to give way. As he reached the doorway he looked at Deegan and slid down the doorsill as tears began streaming down his face. Sitting upright with the help of the doorway he ran his hands through his hair, fingers closing to grip his hair as he finally broke audibly crying so hard he shook. Kera slid across the floor to him and simply set her head on his armored shoulder while the rest of the room silently joined him in letting the emotion finally set in.
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Adenn Mirshko
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Inhale….exhale….shoot. Inhale….exhale….shoot...

Freedom stood reciting what Jahaal had taught him as each arrow flew towards its target. Shooting his bow was mind numbing and required little thought but was disciplined in a way it stretched his body as well. He could have spared with Fyjati or Nomi. He could have meditated or even gone for a run. This was what he chose because he knew he needed the practice and because each arrow he shot the more and more he realized he wanted Mav Priest to find himself looking down at a beskar tipped arrow sticking out of his heart as repayment for what happened to Deegan.

Spinning the bow in his hand Freedom took it in. It was a marvel to him and something he could operate without the Force. He had fired it with and without his HUD and wanted to become as accurate without his HUD as he was with it. Hours up hours had been spent as he drew the bow over and over again. No matter how many arrows he sent down range he couldn’t get the image of Deegan out of his head.The Jedi Healer was coming yet he still wasn’t going to live unless the Jedi Healer they sent was a capable one. The images of Deegan coughing up blood, his heart stopping several times and worse the screams of Näle filling the halls of the house. He grabbed another arrow out of the quiver slung across his back and another found its mark. He moved faster and faster with his motions each arrow finding the mark. He had an entire course set up to push him but he just wanted to fall into the mind numbing repetitive motion of shooting his bow.

He was so focused on shooting his bow he completely missed Tal, Ghode and Sarai approaching him from behind. Coughing into his hand Tal pulled Freedom from his practice and he looked at them. “Is Deegan okay?”

“He’s still in a self induced coma if that is what you mean.” Ghode’s deep voice cut through Freedom’s nonchalant attitude and he grabbed another stack of arrows sliding them into his quiver. He shook his head to try and hide the tears and felt Sarai’s hand on his forearm. Of all the people who were affected by Deegan’s injuries her emotional state had surprised him the most. She was cold, calculating and murderous having been trained to separate emotion from everything yet she was upset.

“Freedom, stop. We need to talk.” Her voice was focused yet only just so. “We have the information on the Jedi coming here. Once word spreads that we have two actual Jedi here things are going to get very interesting. Things are likely to get very ugly honestly.”

Turning around Freedom flipped the bow in his hand. “Likely to get ugly?”

Tal shook his head and then threw a punch at Freedom and it landed square on his jaw. Freedom was unarmored and didn’t even have a shirt on while Tal was wearing every part of his armor except his helmet. Looking at Tal after wiping the blood from his cheek Freedom lunged at him and the man easily dodged the attack and slammed another punch into him. A few more attempts by Freedom and Tal had seen enough. “You really think you can fight me right now? You can push me and beat me all you want when your head is in the game but you can’t even throw a punch when it’s not. How about you actually try to talk about this.”

Freedom looked at Tal and yelled with another punch coming back this time Ghode slammed his knee into Freedom’s stomach. “Look Free, we can do this two ways. We came to talk about Deegan and the Jedi but if you won’t talk about it then we’re gonna beat ya til you’re ready to talk.”

Trying to get up again Freedom pushed himself up and Sarai kicked his arm out from under him. Turning to look at her he gave her a look and she shrugged. “Hey, I’m not as skilled as these two I’d rather kick ya now then have to deal with you when you start using the Force. I’ve seen you spar when that is fully tuned up, no thank you. No wonder the Prudii Oyase tend to not even be spoken of even in the darkest of alleys.”

Rolling to his back Freedom sat up and wiped his face again. Sliding back he leaned against a tree and the other three squatted or sat. Looking at them he saw in each of them friends but not the three he expected to come ask him. “The Shadow Hunters are the best fighters because they chose to be not because no one talks about them. As for…this...I can’t get the images out of my head. I’ve watched people die, I’ve killed and even tortured people for information. If it was Kyr or Jahaal, even Fyjati maybe I would have reacted differently. I’ve seen them hurt, they have made peace with the fact they can die at any time. Deegan though? He’s….”

Sarai nodded understanding. “He’s innocent. He hasn’t experienced life--”

“Does he even know what a woman looks like naked?” Ghode’s voice broke the tension and they all laughed.

“I am pretty certain Näle took care of that.” Tal’s voice grated Freedom’s mind and he snarled. Tal looked his way and raised an eyebrow curiously. “What?”

“We’re joking while our little brother is laying on a surgery table waiting for Jedi to come who may or may not be able to save him. Mav Priest put him there and I want him dead. That anger is what is causing me to lose my edge. I’m not like you or Ghode or Jess. I don’t have the luxury of killing without remorse like you Sarai. That is the downside to the Force. If I make decisions out of hate or anger I begin to lose sight of who I am in the Force itself. You all may not think I am a Jedi and even I don’t think I fall under the title itself but I am a Force user and that means the Force will feed off of whatever emotion I’m playing with.” Freedom ran a gloved hand through his hair and Tal nodded and pulled Freedom to his feet. Walking toward the front yard Tal talked into the open comm channel and then he started pulling off his gloves. Fyjati, Drosk, Nomi, Jess, Jahaal and Carud all came outside.

Tal looked at Freedom and he heard a lightsaber ignite as the Mandalorian walked in a circle cutting a line in the ground. “You want to get straight? Need to clear your head right? Then it is time we tune you up because I’m tired of hearing you whine and seeing you mope around this place. Deegan isn’t dead yet so stop acting like he is.”

Tal set the blade on the ground next to Freedom’s other blade he stepped in the ring he had made along with Ghode and Nomi. His tone showed he was done putting up with the emotions when they needed Freedom to stand strong and not falter as their leader. Looking at Sarai Tal nodded at the fourth corner of the square they were forming. “Oh no, I don’t feel like getting tossed around like a womprat in an asteroid field.”

Tal pointed again and Freedom turned and looked at her. His voice was strained and emotion was boiling inside him and he pointed to the same spot Tal did. “”

Sarai pulled the various weapons she had on off and stepped in the ring like the rest leaving every bit of her armor on minus her gloves. “So, can I expect to end up like Deegan or…?”

Fyjati shook his head while Freedom seemed to stop breathing as he waited for the first attack. “No, you won’t. We tend to play on the safe side. This is more for him than for us anyways. This lets him get all that negative emotion out in the healthiest way possible for all of us.”

Tapping his chest he also held up four fingers. “We wear the armor and put four of us in the ring. You’ll definitely be bruised tomorrow and maybe have a few broken ribs but that’s why we rotate in and out too.”

Without another moment Fyjati pulled his blaster and shot the ground. Sarai’s eyes got wide and Ghode moved first. As the fighting started she realized that Nomi, Tal and Ghode weren’t taking turns they were fighting together against Freedom and getting their shebs handed to them. Somehow Freedom was able to speak with it all going on. “Get in or get out Sarai because this doesn’t go both ways.”

Looking at Fyjati he nodded. “You’re either in or you’re out. What’s it going to be?”

Completely unsure of herself Sarai jumped in and swung at Freedom and suddenly found herself thrown backward by a punch that she thought never landed but apparently had. Tossed from the ring she pulled herself to her feet and saw Fyjati try to step in. Holding up a hand she stopped him and jumped back into the fight. “No, I’m in again.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Sarai Priest looked out at the forest around her and saw none of it. Stars seemed to engulf her as she sat at the end of the precipice of rock jutting out into the sky. She felt as if the rock was part of the very stars that surrounded her and not part of Mandalore. Kata stood next to her filled with the wonder of a young girl but with the stoicism of someone who understood the importance of the quiet moments in life. She wished she still had some of that innocence inside her but she couldn’t remember the last time she felt it. Her brother and his father had seen to her being rid of it early in life. It had been their way of punishing her mother for giving birth to the daughter of the Mandalore.

Looking over at Kata she saw the wonder on her face in the moonlight. They were the same age physically but decades apart mentally. Kata was growing mentally as her medical condition came under control but she was still only a young woman in many ways. Sarai was easily approaching thirty in many aspects of life given her upbringing. She was finding it hard to adapt to being treated like her actual age but found it welcoming at the same time. Footsteps could be heard behind both of them though they sounded far more deliberate than necessary. She felt Kata leave her place next to her as she looked back up at the sky and knew that a man had joined her up on the ledge. “You still don’t feel at home here do you?”

Sarai’s skin puckered at Freedom’s blunt analysis of her current mood. “I thought you didn’t use the Force on your men.”

“I don’t, and I didn’t need to use it on you either.” His distinction of separating her from his men brought a twinge of irritation from inside her but she also believed him without question.

“The only time I’ve noticed you acting like part of our family was the first few nights you were here after that you have kept to yourself for the most part.” Freedom moved closer to the edge of the ledge and inhaled the air around them. Looking out into the night he felt Sarai moving nervously unsure of the conversation that was about to take place. “I have been in your position before Sarai. I found myself trying to make the exact decision you are making now when I was about your age but I was decidedly less mature. My decision was based on feeling excluded and uncared for. I thought that if I chose to become greater than those around me they would accept me and show appreciation for my accomplishments. Instead I felt alienated and completely disconnected from those around me.”

Sarai glanced at him sideways completely confused. “What does that have to do with the fact I feel out of place here? I have no where to go unless I decide to become a Merc or a Bounty Hunter. I’m not out for getting a pat on the back, I’m Mando.”

“That you are,’ Freedom nodded and crouched next to her. ‘one thing you seem to be forgetting though is that you’ve been taken in by my family.”

Sarai shrugged dismissively at it out of habit and immediately regretted the motion. Freedom moved and sat next to her on the ledge letting his feet hang over. “You’ve always felt disconnected from your family. Your ideals never lined up with theirs and you always found yourself causing trouble by doing what felt natural. You never saw it as trouble even though they saw it as you causing trouble or stirring the pot. It made you question you were and the more you did that the angrier you got. Now that you are out of that environment you feel lost and all that anger is just sitting there with nothing to do making you frustrated.”

Sarai’s eyes narrowed and she leaned away from Freedom with the feeling of being read like a book. “You seriously never read people with the Force unless they ask?”

“That only applies to family members but yes,’ Freedom pulled a leg up to his chest and put his chin on his knee. “I wasn’t describing you. I was describing me.”

“You feel like that and stick around here? Isn’t that a bit self-destructive.” Sarai motioned back toward the fires burning behind them. “Doesn’t seem smart to stick around.”

Smiling Freedom looked up into the sky and took in the stars. “I don’t feel like that here, I felt like that in the Jedi Order. Every day was another battle to live through, every day was another day full of anger and fighting not only myself but arguing with those around me because they just didn’t get it like I did.”

Freedom pursed his lips for a minute and then the emotion disappeared behind a smirk like he had his own inside joke. “The Jedi are to me like your family is to you. They had their ideals and their own beliefs and knew what was right for me. It wasn’t that they didn’t care it was that they didn’t see the world the way I do. My connection the Force is different than most Jedi. It isn’t that I’m better at being a Jedi or stronger it’s just different. A Healer is more powerful to me at healing, there are levels to what a Jedi can do and some are better than me at some things than me. I have always had a knack for fighting, for feeling the Force at a primal level. Feeling the Force is like breathing to me, using it in a fight I have no idea how to use the Force in certain ways but the ways I can use the Force? That is only understandable to me. For you the same can be said when it comes to your family and how you view the galaxy--”

“--They don’t understand my thoughts and won’t listen to my thoughts on matters.” Sarai jumped in to finish his sentence catching him a bit off guard but drawing a slightly swell of pride in him for hitting the mark.

“It’s like they have this belief that what they believe is the only thing that is acceptable. They won’t allow anyone to believe anything different and if you do they teach you that believing differently is unacceptable.”

Freedom raised an eyebrow and immediately knew she was referring to the scars on her back. “My brother, the dikut that he is, was the reason I never felt part of my ad. It didn’t matter who my mother was he was not going to accept me as one of the clan. The Priest’s think I am some pet and Garen treats me like I don’t exist. I am tired of being treated like a burden and it is easier to be unattached waiting for the hammer that will fall rather than investing into those that will eventually find no use for me.”

“Except,’ Freedom said cutting Sarai off. “You have purpose here. You have a ad if you want one but more important you have a family. What started out as a curiosity when you stood up to Mav has now become something far more. You are old enough to be on your own but young enough to not know what to do with that kind of freedom. I am willing to offer you the ability to learn what to do with that kind of freedom but more importantly I am willing to teach you what they wouldn’t and offer you a family at the same time.”

Pulling his feet under him Freedom stood and offered Sarai a hand which she took. Looking at the shadow approaching him Freedom recognized Fyjati’s gait. “What is it?”

Fyjati stuck his thumbs in his belt and smirked. “You’ll never guess who showed up in Keldabe earlier today.”

“The Mandalore?” Freedom smirked and Sarai laughed while Fyjati frowned.

“How’d you know?” Freedom did a double take and raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Cadden Blackthorne showed back up.”

Freedom’s eyebrow raised a bit more but not because he knew the man as Mandalore but because he knew the man as much more than that. He knew exactly where he needed to head next. “Prep the transports we’re going to pay him a visit. Bring me the information about the Jedi I’ll read it while we fly. Also get Sarai the weapon of her choice. She’s lacking in proper weaponry for our sparring.”

Dropping her head she let her shoulders fall as well. “No, my training was strictly hand to hand, short blades and any and all blaster weaponry that could be found. I don’t like the way they feel anyways. Nothing I have ever used felt right.”

Nodding Freedom started to move toward the house with the rest of the group. “We’ll find you something that fits your fighting style and until we do you will be training every day with a weapon till you can join that ball of fun.”

“Yes!’ Fyjati smiled and fell in step with Sarai, ‘I am always willing to add another person to that ball of fun. Less chance of my head getting cut off by those lightsabers. Those things are way too dangerous.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

The repetitive droning of the transport engines cut through the night sky as Freedom stared at the distant city of Keldabe. Lights flickered in the distance creaking the illusion that they were blinking. It wasn’t a big city on any scale but it was large enough to warrant be called the capital on a warriors world. With his helmet off Freedom could smell the various scents of the city even from this far away and it made his mind drift to various meals that could be had within. Looking over he saw Sarai in the transport flying opposite his, her blonde hair whipping around in the wind as she sat with a leg on the runner below the door. He saw so much of himself in her it both scared him and envigorated him. Kera had made a joke about him spending so much time with her that if he thought he was going to leave her for a younger woman he better think twice. He would never have done such a thing but he also knew exactly what Sarai needed and a family ranked at the top of that list.

Looking down at Kera for a moment she faced him in the door sitting much like Sarai was in the opposite transport though her back was to the front of the ship and her hair was pulled into a tight braid. Freedom heard static over his earpiece and recognized Jess’s voice. “So what are we planning to do once we land? Last time you were in Keldabe a nice brawl nearly started.”

Freedom looked over at the other transport to try and locate his former executive officer but shadows hid her too well. “We put them down if they get in our way.”

His voice was so matter of fact that even Kera looked up at him. There was no coldness in his voice, no remorse, just matter of factness. They had made themselves the enemy and in order to accomplish their goal he would remove any obstacle that he faced so long as it didn’t compromise their own beliefs and morals to do so. Ghode’s voice came next over the comm asking another question while also stating a fact that each of them knew. “So now that we know your head is back on straight I have to know why exactly we’re going to retrieve Cadden Blackthorne. The man abandoned Mandalore and the Mando’ade without even a second glance. He left us to rot and lead ourselves not to mention he’s a frelling jetii he can take care of himself.”

Freedom grimaced at the last statement. He knew better and hadn’t told anyone yet but he had been searching for Cadden in the Force since Fyjati had told him he was back on the planet and couldn’t find him. He knew what Cadden felt like in the Force from years prior but this was different. It was as if Cadden no longer existed in the Force. He felt like he caught glimpses of him here or there but when he went to press it just disappeared. It had taken him a few hours to figure it out but it was only after touching Nomi to find out how Deegan was doing that he made the connection. “We are picking up Cadden so he can take his place as the leader of the Mandalorians. He left us for reasons we don’t know about. Kyr wants to have a face to face with him so we are going to pick him up and take him back to Kyr. There are times when even I don’t know what Kyr is thinking but he wouldn’t be making this decision without reason.”

“Yeah,’ Ghode said, “but another frelling Jedi? Don’t we have enough around with Casi, Roan and the two others coming?”

Jess threw a verbal jab back at Ghode through the comm that underscored the tension between the team. “Did you forget Freedom and Nomi are both jetii?

Ghode responded but with more candor than he’d ever care to admit. “Yeah, but they aren’t jetii their Mando’s with Force powers.”

Freedom liked his explanation but still winced a bit. “Technically Casi and Roan aren’t Jedi either, in order to be a Jedi you have to be part of the Jedi Order. The only Jedi we have around are the two that are going to be here from the Jedi Temple.”

Kera looked up at him and interjected herself into the conversation. “Speaking of which what do you think of the two they sent?”

“Master Boolon Murr I know little about outside the briefing and background we have. He helped heal a few wounds of mine but nothing major. His knowledge of the Force when it comes to healing is encouraging and looks to be very thorough. Reela Eyan, his apprentice, I know nothing about. Nomi knows her in passing and a few study sessions but nothing too encouraging. From what information I can gather about her this is her first trip off world accompanying a Master Healer.”

The transports shifted their course as they readied to let their passengers disembark. Freedom slipped his helmet on and his HUD lit up. Kera’s voice now came back through a much more precise type of speak. “Do you think they can save him?”

Freedom kicked the fast rope out of the transport and began checking his equipment and weaponry for the fourth time. “I think that the Jedi Order sent us one of their best healers and their most promising apprentice. Whoever was responsible for sending them we owe a great deal of gratitude and a few favors.”

Hovering in place the transports dropped the group of Mandalorians on a side street before heading just out of visual range to set down. Freedom had opted to keep half his team on the transports as a contingency if things got rough. Ghode, Sarai, Kera, Tal and Kata made up his group while the rest would stay with the transports. Drosk was already somewhere in the city with three other team members acting as an immediate response team should they need it. As Freedom walked down the street he felt Rang, Eya and Ca moving through the alley ways and ahead of them. He would take no chances on this trip and had made sure that the three Karir had been inserted ahead of them along with Drosk.

Each of them moved silently down the street acting as normal as possible given the actual purpose to the mission. Their brief had given them instructions to act like they were there to shop and they would do just that as they worked their way toward the target building. Walking down the main street in Keldabe Freedom saw a few fights, a few drunken arguments and even more people enjoying a very late night in the capital. Feeling something moving behind him Freedom knew they were being tailed. “Drosk, we’ve got a tail you have eyes?”

“Negative.” The Bothan’s response wasn’t encouraging but Ghode slowed as Sarai and Kata acted like two girls their own age stopping at various points while Freedom and Kera looked on as amused parents. Another hour passed as they walked when Ghode’s HUD spun quickly for a second and then the muffled sound of an electrical discharge lit up the night.

“Ghode, report.” Freedom’s voice cut through the banter and a grunt filled voice came back.

“I’m good. He tried to use a stun baton on me. Damn thing punches like a rancor but I stuck him with a vibroblade in the leg. Just give me a minute.” Freedom immediately reached out with the Force and found each of his team members. The street was busy but not so busy they couldn’t keep track of each other. He had Drosk put up an overwatch drone while the continued to move forward. Ghode was walking noticeably slower than before but his vitals were slowly returning to normal. A few more intersections came and went without incident but Freedom felt something off. The city seemed tense and far more quiet than normal even with daily shopping happening. As they approached the next intersection Freedom felt the Force scream at him like an alarm bell. Grabbing Kera he shoved her sideways and punched the air toward Sarai and Kata as the grenade rolling toward them exploded. Kata and Sarai were thrown away from Freedom while Ghode dove forward having already gone passed the device. Freedom suddenly realized that the loss of innocent lives meant nothing to those who wanted them dead and that appalled him more than the attack on his troops.

Everyone began to check in while Drosk and his team moved to assist. Kata’s voice came back far more strained than needed and the danger code word came across as her response to her physical condition. Looking around through the dust Freedom saw her being drug toward the center of the intersection. Standing he walked toward her and saw Mav Priest along with his younger brother Sil standing next to him. Kata was on her knees in front of them while they tried to wrestle her helmet off. Mav smiled at Freedom and shook his head. “Don’t come any closer or I end your daughters life.”

The slug thrower he held wouldn’t penetrate the helmet but the impact of it being that close would definitely cause some issues. Focusing Freedom saw the man shake his head. “No Force, that’s why my vod is here. You end me and he takes her out.”

The number of Mandalorians in the intersection was growing and Freedom knew they would be outnumbered soon enough. Letting his hands fall to his sides the former Jedi kept walking forward while Kera slid around to flank them. Freedom had one shot at this and then suddenly Mav’s slugthrower whined as it was about to fire. Leaning backward Kata pushed with the Force as well as she was able and the slugthrower went off like a cannon in a cave. The round went through her torso plate just below her right breast and existed just as quickly. She screamed and Freedom found himself willing to kill. Grabbing the man with the Force he drug him closer while Sil fired at him. Slamming Mav to the ground Freedom took three steps and delivered an elbow into Sil’s chin shattering his visor as Ca attacked viciously from the shadows. The man's screams filled the air as durasteel armor was crushed under her powerful jaws.

Freedom signalled the beast and she began to drag the man toward him as he kicked Mav in the side and then forced the man stand. Removing a srraka blade from it’s sheath he stabbed it through Sil’s right shoulder as he lay face down pinning him to the ground while Ca paced behind Freedom. The massive beast came to Freedom’s waist but even that wasn’t a deterrent to Mav who took two quick steps toward Freedom and found a vibrowhip wrapped around his throat without a warning. Mav found himself in a precarious position as Kera held the other end of the whip ready to activate it and end his life should he make the wrong move. Freedom’s voice was tight and restrained as the anger inside him threatened to come out while he spoke. “You made a very stupid decision Mav. We weren’t even here for you yet one decision made by you had led us to the point where ending your without needing to has suddenly become a very real idea for me.”

Mav laughed through a bloodied mouth. “We know why you’re here Nadd. Blackthorne isn’t here to become part of your rebellion. He is here to support the Mandalore.”

Freedom nodded to Kera and she tightened the whip. “Blackthorne is the Mandalore Priest. Now, you get to leave but he doesn’t.”

Freedom pointed toward Sil and Kera tilted her head quizzically before releasing Mav from the whip. Grabbing Sil by the back plate Freedom drug halfway to his wife before dropping him in front of her. Kata made her way over with the help of Sarai and as she passed him shot Mav in the stomach with her own blaster. Looking at his daughter surprised he realized just how much she took after her mother more than he wanted to admit. Her voice was pain filled and tense yet she still spoke with conviction. “You deserve to die. You will die. My father is going to kill you but until he does remember that you picked the wrong family to go to war with.”

Mav held himself up with one arm while he looked toward his brother through pain dominating facial expressions. Ghode coughed under his helmet as his laughter filled the air at the ridiculous nature of it all. Sarai tossed the Death Watch shoulder plate at her brother, nodded toward Freedom in acknowledgement and then helped Sarai toward the walkway. Freedom heard a lightsaber ignite behind him and grimaced. A quick hum and a slight spark later Sil’s head was dropped at Mav’s feet felled by Freedom’s father’s lightsaber. Kera was decidedly smaller than than Mav but he seemed to be dwarfed by her in this moment as she stood over him. “You are lucky that we need you alive because if not I’d have made you choke to death on your brothers head.”

Eyes wide Mav was manhandled into a set of restraints by Drosk and two others while Freedom grabbed Sil’s body and laid it across the back of a swoop Drosk had come in on. “Meet me at the exfil in twenty.”


The sun would be up in about two hours Freedom figured. Just far enough away that no one would notice the body until at least an hour after it was placed. Sliding the body down a porch rail Freedom made sure that the Death Watch logo was covered in blood as a message to the owner. Grabbing Sarai’s old Death Watch armor plate he stabbed the dead body in the chest with a vibroblade holding the plate up leaving it hanging there. He knew Cadden Blackthorne would see the body, he knew Garen would see the body as well which was the reason for the message in the first place. He wanted them both to see it because he wanted the truth of the situation to start to sink in. They had made their first mistake by attacking Deegan, they had declared war by threatening his daughter. Kyr still did not know about the attempt on Kata’s life and Freedom knew things were about to get a whole lot worse for Garen and his men now that the attempt had been made.

Drosk and Ghode placed Mav opposite his brothers body and left him to sit on his own. Freedom walked away as the other two mounted their swoops. Mav slid down the railing painfully but still took the time to talk as he did so. “You think you’re better than me don’t you jetii? You think because you were a hero in the Xen’Chi war you have a right to dictate what we do now? You know nothing of our ways. You know nothing of what is best for Mandalore.”

Freedom let him keep talking his banter a minor annoyance. When he stood back up Freedom looked his direction but did nothing more. “You can ignore me all you like Nadd but I speak the truth. You and your kind, you are nothing. You mean nothing. The Death Watch are what Mandalore has always needed. When I am done with you and your kind my sister will see that. Your daughter will watch you die knowing your cause is a failure before I kill her. I will wipe your clan from existence just like my father removed the Way’an’s from the record books.”

Turning his head in irritation Freedom straddled his swoop and looked toward Mav. “You can tell me that all you want Mav but you will die before this ends and I will be the one to kill you.”

Laughing Mav leaned against the wall of the house behind him. “That may be but I like to think I will be the one to kill you, after I make you watch me have my way with your wife...and daughter.”

Shaking his head Freedom slid off the swoop and in one swift motion pulled his bow, nocked an arrow and put it between the man’s chest armor and left shoulder plate pinning him to the wall behind him. Looking at it in shock Mav started to laugh and Freedom put another arrow through his body opposite the one in his left shoulder. Walking up on to the porch Freedom pulled a srraka blade and slid it under Mav’s chin. “That is the second time today you have threatened my daughter, there will not be a third. Open your mouth again and I will kill you here and now.”

Walking off the porch Freedom heard Mav start to laugh again and knew what was coming next. He knew that Kyr had a plan for Mav and how to use him to instigate more but honestly Freedom knew the man would have preferred to have him no longer in the way. Mav was about to leave Freedom with no choice and he could not allow another insult. Tapping a few buttons on his gauntlet he saw what he needed to on his HUD and let Mav say the word “open”. Spinning back around Freedom put an arrow into Mav’s chest just to the right of the heart. He wanted the man dead but also wanted him to bleed out painfully as he did so. Walking on to the porch again Freedom slid the srraka blade out again and nicked Mav’s throat enough to where he could breath but wide enough that it would be a race to see if his now lacerated heart or slit throat would kill him first. Leaving a message disk hanging around the arrow sticking out of Mav’s chest Freedom slide into the swoops seat again and Ghode looked at him on a different level than before. “You know I never thought you’d disobey Kyr, ever. Killing Mav is going to upset the old man.”

Starting the swoop Freedom looked toward Ghode through his helmet. “He’s more upset he wasn’t able to torture Mav than anything else. He was watching while I pinned him to the wall and the kill itself.”

Making a “huh” sound over the comm Ghode let Freedom lead the way as they left Mav hanging by the arrows holding him up bleeding out internally and suffocating at the same time.
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Adenn Mirshko
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Reela sat in the hangar with Master Murr along with a handful of Mandalorians when they felt the ship revert from hyperspace. It had been three days since they left Ossus and normal time to Mandalore was four at the minimum so the reversion seemed a bit odd. Roan walked into the hangar and the Mandalorians all stirred. “We're over Mandalore. We have about two hours till we set down. Prep your gear, pack your stuff. Once we’re down the ship will be unable to be accessed until further notice so make sure you grab everything.”

Reela looked at her master and could tell nothing from him. She followed Roan’s orders and went to pack her gear.


Nomi heard the comm chatter coming down the hallway and jogged toward the comm room leaving Näle to watch Deegan’s monitors which she had become rather obsessive about over the past two days. Fyjati turned around from his station at the comm panel and looked toward her while talking into a headset and making a lightsaber motion with his hands. Running back to Deegan’s room she looked at Näle and made the same motion before jogging toward the upper level of the building. Fyjati soon joined her while talking into another comm. “Freedom, Jedi are inbound we’ll have visual any time I suggest you get back here if you want to be the first to meet them. Kyr is making contact with Asha so she can pick up another asset. He is ready to speak to the Jedi but he wants you here to help read them.”

Freedom’s voice came back slightly distant which Fyjati figured was him regaining his center from his previous work. “Already on my way back, ready the Forge for a debrief. Take the Jedi directly to Deegan. Put their gear in the appropriate quarters and then start prep to move to the Grove. Roan is already aware of what to do with the Traveler we need to be able to leave without a trace as per normal protocol rather quickly.”

“Will do,’ Fyjati killed the comm and watched the Traveler set down without a single rotation to adjust. The cargo door was already open with Mando’s standing on it’s edge. After a few moments the ship set down and the Mandalorians began reorganizing the cargo bay. Casi came down the ramp with the two Jedi in tow to which Nomi immediately noticed the younger of the two. Without her helmet the young Jedi apprentice would recognize her as well. Fyjati eyed the twi’lek Jedi but knew the Ithorian was leading the group. “Master Murr, my name is Fyjati Bralor and this is my wife Nomi thank you for your haste. I will have your things taken to your quarters but I have been ordered to take you to Deegan immediately.”

Falling in step with the Mandalorian the Master Healer responded in kind introducing Reela but feeling the urgency skipped any other pleasantries. Nomi fell instep next to Reela and smiled. “You’ve grown quite a bit over the past few years Ayy the Force is completely different coming off you.”

Reela looked at Nomi and blinked a few times but she could barely speak after seeing Nomi. “We all thought you died. Even the Council thought you dead. After they found Cal’s body we assumed Freedom had killed you or worse.”

Laughing Nomi lit up at that thought but quieted when they reached Deegan. Reela immediately felt him in the Force and fought hard to not cry. Boolon made a humming noise while Näle stood behind Deegan watching them all the while looking as if she hadn’t slept in a year. Nomi ran a hand over Deegan and updated them on his status. She spoke of how his heart was functioning better via an emergency surgery but the only thing helping to keep him alive was the induced coma and other intricate details that Reela found overwhelming. Nomi’s demeanor slowly changed as she listed each injury in detail doing her best to visualize what she saw in the Force but also showing exactly where on Deegan the injury was greatest.

The briefing stopped when the sounds of armor and shouting could be heard coming down the hall. Fyjati stepped back as Reela watched someone who could have been the poster boy for any number of military recruitment posters walk into the room if it weren’t for the massive scar ran down over his face somehow missing the eye it ran over. His eyes were piercing as if they knew every ounce of her soul but it was the blood that covered parts of his dark blue and black armor that shocked her the most. Fresh blood.

Looking down at her he winked and she felt a nudge in the Force. She audibly was shocked as he walked passed her and introduced himself. “Master Murr, thank you for your quick response to our call. My name is Freedom Nadd. We have met a few times in the past but under very different circumstances. I apologize for my appearance but certain situations require a specific type of negotiating skill.”

Reela looked around the room at the other Mandalorians around her and saw two women who looked young but their eyes said they were much older. The younger brunette approached her and introduced herself as Kata. Reela’s conversational skills returned as she talked to the young woman for a little while finding out that she was no older than Reela’s sixteen but there was something different about her. She felt absolutely infant in the Force yet here she stood looking sixteen, feeling three and yet somewhere there was a twenty-five year old residing behind those eyes.

She’s a walking contradiction Reela thought to herself. It was at this point she noticed two wounds as the woman was leaking blood. Shaking her head for a moment Reela got her to sit with some convincing and the blonde teenage Mandalorian, Sarai, helped her get the armor plates off so Reela could examine them. Master Boolon finished his conversation with Freedom and then set about his own work on the comatose Mandalorian. Nomi stood by quietly offering help here or there but soon she felt in the way and left to go find something to eat while Näle looked ready to pounce on the Jedi at any moment.

Reela felt out each of Kata’s wounds in the Force and set about accelerating the healing process when she felt Kata’s own abilities in the Force move to aid hers. Widening her eyes in surprise Reela looked at Kata and she gave a smile that was a near replica of her father’s own amused facial expression. Freedom stood watching Reela for a moment and then left telling Kata to rest up because they would not be moving out for at least forty-eight hours. As each Mandalorian left leaving only their doctor, Jeston, and Näle behind with the two Jedi as well as Sarai and Kata. Reela asked for various bandages, stitching materials and the like which Sarai provided but mostly they worked in silence. Kata eventually broke it however out of sheer frustration. “You’re quite overwhelmed by all of this aren’t you.”

Reela processed her wording carefully but she definitely agreed with the statement. “I find the whole situation to be chaotic and brutal. You were shot and medical care was not provided immediately.”

Reela shook her head to clear the emotion rising within her and Kata looked at her curiously. “Your father,’ Reela said questioningly, “walked in here covered in blood and then left without even so much as a second glance by anyone. That seems barbaric to me.”

A quick laugh escaped Sarai who hid the rest of her amusement behind a smile and stifled laughing while Kata responded. “I was given triage enroute to the house. My wounds were taken care of for the immediate future and we knew you all had landed so I was going to request that one of you take a look at them. My father was covered in my blood as well as that of the man who put the slugs in me. He was not going to end the man’s life until he threatened to rape both my mother and I while my father watched.”

Kata’s voice rose slightly as her temper began to flare. “This is the same man who put that man who you were called here to help save in the position he is in now. He also helped plan an attack to bomb this very house. Tell me, is that not enough to warrant my father reluctantly killing the man?”

“Reluctantly?’ Reela looked at Kata and saw in her face herself yet only on a different path. “How do you know he did it reluctantly?”

“Because I watched the video, I felt my father in the Force, there was no amount of killing of that man today that my father wanted.” Kata looked over her wounds as Reela finished dressing them and sat up so she could begin on the exit wounds. “You jetii...I have never met one of you but everything that everyone has said seems to be true.”

Reela looked at Kata and then to Master Boolon who was intently examining Deegan yet probably also paying attention to the conversation Reela was having. “What does everyone say about us?”

“You talk a certain way, you act as if you have never committed a wrong and never accept anyones explanation unless it lines up with your moral code.” Reela’s face probably said plenty as Kata tore her ego bubble apart.

“I’ve made plenty of mistakes,’ Reela’s tone was shame filled but hidden as best she could to hide the emotion she felt. “I make mistakes every day. I would not learn if I did not make mistakes. We are taught to never dwell on our mistakes but to move forward from them and learn from it. Everyone in the galaxy is taught that.”

“Yes,’ Kata said, ‘but everyone else in the galaxy doesn’t treat those who make mistakes as if they have never made them. They also aren’t talked down to because they make them. You might say you have made mistakes but you do not allow the fact you have to show through.

Reela went to speak and stopped talking instead she went about finishing her work while Kata looked at Sarai. “You don’t seem to be upset about losing your brothers today.”

“My brothers cared more about the Death Watch then they did about me. Why should I be upset? They were dar’manda to me as much as I was to them.” Sarai’s emotions were flatlined, she was somewhere that her brother and both fathers had created within her. Kata looked at her friend and didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t old enough to have wisdom and young enough to not have the vocabulary if she did. All she could do was think about how she felt when she thought Deegan was going to die.

Dar’manda or not they were still your family. Take the time you need to grieve. You aren’t one of them, let it out we all have to. My father could help you as well maybe you should go talk to him. Nomi might be better though given she's not my dad.” Kata looked at Sarai and the faraway look in her eyes made her think she wasn’t listening but she responded by taking Kata’s hand anyways. The girls innocence had a way of ripping through any barriers most of them had set-up.

“I need to process this in my own way vod.” Sarai went to leave as Reela finished Kata’s back and an alarm went off. This one was a call to arms, Sarai helped Kata put her armor plating back on and then they both looked at each other as their comms started talking. Sarai thought faster and flipped her helmet over to broadcast in speaker mode. Freedom’s voice came over the comm calm and collected though breathing rather intensely.

“--we don’t know much in the way of details yet but we do know that the town of Enceri has been bombed. Data is initially pointing to a group of atmospheric craft led by Jhar Priest--”

“--Freedom that town isn’t even loyal to us--” Jess’s voice chimed in.

“--Not to mention if Sarai’s father wanted to actually hurt us he should’ve actually attacked where we are, not where we have never been--” Ghode’s voice spoke reason but Sarai sat staring at the wall before her.

“--Why in the world would they hit Enceri. I would understand Norg Bral but Enceri?--” Fyjati’s voice was full of shock but Freedom’s voice cut in again the calm, stable tone through everything.

“--From this moment on we are at war. All assets are to be used only as directed. The chain of command we have always had tentatively in place is now the official chain of command until further notice. You will report to your squads in ten minutes, all squadron commanders prepare to have intel sent through the proper encrypted channels. All patrols are now doubled, the Dha’Karir are now mandatory on all patrols. Set protocol Zulu Echo Tango Echo. Stand by for further instruction--”

Reela turned around and looked at the two Mandalorian girls and they were repairing Kata’s armor as best possible while waiting for their orders to come through. Sarai suddenly stopped and looked at her comm. Tapping a few buttons she waited a few moments and then dropped her head. Opening the channel they were just speaking on she began talking. “I know why they attacked Enceri.”

Freedom came on the secure command channel. “Go ahead Lieutenant Pri--”

“Wait, she’s a Lieutenant? Why--” Ghode’s voice was cut off as Freedom broke in.

“Sergeant Viso, maintain comm discipline.’ Freedom’s bark came back quickly and then his voice softened. “Yes, she is a Lieutenant. We, as in General Aden and myself, have designated her as an Intelligence Officer. She may not have the ability in terms of fighting skill or have accomplished since joining us the necessary achievements you deem required for that rank but she has seen more combat than over half our fighters and she will earn her rank among us. Do not mistake the rank for what she actually has in respect Ghode. You know better than anyone that we do not hand out ranks lightly. She is intelligence because she knows our enemy better than anyone else in this room. Now, Lieutenant Priest, why did they attack Enceri?”

“Firstly, I don’t want the commission. I need to earn it. Secondly, they attacked Enceri to send a message to me. They wanted me to be able to let you know that no matter what they were going to stop at nothing until we were all dead and they don’t care who they kill. My mother lived in Enceri so did my little sister.”

The room around them fell even more silent than it was before and Freedom broke in again. “Thank you for the intel Lieutenant, report to the Forge immediately. That goes for all ranking officers and their XO’s as well.”

Leaving the room Sarai and Kata both looked back at Näle who looked torn between staying with Deegan and joining them in the fight. Nodding to them she shook her head and then took off after them yelling for them to wait up. Reela looked at Master Boolon and then to Jeston and realized after glancing toward the chrono she had only been in the med ward for a short thirty minutes. Putting her hands to either side of her face and letting out an exasperated breath she was decidedly overwhelmed. “Master, who are these people? They seem mentally insane. That young woman just left with two slug holes in her, Freedom Nadd seems both ball of pure fire and sheer destruction through the Force. The one with the two wounds went from a center of compassion, innocence and love to pure ice and nothing else when the message came through. Sarai just lost both brothers to her own people, her mother and sister were killed by her father and she is ready to back out to fight again. All of this is taken by all of them like they are eating lunch!”

Jeston laughed and hooked up another monitor lead. “This is a normal day for us, a bad day is when we have to actually do something other than fight.”

“See!,’ Reela’s voice reached a new octave. “They aren’t right in the head!”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

The Forge was a chaotic weave of activity with countless voices, messages and tones going all at once. In the center stood Captain Freedom Nadd along with his command team. Lieutenants Fyjati Bralor, Kera Aden-Nadd, Jess Shale, Sarai Priest and Tal Way’an were accompanied by Sergeants Ghode Viso, Nomi Bralor, Gevall Hod and Drosk. Also joining the discussion was Major Carud Way’an and General Kyr Aden. The group stood discussing the current situation of the bombing recovery at Enceri while also prepping their own first attack. Targets of opportunity were always welcome but this first attack would be a chance to send a message early in the war.

This would be the first offensive maneuver since the provocation began a few months earlier and they wanted to make a statement but not put all of their cards on the table. The attack would require a certain level of stealth but at the same time enough visibility to let it be known they would not be hiding in the shadows any further. Details were being discussed and worked through meticulously. Freedom took a moment to enjoy each of those that were present because from this moment forward they would rarely be sharing a room together. His wife was about to be assigned to a platoon of troops that she would lead into combat, his best friend Fyjati would be in charge of four squadrons of troops as well and act as his liaison to Norg Bral. Drawing in a breath Freedom looked at the screens around him and then tapped a few buttons resetting the war map. “Alright, you each have your orders. Report to your men, give them the instructions that have been handed out and then stand by. Each of you has a specific set of qualities not shared by your peers, maximize that and use it to its full potential because that might make the difference in this war.”

Freedom turned to Kyr who was watching the air traffic control console intensely. “General, we will be ready to deploy our squads within the hour. Say the word and I will begin with the attacks.”

Kyr nodded never taking his eyes off the screen. “We have one more piece to add to the board before we begin our attacks. Asha should be arriving momentarily with an asset we will find useful.”

“Copy that General.” Freedom killed the screen and watched his officers move to leave as two figures entered the command center. The woman’s slender build made her look completely out of place in Mandalorian armor that had been custom made for her petite frame. The maroon and silver armor was broken by splattered orange paint but that only added to the chaotic look of the fiery woman. Her hair was cut short to jaw length and its orange and brown highlights disappeared as her hair moved passed her ears and became black. The second person stood a good bit taller than the woman as she only reached his chest and his armor was in stark contrast to hers. Blue with an auburn and gold pattern complimenting it the man’s jaw line looked as if it had been chiseled from rock. His well kept facial hair added to the air that he took himself a bit too seriously but those who knew him also knew that he was far more willing to trade punches than worry about his grooming standards.

Freedom looked away from a monitor and smiled at their arrival as did those who were once leaving the Forge as everyone moved to greet both arrivals. They knew each other well but it didn’t change the greeting as they were more than thrilled to have them. Freedom shook Aeorn’s hand while someone shouted across the room. “Kyr said Asha was picking up another asset but you are a welcome sight. I figured you would show up eventually but this makes my job quite a bit easier.”

Aeorn went to reply to the greeting as another shout went up and the command console came back to life. Drawing audio soon flooded the room and video of a live bombing soon silenced the entire room. Aeorn looked at the monitors and his anger was palpable toward the situation. “What city is this?”

“They are attacking Enceri again.” Freedom looked at Kyr who nodded to him knowingly. The man had a hands off approach to leadership but Freedom knew that was more because he had taught Freedom how to lead properly than that he didn’t want to actually make decisions. Until he had to do something beyond plan attacks and choose targets Kyr would be as involved in combat as possible which meant he allowed Freedom to share the load on logistics.

Turning to the command console Freedom pulled up a real time holographic image of the city and watched the bombers making runs at the city. As he rotated the city to isolate the concentration of bombings he realized they were hitting a different section of the city than they had earlier. “Are these the same bombers as before?”

“Yes sir,’ a young Mandalorian who belonged to a loyal clan replied, “we count two dozen bombers again. Image recognition has identified them as the same aircraft.”

Slamming his fist on the edge of the console Freedom looked at those around him and realized that the plan he had previously set in motion was going to have to chance on the fly. “Alright, Aeorn you get to put your rank to use immediately. I will give you whatever I can for this mission or more than likely it is going to be a prolonged campaign but from this moment forward your command now has the responsibility of retaking Enceri once the bombings stop and we have air superiority. You will take, hold and secure that city by whatever means are required within reason. The people of Enceri had nothing to do with us--”

Fyjati interrupted his voice seething with anger. “--they turned us away because they did not want to be involved at all. They wanted to be neutral. Sir, I want to assist Captain Mors in retaking the city. I have a few men who grew up there and they would be of great benefit even if the city is nothing but piles of duracrete by the time they are done.”

Taking Fyjati’s interruption for what it was Freedom continued the impromptu briefing. “Granted Lieutenant. Captain I will give you time to settle in to your quarters before sending over all the intel we can gather. This is the second bombing in as many hours so it will probably be coming to you on an ‘as we get it’ basis.”

Kyr leaned over the command console and looked at his officers quietly till he felt they were beginning to get a bit uneasy as the silence grew. “Each of you knows your job. You have all fought in a war before, most of you helped defend this very world from attack during the Xen’Chi War. There will be soldiers on the other side that you know well. You might recognize them in a combat situation or walk passed them after the fight was over never knowing that they were involved. You cannot allow this to make you waiver. We must stand strong and stick to our convictions. This is not about us or them, this is about Mandalore. This war is about what Mandalore stands for and what its people stand for. We cannot put ourselves before the cause but we can put ourselves in position to sacrifice for it.”

Kyr stood and tapped a few buttons bringing up the Death Watch logo. “This is what we are fighting against. They want to turn us into conquerors and tyrants. They believe we should be criminals and pirates, soldiers without an ounce of morality even when sometimes we may compromise ours on a mission. Do not doubt that our enemy is willing to do whatever is necessary to win this war, the bombing of Enceri proves they will do anything. We will win this war and it might take years to do so but our cause is more important than our own lives.”

Switching back to the view of Enceri Kyr looked to Freedom and motioned toward him as well. “Captain Nadd will have your revised orders after we discuss our adjusted battle strategy. Captain Mors, proceed with the orders that were given you. I expect to see you leave with your platoons within an hour after Enceri is deemed clear of bombings.”

Freedom’s comm squawked as Kyr continued to talk stepping off to the side. Kyr spun the map to look at the undamaged section of the city and widened his view of it. “I would suggest entering from the damaged side of the city because this will be prime ground for any ambush and predictable behavior. With half the city now rubble you are going to be able to move far more easily through a fire burning, completely dark section of the city. Garen and his troops will expect you to at least move to occupy the still standing structures so I would avoid them. Should you come in contact with enemy troops before we are able to neutralize their aerial advantages I suggest moving quickly to another location far enough away to allow for safety during bombing runs.”

Reapproaching the conversation Freedom interrupted everything. “Sir, we have news on Cadden Blackthorne. I have had our scouts, Pax and Ivu, holding station on the Mandalore since he returned from his mission to Ord Cestus. After his return Garen put him in a holding cell.”

Kyr nodded once to affirm he understood the underlying message of the conversation they were having. “Go get him.”

“Yes sir,’ Freedom turned and looked to Fyjati who would not be going on the mission to gather Cadden and offered him his hand. “Ja oya’karir vod.

Taking Freedom’s forearm in his own right hand Fyjati nodded. “Good hunting to you to brother.”


The telltale sound of the Laart/i engines would give away their approach but Freedom didn’t bother having the pilots engage the engine silencers that Drosk and his crew of mechanics had been trying to install on the terribly old craft. Three of them flew in a loose formation that rose and fell randomly as they approached the coordinates given to them by the scouts. With the doors closed the transports drops were unable to be compensated for so the troops within them were getting jostled quite a bit causing a few queesy moments as they approached the compound where Cadden was being held. As they got closer the doors opened revealing just how low the pilots were flying to come in blind. The bottom gunner had to be curling his toes Freedom imagined with the ground that close.

Pulling up over the ridge Freedom heard the concussion missile launchers rotated and then his helmets sound dampeners kicked in. The unholy wrath of every weapon on the transports unleashed as they cleared a landing spot. Freedom saw Cadden scrambling to find cover while they cleared the way to land. Setting down closed doors toward the outside the three transports made a defensive barrier as they unloaded before taking off again. Freedom let his Lieutenants do the ordering of troops for the time being but they knew the primary goal was to make sure that Cadden made it out alive. Methodically working their way through the building Freedom led his team using the Force to make sure each corner was clear. Holding his rifle at the ready he stopped and looked to his left. Motioning for his second team to head down the hall Freedom opened a secure channel that was only heard by his squad commanders. “Asha, Tal, down that hall are the E’tad retrieve them and then meet up with us. They will need their gear, we will locate it and then give you the location.”

Freedom kept moving forward searching for Cadden through the Force to no avail. Dropping to one knee he felt around another corner and saw a harrowed looking man going from room to room and motioned for his team to clear the corner. After a few moments they had wrestled the man to a position that gave him no choice but to listen and Freedom saw it was indeed Cadden. Pulling him to his feet Freedom flipped on his external speaker. “You look like hell Mandalore, stay in the formation and do not I repeat, do not put yourself in any position to be involved in combat until you have your armor on.”

Freedom continued to move the team further into the building when the call came that the E’tad had been freed. Acknowledging the update Freedom felt as if something was off. This was too easy in his eyes and he had his team hold. The armory was only twenty paces further up the corridor but something felt wrong in the Force. Sending one man ahead to scan they found no traces of explosive but still Freedom kept his rifle at the ready. Moving into the armory Freedom helped an injured Cadden get his armor on and as the E’tad showed up to gather their own gear Freedom felt something around him shift. “Find cover!”

Those were the only words Freedom was able to get out before the far wall pulled away revealing a dozen or so Mandalorians. One of Freedom’s privates died immediately but the response from the rest of his troops was brilliant. Two more men would fall in combat before the move to flank was made. Turning around Freedom found himself face to face with Jhar Priest and Garen himself. Smiling under his helmet the Force user slung his rifle and pulled out his srraka blades engaging both in hand to hand combat without hesitation. Garen pulled himself backward after a few blows took chunks of his armor and he saw that his men were being driven back while Jhar held his ground until Freedom sliced through his left forearm between glove and gauntlet.

Freedom’s own armor held a few new scars but overall he found himself relatively damage free. Triggering the evacuation beacon the Laart/i could be heard overhead while more of Garen’s men took pot shots at them. After everything was secure the roof to the room they occupied blew inward. Ropes quickly fell to the rubble created by the explosion and the extraction began.


The trip back was far less eventful in terms of adrenaline but Freedom found himself reading Cadden like a book through the Force. This was not the man Freedom had met years ago but instead someone who had forgotten who he was. Pulling off his helmet he made eye contact with Cadden and held out his hand as the pilots finally cleared the city and set course for the rendezvous point. “I told you I would see you soon Mandalore.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

"I'm not your Mandalore," Cadden said, ignoring the extended hand. "Nor do I deserve to be. I've disgraced my family name, and the Mandalorians. I'm nothing, now."

If it's not one person, it's another, he mused. They all have an agenda. Some good, some bad... some neither. He felt the pouch where he stored away the datapad. And now, it seems, I've gone from the frying pan to the fire.

"What do you want from me?" he asked coldly.

Freedom felt Cadden through the Force and wanted to reach over and punch him. The man was throwing himself a pity party and they didn't have time for that. "What do I want from you? I want you to stop acting like a two year old and realize that you are the Mandalore. I don't need you to lead my men in battle, what I need is for you to start putting yourself back together so we can change Mandalore for the better."

Cadden snorted in response. "Doesn't seem to me like you need my help for that," he said defiantly. "From where I stand, what I'm seeing is a power struggle. Neither you nor Garen are hesitant to remove someone from the equation if they get in your way. So how is your little revolution going to change Mandalore for the better?"

Freedom felt anger flare inside him as Cadden made the comparison and let it fade with a shrug of his shoulders. "You're right, Kyr was right, you are lost. You don't deserve to lead."

Freedom opened his palm and the image of Enceri being bombed sprang to life. "They don't deserve to have you lead them. Those people, the Mando'ade who will die because of your indecision and self-loathing."

Freedom closed his hand and watched the man before him for any type of response. He felt him through the Force waiting for any type of response that would give Freedom a direction to nudge him.

Cadden watched the image for a moment. His reaction was that of mixed emotions. Part of him was furious at it, but it was countered by doubt. Not over its authenticity, however. "I've done no better," he said after a moment. "In fact... I've done worse. You don't want me to lead. And, yes, you don't deserve my leadership." He looked away for a brief moment, debating on whether he wanted to reveal what he had done those past couple years.

"I've conquered worlds, killed innocents," he continued. "Captured, tortured... enslaved. All for revenge. And when that revenge was fulfilled... I kept going. I nearly brought the Jedi Order to its knees." He looked back at Freedom, clearly conflicted. His emotions ran wild, but the predominant one was clearly regret. And confusion. Despite himself, Cadden managed to remain composed. "I'm no better than Garen," he finally said.

Laughing Freedom found the statement comical. He knew where Cadden was, he had been there but this was something else. This wasn't shame or remorse this was embarrassment. "You think you're the first person to kill someone? To go off and destroy worlds? Who are you talking to, Cadden!? You hunted me at one point for the same things. Do you forget?"

Squatting, Freedom looked the man in the eyes. Eyes haunted by what he didn't remember and what he also knew. "We need you to lead because you know what you cannot be. Garen sees no wrong in his killing. Killing in and of itself isn't evil nor is it wrong. It is the purpose behind the killing that makes it such an evil act."

Tapping Cadden's chest Freedom maintained eye contact. "You're the same here as you've always been. It's your mind that has to change. You have to change your mindset to what you want to be, not where you've been."

"And what if I revert back to the monster I became?" Cadden countered. "You know what the worst part was? I have no frellin' clue as to why I did it!" He realized immediately he was lashing out, and retreated back to a more reserved, distant nature. There was a moment of silence as Cadden looked at the floor. "It is said old habits die hard." He recalled Cazzik's ultimatum before releasing him from custody. "And if I do revert back to them... every Mandalorian would pay the price."

"No, they wouldn't." Freedom's voice changed tones and a confidence came over him that came from his training with Kyr. "Because I will put you down if you do."

There was no denying that Freedom knew he was capable of doing what he was saying. "It won't matter, though, because I know you won't be reverting back to the monster you were."

Standing again Freedom looked at his team around him and back to Cadden. "I know that because I'm going to break you and build you back into something that not even the dark side will want anything to do with."

Cadden's suspicions from the datapad were answered through this conversation. That son of a slorth, he suddenly realized. Cadden closed his eyes and recalled the scuffle with Garlen Kell not very long ago. He was caught in the moment, and missed all the obvious, important clues, instead focusing on the one that was forced upon him. The one Garen was hoping he'd focus on.

His instincts kicked in as he reevaluated the fight in his mind. Left shoulder pad bore a small Death Watch symbol, he thought. The verification code on the datapad matches the very one I used when I was Mandalore. The blade he used had an inscription on it. He squeezed his eyes as he tried to concentrate. Duum motir ca'tra nau tracinya. "Duum motir ca'tra nau tracinya," he repeated, almost mumbling it.

Freedom took a moment and processed Cadden and his mumbling. Freedom knew the words well. "Let all those who stand before us light the night sky in flame."

Pausing Freedom finished the verse. "Gra'tua cuun hett su dralshy'a. Our vengeance burns brighter still. The Dha Werda Verda is as poignant as it is poetic."

Freedom pulled off his helmet and sat down across from Cadden, setting the helmet between his bent legs and placing his forearms on his knees. He ran a gloved hand through his hair. His face bore many scars since the last time the two had met and his eyes still betrayed the fact he had once gone down the very path Cadden was trying to come to grips with. "You're not alone, Mandalore. The fact of the matter is, you're right; we don't need you. Kyr would make an excellent Mandalore. What is true, though, is that you need to be Mandalore for yourself more than we need you. You need to prove yourself to yourself again. That starts with claiming what is rightfully yours when you are ready to take up the mantle again."

Cadden gave him a very tired look. Perhaps Freedom was right. While Cadden didn't deserve to lead anything, much less deserve to live, he had chosen Mandalore as his refuge for a reason. But at the time he wasn't sure what that reason was. Now he knew.

"And how do you propose I do that?" he asked. "I'm not exactly very well liked among the Protectors. Many of them would sooner see me dead than lead them. I'm dar'manda. A deserter. You don't exactly bounce right back from that."

Smiling a knowing smile Freedom looked toward Tal and imagined a smile under the man's helmet. "Leave that to me and my men. You will hate us more than anyone you have ever met before we are done with you but you must trust our methods."

Cadden sneered. "I doubt that," he said, some old memories quickly surfacing and bringing a swelling hatred to him. "There are one or two people that I hate more than anyone, already."

The transports banked and dropped in altitude as they swung around to set up the landing. Freedom stood and looked down at Cadden. "Just know that what you are about to go through I have been through and it will not be enjoyable, but it is necessary."

Slipping his helmet on Freedom opened the channel that connected him directly to Tal. "We start as soon as we set down. Don't let him breathe. Notify the necessary people to join us."

Cadden gave Freedom a weary and suspicious look, but said nothing as they made their approach. He had a bad feeling about this.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Mir »

Boolon smiled. “You only think that because their way of life is like nothing you’ve experienced before. Consider if you were to go to a planet where there were only humans and they had never had outside contact with the rest of the galaxy since they had been colonized. Would not your appearance, and your mannerisms strike them as foreign, and seemingly out of their mind?” He said.

He turned back to his patient. Stabilizing Deegan had been a great move, but it was one that would mean nothing if they couldn’t continue the work that had been started. The Mandalorian doctors had done their job though, and the induced coma made operating better. Boolon was sure that they were going to need to operate, and he wanted to get started on that sooner rather than later.

Complicating things, however, was the fighting that was to be starting. If there was one thing that Boolon did find strange about the people who had brought his padawan and himself here, it was the amount of dedication they gave to fighting and being so willing to go to war. There was nothing like it and to a dedicated self professed pacifist, it was very strange. Still, he couldn’t ask them to do anything than behave the way that they had been raised.

He couldn’t ask them to do anything else.

But it was going to make taking care of his patient more difficult, and in that regard, Boolon was more than willing to ask for change.

Either way though, nothing would distract him from the task at hand.

Even if he did sense a familiar presence, in the form of Cadden Blackthorne.

Pushing it out of his head, Boolon closed his eyes and reached out with his mind, projecting himself forward and into Deegan’s battered and broken body. The man was holding on, that much was for sure, and Boolon knew that if the man was willing to fight this much for his life, then he deserved Boolon’s very best. There was more work to be done than just stitching tissue back together and knitting together once more the mortal fabric that made up this man. Boolon could feel Deegan through the Force, and maybe it was because everyone else’s connection wasn’t as strong as his, but Boolon was sensing more than the others were.

But then again, Boolon had always been more sensitive to the plight of creatures in need.

Deegan’s coma wasn’t boding well for his psyche, and the trauma of what had happened could cause scarring of the psychological kind, if they couldn’t get him out of it quickly.

The Ithorian traveled through the man’s body, as if he were attached to one of the blood cells that churned at a dangerous speed through the vessels. His awareness of his patient’s injuries grew as he saw, almost visually, the damage that had been caused.


Reela’s voice interrupted him, and Boolon opened his eyes.

“Master, what do you need me to do?” She asked, quietly.

“We start with his ribs. While the surgery to stabilize his heart was successful, at the same time, the ribs could puncture his lungs if we don’t help them. These are bones that we’re discussing and at any moment, should marrow escape, we run a higher risk of a fat embolism. Care must be used, despite the fact that time is of the essence.”


Aeorn was pleased to be back. He was pleased because while he had left Cadden and Garen on good terms, he had always had the sneaking suspicion that Garen would lose it. Despite the feud that had gone on between their families years ago, Aeorn was not pleased to find out that he had been right. Usually he was. But in this instance, due to the amount of chaos that Garen had brought about, Aeorn was decidedly not pleased.

When Freedom had gotten in touch with him, and had explained the situation to him, the former general of the Supercommandos during the Mandalorian Crusade and the Xen’Chi War had been more than willing to help out.

He hadn’t been able to tell Freedom where he had been, the same way that when he had donated a sizable amount of his House of Muir paid salary, he had not given Garen any real answer as to where he had obtained it. Garen hadn’t asked questions, but had only accepted the money.

Now, Aeorn was standing in a docking bay, with Fyjati and a number of other Mandalorians.

The Star’s End was sitting in the docking bay, and a half human half Zeltron woman was standing at the bottom of the boarding ramp. She wasn’t a Mandalorian, but she had been around Mandalorians long enough that she knew the culture and knew the people. As a matter of fact, there were some in the building who knew her or at least knew of her.

Nell Morrows had been at one of the battles during the War, and she had helped the Mandalorians. That was when she and Aeorn had first met. The Star’s End had been pivotal in actually rescuing Cadden Blackthorne during the battle, once his Basilisk War Droid had been destroyed.

Aeorn turned to Fyjati and gave him a small smile. “I know we don’t know each other well, but from what I’ve heard, I’m glad that you offered to fight with me to retake Enceri. The faster we can get a move on, the better. Do you know if all the supplies are loaded?” He asked.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Cadden stepped off the LAART/i and as his second boot hit the ground he felt the shock wand land in the gap made in his armor by his armpit. Grabbing him from behind Tal and Jahaal pushed him forward until Freedom grabbed him with the Force and held him in place. Stripping him of his armor Cadden was left with his armored gloves, boots and the body suit pants he wore under his armor. Freedom let him go and Tal landed a full powered right hook to his abdomen doubling him over. Cadden’s face showed a look of betrayal but Freedom knew that would be surpassed before this was over with emotions that ran far deeper than that. It was dangerous to conduct such an activity while a war was going on but this would benefit both Cadden and the men who served under Kyr’s command.

Freedom figured that letting them beat on Cadden would allow them to take out their anger toward him. He also knew Cadden would survive it and eventually begin to thrive just as he had. Considering it was a controlled environment that would be strictly monitored by himself at all times he knew that there would moments to push Cadden and moments to make sure he knew his place. Regardless the goal was to make him survive the worst so them men forgot about his past and realized he could lead them into the future. “On your feet Cadden.”

Freedom voice came across as a plea but Cadden stayed put pulling his knees to his chest and Freedom nodded to himself and let out an exasperated sigh. “Alright, fine.”

Steadying himself for what was to come Freedom brought a booted foot up into the small of Cadden’s back. Grabbing him by the back of the neck Freedom lifted him and held him up. “You stand and fight or we beat you till you can’t crawl. Your choice.”

Cadden dropped back to his knees and Freedom ignited his lightsaber. Looking at Tal the man knew what to do. Freedom made a show of stabbing the weapon of light into the ground and making a large circle in the ground. Standing outside of it Cadden tried to crawl toward the house and Jahaal drug him back to its center before standing him up and trading blows as he, Carth Puir and Pax Jorri took turns holding Cadden up by sheer violence. Watching the man refuse to fight Freedom remembered back to the time when he was in the same position. He hadn’t known he was lost when Kyr started the same process with him but he had found out real fast. Cadden refused to fight and he knew it was his turn to step into the same role Kyr had with him. “Fight back Cadden, what did all that time away from Manda’yaim make you soft?”

The taunts and jeers began to get worse as Freedom stepped into the circle. Cadden stayed on the ground with his hands holding him up. “You lied to me Freedom, you call this making me into what I need to be? You’re killing me for the fun of it.”

“Maybe,’ Freedom sneered and then punched Cadden between the shoulder blades with an armored fist. Three more punches and two kicks to the ribs later and Cadden was curled up on his side protecting his ribs.

“On your feet Mandalore.” Freedom’s voice came viciously, mockingly and full of purpose disguised as mock hatred. The men around him laughed and then Freedom bent over holding Cadden by the chin forcing him to look at him in the eyes. “Or maybe I should call you Trayus.”

Cadden’s eyes filled with a hatred Freedom knew was inside the man and he lunged at Freedom. Standing up Freedom let him come swinging violently and when Freedom was at the edge of the circle he sidestepped the next punch and landed a right handed punch of his own to Cadden face. Smiling to himself he had found his way into Cadden’s psyche, now he just had to push the man till he came to grips with his past.


Reela heard the noise of a man being drug down the hall as she broke her healing meditation. She had no idea who the man was but the amount of blood that covered him showed he had been through quite a fight. What threw her off was that all of them were covered in blood. Reela went to look at the man when Freedom shook his head and stopped her with a blood covered glove. “No, no Jedi healing. You stay focusing on Deegan. We take care of him.”

Boolon turned and Freedom felt the conflict inside him. “He isn’t who he was Master Jedi. I wouldn’t put you in this position if the outcome wasn’t going to be worth the fight.”

Nomi walked in and looked Cadden over and then went to work on him with Reela watching. “Get back to work Jedi, my brother, my buir needs saving.”

“Who did that to him?” Reela’s voice carried her concern for Cadden’s health like the wind carried a strong smell.

“We did,’ Nomi’s voice was flat, emotionless and contained a level of contentment.

“Why?” Reela’s head turned slightly confused.

“Because we need to mold him into what he was meant to be and if he will not fight for it then he will die trying to become it.” Nomi sounded like a misguided prophet in Reela’s eyes but she stayed quiet while the young woman talked.

“He will lead us into war when this is over and he’ll get over what he was.”

Reela finally had to speak up because she wasn’t understanding her former friend. “What if he doesn’t want to?”

Freedom’s voice joined in having come back to inform Nomi on what he wanted done. “He wants to, he just doesn’t know it yet.”

Reela looked at Freedom for a minute and then her response came out more noise than word. “Huh?”

Freedom sat down on a stool in the corner and wiped his gloves off slowly while talking. “Nomi isn’t the best person with words when it comes to explaining things. She puts passion behind things that is unquestioningly loyal but sometimes she isn’t the best with explaining it.”

The young woman blushed but nodded and Freedom looked at Reela and she made eye contact with the man. She could only hold his gaze for a few moments before she had to look away, her heart racing out of sheer intensity. It’s like he can look right into me without even using the Force...frack…

“Cadden was once our Mandalore, our leader. He lost his way and left us to be led by a misguided idiot. A di’kutla jare, a fool. What you see before you is a way to make himself prove who he is to himself.”
Freedom pulled out his lightsabers and began to wipe the blood off them cleaning each with the care of anyone who would tear down a weapon and put it back together as if their life depended on it.

“You still haven’t said if he wants it or not.” Reela watched Boolon motion her over and Freedom nodded while he put both lightsabers back together.

Freedom looked at her and watched her move back to Deegan. “He does want it. Just like the Jedi Masters know what you will be one day by reading you in the Force while you do all those tests they give you when you’re little. Beating him like this it strips him of his ability to hide behind all those walls. It allows me to read him and allows him to find who he really is. You might not agree with it but the same thing happened to me when I came here having lost everything and I turned out okay.”

He stood as he finished talking and looked at Nomi. “Wipe off what blood you need to, stitch up the wounds that need to close. Push bacta through the wounds that need touched but other than that let him be. No setting of bones unless a rib is going to be punctured. We need him broken so he can find his way back.”

Freedom left and Reela readied herself to enter her meditation again. Setting the ribs was taking time because they were in dozens of pieces not just a clean break. Looking at Nomi she felt a swell run through the woman. “He was the Master you always wrote to wasn’t he.”

Nodding Nomi looked at her passed her arm as it moved to reset Cadden’s dislocated shoulder. “Yes, he was.”

“After all he did to you that is how you still feel about him?” Reela curled her feet under her and ran her hand over Deegan to find a place where to begin.

“Yes, he is.” Nomi set Cadden’s shoulder and the man moaned but slipped back into unconsciousness with an aided nudge from Nomi through the Force.

“He isn’t who you see on the surface. The words he speaks, the actions he takes have a bigger purpose. He wants the best for all of us and will do what is required to reach it. We balance him because he explained to us that he never wants to touch the darkside ever again. Any time I feel him slipping or Tal, Fyjati, Kera or anyone else notice him getting off we all get together and then we set him right. We have done this to him countless times, hardened him, fought four and five against one against him. He does it voluntarily and if he ever didn’t we each swore to force him into it. If that doesn’t work, well, we put him down.” Nomi hesitated before saying the last part knowing full well what it sounded like and also because it was a hard subject to speak of.

“You mean kill him?” Reela let her guard slip and the emotion of the statement came through.

“Yes,’ Nomi turned and looked at her as she gathered the material to stitch Cadden together. “It seems barbaric and in some ways it is but Freedom is capable of things that even Cadden couldn’t do. When we were both young Freedom was a Sith. Your Master will remember this. He brought whole sectors of the galaxy to their knees without any effort whatsoever. It was like drinking water to him. Being able to access such power on a raw level. He never wants to walk that line again and when Masters Naton, Wyn and Droma brought him back they did what they could but it was not until Kera found him on a battlefield dying that he found himself.”

Reela made a mental note to ask both Freedom and Boolon about what Nomi was saying. “He keeps himself very guarded.”

“Around you he does yes.” Nomi began stitching Cadden’s wounds turning away from Reela. “He doesn’t trust the Jedi. What they did to him was akin to a death sentence. Kyr saved his life. If you want to know what really happened, ask Master Murr and Freedom about the Council after Kormoron’s attack on the Temple. You want to know what kind of person Freedom is inside? There’s a subject to start on.”

Reela knew of the fight and attack on the Temple but not much else. She had been young when that attack had happened and evacuated before the attack itself started. As she focused on Deegan’s ribs she cleared her mind and left a reminder to herself to ask the questions Nomi had just posed to her when she and Master Murr had a moment to speak.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

What the hell did I get myself into? Cadden thought between blows. He felt betrayed in every way as the punches and kicks came at him fast, hard, and relentlessly.

The assault continued, and Cadden quickly realized just how far he had slipped. Instead of putting up a fight like he had in the past, he was being submissive, and no matter how much he told himself to fight back, how much he wanted to agree with Freedom's statements, his mind and body refused.

"On your feet, Cadden," Freedom commanded. Or was it a command? Cadden's brain refused to attempt to decipher the words and tone in his voice.

Get up, he told himself. But his body refused.

"Alright," Freedom continued, "fine." A boot landed against Cadden's back, and he gasped in pain. If he had the strength for it, he would have yelled, but he found he could not. He was lifted in the air by the back of his neck. “You stand and fight, or we beat you till you can’t crawl. Your choice.”

He dropped to the ground and collapsed back to his knees. Get up! he felt himself yelling. Fight back! he heard a lightsaber ignite and thought for a brief moment it would be the last thing he'd ever hear. But he was wrong. Grunting in pain, Cadden tried to escape toward the house, away from the Battle Circle. No! What are you doing? Turn back! Turn back and fight! But he would not. He refused to listen to himself.

I'm no warrior, he argued. Not anymore. I'm... nothing.…

One of the Mandalorians forced Cadden back to the center of the Battle Circle and stood him up, but it wasn't an act of charity. Before Cadden knew it, the man was joined by two others as they started to throw punches at him, the sheer force of the blows the only thing keeping him standing.

But still Cadden refused to fight back.

“Fight back, Cadden," Freedom's voice chimed in. "What, did all that time away from Manda’yaim make you soft?”

Finally they let up, but Cadden was starting to get the gist of his situation. As he was on his hands and knees he spied Freedom approach. He frowned. This... this isn't training, he thought. It's frellin' torture. “You lied to me, Freedom," he managed to say past the immense pain, his voice raspy and throat partially clogged. Must be blood.. "You call this making me into what I need to be? You’re killing me for the fun of it.”

“Maybe," Freedom sneered and then punched Cadden between the shoulder blades with an armored fist. Three more punches and two kicks to the ribs later and Cadden was curled up on his side protecting his ribs. 

“On your feet, Mandalore.” The word stung with hatred, and Cadden could hear everyone laugh in response.

They're mocking me, he thought. Every one of them. It didn't exactly help prove Freedom's case any, and only affirmed what Cadden had already come to understand. They're all enjoying this. I'm not wanted on Mandalore.

Freedom lifted Cadden's head up by the chin and looked intently into his eyes. “Or maybe I should call you Trayus.”

The anger and hatred flared up and took over from there. What happened next Cadden would not remember, but he let his emotions claim his actions and, as a result, his retaliation was very sloppy.

The session, if one could call it such, felt like an eternity, and in the end Cadden had slipped out of consciousness. He didn't remember being dragged to the medical ward, and was so far gone he never heard a word of the conversation that followed. But for the moments he was conscious, he had but two thoughts. The first was of hatred.

The second was of love.

Will I ever see you again? the voice echoed in his mind late that night when he woke up briefly, in immense pain. Cadden's eyes opened partially, but his vision was so blurred that he couldn't recognize anything.

Why did you kill him? the voice echoed.

I had no choice, he remembered saying. A man must accept his fate.

Or be destroyed by it.

Cadden slipped back into unconsciousness, and didn't awake again until he was retrieved for his next session.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Freedom stood after burying another brutal kick into Cadden’s side and spat mock hatred at the man. “You keep acting like there’s nothing to fight for Cadden but you know there is. Let it go, that buried deep fury sitting inside you. I could be wrong though, maybe I am misreading you and it isn’t fury but instead cowardice. The Force isn’t much for saying exactly what something is now is it? If you remember, I mean you were horrible at controlling it anyways. Trayus on the other hand...he knew how to fight…”

Cadden reacted as he had before with anger and hatred not toward Freedom but toward Trayus. Freedom knew he had fight left in him he just needed to find out what the key was. Sidestepping two badly thrown punches Freedom grabbed Cadden by the back of the neck and shoved him toward the ground while bringing his knee up into the man’s stomach. The force of the move lifted Cadden off his feet and he left his breakfast on the ground underneath him. Freedom used the Force to pick Cadden up off the ground and make him stand. If he tried to fall Freedom held him up. “Fight, or don’t, either way I am going to hold you up.”

Cadden’s shoulders dropped as if he was giving up and finally he nodded. Freedom felt something click in him that said ‘If I have to deal with it, I’ll at least try not to be embarrassed by it anymore.’

Freedom looked at Sarai and she stepped in the circle. Taking two steps backward Freedom nodded to his newest student and she walked around Cadden slowly. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a braid it’s light color a vibrant contrast to her black armor. Without her helmet she looked fearsome with the fine lined scars, piercing eyes and predatory gait. Her weapon of choice for the fight was something Freedom had thought would fit her quite well, a long staff or as Fyjati had called it a bevii'ragir. It was a term used to describe the Mandalorian hunting spear but this weapon was far more utilitarian than a hunting spear. Freedom had seen Jedi use variants of them in combat training and even the Noghri use them in their Stava fighting technique. Sarai’s slender yet powerful body lent her toward quick, agile movements that gave her multiple responses to an attack.

Given she was a very methodical yet creative attacker in fighting she had taken to having the ability to separate the staff into two shorter batons. Resting it on her shoulder she looked as if she were prancing before engaging Cadden quickly flipping him onto his back by lifting him off the ground by the back of his legs. Cadden growled and looked toward Freedom. “I hardly call this a fight if she gets to be armed and I do not.”

Snorting Freedom nodded in Sarai’s direction. “She’s sixteen, you’re what? Fifty? You have more years of fighting behind you than she has years alive.”

Tossing an irritated gaze in Freedom’s direction she corrected him about her age. “Seventeen and I’ll be eighteen in a few weeks.”

“He’s still got more years fighting than you’ve got years alive. He’s got more years fighting than I’ve been alive.” Freedom smirked and continued harassing Sarai.

“Though I have beat him on more than one occasion both with and without the Force.” Sarai took the challenge head on and engaged Cadden in what would become a rather ugly training session for her on the staff and for Cadden in general. Even her missteps ended up with him being bloody. Freedom could feel the frustration welling up inside of Cadden at being used as a living sparring dummy but that was exactly what Freedom wanted him to feel. Sarai took a break from the fighting and two other Mandalorians took over while Freedom let his mind drift to a discussion that Nomi had brought up the previous night. She had informed him that Reela would probably be coming to him with questions about his extreme unease towards the Jedi Order and the Council in particular. She had also taken it upon herself to let him know that she had given the young Twi’lek a hint as to where to start in asking about Kormoron and the fall out with the Order starting with the way he had been treated afterward. He seldom thought about it now though he had admitted to himself it was an unresolved issue that lay dormant far often than not at this point in his life.

"Master you cannot expect me to sit idly by and do nothing after she has been brutally murdered!” Freedom’s raised voice caused several Jedi along the skybridge in the Coruscant Temple to look his direction. What’s more is that it had put Master Naton in a very unwanted position of publicly chastising his former apprentice.

“Freedom I cannot allow you to just run off looking for her murderer it could lead to your death! You are already walking down a dangerous path please do not pursue this alone.” Cameo held his hands out openly pleading with the man to wait for assistance rather than run blindly into a fight he knew nothing about.

“I have no choice. Who is going to help me?” Freedom’s emotions were ranging from sadness to anger and even grief in massive waves that Cameo could understand but knew more than most he needed to control.

“I will help you, Devina will help you even though she isn’t fond of you at the moment. There are countless others who would help you as well but not when you are like this. You must calm yourself, especially before you go before the Council and ask for permission to pursue whoever this is.” Cameo was being adamant and lacked his normal eloquent nature in speaking. He was being serious, overly so in making sure that Freedom knew that if he did not handle this properly he would do far more damage than he could fathom to his already fragile standing with the Order.

“You mean you want me to appease them by giving them the answers they want.’ Freedom sneered at the thought. “They need to stop being placated and actually have someone stand up to them. They are no better than the politicians in the Senate. If you disagree with them you are wrong, if you argue with them you are wrong if you so much as think differently than them you are wrong.”

Cameo shook his head his shoulders dropping out of pure exacerbation. “You only see what you want to see Freedom. They are trying to help. Their methods are not the best at times but that is why we have more than a few members so that we can hold each other accountable and make sure that the best for the Order is chosen not just an agenda.”

Freedom closed his fists and shook his head still being stubborn toward what he was hearing. “Freedom.”

Cameo put a hand on the young mans shoulder even if he knew Freedom was going to shrug it off as he did. “You are a Jedi Knight Freedom. One of the youngest ever! Your opinionated and passionate. That is why you were chosen to take the trials so soon. They know you aren’t the standard Jedi that conforms but they also know what is best for the Order. I know you want to seek out who did this. I have been through this before and know exactly how you feel. Trust me when I say that they know what is best for you in this case. At least listen to what they have to say.”

Freedom focused on the man’s voice and calmed himself as best he could. Whether he was right or not Freedom knew he had to at least listen to the Council before he assumed anything.

Pulling himself out of the memory Freedom stepped into the circle as Cadden beckoned him into the fight. Moving to attack his opponent Cadden threw a kick which Freedom caught and then grabbed Cadden’s chest, picked him up and slammed him onto his back. Taking a step forward Freedom put two punches into the side of Cadden’s face and then backed up. “Over confidence will get you no where Trayus.”

Taking a few steps backward Freedom watched as Cadden curled up and he quickly stepped back to him landing vicious kick after vicious kick. Grabbing Cadden by the shirt Freedom looked him in the eyes. “I’m done with your passivity. I will not tolerate it again. You either fight, leave here or die. Those are your options. I’m rather fond of the first one or the last one so let’s get rid of the middle one. You can choose to fight and become who you seem to have forgotten you can be or I will put you down. Choose…”

Freedom stepped back out of the circle and Sarai entered it again with her staff in hand. Twirling it watched as Cadden got to his feet and then swiftly attacked pushing him back. Each move was painful to watch as the man defended himself against a weapon without one of his own. Thankfully he had on his gloves and gauntlets but the rest of his torso and legs were exposed which was causing massive welts, bruises or gashes all over his body. Watching for a few more moments Nomi entered his view and he was pulled back to his previous thoughts…

“ you want me to wait until another investigation into her murder can be done before I go looking for the person responsible for taking her from this very Temple can be discovered?” Freedom’s tone was as controlled as it could be.

Master Tulsar looked annoyed more than anything else at the line of questioning but still maintained his poise. “We aren’t asking you Freedom. We are telling you that we believe this is the wisest action to take.”

Freedom looked at the Council doing his best to maintain his composure and that was when Master Vos spoke. “I see that you are, unsurprisingly, unpleased with our response Jedi Nadd is there something you would like to add?”

Mental responses could be taken from Master Vos’s questioning and his personal issues with Freedom being exercised during a Council meeting. Before Freedom could respond Master Naton chimed in on the issue. “I would like to suggest a different approach if possible.”

Master Durthuras seemed relieved by the offer to break the tension agreed to give Cameo the floor even though Cameo was the head of the Council. “I would like to lead the investigation myself into what happened to Freedom’s apprentice.”

Freedom breathed a sigh of relief at the words of Master Naton but soon found himself back on the frontlines as Master Vos chimed in again. “I do not think that is wise Master Naton. The reports have been completed sending someone of your stature is unnecessary we do have investigators for these sorts of things.”

Master Naton again spoke wisdom over the matter. “I do not see how the kidnapping and death of an apprentice to one of our Jedi Knights isn’t an important enough to send a Council Member to investigate. Do I need to call into question your ability to remain unbiased during these proceedings or will we continue this without further unfounded arguments?”

“Master Naton’ Tulsar replied. “This is not the time to bring up a petty squabble. Regardless of the differences between Devon and Freedom we still need to make a decision and I for one do not think this incident warrants any further discussion.”

Freedom watched for the next ten minutes as they debated and one Jedi stayed quiet the entire time, Master Leidas. She sat quietly taking it all in and finally Freedom simply turned to leave and they stopped arguing to remark on his exit. Turning around he bowed to Master Naton respectfully. “I told you Master Naton that I did not deal with political bodies and that is exactly what this has become. When those around you respect the Jedi Order the way you do please let me know until then I will no longer be responding to calls coming from this chamber.”

Again Freedom found himself pulled from his memories by Cadden. He lay on his back as Sarai stood over him. This time Freedom went to walk in the circle and then stopped. The sun was starting to set and Cadden looked like a bloodied heap of a man. Looking down at the man he decided to take two more steps into the circle and then squatted next to him. “So Trayus, what have you learned so far?”

Barely able to breath the man snarled and then reached up to choke Freedom. Twisting Cadden’s wrist he snapped it without even breathing and then listened to Cadden’s screaming in pain. Standing he punched Cadden three more times in the face and then pulled him to his feet signalling Tal. “I’ve been letting Sarai train on though the real fun begins.”

What Freedom didn’t tell Cadden was that Tal was second only to his father, Carud, in hand to hand fighting ability in nearly all of Mandalore. Freedom had to fight both and Fyjati during his trial by force and Cadden needed to count himself lucky that he was only going to be dealing with Tal and himself. Watching Tal work Cadden over methodically left Freedom little to do but enjoy the work that was being done. Tal was trained to hit only as hard as he needed to and while Cadden stayed standing his body as a whole was being broken bit by bit not by force but by repetitive targeting of specific areas. It reminded Freedom of the last part of the conversation with Nomi, and the aftermath of the fight between himself and Kormoron…

“I did not come here to be berated Master, I came here to give a report on what happened within the Temple and also report to you what transpired once the Empire took over Coruscant. I will not stand here and be judged for actions I took when they were the only actions that were appropriate and I have plenty of those who would say my actions were prudent rather than rash.” Freedom stood in the center of a mock Council chamber on board a star destroyer that was acting as the Jedi Temple until a new Temple location could be decided on. Around him were various Council members though most were absent due to either death, missing, missions or other engagements. He was briefing those that were present and the few holographic images of those that could. Most notable in being absent was Master Vos though Freedom found that to be a welcome absence rather than a negative.

“We are not judging you Freedom we are simply saying that you disobeyed us and could have saved more lives had you not moved to engage the Sith out of emotion.” Master Tulsar spoke again for the tenth time dealing in semantics about how Freedom chose to fight the Sith out of emotion and not rescue those that were in his command.

“As I have stated before, and now I will be making myself very clear, my intentions were to rescue those that were still trapped inside the Temple when Lord Kormoron entered it. There were countless younglings still inside along with several older padawans. I have stated time and time again that you are free to read me as you are so well gifted in Master Tulsar but you refuse to. I am no longer going to be polite with your skewed view of my actions. There are plenty of recordings of both the fight and my time in and around the Temple during that fight. Do not patronize me anymore with this either state your punishment that will go to review or I will be leaving because I do have other things to attend to, most importantly my injuries.” Freedom was done dealing with the politics of the Council. Masters Naton and Leidas were absent and they were his core support in any Council matters so he was operating without a bearing for the most part and that made him a very brash and dangerous foe in any arena regarding the Jedi as whole.

Waving his hand dismissively Master Tulsar allowed Master Durthuras to speak though he held his words to simply a be careful with your emotions at this time and then Freedom stood impatiently waiting. There were moments where he thought a decision regarding his fate would be made and finally he made one for them after several more rounds of passive aggressive attacks. “Let me make this simple. Until I believe I am fit to serve this Order at a level that I, Master Naton, Master Leidas or someone they designate see as acceptable I am leaving. I do not want to hear from anyone on this Council ever again should those criteria not be met.”

Freedom thought back to that time and realized that he had left the room so quickly that no response was given. He had packed his things, said goodbye to Roan, Casi and Cal and then departed the ship in a matter of time that would have allowed no time for serious debating regardless. Snorting to himself in amusement at the ridiculousness of the whole thing now Freedom took over from Tal in finishing Cadden’s sparring for the day. Thirty minutes is what it took him to finish breaking Cadden down into nothing to where not even his elbows or knees would support him on all fours that they called it a day. Once again they took him to the medical ward and the same instructions were given. Reela looked up and Freedom saw a question coming before she spoke. “Master Jedi?”

Giving an amused smirk Freedom found the title a bit absurd given that the last time he had actually had the title was shortly after he was asked to come back to the Jedi Order by Cameo and Daer’gunn at the start of the Xen’Chi war. They had granted him the title of Master and a seat on the Jedi Council of all things and then he up and quit the Order again because Kyr had taught him that family was far more important and what he needed far more of. Pausing long enough to answer a question from the twi’lek Freedom took the time to wipe the blood off his gloves. “It’s Freedom or if you must you can call me Captain but yes, what is it Reela?”

“Nomi told me to ask you about your past with the Jedi Order and why you don’t like us that much?” Reela seemed genuinely concerned and Freedom felt for the young Jedi but knew she needed to have both sides of the story to make her own opinion.

“Before you ask me that question, or at least before I answer it I suggest asking Master Murr. He will give you a far more unbiased opinion than I ever will.” Slipping his helmet on Freedom pulled up the TAC and began talking as he left the young woman behind. He had a mission in two hours and did not plan on being caught up in those kinds of conversations before he went.

“Sit Rep update for all teams and remember we are set to depart here in less than two hours so make sure your gear is ready. This is a Priority Two target.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

"Your wounds..." she said slowly as she looked over the cuts, bruises, and lacerations around Cadden's torso. He had gone through quite the beating to get her out of that mess, and her concern over his status was more than just sympathy.

Cadden winced in pain as he sat up in the bed. "I'm alright," he grunted. Though to be fair, Cadden had his doubts he would have made it out of there alive, if it weren't for Dahdtoudi's intervention.

"You push yourself too far," she said, applying medical ointment to the various wounds.

"And yet I live."

She stopped and looked directly in his eyes, her concern easily readable. "For how long?" she inquired. Her voice betrayed her, and it didn't take using the Force for Cadden to know how she felt.

"As long as it takes," Cadden said matter-of-factly.

She paused a moment, the silence hard to read. Though it felt uncomfortable to Cadden, and he started to regret his answer, there was an air of security with her he hadn't felt before. "Then kill them all," she finally said.

Cadden looked directly in her eyes. "For you."

Cadden opened his eyes briefly, feeling the stabbing pain all over his body. He grunted in response to the sudden remembrance of his physical condition. He tried to ignore the pain as he focused on his memories, but it was difficult. They were pushing him hard, and while Cadden was slowly starting to understand, it didn't mean he had to like it. Or those subjecting him to this... this torture.

Those like Freedom. This was his doing, and while Cadden was skeptical about his statement from the other day, it did turn out true. Cadden hated him for this. But he was wrong about one thing. He didn't hate him more than anyone else.

"Dahdtoudi," he mumbled. That was who he hated above all others. Dahdtoudi. For what he had done to him. All because he valued his own life above... hers.

He closed his eyes once more and thought back to the last time he saw him.

Cadden stared Dahdtoudi down. They had met back up in a tibanna gas processing facility on Taloraan, though it was no longer on good terms.

Not that they were ever necessarily on good terms with each other, to begin with, but what Dahdtoudi had done violated everything they worked for. It violated their partnership in this venture. It violated Cadden's trust in him.

"You would have done the same in my position," Dahdtoudi argued.

"I would have died for her," Cadden said, his voice set and cold. He was dead serious. "I would have tried for her!"

"And while commendable, you would have died for her," Dahdtoudi said. "And, in the end, her fate would have remained the same. You would have died for nothing."

"Where is she?" Cadden asked. He was calm and methodical, despite his raging emotions. It was a dangerous indicator.

"Just let it go," Dahdtoudi said. "It isn't worth it. It isn't worth your life."

"Where is she?!" he demanded. The other bounty hunter folded his arms over his chest and just gave Cadden a defeated look.

"I don't know," he simply responded.

"What?!" He couldn't believe this answer, and gave him a glare.

"I had no choice," he objected.

"There's always a choice...."

he thought to himself. "Lillian," he mumbled. An unusual sensation washed over him. It came out of the blue, uncontrollable and without provocation. "Still alive.…" He didn't know how he knew, only that he had the distinctive feeling. He didn't think she was. He knew she was.

However, he had no contacts, no leads, no evidence or proof. All he had was a feeling. A hunch, but more than a hunch. What's more, he didn't even know where to begin to look. Like that would do me any good, he thought. I'm stuck here, at Freedom's mercy.

Kill them all, her voice whispered to him.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Mir »

They were through the worst of it. At least that was the hope.

After working on the ribs, they had managed to ensure that their patient had full blood flow, and now they were attending to the next series of injuries. With the heart guaranteed to be on it’s way to recovery, Boolon and Reela could work more diligently on the other injuries without a fear that their patient would expire. However, many of those surgeries or operations had to be properly spaced out. While the heart was recovering, they couldn’t immediately throw it back into the fire with a multitude of operations.

After all, anesthesia could affect the heart, and that was only the beginning of their problems. Other painkillers brought a host of side effects and second and third order effects that had to be monitored. A myriad of unfortunate events could transpire during a surgery, which meant that the care offered could not be the most expedient, at least not in the way that the Mandalorian would have wanted, had he been lucid during any of this. Not to mention that Deegan’s family undoubtedly had his wellbeing in the back of their mind, despite all of the fighting that was taking place around them.

Boolon, though a pacifist, understood the mentality of having someone to live for. It was a beneficial thought, one that many soldiers and combatants used to push their adrenaline to the level that it needed to be to survive a hostile encounter. For those fighting, the thought of coming back and checking up on him had to be present in their mind. Many of them cared about him, and Boolon had often been on the receiving end of some of that concern, as some had stopped by to check up on him as soon as they had returned from a mission or a sortie.

Some had been in various states of injury themselves. He and Reela had treated their wounds, giving updates on Deegan’s condition at the same time. The practice of medicine was never limited to only one patient, despite the danger that said patient was in. Everyone had to be taken care of.

Boolon didn’t doubt for a moment, that in his coma, Deegan somewhere, someplace, had similar thoughts on fighting to see his family once more.

Recovery and recuperation was just as much of a battle as the events that actually injured a soldier in the first place.

Boolon sat, as he often did, near his patient. He was looking down at a datapad, with more than a few words on the screen. A report, that he had to file with the Jedi Council, or in the very least, with Ember Rekali, one of the members of the Council. A report that he knew he had to file, though he wasn’t sure if he wanted to.

Luckily for him, he was able to push the thoughts out of his mind, and set the dilemma aside for another time, as he heard the familiar patter of his padawan’s footsteps. Different from the heavy boots often worn by the rest of the denizens of the medical bay’s hallways, Reela’s barefoot walk was becoming more and more familiar to the Ithorian Jedi Healer. “What strange Mandalorian custom have you been troubled by today?” He asked, with humor in his voice.

“No new one to report, but the old ones still seem rather strange.” She said. “What is the history that Freedom has with the Jedi Order?” Reela asked. “Everyone seems to dance around it, including him. I can never get a straight answer.”

“Have you considered asking him directly?” Boolon asked, and she nodded.

“I did, and he directly answered me by telling me to directly ask you, Master.” The Twi’lek said.

“Did he now?” Boolon asked, with a twinkle in his eye. “We have ample time to discuss it now, as we’re between surgeries. But I won’t allow you to tarry while we do.” He said, and indicated the charts.

She nodded and started going over the information, checking to make sure that all of Deegan’s levels were where they needed to be, and that his heart rate fluctuations weren’t beyond what they had established as acceptable.

“Freedom’s story is a long one, but most of it deals with a man who has been at odds with the leadership of the Jedi Order, in one way or another, for some time.” Boolon said. “He’s very talented, but his stubbornness always got in the way of his progression through the ranks. Ranks that don’t really mean much of anything, when you truly think about it. I’m considered a Jedi Master, but am I really a master of the Force?” He asked, and then shook his head. “Not particularly. I know how to use it, quite adeptly, but to say that I am a ‘master’ would exhibit a level of pride and arrogance that I’m not comfortable with. I would think that Freedom is of a similar mentality. He had an apprentice who was killed, and when he wished to investigate the matter further and bring the killer to justice, he was told by the then members of the Council that it would not be allowed.”

“What did he do?” She asked.

“He forged his own path.” Boolon replied. “His decisions weren’t always pleasing to the average member of the Order, or to a majority of the Council, but they were his decisions. Later, he was present on Coruscant during one of the most gruesome fights the galaxy has unfortunately witnessed. Though his actions have been debated for some time, Freedom was involved in a duel with a man named Kormoran, a powerful Sith Lord who worked for then Emperor Damascus.”

Reela nodded at the last name, the most common and familiar to the average being in the galaxy. Damascus, after all, had reversed the losing trend of the Empire’s efforts in the war against the New Republic. He’d seized power from James Ardin, and had ordered the construction of the third Death Star. Most people knew who he was, as opposed to Kormoran or Freedom.

“When presented with the Council’s opinions of his actions, Freedom’s response was not the most genial, though it highlighted some of the more political leanings of the Council.” He said.

“What do you mean by that?” She asked, putting the charts away.

“The Council had become concerned with protecting it’s own, in a galaxy that seemed poised with danger at every turn. In that regard, they were more cautious and defensive than maybe they should have been. Reactive, as opposed to proactive, and Freedom had several issues with that.”

“Sometimes it seems as though that’s the way that we’ve been headed recently as well.” She said, her eyes looking away, unsure of how her Master would take the comment. Reela was a bit relieved when Boolon nodded.

“It’s one of the reasons why Makaera Tor was selected as the new Grandmaster after Adam Sage stepped down.” Boolon said. “She was a relatively unknown choice, without a lot of the political baggage and history of the older members of the Order. Not to say that she is younger or unqualified for the position, but most of her time was spent fighting the enemies of the Order in a way far different than that of the other members of the Council. She provides a unique viewpoint.” He said. “But we’re discussing Freedom.” He added with a small smile.

“Why did he come to the Mandalorians?” She asked.

“Now that I don’t have a full answer to, but if I had to postulate a theory, I would say that the family attitude and mentality of the Mandalorians was a far cry from the way that members of the Jedi Order conducted themselves then. There were a number of families, the same way that there are here, but many of them were very non-inclusive. Here, everyone is considered family, provided they pull their weight. It’s a different lifestyle.” He said.

“I can understand that.” She said.

“Any other questions, I would advise positing to Freedom himself.” Boolon said. “Now, how is our patient?” He asked. “What do you think we should work on next? The amount of trauma is still extensive.”
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Explosions sounded rapidly sending fire into the sky as Freedom watched in horror as Carth had prematurely detonated the explosives at a transportation compound. Carth had made it to safety but Tye was somewhere in the middle of the massive fire. Running down the ridge with the help of the Force he sprinted into the compound ignoring the blaster fire coming his direction. Looking around he saw his team following him and pointed toward the remaining trucks. “Get the remaining trucks ready to leave. Blow up or permanently disable what we can’t take with us. Someone get me an aerial view of this place I want to know where Tye is and this fire is going to ruin any hope of finding him considering his tracker is done.”

More blaster fire filled the air and Freedom slung his rifle and pulled out his lightsabers. The felt foreign in some ways in his hands because he trained so heavily with other weaponry so often but they also felt like old friends that could never been forgotten. Igniting the blue blades Freedom ran into the fire using the Force to keep it away from him. Blaster fire followed him through the flames which he parried or dodged but could not entire avoid. What was left of the defense personnel had found the center area of the compound devoid of fire and gathered there which Freedom saw as both a blessing and a dangerous situation. Stepping out of the fire he watched them turn toward him and start firing. It took Freedom a bit longer than he would have liked to dispose of the guards but he soon got over the frustration and saw Tye laying on his stomach, red armor now a charred black. “I need immediate evac, I have a man down.”


Reela sat examining chart after chart while Master Boolon continued to talk her mind barely paying attention to the charts in front of her. Cadden lay again sleeping with the aid of some narcotics looking as if he had been run over by a hover truck and she was sure he would rather have been run over by a hover truck. Her mind drifted back to Deegan and the healing they had set about handling hours prior. They seemed to be working their way from the inside out leaving his mind to try and repair itself. Reela wanted to avoid trying to heal the man’s mind and Master Murr felt the same way. As of a few hours prior on a few internal injuries remained but the detail in helping him was highly intricate. Voices again filled the hall and she found herself pulled from the medical charts as comm chatter filled the void of steady silence. Over and over again she found herself being drawn to one curiosity or another of the life around her but she had not had the chance to explore since the healing started.

One luxury she had been afforded was the chance to man the comms when she had down time. It might not have seemed like much to many of those around her but to her it was an incredible experience. Communications during battle were intense, choreographed machines that took precise enunciation and she was no master but loved to watch those that organized airlifts, strikes, troop movements and all that went into the war like maestro’s at the symphony. She wandered into the comms room as voices sprang up while Drosk, Jahaal and Nasrey manned them with experience that doubled as muscle memory. As she walked in the room she heard Freedom’s voice cutting through various channels and watched as everyone responded. “Buir, Buir, this is Kad requesting immediate evac. We have a man down, repeat man down. MIssion is a success.”

Reela watched as Drosk immediately began to organize the air support for retrieval while Jahaal notified the standby teams to alter their current assignments and Nasrey continued to talk to Freedom to find out the status of the injured Mandalorian. Her helmet was off as usual but Freedom’s voice came back clear enough that even if she had it on her emotions would have been able to be understood. “No injuries to report, vod is dead. Waiting on evac, prep teams for homecoming.”

Reela didn’t understand mando’a but she did understand the word ‘dead’ and a pit hit her stomach throwing it for a loop that made her struggle to contain the queasiness. Death was something she was not familiar with and had avoided for most of her life. Mandalorians she found approached death with reverence but a matter of fact approach as well. They honored their dead when the time came but until that time came they would bury the body, treasure the memories and insure the armor was properly repaired, painted and passed down to those who had claim to it. She had only heard stories about such a ceremony but knew she would have to be considered rather special to be apart of it. Freedoms voice sounded steady, stoic and tightly guarded. Moving to leave she padded barefoot back down the hall and walked in to Master Boolon looking down into the eyes of a now awake patient. The tube in his throat kept him from talking but his eyes showed the fear that dominated waking into the unknown.

“Master, how is he awake? We kept his dosage at an appropriate level.” Reela felt her emotional concerns were valid in the situation as she checked the intravenous drip on his medications.

“Perhaps we underestimated our young patient. His body might have built a tolerance to the medications. He is still in a very dangerous position with his internal injuries but perhaps we can give him a reason to fight. If this is the case I doubt he needs more reason to fight but adding a bit more emotional strength to a person who is fighting for their life is never a bad thing.” Motioning Reela to go grab one of the Mandalorians in the comm room the Jedi Healer worked slowly, talking reassuringly until Nasrey walked in. Deegan’s body visibly relaxed when he saw Nasrey and she talked soothingly to him. After a few moments of explaining to Deegan what had happened he looked worried but Master Murr reassured him he would live. He tried to talk and move his hands but the restraints held him. Panic seemed to set in for a moment but he calmed down as Nasrey yet again reassured him.

Reela heard him trying to talk regardless of the tube and finally Nasrey and Master Murr understood. Nasrey smiled slightly. “Näle, you want to see her?”

Nodding slightly he started to cry and shook his hand. “I will talk to the Jedi Healer about taking off your restraints but you cannot move unless they say so. Näle fought too hard to keep you alive for you to go off and die because you disobey doctors orders.”

Giving another nod Deegan closed his eyes and Nasrey left. Master Murr started humming while he worked and Reela was left to wait for the casualties of the latest fight to show up.


Kera stood waiting for Freedom as Kata paced. She could feel her father on a level that Kera could not and while that frustrated her she also knew that Freedom shared with her a bond that Kata would never understand. It was a balancing act for the two of them. She wondered if normal families dealt with issues like that and then dismissed it. There was no time for issues of a mother fearing her daughter growing up too fast in war, even if that was literally what had happened to Kata. Stepping back Kera spoke while the troopships circled to land. “What’s he feel like to you?”

Kata stopped pacing and looked at her mother as if she had just noticed she was there. “He’s upset but not like normal when a mission doesn’t go to plan. He’s upset because Tye got himself killed by making a bad decision. He keeps replaying the mission in his head but literally he could have done nothing different. Maybe frustrated in a better word than upset.”

Kera nodded, that would have been something she could have figured out when she looked at the man she loved. “So why are you pacing then?”

Looking down sheepishly Kata did her best to hide her embarrassment at being noticed. “Dad said he’d start training me when he got back from the mission. I’m not sure what he means by that because he’s already teaching me about the Force and how to control it.”

That was something Kera did know about and Kata being nervous meant that Freedom had left out exactly what the plan was. This was going to be interesting from quite a few different points of view and would probably cause a few issues at the same time. The transports set down and Freedom walked up to Kera kissing her and whispering to her as he always did. She felt a touch of emotion flow between them and then he helped unload Tye’s charred body. His armor would be removed, cleaned and repaired and then given to his family while the body itself would be burned in a ceremony. Kera stood watching the procession and as soon as the body was placed where it needed to be Freedom walked back to the same pit they used to fight in. Cadden’s blood was still staining the ground and Freedom watched as he was drug out and dropped at the edge of the circle again. Holding up Tye’s helmet Freedom threw it at the feet of the Mandalore and sneered. “You see that? You caused that vod to die because you won’t get out of your own way so now I’m going to make you get out of your own way.”

Motioning Kata into the circle Freedom instructed her to light her lightsaber and the two started to spar. Freedom held back and first and then suddenly struck with a quickness that surprised even Kera. Kata’s movements were slow and made her look as if she were stuck in mud compared to her fathers barely visible attacks. “Come on Kata stop thinking and let it go.”

Freedom worked with her for a few more minutes until the Twi’lek Jedi joined the viewing party escorted up by Tal. Kera knew that this was going to cause quite a few issues but she also knew it had to happen. Freedom attacked over and over and Kata held her defense up but it wasn’t her reaction or health that Kera was watching, the Jedi was beginning to get nervous being around such open hostility. Freedom was very good at projecting emotion that was fake and Kera saw it all over Reela’s face. After a few more moments Reela spoke up for him to stop and he did but the twi’lek now found herself his target.


Reela watched the Mandalorian man approaching her and took two steps back. She had never seen the man fight and he looked as if he had doubled in size as he approached her. Both his lightsabers were lit the blue light illuminating his armor and underside of his face made him appear even more menacing. Grabbing her arm he pulled her into the circle. Tal tossed her lightsaber at her feet and Freedom pointed to it with his right blade. “Pick it up.”

Reela ignored the request and went to leave but Tal stopped her. Even as she went to move passed him, with or without Force use the man was always able to stop her. Freedom spoke again and this time there was an edge to his voice that made her skin pucker. “Pick it up jetii or find out exactly why the Order and I don’t see eye to eye.”

Reela reluctantly ignited her lightsaber and stood facing Kata but Freedom shook his head. “No, she’s your partner. You’re both attacking me.”

Reela raised an eyebrow but Kata attacked immediately. Waiting a few moments she didn’t think she should and then Freedom swung his blade at her which she blocked instinctively. Suddenly she found herself in a fight that was completely out of her league. Freedom’s lightsabers moved faster than anyone she had ever encountered, his fighting style was like nothing she had ever studied. His right hand held the saber normally while the left would either be held in traditional grip or reversed. He varied it depending on where they were and sometimes flipped it mid swing or while the lightsabers were physically engaged with each other. On top of all of that he used his fists, elbows, knees and feet to fight as well. She found herself thinking about how terrifying he was sparring and then she realized he was holding back even now and her mind struggled to imagine just how deadly he was in a fight.

Blocking three more attacks Reela tried to attack for the first time and found herself on her back looking at the sky. “Come on kad’ika you can’t really think that an attack the Order has been teaching since I was younger than you. Try something new, inventive. You aren’t in the Jedi Temple, be aggressive.”

Reela shook her head and rolled to her feet. Kata tried telekinesis and Freedom somehow spun passed the move smiling. After a few more minutes Reela faked a kick before Kata swung at her fathers waist and Reela stabbed with her blade toward his head. Planting with his right foot Freedom twisted and then jumped his body spinning between both blades before landing and punching the air both of the girls tossed through the air before landing. Landing up straight he smirked and then nodded to Tal who tossed a staff at Cadden’s feet. Freedom nodded to it. “Pick up and get in the circle.”

Cadden shook his head and before the man could speak Freedom touched Cadden’s upper thigh with his lightsaber eliciting a scream. Snapping back Cadden moved to strike Freedom and the man moved putting Cadden in the circle. Kicking the staff to Cadden the Mandalorian Force user pointed at the two girls. “You’re turn Mandalore.”

Cadden shook his head and Kata swung her blade first causing Cadden to instinctively defend himself. A few more attacks from Kata and Reela was involved as well. Cadden found himself fighting not offensively but purely defensively. Ignoring the fight Kera walked over to Freedom and watched him studying the fight. His mind was a flurry of activity in moments like this. She rarely saw him and even when she did he was asleep more than he was awake. There were times when her mind found reasons to justify her not wanting to go fight but given it was the only time she could spend with Freedom she found herself ignoring the warning signs and going into the fight regardless. There was a dangerousness to her thinking that would wind up being deadly soon if she didn’t resolve the issues. She needed to talk to him soon, before her mother did.

Freedom’s brow furrowed and he glanced up for a minute before his comm went crazy and his eyes got wide. Yelling for the fight to stop Freedom looked around and his eyes showed a fear and intensity that Kera was not sure she had ever seen before. Suddenly Freedom turned to her and looked directly at her while her father came running out of the Forge. Freedom nodded again and then spoke, “Execute Project Ca’tra.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Kyr Aden was at the command center, reviewing their progress at Enceri. With Aeorn Mors joining him and leading the defensive against Priest's onslaught, he felt a little better about their situation. Open war was at their doorstep, and while confident in his followers' abilities, he wasn't certain that they would be able to win it without additional pull among the ranks of the Protectors. His standing as both Spectre and Council member generated a healthy number of supporters to his cause, but Garen held both the numbers and the firepower at the moment. Kyr would take whatever help he could get.

He thought back to when they were under better times. Before the chieftains called out for blood, before the Empire attacked their planet, before Starfall was their Mand'alor. At the time, Kyr had given him his full support, and even provided personal counsel to their new leader. But, ever since Valery's death, the man was different. Kyr was present for the funeral pyre, and remembered the complete one-eighty Garen had pulled, and the resounding support from those present toward his new tactics. Kyr was one of the few that did not support them.

And he was to blame for the nuclear warheads. Kyr had thought they would be used as a scare tactic; he didn't know just how far Garen had fallen until they actually deployed them on Botajef. It was then that Kyr knew he could no longer follow Garen, and broke not only his allegiance, but that of his aliit and his Shadow Warriors from Garen's Protectors. Since then, he had been given mixed levels of support and opposition, both due to his standing within the Protectors' ranks. Now his followers' ranks had grown from but a handful of family and close friends to a good percentage of the Protectors that formerly followed Starfall. Unsurprisingly, many of these Mandalorians were advocates toward Blackthorne's reign as their Mandalore. And now that they had him back, despite his mental condition, Kyr had a feeling the following events were going escalate to full scale war between Garen's Mandalorians and his.

Kyr had inquired on Blackthorne's condition earlier that day, to which Freedom had told him they were still breaking him. Kyr didn't need to know anything more than that; this was the very system he used on Freedom when the Jetii had entered his aliit. There really was no time for this, but Cadden was in desperate need for this, whether he saw it or not. He arrived on Mandalore a completely different man than when he had left. Cadden's recovery from the state he arrived in was... complex, to say the least. The process was necessary to rebuild him into something greater than he ever knew himself capable of being. It did not give Kyr much hope that there was no real fight left in Blackthorne, but all the same they continued to push the man. Whatever it was he had gone through, Kyr thought, it must've done a number on him real good. The Cadden he once knew would not have been so... passive. He would have fought the whole way, until he didn't have the strength to do so, then somehow find a way to keep fighting. Cadden had no fight left in him, and they needed to find a way to bring it back. They had to get rid of whatever mental blocks the man had, to help him excel in his potential. Just as he had done for Freedom.

Kyr's helmet's HUD notified him of an incoming call over his personal frequency. Only a few people had information on this line, which warranted a private conversation. He left the command center and made his way to the briefing room and answered the call on the room's comm console. Who he saw surprised him, to say the least. "Ge'tal," he said, "to what do I owe the pleasure?"

Ge'tal Senaar's expression was completely neutral and unreadable. "I'm risking a lot contacting you," he simply said. "If it is discovered I'm even speaking with you..." He trailed for a few seconds before he continued. "Garen has completely lost it."

Kyr frowned. "That much is already certain. Tell me something I don't know."

Ge'tal's expression then changed to one of despair. "Kyr," he said slowly, "you need to get out of there. All of you." He paused a second, though it seemed much longer than that. "He's going to level your homestead. And everyone in it."

"What?" Even for Garen, this news seemed unreal to him. "And you're certain of this?"

Ge'tal nodded solemnly. "He made the order earlier today, during a Council meeting." He looked around briefly, and Kyr detected an air of concern about his body language. "Karric, Nedth, and I all expressed disapproval, but he won't listen to reason anymore. I think that Vizsla woman is influencing his decisions. But how, I don't know."

"Vizsla?" Kyr said, creasing his brow. Why was a Vizsla member on Garen's council?

Ge'tal nodded. "Kyla Vizsla," he said.

Kyla Vizsla. She was one of the strongest advocates for going to war. And now she presided on Garen's council. Kyr wasn't wholly thrilled with the thought of her sitting in and feeding Garen advice. But it made some sense on the direction the man had been going of late. She's feeding the fire, he thought. But why? She wanted war, sure, but if she was advocating the deaths of Mandalorian lives, Kyr had to wonder if she was holding any ulterior motives, or if she was simply pushing Garen to get what she had wanted all along. It's certainly one way to get a crusade.

"Kyr," Ge'tal continued, "get your aliit out of there. You're all in danger. He won't recant on this order."

Kyr nodded. "We'll be clear of here when they initiate the command," he said. "I'll have to organize a distraction, so they don't suspect anything."

"I know you won't do anything to jeopardize us," Ge'tal said. "I will try to temper him, get him to change his mind, but I doubt he will listen."

"Vor entye, ner vod," Kyr said with a nod. "Ret'urcye mhi."

"K'oyacyi," Ge'tal said, and terminated the transmission. Kyr waited only a moment before he turned and left the room, and made haste to the nearby communications room.

"Send a priority message out to my commanders," he ordered as soon as the door opened. "We have to pack up and get out, and we have little time to do it in." He had feared this might have happened someday, but not under these circumstances. The original plan did not call for discretion because of an enemy driven to send them to complete annihilation. The basic plan for immediate evacuation, however, remained unchanged. He would have to modify it to fit these needs, but that wouldn't be much of a problem. "Initiate Project Ca’tra."

Without waiting for a response, Kyr turned and sprinted down the corridors of the Forge, his heavy armor echoing throughout the compound with each step. He made it outside just seconds after the message had been relayed, and slowed only after seeing Freedom and Kera. He spared a passing glance at the Battle Circle before approaching Freedom.

"Freedom," he said, placing a hand on the man's shoulder, "we have a serious problem. All operations need to be packed up and relocated. Garen is ordering an orbital strike on us." He looked over at the Battle Circle. "Resume with him when we're at the safe house."

* * *

All Cadden could do was stare at the dead Mandalorian and the helmet that rolled to his feet. "People die in war!" Garen's voice echoed in his head.

Not for this, Cadden wanted to say. Not these people. He hardly paid any attention to Freedom's sparring with the other two Jedi as he locked his eyes on the charred body. The helmet still rested nearby, but Cadden no longer paid it any heed. The corpse drew him in, absorbed all of his attention as he remained fixed on its presence, and Freedom's words.

A staff fell at his feet, averting his attention from the body. "Pick it up," Freedom said, "and get in the circle."

Cadden looked Freedom in the eyes and shook his head in refusal. He opened his mouth to add voice to action, but instead found himself screaming in agonizing pain as the searing heat of Freedom's lightsaber burned into his thigh. Despite his pain, Cadden lunged against Freedom, but the other was too fast. Or predicted the response. Cadden found himself in the Battle Circle, anyway, and Freedom kicked the staff toward him.

Freedom pointed at the two Jedi he was sparring with just a minute earlier. "Your turn, Mandalore."

Cadden knew he held no tactical advantage, here, and so once again shook his head defiantly. But the human girl didn't share the same sentiments and attacked, forcing Cadden to go into the defensive. The Twi'lek soon joined the assault, and Cadden found himself struggling to keep pace. His body ached, and he could still feel many of the prior injuries in each of his movements.

Years of training took over, however, as his combative instincts drove his actions. Her blocked and dodged attacks from the Jedi, screwing up in some instances but executing maneuvers flawlessly in others. But his abilities were still far inferior to what they used to be. He remained on the defensive until Freedom's voice shouted out to them.

"Stop!" he commanded, and both the Jedi obeyed. Cadden remained in a defensive position for a brief moment longer, while he struggled to catch his breath. The pain started to set in once more as his adrenaline began to subside, and he took note of a very familiar individual appearing from the homestead. Kyr Aden.

The man was clad in his armor, a dark blue with a dark forest green pattern, with Jaig eyes sported on his helmet. If it weren't for these combined factors he doubted he would have ever recognized the man. Cadden watched him approach Freedom and Kera, and the three engaged in conversation. He winced in pain as his body finally reminded him of just how much he had endured since they took him in.

Will I ever see you again? her voice repeated. He closed his eyes and took a very painful deep breath, thinking back on better memories.

"Yes," he whispered. "I promise." He frowned as Kyr and Freedom spoke with each other, and made his way toward the trio.

"… Going to blast this place to hell," Kyr said, his voice portraying mixed emotions. "This goes beyond Enceri. He's fully aware that Kata and Aran are here. He doesn't care what the casualties are." He spared a glance at Cadden, but seemed to pay him little heed. "We need to get everyone out of here, Freedom," he continued. "Especially the children."

Cadden frowned, and clenched his fists, his grip tightening on his staff. He knew Kyr far too well to belive the man would say anything manipulative. While Enceri could be seen as unintentional casualties in war, this was something entirely different. And, somehow, it really didn't surprise him in the slightest. Anger flared up within Cadden, and his pulse started to race again. He still felt the pain, but chose to ignore it.

"What can I do to help?" he asked, drawing the full attention of both. Cadden made no attempt to hide his emotions as he looked directly at them, awaiting their answer. Kyr merely looked at Freedom and nodded. Cadden eyed the two, a dozen thoughts passing through his head. Did they have in mind a menial task? Some kind of suicide run? Or perhaps direct combat? It really didn't matter to him in the long run. He wanted to do something to show them his worth. Perhaps even make up for his past actions. He had the very distinctive feeling his "training" was far from over, but nothing could prepare him for what would be said next.

I don't deserve to lead, he thought, least of all them. But I'm going to change that. Freedom was right. We do need to change Mandalore for the better. I can't change who I was, or what I did. But I can change who I am and what I become. A man must accept his fate.

Or be destroyed by it,
Lillian's voice said.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

The day had come. According to Ge'tal's information, they only had a couple hours before the bombardment would occur. Everything had to be set up right, and perfect, before the event itself would happen. Kyr had been busy making sure the homestead would have an appropriate number of decoys around the complex for any follow-up recon to find, so Garen could be briefed on them locating bodies from the strike. He was also suspecting they would be scanning for lifeforms, and so had Freedom projecting false presences for the scanners to pick up. Kyr was certain the ruse would be uncovered eventually, but it would give them enough time to reestablish their operations at the safe house and be back up and running before any follow-through missions would be initiated.

He was outside with a couple other Mandalorians while Freedom and a few more were finishing laying some carefully-placed explosives that would make the recon team's job that much harder later. He and the two others outside were working on the key to this evacuation; the distraction. If Garen were to find out they knew this was happening, Karric, Nedth, and possibly even Ge'tal would all likely die as a result, and then his aliit would follow. Treason wasn't exactly a crime he saw the new Garen being so easy to forgive, or offer a less severe punishment for. This was one of many reasons he felt they were not properly prepared and equipped for open war. And the demonstration of the lengths Garen was willing to go to see their resistance quelled proved their lack of readiness.

If anyone was looking at them from orbit, they would not be seeing anything suspicious; matter of fact, what they thought they'd be seeing was the setting up of fortifications. In truth, their purpose was two fold. They were laying the last of some small explosives that would collapse an underground tunnel system they had previously built for covert operations. Only the most attentive of scouts could possibly discern that it was there to begin with. They had laid larger explosives at both the entrance and exit, and peppered smaller ones throughout the tunnels yesterday.

Nasrey, Kera, and Freedom all objected to the idea of him risking his own life in such a manner, but he insisted. He couldn't allow or trust anyone else to pull this off. If the crew of the ships in orbit were watching, and he was betting that someone was, they would find it rather odd that there was no sign of anyone outside. They would remain focused on the Mandalorians' presence at the homestead, and not that of the transports that were leaving from their tunnel system's exit a few kicks away. The trick was how they would escape the bombardment. And therein was the purpose of the explosives they were laying. When they went off, they would provide sufficient cover for their own getaway. Each of the Mandalorians that stayed behind had enough fuel in their jetpacks to get them about a kilometer away from the homestead, to the nearby forest, where speeder bikes were waiting in separate, hidden locations that they would use to escape through the woods. It had to be timed perfectly; too soon and they could be seen fleeing the scene, but too late and they'd wind up dead.

Kyr spared a glance up at the sky above, trying to discern quickly where the ships were, but to no avail. He then checked the chrono. One hour left to go. "Kale," he spoke over their encrypted frequency to the team inside the homestead and Forge, "it's time to pack up. I hope you're done in there."

"I've still got a couple more," one of the Mandalorians responded.

"We don't have time," Kyr said. "You need to be out of the tunnels by the time the strike happens."

"I just need a few more minutes," the man argued.

Kyr grunted in disapproval, but knew that the Mandalorian would rather see this done than leave a job unfinished. "You have fifteen minutes," he said, "then drop what you're doing and get out. Prudiise, are your charges set?"

"All set," one of them said.

"Finishing the last one, now," reported the other.

"Get to your positions within twenty minutes," Kyr ordered. "Remember, we're supposed to be looking like we're working on fortifications. Stay busy, but maintain vigilance. I don't want anyone dieing on me because they got sloppy."

Time seemed to drag on at that moment as they were getting closer to when the ships were supposed to open fire. The timer in Kyr's helmet went off, signaling the end of the fifteen minutes he gave the man inside. "Aaran," he said, "report."

"Having trouble with this last charge," Aaran said. "Should be able to have it worked out in five."

"You're out of time," Kyr said, "leave it and go."

"If they find evidence of it later, this plan of yours is as good as dead," he argued. "I'd rather see this done than see us undone."

Kyr frowned. Damn fool, he thought. But what could he do about it? It was far too risky to go inside and strong arm him out of there. The other Mandalorians inside would have been on their way through the tunnel system by now, and as such put their own lives at risk to get him out, as well. "And if you stay, you may die," he argued. "They could find that evidence, and your wrecked speeder, and put two and two together fairly quickly."

There was a brief pause, which unsettled Kyr. "Don't worry," Aaran finally said after a few seconds, "I'll be all right."

Dammit, Kyr thought, but knew he was powerless to do anything about it. He had to keep his focus on the task at hand. After a couple more minutes, the timer went off once more. "Prudiise, move if you haven't already," he ordered. There were no complications this time, and all three were soon at their designated points along the homestead. He waited as the countdown remained on his HUD, while keeping an eye on the sky above for incoming fire.

The bombardment initiated about ten minutes prior to when Ge'tal said it was due. The ships must have got into position early; it wasn't like they had to wait on anything else. The laserfire erupted around them, and the three Mandalorians triggered their explosions before igniting their jetpacks and soaring through the air, close to the ground. The area lit up around them as they sped through their waypoints, providing the cover they needed to escape the area safely. After a few minutes, all three Mandalorians were clear of the area and made it into the forest. There were some scorch marks and scratches on their armor from several close calls, but it was a small price to pay. When the recon teams would scour the area later, they would find three corpses on the ground where they started, previously buried, now unearthed by the explosions.

"Roll call," he ordered over the comm while looking back at his homestead through the dense trees. He received six sound-offs within twice as many seconds. "Aaran," he said. "Aaran, do you copy?" There was silence. "Haar'chak!" He slammed his fist into a nearby tree trunk. "Kale, Prudiise, meet at the safe house. Remember, we're keeping a low profile. Nobody must know we got out of there alive." He let his gaze lock on the destruction wrought from orbit a bit longer, thinking about Aaran and his sacrifice. Part of him hoped it wasn't in vain, that he got that charge set and his speeder would not be uncovered. However, the other part of him wished the man didn't stubbornly disobey a direct order and left when he was instructed to do so.

Kyr walked up to his speeder and uncovered the small craft. He climbed on, revved the engines, and started his trek through the forest toward their new home.

Later that day Kyr had a sit-down with his commanders. Garen and his entourage would believe they were dead, and until they were able to get back up and running at full capacity he would have to remain believing that. The deception was key to their survival. It wasn't about honor, or a lack thereof, nor was it about bravery or cowardice; when Kyr's family was in danger, genuine danger, he had to reevaluate their tactics and lay low for a while.

"If Garen learns that he didn't succeed in this plot," he instructed them, "he would send the cavalry to deal with us."

"Nothing we can't handle," one of them said arrogantly.

Kyr narrowed his eyes in response. They didn't know Garen like he did. They didn't know the man he became after Valery's death. "I wouldn't put it beyond him to turn to nuclear warfare, if it meant taking us all out of the picture," he warned them. "We stay off the grid until we have a means to fight back. Current operations will continue through completion. We will keep defending Enceri and performing small skirmishes, but we cannot risk another major operation at this time."

"My officers and I can recruit the Black Brigade to the cause," Ruusaan spoke up. Kyr's attention turned solely to the woman. "It may not be much, but it's that many fewer verde under his command. You will need an army, Kyr." She paused a second. "When the time comes."

Kyr nodded in approval. "We must keep this under wraps," he said. "Remember, Garen must not know we survived, until the time comes. When we strike back, we need to be fully prepared for open combat." And, with luck, Blackthorne will be ready. Kyr couldn't keep his hopes up for the man to come around and reclaim his rightful title, however, especially not in the timeframe he had set for their recovery. But if their former Mand'alor could recover by then, they would gain a powerful ally and symbol to use against Garen. He rallied and united the clans through combat and show of power before, he thought, I've no doubt in my mind he could do it again. But their ruse would not last forever; either Garen would learn of the truth, or they would reveal it to him. But, for now, they had to recuperate and build up for the coming war, not continue to throw limited resources at a man with the power, capability, and most importantly, resolve, of wiping them off the face of this planet with the touch of a button.
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Adenn Mirshko
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Pulled from archived Encrypted server at Aden homestead to provide detailed information regarding Project Ca’tra. Some information has been redacted.

Project Ca’tra:

This exercise is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residence of the Aden homestead should the need arise to vacate and secure a complete and immediate removal of all assets regardless of importance without leaving behind any evidence to compromise the planned rally point.

The following are missions that are assigned to specific commanders to provide streamlined responsibility:


Present Day

Freedom looked around as he stood looking at their new home. This massive set of structures was as rudimentary as it was functional. Freedom had spent months scouring the mountains of Mandalore with Jahaal and Kyr looking for a place to build a fall back just in case something went wrong. They needed to find a place that even from space was hard to attack. It took them months to even begin to locate such a place and when they did it was not only defensible but it impossible to get ships into. Freedom had taken it upon himself to have Roan and Casi find a way to put ships into the area. They would need special equipment, sensor arrays, digging machines and other equipment that Freedom had no clue to acquire but if there was anyone who could make a ship fit into spaces that they weren’t meant to it would be those two.

It had taken far longer than Freedom imagined but they had done the job. Their ships were stored away in massive caves dug by various means and reinforced in ways Freedom still didn’t understand. Turning to look toward the functional side of the camp he still couldn’t believe what he was looking at. Massive buildings were built in trees, around trees, under them and around them. The trees themselves supported a defensible set of massive pikes and tree made walkways but the majority of their buildings were on the ground. The faint glimmer of a shield covered them and while not obvious it was there. It would never be active unless necessary and while it was on now he knew they were simply running a functionality test.

Turning he looked at the dozens of fire pits and how they were staggered just enough to avoid a massive heat signature but it didn’t matter, they were as safe as they could be. They would know of any attack on the ground for hours before it came, getting to them through the air would be nigh impossible and frankly suicidal and an attack from space required knowing where they were and also bombarding the area around them to even be able to begin hitting them. He knew an attack would come eventually but he also knew that it would take months to find them and even then they had time to prepare for anything not expected.

Watching the sun start to disappear behind the trees he knew his next set of moves and made his way to where his family would be staying. Stepping in Kera had a console open already as she unpacked what little she needed to. Kata would be rooming with Sarai while Aran was in a room just below them in a hideaway shell room that both his room and another trusted individual could access. Tapping a few buttons Kera brought up the proper screen as Freedom slipped out of his flightsuit and started attaching his armor plates in their proper places. As the screen changed and text scrolled rather quickly before he saw himself in the screen. Kera nodded at him and he attached a few more armor plates. “This is Freedom Nadd and I am sending this message to all who will listen. Firstly I am going to say this to the demagolka who calls himself Mandalore. You are a hut’uun. You bombarded my yaim, my home. If you think you know me and what I am capable of you know nothing.”

Freedom’s voice changed, his eyes got colder and Kera realized that she was looking at the man he became under the helmet. This was the man she had only seen a few times without his armor when all his humor, kindness and most intimate of manly qualities was on the surface. This is what the Jedi were so afraid of. That he would become a weapon that not only they do not control, but that isn’t anywhere within their code. Frankly...I don’t blame them.

She smiled at the last thought and Freedom tapped a button that caused a video to play in the transmission. “From this day forward Garen Starfall is no longer the Mandalore of our people because of the atrocity he committed today. The video you see now is the bombardment of the Aden homestead. My ad, my children, were there when this started. They are lytlings Garen and you will pay for what you have done. There plenty dead because of your attack but one death makes you a marked man.”

Freedom reached off screen and stepped back again. He held up Kyr’s helmet and Kera saw him change again. She actually felt the Force ripple off of him as the anger at the attack flowed through him. Nomi peeked in her face white while Kata stopped leaning against a wall and her fists clenched against the feeling. The anger wasn’t fake, this anger was real and contained and suddenly she appreciated his self-control even more. “There are hundreds of you out there, maybe even thousands of you that know who this buy’ce belongs to. This is the helmet of Kyr Aden, my father, and today he died so you could try to cull us from your imperfect view of Mandalore hut’uun. You lack any honor Garen, you are a fool and most of all you are a coward.”

“What you did today was not only kill Kyr Aden but you also placed me at the head of the list of all those who would want to see you die. I am now in command of every man who is fighting against you or wishes to do so. Kyr wanted it as do those who support him even through his death.” Freedom took a breath and set his jaw to calm the emotion coming off of him.

“I am the one person you never wanted to see in combat Garen, you even admitted as much when the Xen’Chi set foot on this world. I don’t need the Force to kill you, I don’t even need weapons or armor. I will happily kill you with my bare hands. Do not forget who trained me and no I do not mean the Jedi. I mean the very man which you feared so greatly you attacked his home from space instead of fighting him face to face.” Adjusting his belt Freedom slipped his blasters into their holsters and smiled at the holorecorder.

“I am coming for you Garen, we are coming for you and your Death Watch dar’manda.” Through tightened lips Freedom cracked his neck and spoke one last time. “This message has several recordings that will play on loop, one is from the helmet of Cadden Blackthorne and a conversation he and Garen had regarding the Death Watch. Another is in reference to a mission Cadden was sent to participate in. Do not call yourself Mandalore again Garen or I will cut your tongue from your mouth before I kill you. Also do not try to trace it because if you do I’m sure a lovely group of wookies on Kashyyyk or even a Todarian couple on Rodia would love to have you show up at their doorstep. You are worthless Garen and because you are I will see to it that you no longer breath before this war is over.”

Turning from the screen it shut off and sent the feed as it was programmed to do. It would bounce to various places and eventually wind up in hundreds of various locations all over Mandalore without a way to be shut down. Garen would most likely see the video that evening but he would also be watching it with everyone in every tapcaf, bar and public area on the world. Slipping on his last piece of armor he grabbed his srraka blades and lightsabers and looked at both Kata and Nomi trying to work through the emotional ride he had just forced himself through. “Get the others, I need to set myself straight.”


Freedom walked into the dark, damp candle lit room where Cadden now found himself having space to himself. Calmed down and tuned back to reality the black and blue clad mandalorian looked at the physically beaten man in front of him and touched him with the Force. There was only a hint of what had once been there, what Freedom remembered from his youth. Grabbing a chair he spun it and sat in it backward leaning forward into the back opposite Cadden. Locking eyes with him till he looked away the Force user finally spoke. "Who did it?"

Cadden's mind was racing at the abrupt nature of the question, but he remained composed. For the most part. No doubt Freedom could detect the conflict within him when he asked the question. "A friend," he said, before looking back at Freedom. The answer wasn't good enough and he knew it. "Cazzik Wyn. It was necessary. For the Jedi, the galaxy..."

Cadden looked away again, this time distant. "For me. If he didn't, I'd likely be dead by now."

Cazzik... Freedom thought back years to a friend long forgotten. He'd be much older now, Freedom and he had been the same age once but now he would have at least been five years older than Freedom. Pulling himself from the sudden memory recall he watched Cadden. "Being broken from the Force is traumatic. We have a former Jedi here who only has rudimentary Force use because of the same act. You should seek her out."

Pulling the conversation back on topic he moved to one specific statement and focused on it. "Why necessary for the Jedi?"

"Because I would have burnt the entire Jedi Order to the ground," he said. The look in his eyes carried a of seriousness that bordered on causing disbelief. "I had never felt so powerful, not only through the Force but through both political and military might, in my life. Yes, you might say that this is the allure of the dark side, yet there is only one reason why Ossus isn't a wasteland, by now, and the Jedi had nothing to do with it." He paused a moment. "The Sith Empire sent an entire fleet in my flagship and tore it apart through their concentrated firepower. If they didn't arrive, the Jedi Order and New Republic forces would have been wiped out." He didn't feel the need to repeat himself from their first conversation, however; Freedom already knew Cadden didn't have any clue as to why he did what he did.

Snorting in amusement Freedom found himself thinking back to a time when he thought numbers and sheer brute force were power. "You can think what you want but the Order was in no danger from you, had you actually posed a threat you would have been taken care of."

The matter of fact statement Freedom left hanging in the open and kept going on to the next topic. "Who is she?"

He made sure to stress exactly who he was referring to by tapping his temple. "The one you keep thinking about."

Cadden frowned. Freedom didn't understand, but then again neither did he. It was best to leave it alone. He gave the man an insulted, irritated look when he posed his next question, however. "Were you poking around in my head?" he asked, his tone matching his expression.

Freedom hardened his expression for a moment to set the mood and establish who was in control. "You know it doesn't work like that. I don't have time to play games Cadden. You know why we left and you must know my questions have a purpose. Who is she?"

Cadden stared at Freedom a moment, before he finally gave his answer. "Someone I cared for," he said. "Someone that was taken from me."

Freedom pulled out a dagger from under his backplate that was made from a broken srraka and flipped it once holding the handle. "Name? Better yet how about we get to the point. Give me her name so we can further this conversation beyond awkward banter and move to the real subjects."

Cadden was undeterred by Freedom's gesture or comments. "I fail to see how this matters," he said, "if I can't even find her...." He noted Freedom's unwavering resolve and simply shrugged. A painful shrug, he quickly discovered. "Lillian Tolwyn, if you must know."

Nodding Freedom pointed the black dagger at Caddens chest. "What's more important to you us or her?"

Cadden looked at him, considering the question long and hard. It was a valid question, to be fair, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He thought back on the last time he had seen her. It was just prior to him and Dahdtoudi bringing the Triad down. Or so they had thought, anyway. He had made a promise he feared he had wound up breaking.

"Neither," he finally said. "She is more important to me than any one person." He let that hang for only a couple seconds. "But Mandalore is the only place I have to go. And, therefore, the Protectors the only cause I have left to fight for."

Freedom shook his head. "Not good enough. You know Mandalorians aren't left overs. Find a better answer."

Flipping the blade again Freedom slid his chair closer to Cadden. "Come on Cadden. Where is the man who hunted me like I was worth a million credits? That passion hasn't died has it? Did it die with her or did you decide to die because she left?"

Cadden narrowed his eyes, his pulse heightening. It wasn't easy for him to resist the urge to throw a punch at Freedom. He clenched his fists, but he managed to keep them at bay. "She didn't leave," Cadden said slowly, practically through his teeth. "She was taken from me. By..." he hesitated for but a couple seconds, his next word dark and heavy with emotions. The primary one being hatred. "Dahdtoudi."

Considered for a moment the question once more. "The Mandalorians," he finally said, as he let his emotions settle down. "I don't even know if she's still alive. All I have is a... feeling. But this... this I know is certain. You said you don't need my help."

He gave Freedom a very serious and confident look. "I intend to prove you wrong."

Smirking Freedom nodded shortly. "Considering I am capable of killing you without even getting out of this chair, unarmed, I doubt we need you. I know for a fact I don't need you. I know for a fact that no one that belongs to my family needs you. What I was very specific about was that we need you."

Freedom let the we he spoke of sink in. He wasn't referring to anyone specific but instead Mandalorians as a collective people. "If you want to prove me wrong you're going to have to earn some respect and that means fighting back. You can't fight me, not alone but you can fight those who have been beating you. The more you fight back, the more you defend yourself and come back from these beatings the more they'll realize you've taken their best and survived it. That is where respect comes from for you. "

Cadden considered Freedom's words for a moment. He's right, Cadden thought. Fighting back is all I can do. But there was something Freedom was wrong about. If he or his family don't need me, then why is Garen considered a threat to them? They know exactly where he is. He could have ended this a long time ago, if he didn't feel as though he needed the help.

"So, what's the itinerary?" he asked. Cadden knew he had the ability, but he also knew he had plenty of wounds to offset them. It would be tough, but Cadden had to prove himself to them.

Freedom pushed off the chair and stood. Cadden followed suit and Freedom motioned for him to follow. Side by side the men stood nearly the same height though Freedom dwarfed Cadden in actual muscle. The two men were different nearly as much as Kyr and Freedom were though they were also far more alike. Stepping outside the tunnel it opened into a hollowed out rock face that led directly to a cliff. Looking out they could see nothing but forest. There wasn't a city or village within a thousand klicks but the point would be made regardless. "Out there are Mandalorians who know you are alive. They don't respect you, they don't want you on this planet. What they do know is what happens with us though. They know you've survived here so far and gotten beat by everyone who wants to step up to beat you. You keep coming back from that and they're starting to respect you."

Turning to Cadden he pointed at the man again. "Something you can control though is the fact you cannot hope to even come close to holding your own against me. Kyr can barely do it now. If you want to earn more respect it's time you start trying to hit me."

Smiling Freedom let a memory pass through his mind. "Those on this planet that matter and will follow you? They know who I am. They know what I'm capable of and not as a Jedi but as a Mandalorian. If you want to earn their respect? Earn mine."

Cadden looked at Freedom, his facial expression saying, "You've got to be kidding."

"You want me to hit you?" he asked. "A fully-trained Jedi, who can sense my every move before I make it?" True, Cadden had gone up against Jedi in the past, but he was fully equipped, and with weaponry favorable to taking them down. And the situation in his favor. None of these variables held true for him, here. And if Freedom was truthful about his power, Cadden failed to see the variable of success, here.

Holding out his palm Freedom showed a quick video of Kyr and he fighting. It was from nearly a year prior when Freedom had a broken arm but Cadden didn't need to know that. It showed Kyr keeping up with Freedom. "He always said you were his equal if not better in combat than he was, if he can do that why can't you?"

Cadden narrowed his eyes. He knew better than this. "And under what circumstances?" he wondered. "I see more armor, and less physical ailments, here. And I bet there's more to this than meets the eye. Why else would you show it to me?" He looked at Freedom. "I used to be a hunter, Freedom. One of the best. I don't take evidence at face value. Ever."

"I'm showing you," Freedom said shutting off the video. "that you don't have to be a Jedi to be able to keep up with me."

Flipping the dagger once he slid it back into its place while the fire behind them started burning. "Your physical body will heal over time. I'll even ask the Jedi to help but you're going to be pushed in a way that you never wanted or thought to push yourself if you really want to try and prove yourself.

Cadden smirked, despite himself. "No," he said, "I won't try." He looked out into the forest. "I will prove myself."

Freedom nodded silently and moved to leave. "Just remember Cadden. You're a hunter, hunters hunt for a reason. You need to find yours and we, the Mandalorians, aren't it. Lillian is or was. Your purpose must come from within, not outside yourself."

He’s right, Cadden thought. It was the one thing he could never avoid. He was a hunter, at heart. He had been nearly all his life, and nothing changed that. Not his training in the Force, his time as Mandalore, or as Trayus. Despite his circumstance, he never stopped using his skills or instincts as a hunter.

But he had no idea what his purpose was, anymore. They didn't need him as their Mandalore, nor as a leader. This was something he had to figure out on his own.

"Why are you doing this?" he found himself asking as they walked toward the center of the massive camp. "What is your interest in me, anyway?"

Shrugging Freedom looked into a fire that had been started on one of the many levels. "Personally? You're a wildcard, someone who can't be counted on to be worth anything ever. It reminds me of myself before Kyr for a hold of me."

Squatting he grab a stick and poked a log continuing his response. "I'm interested in you because I know what you're capable of. Do your remember the fight against the Xen'Chi? Right here on this planet? Or fighting me when we were both younger? You weren't developed in the Force but you could sure fight. Fighting is only half the puzzle though. You can lead Cadden. You have within something that can't be taught. You know it's there and you've hid it for far too long. "

Cadden chuckled, before promptly being reminded he still had ribs that were healing. "I led companies, Mandalorians, Sith, and an entire empire," he said. "I became Mandalore before Garen did because I fought for it." He paused realizing Freedom wanted him to fight for it again.

"That's what you're hoping for, isn't it? That I fight for that title again. That I reclaim it, just as I initially had." The question was, however, did Cadden really want it? Freedom said so himself, Kyr would have made an excellent Mandalore. So, why him? Why not Kyr? Furthermore, if Lillian was alive, Cadden could not hold any promises he wouldn't leave them for her. Not exactly the kind of leader they'd look up to, he mused.

"You want me to become this image you set forth for me, but I still fail to understand why," he continued. "The galaxy won't look on the Mandalorians very kindly if it learned their leader was none other than the very man that just recently tried to bring it to its knees. I may be out of the loop, but I'm pretty sure the Protectors don't need that kind of publicity."

"Do you really think the Mandalorians will care what the rest of the galaxy thinks of their leader?" Freedom smiled and poked the fire again.

"I have no image of what you'll be as Mandalore. If you don't become Mandalore than Kyr will take the job. He doesn't want it though, not like you. That is your rightful place. You gave it to Garen, he didn't earn it."

Standing he walked back over to Cadden. "You are thinking like an aruetiise, an outsider, Cadden not like a Mandalorian. That is why you cannot understand why you should be leading."

Cadden nodded in vague understanding. The job was a difficult one, to say the least. It took a certain breed of person to be a true Mandalore. Cadden just wasn't sure if he was still capable of being said person. I lost more than the Force on that ship, he realized. He wasn't sure he agreed with Freedom about the position being his rightful place, however. He was regaining his confidence but he still wasn't sure as to who he truly was. Besides being one of the galaxy's most wanted, for countless crimes against multiple political entities.

"So, when do we begin, then?" he asked casually.

"We begin when you decide to be Mandalore." Freedom turned from the fire and walked back to Cadden.

"You will submit to being the lowest person on the wrung. I will control your fighting regiment but you will be under the command of Sarai Priest, Reela and my daughter, Kata."

"That shouldn't be a problem," Cadden said, somewhat amused at Freedom's demand, "I've gotten rather used to being the lowest person on the wrung since I returned on Mandalore."

Cadden looked into the fire as he spoke. "Garen made me an honorary general, but in reality it was all title, and I answered to everyone else." It was a fact he didn't much care for, which made quite the ire with Garen. He would have to submit to it, here. Cadden looked back at Freedom. "So believe me when I say this wouldn't be the first time."

"You might have answered to everyone there but you weren't being controlled by three teenage girls who will have complete and utter control of your life outside of your fight training." Freedom let that sink in for a moment. He wasn't going to allow the man to be commanded by officers of combat, he wanted him to literally start at the bottom.

Cadden chuckled, and grabbed his chest as he coughed. He looked at Freedom when he finished, a smirk still on his face. Freedom itching to know what was so amusing. "Three teenage girls controlling my life?" he said. "Maybe I was better off dead."

Snorting a chuckle the man agreed. "You've fought all three of them already so we know keeping you in line won't be an issue."

Cadden’s shock was undeniable. “Those were teenagers?”

He then frowned. Nothing more humbling than being put in your place by a few kids.

“I suppose I’ll be going up against them again in the Battle Circle,’ he said matter-of-factly. It really didn’t warrant an answer.

Freedom kept his amusement to himself and responded without thinking twice. “I’ve only been training Sarai for about a month, Kata and Reela haven’t even started yet so think what you may they’re still very green.”

So, essentially they’re going to help me get back to fighting form, Cadden thought, and the match would end very differently the next time he fought them. He had no doubts he could best the one called Sarai. The two Jedi, however, would likely take some strategizing. Green or not, they had the ability to use the Force, and would likely give him an inkling on what he would have to do to match Freedom in combat. He had to keep his mind clear, and in the game. Something he had difficulty doing, of late. But if he could keep focused, all his years of fighting and training would provide enough to get through at least a majority of his trials, here.

But that was something he yet had difficulty doing. "You said you were once under the same position as I am, now," he said. "How did you do it?" He paused. "How did you get passed the mental and emotional blocks? How did you overcome?" He was genuinely interested in the answer, and his eyes showed a true desire for aid in this matter. No doubt Freedom knew what Cadden did; that he had to deal with what he did and be able to push it aside, to forgive himself and move on. The problem was, Cadden was having trouble doing this.

Freedom had never really thought about the how but instead had focused on the result but he did his best to explain it. "You have to forget yourself. Find one thing you are passionate about and latch on to it but otherwise you have to empty yourself of everything you know."

Nodding to the fire Freedom used it as an example. "Did you ever try to explain your ability to control the Force to someone? I had to. I had to explain it to Kyr one day. It was like trying to explain fire to someone who had never felt it. Try explaining something completely foreign to someone so they can be as versed in it as you are."

"You want to know how I did it?' Freedom pulled out his lightsabers and put one in either hand. "Kyr took me to a place I couldn't go on my own. He used that which I was most familiar and comfortable with and broke it so he could have a clean slate. He needed me to forget everything I learned but maintain my primal attachment to the Force so I could slowly apply my basic training as a Jedi to what Kyr built me to be."

Freedom turned and faced his one time enemy. "If you want to overcome the mental and emotional blocks Cadden you have to be willingly to be broken and if your aren't willing to break then I will have to break you and believe me you don't want me to do that. Kyr had to force me to do it and the only reason I survived was because of the Force. You must be willing to forget everything about your past and your training in order to have the confidence to be able to deal with your past.

Cadden nodded in understanding. He had to forget himself, lose himself. He had to find the one thing worth fighting for, worth dying for. It came as little surprise to him as to what... or, rather, who...that was.

And yet I have no clue if she is even alive, he thought. But then, why did he keep coming back to it? Why was it there was something, somewhere, in the back of his mind that kept telling him she was? I must operate on what I know is true. What I know is real. The only way I would believe she yet lives is if I see it for myself.

"I was responsible for many atrocities these past two years," he said. "I cannot undo what I've done. But I can try to correct the wrongs I've made." He averted his gaze from the fire and looked directly into Freedom's eyes, his own reflecting the dancing flames. "I want nothing more than to atone for my sins, and if that means starting with the Mandalorians, then so be it. It's not like the rest of the galaxy is going to be so willing to give me a second chance."

"Why are you so worried about what the galaxy thinks about you? Why are they fit to judge you?" Freedom sounded preachy but he was nearly arrogantly confident.

"If you want you answer to everyone in the galaxy for your crimes I'll go ahead and stop before we start. You cannot change, stop or ask for forgiveness from everyone you've wronged. You forget I killed ten times as many people as you did Cadden yet I do not allow it to rule my life. I was who I was and I am so I am now. "

Cadden shook his head. "You misunderstand me," he said. "I don't worry about what they think. I worry about what they'd do to me if I did return. Before you took me, I would have been perfectly content with the death sentence. However, now..." He trailed, and thought about how he would choose his next words. "Now, I realize that I was meant for something more. What, I don't know. I can't seek forgiveness from those I know will offer none. So I will not try. But I can seek to forgive myself, and right what I did wrong at least in my own eyes. Let the galaxy cast its own judgment on me if it so chooses. I may no longer feel the Force, but I still believe in destiny, and I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be alive, unless it was for a reason.

Freedom shrugged at Cadden, turned to face the fire again, and glanced to his right as Sarai approached them without her armor. She was smaller than she appeared in her armor but also far more muscular than one would have thought. "How you come to that conclusion is your own burden Cadden but I warn you not to think on it, it'll lock you out of your goal."

Sarai stopped on the other side of Freedom and sat next to him. Looking over at her he smiled. "Sarai meet Cadden Blackthorne."

Sarai looked toward the man and smiled tightly. She didn't necessarily agree with Freedom but she'd go along with it because she trusted him. "You're a lot smaller than I figured you'd be. That's a good thing though, bigger people tend to not be as good at fighting."

"A wise man once said you shouldn't judge someone by their size," Cadden said. He wasn't formally trained in the ways of the Force, or the Jedi, but he was aware of Yoda and his teachings. He refused to reveal anything about what he was capable of to her, however. Tactical catastrophe, he mused. If she believes that she saw all I have to offer, she's in for a real surprise later. He had used his less bulky, trim and fit frame to his advantage in many fights, and those that made the mistake of judging his ability to take them down by his size often found themselves very much mistaken.

Cadden knew how to fight; he was practically born and bred to do so, and spent a majority of his life fighting in some capacity of the term or another. It's what I am, he thought. And, such, what I shall remain.

But he had met a few big guys who were also very good fighters, so inversely her assumption was flawed based on a broad stereotype. Never judge your enemy by their size, big or small, he thought. You could lose more than your pride.

Sarai smiled to herself. "Yes, you shouldn't so don't think you can handle me just because I'm a woman and a small one at that."

Cadden smirked. He remembered a hunter similar to Sarai. He even worked with the woman. So he held no doubt she could hold her own in combat. But he also knew she relied too much on her assumptions. "I guess we'll just have to find out, then, won't we?"

His smirk faded after a moment. "I never make baseless assumptions. In the Trade, that's a good way to get yourself killed." What she didn't know was he was already evaluating her, drawing conclusions based on his analyses. The way she carried herself, the way she spoke, her arrogance and pride. He looked beyond her physical prowess, used his years of experience to see beyond what the casual observer would.

Sarai shrugged again confidently. "You might have been Mandalore but you aren't that special anymore. You'll have to forgive my rather poor fighting skills when we last sparred, I was learning how to use that staff."

“You're right," he said, "I'm not special anymore." He couldn't feel the Force, and he was no longer the man he used to be. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

"But that doesn't make me any less dangerous an opponent." He thought back on the session he had with her, last. She believes I'm nothing without the Force, he thought. That I'm like any other Jedi. I intend to prove her wrong. "Our next fight ought to be very interesting."

Sarai nodded in agreement. "That it will be."

She looked over at Freedom and the man made a tiny gesture between the two of them. Cadden was moving in the right direction. Looking back to the fire Freedom watched it for a moment. "I do want to ask you something though Blackthorne. Something that I've always wondered and never really got the chance to ask. Why'd you come after me when I was a kid? The bounty wasn't that high. I wasn't nearly the fighter I am now. What made you come after me like Fett after Solo?"

Cadden shrugged. "You were dangerous," he simply said. "A threat to those around you, to the galaxy." He looked into the flames as he thought back. The contract had called for bringing Freedom in alive. They had informed him that he had been experimented on, and he was considered dangerous and volatile. Wild, unpredictable Jedi were deemed a threat to the galaxy, and the organization wanted to bring him in to analyze what had been done and, if possible, reverse it. "My employers wanted to find out what had been done to you, and fix it," he continued slowly. "They said you were experimented on, which caused erratic behavior. They didn't want to wait and see where it would lead." He paused a moment, before looking back at Freedom. "And neither could I."

"Wait', Freedom looked at Cadden like he'd seen a ghost. "You were hunting me for the people who experimented on me? And you knew they had? Do you know what they did to me?"

Cadden shook his head. "I don't know if they were the ones who experimented on you, or if they were someone else entirely. I understood they wished to help, not hurt. If they were the same, well... it wouldn't be the first, or last, time I was mislead by my employer. Whatever the case, whoever ran those experiments in you, no, I was never informed what they were, only what the effects were."

"Irrational behavior..." Freedom laughed and then leaned backward. "that explains just about every teenage Jedi in the galaxy. "

Cadden frowned. "I doubt even half of them did what you had done by their age," he commented dryly.

Freedom winced. "You're right about that. I wish I hadn't caused as much trouble as I had. I made a mess of things but that is the past. Now I'm far better off than I could have ever imagined."

"Do you know who had experimented on you?" Cadden asked inquisitively. It seemed a random question, but anyone who knew Cadden would know better.

Shrugging Freedom seemed to not care at this point. "No, I didn't even know I had been experimented on until Kata was born two years that I ever was experimented on."

Cadden just hummed in response, and didn't bother explaining why he asked. There were few organizations in the galaxy with that kind of political, financial, and logistical influence in the galaxy and, at one point or another, he had worked for many of them. He wondered which one would have been the culprit in Freedom's case, but quickly found himself shrugging it off, due to information on the new information on Kata.

"Wait," he said, "how old is Kata?" The concept wasn't wholly unusual to him; both Guan and Jerik were in a similar position. But it didn't keep him from being surprised.

Freedom hesitated and frowned at his ill advised words. "How old she is and how young she is are questions you'll have to earn trust to find out. Just know she's special in more ways than you can possibly imagine because of what they did to me."

Cadden shook his head in defiance. "I meant no disrespect," he said, "just find her situation somewhat... rare." He paused a moment. "My sons are also younger than they appear."

Cadden had to wonder if the same people could have been responsible. Unlikely, but not impossible, he thought. Ronu III was not an unknown world, but it was little known, which decreased the odds. But not eliminate them. "I apologize, forget I asked."

Holding up his hand Freedom altered the way the conversation was going. "Don't apologize, you didn't know. Kata is a very sensitive subject and one that isn't discussed. She's my 16 year old daughter and that's all anyone needs to know.

He's just trying to protect his daughter, he thought. His family. He had been in that position with his sons, when the Empire still hunted his family. Now, they were safe, and in the Jedi Order, there was nothing else he could do for them. "I understand," he said with a nod.

"The lengths a man will go to protect those he loves is often overlooked." If he could go back, he would have done exactly that with Renalla. And Lillian. But he wasn't strong enough. He could protect either of them. He couldn't save either of them. I couldn't save any of them, he thought, thinking back to both his parents, as well. And, to since extent, his sister and his sons, as well. I couldn't protect any of them. I won't let that ever happen again.

Looking at the man sideways Freedom saw the turmoil on his face as more Mandalorians joined them around the fire. "What's on your mind Mandalore?"

"I wasn't strong enough," he repeated aloud, his gaze so focused on the fire he didn't notice the others joining them. "I couldn't save them. Any of them. I... I couldn't protect them." He decided it was best to not explain who he was referring to.

"I can't take back what I've done, or what I haven't done. But I can ensure it doesn't happen again." He looked directly in Freedom's eyes, his expression showing his resolve. "Ever.”

"You and I are far more alike than either of us would want to admit Cadden." He let that hang in the air for a moment while Kera settled in next to him handing him a plate of food while Jess handed Cadden one before sitting next to the man.

"You're right you never will be able to take it back but you need to stop blaming yourself. It wasn't your job to protect them. It wasn't your fault something happened to them. You could not control what was done to them anymore than you can control what someone is doing on Coruscant right now."

Taking a bite of food Freedom continued speaking. "You are carrying the burdens of other people, because you blame yourself, because you don't want to face the fact you can't control everything. Your emotional freedom comes from within and letting it go. That is what I need to beat out of you if you aren't willing to let it go yourself because until you let it go you won't be able to lead men into battle without trying to control every aspect of the outcome."

Cadden creased his brow. Was he blaming himself for all his loss? He knew he couldn't have done anything about his mother's death, and Renalla had left him before she passed away. He had come to terms with the fact that he couldn't have done anything about it, unless the circumstances had changed. And, even then, he still had his doubts. But Lillian? His father? What he had done to Aaralyn? His sons?

He's right, though, Cadden knew. I can't control what happens to others. Much less what happens to me. He had made Dahdtoudi pay for his betrayal, and he had played a hand in Sivter's death. But that's about all I could do.

"Let it go, Cadden," Renalla's voice repeated in his mind. "Let it go." These fateful words always found a way to calm him, allow him to think straight among a whirlwind of emotions. They took him out of a very dark period of his life when she had spoken them to him. They helped him take a step back and see things in a different perspective at several times in his life.

What a different man I would be, today, if she survived, he thought. But she hadn't survived. In all her power, she couldn't even save herself. What was there that he could have done otherwise? Cadden closed his eyes. It’s time to let it go, he thought to himself. Freedom was right, his losses would only hold him back. It's the fundamental reason why I fell to the dark side, he realized. Why I became Darth Trayus.

Cadden thought back on the day he finally was able to make amends with what had happened with Renalla.

Cadden sat in the Inferno's cockpit, as he stared at the planet before them. Ronu III, the last world Renalla had ever visited. It was a desolate place, reminding him a bit of Tatooine. He let his mind wander, and recalled the words his father said to him not all that long ago, back on Naboo.

”Do you believe that killing this man will ease your pain?" Faarel asked him. "Or that you can safely wield the Force with this distraction in your heart? Listen to me, son… I was once instructed of something that saved me from the dark side. It would do you good to hear the same. A lost loved one leaves a mark unhealed on your conscience. Your mind becomes so absorbed by this pain that you cannot focus and, soon, that pain will turn to anger, and that anger to hatred. Before you know it, you are well on your way in your journey to the dark side. You must face your past, Cadden, and put it to rest. Say your good-byes to this woman, and leave it at that. You can still remember her all you would like, but never let that turn into the anguish you are feeling now.”

Guan leaned forward. “There,” he said, pointing at a spot on the world. It was near what looked like a canyon, to the east of it about three kilometers. “That’s where it should be.”

“Good,” Cadden responded. “I should be able to do the rest, now.”

Inferno entered the planet’s atmosphere, and started toward where Guan pointed. Soon, Cadden spotted the complex, and just due south of it the area the grave was in. He landed the ship nearby, and got up. Ryy’Suuk moved to follow. “No,” Cadden said, holding up his hand to stop. He looked at the confused Wookiee. “This is something I must do, alone. Stay here with the ship, and the others.”

Ryy’Suuk looked at Cadden for a moment, before grunting a compliance of submission. Cadden walked down the boarding ramp moments later, and approached the gravesite. Once there, he looked down at the mound. Exactly as was in the vision he had days prior. But, rather, instead of a tear forming, Cadden found himself grinning. It was an odd sensation, but, he felt peace here. A peace he had not felt in a long time.

”Is that how she would want to be remembered?” he recalled Faarel’s speech back on Naboo. ”With acts of anger and revenge?”

Cadden looked down at the ground for a moment. “No,” he responded, slowly. “Of course not. She meant everything to me. I was willing to put everything behind me… just for her.”

“Then remember her as she was. And may the Force be with you, son.”

“Even the smallest hope is enough to defeat the dark side,” he heard a voice.

Renalla? Cadden looked around, then back at the grave. His grin faded. Alive? No. It was an echo, she couldn’t be alive… this was her grave. Cadden looked up again, only to see a blue ghost. At first, he was uncertain what to make of it, then he recognized the individual.

“I’ve been waiting for you to make your way here, Tiger,” she continued with a grin, and approached Cadden.

“Renalla….” Cadden whispered.

"I'm sorry for what I did," she said. "I wish you were able to go with me, but I couldn't risk it."

Cadden frowned. "Risk what?" he wondered.

"The disease," she simply said. "I had no way of knowing if it was contagious."

"But it wasn't," Cadden said.

She shook her head. "No, but it was terminal. They're was nothing we could do to cure it." She gave him a knowing look. "I didn't want to give you that pain. Of losing me to this, and being powerless to stop it. I'm sorry, Cadden."

Cadden thought on her words carefully. She didn't want to see me hurt, or suffer, he thought. The irony was sour, but now he knew there was nothing he could do. "It's been hard, without you," he admitted. "Losing you was..." He knew she wished she could reassure him, he could see it in her eyes. "But," he said, quickly choosing a different route to take, "I can see why you did what you did. I only wish everything was different."

"We must take our own paths, find our own destinies," she said. "What we had was real, Cadden, but it was not meant to be." Cadden nodded in understanding. "You will find your own way, Tiger," she continued with a grin. "I will always be with you." The spirit faded, leaving Cadden to look on in the distance, before shifting his attention back to her grave.

She was trying to help me, to save me,
he thought, even in death. He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Yes," he agreed with Freedom. "My past has gotten in the way for far too long, and I allowed not only myself, but others as well, to suffer because of it." He looked around. "Garen must be stopped" he declared. Cadden caught a glimpse of Kyr joining the group. "No matter the cost."

"Cost is relative to the cause. We have already lost our home but we also gained allies. So in the end while we appear to have moved backward we have actually moved forwards." Freedom nodded to Kyr as the two exchanged unspoken but very verbal looks and then dug into his food.

"Eat up Mandalore, you're going to need it tomorrow."
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Cadden was practicing his hand-to-hand combat in the training center when Kyr walked in. He was sparring with Jeston Kadil, a good pairing he discovered. The man was a good combatant, and kept him on his toes. Cadden didn't want a pushover, he wanted someone to challenge him. Someone who would push him to his limits. He was bound and determined to prove himself once again.

"A moment?" Kyr said as he approached the two, and the sparring soon stopped. Jeston nodded to Kyr, who took Cadden into the next room. "You've been busy," he noted.

Cadden nodded, wiping sweat off his brow. "You don't know the half of it," he said between breaths. He took a swig of water, recalling the past three days. He was able to defeat Sarai in the Battle Circle, and he was going to be going up against his next opponent tomorrow. It's like a tournament, he mused. An odd way of doing things, but who was he to argue? Technically, no one. Freedom made that point very clear. He was at the bottom of the rung, though he found himself oddly content with that.

"You'd be surprised," Kyr said. "This isn't Freedom's program. It's mine. I used it on him, now he's using it on you." He looked at Cadden square in the eyes. "Do you know why we're doing this? Why we even picked you up?"

Cadden shook his head. "Something about improving myself because I need it," he said. "Freedom has managed to skirt around the subject. Says you don't need me, yet he finds it pertinent enough to put me through this so I can become Mandalore again. I still get the runaround when I ask for a clear answer."

Kyr chuckled. "He's trying to motivate you to want it," he said.

"He said as much. That I need to want this, else I'm just wasting everyone's time."

"And do you?" Kyr asked, his tone immediately changing to dead serious and grilling for an answer.

Cadden hesitated a moment, choosing his words carefully. "I want my life back," he said. "A purpose. Something to fight for. I didn't just lose the Force, I lost myself. My very identity. Who I am, what I am, what I stand for."

Kyr frowned. "That didn't answer my question," he said, and approached Cadden. "Do you want the position of Mandalore?"

Cadden looked in Kyr's eyes for a couple seconds before finally looking away. "I don't know," he admitted.

"That's not what he told me," Kyr said. "You either lied to him, or you're faltering. Neither bodes well for you."

"I told him what we both wanted to hear," Cadden said. "I told him what I wanted to hear. What I needed to hear." He paused. "Truth is, though, I don't know if I'm suitable to be Mandalore."

"Neither did Garen, but he worked with it, and for a time your faith in him was well-placed."

Cadden looked at Kyr. "What happened to him?" he asked. "He was not like this before."

Kyr shook his head. "No, he wasn't. He was an excellent choice for a replacement, once he came to accept it. But Garen suffered a grave loss, which pushed him over the edge. His homestead was bombed. Supposedly by insurgents, but I've never been able to confirm it. It became a cold case." He paused a moment. "Both his wife and daughter died. Way I understand it, Valery, his wife, died in his arms."

Cadden frowned. He knew the feeling of losing a loved one to tragedy all too well. Which could explain Freedom's contempt toward what I've gone through. "Tragedy could easily turn you into someone you're not," he said. "Especially when it's someone you care so much for."

"Is that what happened to you?" Kyr casually asked. Cadden had the distinctive feeling he already knew that answer.

He nodded. "Sivter killed my father," he said. "I was so filed with rage that all I wanted was vengeance, no matter the cost. And I was so consumed by hatred and the dark side I didn't stop after I had it."

"Over one death?" Kyr asked. "Your father's death? That's not like you."

Cadden shook his head. "Not one," he said. "Four. Five, if you count when my father disappeared after my mother's death. I've lost too many people close to me to keep enduring it. And I snapped."

"It still doesn't sound like you," Kyr pressed.

No, it isn't like me at all. But he'd been through this discussion enough before. The very thought of rehashing it made him mentally and emotionally exhausted. Cadden merely shrugged, attempting to divert from the subject. "You asked." Cadden gave Kyr a look. "So why am I here?" This whole situation perplexed him. They wanted to help him, but didn't need him. He couldn't wrap his mind around the logic in play.

"Simply put? We need you." Cadden frowned, now confused. Did they need him or did they not? Kyr must've picked up on this, as he continued with a sigh. "We don't need you as our Mandalore, or for your political influence. We need you to fight for our cause. Garen needs to be stopped. You've seen this firsthand. But he holds the majority: Mandalorians, equipment, weapons, even ships. We're fighting a losing battle, and we need all the help we can get to turn it around. But in order to do this, you need to get your head on right."

Cadden couldn't argue with that one. "Just because you can't use the Force anymore doesn't mean you're no longer capable," Kyr continued.

"You don't know what it's like," Cadden said.

"Then educate me."

"Imagine being completely cut off from the world, all your senses suddenly dead. All that you've known and understood, completely cut off. Imagine no longer being able to breathe, yet being unable to die. Constant suffocation without the gratifying release from your pain and struggle that death would give you." Cadden let the analogy sink in. "It's more than that, however. Imagine that you were singlehandedly responsible for mass murders, countless deaths and destruction. And you don't even know why you wound up performing such acts."

"Well, you'd better get those abilities of yours back," Kyr said. "Or learn to exist without them. And get to forgiving yourself for what you've done. Because we're running out of time." He turned and approached the door. As it opened, he looked over his shoulder at Cadden. "We need you, Cadden. Just not as our Mandalore. But moreover, you need you. You need this. Freedom is trying to get this through to you, but he doesn't know you like I do. Don't try to understand our reasoning behind this, that will become clear in its own time. Just know that, in a way... you brought all this upon us. It's only proper you fight to fix it."

The door closed behind Kyr, leaving Cadden alone. He thought on those words for a few minutes. What Kyr said rang true, this was his fault. If he hadn't left the Mandalorians, none of this would have happened. Either that, or it would still have, but instead of Garen it would have been me. It was difficult saying, for sure, what could have otherwise been. One change, one variable, was all it took to alter the future in a drastically different direction. Mandalore or not, this is my responsibility, and it is something I should be correcting. If Cadden had any chance of redemption, it had to start here. He had nowhere else to go, and certainly nobody else would be so willing to take him in.

He left the room and approached Jeston, who was waiting patiently for their session to resume. Cadden got into position and nodded to the other Mandalorian, and Jeston threw the first punch.

Cadden spent the rest of the day going through the rigmarole of his daily itinerary. It wasn't wholly different from the training regimen a soldier would go through. His schedule was strict, but he had his liberties. By the end of the day, Cadden was, as usual, exhausted, but he did not forget his conversation with Kyr. He approached his locker and opened it, examining its contents. His armor was confiscated from him, Freedom having told him he'd have to earn it. That was fine by him. However, Cadden was very insistent about keeping the sword. He picked it up and examined it, as he had done the past two days, as though it were a piece of evidence from a crime scene. Cadden tested the grip with a few slow, simple moves in order to get used to its design and distribution of weight. He would need it when he faced Kata in the morning and would have to know how to properly use it. While Cadden was no stranger to swords, this one felt unusual to him. It would prove interesting to see how well he could use it.

He read the inscription on the blade. "Verd ori'shya beskar'gam," he recited quietly, perfecting the Mando'a phrase. A warrior is more than his armor. He had made a habit of doing this at the end of the day. Anything that keeps me going.

After a few minutes of reflection and practice, Cadden put the sword back and proceeded to shower. He tried thinking back on all the things he had done, and soon realized there was much he could not remember. Many things did not add up, and while he knew he had done something at some specific points of his time as Darth Trayus, he did not know what. One prominent example was Aaralyn. He remembered the fight against her on Ossus, but he couldn't remember confronting her prior to it and converting her to the dark side. Yet he knew he did it.

The water poured down his head as he thought back, trying to remember that which he knew he could not. Come on, Cadden, think. What happened to you? But nothing came to him. He finished his shower and prepared himself for the next day, a million questions on his mind, and no answers.

* * *

Kyr knew they were fighting a losing battle; all of them had experienced firsthand the lengths Garen was willing to go to see them wiped out. There was no way Kyr was going to put his aliit in jeopardy by continuing to press the way they had been against these odds. Most of them, Kyr included, were supposed to be dead, and he was unwilling to put others' lives at risk if they were to die for nothing. And, right now, no one's death would surmount to anything. Garen had the upper hand in every aspect, and he knew it.

He leaned against the conference room table, supporting his weight with his hands while looking at each of his commanders present. "You have each seen what lengths Starfall is willing to go to squelch us," he said. "My homestead is destroyed, and we are all in jeopardy. Now is not the time to take the fight to Garen. He has superior numbers, firepower, and the whole damn fleet at his command. The majority of the Mandalorians will follow him to the grave if they must. We are losing." He slowly looked around the room. "But that doesn't mean we have lost. We cannot initiate open combat with him, else we will lose. Right now, our best advantage is he believes most of us to be dead from the orbital strike. We will exploit this to our favor. If we maintain a high profile, he will hunt us down, and he will end us, and anyone who has assisted us or will get in his way."

Kyr let his small speech sink in for several seconds before he continued. "But we can turn this around. It won't be easy, and we must exercise discretion at every turn. Garen is now out for blood, and he'll stop at nothing to keep his position as Mand'alor." Kyr keyed up the small holoprojector at the center of the table. It wasn't as impressive as the one they previously had, but it did its job. "Right now, we are fighting this blind. We have no allies or support, and our supplies are limited and slowly dwindling. There's enough for self sustainability, but if we begin a war we have a very high risk of running out.

"We need to start stockpiling our supplies and resources. With our currently lacking arsenal, we need to set up weapon caches and build up our firepower." Several clan names populated the holo screen. "We have potential allies scattered here and there among the clans. They're few and far between, and we won't know who they are, but we must find them." He paused a brief moment. "However, Garen will now be on high alert. Because of that broadcasted message, he will be looking for any activities. High discretion is essential to our success, here. Do not advertise yourselves out there."

The holo changed to a strategic map of Mandalore. The display shifted to Concordia, Concord Dawn, Mandallia, and other planets and moons in the sector with similar results shown on their maps. "We have identified several potential locations to set up remote command bunkers," Kyr continued. "These areas need to be scouted out for their feasibility. If they're determined to be worthwhile investments, tag them and report back."

"Finally, we need intelligence. Reliable intelligence. Any allies we might find, we need all the information we can get. They will remain in place, and relay what they know back to us. We will require a network of sleeper agents with consistent, constant, reliable intel if we are to have any chance of combating Garen." He looked at everyone in the room in turn. "We cannot afford direct combat at this time. Do not engage unless you have no other option." He could tell many of them didn't like these orders, but conversely they could not argue with his logic, either. Garen held every advantage over them, and so they had to resort to being an underground resistance movement until they could turn the tide on him. Something Kyr knew would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight.

The holo turned off, and the lights in the room brightened. "We cannot limit our operations to Mandalore," he continued. "With each victory in his conquests, Garen gains more potential followers, supplies, ships, and weapons. We need to utilize all of our contacts. Smugglers, mercenaries, companies, whatever it takes. Anything that can help us prepare will need to be considered. We will need to set up remote bases on other worlds. If we limit our operations to Mandalore, and to combat and bloodshed, guaranteed we will fall."

Kyr himself had a few underground contacts he could get ahold of, see if they'd be willing to help out. It wasn't much, but every little bit helped. He somehow doubted that they would find much help from their contacts, as few as they may be, much less from those he knew. If they didn't want something in return, they weren't very likely to offer assistance of any kind. And they couldn't afford to be trading services or offering up piles of credits right now. Very likely they would be on their own in this venture.

"What if we happen upon the opportunity to put Garen down?" Jeston asked. "Surely ending his life would bring this to a quick closure."

Kyr shook his head. "Besides his abilities in combat, even if any one of us managed to kill him, he has too many supporters for it to do us any good. We need to sway the loyalty from him, before we can defeat him. Otherwise someone else will merely take his place."

"We're going to just let him live, after all he's done?" Jahaal said. "You could easily take his place as Mand'alor. Why should we wait?"

"Because first, that reign would be short-lived," Kyr said calmly. "Far too many Mando'ade would vie to see me removed all too soon." He paused a second, as he weighed whether he should give the other reason. "Secondly, it isn't mine to take."

Jahaal was unsurprised at this statement. He had conversations with Kyr about this before, and Kyr had no doubt he was still skeptical. "Blackthorne." Kyr nodded in response. "I don't know of he's the best choice. We need someone with the strength, resolve, and charisma to take over as the new Mand'alor. I haven't seen any of these in him since he returned."

"We need to give him time," Kyr argued. "He's gone through a lot. Give him a chance to recover from what happened to him."

"We don't really have a whole lot of time," Arlan Solari argued.

Kyr looked down on the man. "On the contrary, we currently have nothing but time. These plans are projected to take several months to complete. Blackthorne should be back to himself before then." He looked at Freedom for a brief moment. "His rehabilitation regimen is proving to be very successful."

"You're putting too much faith in the man who abandoned us," Arlan said with a scowl.

"But he left us under Garen's command," Kyr said.

"And look where that got us."

"You know as well as I do he wasn't always this way."

"And yet none of this would have happened if Blackthorne didn't put himself before the Mando'ade." Arlan let those words hang. "How can we be so certain that he won't do it again?"

"Because we're all he's got left," Freedom spoke up. "Why else would he come here, over all the places in the galaxy? He wants to set things right."

Arlan snorted. "That doesn't make him a candidate," he said. "I wouldn't want to follow a man who has already proven that we are secondary to personal matters."

"You're free to challenge my decision," Kyr said. They both knew what that meant. He waited for Arlan's response, to which the man remained silent. Doesn't mean I changed his mind, however. Kyr sensed this wouldn't be the last time this discussion would be made. "Then the matter is settled," he continued. "Each of you will receive your specific assignments soon." With those words, the meeting was over.

Kyr was the last one to leave the room, and as he walked through the doorway he saw Jeston leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest. "Where did you find that one?" Jeston asked inquisitively. He pushed himself off the wall and hooked his thumbs into his belt.

"He was one of our first followers," Kyr said. "Part of Clan Solari. Joined us despite his patriarch's objections, from what I understand."

"Sounds kinda patchy, if you ask me."

Kyr shrugged. "He's proven himself time and time again," he said. "Not much worth questioning, considering what he's done for us." Kyr paused. "If he were a sleeper, I'd have expected this forest to be up in flames by now."

"Unless Garen would rather not see the man dead," Jeston objected. "He hasn't exactly tried killing his own kin, after all, and we know their standing with him."

"Let us hope that remains the case," Kyr said. Both Beric and Radis were friends to their cause, but Kyr knew he couldn't count on them for much at this time. They were in a similar boat as Ge'tal and the other Council members, doubting and questioning Garen but not being in any position to act against him. Kyr and those who took up resistance with him were the first to do so since Togra tried stepping up and fighting Garen. And now he's dead, Kyr thought. A heavy price to pay, and a hard lesson learned. Togra was a powerful man, and a capable warrior. There weren't many that could match Garen in combat, Togra included, but the man held true to his convictions and beliefs and tried anyway. It was this act that influenced Kyr to branch away from Garen and his activities, though even he was doubting that he could defeat the Mandalore in single combat.

"And how long do you think it'll be before he declares martial law?" Jeston asked. "If he's reached the point of willingly bombarding ade just to quell a political threat, this can't be far behind."

Kyr couldn't argue with that. He had gotten that feeling from his conversation with Ge'tal. "It may be sooner than you think," he said. "But right now, the priority is to keep as many Mando'ade alive as possible. Any war will dwindle our numbers, and that bodes ill for whatever future we may have." Kyr paused a moment. "We need strong, close allies, but we need to keep quiet about it. Our lives are not the only ones at risk, now."

Jeston nodded in agreement. "With comm silence, it'll be a bit of a problem keeping contact with them, however."

"We're going to have problems with it, regardless," Kyr argued. "Garen will be buckling down on communications soon; he's already started with the Council. This is the secondary purpose of the satellite command posts. By relaying communications through several channels, we should be able to avoid a mess as a result. At least for now. But it's only a temporary solution, as eventually Garen will start hammering down on all frequencies: encrypted, private, and open."

The two started walking down the hall. "So things will be getting worse before they get better," Jeston said. Kyr nodded. "You're putting a lot of faith in this plan of yours. What if it fails? Do you have a backup?"

"It won't fail," Kyr assured him. "Blackthorne may have returned to us a broken man, but he's already proven he's not much different than he was before. We just need to break down these barriers he put up."

"No offense, but I wouldn't put all our bets on one hand of Sabaac. We need a backup plan, in case this one fails."

Kyr stopped and looked at Jeston, before putting a hand on his shoulder. "If Blackthorne fails, the Mando'ade will be finished. War will destroy us. I cannot take the position of Mand'alor and expect to succeed. The casualties will be too high."

"We've bounced back many times before," Jeston reminded him.

Kyr nodded. "True. But I have a bad feeling. This one feels... different." He started walking away. "We need Blackthorne," he said over his shoulder.

"No," Jeston said, "you need him." Kyr stopped and turned to face Jeston, his facial expression completely stoic yet his eyes betraying him with a look of contempt. "This isn't like you, Kyr," the man continued. "The position of Mand'alor is yours, not his. He had his chance, and he failed. Just as Garen had." Jeston held his hand up to keep Kyr from retorting. "No, he wasn't always that way, I know. But neither was Blackthorne. You, on the other hand, have always had our best interests at heart. You are the ideal choice to succeed Garen as our Mand'alor. You should have been Blackthorne's first choice as his successor, not Starfall."

Kyr narrowed his eyes. "Cadden did choose me first," he said. "I declined, and so he chose Garen instead."

Jeston was taken aback. "You declined?" he said dumbfounded. Kyr nodded. "But why?"

Kyr snorted. "You know the answer to that well enough," he said. In truth, it was a job Kyr did not find himself comfortable with. It was as simple as that. Yet it never ceased to surprise him that everyone thought there was more to it. "Why not me? Why not Ge'tal? Or Nedth? Togra, Aeorn, or Ruusaan? All of them are prime candidates. Do you think any of us could have done this better than Garen had?"

"Yet you put so much faith that Blackthorne will succeed," Jeston insisted. "How do you know he is so important to us?"

Kyr creased his brow, thinking on those words for a moment. He had traveled a bit between Cadden's previous visit to Mandalore, before everything had gone downhill, and Garen's descent into madness. It was during this time that he had come across a rare encounter and in that encounter, a warning. He wasn't sure if he was willing to share the details of who, or what, he visited and what he learned with anyone. He hadn't even told Nasrey. "Because someone told me he is," he finally said, opting to share as little information as possible.

"And you believe what this individual said?" Jeston sighed. "I suppose there's nothing I, or anyone else, can say to change your opinion and your mind."

"No. You just need to trust meet on this, Jeston."

"I trust you, as I always have. But you're starting to worry me." He approached Kyr and placed a hand on his shoulder. "This isn't you. You've never placed your trust solely in someone else. Not when it comes to your aliit, let alone the Mando Cabure."

"You doubt that he's up to the task?" Kyr said. "Do you think he'll just turn around and leave us again?" Jeston didn't respond. Kyr had once wondered the same, briefly, as well, but he trusted that being's words, and above that, his own instincts. "Cadden didn't mean to leave us," he continued. "True, he was gearing Garen up to replace him. But his intention was not an immediate replacement. Cadden owns that mistake, and he will fight to fix it. But that means more than just confronting and defeating Garen. He will have to pick up the pieces and steer us right afterwards. It will not be an easy task, but I know he is up to the challenge. He always has been." Kyr paused for a few seconds. "Yes, I do need him to become Mand'alor, " he continued. "But so do the rest of the Mando'ade. We have no future if he doesn't take the reins. You don't have to like my decision, just understand it's for the better. For all of us."

Jeston nodded. "If you think he's the best choice," he said, "then I will respect and follow your decision." Kyr could tell he still didn't understand, but then he couldn't blame the man. He hardly understood, himself, yet he also knew Cadden well, and knew that he wouldn't repeat his mistakes.

"Cadden ought to return to full fighting form quickly," Kyr said. "I can't say the same about his mental preparedness. That's something he will have to work on alone. He will need to earn the respect of those he will be leading. Which means relearning the Resol'nare and the Code of Honor. That alone will garner him more support than simple show of physical prowess and force. Once he's got that, I suspect it won't take long for him to recover from what he's been through."

"I will keep pushing him," Jeston said. "But once he's back to fighting form, I doubt I'll be able to keep him on his toes."

"Once your job is done, I won't be asking you to spar with him anymore," Kyr said. "But in the meanwhile, he needs this constant."

"I hope you know what you're doing, Kyr," Jeston said. "This is a big gamble you're making."

"This is what he was meant for," Kyr said. "He united the clans before, he can do it again, and set us toward higher purpose." Kyr started to walk away once again, before stopping short of the hallway's main door and turning to face Jeston. "Cadden is the kind of man who is nothing without purpose," he said. "If we give this to him, he will do far more for the Mando'ade than anyone else could possibly hope for." He turned once more and left the hall. Kyr needed to get ahold of his contacts before turning in for the night. It was going to be a busy week.

* * *

Cadden tossed his head from side to side in his sleep while the past slowly started to catch up to him. As his deep subconscious forced him to remember that which he wished he could forget.

"Cadden Blackthorne is dead," he had protested to Deranz back on Falleen.

"No, I don't think that Cadden Blackthorne is dead," Deranz said slowly, "simply the incarnation of him that walked the galaxy those twelve years back."

"I'm not the Mandalorian I once was... not the Mandalorian I should have been, and should be."

"The external shell is still the same, and something inside never faltered either, or else you wouldn't have come back in from the Dark those two times."

"I think... I think I need something more than killing and fighting in my life," Cadden said. "I need a purpose, or something like that."

"No, this isn’t right," Aaralyn said. "You aren’t my brother, he is dead, you are a shell. A worthless being which needs to be exterminated from this very galaxy. You will pay for what you have done."

"Cadden," Cazzik yelled, "what have you done?! You slaughtered innocents at Onderon, devastated the City of the Jedi, subjugated worlds… why?!"

"Everything had been taken from me," Cadden said. "You know nothing of the pain I’ve suffered. The losses I’ve had inflicted against me."

"You must free yourself from this prison," Faarel said. "Focus, Cadden... you can get through this... !"

"All that you know will fade," a familiar voice said. "You will be alone in the end. Trust is your weakness... hope is an illusion...."

"I'm not him!" Cadden proclaimed.

"My son," Faarel spoke up, "The day you were born, the very fabric of the Force whispered the name... Cadden. I watched with pride as you grew into a weapon against evil and tyranny." There was a moment of silence before his father spoke up again. "Remember, our family has always fought against the evils of the galaxy, with wisdom and strength. And I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power. But the truest victory, my son, is stirring the hearts of your people. I tell you this... for when my days come to an end... I sense you will become a powerful man, and the leader of a mighty empire."

"You no longer need to sacrifice for your people," that vaguely familiar voice said. "You no longer need to bear the weight of your name. I've taken care... of everything..."

"Will I ever see you again?" Lillian said.

"Let it go, Cadden. Let it go…."

Cadden shot up, eyes wide open, as he gasped for air. He was soaked in sweat, and after taking a few seconds to compose himself he wiped his brow. "What the... ?" he started. Cadden allowed himself to calm down before getting out of bed. He made his way to the bathroom and turned the light on. Cadden approached the mirror and stared at his reflection. Kyr's words echoed in his head as he locked eyes with the man on the other side of the mirror.

"You brought all this upon us. It's only proper you fight to fix it."

Cadden took his shirt off and stared himself down a moment longer before grabbing a towel and drying the sweat off. "I need a purpose, or something like that," his own voice echoed in his head. He remembered the conversion with Deranz all too well, a conversation that eventually led him to the Mandalorians and becoming their Mandalore.

"We must do what we must," Deranz reminded him.

"I think I'm something different, now," Cadden remembered telling Deranz. "Maybe more, maybe less." He stared at the mirror for what seemed like an eternity. "I remember a time when I could do anything I wanted. Dead, alive, for justice, or the Hutts... it was all the same to me. But now... after twelve years of turning my back on the Trade... I can look back and regret. I look back and regret all the chances I had as a warrior... and then all the chances I've had since then."

He thought on Deranz's response to this for a few minutes. "This is just the journey to the next incarnation, and maybe one that will bring you closer once more to your true warrior spirit, and maybe then you will be able to know peace."

"I've killed many people,"
Cadden had said. "I can't say I'm proud of it, but I have. Criminals, competitors, businessmen, police... women, children."

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he thought back on his life, both the bad and the good. All that he had done as Darth Trayus, as Mandalore, as a freedom fighter. Businessman, dark Jedi and not. As a bounty hunter, a mercenary, even as a soldier to the Empire. He took a heavy sigh, thinking back on the atrocities he had committed over his long lifespan, before he reminded himself of all the good, as well. He was responsible for liberating entire worlds from oppression, bringing down complex criminal syndicates. He even played a hand in defeating both the Xen'Chi and Sivter, even if the latter was under negative circumstances.

It isn't enough, he thought, but then again, it never will be. There will always be people who will never forgive me for what I've done as Darth Trayus. But the Mandalorians... they've taken me in, despite who I turned into, what I've done. Even what I've done to them, leaving them for a quest of revenge. They're willing to grant me a second chance, even though I do not deserve it. Not with the sleight I've made against them. He draped the towel over his shoulders and continued to stare himself down. Maybe there is yet still hope for this old, broken man.

Cadden opted to return to his bed to try to get some more sleep. He had a long day ahead of him, though he found himself wide awake for roughly another hour as he continued to think back on his life and all he had done. Cadden's last thoughts were those of determination, and remembering the Mandalorian's words above Ord Cestus.

"Better brush up on your Resol'nare," he told Cadden. "Adhere to that, you might actually make a few burc'yase before you die."

The Resol'nare. The six tenets of Mandalorian culture. Adhering to them was a core necessity to being a Mandalorian. I used to live by them, he thought. Or, at least, he was actively working on it. He even created the Code of Honor based on them, and other principles he studied while he integrated himself into the Mandalorian culture and became their Mandalore. I need to return to that. It could provide me with my purpose.

Cadden drifted back to sleep, deep and dreamless.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Vox »

Freedom stood looking at the sunrise while the camp behind him was silent. Kera stood next to him her heavy fur jacket pulled tight its edges flickering in the wind. Snow flew passed in wisps and wandering flakes though the man seemed to not notice. His mind found things to think on, war was going on around him though his family was safe. He knew that nothing else mattered in the end and that a place to live could be found anywhere but home was where he stood. Turning he saw Sarai and Kata approaching, regardless of the time of day they seemed to both know where he was and always be together. Sarai still sported the bruises and cuts from her fight with Cadden but the young woman had taken it in stride, she wasn’t anywhere near even half way done with her training so she saw losing to Cadden after a hard fought sparring match as a win rather than a loss.

Kata was on the list to fight Cadden but Kera was worried about throwing the man in the circle with a Jedi that was ill prepared to fight him. While she could hold her own she was worried more harm might come to him because of her fervor for combat. She reminded him of himself in more ways than one and the most important one, fighting, was something he fed as much as he could. Kata was exactly the mix of passionate and patience he needed and it wasn’t going to be wasted, not on the likes of Cadden Blackthorne’s self-finding adventure.

Turning he looked at the two young women, barely eight years younger than he was and knew they were both awaiting instruction for their day. “Wake him up. Cold this time, no breakfast and drag him out to the circle.”

Both women shrugged but Freedom stopped Sarai. “I want to change it up today, get Tal and Carud, it’s time he learned how to fight hand to hand like a real Mandalorian.”

Leaving the two went their separate ways while Freedom turned around and finished watching the sunrise. Tal and Carud were the best hand to hand combatants on Mandalore outside of a few here or there. Carud had won more tournaments than any man on the world and Tal had gotten through the Xen’Chi war without a scar or scratch in any engagement which said more about his ability to read his opponent than anything else. He had been Freedom’s greatest challenge and he intended to have Cadden get the same treatment, by looking up at him from his back.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

OOC: This post has been largely edited for later discovered significant contextual (if that's the right term) errors. It would benefit the reader to reread it, as such.


Cadden was lead out to the battle circle early this time. They disallowed him any nourishment or preparation of any kind, bringing him out barely awake and vying for a meal. A fact that rubbed him the wrong way as it demonstrated that, despite what Freedom had said, they were still treating him like a prisoner.

Cadden couldn't say he was wholly surprised by this sudden change of routine and tempo; the man had been constantly and consistently looking down on him since day one, and his opinions of Cadden were not changing in the slightest. It also seemed to Cadden that Freedom was underestimating him greatly. That part he didn't mind, he preferred to be underestimated, it gave him the upper hand in encounters.

This, however, was a bit different. Cadden could handle someone doubting him and his abilities, but there was something about Freedom's attitude and mannerisms toward him and what he'd done that didn't sit well for him. Freedom blamed him for what ultimately was something beyond Cadden's control, which he could see why the man might, but what agitated him most about it was that Freedom was attempting to take complete control over a situation that was not his to dictate to begin with.

He shielded his eyes momentarily as the sun shone against them, allowing himself a second to adjust before taking note of the people assembled this time to watch whatever Freedom had in store for him. He recognized several individuals whom were gathered: Kyr, Jeston, Jahaal. He even recognized Beviin, Kyr's youngest, but only after a minute. He nodded to Jeston, who simply returned the nod as he walked past.

"You're going to fight Tal and Carud," Freedom said, "two of the best in hand to hand combat on Mandalore." Cadden remained unhindered to the statement, and made no effort to hide his unimpressed reaction, something he figured Freedom was disappointed with. "They'll teach you how to fight like a Mandalorian."

I already know how to fight like a Mandalorian, he mused. This officially transitioned from annoying to insulting. This is a significant waste of time. "Fine," he said, "let's get this over with." He was growing tired of Freedom's games, and it clearly showed.

Freedom shot him a glare, but Cadden chose to ignore it. He wants to stay in control, he thought. Let's see how he responds to his latest test results.

"Don't forget your place," the Jedi shot at him. "You hold no power, no influence, here. I could end you with a single thought, if I wanted." Cadden didn't respond, something he figured gave Freedom some pleasure, as the man seemed to believe those words did some good in his eyes. "Now, get your ass in that circle and show us what you're capable of."

Beviin approached Cadden, and looked between him and his opponents. "You can't seriously be going through with this," he said with genuine concern. Cadden looked at the Mandalorian, surprised by his appearance. He was still in his teens, but by virtue of his culture was far more mature than any other teenager Cadden had met abroad. "You notice they're bigger than you?"

"Yes," Cadden said, looking at the two across the circle from him once more.

"And younger?" Cadden's true age was no secret to the Mandalorians, so he didn't find this observation unusual in the slightest.

"Yes," he said again. Cadden indicated he was ready, and stepped into the circle. "Bet on them, if you'd like," he said with a grin. He looked around the gathered Mandalorians for what he assumed they were hoping for a one-sided spectacle. Both Tal and Carud entered the circle. A bit overkill, he thought dryly. One after the other, he could understand, but both at once? Freedom must really be itching to see me lose in a glorious display of failure.

"I may," Beviin said after him, before looking at Freedom.

"Begin," Freedom shouted, and Cadden brought himself into a sloppy Teräs Käsi opening stance. He examined both his combatants as they were no doubt reading him, until the two finally started to advance toward Cadden. He blocked a swing from Carud, only to be struck by a powerful blow from Tal. Cadden fumbled back from the hit, before he brought himself into a defensive posture. Both attacked once more, simultaneously, and Cadden managed to hold his own for a few seconds, before he was forced out of the circle by a few more blows.

Many of the Mandalorians were cheering as the two backed up, clearly inviting Cadden back into the circle. He looked at them and, with a half grin and a nod, merely said, "Luck." He brought himself into a defensive posture, and waited for Freedom's command.

"Again!" the Jedi shouted over the cheers. Cadden spared a glance his way. He's enjoying this, he noted. The two approached him again, and this time Tal landed the first strike, which Cadden had no trouble defending against. It was Carud joining in that made it a problem for him, and Cadden struggled, but ultimately found himself on his back, and looking at the smug, overconfident, faces of the two. He sighed and got up, clearly winded and growing fatigued.

Beviin had made his way to Kyr and stopped next to his father, his back to Freedom. "You must stop it," he said. Kyr remained motionless, as he watched the fight. This irritated Beviin, who walked away momentarily as he observed Cadden ready himself for another round. The man was already tired and sweaty with bated breath, as he reluctantly indicated he was ready.

"Again!" Freedom shouted, and the one-sided match resumed. Two blows landed against Cadden, one in the gut, the other across the face, before he stumbled back and onto the ground outside the circle. Many of the Mandalorians laughed at the spectacle.

Beviin returned to Kyr. "He keeps this pace up, he could get killed."

"That is possible," Kyr noted with a nod.

Beviin frowned. "But you can't," he said defiantly. "You can't..." He was cut off with a sharp look from his father. Beviin met the look for a second before lowering his head and walking away.

Cadden wiped the blood from his lip as he looked at the two Mandalorians. He was on one knee, catching his breath, his vision a little blurred and his hearing slightly impaired. The blow to his head had rattled him a little.

"Get up," a voice commanded. At first he didn't recognize it until he looked to his right and saw his father standing there. "You're better than this, son. Get up, and show them what you're made of. What you can do." Cadden looked at the two Mandalorians again before he struggled to his feet. He looked to his father again, but in his place was Jesik, who simply gave him a knowing look.

Cadden entered the circle again, and resumed his ready stance. "Again!" Freedom's voice rang, and Cadden watched them approach. His brow was dripping with sweat, and his face hid no signs of duress or exhaustion. The two Mandalorians began their attack, but this time Cadden managed to keep pace, even land a few hits of his own. But it was ultimately futile, as he went down again after a few seconds. He slowly got to his hands and knees and looked at the two as they circled before him. Tal looked to Freedom, who nodded at the man.

Beviin knew what was coming next. He started to advance to the battle circle, but Kyr blocked him with his hand. He looked at his father, who gave him a warning with his eyes before looking back to the fight. It was impossible to see what he was thinking.

Carud was the one to approach Cadden, and threw a violent kick at his midsection. Cadden suddenly rolled out of the way and came to his feet. Before the man was able to process the sudden change in his constitution, Cadden was already charging him. Carud threw a punch, but Cadden deflected it, before he landed a blow to Carud's jaw, followed by a simultaneous hit of both his arms against his neck, perfectly executing the Charging Wampa maneuver. Carud had to fall to the ground, suddenly being rendered incapacitated in the fight.

Tal charged Cadden, who dodged out of the way of two of his punches. The man was trying to read him, something Cadden would not allow. He quickly switched over to Hijkata and deflected Tal's attempts, before he grappled the man's arm and twisted violently, following up with sweeping him off his feet with his leg. While still grabbing the man's arm, he delivered a powerful blow to Tal's gut with his elbow, dropping his whole body to the ground to provide the force necessary to wind the man enough to keep him down. He let go of his grip and walked away from Tal, who was struggling for breath, before spitting some blood to the ground and looking at Freedom. He was a completely different man than he was but a moment earlier. The crowd had become very silent as everyone observed the sudden turn of events.

"See to your friends," he said, before turning his back to the Jedi. "They're good men. I'd hate to have this hamper their usefulness in the coming months."

Freedom was shocked by what he just observed. "They're two of the best combatants on Mandalore," he objected, not realizing how loud his voice was.

"If you say so," Cadden said over his shoulder, before stopping and nodding to Jesik. The man was suppressing a smirk when he gave Cadden a short return nod. Cadden accepted some water and took a swig before turning to face Freedom. "Anyone else?" he asked. "I grow tired of you wasting my time, Freedom."

Kyr stepped up and took the center of the circle. At first Cadden thought he was going to fight him, but instead Kyr spoke. "We are done for the day," he announced. "There are far more pressing matters to attend to than this." Those words carried heavy weight as the spectators began to file out. He turned to Cadden. "Go clean up and get something to eat," he said. "I want to talk to you after breakfast."

Cadden nodded and made his way off to the side to cool down from the fight. He was holding back, Kyr realized, as Cadden carried himself as though nothing happened. But why? Why not simply show what he can do from the start?

Kyr turned and looked at Freedom, his expression completely neutral. "He's done," he simply announced. "Blackthorne is easily one of the best combatants on Mandalore. He cannot be motivated by the same things you once were," Kyr said. "I've known him for far longer than you have. He's already been trained as a Mando'ad. He doesn't need any more of that." Kyr glanced over at Cadden as he started cooling down from the fight. "Blackthorne is a fighter by heart. You cannot take that away from him. He will best whoever you throw at him, Freedom. Including you. He's no stranger to combat, and he's not unfamiliar with leadership and tactics. Testing his abilities does you no favors.

"He came back to us a different man. This isn't just some soul searching venture of his. He experienced something huge, and what's worse is that he doesn't remember what it was. It effected him in ways we cannot even comprehend. This isn't just some stubborn man brooding about in an act of self-pity. He has truly become lost. His spirit broken, his will shattered. This is something he will have to work on, himself. He can find part of himself again through our culture, through the Resol'nare." He paused a second. "What he requires is a purpose. Something to strive for.

"He was not perfect as our Mand'alor; he had his own issues to deal with even then, but he got us through our darkest times," Kyr said. "He needs to be reminded of better days, of who he once was. These combat sessions will only push him further away."

Kyr averted his attention to Cadden until he disappeared into the compound. "He's regained his fighting spirit," he said, "and he's starting to realize just how much we need him. But it'll take the right kind of push to get him back as our Mand'alor. The kind that proves to him that it's where he belongs. The current methods no longer hold any place in his regimen."

"What did you have in mind?" Freedom said.

"Later this week, I'm sending him out in the field. He'll need to be ready. We'll get him back in his armor, and from what I've heard, he'll need to brush up on his marksmanship." He paused a moment. "I'm making Cadden the leader of Dha Werda Verda in my stead, and my right hand man. He will answer only to me and Jahaal. If anyone has issue with it, they will take it up with me."

Kyr left for the compound, intent on getting the day running in the right direction. He was convinced that, after his talk with Cadden last night, what the man needed most was to see for himself what had become of Manda'yaim. He wasn't going to learn that by fighting in the battle circle. He needed exposure to the Mando Cabure, outside the filtered lens that Garen let him see things through, to motivate him in the right direction.

He met with Cadden after breakfast, as he said. The man was going through some combat techniques with Jeston when Kyr had found him. "Do you really think that is necessary?" Kyr asked as he entered the room. "Last I checked, you already proved you don't need this."

The two stopped and Cadden approached him. "It isn't for him," Jeston said, taking the moment to catch his breath. Kyr grinned. "Dunno what you said to him last night, but he's really stepped up. Faster than I would have expected him to."

"Good. He's going to need it." Cadden gave him a quiet look that told him the man wasn't pleased by this. Kyr grinned again. "Your time in the battle circle is over, Blackthorne. You'll be getting your armor back today and given blasters of your choosing. I'm sending you out later this week."

Cadden raised an eyebrow. "Just like that?" he asked. It was a legitimate question. He went from being worse than a prisoner, something Kyr wasn't overly fond of in the first place, considering who Cadden was and how he operated, to being one of them in what seemed like overnight. "No insulting lecture from Freedom on how I don't know anything about the very thing I built from the ground up?"

Kyr shook his head. "The man means well, but he doesn't understand you the way I do. This was affirmed last night, and you proved it to me today." He looked over Cadden's shoulder at Jeston. "That's why I'm giving you charge of Dha Werda Verda in my stead."

The surprise on both men's faces could have been priceless. "What?" Cadden said. "Shouldn't that go to Jeston?"

"Normally, yes," Kyr said. "But you need this more than he does. It's only proper, as you're the one who created us. You'll be leading their efforts in the coming months as we get ourselves geared up to be able to fight Garen." He paused a moment. "You'll be standing in our officer meetings. I need you to know the direction we're going in so as to better direct your efforts."

Cadden was still taken aback, but nodded in agreement. "I do have to say, though, last time I was put in charge of Mandalorians, it was merely an honorary rank."

"This is the real deal, Cadden," Kyr assured him. "I can't speak for all of us, but I trust you, and that should be enough for the others." He looked at Jeston once more before putting a hand on Cadden's shoulder. "If anyone gives you issue with my appointment and delegation of authority to you, I want to hear about it immediately. The last thing we need is a division among our ranks over something this simple."

"I doubt people will openly oppose it," Cadden said.

"What about Kera?" Jeston asked. "That's bound to create tension with her, given her opinion of Blackthorne. Might even drive her from Dha Werda Verda ranks." He caught Cadden's expression. "She doesn't trust you," he answered the unasked question. "Sees more Trayus than Mand'alor."

Cadden remained silent. Seems to be a lot of that, he mused. He couldn't say he blamed her. Even he saw himself in that way.

"She's still my ad'ika," Kyr reminded him. "She may not agree with my decision, but she will respect it. It is only temporary, until the time comes." He looked Cadden square in the eyes. "This is your chance, Cadden," he continued. "Do not let us down."

"No pressure," Cadden muttered. Kyr chuckled a little. "So what, exactly, does that make me in your ranks, then? Can't imagine you're going to start me off very high on the chain of command."

"My second hand man," Kyr said rather plainly.

Cadden had a look of surprise and bewilderment, while Jeston let out a chortle. "That's gonna make some of your followers irate," he said with a grin.

"Those that will openly oppose my decision will be too busy working logistics on my plan to care," Kyr said, his mannerism unchanged. "Jahaal is the public face of the operations. He will be assisting me directly in leading our efforts. Until you have the full grasp on the situation and what we're doing, he is assuming the duties I intend for you, Cadden."

Cadden finally found his voice again. "So what is my first step, then?" he asked, doing his best to keep himself composed.

"Get yourself back up to speed," Kyr said. "Next couple of days, you'll be doing target practice. We'll need you back at your prime, as you appear rusty with a blaster. Once you're ready to go out there, in the thick of it, you'll be making some new friends among those who oppose Garen but do not wish to get involved. They will not formally join us, not with the likelihood of Garen buckling down on the Mando Cabure after Freedom's public broadcast. But the more underground support we get, the easier it will be to dethrone Garen."

"Don't tell me you're expecting this to be a simple task," Cadden said. "I've experienced firsthand the support base he has. It will take full war to remove him from power. And even then, he will have every advantage."

Kyr grinned. "No," he said, "not every advantage." He gave Cadden a very serious look. "You, Blackthorne, are my wild card. It will be you, not me, not us, who wins this. Who can restore the Mando Cabure. Nobody else."

Cadden frowned. "How can you be so sure?"

"Just as I have trusted in you, you must trust in me. Freedom made a very good point earlier. You need to want this, as much if not more than we need you to. I told you earlier that we don't need you as our Mand'alor. That was not true. Many will not admit to it, but we need you to take the role, now more than ever. But you need to work to the role. Fight for it, both politically and physically. I openly support your claim, and after your spectacle this morning others will no doubt start backing you up. But the only one who can get you there is you."

"And what if I'm not up to the task?" Cadden asked. "What if I fall short?"

Kyr sighed and shook his head. He knew there was still work to be done, but he had hoped Cadden had gotten past this part by now. "Then we will truly destroy ourselves. If the galaxy doesn't destroy us first. Do not make me regret this, Cadden. I'm your strongest supporter for the role of our Mand'alor. But I will quickly lose everything I've built up, here, if you falter in your convictions. If you show any reservation toward the position, others will know, and it won't just be your reputation that will be put on the line."

"It will also be yours," Cadden noted. He nodded. "I won't let you down."

"There's a lot at stake, here. You need to realize this. Not just reputations, but lives. And I don't mean on a small scale. Every Mando'ad life rests on this."

"What are you talking about?" Cadden said, clearly confused. "I couldn't imagine that all Mandalorians would die if this doesn't happen."

Kyr gave Jeston a glance. He tried avoiding this last time, but it appeared he wasn't going to keep his ventures private for much longer. "What I am about to say cannot leave this room," he said. "Nobody else must learn of this."

Cadden later left the training room with Jeston and Kyr. He couldn't quite comprehend what Kyr had just told him, but he had known of stranger things in the universe. To anyone else, it could have been considered unreal, but Cadden believed Kyr's story. Predictions and prophecies did not often come true, but one could not merely ignore them.

The three proceeded in silence to the war room, where many of Kyr's officers were located and coordinating their assigned tasks. One in particular gave him a very nasty glare. He thought he might have seen him earlier that morning, out at the battle circle, but it was hard telling. He saw Jahaal observing some data on the main console, and he looked up at them as they approached. "I need an assessment on our assets throughout the sector," Kyr said. "The more intel we have, the better equipped we will be when I send Cadden out."

Jahaal looked over Cadden, and he found the man was as impossible to read as his father. Finally he spoke. "You think he'll be ready on time?"

"He'll be ready," Kyr assured him. "He will be fully equipped and be given ample time to sharpen his skills with a blaster before we send him out."

Jahaal nodded and continued to input commands as additional data came on the screen. "Seems like Garen is initiating martial law, just as you predicted. Last word from the few we can trust suggested that we're going to be on our own for some time. News is many people are flocking to Garen's side after that broadcast was sent out. Seems they prefer strength."

"Can't say I'm surprised," Kyr said. "What news on contacting any allies?"

"Hardly any responses," Jahaal said. "Those few that have replied denied aid, stating they'd rather not get involved in Mandalorian politics."

Cadden glanced back at the Mandalorian who disapproved of his presence. He leaned to Jeston. "Who's that?" he asked quietly.

"His name is Arlan Solari," Jeston said. "From the clan of the same name. They predominately support Garen. He opposes him." Cadden gave the man a suspicious look. "Kyr swears by the man, though I've my reservations."

"With good reason," Cadden agreed. But they couldn't merely jump to conclusions, he knew. The man could just as easily be genuine, rather than a sleeper or worse.

"He's also a very outspoken member of Kyr's officers," Jeston continued. "Primarily regarding you. He's not exactly a big fan."

"I noticed," Cadden said dryly. "He can get in line."

Jeston smirked, and Kyr turned his attention to Cadden. "Your armor will be ready for you in a couple hours. We'll get you to the armory after you receive it. In the meanwhile, Nasrey will get you brushed up on your Mando'a and reorient you with our culture. I'd highly suggest spending your spare time on this."

"My spare time?" Cadden inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"I want you combat ready by the end of the week," Kyr said. "You proved to me you've still got the hand to hand skills, but I need you to run regular training programmes in the meanwhile. You may not return to your prime overnight, but I want you to push yourself as hard as you can. Hone your marksmanship skills and your conventional and unconventional battlefield tactics. All that time you spent after being our Mand'alor won't do you any good against trained Mando'ade."

Kyr had a point. "Then if there's nothing else," Cadden said with a nod, "I'd like to get started now." Kyr motioned him to leave, and Cadden left the room. He was quick to find Nasrey, who was already well aware of what he needed, and she provided him with the datapad and disks he would need in his studies. Cadden had to admit it was a welcoming break from the regimen Freedom had him on, and felt more comfortable to him. He dove right in, starting with the detailed history of the Mandalorians.

He found that he remembered more than he anticipated, and by the time someone arrived at his quarters to take him to his armor and weapons he had a good understanding of their history from their very beginnings until the Mandalorian Wars over four thousand years ago.

Cadden was escorted to the armory where he was presented with his armor, which sported a very familiar color scheme. Cadden ran his hand across the armor, blood-red overwhelming the black. "How long?" he found himself asking.

"Kyr had us repaint it the day we confiscated it," the Mandalorian said with a shrug. "Figured it'd do you some good to wear the proper colors."

Cadden wasted no further time and began to suit up. He found the armor to be a near exact comparison to his old set, minus the nuances that he gave it for his own personal touch and the lack of a cape. Once he had everything but the helmet on, the Mandalorian spoke again. "What weapons would you prefer? I've been instructed to equip you with your choice, provided it's in stock."

Cadden thought on that a moment, before deciding to play it safe for now. He knew he wasn't as good a shot as he was when he was Mandalore, so he couldn't just pick back up where he left off. But he still held a great deal of knowledge on the various blasters on the market and their capabilities and specs. "One EE-3 carbine rifle," he finally said, "and one DH-17 blaster pistol. I will also require a wrist-mounted rocket dart launcher and a set of wrist-mounted blades."

"You're joking," the Mandalorian said. Cadden gave him a dead serious look. "Well, I'll see what I can do, but no promises on the latter two." Cadden nodded before equipping his helmet, and watched as the HUD came to life and started feeding him information on his surroundings. He keyed in a couple commands on his gauntlet and watched as the display responded accordingly.

Better, he thought, after the settings met his satisfaction. The door opened, and the Mandalorian returned with the two blasters and accompanied holsters.

"You lucked out," he said. "Only ones we have in stock."

"How convenient," he said, his voice filtered by the helmet. He had to wonder if Kyr was anticipating this, and set them aside just for him, or if it were merely coincidence. I have them, that's all that matters.

"You're going to have to procure the other two requests some other way, however," the man continued.

Cadden nodded. "I'll figure something out," he said. "I want to get started immediately. Take me to the firing range." If he were to get back to his original form, he couldn't waste any time. The Mandalorian complied and took Cadden to the combat readiness area of the compound. Cadden looked it over carefully. "Impressive," he admitted. He wasn't expecting anything quite this elaborate in such a concealed location.

"You can select your program here," the man said, showing Cadden the console. "There are a wide variety of different exercises, ranging from target practice to combat situations, for you to choose from. Though be cautioned, some of these are not meant for someone just getting started... or, in your case, just relearning."

"I'll keep that in mind," Cadden said. He activated the console. Should probably start off easy. See just how much work needs to be done. He wasn't overly impressed with his skills back on Ord Cestus, but he'd improved his state of mind since then. Though, even he had to admit, there was still a bit of work to be done in that area. Better to not give Kyr a reason to take me back to square one, he mused.

The first tier training program started up, and Cadden's first target showed up. He leveled the EE-3 and fired. The shot hit, but not in a fatal region. He fired twice more before the program replaced targets. Cadden moved his aim to the new target and fired twice. Several more came up and over twice as many shots were made before the program ended.

"Not bad," the Mandalorian said with a nod.

"In a combat scenario, I would have been dead by the third target," Cadden retorted. He had a lot of work to do before he could even come close to where he once was. He initiated the program again, and this time by the last couple targets he was hitting the critical regions in one shot, though the last target he lost his streak and finished it in three. He was doing better, but still nowhere near his level of satisfaction.

Cadden spent the next couple hours shooting targets, having reached the third tier of the basics before it was time to break for a meal. Following lunch Cadden took a break to go back to his studies, this time he chose to begin teaching himself the basics of Mando'a. While he had retained some of the language over the years, much of it he had to relearn. Though he was surprised as to how quick it was coming back to him. He used the rest of the afternoon to continue to hone his skills with his EE-3 before dinner. After the evening meal, he spent the remainder of his time studying more Mando'a and relearning the Resol'nare.

The next couple days Cadden saw some improvement in his skills, and started to get better in his marksmanship abilities. He was able to hit the critical areas of stationary targets within two shots, which was still below his liking but within acceptable standards. He was through half of Mandalorian history and was able to memorize the core principles of the Resol'nare by the end of his second day on his new training regimen.

Cadden was called to a briefing with Kyr and Jahaal, where they got him up to speed on the current plan. Once they were done speaking with him, Cadden was presented with the opportunity to weigh his opinions on the matter. He remained silent for a moment, considering the strategy at hand. "While a good idea," he said, "I fear it will be short-lived. Garen is now buckling down on his control over the Protectors, and with that he will eventually uncover this plan. Likely sooner than you think."

Kyr nodded. "We're aware of this," he said, "but, unfortunately, it's one of very few options we have at our disposal. And the only one that would produce any viable results. The results of Freedom's broadcast were not as favorable as we were hoping."

"You mentioned this broadcast earlier," Cadden said, recalling the meeting a few days ago. "Mind if I see it?"

Kyr triggered one of the terminals in the conference room, and Cadden watched as the message Freedom transmitted was played through. Once it was over, Cadden remained silent for a moment. "My understanding of the mentality of the Protectors as a whole is that they're geared toward one objective. Conquest. Most will be unhindered by this message, and those few that might flock to our aid will be reluctant to do so."

Kyr nodded. "That's what we were figuring, as well, given the lack of favorable results."

"Garen put us all in a bad spot," Cadden said. "No Mandalorian will be rushing to our aid, no matter what is said. Our operations are going to be far more difficult than they already were."

"I welcome any suggestions," Kyr said. Cadden could immediately tell he was genuinely looking for them. But, unfortunately, he had none. "I'm making the most out of a bad situation, here, Cadden."

"I understand. I just hope that this plan of yours will last. We've neither the resources nor the manpower to go up against Garen." However, it didn't mean he had to like it. It may not have been a perfect plan, but Kyr was right. It was the only one they had. "What do need me to do?"

"Continue preparing yourself," Kyr said. "We'll be briefing everyone on the first move in two days. I need you to be as ready as possible, just in case things turn ugly. I'm not expecting any open conflict, but if it arrives we need to be ready for it."

Cadden spent the rest of the week predominately honing his combat skills. They still were not great, but by the time the meeting with Kyr's officers was in place he deemed himself field-ready, at the least. He learned in this meeting about the upcoming operations in which he would lead the Shadow Warriors as forward covert support for establishing command bunkers fifty kilometers north of Keldabe and thirty-three kilometers east of what was left of Enceri. These were to be the first of several more that would be set up not just in the region, but on the whole planet and throughout the sector.

Cadden gave Freedom a tense glare. He was right about one thing, though. I do hate him, now, more than most. What the Jedi opted to put him through was nothing short of insulting to Cadden. At least the message got through. As he averted his attention back to the briefing, he had to wonder what Freedom's opinions of the sudden turn of events were. It was difficult, to say the least, to tell what he thought of Cadden's return, or what he had done by becoming Darth Trayus. If he had to guess, he'd assume that the man was combined hopeful and cautious. It takes a Jetii to know another Jetii, he mused. While Cadden never was a Jedi proper, looking back he now saw little difference. I just didn't follow the same code. Otherwise, I see now just how similar I was to others like Cazzik and Daer'Gunn.

"Blackthorne will lead Dha Werda Verda to secure each area," Kyr told the officers. "It's important that we set up a preliminary operation to effectively mask our efforts from Garen and his followers."

"How're we going to do that?" Cadden asked. "Can't imagine they'll turn a blind eye when they see a bunch of Mando'ade gathered around building something."

"Those responsible for building will be wearing no armor," Kyr said, giving off a bunch of murmurs in the room, "and you'll be minimally equipped." Hence the need for the Shadow Warriors, Cadden noted. Kyr voiced what he was thinking. "Dha Werda Verda will be your protection, and your weapons. Nothing else. They will be fully equipped, but will also remain covert. Though there ought to be nothing about this Garen will find unusual, so long as we keep it low key.

"We're building safe houses, not fighting battles," Kyr continued. "We do this right, Garen won't even know what's going on. But we cannot make a show of ourselves." Cadden glanced at Freedom discreetly, before he caught out of his peripheral vision Arlan Solari glaring at him. The two locked stares for a moment. "Something you wish to add?" Cadden heard Kyr say. At first he thought the man was talking to him, but when he looked over he noticed that, instead, he was looking intently at Arlan.

He very well knows the man's opinion of me, Cadden mused. Kyr wasn't playing favorites, he was diffusing a potentially hostile situation. Though if Arlan dares get in my way, I'll make sure he doesn't walk for a good month.

Arlan's stare was quickly diffused. "No," he said with a defeated tone.

"Blackthorne will oversee operations near Enceri, Jeston near Keldabe." This made sense. If Garen were to learn Cadden was back on the rise, and fighting against him, he would bring the whole operation to an end swiftly, and as violently as possible. "They will be Jahaal's and my eyes, ears, and voice in the coming months."

"What?" Arlan spoke up, clearly furious. "Trust a critical operation to the likes of this dar'manda chakaar?"

Cadden tensed up and felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Jahaal, who gave him a cautionary look. He relaxed his grip on the holster of his DH-17.

"Copaani mirshmure'cye, vod?" Kyr shot back. Cadden had a bit of trouble with that one, but he could tell from Kyr's tone and Arlan's reaction it wasn't good. "Blackthorne has been given cin vhetin. You will honor and respect my decisions. That is final."

"Ni vore," Arlan said begrudgingly.

Kyr proceeded to instruct the assembled in the other safe house locations, keeping them well aware that they cannot be built all at once, else Garen could get suspicious. Cadden and Jeston were responsible for overseeing all building projects, and provided their assigned locations across Mandalore in order. When one building was complete, they would haul their supplies and personnel inside and activate the safe house, and only at that point would they move on to construct the next. Only after all safe houses were established would they look to other worlds.

As Cadden was preparing to deploy, a hand fell on his shoulder and influenced him to turn around. He saw Arlan staring at him, disgust deep in his eyes. "Ulyc, Blackthorne," he said, before tucking his combat knife in his right boot. Arlan was one of the men who were going to set the area up, and for that Cadden was thankful. It meant one less enemy he would need to keep an eye out for. "Tion'ad hukaat'kama?"

While he still had much to learn, Cadden did discover that he was picking the language back up fairly quickly. This surprised even him, but he wasn't about to doubt himself or his abilities and instincts.

He had to grin as he turned and produced his helmet. As he put it on he looked over his shoulder at the man, his voice filter kicking in and giving him that familiar gravelly sound to his voice from when he first became a bounty hunter. "Cui ogir’olar," he said, emotionless. "Ni ganar hukaat'kama." He paused a second as he equipped his own blade, though in a far more visible spot on his belt. "Ret'lini." He reveled in the thought that this made Arlan a bit uncomfortable, yet for absolutely no reason, and the man knew it. Cadden merely brushed him off and moved on, demonstrating to Arlan just how small Cadden saw him.

Arlan looked at Cadden's visor for a brief moment, staring at his own reflection, before he looked away. Cadden knew this wasn't over, but Arlan had no advantage over him, here. And he never will, he thought, though he figured the man would feel far more comfortable challenging him in full beskar'gam. Cadden welcomed him to the opportunity.

"Word of advice, Arlan," Cadden said as he ran the system diagnostics on his armor. "I may have been out of the game for a couple years, but do not underestimate me. Every Mando'ad is an asset to Kyr's cause. It'd be a shame if he lost one simply because he was an overconfident di'kut. I have no issue putting you down, but it is not in our mission's best interests that I do."

Arlan sneered at Cadden and gave him a half nod before turning and walking away. Cadden finished getting himself ready before he departed the room and headed to the vehicle bay and to his transport.

The ride out to Site B, outside Enceri, was a quiet one. Cadden was accompanied by Beviin in their Shadow IV Airspeeder while two other Shadow Warriors flew in another Shadow IV to the same site. He was somewhat thankful that Beviin was there, as opposed to either of the other two, to keep the tension from escalating. Cadden had quickly come to learn that he was one of the few who never stopped supporting him being the Mand'alor.

Can't really say I'm surprised,
he thought. He was genuinely concerned about that last fight. He allowed himself a grin, his emotions being hidden by his helmet's visor. That was the day Freedom learned just how useless his so-called training regimen was. About damn time, too. Cadden wasn't overly fond of the Jetii for what he had done, and based on his observations, it seemed as though it wasn't Kyr's first choice, either. He had to wonder how Freedom managed to convince the man, since Kyr was never known to be a pushover.

They arrived at the proposed site and began to circle the area, scoping it out for any undesirable features. Once they were satisfied, Cadden queued up his comm and spoke the go-ahead command. They parked near the construction site and watched the area.

"So what happened?" Beviin spoke up after several long moments of silence. "You kind of just up and disappeared, and then you're suddenly back. And definitely not the same as you were before."

Cadden did not look at Beviin, and just stared out the window, keeping an eye out for any potential trouble while lost in thought. Several seconds passed before he even said anything. "I lost my way." It was simple, yet accurate. He didn't feel like talking about it, and was trying to tactfully tell Beviin this. He could feel this answer was not going to deter further questions, and when he looked back at Kyr's son, Cadden could see in his eyes the pressing desire for knowledge.

"My father and I never stopped backing you as our Mand'alor," Beviin said defiantly. "Even after you left us, I couldn't bring myself to calling Starfall Mand'alor. It just didn't feel right. The position is yours, not anyone else's. And when you left..." He trailed when Cadden averted his attention to their surroundings. "Well, we called him Mand'alor," he continued, "but he wasn't you." Cadden looked back at him again. His mannerism must have betrayed him, because Beviin picked up on the small nuances in his behavior quickly. "He wasn't the man who rallied the clans under a single banner. He wasn't the man who set us toward greater purpose than any other Mand'alor before. When he lead us against the Xennies, all I saw was a man following in a greater one's footsteps. I still saw you, Mand'alor. Just, you looked like someone else. It wasn't until the assembly of clans, not long before Arcanix, that things started to change around here. It wasn't until Garen's homestead was destroyed and his family murdered that he changed. That I no longer saw a man trying to pick up where you left off and continue your legacy. I saw in him a rage and thirst that changed him in ways I cannot comprehend." He tilted his head slightly. "I've seen similar with you, but your mannerisms, your attitude, they're different than Garen's." He paused a moment. "What happened to you?"

"I died," Cadden said. Beviin looked confused. "The man I was perished back on Onderon. I… I can't explain what happened that very moment. I cannot comprehend it, myself. All I know is I went on to do horrible things. I killed innocents. I razed worlds, and came close to bringing the whole Jedi Order to destruction." He looked back out the window. "I… nearly killed my sister and one of my sons. I caused my other son to go missing. He might even be dead." He paused. "My father died. Because of me. If I were to accompany him, he might not have died." He looked back to Beviin. This was the first he had ever shared these details with anyone. But, for some reason, it was different talking with him about it. Cadden couldn't figure out why. "The worst part, though, is I don't even know why I've done what I've done. If I had a reason, I couldn't tell you what it was. I barely even remember doing any of it. I only have memory of bits and pieces of the past two years."

Beviin nodded in sympathy. "I can see how that would put a strain on you," he said.

Cadden shook his head. "I lost the Force," he said. "It was taken from me, as punishment for what I've done. Though death would have been far more appropriate. I no longer hold the same senses I have been accustomed to my whole life. It's exhausting, and it feels as though you've been robbed of all your senses at once, that the world around you is not at all the same as you once knew it to be." Cadden took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What I've done, you don't just bounce back from. And you don't just 'get over' suddenly losing your connection to the Force."

"I could only imagine," Beviin said. "Father says you need a purpose. That it will help you recover from what you've been through."

Cadden shrugged. He could see the logic behind that, but truth be told, he simply wasn't sure what, if anything, would help at this point. "There was a time I would have wholeheartedly agreed with him," he said. "That was what brought me to Mandalore to begin with, those years back. But now... I'm just not so sure. Not after what happened... what I've been responsible for." He heard the engines of a Jai'galaar approach and found it as it soared overhead. He continued to watch, but the fighter did not slow down or change course. After a few seconds, he was satisfied and looked back at Beviin. "I'm just trying to make sense of what I've done, while trying to cope with the loss of the Force."

"Well, if you believe in fate, for what it's worth, I think you're back with us for a reason. Even if you don't know it yet." Beviin glanced out his window as the construction crews started laying down the foundation for the ground level of the safe house. "You chose to come back to us. And at our most dire time. That must count for something."

Cadden frowned. He refused to believe that he was "lead" there. If he still held a connection to the Force, that would be a different matter. But there was no way he could have been guided back to Mandalore through the Force. "I returned because I had nowhere else to go," he argued. "It's that simple."

Beviin frowned. "Surely the Jetiise that saw your punishment through must have known something you do not," he said. Cadden thought it unusual for a Mando'ad to be so interested in the Force, and raised an eyebrow, though he did not speak. "Else why not bring you back to their leadership for judgment?"

"Because it was a friend who did it," Cadden said. "Claimed he was providing me mercy." He snorted. "Death is mercy. I was ready for death. This... this is far worse a punishment than what the Jedi Council could ever offer." He took advantage of the ensuing silence. "You're fairly interested in this, for a Mando'ad."

"Freedom," Beviin said after a couple seconds. "I'm interested because of him."


"He came to us a broken man, similarly to how you did," Beviin said.

"No, not similarly. It may seem like that, but however he came to the Mandalorians, it is not the same way I did." Cadden recalled when they found Freedom. It was Kera who saved the man from death on Mechis III. Kyr reluctantly took him in and, from what Cadden understood, beat the man out of his state of mind. It worked for Freedom, which us why Freedom thought it might work for me. Freedom lacked a battle-hardened edge when they found him. Cadden merely lost who he was. He knew what he was capable of, but he feared what he might become if he exercised that capability.

Beviin shrugged. "In either case," he said, unhindered by Cadden's correction, "it led me to wonder more about the Jetiise and the Force, and how the two interact with each other. Jetiise and dar'jetiise seem to cause more trouble than anyone else because of their Force. I'm interested in knowing why."

Cadden nodded. "Fair enough," he said, "though it's easier to understand if you've experienced it personally." He paused. "I do not believe Cazzik had any particular vision or goal when he did this to me. Nobody outside the Mando'ade knows I am here." He had to wonder what motivation Cazzik had to sparing him from the Council. If anyone outside that ship were to learn he was still alive, everyone involved in that incident would be put on trial for their decision. Cazzik in particular. It was another reason why he was so willing to accept the death sentence. He had caused enough death and angst, he didn't want to be the cause of whatever might happen if the Council found out Cazzik let him go. "It's another reason why I'm not too fond of resuming the role of Mand'alor. If I do, it's only a matter of time before word gets out. And then… all those involved in sparing me from the Jedi Council's judgment would have to pay the price."

"Let them deal with their own actions," Beviin said. "It was their choice to make, not yours. You hold no responsibility for what happens to them, as a result."

Cadden shook his head. "One of them was a good friend of mine," he said. "One I attempted to kill several times. Another was my sister. And the third... my son. Both of which I've also tried to kill. I take no responsibility for Cazzik's actions, or what happens as a result. But if anything happens because I did not decide to turn myself in.…"

Beviin placed a reassuring hand on Cadden's shoulder. "The Jetiise advocate peace," he said. "If they practice what they preach, then you have nothing to worry about."

Cadden pursed his lips. "Unfortunately, not all Jedi hold to the same beliefs."

Beviin shrugged. "Regardless, it's out of your hands," he said. "Best you can do for them is prove you're not the same man that you were these past two years. Show them that you intend to work to right your wrongs. Returning to the Jedi Council will do no better for them than staying here."

Cadden nodded in agreement. He wasn't about to return to the Council and face what he had done. They would pass their judgment on him, in time. And Cazzik and the others would have to face their choice, for better or for worse. He didn't see any punishment being offered by the Council for their decisions to be particularly harsh, and found respite in at least that much. "Is my answer to your satisfaction?" he asked, a slight edge in his voice.

"I understand better, yes," Beviin said, "but I still fail to understand your reluctance with us." He held up his hand to keep Cadden from speaking. "You don't need to explain. Just know this: there are far more people than you think that would prefer to see you as our Mand'alor again. But you still need to convince them you're up for the job. If you can convince yourself, first."

Easier said than done, he thought. Cadden didn't doubt his abilities as a fighter, or as a leader. He was afraid. Afraid of what he might become if he reclaimed the title of Mand'alor. He was afraid of returning to the dark place that consumed him for two years. Perhaps if he at least knew why he fell, why he did what he did, it would be an easier decision to make. But, with his memory on what happened to him being what it was, he could not say what might trigger another descent. Better to play it safe, than risk millions, if not more, lives repeating the same mistakes.

Night came upon them and the first stage of the building process was completed. They didn't run into any trouble, not even the wildlife troubled them. Cadden revved up the Shadow IV's engines and took the lead to depart the area. He was confident, at this point, that if Garen were to learn what they were truly doing there they would have seen some kind of force come down upon them. Nevertheless, Cadden refused to let his guard down. The debrief was quick and to the point, which allowed Cadden for some down time before he would turn in for the night. Beviin had not pushed for any more information, clearly noting Cadden's lack of willingness to share it. Instead, he merely repeated his personal hopes for Cadden and wished him luck in his recovery process.

They returned to an unhindered and undisturbed site for the next few days as the structure came together. They had just finished assembling the roofing for the safe house when Cadden noted a Shadow VI Combat Airspeeder soar by overhead. He watched as it kept flying before it started to veer to the right. He tensed as he noted it was starting to circle around. He watched as it flew by again, and kept his eye on it while it made another round. "Sithspit," he muttered, and grabbed his EE-3 in preparation for a fight. Beviin moved to stop him, but found it was unnecessary after realizing Cadden wasn't quick to expose himself, or them. He watched in silence as the airspeeder sped over the site once more, and this time the craft didn't turn around. "That was either very close," he noted, "or this operation is about to be busted."

"Only time will tell," Beviin commented. Cadden kept himself at the ready for the rest of the day, keeping a particular eye out for any potential threats, but they never came. When they returned to the compound that evening he informed Kyr on the flyby.

"They're probably reporting it back to Garen," he noted.

"That's what we're figuring, as well," Cadden agreed.

"Will they have any reason to suspect?"

Cadden shook his head. "Not unless they want to operate on a baseless assumption. The safe house looks like any other structure. They're not going to see anything particularly odd about it simply by way of a flyby." It didn't keep him from remaining cautious, however. "Site B will be done in two days, pending no complications. We can have it fully operational by the end of the week."

Kyr nodded in approval. "Good," he said. "We're right on schedule."

"It won't last," Cadden said with a shrug. "Even if we manage to build them all, eventually Garen will learn of their existence."

"But it will give us a valuable opportunity to prepare for him," Jahaal argued.

"Even so, you'd be fighting a losing war."

"At least we'll die fighting for something we believe in," Jahaal shot back. He looked at Kyr.

"Give him time," Kyr said, without looking at his son. "Blackthorne, make sure that bunker gets finished on schedule, and without intervention. We need all of them operational before we can proceed to phase two of the plan."

Cadden nodded and took his leave. He got some chow and returned to his quarters for the evening, delving further into his academic studies. They didn't see another airspeeder for the rest of the week, and two days after the building was completed the safe house was activated. Cadden used the following day's downtime to religiously practice his marksmanship. By the end of the the day he had been able to bullseye most of his targets in one shot and had started on the intermediate level programme. This graduated from stationary targets to those that moved in different directions, speeds, and patterns. Cadden was able to keep track of them and found himself able to hit them with surprising accuracy, though it was not perfect. Not like it used to be, he mused after ending the session. Only with practice and repetition would he regain the accuracy he once had.

He was to be relocated to a new construction site, this one a mere thirteen kilometers north of Shuror, while he learned Jeston would be overseeing a bunker not far from Norg Bral. He would head out the following morning, but that night he was plagued by nightmares of his past.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Another week had passed without incident. Kyr was growing wary of how calm the operations had been going. It seemed to be going too well. Not even a casual, curious investigation by one of Garen's followers had been done on their sites. While normally a good thing, with overall communicative silence he had no way of verifying whether or not their operations were going unnoticed. A lack of response did not necessarily indicate they were still under Garen's radar. They could just as easily be walking into right where he wanted them. He had planned to expect intervention of some degree, as would have been expected by Garen under present circumstances, but instead all was quiet.

With the buildings being constructed uninterrupted, they were now on their third set of safe houses. They had even found an abandoned hunting lodge in the Olankur forests that Kyr identified as a prime location for a command bunker, and sent out a team to renovate it. By the end of the week, if all went as planned, they would have over half a dozen of these outposts scattered across the planet, each within a reasonable distance of the major population hubs. Each had a front of some sort to disguise their true operations that were hidden underneath the buildings, so as to avoid detection should someone decide they needed to initiate an inspection. This would give them a slight tactical edge, though it wasn't much. But every little bit helps, he thought, examining the geographical map of the world.

The operations were going smoothly, however. Perhaps too smoothly. But, nevertheless, Kyr couldn't argue with the results. It would have been all the better if they could get additional support from their outside allies, but there was no such luck, there. We're on our own. He supposed he wasn't all that surprised; very few would dare get themselves in the middle of Mandalorian affairs. He looked up as the door opened, and in strode Freedom.

"Any further luck?" Kyr asked. Freedom shook his head. "Garen's got a tight grip of influence on the majority. With so many flocking to his side, I fear we might be on the losing end of this."

"There are still those whom oppose his decisions," Freedom reminded him.

"It would do us more good to know they're on our side," Kyr said. In this particular case, playing their own side was just as bad as being on Garen's. They needed additional strength, and they weren't finding any.

Freedom shrugged. "But we do know they're not against us." It counted for something, at least.

It could always be worse, Kyr mused. "At least the safe houses are on schedule, and without intervention. We've had a few close calls, but nothing more than a flyby patrol checking things out. We're about ready to expand to other planets." They couldn't construct too many of these buildings, else it would start looking suspicious. That was the last thing they needed.

"You going to send Cadden out with them?" Freedom asked.

"I've considered it," Kyr said. "Though I have my reservations on the wisdom behind doing so at this juncture." It was a gamble, putting Cadden out in the open like that, but it would have allowed him the necessary exposure to what truly became of the Protectors in his absence. But if it is discovered he's still alive, all could be lost, just like that. At least on Mandalore he was within a deployable range from reinforcements should the need arise. Even on Mandallia, their neighboring planet, getting to him fast enough was an issue. Kyr was hesitant enough to send him to Concordia, let alone another planet. There's just too much risk involved to make a solid decision. But he had to make one quick, else it could hinder the timeline of their plans. "He is ready," he continued, "but none of us can stand against Garen's full force alone."

Freedom folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. "If I may," he said, "you need to stop trying to protect him." Kyr looked back up from the map. "Only way he'll grow is on his own. You taught me that." He paused. "We've all seen that Cadden has not lost his edge. He's merely holding back. He can still handle himself in combat, if the need arises."

Kyr knew this better than most. He was the first to identify this in Cadden, and was how he managed to get through to him. At least he now understood why Blackthorne was holding back. The man lived for combat, it was where he seemed to belong. An admirable trait to Mandalorians, he thought. They just needed to get him beyond the darkness that he was protecting himself against. That was the key to gathering allies to their cause. "You're suggesting I let him decide if he's ready to go beyond our protection," Kyr said.

"That's exactly what I'm suggesting." Freedom pushed himself away from the wall and walked around the table, stopping next to Kyr. "You've told me before that Cadden isn't fond of being led around on a leash. But that's what's going on, now. I realize it's unintentional, but all this protection will do is suffocate him, hold him back. Hell, it might even push him away. Have him call the shots, for a change. You said so yourself, you're gearing him up for this role. No better time than now to start the trial by fire. If he's not up to it, he'll be sure to let you know. But, I've my suspicions he's going to want this."

His reasoning was sound. Cadden was not only a warrior, but a leader. Kyr intended to ease him into the position, give him increasing responsibility while he recovered from what happened to him, but perhaps the best way of placing Cadden in command was to give him the control Kyr was preparing him for. Or, at least, up his level of responsibility. He had been slowly earning respect from the others, notably from the majority of the Shadow Warriors and Beviin, and it seemed even Freedom and Jahaal were coming around, but Cadden was a long way off from having enough backing to reclaim the position of Mand'alor. Perhaps doing this would, indeed, help. If he could gain the respect of all Kyr's followers, as he once had with the Mandalorian clans those years back when he first claimed the title, then he would be well on his way to challenging Garen.

But it will take time, he thought bitterly. Time we, simply, do not have. One did not simply "recover" from what he'd been through, what he did. Nor from becoming, by the views of a vast majority of the Mandalorians, dar'manda. You don't just walk away from that.

"I'll bring it up with him," Kyr said with a nod. "If he's up to it, then I'll hand the reins over early. But I'm not going to give him something he doesn't want. If he refuses it I won't force it on him."

"Cadden has a knack for surprising people," Freedom said. "He's more capable than most candidates to get this job done. He may deny it, but he needs a purpose once again. A man like him cannot survive in this galaxy without one."

"He's already committed to helping bring Garen down," Kyr said. "Only he can reclaim the title of Mand'alor for himself." He paused a second. "He'll be far more susceptible to doing such if he sees the true nature of Garen and his followers." Cadden had received a taste of it back on Ord Cestus, Kyr knew, but there was too much deception, too many half truths, offered to him for Cadden to draw his conclusions from. He had to witness what was going on without Garen justifying it in a way that could pass off as being acceptable costs to war.

Freedom nodded. "It's the best course of action we can possibly take, at this point," he offered. Kyr didn't respond. "You alright? Normally you're all for pushing Cadden into the forefront position of this resistance movement. You're typically the one trying to convince me."

"Blackthorne has been distracted, of late," Kyr said. "I fear it could detract from his ability to perform these duties, let alone those he currently holds. He spoke of a… nagging feeling... that either keeps him up at night, or prevents him from sleeping well." They both knew Cadden was more than capable of operating under severe sleep deprivation. Kyr was more concerned over whatever this nagging feeling was, and the distraction it could provide him if a combat scenario occurred.

"Back during his first week here, he mentioned someone named Lillian, and Dahdtoudi," Freedom said. "Given the circumstances surrounding those two, perhaps it's catching up to him, now that he's easing into a world without the Force."

Kyr remembered Freedom telling him about what he and Cadden talked about. The man harbored deep feelings for both, it seemed. Of Lillian, love. But, toward Dahdtoudi? Kyr did not want to know what might happen if he ever got between the two. He never knew Cadden to hold such hatred for any one person. But what he found most unusual was that Cadden never spoke about them before now. Kyr had never heard their names before, back when Cadden was their Mand'alor. Granted, to be fair, Cadden was never much of a conversationalist about his past. But it still bothered him. Why now? And why was Cadden so focused on it?

"Perhaps," Kyr agreed. "He left us on a whim before, we can't afford to have it happen again."

"That was different," Freedom said. "He was corrupted by the dark side."

Kyr shook his head. "No," he said, "it's no different. The only thing that changes is the Force. That's where Jetiise tend to get things wrong. You don't need the Force to fall." Garen was a prime example, one that didn't need mentioning or explaining. "If Blackthorne had good reason to leave to find her, he would."

"But he doesn't." And for that, Kyr was grateful. "He wouldn't operate on a mere hunch. Without any solid proof, there's no way he would risk exposing himself."

"But he would risk his very life if it meant hers," Kyr countered. "Let us hope it doesn't come to that."

"And yet it would give him renewed purpose," Freedom said. "It would grant him the clarity needed to reclaim the position of our Mand'alor."

"At what cost?" Kyr objected. "How many of us would have to pay that price?"

"No more than otherwise," Freedom simply said.

Kyr thought on that a brief moment. They had already paid a heavy price for standing against what Garen had become. Whether Cadden was with them or not, little would have changed. Except our future, he mused, our fate as a whole people.

"We couldn't stop him if he found enough reason to look for her," Freedom continued, "no matter how hard we tried. All we can do is hope he doesn't make any rash decisions. That he puts his commitments to his people first. Whether we keep him holed up, here, or give him the freedom to roam the whole galaxy, if he knows for a fact she's alive, he will go after her. And we wouldn't be able to stop him."

Kyr nodded in agreement, and keyed in a command in the display. The map shifted to the terrain of Concordia. "We have a few opportunities on Concordia for safe houses, and contacting potential allies," he said. "It would be a good way for Blackthorne to ease into the role of Mand'alor. He can take the Final Ceremony to the moon." Kyr couldn't use the ship, himself, anyway, as doing so would expose their ruse back at his homestead, and he trusted few with it as he did Cadden. Besides, maybe it will remind him of what we had lost, what had been sacrificed, before everything took a wrong turn. The ship had previously belonged to Gandon Belak and Locke Rekkon, the first two Mandalorians that Cadden ever met, and who inducted him into their ranks. It would hold significance with Cadden, and hopefully remind him of their sacrifice against the Xen'Chi back during the Battle of Mandalore. More importantly, what their sacrifice was for.

"Won't that draw attention from Garen?" Freedom asked, clearly not following Kyr's logic.

"Exactly," Kyr said. "Garen needs to see Blackthorne's resolve. If we can put some fear into him, he may get sloppy."

"Cadden won't appreciate being used as bait," Freedom noted.

"Not bait," Kyr argued. "An opportunity for him to end this. An opportunity for Garen to stand down, reaffirm Blackthorne as the rightful Mand'alor."

"And if he doesn't?"

"That's not going to be our call to make." Freedom nodded, understanding that, if it came down to that, the next step would be entirely up to Cadden. "Blackthorne and Garen share similar losses in similar mannerisms. Maybe by holding that common ground, he can break through the barriers Garen put up after Valery's and Carissa's deaths."

"What if he doesn't get through to Garen? Then what?"

Kyr shrugged. "Only time can tell."

* * *

Cadden was in his quarters, staring at his computer screen. He had just accessed the back door of the Mandalorian network and retrieved his stored personal information. It was a quick in-and-out task, and so he would be long gone before Garen's people could have possibly detected his presence. Additionally, he bounced the connection through various channels so to cover his tracks. There was no way they could possibly trace it back to his location. But it was a necessary task, as he wanted to weed through everything he had between his first arrival on Mandalore and becoming Darth Trayus.

The door chime sounded off and, without looking away from the screen, Cadden gave permission for the individual to enter. The door opened and Cadden glanced over as Kyr approached. "Blackthorne," Kyr said, "we need to talk." Cadden turned away from the screen to face Kyr completely, though he did not say a word. "Do you recall two weeks ago I told you I'd ease you into my role?"

Cadden nodded. "I remember," he said.

"It's yours, if you want it."

Cadden raised an eyebrow. He had gotten used to Kyr's direct approach, though that didn't help deter his surprise toward the statement. He expected this to happen, but not this quick. "What would that make you and Jahaal?" he asked.

"Whatever you choose," Kyr said. "This is a no-strings-attached offer. The resistance is yours to lead, if you accept it. And if you do not, no harm, no foul."

"What's the catch?" Cadden asked, sounding ever suspicions.

Kyr chuckled. "No catch," he said, slightly amused Cadden would ask. "You need to trust me more. All I've done is for your benefit."

"I know. Old habits." Cadden frowned a moment. "I don't know if I'm ready for this," he finally said.

Kyr shrugged. "You'll never know 'til you do it. If you try and then decide it's not quite your time, I'll take the reins once more."

"What about the resistance members who disapprove of me?" Cadden asked. That was a loaded question, he quickly realized. "Won't that cause a schism in our ranks?"

"It might," Kyr admitted. "But then again, it might not. Depends on how you handle it. I'll back you up, as I always have, but you'll never lead the Mando'ade again if you cannot even lead us."

Cadden wanted to say no, to decline, but something in the back of his mind nudged him, was attempting to persuade him. He tried to identify what it was, but the effort proved futile. I really am not the same man I once was, am I? he thought. But was that necessarily a bad thing? Considering what he had done as the man he once was, Cadden saw that as an improvement. The question being, just how much, exactly, changed? Not all change was good, after all. Only time would tell, he decided.

He came to the realization that there was one thing he could not change about himself. His desire to lead others. He saw firsthand what happened on Ord Cestus, and he hated the fact he couldn't do anything about it, though he didn't have the whole story to draw his own conclusion from. They still killed innocents, he noted. But then, I was no better as Darth Trayus, was I? Garen didn't feel the need to justify himself for Cadden. And why should he? Cadden was a nobody, now. To the galaxy as a whole, he was likely reported dead. It wouldn't have been the first time, but this time he had an opportunity. It was his only chance at redemption. To forgive himself for what he'd done. But I know better than that, he thought. This ran so much deeper than forgiveness.

"Very well," he said, "Consider me convinced." Kyr nodded solemnly, though Cadden could see a glimmer of approval and hope in the man's eyes. It wasn't much, but it was there. He really believes what he's told me, he realized. Cadden didn't know Kyr to take on faith such things in the past. He wondered why this was so different. Is it because he sees the fate of the Mandalorians in my hands? When the stakes are as high as Kyr claimed to be, one tended to be more apt to believe the unbelievable. Even one such as Kyr Aden. Force knows I've had my fair share of such instances.

"There's one more thing," Kyr said. "It is my recommendation you expose yourself to the current goings-on among the Mandalorians. I'd suggest you start by getting away from Mandalore. Travel to Concordia or Mandallia. Most of the preliminary work is done on Mandalore, anyway. We're about to expand our construction efforts to the moon. It would be a good opportunity for you."

This made sense. Mandalorians preferred a leader who would be on the front lines with his people, not commanding them from the safety of a bunker from afar. Kyr's case was different, however, and he wouldn't be able to keep it up without shifting gears. Plus, eventually, Garen will find out the truth. It wouldn't take much, either. Just one sighting, one rumor, and Kyr would be exposed. The only reason he was hiding and playing dead was to protect his family. There was no dishonor in that.

"I don't have a ship," Cadden noted.

"You can use mine."

"Won't that draw unwanted attention?"

"It might," Kyr said, "but maybe attention is what you need, right now. The more the Protectors know you mean business, the easier this will get."

"Or the more likely it'll result in death," Cadden said dryly. If Garen truly wanted him dead, though, he would have made the effort long before Freedom picked him up. Does Garen fear me, or find me useful, then? "I'll formulate a plan of attack. No point in deviating in the direction you've taken us. Unless a better plan comes about, it's all we've got."

"Perhaps one will present itself with this change," Kyr said. "It will bring about new opportunities, both beneficial and detrimental."

As if on cue, Kyr's comm came to life. "Kyr," the voice on the other side spoke, "we've got a problem in the south entrance." Kyr and Cadden exchanged looks, before rushing out of the room.

They ran to the entrance and came to a halt upon seeing the scene before them. Two Mandalorians were on the ground, with another pair tending to each. "What happened?" Kyr demanded.

"Spectre," the one wearing silver and blue grunted. "Led a group… of Mando'ade… in an ambush near Bralsin. The others… didn't survive."

"Sounds like Garen is catching on," Cadden said.

The Mandalorian shook his head. "We… were careful," he managed to say. "They couldn't have… couldn't have identified us."

"Someone on the inside is tipping Garen off on our movements," Kyr said with disgust.

"It would be wiser to nip this operation at the bud, than to toy with his enemies," Cadden said. "I want whatever we can learn of this. I'll analyze it, see if I can figure it out."

Kyr nodded in approval. "We'll get you what we can," he said. Within moments additional help arrived on the scene and the two survivors were taken away for medical treatment. "Garen's bringing in the Spectres," Kyr said dryly.

"What are Spectres?" Cadden asked.

"Elite enforcers that answer only to Garen and the Council," Kyr said. "The best of the best. Their sole purpose is to preserve Mandalorian stability by any means necessary. They are above the law and will do whatever it takes to complete their mission." Cadden frowned. "They were created with good intentions," Kyr argued.

"I find that hard to believe," Cadden said.

Kyr shrugged. "Believe what you will, Blackthorne. I lead them, so I'd think I would know a thing or two about that. Garen started with the right mindset. They were meant to quell increasing tensions after you disappeared."

"And now they're his personal hunter killer squad," Cadden said. He narrowed his eyes in disgust. "We will need to address this."

Cadden had returned to his quarters to see incoming data on the latest incident. They had managed to record some of the skirmish that took place. One individual they scuffled against wore a set of unusual armor that proved their efforts futile. He led four others wearing Mandalorian armor which was highly resistant to blaster fire. He watched both recordings, though they were both brief, several times, as he analyzed the situation and cross-compared it to the supplemental data that was provided to him. After a while, he drew the only conclusion that matched the scenario.

They were being hunted.

He leaned back in his chair and let out a deep breath. Cadden would need to reorganize their plans accordingly. They couldn't stand up to that kind of firepower alone, and many more of those skirmishes would put a serious dent in the resistance itself. Kyr said he lead the Spectres; Cadden would need to defer to him to determine how to take them down. Though he suspected Kyr already briefed his followers, Cadden needed to make clear what he expected from them.

A meeting was called between all of Kyr's officers and leaders. Cadden walked into the briefing room, and took his place to Kyr's right. The room was eerily quiet, as stragglers walked in over the next couple minutes. When all that could be present were accounted for, Kyr broke the silence. "There has been a change in organizational structure," he announced. "Blackthorne has been with us for a couple months, now. He returned to Mandalore a broken man. Many of you would believe him to be dar'manda. But he's proven to us he is still the capable man who led us as our Mand'alor." Kyr scanned the room before he spoke again. "I am stepping down as the leader of the resistance," he announced. "Blackthorne will take my place."

There it was. That nagging feeling. It pinged Cadden a spilt second before the gathered broke into argument over the decision. Cadden watched in silence as the incomprehensible points were made to one another. This was his moment, the point that would make or break him. He thought on his words carefully while observing the evolving chaos around him.

"He's not one of us," he made out one man shouting.

"He was our Mand'alor before Starfall," another argued.

He caught something about being dar'manda and a deserter, and something else about beating Tal and Carud in combat. He thought he even heard someone say something about him being truly loyal to Garen, though he couldn't be certain.

A few more seconds passed before something snapped within Cadden, and he drove his armored fist down on the table hard. The resulting impact was louder than any of the shouts in the room, and the heated arguments came to an abrupt stop as they all looked at him. Cadden eyed each one of them individually in silence for a brief moment, as they all watched him in turn.

He had their attention, now was his only shot.

"Garen has changed the playing field," he announced. "He's sent out the Spectres as his own personal hunter killer squad to track us down and eliminate us. A group out near Bralsin was ambushed by a Spectre and other Mando'ade. Only two of them returned. The others did not survive.

"Now is not the time to squabble amongst each other over petty differences of opinions." He paused a couple seconds. "Kyr is entrusting me to lead the charge against Garen. It's my fault that this happened, and so it's my responsibility to rectify my wrongs. You may or may not agree with this, but this is how it will be. Kyr's plans have not changed; they are still the only way we can possibly still win this. Garen's new play will require new tactics. Most of us won't be able to stand up against Spectres for very long, based on what little I've seen of them so far, and those of us who can, there's still a good chance they will win in an engagement. We need to be ever vigilant and stay on our guard out there."

Cadden took a breath and let it out slowly. "You may not agree with Kyr's decision," he said, "but it has been made. There is nowhere that anyone in this room can go that will be outside of Garen's reach, now. He will hunt down anyone who is or was a part of this resistance." He let that sink in a moment before he continued. "I'm well aware of what some of you think of me. You don't have to agree with this change, but you do need to accept it." He waited for any further objections, and was admittedly surprised to hear none. "Jeston will take on the responsibility of leading the Shadow Warriors until Kyr resumes command over them. Kyr and Jahaal will be stepping down to my previous position, and I will consult them in upcoming decisions." That should at least ease the naysayers a bit, he figured. But it was also a necessary appointment, as Cadden still needed to defer to them at least until he was fully up to speed. Even then, he'd rather keep to a council. Every wise leader listened to others' qualified input in decisions.

"What about you?" Jahaal asked. "What do you intend to do?"

Cadden had thought about that heavily since he agreed to Kyr's offer. If Garen had truly changed, there was only one way through to him. But Cadden wasn't about to resort to killing. I'm not going down that path again.

"I will go to Concordia and oversee our operations there, personally," he said. "I'll bring Garen out in the open and I will personally end this, if I can."

"That's insane," one of the Mandalorians spoke up. "Garen wants us all dead. He'd target you for sure."

"Good," Cadden said. "That's the idea." There was a bit of murmuring among them in response. "If Garen wanted me dead, he would have tried back when I set foot on Mandalore. He's hoping to sway me to his side. I get some of you want to see him dead for the bombardment. But every Mandalorian death means one less to defend our territories."

"You speak as though what's ours is yours," Arlan's familiar voice spoke up. Cadden couldn't say he was surprised, though he was that it took him this long to spout out his latest anti-Blackthorne statement. "Like you actually belong here, with us." There were some quiet agreements. Cadden didn't expect a little speech to sway the masses, however. He knew what he had to do. There was only one option.

He simply refused to do it. Cadden was still hesitant to return to who he was, who he was needed to be. He didn't want to turn into another Darth Trayus. The Mandalorians needed him to return to his old self, when he was their Mandalore, but he feared what that could make him if he did. Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions, he mused. He feared the dark side within himself, and what it turned him into.

"You did not act on your own accord," he remembered Cazzik telling him. "There was a powerful dark side spirit forcing your hand."

Maybe, then, that wasn't who I am,
he thought. But that didn't explain Talmohkt, when he fell to the dark side. That was done on his own accord.

Wasn't it? The incident in the Udine system left him room for doubt. He didn't remember much, only that the decisions he was making were not like him, and it took both his sons to cast the dark side spirit he encountered years earlier from his being. Or so they assumed. He started to wonder, in the past several days, if what he had done as Trayus were the doings of the same individual.

Cadden had a hard time separating what he had done and what he was forced to do in years past. The fact that he couldn't remember most of his time as Darth Trayus didn't help. But it would support Cazzik's claim, if he was right.

Cadden found that the assembled were waiting for his response to Arlan's insults. Cadden sighed. "I was once your Mandalore," he said quietly. "Yes, I left, and Garen failed you. As did I. I had no intention of staying away when I did leave. Something happened to me while I was gone. I don't quite know what."

"What do you mean you don't quite know what?" Arlan chided. "Did you just forget?"

A couple Mandalorians chuckled quietly, giving Cadden a good idea of who still was directly against him. He looked at each, identifying them all. While he didn't know them, he made it a point to commit their faces and other identifying features to memory. He would know who they were, sooner or later.

"The Force is a strange thing," Cadden responded, keeping his calm. He paused a second. "No, I do not remember what happened to me. All I know is it consumed me with hatred, vengeance. Betrayal. The dark side. I abandoned the Mandalorians, but that was not my original intent. I can't tell you why I did what I did. But I can work to right the wrongs I've committed on you."

"Right," Arlan muttered. Cadden chose to ignore it, and opted to move on. Arlan was becoming a nuisance, but he had his right to speak against Cadden. He was the most vocal one in opposition of him, and even he was reluctantly accepting this shift in command.

He's likely doing it out of respect for Kyr than anything else, he thought. It was better than the alternative. At least there won't be any division among us.

"I will attempt to draw Garen out," Cadden continued, getting the meeting back on track. "If we can end this peacefully, I'd much rather prefer that."

"In case you've forgotten," a Mandalorian spoke up, "Starfall has razed Enceri and bombarded Kyr's homestead, our headquarters. He's made it clear he's not looking for a peaceful solution."

"Only because we refuse to stand down," Kyr argued. "He gave me a choice, and this was the price that is paid. I would make the same decision again."

"You put your aliit in danger over a simple disagreement?" another asked.

Kyr shook his head. "We have friends scattered about Garen's ranks," he said. "It was how we knew ahead of time about the bombardment. My aliit was in no further danger than it was already."

"Nevertheless, Garen wants us dead," the first said. "He's made that abundantly clear. Talking to him is a waste of time. Could even kill you."

"Then I'll make many of you happy," Cadden said. He immediately regretted saying that, but was quick to push forward. "Do not mistake these changes as a power play," he continued. "I do not want this anymore than you do. But it is something I have to do. Not for me, but for the Mando'ade. I returned to Mandalore not to reclaim the position of Mand'alor, but because I had nowhere else to go. That doesn't mean I cannot all fight, or lead. I've since learned who it is I have to be. Whether you like it or not, this is the direction we are taking." There was a moment of silence as Cadden scanned the assembled for any further objections. "Then it is settled," he said. "Kyr and Jahaal will assign workers to the next sites. I'll take a small team with me to Concordia and scout out potential locations there. Small teams of two to three will work on the rest of our local territories to identify where we place the remaining bunkers. If you meet any trouble, do not engage. It's better to withdraw and live than to fight and die. Each death lessens our chances of success, of survival. There is no dishonor in avoiding combat, here."

"Ba'slan shev'la," Kyr said. Cadden remembered that one. Strategic disappearance. He nodded. "You will each receive your next assignments by the end of the day." The meeting was officially over, and after the room was cleared out, Kyr turned to Cadden. "Congratulations, Blackthorne," he said, "you survived your orientation." He cracked a smile. "Looks like you've still got that compelling charisma."

Cadden shook his head. "I just told them what you would have told them," he said.

"If it works," Kyr said. "When do you plan to head out?"

"Break of day. We need to keep things moving. If we falter, we're dead."

Kyr nodded. "I want you to follow your own advice," he said. "If you come across these hunter killers, you fall back. Spectres wear armor comprised of beskar. You wouldn't last against even one of them in that case. I'll send you detailed information on the program and their equipment. Knowledge is power, and you'll need it."

"Noted," Cadden said. "Provide me a dossier, as well. I'd like to know who we're dealing with."

"I'm serious, Cadden," Kyr said. "Do not engage them."

"I wasn't planning on it," Cadden said. "Beskar or no, my skills with a blaster are still not satisfactory. I'm not the shot I used to be. There's certainly better ways to die, if that was my goal. I do, however, need to know who we're up against in addition to the what."

"Fair enough," Kyr said. "If I don't see you before you leave, k'oyacyi." Cadden and Kyr clasped each other's forearm with their hand above the other's wrist.

"Don't worry," Cadden responded, as they let go of their grip. "I will."

Cadden spent the majority of the rest of the day at the firing range. He was determined to reach the advanced program. After several hours of religiously practicing his marksmanship found himself regaining his skill with the blaster far quicker, now that he had retrained himself in how to shoot. Cadden grabbed some food and retired to his quarters for the evening. He accessed the information he retrieved earlier and started to comb through it, and stopped when he saw a particular file, hesitating only a moment before opening it. It was a note Renalla left for him after their mission on Talmohkt, the last he ever heard from her until he visited Ronu III years later.

My love,

As I write this you are asleep. If the light wakes you, I’ll have some explaining to do, but at this moment you are sleeping peacefully. I must leave you, why and to where I wish I could say. I cannot quiet this part of me which fears that, should you learn the truth, it would hurt you far more than this letter and my disappearance ever will.

I fear that you have lost so much already that you cannot bear to lose more. I think that you would let the galaxy be destroyed if you thought it would ‘save’ me.

But I cannot be saved. I can, however, try to save you. I know you won't understand, and I wish I had the strength to tell you. My fate is my own. My choice is my own.

If somehow we both meet again, I will explain why I left. Know that I made my choice there in the Temple. Know that I did not make it gladly, and do not take the burden of it onto yourself. Be at peace, my love, and walk what path you will.

All my love,

Cadden leaned back in his chair. It wasn't until he traveled to Ronu III that he finally learned all that was to be learned of her disappearance. Guan and Jerik had told him what happened to her, but they knew little more. She was afflicted by her disease, and knew what losing her would have done to him. She was only trying to protect him. And, perhaps, she knew he would eventually meet Lillian. It was a stretch, but anything was possible. He had come to terms with her leaving him, and her passing, long ago, however.

After a few minutes of reflection, Cadden closed the file and continued to dig through the information. He found the transponder codes he used while as Mandalore, as well as other useful information that identified him as a part of the Protectors. He even came across information for his personal holonet frequencies. On a whim, he chose to download this information into his armor and work to configure it the way his previous set had been.

Cadden combed through his list of contacts, evaluating each carefully. He had many that were now obsolete, and many he had to determine if they were still worth keeping as contacts. He came across Jaylin's contact information. He hadn't spoken to the man for three years. Since the Xen'Chi attacked Mandalore.

Since before he fell to the dark side and became Darth Trayus.

Cadden wondered if Jaylin's opinions of him were any different, now. He wasn't wholly fond of what Cadden had done as the Mandalore, though he was coming to agree with it in Cadden's latter moments leading the Protectors. If word got out that Cadden became Darth Trayus, would Jaylin look at him with disgust and contempt? Would he try to turn Cadden in? The smuggler had little understanding of the Force itself, not being capable of using it, but he did know plenty of morality and good and evil. Which would he see Cadden as? The monster he was, or the man seeking redemption?

Cadden opted to keep the contact information, but he was hesitant to use it, communications silence or not. He saw Cazzik Wyn's contact, as well, and opted to keep it. Despite the terms they've parted on, Cadden considered the man his only non-Mandalorian friend and ally. He continued to go through the list until he came upon Dahdtoudi's name. He narrowed his eyes and his heart began to race as the hatred started to boil inside him. Cadden thought back once more to the moment he learned of Dahdtoudi's betrayal. The man had a run-on with Kroda's thugs and was "convinced" to turn Lillian in to them. He went behind Cadden's back and handed her over without him even knowing at the time. Cadden had made him pay for what he had done, however, by encasing him in carbonite while still in his armor. It was the single worst thing Cadden had ever done to someone, and he never regretted it. Not even now, years later, looking at it again. I would do it again, if I had to relive that moment, he thought. Dahdtoudi died a slow, agonizing death beginning that day.

But then, why was Cadden so hesitant to delete his contact information? If he was so sure he killed the man, why was he refraining from removing the frequency from his list? Cadden stared at the name for a moment longer before deleting it. He's dead, he reminded himself. No point in continuing to remind myself of the misdeeds of a dead man. Besides, to believe otherwise is idiotic.

Cadden finished his cleanup after about half an hour, and came to the conclusion there were few he could trust anymore, and fewer still he was willing to contact, at least at this time. He closed out the interface and retired his helmet and wrist pad to their resting place. The rest of the night he spent continuing his studies in Mando'a and Mandalorian culture, before he finally retired late.

He had managed to get a solid lead on where they had taken her. It took no small amount of favors collected on for Cadden to get this information, and he was determined to make Kroda and his goons pay. He tracked them down to Comra, nestled near the border of the Outer Rim Territories and the Unknown Regions. It was a small, nearly obsolete world within the Outer Rim's Dead Zone, and the perfect hiding place in such a circumstance. Now, he was only minutes away from arriving in the system.

Pursuer II soon dropped out of lightspeed, and as Cadden finished his preparations in the cockpit his stomach suddenly sank. One could have called it a bad feeling, a Jedi might have labeled it as feeling a disturbance in the Force. In either case, he looked up from the controls of his ship, at a world ravaged by war. "No," he muttered. "No, no, no!"

Cadden quickly got to work and amped his sensors to as high of a level they could tolerate, while simultaneously stretching out with the Force.

The planet had no lifeforms. "No!" Cadden slammed his fist against the bulkhead in anger and frustration before leaning back in his chair. Cadden just stared at the planet in hopelessness. "Lillian.…"

Cadden opened his eyes, and soon found himself unable to go back to sleep. He pushed himself out of bed and left his quarters, and made his way outside to take in the brisk night air. He had later learned that it was the Xen'Chi who were responsible for the massacre on Comra, and it was because of that he took up arms against them. It wasn't due to some higher calling; all he was after was vengeance.

A conversation he once had with Teslar Maladan suddenly came to mind. Vivid, clear.

"I can sense the dark side within you," Teslar said calmly. "But, unlike other Jedi, that taint is much more natural with you, and I feel it is supposed to be there, to keep you in check, should your destiny be fulfilled."

"And what may that be?" Cadden asked, curious as to what the man's answer might be.

"I cannot say," Teslar said, "for only you can fully comprehend your own destiny. The only thing I can say is… I sense that your destiny will take you down a path all too familiar, and if you are not careful, it will consume you to the darkness you have been in a constant fight with these past twelve years."

"I'm not afraid of the dark side," Cadden said. "I have confronted it twice, and turned from it both times."

"Ah, but both times, it was not you who had defeated it. It was your friends, your family, who had faced it, and helped you destroy it. Your dark side, Lost Jedi, is one that is too powerful for you to confront alone... unless you increase your training, and your control over yourself." Teslar turned and started to walk away from Cadden. "Remember this: all of us have a dark side to confront, and until we overcome it ourselves, it is possible that it will return. It is a constant struggle between what is right and wrong, between selfish desires and selfless actions."

Cadden leaned against the railing and looked up at the clear night sky. He could hear the wildlife all around him, and soon he found himself staring at the planet's two moons. Well, whaddya know? Cadden mused. The old bastard was right once again.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Cadden brought the Final Ceremony into low orbit above Mandalore's moon Concordia. The three Mandalorians he brought with him were quick to get to work in initiating their planetary scans. They needed a full detail analysis of the surface below, else the mission ahead would be for nothing. While his passengers were looking for suitable locations for a safe house or two, Cadden was attempting to locate something much different.

After scanning several of the mining sites on the world, Cadden compiled a list of possibilities and looked at the others. "Do we have what we need?" he asked.

"All set," his copilot said. "You sure you want to do this, Blackthorne? It could get us all killed."

No, he thought, I most definitely am not sure about this. But there was no turning back, now. No doubt Garen would have caught word that the ship had left Mandalore, and it was only a matter of time before he'd be chasing it, personally. "Just do as I say, and follow my lead," he said. "We'll get out of this alive and unharmed."

He brought the ship down to the pre-designated landing spot he chose the night before. There would be nothing important about the site, or anything nearby. They had scoped out several mining sites as possible satellite operations, but this wasn't one of them. As the Final Ceremony touched down, his copilot spoke up.

"Looks like we've got incoming," he announced. "It's Garen, all right."

"Stick with the plan," Cadden said. "The only way this goes south is if he causes it." Cadden had no intention to start a war. He wanted to talk to Garen, and he suspected that Garen was going to prefer the same. The resistance movement had proven to him that they would not go down quietly, and Cadden had his suspicions that, if Garen learned he was now leading them, then the man would much rather get a surrender out of him than kill him.

It was a rather risky gamble, but it was one Cadden was willing to make. He departed from the Final Ceremony and led the Mandalorians inside the mine. They found the main facility command terminal and activated the mine's power, bringing the essential systems to life. Cadden noted the power was stressed and weak. Fortunately, they weren't anticipating using it for much. The surface bunker's security cameras still functioned properly, and that's all he needed. He nodded to the other three Mandalorians as he saw Garen's ship touch down on the opposite side of the circular mining quarry. The other Mandalorians obediently left the room, and Cadden narrowed his eyes as he saw Garen leave his ship accompanied by two others. One sported the unmistakable sigil of the Death Watch, the other a red mythosaur skull. He knew Garen wouldn't come alone, but based on their armament, he could only expect the worst.

"Stay alert," he said over their local comm frequency. "He brought company, and they look like they mean business. Remember the key phrase."

Cadden met Garen and his escorts in the first staging site for the mine. "So you did survive," Garen said, a hint of admiration in his voice. "Though I can't say I'm not surprised to see you here, Blackthorne. And I see in a new set of armor, with your traditional colors."

Cadden ran a gloved hand along the railing near the room's mining laser. He casually looked at the dirt before rubbing it off with his fingers. "You sound disappointed," he said.

"When I learned Kyr's ship was leaving Mandalore, I wasn't expecting you," Garen admitted. "Tell me, did he survive, as well?" Cadden didn't respond. "Of course you won't say. I was intent on ending this between him and me personally, but, well, plans seem to have changed. Tell me, did they put you in charge of their traitorous rebellion?"

"You know you don't need to ask that," Cadden said. Garen motioned his two Mandalorians, who left the way they came. Cadden narrowed his eyes, but held his tongue. There was no proof that Garen was about to make a move. "You going to kill me, just as you were planning to kill Kyr?"

"Kill you?" Garen said, amused. "No, you present a rather unique opportunity for me." He started to walk down the catwalk toward the junction that would lead to Cadden's position. "If you took over Kyr's position as these traitors' leader, then I'm offering you a proposition." Cadden remained silent. "Turn yourselves in, cease all your operations. Swear fealty to me and my plans for the Mando'ade. In turn, there doesn't have to be any more bloodshed between us. All will be forgiven and forgotten. I'll even give you a position of honor in the Council, just to sweeten the deal." Garen rounded the corner of the catwalk and stopped after a few more steps. He was now only meters away from Cadden's position. "I could use you by my side, Blackthorne. Truly by my side this time. Think of all we could accomplish together."

"Through the deaths of innocents?" Cadden said. "I've been there. I have no intention of going back. Ever."

"There are no innocents in war," Garen said with a hint of disgust in his voice. "And I will do what it takes to ensure our future is a bright one. No matter the cost." Garen took another step, and noted Cadden's hand hovering dangerously close to his EE-3 carbine rifle. He stopped and held up his hands to stay Cadden. "If I wanted you dead, Cadden, I would have killed you by now."

"Or so you claim," Cadden said.

Garen shook his head. "I'll take this as a no, then," he said. Cadden didn't respond or move his hand away. "Fine. Against my better judgment, I'll give you some time to reconsider. But I warn you, if you do not stand down, I will not hesitate, and I will not hold back." Garen turned and walked toward the entrance. He stopped short. "The clans have already spoken," he called over his shoulder. "They prefer strength and the glory of battle. Not your pacifist goals. You will lose. I merely offer you amnesty. You have three days." Garen walked through the door, leaving Cadden alone in the chamber.

Minutes later, he was meeting his crewmembers outside the mine. Garen and his two Mandalorians were already long gone. "Well?" one of them asked. Cadden didn't answer. "I take it your little chat didn't go the way you had hoped."

"No," Cadden said, "it didn't." He remained silent for a moment longer. "Did you find what we came here for?"

The copilot nodded. "Didn't take long," he said. "The link was difficult to establish, at first, but we were able to bypass the protocols and get what we could. Though I wouldn't expect it to go unnoticed."

"I'm counting on Garen to discover the intrusion," Cadden said. "Let's get to work, before our window of opportunity closes." Cadden and the Mandalorians went back to the Final Ceremony and the copilot produced a data disk, inserting it into the ship's computer. They scoured the information before they found what they were looking for.

"There," Cadden said, pointing to the coordinates on the holo map display. A warehouse in the industrial district of Meshurok, the capital of the moon, named so because its inhabitants believed it to be the central hub of all Concordia and as prized as a jewel. The building supposedly housed information on the whereabouts of Death Watch members on Concordia. Though it was possible the warehouse was a fortress. Or a dead end. The information they were able to extract from the link to Garen's ship may not have been the most accurate, or he was banking on them finding it and it would lead them to a trap. Either way, Cadden considered it well worth the risk.

He brought the Final Ceremony to the city's spaceport and landed the ship in one of the docking bays. "There is no guarantee the warehouse will even be occupied," Cadden noted as they departed the craft. "However, it should give us an idea on their operations. We'll scrub the place clean for any discernable clues as to their whereabouts."

"I'm telling you, Blackthorne, you're wasting your time," the copilot said. "The Death Watch are under Garen's thumb. They've got no reason to hide, here or anywhere else."

Cadden ignored the man. He had his reasons, which was all that mattered presently. Even if it were a colossal waste of time and resources. But, either way, they wouldn't be leaving Concordia empty handed. He lead the three into the industrial district. There were no signs of Death Watch activity, and it appeared they would be chasing a dead end the closer they got to their target.

They approached the entrance to the designated warehouse, though Cadden was still not entirely sure what to expect. "Stay vigilant," he said over their local frequency. "Assume we're not alone until we have determined otherwise." The lack of Death Watch activity in the district seemed to suggest the organization held no presence, here. However, Cadden knew better than most that looks were deceiving. Just because it appeared to be a dead end didn't mean it truly was. The Death Watch could have just as easily been watching them, or luring them into a trap.

They walked into the main entrance of the warehouse, and after a few seconds of looking around Cadden held his arm out to stall his companions. "This building has been used recently," he noted. Years of bounty hunting experience kicked in as he analyzed the receiving dock. The equipment did not have nearly as much dust on it as it should have if it were laying dormant and unused, and there was some faint sound coming from what Cadden could only guess was the staging area for shipments. "No deaths," he warned them, then signaled them to fan out into a forward operation formation. There were two doors that led into the massive storage room, and Cadden took point as they scanned the area, directing his EE-3 at every possible cover location.

The group progressed further into the building and Cadden could hear the sound getting louder. Machinery. He lead the Mandalorians around a turn and the group came upon a door that muffled the noise only slightly. They dodged to either side of the door in breaching formation, and Cadden was the one who toggled the switch. The machinery was loud enough to cancel out the sound of the door opening and the four Mandalorians ducked behind cover to avoid the individuals in the room happening to notice their presence. Cadden noted they were running smelting and forging equipment. He exchanged a blank look behind his helmet with the others.

"Production's at eighty-two percent," one man said. He was wearing full body armor, sans helmet. "Boss wants it up to ninety by the end of the week."

"This equipment isn't exactly in great shape," another said. "We stress the machinery too much, who knows what it'll do?"

"Besides," a female spoke up, walking up to the equipment, "we have a very limited supply to work with. We cannot afford any mistakes in the forging process."

"We're supposed to be getting a repair team in here in the next couple days," the first said. "In the meanwhile, push it as hard as you safely can." Cadden caught a glance at the man's shoulder plate. Death Watch. So they did have a small operation here, and they were working on something big, by the sound of it.

"Kyr would want to know about this," one of his companions said.

"He'll know when I'm ready to tell him," Cadden said. "There's little we can do about it, now, anyway. Even if we stop this operation, another will just take its place."

"Then we blow it," the other Mandalorian suggested. "Stop them in their tracks."

"If they're refining beskar, then it would be detrimental to all Mando'ade to destroy this forge," the copilot said. "And they'd just relocate to another."

Cadden nodded in agreement. "Besides, this warehouse isn't my objective," he said. The four observed the three Mandalorians in the refinery a moment longer. "On my command." They waited patiently, and Cadden motioned them to move just as the Mandalorians had their backs to the door.

Cadden and his three companions sprung into action. The copilot delivered a swift, but nonfatal blow to the forge operator as the other two apprehended the other Mandalorians. Cadden assisted steadying the operator, securing his arm in a tight hold. "Easy," he said to the man. "The more you struggle, the more it will hurt."

"Go to Hell," the forge operator spat. Cadden quickly twisted the man's arm back, stopping just at the point of pain. The man grunted.

"What's the Death Watch planning?" Cadden asked calmly. None of them were willing to answer and so Cadden twisted again, this time harder. The forge operator's grunt turned to a yell. "The next one breaks it. What are Garen's plans?"

"You think I'll cave under pain?" the man said. "I am a Mandalorian. I am a proud member of the Death Watch. You can't - ARGH!" He was interrupted by a loud snapping sound as Cadden delivered on his promise.

"Hold him," Cadden said and let go of the Mandalorian. He approached the other man and grabbed him by the collar. Cadden pinned him to the ground with his knee pressed firmly against the Mandalorian's neck, just enough to cause him discomfort. "I won't ask again," he said, his voice dark.

The Mandalorian grinned, despite his position. "Go ahead and kill me," he said, and spat at Cadden. "You'll never get anything from me."

Cadden threw a powerful punch, knocking the man out cold. He looked to the woman. "You won't survive this," she told him, confident despite her situation. "As soon as Mand'alor finds out-"

"I'm counting on it," Cadden interrupted. She looked at him, bewildered. Cadden nodded to the two Mandalorians who were restraining her and motioned toward the forge. "I told them no casualties," he continued, approaching them as they held her head close to the equipment. "But I can make exceptions."

"Blackthorne, you sure this is a good idea?" the copilot asked.

"I'm in control," Cadden assured the man.

"Blackthorne?" the woman repeated. She chuckled. "As soon as Garen learns you're alive.…"

"He already knows." Cadden nodded to the two who were restraining her and they pushed her head dangerously close to the smelting pot. She started to sweat profusely and grow uncomfortable. "Last chance."

"The central operations console," the Mandalorian with the broken arm spoke up. Cadden turned his head to look at the man. "You'll find all you need to know, there." Cadden nodded to the two, who pulled the woman away.

"Bind all of them," he ordered. "I have a message to deliver to Garen." He focused on the broken armed man. "And you're going to be the envoy."

The three were incapacitated and secured to a support beam. Cadden ordered his men to sabotage the refining equipment while he searched the central operations console for the information he sought. He downloaded all the data present into a disk and, once complete, he returned to the refinery. "We all set?" Cadden asked.

The copilot nodded. "They'll be in for quite the surprise when they go to fix it," he said.

* * *

Nearly half an hour later, Garen arrived on the scene. He ordered the Mandalorians who accompanied him to fan out and check the warehouse for their intruders. He went to the security room to check the feeds and soon found their anomaly. With the information in hand and feedback that the area was clear, Garen met his men in the refinery. He approached the restrained Mandalorians, all three were out cold. He knelt down in front of one of them and examined him. On his green chestplate was a symbol painted black, covering the entire piece of armor. He looked at the man's shoulder plate, where his Death Watch symbol was, and in black it was crossed out. "So your answer is no," he said. He got up. "Wake them up and untie them," he ordered. He looked back at the one Cadden left the symbol on and took note of his arm. "Get this one medical attention. I need to make a call." If Blackthorne wanted to play rough, Garen was willing to play rough. Cadden was used to being the hunter, it was time to see how well he fared being the hunted.

An hour later, Garen was approached by one of his men. "Did you find them?" he asked.

"Yes, Mand'alor," the man responded. "Sensors indicate the beacon settled in the Olankur forest, near the mountains."

"Send Jerris in," Garen ordered. "He's authorized to take as many men as he sees fit. I want them dead. All of them."

Garen was kept up to speed on the following reports as he made his way toward the coordinates, himself. The deployed Mandalorians were the first on the scene, and communicated their findings to him as he reached a few kilometers out.

"We found the beacon, Mand'alor," Jerris said over the comm. "There's nothing else here. No indications whatsoever of activity. This place is a dead end."

"Damnit," Garen muttered. They must have discovered the homing device and jettisoned it. This told Garen something incredibly valuable about Blackthorne: the man was returning to his former self. He was growing dangerous, nearly as much as Kyr. And Garen was starting to run out of wild cards to play against him. He didn't expect the resistance to be this stubborn to get rid of. All he needed, however, were coordinates. Garen felt it was about time to meet with Kyla and utilize the full extent of her assets.

* * *

Cadden landed the Final Ceremony safely within the compound of the resistance headquarters. He had made certain that no one had followed them, flying as low under the radar as possible and avoiding all manner of traffic. It meant taking a long and tiring route back, but if it meant avoiding detection and having all their plans undone, it was worth it.

His copilot had made note of a slight fluctuation in the ship's overall mass after Cadden's encounter with Garen, but Cadden dismissed it until it came up again on their way back to Mandalore. One of the others took a look around the outside of the ship between the planet and the moon and discovered the homing beacon. They jettisoned it above the Olankur forests, so as to throw Garen and his men off their trail, before ducking under the radar.

As the ship powered down Cadden noted Jahaal approaching the landing area to meet with them. Cadden was the last one out of the gunship, and stopped at the bottom of the ramp to meet Jahaal. Kyr's oldest son was something of a puzzle to Cadden, one he was still trying to figure out. "Jahaal," Cadden said with a nod, before edging past him, "to what do I owe the pleasure?" Cadden joined his copilot in the post flight checks and inspections of the craft.

"You have visitors," Jahaal said.

Cadden glanced at Jahaal over his shoulder but kept working. "They'll have to wait," he said, returning his focus to the M22-T. "I don't have time for another debriefing or tactical maneuver. Once I'm done with the Ceremony, we need to get this information analyzed. Unless I missed my guess, it'll give us some vital information to end this."

Jahaal shook his head. "They are here on personal business. One said it was urgent he spoke to you as soon as possible." Cadden stopped what he was doing and looked at Jahaal square in the eyes. There wasn't a single Mandalorian that would have had personal business with Cadden. "He's no threat to any of us, I guarantee you."

"So you know him," Cadden said. Jahaal didn't respond. "Where is he?"

"Waiting in the commons," Jahaal just said. "I wouldn't keep him waiting long, if I were you." The man walked away, leaving Cadden with a dozen questions.

He looked back at the ship and the three other Mandalorians working it. "You mind finishing my bit up, as well?" he asked the copilot after a second. "Something has come up that requires my attention."

Cadden arrived in the commons and stopped right inside the entrance. He narrowed his eyes momentarily, but dismissed the reaction and approached the three individuals waiting for him. "Guan," he said, "what in the blazes are you doing here? I told you not to come looking for me."

"I know, father, but I need your help," Guan said. "We need your help." Cadden raised an eyebrow. "It's Jerik. He's... he's fallen to the dark side."

Cadden managed to suppress his reaction as a thousand feelings surged through him. The most predominant of which was guilt. The last thing he had told Jerik was to stay with Guan and the Jedi. He wasn't doing it out of neglect or avoiding responsibilities, but rather because he cared. Cadden cared that Jerik didn't follow in his footsteps, and he believed the Jedi could have helped with that. "Are you sure?" he managed to say.

Guan nodded and revealed to Cadden his near fatal wound. "I've already tried to save him," he said, "it nearly cost me my life." Guan covered the scar. "I need your help, father. I need you to save him, to bring him home."

"How could I possibly save him if you couldn't?" Cadden asked.

Guan gave him a knowing look. "I may be his brother," he said, "but I'm also a Jedi. You're his father." Those words hit Cadden hard. He was Jerik's father, but he had done such a poor job at it, it felt more like an attack on his lack of ability than a vote of confidence. He knew Guan had high hopes in his ability to bring Jerik back from the dark side, but it didn't help him feel any better.

"I've got priorities, here," Cadden said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. "The Mandalorians need me, else they'll fall to ruin, and the galaxy would follow."

"Your son needs you," Guan argued. "Your family needs you." Cadden remained silent. "We're stronger together than we are apart," Guan pressed. "Please, father."

Cadden took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Give me until sundown," he finally said. It wasn't the answer Guan wanted, and it did nothing to satisfy him, but Cadden needed those two hours to clear his head. He felt nauseous, like he had when he awoke from being stripped of the Force. This new development didn't help to get him back on track.

"Search yourself, you know this is the right thing to do," Guan said. "We'll be back here when you're ready."

Cadden nodded. "I'll see to getting you some accommodations," he said. He's right, of course, he thought, as he left Guan, Neddac, and Ryy'Suuk in the commons. It is my responsibility to save Jerik. But he also owed the Mandalorians for what he had done. And if there was any truth in what Kyr had told him and Jeston.…

Cadden needed to seek the counsel of Kyr and Freedom on this predicament. He needed some outside perspective, and if either of them were ever put in a similar situation, he knew their choices would not be in vain. He made the call to meet the two and, half an hour later, he was face to face with them.

"Guan is here," he simply said. He looked at each of the two in turn. "He needs my help in finding Jerik, my other son."

"Don't tell me you're planning to run off on some personal errand again," Kyr said. Cadden could detect a hint of concern and, perhaps, even disgust, in the man's voice.

"What other choice do I have?" Cadden asked. "Jerik is in trouble. If Guan goes after him, alone, I could lose both my sons."

"We need you, here, Cadden," Freedom reminded him. "If you leave us, now, the Mando'ade will be in a bad spot."

"I know this is difficult for you," Kyr said, "but you must trust us."

"And what would you have me do?" Cadden said, his voice elevated to near shouting. "Let Guan go off to die? Would you say the same if it was Kera?" He paused and looked at Freedom square in the eyes. "What if Kata's life was on the line? Would you stand idly by and see her to her demise?" Cadden saw Freedom tense up a bit, but Kyr settled him.

"Udesii," Kyr said.

"Guan's life is at stake," Cadden said. "Jerik's taken to the dark side. Because of me. And you expect me to calm down when you're telling me to just cast away their need for my help? Guan will go after him. With our without me."

"Then I'll go with him," Freedom offered. "If Jerik is truly fallen, Guan will need someone by his side who can help him bring him back."

Cadden shook his head. "It has to be me."

"Why?" Kyr asked. "What's so damn important that you're the only one in this whole galaxy suited for the task? Just two months ago you weren't even capable of saving yourself."

Cadden looked at him long and hard. "Because I'm his father, and this is my doing."

Kyr met the look. "You do this," he said slowly, "and we all die. Not just the Mando'ade. Guan, Jerik, the Republic, the Empire. The Jetiise. Everyone dies. If you want Guan to live, if you want Jerik to live, you cannot abandon us." He paused a moment. "Send someone you trust will keep him alive. Send Freedom."

"No," Cadden said, his voice filled with defeat. Guan wouldn't like this, but the prophecy Kyr was told reminded Cadden of the importance of his being there, and how dire a situation it would be if he did not remain the Mandalorians. "If someone is to go, it needs to be someone Guan knows well and can trust." He paused a few seconds, weighing his options. The list was small, and in the end, there was only one man who Cadden could send. But the question was whether or not he would go. It was his only choice. "I need to speak with Kevin Rasok."

Cadden delivered on his promise and met with Guan again at dusk. He entered the commons to see all three of them waiting for him patiently. "I'm sorry, son," he said slowly, "but if I leave the Mandalorians, now, everyone could suffer for it." Guan frowned. "Believe me, this isn't an easy decision for me. If I had the choice, I would go with you. Jerik needs to be brought home."

"You do have the choice," Guan said, his voice betraying his hardened exterior. "What's so important about your position, here, that you would abandon your family?"

Cadden turned his back to his son to hide the hurt on his face, though he suspected Guan would be able to tell through the Force. "If I abandon the Mandalorians for this, then it will be for nothing," he said slowly. "Everyone will perish. Not just the Mandalorians, but the Jedi as well. The Republic, the Empire... Jerik, you. Everyone dies." He turned to face Guan. "That's not a risk I am willing to take. If I go with you, Guan, both you and Jerik will die."

"I thought you couldn't feel the Force anymore," Guan said.

"I can't." Cadden paused a moment. "Kyr learned this from someone. And if he believes it, then I will believe it, as well."

Guan was quiet during the long silence that followed. "Do you really believe what he believes?" he finally asked. "That if you leave the Mandalorians to help me find Jerik and save him, it will be the end?"

Cadden nodded. "I would be leaving with you right now if I didn't," he said. "If I even doubted it for a second. There's something about the warning he was given that seems so... familiar, somehow."

"What warning?"

Cadden took a second to decide whether he should tell Guan. Ultimately, he saw no harm in it. "A great fire that will ravage the galaxy and leave it in ruin and darkness. Something about a burning shadow coming to consume everything." Cadden noted Guan's reaction. "Guan, what's wrong?"

"I've heard this before," Guan said. "Who told Kyr of this?"

Cadden just shrugged. "We don't know," he said. "Just someone he encountered in his travels these past couple years." Cadden looked at Guan long and hard. "You need to go," he said. "I don't want you caught up in the middle of this."

Guan sighed and shook his head. "Then my father is truly dead."

Those words hurt Cadden more than he could have ever anticipated. "Cadden Blackthorne has been dead for years," he managed to say. Guan turned to leave. "Guan," Cadden called out to him. He stopped as the door opened. "Be careful, son. I don't want to lose either of you."

"Seems like you already have," Guan said, and the three left Cadden alone.

The door closed and Cadden stood there for a moment, before he drove his fist into the nearest object as hard as he could. "Haar'chak!" He yelled. The armored glove left a dent in the crate and Cadden shook off the pain it subsequently caused.

Cadden's comm unit signaled an incoming call. "What is it?" he said into the device, his voice full of anger and spite.

"Blackthorne," Jahaal's voice responded, "you might want to come look at this." Cadden looked at the door a moment longer. "Blackthorne?"

"I'm on my way," he finally said. Cadden made his way to the makeshift command center, where Jahaal and others had been working on combing through the data they had collected on Concordia. "What did you find?" He asked as he walked in the room. He had a chance to calm down, though his voice was still heavy with anger and spite.

Jahaal clearly noticed, but chose not to inquire. Instead, he triggered the display and a map of Concordia appeared. "Take a look at this," he said.

Cadden approached the console and got a long, hard look at the area highlighted. "That's the place," he said. "Call everyone in." Jahaal nodded. Cadden got to work putting the data together. He took the information to the briefing room, where he noted there were already several Mandalorians gathered. But not all.

Once the last of the officers arrived, Cadden triggered the display. "The mission on Concordia was a success," he said, "and it is time to strike at Garen's Death Watch, show him and his supporters we will not back down. Intelligence gathered while on Concordia indicates the Death Watch has taken up residence in one of the abandoned beskar mines, and they are in the process of using what they can find to outfit their ranks. This operation must be stopped at all costs. Kyr and I will lead the assault, personally, and put an end to their operations at this location."

There was an uproar of commotion, as Cadden could expect. Bringing Kyr out of hiding seemed contradictory toward what the man was trying to accomplish.

"Silence!" Cadden shouted, letting his emotions from earlier carry his voice. The room grew quiet, fast. "This decision is not being made without thought."

"Are you brain-dead?" one of them asked. "If Garen learns that Kyr lives, all will be undone."

"We are nearing the tipping point," Cadden argued. "Soon, it will be irrelevant. Garen already suspects Kyr is still alive. Keeping Kyr hidden will do nothing to change his resolve to end this resistance." Cadden paused a moment. "What's coming cannot be stopped," he continued. "There is no other choice."

Cadden went on to brief all the members present in their roles in the upcoming battle. It was the turning point they needed, and if they pulled it off, perhaps the scales could even tip in their favor. Cadden, of course, had a secondary reason for the raid, and informed the gathered they would extract all information from the base's databanks to use to their advantage.

At the end of his briefing, he looked at each one of them. "If all goes according to plan," he said, "we could see an end to this before any more blood is spilled. Play your roles, don't go trying to be a hero, and this could be the turning point we've been looking for. We leave at the break of dawn." With that, the assembled began to fan out.

"What if it's a trap?" Freedom asked when everyone left.

"Then we'll spring it," Cadden simply said. "We can't afford to let this slide."

"We also cannot afford to walk into a trap," Kyr reminded him. "These are not odds I approve of. There's too much at stake."

"And if we just ignore this data, we could miss a vital opportunity to cripple Garen's Death Watch support," Cadden argued. "I know what I'm doing."

"I hope so," Kyr said. "Else all will be lost."
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Dawn came and, with it, the small attack force Cadden had scrounged together was making its final preparations for the short trip to Concordia. Within the hour they would be lifting off with the scant number of forces at their disposal to attack the Death Watch bunker. Cadden and Kyr were taking the Final Ceremony as the point of lead, in hopes it would draw Garen out in the open once more, and alongside them were a small handful of personal fighters and small transport craft. They had maybe three dozen Mandalorians accompanying them to the assault site, and the main attack force was being led by Freedom. Cadden opted to bring him along to make up for their lack of sufficient numbers. Accompanying Freedom on the field was Beviin, who would serve as the XO of the main assault and claiming of the mine while Cadden and Kyr ventured inside to gather the information the location possessed.

It was not a perfect plan, but it was a plan, and the best one they had, given the circumstances. Cadden was placing a rather risky gamble on this operation, but if the intelligence was true, then it would give them what they would need to end this before it got any worse. Kyr was, rightfully so, still fairly apprehensive toward the validity of their lead, but after Cadden's further reassurances, he ceased to ask him to reconsider the plan.

"We need any advantage we can get," he had argued after they were alone. "Garen has superior numbers, firepower, and resources. He has the support of the majority of the clans, and he's constantly on the lookout for any of our activities. If we pass up an opportunity such as this, we could be sealing our fate."

"What are you hoping to find that makes this particular op so damn important?" Kyr responded. "One beskar mine is no different from another."

"Information," Cadden simply said. "If my suspicions are correct, this mine will give us valuable intel about the Death Watch."

"And not Garen?"

Cadden shook his head. "He truly believes in what he's doing," he said. "He's not what worries me, now."

Kyr narrowed his eyes. "What's going on, Cadden?" he asked. "What are you not telling me?"

"I wish I knew," Cadden said, "but this doesn't feel right." Cadden was never one to ignore his gut feeling, a fact Kyr knew all too well. More often than not, it turned out to be true, in some form or another. "I think this is more than just you against him."

Cadden watched as the rest of their preparations were finished up, and glanced to his right as he noted Kyr walk to his side. Cadden nodded to him in silence, and Kyr just gave him a short nod in return. He could never tell what was on the man's mind, and he hid his emotions and thoughts well. Even with the Force, it was impossible to read the man. "What's on your mind, Kyr?" he asked.

Kyr remained silent for a brief moment, as though he were contemplating his answer. But Cadden knew him better than that. The man was simply deciding if he should give him his answer. Finally, he spoke. "If this doesn't work," he said, "we're going to find ourselves in deep osik." Cadden didn't respond, giving him the benefit of the doubt that there was more to be said. "However," he continued, "on the other hand, if we succeed, here, and get what you're looking for, we could bring this all to an end." He looked at Cadden hard. "Garen destroyed my homestead, and nearly killed my aliit not once, but twice. Even if this is brought to a relatively peaceful end, I cannot guarantee I will not have him answer for these atrocities."

"I understand," Cadden said. "He will answer for what he's done, I promise you that. But it cannot be done rashly. Simply killing Garen will not end this, else that would have been your solution long ago." He gave Kyr a genuinely earnest look. "Take it from me, you do not want to go down that road."

"Can you be trusted?" Kyr's question was blunt, and stung a little. Kyr looked over at Cadden, square in the eyes. "Are you of clear mind? You came to us broken and unwilling, simply trying to escape your misdeeds. And those who would see you dead."

"I am dead," Cadden said, putting his helmet back on. "My son even said so. What does a dead man run from?" He left Kyr's side and strode toward the Final Ceremony.

"Himself," he heard Kyr's voice from behind. Cadden only hesitated a second before he continued to the ship. The walk seemed to take forever, and there were no more words exchanged between the two until they had lifted off the landing pad. "What happened between you and Guan?" Kyr finally asked.

Cadden stared out the viewport as they broke atmosphere. "A difference of opinion," he said slowly.

Kyr wasn't having it. "You don't react this way to a difference of opinion," he said. "What happened?"

Cadden thought on those words a moment. Concordia is only a stone throw away, he thought. If I keep quiet long enough, there won't be time for a sufficient answer. But he knew that wouldn't happen. Even with difficult conversations, Cadden felt comfortable speaking with Kyr. "I was faced with the most difficult choice in my life," he finally said. "Choose my family, or my allegiance." He looked at Kyr through his visor. Kyr didn't have to ask what Cadden chose. "I'll never be your Mand'alor again," he continued. "Even if we do beat Garen, the Mando'ade won't follow me, no matter what method I choose. You are the rightful next choice, not me. The people respect you, they would follow you. I can fight for that, but what I have to sacrifice to do even this? No title is worth the price of my family. I'm through letting them pay for my mistakes. You asked if you could trust in my state of mind. That is your answer. I'm no good to you or your resistance. I'm not even any good to my sons. I refused them both in their time of need, based on the dreams of some prophet."

"If you went with them, they would surely die," Kyr said. "I need you in the here and the now, Cadden. This is their only chance at survival in the war ahead."

Cadden scoffed. "I'm starting to doubt your prophet, Kyr," he said. "If you believe in these damned visions so much, why don't you lay it all on the line for them?"

"I am." Cadden looked back from the moon coming up. "If we fail, I lose everything. My holdings, my honor, my family. It all is sacrificed. If not here, and now, then when the war comes. That's what makes you so damned important."

Cadden fell silent for the rest of the short journey. They led the other Mandalorians to the coordinates of the bunker and the handful of ships set down in the large mining crater. There were two other Mandalorian ships present, neither of which were Garen's. Cadden felt a ping of relief wash over him, as odd a sensation that may have seemed. Their presence means we're not walking into a trap. Or, at the very least, if they were, it would be easier to spring.

"What do you think?" Cadden said.

"We were not followed, which makes me suspicious," Kyr said, "but the site is not abandoned, either, which tells me we may not be expected."

"Or the trap is waiting for us underneath, and they plan to simply bury us," Cadden interjected. He could not rule out the possibility that the ships' presence was merely a farce, or that the Death Watch was willing to sacrifice its own for its agenda. The notion of being buried alive was not a pleasant one. Regardless, there was only one direction to go. Forward.

He met the others outside. "Stay vigilant," he instructed. "I doubt they'll make this so easy for us."

"It's a ploy," Freedom agreed, looking around. "I strongly advise against entering the mine."

"Your advice is noted," Cadden said dismissively. "Establish your perimeter. Be prepared to defend your positions."

Freedom nodded and relayed the command. "K'oyacyi," he said to them both after the others started moving. Cadden merely turned and led Kyr into the mine.

It was dark and quiet, arguably too quiet. "I don't like this," Kyr muttered over their local comm frequency. "There are two small transport ships in the crater, and this place feels as though nobody is here." Cadden remained silent as they moved deeper into the mine. He could hear the faint sound of shouting as the others above began to engage in combat.

"Perhaps they were waiting in one of the bunkers up top," Cadden said, "hoping to put us all to our deaths down here."

They made their way to the mine's command center, a room barely large enough to be considered for its designated purpose. There were two main terminals at the far wall, and one Mandalorian manning them. He turned as the door opened and reached for his sidearm, only to be met with a blaster bolt to the chest. Kyr lowered his blaster and nodded to Cadden to enter the room. He secured the door behind them.

"It will hold anyone who wishes to intrude, but not for long," he announced.

"Then we best not tarry," Cadden said. An explosion aboveground vibrated through the underground compound, causing the rocks to start to crumble around them as both Kyr and Cadden rushed to the two terminals to extract all the information they could. Cadden was furiously typing away at the terminal's keyboard when the ground shook violently in response to a nearby explosion. "We need to hurry," he said, "I doubt this place will last long."

"That was far closer than it should have been," Kyr noted. "Whatever they've got, they seem Hell-bent on keeping it out of our hands."

Cadden didn't acknowledge the declaration as he scanned the information in the terminal for anything pertinent. It seemed unusual to him that this Death Watch bunker was still active after so many years, but opted to not dwell too much on it. Garen had his secrets, and this was their chance to uncover them. Whatever they might find here could completely alter the course of their resistance.

If they found anything.

Another explosion, this time much closer to their position. "We haven't much time," Cadden warned the other. "This information is not worth our lives."

A third explosion was heard mere seconds later, yet this one prompted the two to turn and look at the room's main entrance. Three Mandalorians entered the hole in the entryway, the one in the middle sporting armor unique to only few of the Mandalorians' ranks. A Spectre.

Cadden input a few commands into the terminal as Kyr moved between him and the three newcomers. After, he joined his ally and friend to stand between their enemy and their objective. "Jerris Maru," Kyr announced. "I didn't think Garen would become so desperate to send his dog to do his dirty work."

"Mand'alor regrets he is unable to be here to kill you two himself," Jerris said, "but he is otherwise engaged in other pressing matters."

Kyr scoffed at the comment, but did not retort. With lightning speed, he unholstered his blaster pistol and fired several shots at the three. Cadden was quick to follow, and joined with his own attack. Most of their shots hit their intended targets, given that all three quickly moved to react, but the impacts were not enough to bring any of them down. Cadden quickly drew to a solid conclusion: they were all wearing beskar'gam with at least some protection offered by beskar. He wasn't surprised that Jerris had this configuration; Spectre armor was made with beskar. However, it did put them at odds ends not knowing that about the other two.

The Mandalorian wearing green and blue armor was the first to respond, and quickly fired two shots at Kyr. Kyr dodged out of the way and moved to trip the other Mandalorian, wearing red and yellow. He was successful and quickly produced his srraka blades, though neither hit their mark as the man quickly got to his feet. Jerris was upon Kyr and gripped him by the helmet, tossing him against the wall.

Cadden filled in where Kyr left off and fired several rounds at the green and blue Mandalorian, keeping him and the other off of Kyr in succession. He fired at the other while getting out of the way of both men's retaliation, taking cover behind one of the crates in the room. Cursing to himself, Cadden attempted to formulate his next move.

Kyr had landed with a resounding thud, but fought through the stunned effect as he got back up. He had lost one blade, but had the other gripped firmly in his right hand. "C'mon," he taunted, "is that the best you can do?"

Jerris chuckled and approached Kyr, but he quickly rolled out of the way when a punch was thrown. The srraka blade slid harmlessly against the back of Jerris's armor, before Kyr picked up the other and drove them both back behind him at the charging Mandalorian in green and blue. One blade pierced through an opening in the plating, whereas the other scraped across the chestplate. He dodged out of the way as Jerris attempted to land a powerful blow across his head.

Cadden had moved from his cover in order to dodge a few blaster shots as he got within range of the other Mandalorian and disarmed the man. Cadden was given enough advantage to find weaknesses in the man's form and exploited them, as a blade he produced from his belt cut deep into the man's left hip before he dislodged it and pierced into the sleeve between his thigh and knee. The man collapsed and Cadden quickly turned just as Jerris fired two well-placed shots at him. Both hit his chestplate, and Cadden stumbled back to the ground.

He grunted as he rolled to his hands and knees, and pushed himself up to his feet, just as Jerris fired another shot, causing him to collapse once more. "Pathetic," the Spectre said. "And to think, you were supposed to be the best of us."

"You caught me on a down day," Cadden said dryly. He glanced over at Kyr. Jerris followed and violently threw him away, before looking back at Cadden once more. He approached Kyr this time, content in his victory.

"And to think you were the one designated to lead us," he said. Cadden quickly evaluated the situation, and realized, through his pain, Kyr was the only one keeping him alive at this point.

"Maybe if you evened the odds a bit, at least took that helmet off, then we can see who's the better," Kyr said, his voice betraying his hardened exterior with a touch of pain.

Jerris laughed. "You've got some imagination, to think I'd fall for that osik. I remove my helmet, you could just as easily exploit it."

Cadden fought the pain and pushed himself up. He approached the Spectre from behind and, before Jerris could avert his attention from Kyr, Cadden's hands were upon his helmet and they wretched it off the man's head. He landed a hard blow to the back of Jerris's head before the Spectre could turn to react. Jerris was dazed, but aware enough to turn around to fight back. But Cadden was quick, despite his injures, and delivered a solid punch to Jerris's jaw, and swiped a foot behind his legs, causing the Spectre to lose his footing and fall to the ground. The back of the man's head hit the floor hard, stunning him. Cadden kicked Jerris's blaster far out of his reach and mounted the man, before landing another solid punch to his nose. "What is Garen planning?" Cadden demanded.

Jerris offered a weak grin through the blood. "Your death," he said. The grin faded as he continued. "All of you. Starting with you, Blackthorne. Then Kyr, then his ade and, finally, his ba'ade." A smirk crept to his face, malicious in intent, and speaking exponentially of what he meant with his next statement. "Though, I suppose, it does not necessarily have to be in that order." He chuckled, coughing up blood in the process. "And when I'm through with you two, I will find them, myself. They will beg for a quick death before I'm done with them."

Cadden sneered, and punched the Spectre once more. Then again, and again. Each blow was harder, more fierce than the last. All he could think about was what the man said, and all he could see was his face receiving each hit. "You will not lay a hand on them!" he yelled. Another attack, followed by another.

"Blackthorne!" Kyr's voice was harsh and piercing, indicating it wasn't the first time he said Cadden's name. "That's enough!" Cadden stopped himself, and made a very solemn realization. He looked at his armored hand, covered in blood, and back at the Spectre's face. The man was hardly recognizable, with the number Cadden had just done on him. He quickly got up and backed away. "We need to leave," Kyr said. Cadden was unresponsive for a moment as he examined what he had done.

No, he thought, not anymore. Not again.

"Cadden. Now." Cadden looked to Kyr and merely nodded. They gathered the information from the terminals and made their way to the compound entrance. They departed the mine just as the structure gave away and collapsed on itself. Cadden looked around at the scene surrounding them. Several Mandalorians were dead, others on their knees. He saw Freedom and a few others, but those were the only ones left. The Death Watch members were at their mercy.

"What did you manage to get?" Kyr asked. Cadden frowned and brought up his gauntlet, inputting the data disc. Information started to appear before his HUD flickered slightly. He frowned, and worked the display. Something was not quite right. He input a few more commands before he finally looked at Kyr.

"A virus," he finally declared. "I've seen this program before, or at least something like it." He paused a moment. "They're linked up with my suit's interface. They're tracking me, Kyr."

Kyr shook his head. "Let's get you out of that suit. Leave it here, we'll reequip you with another."

"No," Cadden said with a raised hand. "I need to work this. This is an opportunity to turn the tables on them. If I can rework the program, I can turn it against them."

"Too risky. And I'm not letting you return with them tracking you."

"Good." Cadden turned his back on Kyr. "I wasn't intending to."

"Cadden..." Kyr started.

"Don't try to stop me," Cadden warned. "I need to do this. I'll meet back with you when I'm successful. Get out of here. I'll be fine." Kyr glared at him through his visor, despite Cadden being unable to see it, before nodding and turning.

"Don't go disappearing on us again, Blackthorne," he said, and approached Freedom. "Round them up," he said. "I'll have questions for them." Before long Cadden was watching his only shot off Concordia lift off. His first order of business was to leave the area before Garen or his Death Watch caught up to him.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Cadden had been on the run from Garen's men, keeping one step ahead of his would-be pursuers as he traversed the forest terrain of Concordia. It had been a full day since he'd left Kyr's company behind at the Death Watch bunker, and his helmet's computer had been tirelessly working the code ever since his first stop. But the algorithm was complex, and Cadden knew it would take some time before it was cracked. All he could think about was the encounter with Jerris, the Spectre back in the bunker, and what he man had said. He had horrible things planned for Kyr's family, he thought. While Cadden felt no remorse for the man's death, he knew he had gone overboard with his response. But he would not let Kyr's family fall to the same turmoil his had. He could not let it happen.

It was the motivating factor that drove him down this venture, if truth were to be told. He had a feeling Kyr figured that out, but whether the rest of the resistance would choose to believe it was another matter all together. Regardless, Cadden couldn't return to them. Not now, not while the tracking program was running. And he knew he could use it to their advantage; all he had to do was crack the code, then he could reverse it and see to where it was feeding his location.

He had been traveling the forest all night with no sign of the Death Watch tracking him, so Cadden propped himself against a tree, and looked up at the sky. It was a clear night, and the sky shimmered with thousands of stars. He found himself thinking back to Onderon, to his father's death, and frowned when he realized yet again his memories of the following years were scattered, at best, and incomplete. Moreover, however, he realized something far more important: he was, truly, alone. Cadden mused on his decisions throughout his life. He had done plenty of horrible things, both as Darth Trayus and before. As Darth Trayus, he had personally waged war against not just the Jedi, but the entire galaxy, for little other reason than a personal vendetta. He frowned, though, knowing full well that wasn't like him. There has to be more to it, he thought, but try as he might he could not remember much of what he was, only that which he did. All that death and destruction. By my hands. I'd be better off dead. He might as well have been, anyway. He didn't belong with the Mandalorians; only a handful of them even wanted him around, and despite Kyr giving Cadden the reins to the resistance there were many, even then, with him in a position of power, that would have sooner seen him removed. I don't belong anywhere, he thought. Save for by his son's side, he realized.

But, then, if that were true, why did he come back? He kept telling himself he had nowhere else to go, but that would have implied that he still held a sense of belonging, there, with the Mandalorians. Cadden closed his eyes.

"Remember who you are, Cadden," the stars whispered in a woman's voice. "The Mandalorians know. Do you?"

Renalla appeared before him, Cadden looked on her, confused. She was dead, he'd visited her grave, saw her spirit, himself. Yet there she stood, as real as him. "We were supposed to be together," she said angrily. "I saved you, I taught you who you were. I died for you. I sacrificed my own life for you."

"You left me," Cadden said. "You don't know how much that hurt."

"Only because you would have hurt me. Us. I loved you."

"I loved you, as well," he protested angrily, "I would have died for you, especially if it meant saving your life."

"And yet you live."

"We could have stayed together, if only you gave us that chance."

Cadden opened his eyes again at the sound of a distant rumbling of engines. Exhausted and fatigued, he shoved himself back to his feet, taking note that it was near dawn. He gathered the backpack he used to hastily collect rations from the barracks outside the Death Watch bunker before he started moving through the forest once more. He couldn't have been asleep for more than an hour, he figured, but it would have been plenty of time for his pursuers to catch up to him. Then why take so long? he wondered, though truth be told it was not the first thing on his mind. It had only been a dream, that much he knew, but why? He already made his peace with what transpired with Renalla. So why was this resurfacing, now?

He was interrupted when he saw the ship that was upon him, and he stopped in his tracks. No, he thought, it can't be. That's impossible. The predominantly blood red Firespray-31-class Patrol and Attack Craft soared above until it turned and touched down in a nearby clearing. I must still be dreaming. There was no other explanation for the sudden appearance of the Pursuer, which he himself detonated roughly ten years ago. But as he approached the ship, its markings were unmistakable, and it bore the scarred battle damage from the countless choices he'd made, including the one that saw its destruction, as well as other choices from who know how many other owners it had seen since then. But it's also not the Pursuer, he noted as he approached the ship. It has been restored. But not fully, he already noticed.

He caught himself just as he approached the rear of the craft, and gazed up the boarding ramp. This is no coincidence, he suddenly allowed himself. Cadden, you idiot. Just as he drew his EE-3 carbine rifle, the hatch slid open and a giant, lumbering beast came charging forth. It only took Cadden a split second to connect the dots, and as he fired his weapon he thought to himself, No, this isn't possible. I killed him.

The blasterfire ricocheted harmlessly off the all too familiar armor as the ghost lumbered at him and swung its massive arm at Cadden, propelling him back to the ground several meters away. The impact left Cadden dazed and winded, and he watched haplessly as the armored machination approached.

"Blackthorne," it grumbled, its voice full of disgust. A very familiar voice. But it wasn't him, was it? Dahdtoudi was dead. Wasn't he? The voice sounded just like his, but… different, at the same time. Cadden didn't have time to piece the puzzle together as whatever inhabited the man's armor was now upon him. "Die." A giant gauntlet swung around, though Cadden was able to summon the strength at the last moment to scramble out of the way as its fist impacted on the ground. He rolled to his feet as the golem grunted in displeasure, and charged after him, shouldering Cadden and sending him back against a tree. Cadden recovered and ignited his jetpack, soaring out of the way of Dahdtoudi's follow up charge. He dodged out of the way of the resulting blasterfire as the creature attempted to take him down from a distance.

He heard the rumble of repulsors as it fired up its own propulsion system to pursue him. Cadden wouldn't be able to make it far on his jetpack alone, and would have to create some distance between them. He looked back and fired again at the armored husk chasing him, but to no avail. He had to get to a ship if he were to gain an advantage, here. But not the Pursuer, he knew. The ship was too close to the golem, he wouldn't be able to reach it in time to escape.

Within his armor, Dahdtoudi had too great an advantage over Cadden. Perhaps if he sported that Spectre armor he would be on far more equal ground, but all Cadden could do now was rely on his wits and speed to survive this. He only had one shot, and he needed to set it up properly.

He hit his fifty percent mark for remaining fuel and wagered Dahdtoudi was getting close to expiring his own, as well, if his memory served correctly. Cadden cut the thrusters and let himself go into a freefall toward the woods below. Dahdtoudi was slower to respond, but he did so before Cadden could take his shot, and so Cadden let himself fall, engaging the thrusters at the last moment to ease his landing. Dahdtoudi wasn't so graceful, however, and his crash shook the ground around him. Cadden fumbled to his knees in response, and looked up as Dahdtoudi quickly went back to the offensive. There's more to this than meets the eye, he realized, but dared not spend any more time on the notion. His only window was quickly closing. He counted the seconds, and let loose his jetpack's rocket sending it directly into Dahdtoudi's helmet. Cadden didn't bother to wait to see what the result was, and quickly reengaged his jetpack's thrusters, soaring to safety as the golem tumbled forward. He spared a glance at the creature and muttered a curse under his breath as he noted the impact only slowed Dahdtoudi. He quickly took the small window of opportunity to make his escape toward a nearby city.

The jetpack rocked and Cadden was flung to the ground, tumbling across the landscape for several dozen meters. His helmet's HUD gave him the status update, showing significant damage to the jetpack. Thankful it wasn't any worse, Cadden allowed it to drop to the ground. He had been flying only a couple meters in the air, so the fall mostly jostled him, though he did feel some injuries in his ribs and legs as a result. Regardless, he pressed on on foot. Every few seconds glancing over his shoulder to locate Dahdtoudi. The city was still a fair distance away, and no doubt the golem he had become would soon be upon him once again. Without the proper equipment at his disposal, however, he was as good as dead if he stood his ground. Cadden instinctively looked back, but didn't see Dahdtoudi in pursuit. He's on the hunt, he realized. Fortunately, Cadden knew Dahdtoudi. But then, Dahdtoudi also knew him. Or, at least, who he had once been.

Cadden made it to the city without further issue, though he knew Dahdtoudi was still following him. He made his way through the back alleys, keeping well aware of the fact he'd likely be a target to a healthy number of men and women there. At the spaceport he found a single M21-G1 Massiff Fighter. He knew very little of the ship, but knew it would do. Cadden climbed aboard and pushed the ladder aside, letting it fall to the floor with a loud crash, and started the ship up. Dahdtoudi burst into the hangar, leaving a gaping, smoldering hole where the wall used to be, and aimed his gauntlet at the fighter. Cadden squeezed the trigger, sending a volley of laser bolts at the golem, knocking him back as Dahdtoudi fired a pair of miniature rockets at the ship. Both impacted, sounding alarms in the cockpit, but Cadden chose to ignore them as he ignited the repulsors. He frowned with determination at the rubble as Dahdtoudi crawled out. He was still alive, even after all that.

"Blackthorne," the creature's voice repeated in his head. Cadden frowned. How could Dahdtoudi have survived? Furthermore, how long had he been free of his carbonite prison? He seemed but a shell of his former self, but the way he moved, the way he fought, told Cadden that it was, indeed, him in that armor.

He then thought back to the last time the two had seen each other, and the frown deepened. His hatred swelled as he reached for the throttle. This time, he was going to finish the job. "Die, you son of a bitch," he muttered. Without a second thought, he propelled the ship forward, colliding it violently into Dahdtoudi.

Cadden opened his eyes slowly. He was on top of the rubble with a wrecked fighter behind him, the transparisteel shattered. He found it difficult to move, and when he did he felt nothing but intense pain. He managed to look over at an armored hand, and the gauntlet flexed slowly. Dahdtoudi was still alive. Cadden would have thought it impossible, but then so was he. Painfully and slowly, Cadden grunted and fumbled for his carbine rifle. A ship appeared and hovered overhead, a Class 720 Freighter, he managed to notice. The boarding ramp lowered and four armed and armored men leapt the short distance down to the wreckage. They seemed somewhat familiar to Cadden, but the shock sticks disallowed him from being conscious long enough to determine from where.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

Kyr stood at the terminal, arms folded across his chest, as the message came in through the broadband frequency used for official announcements. The Mandalorian present on the screen was Garen, donned in his full armor sans helmet. Kyr frowned, wondering what the purpose of this message was. Possibly in direct response to their attack on the beskar mine the previous day.

"People of Mandalore," Garen said, and Kyr could not help but note his choice of using the Basic variant of the word, denoting both those of the planet and those of the culture at once, "the insurgents following Kyr Aden launched a full attack on a beskar mine on Concordia yesterday. This assault was unwarranted and unprovoked, and ought to serve as proof toward this resistance's true intentions. This... terrorist attack... is indicative toward the selfishness that these aruetiise have, and their willingness to topple our vision in favor of an unsafe and unstable future."

Garen looked long and hard at the screen. "These insurgents were led by none other than Cadden Blackthorne, validating the extremism Kyr and his rebellion embraces," he continued. It was no secret that Blackthorne was unpopular, at this time, among the Mando'ade. It was Kyr's goal to change that, though since the incident yesterday he'd not heard from Cadden. That could have been taken equally either way, however. The man was a survivor, though he was severely outmatched and outnumbered on his own. "Among those involved in the battle was Kyr Aden himself. Proof that the message they had sent out was nothing more than propaganda designed to poison your minds into believing their way meant a safer Mandalore."

Kyr's frown returned. He knew that going along with the plan was a bad idea. He should have followed his gut and talked Cadden out of it. However, without proof, it was merely a matter of their word versus his. It would ultimately not sway anyone in either direction. It wasn't a victory, however small, but at least it wasn't a defeat, either. The only problem, now, was he could not keep his facade up for much longer before Garen's statement would be founded in truth. Those against the resistance would be looking for him, now. After all, if he died, then so did what they fought for.

"You will, however, be pleased to know that Blackthorne has been dealt with," Garen declared. This caused Kyr's heart to sink. They caught up to him and neutralized him? No, that couldn't be right, it must have been a ploy. "Earlier today, Blackthorne engaged in combat with an unknown adversary and, ultimately, was defeated in battle." A video displayed on the screen of Cadden fighting some mechanical giant in a hangar. Ultimately, Cadden rammed a small ship into his enemy, which also showed clear signs that he, too, had been badly hurt. The video cut off. Blackthorne was dead, then? Kyr did not want to believe it. "I am a merciful person, Kyr Aden. I know you are watching this. Surrender, now. You have played your hand, and you lost. Reintegrate into the Mando Cabure, reaffirm your allegiance to our cause, and you have my word no further harm, no more bloodshed, will befall upon you and your supporters." Garen narrowed his eyes. "Refuse, and you will suffer my full wrath, and this conflict will come to an abrupt end." The transmission was cut, and Kyr placed his hands against the console in support as he considered what he'd seen and heard.

Perhaps Garen was right, and that further attempts at restoring the Mando'ade to the path Blackthorne had set for them were futile. That the current direction they were in was, ultimately, to be their fate. Kyr knew that he didn't have long to make his choice, and the entirety of the eyes of both his followers and his enemies would soon be upon him, waiting for his decision. "What will you do when they find you?" his father's voice asked. "What will you do if they break you?" Kyr stared at the holo terminal in silence as he mulled over what Garen had said, the corner the man had put them in, and the evidence he had displayed that proved their situation to be dire. "If you continue to fight, what will you become?"

Kyr slammed his fists down on the holo terminal in frustration before running his hands through his hair. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "They will expect a response," a voice sounded behind him, though Kyr didn't turn to identify the source as his riduur. Nasrey stopped at his side, though she didn't make eye contact. The years they had been together gave them a keen sense of what the other was feeling, and going through. "You don't have to do this." Kyr did not respond and, simply, stared forward, his eyes distant and mind galaxies away. "Kyr, he wants you to accept. He wants to end this, peacefully if possible. You know this. You know him." She paused. "You also know that you cannot change him this way. What happened to Valery and Carissa… there is no recovering from that. He needs a friend more than he needs an enemy."

Kyr sighed. "It isn't that simple," he said slowly. "Garen has changed. The bombing changed him. I tried to reason with him, and when that failed, he left me no choice. And, now, we cannot turn back from all we've fought for." He shook his head. "If we back down, we die."

"If we continue to fight, we die," Nasrey argued. "I don't like it anymore than you do, but, Kyr, he has the numbers, he has the resources, and he has the means. Now, it is only a matter of time before he strikes at our heart." She gave him a knowing look. "We cannot win this. There is no shame, here, in accepting defeat."

Kyr knew what she said made sense, and that she was looking out for their ade, and their burc'yase. While their culture demanded that one died for such things, it did no good to do so in vain. Garen was not known for making empty threats, even before becoming who he was now. "What happened on Concordia," he said, "it was no accident. Garen knew we would strike. And he had a detachment waiting for us." He shook his head, thinking about the fight against Jerris, about what he'd said to him and Cadden. "No, there's something about all this I do not like."

"At least consider it," she said. "There will be those that will advocate either decision, and no matter what you choose, it will likely hurt us more than help."

But Kyr had faced off against more dire odds in the past, and a step back wouldn't phase him so much as the possibility of being the cause of the death of his loved ones. There were strong points for either case to be made, and Nasrey brought up a very real reason to end their campaign. "How much time do you suppose I have?" he asked.

Nasrey shrugged. "I'll try to keep the vultures away as long as possible," she said with a half grin, which Kyr responded to with his own, weak and unconvincing. She left him to his own thoughts, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to rest for some time.
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Re: Mandalorian Protectors: Blood and Water

Post by Cadden »

It had been a just under a week since Garen's message, and Kyr had spent nearly all his free time working out the factors that would weigh his final decision. There had been a few instances to where he'd been approached by different members of the resistance's command, but he'd managed to satisfy them with a fairly ambiguous response.

However, it wasn't until yesterday that he knew he would have to choose soon. His people were getting restless and needed him to make his announcement. It wasn't so much they were lost and useless without his leadership, but moreover they were just as unwilling as he was to compromise everything they've worked for while, at the same time, knew exactly what conviction to their beliefs would mean. Kyr was put in a very peculiar situation, and based on his conversations with Nasrey, Jahaal, and Freedom, no matter his decision there would be fallout.

Kyr sighed heavily and opened the door to the conference room. His assembled officers and commanders watched him enter in silence. Kyr made no sound as he approached his place at the table and remained standing. He made eye contact with each member present individually, locking with Nasrey's a moment longer in a silent conversation only the two of them would have understood. Finally, he spoke. He was quiet with a soft voice, quite the opposite of what many of them had been used to in the past several months. "You have all heard the news," he said, "and I appreciate your patience in waiting for my response. This has not been an easy thing to consider. Garen has taken a blow, but he struck back in kind, and now we are back to square one." Kyr took a deep breath. "If one thing has not changed with Garen, it would be his word of honor. If he makes a statement, he will back it up with actions. We can believe him when he says no further bloodshed will occur if we cease our resistance toward where he's taken the Mando Cabure. We can also expect a swift operation against us if we continue to fight. The decision I have come to was not made lightly, however. I want every one of you to know that."

He scanned each individual's expression to see where they stood. Most were neutral, but he also came to expect what his aliit were hoping for. It was only natural that they wished to protect those they loved, even if it meant submitting to an ideal they did not agree with. He did not wish to say what he was about to, but after thinking through every possible angle, every possible scenario, he found no other option would suffice. "I will not back down," he finally said. Even now, it was hard for him to get the words out. But he had to remain convicted. "Garen advocates peace among us, but at the expense of completely destroying everything Blackthorne built up for us. Someone needs to remind the Mando'ade of what we can be, not what we have always been."

And then it happened. The inevitable commotion of those putting in their assertions either for or against his choice. He let them speak. Some voiced their concerns over the safety of their aliit while others voiced disapproval at continuing to fight a losing war, if one could call it that. Those that supported the decision stated that if they did not continue their efforts, the Mando'ade would forever be lost and it would only be a matter of time before the galaxy turned an eye on their actions and sought to bring them to complete ruination. When he had heard enough, Kyr raised his hand for silence. "I know your thoughts on this matter, for they are my own," he declared. "We have been through much to get this far, but we shouldn't let this deter us from our end goal. True, Garen has the upper hand in every way, but if we simply lose hope, lose faith, and give in, we lose everything we have fought for, and our sacrifices will have been for nothing. This may seem like our darkest hour, but we cannot give up."

"And how do we combat against Garen's resources?" one of them asked. "He outnumbers and outguns us over fifty-to-one. His influence is stronger as is his support."

Kyr nodded in agreement. "This is true," he said. "We will fight the way Blackthorne would have us fight. Guerilla warfare tactics, striking from the shadows and returning to the shadows."

"Because that worked out so well last time," another said bitterly. "As a result, his life was forfeit, your being alive has been exposed, and we are now on the brink of destruction."

"Blackthorne cannot be faulted for any of that," Kyr said. "Garen had been suspicious since we staged my death, and Blackthorne successfully crippled the Death Watch's beskar operations."

"Minor victories," he scoffed.

"Yet victories nonetheless. If we falter, now, then what will that say of those whom still follow us, still believe in what we are trying to accomplish? If Blackthorne truly is dead, will we let his death be in vain? When we initially got together and made this choice, we knew it could cost us our lives. We are Mando'ade. We do not back down from a fight, especially when it is one we believe so strongly in."

"And if we do fight?" another asked. "With the odds weighed so heavily against us, surely we will fall." There was a low murmuring of agreement from those whom were clearly against fighting a losing war. "Do you prescribe we go headfirst to our graves?"

"No," Kyr responded, shaking his head. "We must handle this delicately. We will still oppose Garen and his vision for the Mando Cabure, but not with strength of arms alone. That will be a losing battle. I refuse to align myself, or my aliit, to the ideals Garen is promoting. If Garen wants to see us dead for disagreeing with him, he will have to come find us." Some Mandalorians would view Kyr's decision as a coward's tactic, but given their available options, they had little other choice. They could wage war against Garen, but even with the Black Brigade on their side it would lead to their defeat. It was either submission, or going underground. A resistance meant nothing if it was squelched. Its power rested on its ability to withstand that which it opposed. Whether they backed down or they fought openly, either instance was guaranteed to end in failure.

"Knowing Garen," he continued, "he will be far more proactive in finding us. We need to remain vigilant. I want outposts scattered throughout the Olankur forest. We need to maintain a careful eye in the off chance they discover where we're located." It truly wasn't all that far-fetched to believe they would locate Kyr's headquarters. There was only so much of Mandalore to choose from. The fact that they had remained undetected this long only demonstrated Garen's lack of taking them seriously. That was about to change, and they had to ensure that they delayed the inevitable for as long as possible, until they could find their opportune moment. "If we do this right, we might even weather the coming storm."

"And if we fail?" the first asked. "You intend us to die for an extremist ideology?"

Kyr had considered that, and had already spoken to Freedom, Jahaal, Nasrey, and Jeston about their last resort plan. It would buy them time, at best, but it was a plan all the same, and the five of them had already begun working on the protocols in case their location were to be discovered. "I'd sooner see us live and fight on, than die," he said. "I'd sooner see none of my fellow Mando'ade perish in battle, regardless of their beliefs. Regardless of who they are." He paused a few seconds. "Even Garen." He held his hand up to quell the resulting commotion and waited for it to die off before continuing. "I was there when he changed. Despite our differences, regardless of what had happened, Garen is merely doing what he believes is best for the Mando'ade. Even if we do not agree with him."

"He targeted your homestead," one said, "nearly killed your aliit."

"He destroyed Enceri because there was resistance there to his vision," another added. The commotion grew once again.

"We have all gone to extreme measures to uphold his vision," Kyr declared. "If you forgot, I'm the one who supplied the Mando Cabure with nuclear weaponry."

"But you did not use it," another argued. "Garen did, and liberally if you recall."

Kyr's eyes flashed a moment. He remembered Botajef all too well. He had to tell them. "Garen may have made the order," he said, dreading every word, "but I pulled the trigger." There was an uncomfortable silence following those words. "When the inhabitants resisted far more than we expected, and started to destroy their shipyards to eliminate the tactical advantage their planet posed for us, Garen made the order to initiate the orbital assault. I could have refused, but I didn't. Victory at all costs." He took a breath. "The barrage was focused on the upper hemisphere, in an effort to pummel the inhabitants into submission while keeping the remaining shipyards largely intact. It was because of this act I made my choice." Kyr hadn't told anyone this before, and now he knew why. Some of them looked at him judgmentally. Nasrey had a look of disbelief.

"I cannot condemn Garen for his mistakes, as I have made my own," Kyr continued. "For those that disagree with me and my decision, you are more than free to leave and reintegrate into the Mando Cabure. I will not look upon you any differently. Those of us that continue to oppose these ideals that have corrupted the Mando Cabure, we will honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in defense of what we stood for... and still stand for." He scanned the room before continuing. "Because our work is not done. This resistance - and its mission - will continue."
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