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Tal Cuyot

A Calm and Civil Solution

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Tal Cuyot    44

Melona, 3630 BBY...

 

The Oyu'baat was full, even more so than usual. Wasn't the normal crowd, either. Every booth was full, and quite a few beings were standing, the only completely clear space being that surrounding the fire. The holoscreen was shut down- no sports today. Nobody was at the bar, either. Alcohol would be a pretty bad idea at this particular gathering.

 

Someone had called a clan council. Tal actually wasn't sure who had, but evidently a couple of the barves in here had gotten together and decided something needed to be done, and started comming people. Every aliit Tal had ever heard of and more had someone here. His targeting in his HUD was picking out sigils for him; in the corner of the display, he was compiling a list of everyone he knew there. That sort of thing helped. He wasn't the best in social situations, so a cheat sheet was always useful.

 

Manda'yaim required a Mand'alor. That was no secret. Corey Black had disappeared. Nobody seemed to know where- dead, maybe, Tal had heard. Lost in space. Prisoner of the Republic. The theories abounded. Once he'd overheard someone saying that he'd become a Sith and had vanished with what was left of the Empire. It didn't really matter; Tal might have liked the barve, but he was gone now and they needed a leader. Trouble was that there wasn't anybody who really stood out, and with the destruction of the Empire, there were some questions to be answered.

 

Tensions were a bit high, to say the least.

 

"I'm gonna grow a shabla beard from all this testosterone in the air." Jair said, voice crackling through internal comms. The yellow-armored female was on Tal's left side, gauntleted fingers tapping at the BlasTech piece on her hip. She was on edge, he could see. Shoulders up, ready to make a move. She wasn't the only one, either. He could have cut the atmosphere in the tapcaf with a vibroblade. It was how things went, though. Not much to do for it.

 

Tal was nervous himself. He'd been called to come as alor of Clan Cuyot. He'd never really thought of himself as a clan leader before, but now that he thought about it, he had to admit he was. This was of some concern to him, as he had never been one to take the lead on anything aside from breaching a door. Sort of felt like the situation was out of his control.

 

"You might look good with a beard. Who knows?" That was Chel, on Tal's right. The kid was getting tall, about as tall as Tal already. He'd taken to wearing a sort of poncho-thing, dark fabric wrapped loosely about his neck and draping down his back; it was rather distinctive, over his sky-blue beskar'gam. Out of the Clan Cuyot group, he was the only one who didn't seem to be under pressure here. Who'd have thought that out of the three of them it'd be him? The ad'ika had always been pretty good at keeping his cool, though. 

 

Hopefully everyone else in here can manage it...

 

Didn't look like it. The body language all around looked pretty damn hostile. Crossed arms, tensed shoulders, frowns on practically everyone without their buy'ce. This, Tal decided, would not be a particularly fun day.

 

"Looks like we're standing, ad'ikeBuy'cese off, got to be civil here." Tal rasped, glancing around for a good place to plant his group. Wasn't much space left. Settling on a little niche in the crowd near a roof support, he walked over there, at the same time pulling his helmet off. It smelled like tabac; someone had been smoking, it seemed. 

 

Beings were already arguing. One heavyset chakaar in ivory beskar'gam was pretty animated, motioning furiously at another in purple. "Look, it's just survival," he was saying, one gloved finger extended from a loose fist. "The Empire's gone, and they're looking for another enemy. We've got to play nice with them."

 

The one in purple was still wearing his buy'ce; his voice hissed out low and menacing. "Tanvir, that doesn't mean we've got to join the shabla Republic..."

 

Tanvir, apparently the name of the one in ivory, shook his head violently. He had short black hair, beady eyes underneath low eyebrows that looked about as agitated as he sounded. Square face, deep lines on his forehead- being here and talking like that, that meant he was probably A'den Tanvir, the head of the clan. "What, so you want to fight them again? Look how that's worked out in the past."

 

The argument continued. Tal resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and instead looked over at Chel next to him. The ad'ika had taken his helmet off, and was running his fingers through his short blonde hair, combing it back after being in the buy'ce for a while. "Looks like a mess." he said, without looking up at Tal.

 

Jair shook her head. "Males. Everyone thinks they're the alpha."

 

Tal sighed, air whispering from the hole in his face. 

 

She's right.

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The Sith Empire was gone, and in its place there was a void left in their previously controlled space. Nominally, the Republic assumed control of those worlds, but in the Outer Rim there was very little in the way of law and order. Even the Republic did not invest much in the security of their holdings that far from the core, if they could even be called holdings. Ma'rik had fought against the Republic herself, saw action on Balmorra and bled with her family to defend the Sith and the Empire's citizens. It was a matter of trust, and her clan had been trusted by the Sith since the Sacking of Coruscant. That they were defeated, only made matters more complicated for herself and her clan. In that battle her father and her two eldest siblings perished. Taken prisoner and executed without reason.

 

Since then she had burned for revenge, burned with a hatred for the Republic that could only be quenched by blood and fire. Unfortuantely, things on Manda'yaim had become equally complicated. The Mand'alor had disappeared during the war. Rumors over what had happened or where he went swirled but none of them were confirmed. Now, in the Oyu'baat the clan leaders met to discuss that very problem. Ma'rik had come as the eldest child and now Alor of Clan Alesha. It had passed to her mother, but her mother passed it to her, as she was too busy caring for her youngest sibling.

 

She had come in her armor, well-kept certainly, but it showed the signs of her veterancy. No longer was she a greenhorn, but a well-versed warrior equipped for nearly any situation. Her beskad was simple, functional, a plain single-edged blade meant for chopping, and was sheathed at her waist with the two pistols her father crafted for her as a coming-of-age gift. Her bowcaster remained at home, as a meeting between clan leadership did not call for that kind of firepower, but she did not come unarmed. As with all situations there was the chance for bloodshed and violence, and she was not about to be caught unaware. The most aggressive thing she wore though, was a pair of shuk'orok, which also meant they were the most subdued weapons in her current arsenal.

 

Accompanying her was her younger brother Darin, her cousin Kine, and her uncle Te'kar. They too were dressed in their beskar'gam and carrying their beskad with pistols. Armed lightly, but armed nonetheless. They all looked at one another exchanging glances over the argument going on but saying nothing. Ma'rik looked to them too, her expression shifting from neutral to angry. Kine and Darin looked at one another, knowing that Ma'rik was the hot-headed one of the group, and as the Alor of the clan now she was the one that would guide them how she saw fit. They trusted her judgment. They too fought with her on Balmorra and it was her pivot action that saw them escape the planet in the first place. She took wounds covering them, put her life on the line to save them, and they would do the same. Clan Alesha was behind her completely after her actions on Balmorra, and it showed when they stood with her.

 

Ma'rik had removed her buy'ce when the argument started between a man named Tanvir and a thusfar unrecognized voice behind a purple buy'ce. She heard only a snippet of the argument but had heard enough to know that Tanvir was dar'manda. The immaturity she had when she left home for the first time was gone. She was keenly aware of what it meant to be Mandalorian and it did not mean becoming cowardly and crawling to the supposed safety of the Republic. Ma'rik walked into the argument and stared directly at Tanvir with a fire in her eyes that she reserved for those she hated. "Tanvir you call yourself Mando'ad but I do not see a brother before me. You would have our people crawl to the Republic for protection? Manda'yaim can stand on its own without the Republic or the Empire. Did you know, that when the Republic and the Jedi invaded Balmorra, that my Clan stood by the Sith because we honor our allies? Did you know that my father died in battle with the Jedi? Or that my eldest brothers were killed in a prison camp that the Republic scraped together to take care of those that had been defeated? They died standing for Manda'yaim's honor as an ally to the Sith and the Empire. They did it because they felt it was right, felt that it was their duty to honor agreements. Now you would have us turn to the Republic, for security? Tanvir I stand here before the other leaders of the clans and I call you dar'manda for even suggesting that Manda'yaim needs outside protection. In saying that you say every warrior, every person on this planet, is incapable. Have you no respect for your vode?" Ma'rik was spirited and angry when she spoke, but kept herself at an even tone in spite of her hate. The room hit an odd point. There were audible cheers from some in the crowd, others felt second-hand offense, and more still hushed at such a harsh accusation. She stood unflinching, facing up with Tanvir without an ounce of fear in her expression.

 

Tanvir glared at her, shocked that someone so young would even say such a thing. "Did someone lose their adiik here while the adults are meeting?"

 

Ma'rik glared right back, "Ma'rik Alesha, Alor of Clan Alesha, and a hut'uun like you should show some respect to a true Mando'ad." she spat back, her voice more venomous than before. The room just watched the exchange now, keen to see how things went after such heated words.

Edited by Ma'rik Alesha
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Nola Trenox    1

A heavy thud resounded through the large room, turning quite a number of heads.

The turned heads focused on a large man in gray armor, holding a vibrospear. His face was concealed by a Helmet that seemed slightly shaped to the head it protected. The symbol of his clan, A Mythosaur skull with a red nautical star above it was on the right pectoral plate of pitted and dented beskar. He was accompanied by his brother,a man in all black armor save for an orange squid painted on the back of his helmet, and his daughter, a woman who was in orange and black Beskar'gam, though her helmet was off, revealing a young looking woman with bronze skin and a jet black mohawk, and gray eyes. Tattoos of eyes were painted under both sides of her chin, and she stared with interest as her hands rested on the family Bes'kad, still undrawn from it's sheath, as her father Henri picked up the bundle of sticks bound by iron bands.

"Oh, sure, Alesha...TRY and browbeat 'im. Browbeat him! Go on! Yell at him because it's better than seeing the truth, isn't it?" Henri Trenox asked in a sneer, holding up the bundle of twigs. Nola held back a snicker.

"Y'know, on first glance, this bundle of bound together twigs is very difficult to destroy. You whack it, it stays intact. You throw it, it stays intact. Pretty solid hit to. Good thud it'll give. Killed someone once with something similar. Surprisingly messy. But, y'see, thing about a bundle a twigs is...y'know...they dry out. Get old. Barely good for kindling. Can still give good whack but all the whacks are adding up, and then one day, after a whack too many...well...I'll let my daughter demonstrate..."

Henri handed the bundle to Nola, who stared right at Ma'rik as she began to twist the bundle. It held for a few moments before the twigs began to splinter from the pressure and then finally shredded apart. The iron bindings fell off the now destroyed bundle.

"Worthy allies, huh?" Henri asked. "Because what that bundle was, and what became of it, is a perfect way of describing the exact nature and status of Ma'rik Alesha's worthy allies. A bundle of twigs, that got old and broke down after a more than thirty year stalement. All it took was the correct type of applied pressure and it folded like a Hutt's ass."

There were murmurs among quite a number of clan heads at the display.

"But really, lets yell at Tanvir, everyone, let's accuse him of being a Dar'manda because Ma'rik's father and brother along with who knows how many others got popped 'cause they bet on a bad racing animal that pumps steroids to start out strong only to run outta energy at the final dash because the heart gives out. It's war. We can't pretend a lot of us haven't done worse to our enemies. And how worthy could our "allies" have really been? Was not Te Cabur's predecessor corrupted? Is it not true that literally every Mandalore that sides with the Sith in recent memory gets a nasty end? We don't even know what happened to Corey Black."

The room had fallen deathly quiet.

"What more proof do we need for ourselves that our people have misjudged the merits of the Sith? Agreement? Clan Trenox made NO agreement with the Sith Lords. You did. Many of you did. And when the Beskar clad reaper decided it was time to get his wheat, he got it, end of story, and now a good deal of you are wondering where the next meal is coming from because you put too many eggs in Sith baskets and it's all smashed and drippin' yoke," Henri said angrily, picking up the remains of the bundle and tossed it into the large fire.

Nola watched as her father sat back down. He had been clearly holding that opinion in for a long time.

Oddly, Nola felt herself compelled to speak. Everyone was discussing the future, and that future would involve her somehow. It felt right.

"Tanvir's thinkin' lucidly. Weighing his options. See, he wants to rebuild. Pick up the pieces. Am I right? You know what we get, cutting our self off from resources? Empty stomachs, empty weapons, fuel-less starships and nothing to show for it except leaving us economically and militarily in the weaker position anyway, like Ma'rik would have us do. Resources that could go into repairing and recuperating the damage instead will lie untapped.  I do disagree on a few things though. Shouldn't get quite so kissy-faced with 'em. Arms length deals. But this is the perfect environment to operate in. You guys think the republic is looking for a war right now? They're licking their wounds. And so many sharks swimming around them in a completely uncontested outer rim. They'll be short on manpower. They'll pay through the nose for quality. We are not admitting any weakness. The Republic will be admitting it would have been easier to pay rather than snub us like they always have. Yeah, they killed our wives, our brothers, our sons, but it's not like we weren't doin' it right back at 'em, or are we gonna start saying the Stereb Cities was a mistake? That the blockade we put on republic trade routes was a kriffin' traffic dispute? Business. That's what it boils down to in the end. Whether we want to stay in business, and rebuild our coffers and manpower...among...other things..." Nola trailed, looking right straight at Ma'rik as she uttered the last part.

"Or whether we want to stay in our territories, with no back up, a ton of wounded people and lost materiel, and...sulk," Nola said acidly.

Edited by Nola Trenox

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Tal Cuyot    44

And that was Ma'rik. Ma'rik shabla Alesha was here. Tal actually grinned- as much as he could, with half of his mouth being a scar-tissue mess. She tore into A'den Tanvir like a strill into its prey, her disdain for the Republic coloring her words. She was a good fighter, that girl, and from what he'd seen a good leader. She'd been with him in the sewers of Nar Shaddaa, splashing through the osik by his side when they'd found Chel, and she'd helped them take the fight to that Lethan hut'uun that had orphaned the ad'ika. Back then she'd been just getting into the beroya's trade, wading into the deep end straight away; now, she had a clan at her back, and the fire in her soul to lead it.

 

Jair glanced sidelong at Tal, quirking an eyebrow. "Wasn't she shorter before?"

 

The scarred merc shrugged, folding his arms across his chest and watching Ma'rik spit well-deserved invective all over Tanvir. He'd never actually met the man personally, but Tal had heard he was an odious little pile of osik, and that certainly didn't seem like a lie given what he was seeing here now. The Tanvirs and Cuyots did have prior bad blood, though, so maybe he was just predisposed to hate the shabuir.

 

Je'ka did shoot the barve's son in the face, though. It's not like he didn't have a reason to be angry.

 

From what Tal knew, Je'ka had put down a couple of the Tanvirs up north in the Olankur. They'd come after him with a gunship, before Corey Black had stopped it all. Lucky for those chakaare- while Je'ka was unstable, to say the least, he was no slouch when it came to killing beings. Wouldn't have been too many to come home, and then things would have just gotten worse. It had been, he'd been told, a mess. 

 

How did Je put it? Said he'd "splattered Tor Tanvir all over an alley". Can't blame his buir for having a problem with that. 

 

Tal was worried about his brother. This was certainly an odd time to be thinking of that, but it happened. He'd have to deal with all that later. For now, the fractured Mandalorian leadership. He opened his mouth, starting to step forwards to say something, back Ma'rik up- but then something thudded loudly. Tal didn't like loud, sudden noises; neither did a lot of the Mando'ade present in the tapcaf. He heard a few blaster charge indicators whir and beep across the room; he'd whirled around to the source of the noise and wrapped his hand around the heavy fighting knife at the small of his back before he'd even had a millisecond to think about what was going on. Turned out it was some di'kut in grey with a spear, looked like he'd been banging it on the floor or something. Had a couple beings with him, one in orange and black, the other in just black. 

 

He relaxed and turned to Jair, nudging her with his elbow. She slid her pistol back into its holster, snapping its retention strap, and looked quizzically at him. "What?"

 

"Who's that?"

 

She shrugged, one hand going up to scratch at the freshly buzzed hair at the back of her head. "Uhh, think it's the Trenox alor, off Irmenu. The nautical motifs and all. Could be wrong."

 

Trenox. He'd heard of them before, though only through Je'ka. Apparently one of them, some female called Nola, had been with him during the episode with the Tanvirs up north. No description of her, though. Maybe the unhelmeted one in the orange and black? Had eyes tattooed on her chin. Certainly an oddity there. Disrespectful chakaar, the one in the grey armor was, making light of the dead like that. 

 

The barve finished his monologue, sitting down; Tal could see A'den Tanvir nodding there, folding his own arms petulantly. The mohawked female continued, though, on the same shabla theme. 
 

"Tanvir's thinkin' lucidly. Weighing his options. See, he wants to rebuild. Pick up the pieces. Am I right? You know what we get, cutting our self off from resources? Empty stomachs, empty weapons, fuel-less starships and nothing to show for it except leaving us economically and militarily in the weaker position anyway, like Ma'rik would have us do. Resources that could go into repairing and recuperating the damage instead will lie untapped.  I do disagree on a few things though. Shouldn't get quite so kissy-faced with 'em. Arms length deals. But this is the perfect environment to operate in. You guys think the republic is looking for a war right now? They're licking their wounds. And so many sharks swimming around them in a completely uncontested outer rim. They'll be short on manpower. They'll pay through the nose for quality. We are not admitting any weakness. The Republic will be admitting it would have been easier to pay rather than snub us like they always have. Yeah, they killed our wives, our brothers, our sons, but it's not like we weren't doin' it right back at 'em, or are we gonna start saying the Stereb Cities was a mistake? That the blockade we put on republic trade routes was a kriffin' traffic dispute? Business. That's what it boils down to in the end. Whether we want to stay in business, and rebuild our coffers and manpower...among...other things..."

 

Tal stepped forwards without thinking, making his way out to the center of things. The center of things is where he'd tried to spend most of his life getting away from, but right now he tried to forget it; he was conscious of Jair and Chel coming up with him, remaining a couple of steps behind. But damn it if this mir'sheb was going to be spouting this nonsense in the Oyu'baat like it was reason. 

 

"Or whether we want to stay in our territories, with no back up, a ton of wounded people and lost materiel, and...sulk,"

 

"So what you're saying is that you shabuire stayed neutral before, stayed out of the fight that the Mand'alor put us in- whether advisedly or not, I don't give a shab- and are now advocating allying with the chakaare that we just fought against, in the name of economic benefit? I haven't got a problem with changing sides," he rasped angrily, annoyed at how uncomfortable it was to raise his voice, "but I honor deals I've made, and I know most of you around here aren't the sort of slime that don't. Fact is we got paid to fight for the dar'jetiise, our Mand'alor led us there, and we did our shabla job like we were supposed to. We didn't do it for our ideals. We did it for Manda'yaim. I lost friends fighting in their civil war. We all did. I didn't do that because I wanted some particular Sith Lord in power, I did it because they paid us, and the barves who I killed would have been looking at us next to conquer. Now, if the Republic's going to offer me a stack of aurodium credits to shoot chakaare for them, I'll consider it. What I won't do is whore out Manda'yaim as a whole to the Republic. I don't want their administration, I don't want their interference, I don't want their taxes, I don't want them involved. Manda'yaim stands alone, as it always has, and will endure, as it always has."

 

He paused, licking his durasteel teeth to stop them sticking to the inside of his mangled cheek. It hurt talking this loudly for so long, with his old throat wound, but it was worth it, that was for sure. "You want to work for 'em? Sure. They pay osik, but who really cares? You do what you want. You stay neutral wherever in haran you hide, I don't care. You want me to fight for them? Nayc. No. Never. I do what I please, and unless the Mand'alor tells me that it's real important and to please come help out, I fight on my own terms. Like you say, the Republic is working on its own issues. Let 'em. Economically, you think they're gonna help us? Shab, they can't balance their own budget, and guess what helps them do that? Taxes. Tariffs. Regulations. Might work on Coruscant, but I make guns. I make maybe fifty, seventy-five a year. I make beskar'gam. I work on small margins here. We all do. You think without the big bad Sith in the galaxy they'll provide employment? They got their own army. They're cheaper. You think we need the military help? Circular shabla logic there. Are you arguing if they need us to kill chakaare or if we need them? You arguing that they'll come for us, that they'll bring a fleet? Because if you aren't ready for an instant ba'slan shev'la, what kind of Mando'ad are you?"

 

"Says the murderer's brother..." hissed A'den Tanvir. Tal stopped mid-monologue, swallowing hard. Jair tapped him on the backplate, as if to say let this one go, which he probably should, but he was fired up now. He wheeled around, fixing his gaze on the beady little black eyes. "I'm no jetii, Tanvir. I can't fix broken minds. I also don't send gunships after one naked man in the wilderness and fail, so ne'johaa." Bastard was... well, just that. A bastard. Wasn't as if that even needed to be brought up here. "Manda'yaim stands alone. We endure, like always, independent."

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Ma'rik glared at the demonstration from the Alor of the Trenox group with a mixture of confusion and revulsion. Economic benefit over independence and honor? Neutrality instead of following Mand'alor te Cabur? These people had no thought in their heads. To even consider siding with the Republic out of fear that they would look for a war with Manda'yaim was about as ignorant as suggesting they would need the Mando'ade to fight their battles. Tal was right, they had a military of their own, so they had no need for external warriors that cost them more money. With a nasty habit of cutting corners militarily, Ma'rik had no designs on ever working for the Republic as a freelancer, let alone as an ally. They paid osik and their hired work was always suicide missions for the expendable. The more she listened to Tanvir and the Trenox group the more she knew that these people could not be allowed to guide Manda'yaim into a disastrous future.

 

She looked behind her at her family. They too were confused by the demonstration with the twigs. Did they just carry pieces of kindling with them wherever they went? Were these so-called Mando'ade from Irmenu daft? Ma'rik shook her head and ultimately ignored what they had said. Tal already addressed it perfectly, and she could appreciate that she at least had one ally among the clan leadership that stood with her. The cheers she had gotten she did not see, but it was a heartening thing to hear that there were at least true Mando'ade in the room that knew Manda'yaim could stand on its own. "Alor Cuyot is right. Manda'yaim must stand on its own." She said, glaring at A'den Tanvir, then over to the Trenox group from Irmenu, "You both would rather climb into bed with the aruetiise then go live with them. There is no place on Manda'yaim for a Mand'alor that has no faith in their vode. You want to guide us to the Republic? Me'copaani? Did the Republic pay you to come here and lobby for this? Did they promise you that you would be the first Senator from Manda'yaim? Then what? You sit on a pile of credits while they bleed us dry to pay for other warriors to fight our battles. No true Mando'ad lets another fight their battles. We stand, we fight with honor, we die with honor, and we do not let aruetiise dictate how we live our lives!" Ma'rik was clearly incensed by the situation.

 

The young woman looked around the room, appraising the quiet that had fallen over the Oyu'baat. Ma'rik knew that there was one solution to this, and one alone. She looked at Tanvir and stood upright, "You dar'manda can go back to your homes and live in fear for the rest of your miserable lives. You want an enemy to cower in fear of, look no further than me. Call me Mand'alor, because only a true Mando'ad can stake a claim at that, and neither you..." she said, pointing directly at A'den Tanvir's face, "...or you, can call yourselves that." she finished, pointing right at the Trenox group. "You want to challenge that claim, I am standing right here."

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Nola Trenox    1

Nola had to stop herself from yawning when one of them started running his mouth about honoring deals.

"Honoring deals. Oh yes! You honored your deals alright...all the way to your ruin," Nola snapped back, unflinching and holding his disgusted gaze with a defiant, feral one of her own. She was not intimidated by this backwards fool.

"Read my lips, you toothy chakarre that pisses me the kriff off just starin' at you, Neither me nor my clan will ever apologize for not actively fishing in the polluted waters that many of you often waded into! Your catches all have mercury, for kriff's sake! And still you have the nerve to stand there and offer self praise for...what exactly? Honoring a deal that sent your brothers and sisters to the grinder? Partnering with people it's been widely acknowledged as pond scum without a shred of real honor? You know how the Sith thought of themselves and their relationship with the Mandalorians? They thought of themselves as the shark, and us as the fish feeding off the dead flesh that built up in their travels. No clan got away not working for them, not even the Trenox's, but we spat out the meat when we tasted poison...unlike you. But go ahead, feel free to be proud of the fact that by you and the others honoring this deal, our people have suffered yet another embarrassing loss alongside the Sith." Nola replied with open derision, almost hoping he would start a fight. It was the ugly, vindictive side of her hungering for the violence, but now wasn't the time. The Trenox's brutality was approached as an art form, and art has it's time and place. She didn't even like this side of her normally, but something about this one made her want to take his blubber.

 "And just like even the Trenox Clan took a job at one point, even you admit you'd consider a job from the republic, at least, if the pay was good enough. And who said anything about whoring? The Trenox Clan would no more soil Mandayaim's honor than any other clan would by being mad enough to let a governor, or, Oversoul forbid it, a Senator set up shop on the soil of our people. And really, your response about not getting enough work from the republic is more a stubborn lack of ingenuity than anything. Do you know how many worms slipped through the cracks when your buddies lost so epically? Where the Sith is a shark, the Republic is a big fat whale alone in the sea, and it's got a litter it needs to keep safe. We could DRUM up business if we wanted, and because that big fat whale needs to keep it's litter docile and not ask why all the shooting hasn't stopped in spite of the shark that was chasing it having been speared, it'll pay just to keep things quiet."

"But that's exactly what we were doing under the Sith!" An Alor of another clan in the distance pointed out.

"Exactly!" Nola pointed out with a grin. "Except this time we'll be doing it with someone who just expended massive amounts of weapons, men, and ships on one of the most massive, devastating blitz attacks in galactic history! They don't want their civilians having to hear about yet more trouble in the galaxy, when it all should have been over by this point. They will pay us because they need peace and quiet right now. They can't afford to be worrying about yet another nasty conflict starting up, because the victory fatigue has set in. They will want peace and quiet, peace and quiet we can make certain only we can give. Their military spent itself badly trying to take freaking Balmorra alone! Whatever the state of their military, I can guarantee you it'll be stretched thin, whatever their effectiveness, they WILL need to pick up the slack. But if you want to give them a very easy target to focus on...that's your incentive," she muttered, right as Ma'rik walked up and started spouting her nonsense. And then she called her Dar'manda, and accused her of being a republic agent...

"Y'know, Thesaurus, after I take your blubber, I'll sell it back to your clan as lamp oil," Nola muttered with that same toothy, happy grin, which was juxtaposed by the complete lack of warmth and open homicide in the tone of her voice. It was clear she was not kidding. She looked around at the other Clan Alor's. Some looked with open disdain at Tal and Ma'rik, not even bothering to try hiding it. A surprising number of them were ones Nola knew for a fact had openly supported the Sith.

"You guys wanna elect her? You could, I suppose. But just remember one thing...it was exactly the leadership of those that thought and fought just like her that lead so many of your sons and daughters to their unnecessary deaths!" Henri spoke up suddenly, standing from his table.

"I could no more support Alesha as Mandalore than any of you could stomach a "yes-man" in your clans! She dares accuse us of being Dar'manda? Years ago, we exposed a Clan that had been completely corrupted by Sith teachings, with plans to spread it to the rest of you! We tried to warn the other clans of the poison, even as it annihilated the Old Trenox Clan! From what I hear, Corey Black wasn't too far from that himself, practicing all that Sith crap. We want to bring prosperity back to our people, repair the infrastructure losses we took, and preserve the Mandalorian way. Strong and independent like always? How can that be true in the face of the very 'deal' so many of you praise yourselves for honoring? A deal with an ally that's completely collapsed and benefitted you nothing, giving that fact ALL of you are here, venting," Henri spat, beyond furious at this point with how blind the Alesha and Cuyot Alors were to reality. 

"They're right," spoke a gruff, quiet voice. There were a few looks of surprise at who had spoken.

It was the Alor of Clan Shukin. He was covered in Beskar'gam that was painted in a sterile, hospital white that hurt the eyes, with a only one armored forearm painted blue.

"Surprise, surprise..." Henri trailed. "Didn't think you'd speak up, seeing how you went all in at the casino."

"The 'Casino', as you put it, took my wife, and all of my children. It took my brother also, who died an unfulfilling death next to a Sith Lord. Honoring the deal. They all honored it. Even I. And that is why I know he is right, despite the fact he irritates me with his metaphors. Hell, I survived a camp of my own. And you know what greeted me when I got back here? Most of my clan dead, injured, or worse than dead. Worse than Dar'manda even. I didn't even think that was possible. I took every miserable cred that I still had that I had earned working for the Sith. And I burnt it. I burnt it all. We gained nothing in that conflict, nor will we gain anything doing what we did before. Which is why I am nominating Aden Tanvir!"

Another stood up. "Tanvir! He should be Mandalore! Kriff the Alesha's!"

"Alesha!" shouted another. "Mandalore must be strong!"

"Alesha!" shouted another.

"Cuyot!" shouted one clan.

"Trenox!" Said another.

"Tanvir!" shouted yet more in unison.

A number of faces in the crowd grew more concerned. Mostly traditionalists, Nola noted. Traditionalists finding out that they were not as numerous as they thought. Some looked furiously at Shukin, unable to believe that someone who had honored his deal so fiercely could do such a sudden, about face.

"Hmmm, seems people have a bit of a crush on 'ya, Tanny. What say you? You wanna be Mandalore? I'll support you. Pinky swear."

"Let me fight, father. Let me ram this thing into her chest cavity!" Nola snarled, pure rage now in her eyes and voice, in complete contrast to her easygoing demeanor mere seconds before. Her Bes'kad was drawn, prepared to leap at Ma'rik in blood fury. And she'd chop up Je'ka the Jerk's afterbirth of a brother if he tried to run interference. Someone was getting chopped the hell up.

"Now, Nola, we came here to discuss heads of state, not go hog wild at every seagull that likes to crap on the beach, in her case with her mouth...which is disgusting. Besides, she insulted Tanny's honor first. He should get first dibs on her, and hopefully break her like a stale bit of hard tack. What's your answer Tanny? Because my delightfully bloodthirsty spawn is about to go all stabby-stabby and rob you of the pleasure and she's like thiiiiisss close," Henri muttered, half eager for the situation to erupt in deadly violence, not hiding his desire to fight, and brutally at that. There wasn't a soul in this whole place that scared him, or his daughter.

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Tal Cuyot    44

Tal shrugged in the face of the angry Trenox’ tirade. “It doesn’t matter how the aruetiise think of us. It matters how they treat us, and fact is Sith pay well and often. Now, what we’re talking about here is the Republic, and the Republic doesn’t pay well or often. The Republic has its own army, and frowns upon mercenaries. The Republic has everything it wants already, aside from hegemony over this sector and its taxes. We don’t need to involve the Mando’ade as a whole in their business.”

 

This was getting ugly. Very, very ugly.

 

Trenox kept talking. Another voice chimed in, and she addressed it; Tal backed up a little, tapping Chel’s shoulder plate. Buy’cese, ad’ike.” he rasped, softly enough that with all the other noise, only Chel and Jair would hear. He didn’t have to tell them twice- after all, it wasn’t hard to read the room. Or just hear the nonsense spewing out of the Trenox’ mouth. Almost in unison, the three Cuyot representatives slid their helmets on and sealed them. Now they were protected, and almost more importantly, they could speak privately.

 

“Why’d you tell us to take ‘em off if we were just gonna put ‘em back on?” Jair asked. She was joking, trying to lighten the mood, but Tal could hear the strain in her voice. This wasn’t good stuff at all, and she knew it. “Look how far being civil got us.”

 

“Just anger and bad fishing references.” Chel muttered. “What’s the plan, buir?”

 

They were bad references. Tal wasn’t into fishing at all, or boats, or any of that- he preferred his feet on the ground- but even he could tell they were overdone. It was like these di’kute needed to announce just how shabla nautical they were, just how special and different they were than anyone else. Seemed like the female felt like she needed to prove it physically, too. This was just a mess. “Ma’rik’s my pick. What do you think?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“She’ll do right by Manda’yaim, sounds like.”

 

So what to do then? Didn’t want this place to erupt in all-out violence. That wouldn’t turn out well. “We got to stop this place from turning into a bloodbath. Jair, know anyone here, aside from the Aleshas?”

 

“Yeah, the barve in the purple’s a friend. Vossir Aran. Good man to have at your back.”

 

“A’right. Go talk to him. Tell him to get his people to follow my lead.” This was going to be… interesting. No other word for it, really.Che’ika, we’re going to hold everyone back on my mark. I want you on that Trenox shabuir, the female. She moves, slot her.”

 

“Understood.” All business now. The kid was the best shot out of the three of them, and out of the whole of the room- well, if anyone was going to interfere, it’d be the Trenox girl. Tal stepped forwards again, switching to external comms to speak again- and then she drew a beskad, threatening violence. Wonderful. That made her a target all by itself- who drew steel at one of these things, in the middle of a bunch of Mando'ade, to threaten someone? Insane. Couldn’t make a move yet, though. Had to hear back from Aran. So after the big Trenox’ oddly childish monologue, Tal pushed further into the center of things. “So you want us to run a shabla protection racket on the Republic? Are you serious?”

 

It just hit him then. A moment before, the room had been filled with shouting, nominations for Mand’alor. And someone had said his name. Someone had nominated him. Shab, that hit like a ton of bricks. He could do it. He could go for this.


And be what? Mand’alor te Mir’sheb? Stay in your shabla hoverlane. You do better out of the public eye.

 

He shook that thought away. No need to worry about that. Ma’rik Alesha was going to become Mand’alor here, no two ways about it. Back to the Trenox issue. “I’m no gangster, Trenox. Pretty sure none of us are. I stay away from that aruetyc osik.”

 

Jair clicked back on in his internal comms. “Vossir says he’ll cover our shebs, and the rest of Clan Aran will too.”

 

That was enough for him. He blink-clicked over to internal. “Now.”

 

He drew, his Merr-Sonn heavy pistol in his right hand and his little BlasTech holdout in his left, one for the big Trenox with the spear and the other for A’den Tanvir. In a room full of trained, armed, and heavily armored special forces, he’d drawn his weapons. Well, this would either work out real well or real badly. No in between.

 

Chel had his own pistol drawn and aimed in an instant, a big nickel-plated semi-auto slugthrower. It was one of the ones Je’ka had left around the farm, stuck under a table; when Chel had found it, Tal had shouted at Je’ka, and he’d just said the ad’ika could keep it. It was a hell of a weapon, firing eleven-point-five-millimeter hollow-point slugs, and it was pointed straight at the Trenox female’s face.

 

Jair had pushed forwards, her blaster in hand and pointed at one of the Tanvirs at A’den’s back, a burly chakaar with a square face and a frown. The Arans, all with the same black aliike on their beskar’gam, had their own various weapons out, covering various belligerent-looking Mando’ade around the room. At least the Cuyots and Aleshas weren’t alone in this.

 

Tal switched back over to external comms, dialed the volume up loud, just to make sure everyone heard. Vode, cool your shebs. We don’t want a massacre in here.” Shab, he sounded like he was robbing the Bank of Aargau in a bad holovid, but he wasn’t sure how else to do it. “We need a Mand’alor and filling the Oyu’baat with corpses won’t do that. Sounds like we got two main candidates in the running.”

 

His throat hurt. It was the old wound, for sure, but there was also certainly a bit of pain just from thinking about what he was doing here. “So we either get to an agreement, or Ma’rik Alesha and A’den Tanvir fight it out. Just them.”

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"Any man can make mistakes Tanvir, but only an idiot persists in them. Your avaricious motivations for joining the Republic are as shameful as the Trenox clan's claim to being Mando'ade. Neither of you know what it means to be true to your people, and for that I cannot stand by and let you try to guide our people into ruin." Ma'irk said bluntly, putting her buy'ce back on and sealing it. "Stand and deliver, Tanvir. If you want to be Mand'alor so badly then you should have no trouble proving you're worthy of the title. Will you do as Alor Cuyot suggests and face me in battle?"

 

Aden Tanvir was furious to say the very least, and the Trenox clan themselves looked none too pleased with how the meeting had turned out. Her own family had put their own helmets back on as well. The air of the place was tense, and the defusal of the time bomb came when the gauntlet was thrown. Rather than battle it out in the Oyu'baat, Tanvir pointed to the door, "Outside then. This old warrior will show you just how wrong you are." He said, slapping one of his clan on the shoulder and putting his own buy'ce back on. He walked out without so much as addressing anyone else. A fight to the death seemed to have soured his mood more.

 

Ma'rik left the Oyu'baat as well. This was the kind of thing for which she lived. Battle was her life, and she had made her name and modest wealth battling for the highest bidder. Now, though, she was battling for honor. Not for herself, but for her people. They did not need a Mand'alor that suggested the Republic was necessary for the safety of Manda'yaim. The Mando'ade need nothing but their kin, and she was going to prove that point, violently. She had her blade and purpose. Those were the only two things she needed to show the rest of the warriors here that no Republic dog was going to lead Manda'yaim into desolation.

 

There was a bit of silent preparation, at least between herself and Tanvir. It was only fair to allow the two destined for combat to speak to their kin. Only one was going to leave the fight, it was the right thing to do. She had nothing to say to anyone really, nothing that they did not already understand. They knew what the life of a warrior meant, and that it could end violently and suddenly. Ma'rik had always been prepared for death. It was the smart thing to do to have her will in the event of her death known. Her possessions, all of them, were to be passed to her mother. Everything she had started with, her beskad, her blasters, they belonged to her now deceased father, and she felt it was right to give them to her as a memento.

 

Ma'rik drew her beskad and paced back and forth while the older man deliberated with his clan. She grew impatient. There was a streak of impetuous behavior in her past that showed her youth. She was not inexperienced as a warrior, by any means, but she was still young and hated waiting. With business to be done it was not something she enjoyed to be kept here longer than necessary. The way she felt it, she was going to become Mand'alor and she was going to guide her people through this trial into greatness. It had not yet struck her just how important she would become should she survive this battle.

 

Finally, Aden Tanvir was prepared. He had a pair of gauntlets that were, at least to her, ridiculous. Little knives it looked like, coming from the tops of his hands. Seemed ostentatious, seemed unwieldy, but he was a veteran and likely knew what he was doing with them. She knew what she was doing with her own weapon though, and she was smaller than he. If his size was anything, it was a detriment now. Surely he had the power over her, but could he keep up with her lighter and faster frame?

As she squared off against him, and the two sized one another up for the coming bloodshed, the crowds formed a makeshift ring around the two. Ma'rik waited, and Tanvir attacked. A backstep to the left kept her posture on balance and in dodging the forward downswing she got to see what his methodology was. He was a striker, a hard-hitter with a lot of strength but not much in the way of speed. It was as she figured, and that meant if she could seize the initiative after his first assault she could end him quickly.

 

The fight raged for what felt like an eternity. Ma'rik and Tanvir trading blows back and forth. Tanvir's strength showed, but Ma'rik's youth and speed showed more and lasted longer. His veterancy saw him outperform her early in the battle, and the heavy blows that hit her armor left their marks on the plates and bruised the flesh beneath. Pain was nothing, pain was not going to stop her from the most important fight of her life. Through the wear and tear of an intentionally prolonged fight, the advantage swung to Ma'rik and in a flourish of blade and blood, the young woman landed a solid blow that shook her opponent. A deep gash was opened along his torso between the plates, and blood seeped through. Like a predatory animal she attacked again in the staggering hit, sinking the blade into the same spot.

 

Tanvir crumbled to a single knee and the crowd roared in a mixed reaction of joy and despair. The Tanvir crowd was rightfully upset, as their patriarch had been mortally wounded by the strike to his torso. Ma'rik tossed her beskad to the ground and grabbed the man by the head. The groaning of metal could be heard at the sudden silence. Ma'rik's shuk'orok slowly crushed in on the buy'ce. Few brief moments passed, and with a sickening crunch, blood poured out of the smashed helmet and onto her hands. Ma'rik released the body and pushed it over. She too went to a single knee, very clearly exhausted by the fight. Ma'rik pulled her buy'ce off, and her hair had been matted to her head by sweat. "Manda'yaim stands alone..." she shouted from her kneeling position, before pushing herself back to her feet. It was clear she herself had been wounded in the fight, but she had been the victor. Her family ran into the ring and stood by her in the event that anyone had any ideas of ending her in such a vulnerable state. She had won an honorable fight though, and anyone that knew what it meant to be Mando'ad knew that her claim to becoming Mand'alor had be justified by her own blood, sweat, and tears.

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Nola Trenox    1

Nola frowned when the gun got stuck in her face. Seems too many here didn't want to listen. Too many were still visionless. She frowned, but otherwise remained calm.

Henri for his part was also unphased. He looked around, saw that Another clan in black garb had pulled weapons. 

"DAMN I love a good clan meeting!" Henri said jovially. "What about you, Nola?"

"All these guns pointed at my face makes me hungry," Nola remarked dryly, staring and examining the gun Chel had pointed at her.

"Oooo, fancy," Nola remarked. "And big too. Bet that ran you a couple of cut throats."

"You should see this Merr-Sonn Tally-Man here's got pointed me. Looks like it could blow the socks off of my socks."

"Your socks have socks?" she asked casually turning toward him in the middle of the lethal standoff.

"Yeah, uh, try not to cogitate too hard on that right now, Nola."

"Oh yeah, the guns." Nola turned back to facing the weapons, still clutching her Bes'kad. "I dunno, pops, kinda like my odds here."

"Lenny, How you doing?" Henri called out.

Two Aran clan members had blasters trained on Lenny, who had taken a third hostage and was pointing a two-barreled heavy blaster at his hostages groin.

"I am doing well. I calculate a fifty-six percent chance of shearing my hostage's nether regions off when I pull the trigger," Lenny answered in a calm monotone.

"Yeah, uh, spoiler alert, he loves him a good nether regions shearing. We don't know why, he's just insatiable when it comes right down to it," Henri said. 

Then Tal told everyone to cool it down and that there wouldn't be a massacre in the place.

"Yeah, this place is a bit small for it...We need our spaces wide and comfy if we're gonna resort to casual disembowelment. Enough of this. Lenny, release him." Henri ordered.

Lenny released the hostage, and one of the Arans angrily grabbed him. "Ooo, tighter," Lenny muttered loudly in that deadpan tone as he was restrained.

Tanvir for his part, also looked furious as he was challenged. He accepted and everyone began filing outside, gathered in a circle, Nola sheathed her Bes'kad as she was lead out under observation.

The duel persisted, and though Nola could see Tanvir had experience, Nola knew the duel would go to Mar'ik. 

It was not a matter of who was more talented. Talent alone cannot win a battle. Ma'rik had the self righteous fury of a woman who refused to compromise, desperation to preserve her people amidst another crushing and humiliating defeat driving her attacks. Tanvir was fighting solely for his own glory. And though he was no fool he simply did not have what Ma'rik did.

And what Ma'rik had was belief.

In any other Mandalorian, this would have been admirable. But Ma'rik was a Sith Apologist, in Nola's eyes. 

The way she had tried to ingratiate herself to that Sith woman on that one planet had never left Nola's mind. This woman would make the same mistakes all the other Mandalore's had. There was zero doubt Ma'rik would seek out the Sith, if any were still alive, and try and forge the same kinds of close ties Corey Black had gone to the trouble of creating.

And her people would never be free of the shadow of the Sith, never be free to try and legit-own the galaxy on their own. Ma'rik, and those like her, were the one's leading the Mandalorians to their doom, not people like the Trenox's. They were the one's who wanted a future independent of the Sith. A future where they would be respected and feared precisely BECAUSE they needed no such alliance.

Neither she nor her father would have exactly been happy if Tanvir had won however. He would have been tolerable, but would have lacked the ambition The Trenox Clan had.

That was why neither he nor his clan had been invited to the covert meeting on Irmenu with representatives of other pro-republic clans. That was why they had discussed contingencies in the event one of their own lost. 

They all knew how it had gone the last time clans had gone pro-republic.

Henri had put it best at that meeting, which had taken place a few days before meeting at the Oyubaat. "We must all hang together...or we shall all hang separately."

That was why other Pro-Republic Clansmen had teamed together, securing positions close to the Oyubaat, preparing weapons. A Trenox Sapper had set up smoke bombs a day before the meeting.

Nola knew how it would look to some. Knew her clan was taking a risk, setting themselves so firmly against the tide. But anything was better than another Mandalore eventually wrapped around a Sith pinky.

Nola slapped her shoulder, casually, like she was swatting a fly. That was the Signal.

Heavy Sniping blasters downed most of the Arans in the crowd first. The smoke bombs burst in the street and the Trenox Clan warriors came out of their cloaking fields along with dozens of other members from other clans and began opening fire on the Alesha's, anyone who was decidedly pro-imperial. Her clan had been sitting on this kind of intel for years.

Nola's Bes'kad came out and she rammed it into the Torso of an Anti-Republic Mandalorian. The Pro-Republic's in the crowd were already firing, having backed up the Tanvir's who, though not initially part of the plan, were quickly learning who didn't want them dead.

Nola beheaded another Mandalorian who attacked her with a Force pike. Her heavy Bes'kad bashing his weapon aside and getting jammed into his neck, which she had to yank through to finish cutting it off.

She spotted Ma'rik in the crowd. "Alesha!" Nola roared in the smoke and chaos. "FACE ME!"

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Tal Cuyot    44

Tanvir wanted it brought it outside. Probably a smart move. More space, less anger trying to blow the top off a tapcaf. Also got him a bit further away from blasters, which was not an insignificant concern. Tal could agree with all that, because what was happening here was essentially a Mantellian standoff on a large scale, and that wasn't going to turn out well at all. One of the Trenox chakaare had a blaster to someone's gett'se, a few others had blades to throats... it was a mess. 

 

But nobody's dead yet...

 

Tanvir put on his buy'ce and walked out. Tal let him, lowering the blaster he held on the barve. "Yeah, outside sounds good." he rasped. Though his words weren't exactly commanding, his tone was, and the blasters put some force behind it; he began to see some nods and murmuring. The big Trenox shabuir stated his assent, and that seemed to help. Tensions deflated somewhat, weapons going down, and almost comically, Mando'ade began to file outside. 

 

Clan Cuyot were among the last to leave, along with a couple Aran barves, shepherding everyone out so nobody shot 'em in the back. But Jair was getting jittery, movements quick, less than precise. Tal had never seen her quite this nervous before- she was ori'rami'kadjatnese be te jatnese, she'd led squads through the bowels of an enemy Star Destroyer, she'd walked fearlessly into hostile situations, she'd done a hell of a lot that required more gett'se than this, but for some reason this situation was getting to her bad

 

"You okay, Jai'ika?" Tal asked, through internal comms, as he pushed out through the door. Jair was in front of him; she nodded, without looking back. "Yeah. Yeah. Just... Mando'ade fighting their own vode."

 

Yeah, that was certainly disconcerting. He didn't let his own feelings about it show. "Osik happens."

 

They got outside, pressed through the crowd to the front. Everyone was circling around the two combatants; Tanvir was conferring with his aliit, Ma'rik was just pacing, beskad in hand. She was impatient. Tanvir looked... well, determined. He was bigger than her, no doubt stronger, he had years of experience, but she had youth and she had conviction. Tal's bet was on Ma'rik, of course, or he wouldn't have let this happen, but it was going to be a close, brutal thing. 

 

And they began. Tanvir had knuckle vibroblades, and he hit hard. Ma'rik, on the other hand, was fast. It wasn't a long fight, but it was long enough. Tanvir kept trying to end it quick, Ma'rik kept just dancing away; they both landed blows, but there wasn't much blood. The beskar'gam saw to that. For a second, Tal was worried, as they seemed nearly evenly matched- and then Tanvir left himself open for a microsecond, and then Ma'rik's beskad was buried in his chest, between the plates. 

 

"Kandosii!" Jair shouted on internal comms, so loud it hurt Tal's ears. Shouts went up from the crowd, mixed in joy and despair, as A'den Tanvir dropped to a knee, fighting desperately for air. Blood bubbled from his mouth, flowed like the Kelita from his wound. The ivory helmet tilted up, void-black T-visor angled towards his killer.

 

Ma'rik tore the beskad out, crimson blood spattering the dusty ground. The weapon followed the blood, clattering down; Ma'rik seized the dying man's buy'ce in her hands. In her shuk'orok, Tal realized. He hadn't even noticed those. 

 

The killing blow took far too long for Tal's liking. He'd seen a lot of things in his life, but the squealing of beskar, the way A'den Tanvir's arms flailed... it seemed to last forever. It was shabla nauseating. Suddenly, finally, the sharp crack of the visor shattering split the air, and the buy'ce imploded. Blood began to find its way out of the crumpled mass of metal; Ma'rik pushed the convulsing corpse away, falling to her own knees in what appeared to be exhaustion. 

 

Manda'yaim had a Mand'alor once more. 

 

Tal punched the air, clenched fist high in triumph. "Mand'alor Alesha!" he roared, masking his relief that it had actually worked out well. Chel slapped Jair's back, nodding happily. They had a Mand'alor again, one who wouldn't spinelessly sell them out to the Republic. It had been resolved in the time-honored way, and no Mando'ad could say otherwise. 

 

There was a dull thud, and another, and another, and another. Hissing. Smoke. Tal was in the middle of the crowd, and wasn't tall enough to see anything over anyone's head, but there was smoke rising up, and then a second later, blasterfire. 

 

Someone set up a shabla ambush?

 

"Cover the Mand'alor!" Tal shouted, as loudly as he was capable, rushing in to do exactly that. Pulling up his carbine, he snapped the stock open, checked for charge- full- and dropped to a knee in front of Ma'rik. Chel was at his side, slug pistol in his hands; Jair followed, rifle up. "Ma'rik, my speeder's around the corner. Can you run?" She'd been wounded, she was tired, and now they were getting shot at. The pro-Republic chakaare, no doubt. Maybe the Trenox, they'd seemed pretty willing to do osik like this. 

 

The vode were scattering, rushing for cover. Vossir Aran and a clanmate, those brave, beautiful bastards, were actually standing, facing the blasterfire, shielding their Mand'alor with their bodies. There were already corpses on the ground. This was bad, very bad. He could see the enemy now, and yeah, they were Trenox, and some of the other pro-Republic clans. Hut'uune. Couldn't win in a fair fight, had to set a shabla ambush. There were rules here, and this did not abide by them. 

 

He turned, firing from his kneeling position, carbine on full-auto. It wasn't going to do too much to a fully-armored Mando'ad, but it'd force them to keep their heads down. What they needed was support here. Switching hands with his weapon, he kept the suppressing fire up, activating the comlink in his right kom'rk. Couldn't trust buy'ce comms in a situation like this. Selecting the code for Torris back on the farm, he tried to get him. Nothing. "Osi'kyr!" Kula, instead. Thankfully, Kula picked up. 

 

"Tal, what-" He could hear the blasterfire, no doubt. Tal cut him off. "Get Torris. Get my Aurek, get the shuttle, come to the Oyu'baat. Everything's gone osik'la. Expect to take fire. Quickly." He cut the link there, getting both hands back on his blaster just in time for the power cell to die. Ejecting it, he snatched another one from his belt. 

 

Vossir Aran fell, smoke curling from his torso. He wasn't dead, but he was hurt bad, thrashing about in pain. Keeping low, Tal ran over, grabbing him by his collar plate and hauling him back through the dust. He'd been hit in the side, where the plates didn't cover. There was a lot of blood for a blaster wound. Not at all good. Aran's blood-slickened gloves clutched feebly at Tal's gauntlet. "It's okay, vod, you'll be okay." He had no way of knowing that, but sometimes you just needed to be optimistic. This was one of those times. 

 

The other Aran barve collapsed too, falling hard on his face, hard enough that his feet kicked up before dropping back down to the dust. The Trenox were advancing. 

 

Jair went running for the other Aran. Vossir's grip on Tal's gauntlet grew strong. "Dead." the wounded man gritted out, voice unmistakably pained even through his helmet speakers. "Leave her. Dead." 

 

He'd be able to see his clanmate's armor readings through his HUD, Tal realized. "Jair! Jair, she's dead, get back!" 

 

Jair heard him. She turned to run back, but at that moment a blaster bolt took her in the leg, in the unprotected thigh. She dropped with an abrupt, agonized cry, her blaster falling from her grip. "Shab!"

 

With an effort worthy of Canderous Ordo himself, Tal dragged Vossir back a couple more meters; another Aran, buy'ce painted white, a medic, took custody of the alor. Wasting no time, Tal ran back out for Jair. 

 

"Buir!" cried Chel, in warning; that big slugthrower barked twice, so loud it was easily distinguishable even in the noise of battle. A Tanvir hut'uun not ten meters away collapsed, blood fountaining from his perforated neck seal. Tal hadn't seen him, concealed by the smoke. No time for thanks, though. He ran up, seizing Jair's webbing to drag her away. She was still trying to crawl, spitting half-coherent curses.

 

Torris and Kula better get here soon.

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The whole thing was over as quickly as it had begun. The battle, and the moment to savor her victory. It was perhaps one of the most craven acts she had ever witnessed committed by anyone who had at one point called themselves Mandalorian. There was no honor in this, and the clans responsible readily placed themselves in her crosshairs as the first to be destroyed once she had fully recovered and assumed the mantle she had struggled to achieve. Tal, truest friend and ally that he was, did not hesitate for a single second to place himself in the line of fire, nor did the Aran clan. The order had been simple, protect her, and she could see the dedication in how they stood down the ambush. "Yes, I can run." She said, pushing herself back up on both feet so she could move out of the smoke cloud and combat. This was not the time to exact retribution against those untrue to their blood and their bond to their brothers and sisters.

 

Ma'rik drew the glittering pistol from her left holster and checked the pak while on the go. It was ready to kill, as always, but she was neurotic over battle readiness after being wounded enough times over not having enough charge during her rookie years. Easy mistakes to make for overconfident youth. She had not made that mistake again, and the heavy pistol had been maintained perfectly since then. So too had its twin, but in keeping low she was not going to risk losing balance without a hand to catch herself. Under the cover of the smoke popped, she ignored the challenge from the screaming nitwit by answering it with six rapid shots placed at her legs and nothing else. If she wanted to challenge her to a real fight like that, she would give her the dignity just to crush her on equal footing. She was willing to face Ma'rik while she was winded and wounded, but would she want to face the same challenge when she was able to go at full speed again? Ma'rik thought not, but she would humor her for the time being and ideally leave her wounded enough that her misguided fire to battle would not burn out during her own recovery.

 

"Tal, you and your people have a job to do when we settle all this. We'll discuss it once we're out of the fire. Take me anywhere but here." She said, keeping herself on pace with the covering crew she had gained in winning the title of Mand'alor. It was still coming to her that she was now the leader of her people. These men and women would fight and die for her so long as she led them with honor and purpose. That was a heavy responsibility to shoulder, and she had plenty to think about. There were so many things that she had on her mind, and none of them could be put into motion while there was dissent of this magnitude. As much as she hated the idea of a full-blown clan war, if push came to shove, she would eradicate those who objected to her honorable victory and establish peace and order on Manda'yaim once more. Her people were strongest when they were united. That was her primary goal, and in her mind there were only two outcomes. Achieve peace and unify the clans, or die trying.

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Tal Cuyot    44

He managed to drag Jair back to the Mand'alor's position. She wasn't happy, screaming furious invective on internal comms; at some point on the drag back she'd drawn her pistol and was firing wildly in the direction of the traitors. The Mand'alor was firing, too, shining pistol blurting bolts at the upstart Trenox girl. "Tal, you and your people have a job to do when we settle all this. We'll discuss it once we're out of the fire. Take me anywhere but here." she said; Tal could barely hear her over Jair and the blasterfire, but he nodded. "We got air support incoming. When they get here, we'll make a break for the speeder." 

 

It wasn't a long trip from the Cuyot farm to the center of Keldabe. In a shuttle or starship, it was barely a minute. Allowing time for getting in the air, maybe two and a half, three. It had already been about one. Not a long wait to go. 

 

Longest shabla minute of Tal's life. 

 

The fight had decayed into a standoff. Two sides with heavy armor and heavy weapons. Only way to do it now was up close and personal, beskade and vibroblades, and nobody really wanted to get into that. Tal didn't blame them. A couple Aran guys taking cover by the Oyu'baat were readying up, drawing weapons, but he waved them off. Couldn't have them getting in the way here. That wouldn't do.

 

Not a second too late. He heard the unmistakable shriek of an Aurek strikefighter in atmosphere a second before the actual vehicle came in sight. S-foils already extended, it was coming in fast and low. "Clan Cuyot, to the rescue..." crackled Torris' voice over the comms. 

 

Tal punched the air with a gauntleted fist. Nothing got the blood pumping like close air support. "Oya! Oya!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, words dragging themselves out of his raw throat. Jair on the ground echoed him, voice shot through with pain.

 

Torris opened fire, incandescent red bolts streaming from the Aurek's cannons. The traitor position erupted, dust, smoke, and bodies flying into the air. It was glorious. The pass seemed to last forever, even though it was probably less than a second. In that time, he hauled Jair up, got her over his shoulders. "Let's go!"

 

 

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