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Now We Are Free...

Keepin Corellia Weird
Location: Wheat field on Ustrayo​
Often he had thought of this moment. Aerin might not understand. Nor Quintus. Darius might. The bastards he had sired didn't know him for the most part. But the aging beskar smith had a duty to them, one and all. They bore his name, and thus his fate and crime were theirs. As long as he lived, his Clan was in danger, and the reports were always getting worse of the slaughter visited to those name Mereel. None of it official purging, of course. But the Empire didn't do a whole Hell of a lot to protect those innocents bearing the Mereel name.

The former al'ori'rami'kad stood in the middle of a field, covered in gleaming new armor of Mandalorian steel, a sword of shimmering Force Crystal at his side. His helmet was on, and sealed, and the armor was so new there was hardly wear marks on the helmet from it being grasped to be removed. Sighing, he waited, thinking over what had lead him to this bleak point. The best of intentions had allowed the worst of things to happen with him as the vessel.

Originally he had began planning to start a war with the Sith. But his mind had been unwell since Coruscant in the early days of the Galactic Alliance, and it never quite fully healed from that schism. The cunning wench he had thought was his friend had seen through his facade of strength, and over-threw his sanity and mind with apparent ease and glee, and then by his hand her will was executed and Mandalore was nearly destroyed. Even in their efforts to restore it, those in the Empire probably hadn't addressed the looming issue of unstable tectonics. Might not even know it was lurking.

But the safety of his Clan had become paramount after Utapau and the healing of his shattered psyche. So he had taken a student, [member="Ember Farseer"], to pass on his Force knowledge and learning to. A holocron had been made with the help of [member="Dissero"], which sat entrusted to his pupil. If Quintu ever followed the instructions he had been sent, the young Force User would come to Ember for those as his birthright. Darius was given his fathers rifle and crushgauntlets, and several of his other children received other gifts. And through friends in the Exile Disapora, he had learned of a young Mandalorian who could help him.

So he waited for [member="Cato Fett"], standing in silvered wheat as the sun rose on a planet the galaxy had forgotten.

Just as, maybe one day, it might forget even him. Or know him for truth.

Cato Fett

Karma portioned out a life’s given luck and misfortune, leaving Cato to wonder what he’d done in his prior existence to earn the invitation.

The missive came traditionally: hand-delivered through a dedicated porter service, written with pen and a hard, iron-flecked ink indicative of Keldabe, exactingly signed and sealed under both Clan symbol and a personal insignia. The latter having been seared onto the vellum parchment as if with a forging brand. It had asked him, formally, for his anticipated presence in helping a fellow vod prepare and then travel beyond the Veil of Tears. Of course, the letter’s language afforded him numerous ‘outs’ in case he found the task or the sender distasteful. It was only proper manners to help one another to save and preserve face. Only the very worst and very bestial of enemies refused protocol.

Cato re-read the missive over into the hot evening, through a meager supper and night tea, contemplating [member="Ijaat Mereel"]’s entreaty by candle and sharp moonlight. Slept through a partially meditative doze, attempting to glean hidden threads left behind by the al’ori’rami’kad’s ribald cursive, still left in a wonder. Why? Why himself? After breakfast and a hard, scruffy wash in his poor tin-and-oak tub, Cato addressed Mereel’s request and chose definitively. No good cause to refuse and it couldn’t be left to a half-wit Mantis lackey or ill-mannered Garon or, all spirits and kami forbid, a dung-eating Munin to haphazardly perform.

His reply left with the noon mail carrier out of Kwenn Station and disappeared westward into the (less than) Unknown Regions.


Cato Fett rode up with the mid-afternoon sun, saddled atop a second-hand keval mount. Brushed steel had lost its lustre across its mechanistic flanks, the saddle and stirrups, barrel-cinch and wedged cantle, the padding and well-scuffed knee-rolls all leather tanned and well age-cracked. He pulled the reins slightly, jogging the mount down to a low trot, until rider and machine-beast slowed to a beat a handful of metres from the Gar’buir.

He looked poor for travel. Dressed in dark cottons, a workman’s hakama pants and a tasuki-knotted shirt, the robe sleeves rolled and stowed up behind his elbows. The dress was a mild infusion. Asahian by personal adoption, with each Mon crest converted to the Fett wheat-crop circle. Mid-day heat and dust had washed Cato’s face ruddy with earth. He swept himself clean by his palms, stalking forward on dark socks and straw-woven sandals. Paired swords in well-brushed scabbards clacked across his hip.

Su cuy’gar, Ijaat Mereel,” Cato said, bowing formally, initiating mannerly protocol. “And how does today find you?”
Keepin Corellia Weird
For a moment, in a glittering space of time, he stood as he once had as the other approached and spoke. When he, and Anija, and Arrbi and Larraq and the others had ran the Protectors and tried to salvage the slice of time when honor had shone stronger. The light sheened and reflected from the silvered chrome visor, unlike so many black of his kin. All his armor took on sharp relief and shadows, in a pristine white, bronzed copper and black. Anyone sufficient in technology would recognize the articulation and fit to be nanotechnology. A smile that was as rare as genuine touched his lips, and he nodded, the wind flaring a prized red warden's cloak.

"I am well, Cato Fett. It's a glad time to see you here. My soul has been heavy of late, but now it is light. Your clan and mine have been connected for centuries, and I am glad now to see ancient bonds not wholly forgotten. May one of my progeny rebuild the family to repay you and yours."

Turning, he gazed at the sun, crushgauntleted hands brushing across the wheat with stretched fingers, folding around the brushed stalks and swaying as if to the melody of some music he alone could hear. Eventually his face turned back to Cato, even if still hidden under the helmet, and the sword was unbuckled from his hips, offered up to Cato. Tied to the handle was a heavy signet ring of beskar, cinched around a finger sized scroll with many spirals in its depths.

"When it is done, I only ask you burn my remains with my armor, as is our way. Press the kyr'bes on the necklace the fire leaves behind. Take what is left and deliver it to the man you find at that location. If he is willing, show him our ways, or at the least tell him of my fate. I won't whine and cringe and blame a broken mind anymore. Tell him of a father that delved too far into absolutism and ego, and paid the ultimate price in the end for his hubris. Maybe he can pick up my name and bring it back... Will you honor this last request to salvage my lineage?"

[member="Cato Fett"]

Cato Fett

He played the sword-flat over his hand, testing the heft and balance, feeling a heavy, cool weight pause over his knuckles two inches beneath the nominal ‘mid-point’ between blade peak and the sturdy, crystalline pommel. The texture recalled to Cato summer water, warm fluidity with an edge of primal chill hiding just behind the initial waft of the temperature. If there was a spirit taking up residence in the blade, a kami or god attracted to Ijaat’s martial prowess and forging, it’d be the that inexplicable ‘freeze’ that charged his nerves. Cato stepped back and glided the sword through several basic cuts, dovetailing the kata with a brief sukuiuchi figure-eight.

His fist struck at the haft, snapping imaginary gore free from the long edge, turning the sword round to sheathe through a scabbard formed temporarily with his thumb and forefinger. Tradition dictated either blood or silk could touch open steel, at least by Asahian bushi. A length of indigo cloth tidied dust and wheat chaff from chappe to central ridge and the wintery peak beyond.

“The only way to keep peace amidst ourselves is attending to one another’s due honour. Good manners cost nothing,” He said. “You may consider your request done. Fett will always owe Mereel a debt for Jaster’s kindness to young Jango. I’ve not forgotten. I cannot. The weight of innumerable ancestors demands it. It’s a good burden, otherwise, we’re due to forget everything that renders us Mando’ade.

“I will find this boy and inform him, as you’ve bide me. I’ll leave it up to him what to make of it all.” Catp turned into the low wind skirting up the short knoll, resting a hand over his own scabbards and staring where the horizon terminator melted white between aching blue and wheat-gold. “…I’ve brought wice-rine, if you’d like a cup. There’s quill and ink and good writing parchment, should you wish a poem. A good mat too, keep the soil off your knees.

“…This is a fine way,” He said, looking back. “No shame to it. Not an iota. I wouldn’t go grovelling before a sentencing committee either.”

[member="Ijaat Mereel"]
Keepin Corellia Weird

There was a hesitant moment then, the only showing of it thus far from the aging mando'ad. A glimmer of anger in his mind, before it faded and his shoulders relaxed. Gone were the days of desperation and 'one last try'. Some things, no matter the intent, you didn't come back from. Reaching up, he removed his helmet to reveal a face that always seemed to be covered in stubble. The helmet was laid down next to the mats from Cato that he laid out with care. Sitting, he took the offered writing instruments. Momentarily, his hand hovered over the paper, then began to move across it, first drawing a rudimentary kyr'bes as his Clan wore, with a laurel-wreathed on it's tusks. Then below, words came to be. Years ago, Marasun had insisted he know poetry, so he recalled old lessons of his oldest master. It seemed fitting.

Hazy break of day
A ferrous, hard spine bends
enjoying the sun

Nothing more was written, and he straightened as he took out a flask, draining the last drop of tihaar in it and sighing at the burn. Wheat flowed around him, and he watched it, eyes drifting through memory more than stalks of grain. Aerin would be getting the morning tasks done. Would find his note in her caff cup. Pain seared at him for a moment to leave her, but he fought it back. Finally, without meeting the eyes of the other, he placed palms to knees, drew in a breath, and nodded.

It was on others now, to carry on...

[member="Cato Fett"]

Cato Fett


Wordlessly, Cato subsumed into the ritual of blade cleansing, holding Oilseller above his skewed lap. Ijaat’s final poetics were not his to know nor ponder. Such an intimacy between muse, heart, and the soul crying out a last expression demanded an observance of privacy. The scabbard was knocked and wracked free of debris, choji oil and a kind of cleaning powder applied along the length of the longsword with both cloth and a bobbing cotton ball. It was mechanical motion, muscle memory that gave Cato time enough to meditate briefly.

Ijaat’s request had bought him a curious and dubious honour. Becoming his ‘Headtaker’, granted the strange privilege of executing one of the Mando’ade’s most sought after mercenaries and neatly pinching shut a story that’d lingered since Mandalore’s last great razing. Like as if his person had only ever been a modest river pebble locked to the bottom of a great rapid bed, suddenly and inexplicably dislodged by a wallop of tidal force and briefly taken up to emerge through river froth. Just the briefest of tastes of the great current that coursed through their Veil of Tears before his world resumed its routine. Ijaat Mereel’s head would buy him nothing, and besides: such wasn’t the point.

With Ijaat readied and his poem dried, neatly folded and stowed with the ink-stone and quill, Cato stood. He slid Oilseller past Ijaat’s face, the blade-flat’s wet mirror sheen catching both reflection and light. Summer kindle danced with the steel. An aged crag with flint-eyes and sternly set mouth pondered at the sword. He’s put his hands to more silver and iron than most lode-veins will ever hold, Cato thought. The weight of the moment collapsed and buckled across his shoulders. Oilseller tremored, drawing beads of caught sunlight down the length of its honed edge.

Returning to the root
is called stillness:
return to life is
called the Constant;
knowing the Constant
is called Enlightenment.

I know nothing, Cato breathed. What I am is a sum. He pulled the sword high and settled his weight and power low, through his belly and hips, down to his sandaled soles. Posed in a perfect standing guard, the balance able to slightly canter to allow sudden, lethal interceptions to any blow from virtually any angle. Centered on Ijaat’s half-prostrate kneel, on his bent neck and the aged sinew, leather skin, the round arches of vertebrae that would doubtlessly resist the cut. His toes ground against ruddy soil and rock, adjusting. Breathing had stilled to a slow beat counting with the blood thrumming through his ears. The occasion demanded the utmost perfection. A slip, anything to spoil the blow, and the purity and mercy of the severing would be destroyed. Cato silenced the little voice in his heart crying out against Mando’ade spilling Mando’ade blood. Time hung, waiting for the sword to fall.

Though it be broken –
broken again – still it’s there:
the moon on the water.
“Kiai!” Cato loosed the power of his hara in a roar and swung, turning with his waist. Oilseller woke and sliced, still bright with captured noonlight. Incredibly, he thought he caught just the faintest smile tug at Ijaat’s face. Then a flash of escaping body heat and the cloy perfume of welcomed death, blanketing the wheat-heads. Sweat poured across his cheeks and spine, clinging the ragged kimono to his flesh.

Mandokar, he thought. Mandokarla!

[member="Ijaat Mereel"]