The next morning there was a flurry of activity and Obi-wan was glad to help the others pack everything away. It gave him something distracting to do as he tried to plan his eventual escape. All of the warriors in the encampment were obviously veterans, save the few squires he saw rushing about doing errands for their knight masters. There were rumors that the Mandalorians had their own kind of magic but other than the potion that had changed him he had seen no other magics being used. He didn’t want to disregard the information as a baseless rumor, it was too dangerous an idea to ignore. So he’d just have to watch and wait.
“There you are, verd’ika.” Jumping he turned but quickly relaxed as he recognized Myles’ kind face.
“Jate vaar’tur, Myles.” ‘Good morning.’ He said amiably. Somewhere behind him Buurenau and Tracyn were arguing loudly about something in Mando’a and Obi-wan could see the skin around Myles’ eyes crinkle with mirth.
“Jate vaar’tur, Obi-wan. How was your rest? I’ve heard that jetii travel a lot but sleeping around strangers isn’t always comfortable for a warrior.” He felt a rush of warmth for the older man and smiled.
“I slept fine, thank you. I’m used to sleeping wherever, and whenever, I can. The cot was very comfortable, comparatively.” Myles expression became mildly concerned before smoothing out again.
“I’m glad you slept well. His highness wanted to ride with you today, if you would be amenable to the idea.” Obi-wan smiled.
“Of course. His highness and I have had some interesting discussions and he’s been teaching me more Mando’a.” Myles’ expression brightened. Like before the man seemed to appreciate whenever Obi-wan showed an interest in the language and their culture. But he wasn’t fooled. Myles was just as sharp and well trained as the other veteran warriors. Otherwise the Mand’alor wouldn’t trust him to take over if something happened to him, at least until the prince was of age to ascend the throne. Although… how did one become Mand’alor? It didn’t seem like a hereditary position.
“Gev!” Obi-wan stiffened at the sudden shout and turned to see that the twin guards had put each other in some kind of headlock and were rolling around on the ground. Nearby Adatoya was standing over them with his hands on his hips. Even through his helm Obi-wan could tell the man was scowling fiercely at his brothers. “Ke’motir, ramikade! Ke’sush!” The twins scrambled to let each other go and stand at attention, eyes forward and arms at their sides.
“Looks like Ver’alor Adatoya has things well in hand.” He could see amusement in the older man’s eyes and smiled in return. The interactions between the three guards reminded Obi-wan of the kinds of things he and his friends got into as children. The thought was bittersweet and he couldn’t help but be reminded that he would never see his friends again if he didn’t find some way to free himself.
“Have you eaten anything yet today?” Obi-wan blinked and refocused on Myles.
“I… not yet.” The man frowned.
“We’ll have to remedy that. Come on verd’ika, they are serving breakfast over by the supply tent.” He looked back at the three guards who were distracted, Adatoya was quietly reprimanding them in fast paced Mando’a, and wondered if he would get in trouble for just leaving. Myles turned to the three and let out a piercing whistle which gained their attention. “I’m taking the verd’ika for breakfast. I’ll return him to you before we head out.” Obi-wan couldn’t see Adatoya’s face but he imagined the man wasn’t exactly pleased to let his charge wander off. But Myles’ presence seemed to be enough of a reassurance. He nodded politely and returned to lecturing his younger brothers.
Breakfast turned out to be some sort of mildly spiced grains and covered in a sweet syrup. It was similar to the porridge he was used to from the temple, save the strange syrup he’d never had before. Seeing the look on his face must have tipped Myles off that he’d never had it before. “It’s called Uj’ayl, a mixture of honey, spices, and local fruits boiled together.” The man chuckled.
“It’s very sweet. I didn’t expect it.” Myles hummed in understanding.
“There is a misconception that we Mando’ade eat only spicy food. But in truth we like anything that has a strong flavor. We call it draluram, or bright mouth. One of the four essentials of cooking.” Obi-wan followed Myles and sat next to the man in front of a cooking fire, giving a polite greeting to the others sharing their fire.
It was interesting to see that, although there was a clear hierarchy among the warriors, there didn’t seem to be any discrimination. Everyone was equally welcome to any fire and were treated amicably by everyone. Unless it was clear that a couple of warriors didn’t get along. In which case they tended to obviously ignore one another. Any arguing was taken as a game and if it escalated the others around the two warriors quickly intervened. On the outside it seemed almost contradictory but Obi-wan had no doubt he was missing fundamental information that would help him make sense of it all.
“Jate vaar’tur, Obi-wan.” Turning to look when his name was spoken he smiled at the prince and his ever present bodyguard.
“Jate vaar’tur, your Highness, Alor.” The boy smiled happily and came to sit next to him.
“Are you excited to be going home, Orilor’ad?” Myles asked politely.
“Elek. I’ll be happy to see my vod’ike.” Cody must have noticed his curiosity as the boy turned to him with a smile. “Rex and Boba, my little brothers.” Obi-wan’s brows rose slightly in surprise. No one had mentioned the fact that the king had three children. All sons, apparently. “Rex is she’cu and Boba is e’tad.” The boy held up his fingers to demonstrate. Rex was apparently nine and Boba was seven.
That just brought up more questions though. If the king had three children then Jango had either been happily married, had two or more partners who bore him children, or had adopted one or more of them. It was hard to judge without seeing the actual children.
“They’re your clan now too.” The prince said cheerfully. “I think they’ll like you.” Alphard and Myles both smiled down at the prince indulgently. “But Boba might be a bit… atinyc.” Alphard snorted and Myles’ lips twitched into an amused smile.
“Stubborn, Orilor’ad. Aruetii miit cuyir Stubborn.” The boy sat with a serious look on his face, brow crinkled slightly, as he mouthed the word a few times under his breath. Obi-wan was sorely reminded of his own Initiate days and suddenly felt rather fond of the boy. Not that it was hard to be fond of him, he was a good kid.
Once everything was ready for their departure Ramikad Adatoya came to fetch him, eyeing the prince and Alphard when they got up to follow.
“We’ll be traveling with you today.” Obi-wan could swear the man was looking at his father incredulously but it was hard to tell with the helmet on.
“Elek, Alor.” Came the dry reply. Alphard grinned at his son and Obi-wan had a feeling he was highly amused.
Speaking casually with the prince as they rode was a good distraction to the fact that he was a captive. It also helped that the boy was more than happy to answer any of his questions about where they were going and the area around the road. Alphard watched him from the corner of his eye, expression unreadable, but he never intervened except when the prince asked him to translate something.
Cody was very intelligent, more than Obi-wan had first assumed. The boy picked up Basic at an accelerated rate and was able to extrapolate complex ideas from simple explanations. They got onto the topic of travel and Obi-wan found himself actually having fun as they spoke about the history of different regions and kingdoms. Especially those that were close to, or allied with, the Order.
“Every Squire is taken to Kalevala once they have been chosen by a Knight Master.” He explained to the boy, who was paying rapt attention. “The Illum Mine is where those of the Order receive our Crystals with which to forge our swords.”
“You forge your own weapons?” It was the first real question Alphard had supplied the entire conversation.
“It requires the Forge Altar in the Coruscant Temple, but yes. Every Squire must forge their own weapon and every weapon is unique to the Jedi who wields it. We enter a meditative state and allow the Ether to guide our hands. My own sword was a bit of a surprise. My Knight Master is talented with the Broadsword and was teaching me to be as well. But my sword ended up being closer to a design from the far East. I believe Master Jinn was quite disappointed. The design is far too similar to Senior Knight Dooku’s for his comfort.”
“Dooku?” Alphard asked, brows furrowed in anger. Obi-wan hunched in on himself, unsure.
“Senior Knight Dooku was the one who taught my own Knight Master.” He said evenly, trying not to provoke them further. “In familial terms he would be… my Grandfather, I suppose.” Shocked surprise laced through the low buzz of anger. “Although we’ve never actually met. He has been very distant.” Cody frowned.
“Tion’jor cuyir verde kaden?” The boy asked forcefully, sitting up in his seat and practically staring the older man down.
“Galidraan.” That seemed to mean something to Cody as his eyes widened before his expression turned cold. Obi-wan was just confused. He didn’t even know if he should ask or not, there was no way he could navigate that kind of conversation without his ability to sense others emotions.
“You have no idea what we’re talking about, do you?” Alphard asked him gruffly. Obi-wan shook his head.
“I do not.” Did this have something to do with the Mandalorian’s hatred of the Order?
“Galidraan is a small territory, newly allied with our Kingdowm, that was aligned with Clan Vizla. The Governor begged for help from the army, saying they were being invaded by aruetiise, and both Clan Ta’rayd and Clan Gaarla sent warriors to assist. But it was a trap. The Governor had friends in the Allied Kingdoms and they called the Jetii for aid.” Obi-wan sucked in a breath, a feeling of dread pooling in his stomach. “When the Jetii arrived they assumed it was our people who had been raiding Galidraan and attacked the main camp, killing all but five of the warriors.” The man’s gloved hand clenched rightly around the reins, a steely look in his eyes. “Dooku was their strike team leader. It was his decision to attack our people without proof that lead to the death of my elder sister.”
Silence descended and Obi-wan felt a heavy pang of guilt. He knew that he should just keep quiet, that anything he said could potentially anger the warriors further, but he had never been one to stand by while others were hurting. “I am sorry for you loss.” He would not ask forgiveness for the Order, nor would he try to deny that the event took place. He didn’t have enough information and if the Order really had hurt the people of Mandalore then they needed to make it right. But he was just a squire, not to mention a prisoner.
Alphard regarded him carefully for a moment before his anger slowly cooled. “It was before your time, verd’ika. Ca’dinu knew the risks when she joined the army, she died in battle and her memory will be honored.” As if on cue the warriors around him all muttered something in Mando’a at once, it sounded almost ritualistic. Sacred.
“How do the Jetii honor their dead, Obi-wan?” Cody asked, distracting them all quite neatly.
“Well, it starts with a gathering of those who knew them in life-” As he began to explain a jedi funeral pyre those around him began to relax further. Thankfully no one brought up either Galidraan or Dooku again.
The days began to blend together as they continued to journey along the winding river. Each day Cody would come ride with him in the morning and every evening he would be included in whatever discussion happened to be brought up around the fire at last meal. One night the King actually joined them and Obi-wan was surprised that no one made more of a fuss about it. The man just casually came over and sat down with his meal before joining the current discussion. It was almost seamless, other than a quick salute of acknowledgment from everyone.
At different points during the meal he noticed the man watching him and felt a shiver run down his spine. There was something almost feral about those bright amber eyes and the way they hungrily followed his every move. Yet the man didn’t try to speak to him or get any closer. Almost like he was waiting for something, or perhaps weighing some decision in his mind before making a move either way. Once the meal was finished the King bid everyone good night and just left. It left him feeling very confused.
The last day of their journey, after the mid-day meal, Cody turned to Alphard and said something in a very commanding tone. The man looked at the prince for a moment before speaking with Ramikad Adatoya. Obi-wan caught a few words, enough to understand they were speaking about him in some way. The three guardsmen who had been watching him all seemed unhappy with whatever they were being ordered to do but in the end they conceded to whatever it was the prince had ordered.
“You’re coming with us today, verd’ika.” Alphard said as he nudged his horse out of the way. Cody smiled at him, motioning for him to come along. He hesitated for a moment but decided it was best not to argue with a direct order from one of the most powerful people in the Mandalorian kingdom, regardless of his age.
“You’re clan now, you should be with us when we enter Concordia.” Alphard watched him carefully as he rode beside the prince. Obi-wan wanted to roll his eyes. If he wanted to escape he would have done it two days prior, when they were between destinations. Trying to escape when this close to a fortress was just foolhardy.
When they arrived at the head of the procession Cody immediately flanked his father, on the opposite side of Myles. The man smiled at his son and spoke with him quietly in Mando’a. Cody responded, smiling mischievously, and the king stiffened in the saddle before turning to look behind him, eyes searching. They landed on Obi-wan, who was now behind him with Alphard, and something vaguely like triumph entered his eyes. He smiled and Obi-wan’s heart sped in his chest. He gave a polite nod in return before averting his eyes, trying to keep himself calm.
Coming down a bend in the road, through a heavily wooded area, the land changed from dirt road to stony path. The fortress stood tall and proud ahead of them at the top of a rocky hill. The outer walls were made of thick stone with crenellated ramparts, he could just barely make out flashes of color as guards patrolled above. It was a very utilitarian design, quite different from the Temple’s more artistic arches and painted murals. The procession entered through the fortified front gate and he was hit with the sight of brightly colored banners flapping in the wind. The symbols were primarily the dragon’s crown, the symbol of the king, a ram’s head, and the same tree design he’d seen on both Alphard and Adatoya. All around them brightly liveried servants and armored figures scurried about in preparation for the return of their king.
The king raised his arm in the air, hand curled into a fist. “Ke’mot!” He commanded. Immediately the entire train came to a stop and Obi-wan felt a shiver of fear down his back. The Mand’alor had such effortless control of the warriors under his command it was almost eerie. Even the Master of the Order did not hold that much sway.
As he was distracted he didn’t see the two blurs that came running over to them until two young voices suddenly cried out. “Buir! Gar yaimparyc!” Swinging himself from his saddle with the ease of long practice the man dropped to the ground and knelt as two children barreled into him. Once they were in his arms Obi-wan was finally able to get a look at them. Other than the fact that one of the boys seemed to be blonde the two boys were unmistakable the Mand’alor’s sons. The youngest looking like a miniature reflection with the same sharp amber eyes as his father.
Cody laughed and dismounted. “Su’cuy vod’ike!” The two boys grinned excitedly at their elder brother and Obi-wan couldn’t help smiling. Alphard motioned for him to dismount and with a sigh he slid out of the saddle and onto the ground. The horse butted him in the chest affectionately, which startled a laugh out of him. Rubbing the mare’s nose he muttered praises and appreciation to her before a stablehand came to take her away. A tug on his sleeve made him jump slightly and he turned to see the blonde boy grinning up at him.
“Su’cuy! Cuyir gar ner evaar'la buir?” Blinking in confusion down at the boy he glanced up at Alphard, who was standing nearby and looking far too amused.
“Elek, Alori’ad, kaysh cuyir gar buir ven'riduur.” The blonde beamed up at him before puffing out his chest.
“Ni gai Rex, Alori’ad be Mandalore! Tion gar gai?” ‘My name is Rex, Prince of Mandalore! What’s your name?’ Cody stepped closer, smiling fondly at the excited blonde.
“Kaysh ne’suvarir, Rex. Aruetii joha shi.” The blonde’s expression fell slightly and he looked up at Obi-wan with large coppery eyes filled with disappointment. He wasn’t sure what he had done to disappoint a child so quickly but he certainly didn’t want him to be upset.
“Rex was asking for your name and I explained you didn’t understand Mando’a yet.” Ah, well that was easy to rectify. He might not have Ether to aid him in memorizing the language quickly but he wasn’t a slouch when it came to language either. He knew enough now to understand what the boy had said and to piece together what he should say in response.
“Ni gai Obi-wan Kenobi, ad be Fett Aliit.” ‘My name is Obi-wan Kenobi, of the Fett Clan.’ Both Cody and Rex’s eyes went wide before they both smiled at him. Even without the aid of Ether he could feel their happiness and smiled in return. “I am still learning, do forgive me if I pronounce the words strangely.” Cody shook his head.
“Your pronunciation is good.” Came the voice of the king from behind him. “You just need to expand your vocabulary.” Spinning in place he came face to face with the king, who was holding his youngest in his arms. The boy watched him warily, a small frown on his face before he clung even harder to his father. It seemed that someone was a bit shy.
“You’ve met Rex already. This is Boba.” Obi-wan smiled.
“Su’cuy, Boba.” The boy’s amber eyes regarded him carefully for a moment.
“Gemasla ge’tal… mesh’la.” Obi-wan looked up when the king snorted in amusement.
“He said your hair is red, and then called it beautiful.” His cheeks felt warm and he ducked his head, surprised even though he had been hearing similar comments most of his life.
“Thank you, Boba.” The boy didn’t respond, only looked up at the king for a moment before squirming so he could be put down. With a long suffering sigh the man set his son on the ground, only to watch him scurry away to pet the black stallion under the watchful eye of Alphard.
“He’s not very social yet. Prefers animals over people.” Obi-wan looked at the king, confused why he was being told this suddenly.
“Sometimes animals are better company.” The man grinned at him and it set off all kinds of warning signals in his brain.
“Good point.” Putting hi fingers to his mouth the man let out a sharp whistle. A moment later a liveried servant appeared, giving the man a deep bow. “Ke’alorir ner tracyn sarad at te rid’alor yamikyc.” He ordered, motioning toward Obi-wan. The servant froze in surprise momentarily but quickly jumped to obey.
“Shekemir ni, Alor.” Obi-wan frowned, looking between the king and the servant.
“Aruetii joha.” The king said impatiently. The servant bowed and turned toward him.
“If you will follow me, Sir? I will take you to your rooms.” Relaxing he smiled politely at the servant.
“Thank you.” The man eyed him curiously but didn’t respond.
As he followed the servant he glanced back once to see the king watching him. He quickly focused his attention back on the servant.