Actions

Work Header

The Dragon King

Chapter Text

Waking with a jolt he felt the pain in his head radiate through his body, making him groan. Rolling onto his back he stared up at the stone ceiling above him in confusion. Moments of incomprehension ticked by before he suddenly gasped and shot upward. "Anakin!" Nearby, on a separate cot, a small form shifted and let out a low whine of protest. With a sigh of relief he got unsteadily to his feet and made his way over to the bunk his squire was laid out upon. "Are you unharmed, squire?" Sky blue eyes opened and stared up at him before the lad crinkled his nose.

"I'm alright, milord. But my head hurts something awful." Obi-wan chuckled now that he was assured his squire was relatively unharmed.

"It appears we've been disarmed, young squire. Someone has seen the need to divest us of our swords." The boy's eyes went wide as he slowly sat up, hand cradling his head.

"What was it? What hit us?" Obi-wan let out a long sigh, shaking his head.

"It was a powder that renders mages unconscious. I should have been more wary." Anakin frowned and scooted to the edge of the bunk before reaching up and hugging his waist. Smiling he placed a hand on the blonde's fluffy hair and took a seat next to him. It wouldn't be long before their captors realized they were awake and either summoned someone to speak with them or drag them out of there for one reason or another. He only hoped he could convince them to let the boy go. He was only a child and a stunted one at that. Years as a slave in his early years had not helped his growth in the slightest.

Fortunately it didn't take too long for a guard to come check on them. Unfortunately the armor they were wearing was very distinctive and sorely familiar to him. Obi-wan stiffened, body trembling slightly in fear as he clung to his squire. The lad looked at him in concern but there was no way he could explain before the guard returned. The redhead desperately hoped he was wrong, that the guard had somehow found of bought the armor they were wearing in a bid to intimidate their prisoners.

Of course he had no such luck.

The guard returned and unlocked the door to their cell quickly. Entering with their weapon drawn they moved to the opposite wall and watched the two of them warily. Obi-wan's heart beat heavily against his rib cage as an imposing figure walked into the cell, clad in armor with a wide grin on his face. Anyone familiar with the Mandalorians knew this man's face. However even if they did not recognize him by physical appearance the sigil on his chest plate and the horned crown he wore were a dead giveaway. Anakin slid off the bunk, bristling, as his knight master began to move.

"Your Highness." Falling to one knee he bowed his head in a proper show of respect, one arm crossing his chest to rest his fist over his heart. Although he was slower to do so, torn between following his master's example and insulting the man that clearly frightened him, his squire joined him in kneeling.

"Mando'a, ner tracyn sarad." Obi-wan's face colored at the familiarity in the man's words, the king's use of his old pet name rather than the proper titles Obi-wan had earned through trial and hardship. Next to him Anakin was glaring up at the large man, as if they weren't completely at the man's mercy.

"Lek, Mand'alor. N'eparavu takisit. A, ner hibir nu'suvarir Mando'a." Looking up through his bangs he could see a flash of annoyance in the man's bright amber eyes. He knew that he was bordering on insult but he could do nothing about it at the moment.

"Fine. But I expect the boy to learn fast. Tion suvarir?" He snapped in displeasure. Obi-wan swallowed the lump in his throat and bowed his head once again. A low growl made him flinch, aquamarine eyes rising to meet amber. The jedi knight knew what the man wanted from him. Letting out a shaky breath he kept eye contact as he spoke.

"Suvarir, Mand'alor." A pleased smile crossed his face as the man crossed the stone floor, stopping just before him. Next to him Anakin looked downright mutinous, switching between glaring at the man and glancing worriedly at his knight master.

The king crouched and reached over to cup his face tenderly, his eyes softening. "Welcome home, my Obi-wan." A shiver ran down his spine at the weight of possessiveness in the man's voice. Without magic or their weapons there was no way out of this situation, except to follow the script this terrifying man had put before him. He would have to bide his time to find a way for them to escape together. In the mean time he leaned into the man's touch, pushing away his fear and anxiety as he smiled.

"Thank you. I'm glad to be home... Jango.

Chapter Text

Obi-wan squirmed beneath the piercing eyes of the famed Dragon King as the man caressed his cheek. Anakin let out a low hiss, practically vibrating with anger. He tried to reach out to his squire through their bond but found himself still blocked. The cell itself must have been warded against magic users. Not unusual considering what the Mandalorians were known for.

Looking at the young squire the king raised a brow. “They told me you had an adiik with you… tell me; is he yours?” There was cold anger in his voice as he glared down at Anakin. Obi-wan felt his heart beat faster in his chest as his panic rose. The king of Mandalore was not known to share his possessions, and he considered Obi-wan to be one of his possessions. If he thought Anakin was his legitimate son, suggesting Obi-wan had either a lover or a wife, he would not be pleased. It was lucky that his squire was still a child or Jango might have assumed something far worse.

“He is my current squire, a magical child my knight master wished to train. When Qui-gon passed away I took the boy in myself. I consider him my vod’ika, ner Mand’alor.” The explanation calmed Jango considerably. After all a younger brother, a child no less, was not a threat. If anything the boy could be used as leverage against him.

Jango watched him for a moment longer, looking him over carefully. “Come, cyare, you don’t wish to stay in the dungeon forever, do you?” He chuckled as he turned and walked out of the cell, expecting them both to follow him. Getting shakily to his feet he urged Anakin to come along, holding out his hand in a rare show of public affection. It was a way to reassure them both while having the added bonus of being able to keep the blonde close.

The guards watched them carefully through the narrow slits in their helmets, eyes unsettlingly bright. It was a reflection of the dragon ancestry flowing through the veins of every Mandalorian. Manda, the Sky Dragon, was both their god and their mythical ancestor. It was said that only a Mand’alor could bestow the gift of dragon eyes to those who wished to become a disciple of the dragon gods. From everything Obi-wan remembered during their first meeting and what he’d researched since; he could believe it.

“Anakin. Listen carefully to me.” He began quietly in Bocce. The boy glanced up at him then away again, pretending to focus on everything but his knight master. It was one of the few skills he had learned as a slave that Obi-wan did not lament, if only because it was useful in times of danger. Like now. “The Mandalorians believe that I am one of them. When I was a squire my knight master and I had a mission in this kingdom. At one point our charge and I were separated from Qui-gon and we were captured by the king’s men.” It was an incident in his past he dreaded talking about so he had never mentioned it to Anakin before. “I was forced to fight a champion of the king and in the end, I won. Unfortunately winning meant that I was accepted into their clan, and there are only two choices when that happens. You either join or you are executed. I… do you remember your studies on dragon blood and its properties?” The boy’s eyes flicked to him then up before looking away again. Good. He remembered. “I was forced to drink an elixir that contained dragon blood. Ever since then they recognize me on sight as one of their own.” He sighed. He should have told Anakin this sooner. But the Council had sworn to him that he wouldn’t be assigned any missions that dealt with Mandalore.

“What was it the king called you? I don’t know that language.” The boy muttered, frustration clear in his tone of voice.

“I… that is… The language is Mando’a, and they will expect me to teach it to you. I claimed you as my brother so they consider you one of them as well. As long as you behave and go along with their demands they will not harm you. A fundamental part of their culture is their fondness for children. But Anakin, do not be fooled. These people are dangerous. They are known as the best mage hunters throughout all recorded history.” His hand tightened around his squire’s. “You haven’t been forced to drink the elixir,” yet. “So they won’t automatically see you as Mandalorian. They dislike Jedi, especially our grandsire. So be on guard. Your only protection is the fact that you are my squire.” There was a stubborn set to the lad’s jaw for a moment before he squeezed Obi-wan’s hand twice, accepting his words. Obi-wan felt some of his tension bleeding away. It was one less thing to worry about.

“You never said what the king called you.” Obi-wan flinched. He didn’t want to lie but he also didn’t want to explain the pet name he had been given by Jango after their first meeting. Anakin turned to look at him, eyes narrowed but gaze steady. Obi-wan wanted to sigh. He decided to just get it over with. The boy would learn it on his own anyway once they started Mando’a lessons.

“It means Fire Flower. A poor joke that turned into a pet name.” It wasn’t like Obi-wan could forget the day he earned the name. The mocking calls of the warriors that circled him as he and the champion fought to incapacitate one another, the scared face of Satine, and those piercing eyes watching his every move…

“It’s your hair again, isn’t it?” Obi-wan let out a huff of mixed amusement and frustration. Anakin had seen the way people treated his knight master whenever he lowered his hood. Red hair was exceptionally rare. Even the blue-black hair of the far east was more common in the Jedi Order than the red hair Obi-wan had been born with. The dragon blood infused elixir hadn’t helped matters much either. The strands had darkened and became more vibrant, making him truly stand out. Even his eyes, that perfect mix of blue and green that called to mind foreign waters, had become more pronounced. Of course there was always a drawback to any magical experiment, something the Mandalorians didn’t particularly care about. Dragon’s blood and jedi magic mixed poorly and if a jedi ingested too much it could destroy them from the inside out. Literally burning away their mana veins and stripping them of their magic. Obi-wan was lucky that it had only cut off his ability to foretell the future.

“Yes, it is.” He admitted readily. The last time they met Jango had been quite vocal about how pleasing he found Obi-wan’s appearance, he would no doubt do so again. “Anakin…” Honestly he didn’t want to remind the boy of his time as a slave but… “Do you remember how Gardulla treated her foreign slaves?" The boy’s face scrunched up in anger but he gave a small nod. “Jango… the king will…” he couldn’t help but swallow, hard, to try and force down the panic. “Will probably act similarly to Gardulla at times. I need you to stay as calm as you can. Remember your meditation and release your anger into the ether.” The boy moved even closer to him, letting go of his hand and wrapping his arm around him instead.

“I’ll try, Obi-wan. But I don’t think I can stand seeing someone treat you like that.” He hugged his squire, the child he considered his brother in all but blood.

“Are you finished your discussion?” An amused voice called back to them, making them both stiffen. Obi-wan’s mouth went dry. He hadn’t realized that Jango knew Bocce, and Mandalorians had excellent hearing.

“Lek, Mand’alor.” He replied evenly, not letting his nerves taint his voice or posture. He looked down at Anakin with a calm smile. “Lek means yes and you’ve probably already guessed that Mand’alor means King or Highness.” His squire nodded, blue eyes brightening slightly as he put the words to memory. For all the boy was an excellent warrior in the making he truly shined when it came to academics. He would have to decide soon if he they should hide his skills or not. Alchemy in particular was one of Anakin’s greatest talents but that wasn't his main concern. The prophecy, however...

Jango let out a pleased hum, more than happy to let Obi-wan teach the boy ‘their’ language.

Walking down the well lit halls of the fortress the redhead tried desperately to memorize the layout but the design was a lot more convoluted than the jedi temple. It was almost like they were following the winding path of a great serpent. There weren’t any windows either, which made it hard to tell what time it was and whereabouts they might be. He assumed they had been taken to one of the strongholds well established on Mandalorian soil but that could be anywhere in their vast territory. He only hoped they had not been taken to the capitol. Jango was not known to stay in one place for long, often traveling throughout his kingdom to see things with his own eyes. It was one of the reasons the Mandalorians adored their king.

“In here.” Obeying the order without question he stepped into the room and frowned. The air had changed from cool and dry to warm and damp. Two female servants carrying baskets bowed at them. Looking over at Jango he felt his stomach twist into knots at the grin on the man’s face. “Wash up, they will have something better for you to wear when you’re clean.” Nodding he nudged Anakin toward the older servant, a woman who could be around the same age as the boy’s mother. Hopefully it would help keep him relatively calm while he was out of sight.

Turning toward the other servant he stopped, the hair on the back of his neck prickling when he felt Jango step closer. Calloused hands lifted his long braid and broke the leather tie he used to hold it together. Long fingers slipped between the strands, separating them and letting them fall in waves down his back. “Mesh’la…” The man muttered. Obi-wan’s face felt hot and he was certain his ears had gone red. Jango circled him, like a predator cornering their prey. “Pelkaanir kaysh troan. Ni copad haa'taylir.” The servant bowed low, obeying the command without question. Obi-wan’s shoulders sagged. He had liked his beard. It made him look older and gave him a dignified air that nobility and peasantry alike were more willing to listen to.

Without another word the king turned on his heel and left him alone with the servant. Obi-wan let out a sigh of relief. The man’s presence filled whatever space he occupied, it was like a physical force that demanded immediate respect and obedience. When that kind of intensity was focused on him he felt like a field mouse being toyed with by a mountain lynx. It was unsettling to say the least.

“Alor?” Turning to the serving woman he put on one of his friendliest smiles. Not all Mandalorians were elite warriors, after all. There was no reason to frighten the poor woman.

“Knight Kenobi, at your service.” She returned the smile and beckoned him forward. Entering a small chamber he was directed to a basket. He looked at it then back at the servant. She put one hand on her hip and made a ‘get on with it’ motion with the other. When he still didn’t seem to comprehend she looked quite unimpressed.

“Kute.” She ordered politely. Understanding her intentions he felt his face heating in embarrassment. Of course she would want him to disrobe if he were supposed to be bathing. Unlacing his boots he slipped out of them and began the task of removing his many layers of clothing. The faster he bathed the faster he could be clothed again. Although he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like whatever Jango had chosen for him.

When he was done the woman nodded and pulled back a heavy curtain leading into another chamber. Puffs of steam came from the new room and he hesitated for a moment. The woman’s lips twitched upward and he knew he was being laughed at. With as much dignity as he could he strode into the next room. Immediately he was hit with a wave of damp, warm, air and he finally understood. Wherever they were the fortress must have been built atop a natural hot spring. Tentatively he dipped his foot into the water and winced. It was warmer than he preferred but he didn’t really have much choice in the matter. Gingerly he climbed into the waist high pool and had to focus on his breathing for a moment as his boy adjusted to the temperature.

“Sheber.” With a sigh he sat in the water, crossing his legs in front of him and keeping his back toward the woman. She handed him a bar of soap, kneeling on the edge of the pool with her eyes on her lap. Obi-wan relaxed a little. She seemed to understand that he didn’t like to be watched and was giving him as much privacy as she could while still doing her duty. He appreciated it.

Scrubbing as quickly and thoroughly as he could he ducked under the water for a moment. Carefully he pushed his long hair back in an effort to ensure it didn’t get too tangled before standing. The servant motioned him closer and then bade him sit once more. Sitting down he felt the oily concoction she poured over his head and grimaced. Slowly she worked her hands over his scalp and through his red locks, massaging away more of the tension. He jolted out of his semi-meditative state when the woman tilted his head back and poured water over his hair, rinsing the dirt and soap out. He was about to sit up when a hand clamped down on his shoulder and she shook her head. The razor in her hand made him shrink away but he understood. Jango had given her explicit orders.

He closed his eyes and let her work. It was only facial hair he could grow it out again once he and Anakin were safe, back home in the temple.

When the servant was finally finished she helped him out of the hot spring and ushered him back into the other chamber. He felt a little dizzy from his time spend in the hot water and the cooler air made him shiver involuntarily. With a small frown she quickly bundled him up in a thick towel and sat him down on the sole bench. With firm hands she dried his hair, combed it, and began styling it. Long strands of his hair were left over his shoulders, framing his face, while the rest was pulled back into an elaborate braid. When she was finished she slipped a circlet over his head to keep it all in place.

“Kute.” She said, holding out a pile of dark blue clothes to him. Taking the clothes he extricated himself from the towel and quickly changed into them. The undergarments were the same kind of braies and simple hose he was used to so there was no issue. But the rest of the clothing he had been given made him balk slightly. The black undershirt was made of a soft material that fit snug against his arms but thankfully didn’t constrict his movement. The matching pants were tight to his legs until just before the knee, where they ballooned slightly before tapering into a snug fit around his hips. It made him feel utterly ridiculous but he had worn similar clothes before. Next he slipped the short sleeved tunic over his head and smoothed it down, noting the copper embroidery at the edge of the sleeves, collar, and hem. The last item of clothing was a dark brown vest with the Kyr’bes embossed over his heart. It was the symbol of the crown, the dragon’s skull.

Finished dressing he was scrutinized for a moment before she handed him a pair of boots to match his vest and belt. Obi-wan had never felt more over-dressed in his life. It was a well established fact that jedi robes were accepted everywhere and at every occasion, since the order was monastic in nature. But here he was no longer a jedi. He was Mandalorian.

Finished her preparations the servant shooed him out into the other room where he found Anakin sulking in the corner. His squire was in a similar outfit to his own, although the undershirt was less form fitting. His undershirt and tights were cream while his tunic was black with white embroidery at the edge of the sleeves, collar, and hem. His vest, belt, and boots were all a dark brown that bordered on red. His normally wild hair had been tamed, pulled into a ponytail at the back of his neck, with his long squire’s braid woven with copper thread. The moment the lad noticed him he had to brace himself as the boy practically threw himself at his master.

“Obi-wan! I was worried they wouldn’t let me see you!” The boy pressed his face into his side as he trembled and Obi-wan hushed him gently, holding him close. After Qui-gon’s death at the hands of the horned warlock Anakin was always worried that Obi-wan would die and leave him. While the boy still had contact with his mother she did not understand magic, nor did she have it herself. Losing someone he had a close magical bond with… it was very painful. And right now thanks to whatever had been in that powder neither of them could feel that bond. It was like the persistent and obnoxious buzzing of bees where a calming brook should have been.

“Anakin, I promise you; they wouldn’t be able to keep you from me if they tried.” His words were like a balm. Slowly the death grip on him was released as the boy stepped back, wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his undershirt. Obi-wan let out a long suffering sigh at his squire’s ill manners. Teaching him was an ongoing process.

The door opened and a man in a mix of finery and armor entered. “Ah, you’re finished. Excellent. Alor, if you and your vod would please follow me?” It was framed as a polite request but Obi-wan knew it for the command it was. Putting a hand on Anakin’s shoulder he gave it a reassuring squeeze before giving a polite nod to what he was fairly certain was the steward.

Following the man through more winding halls he started to notice more and more chambers as well as people. Whenever they passed by those wearing the livery of a servant the man or woman would stop and bow deeply before hurrying on their way. Even the guards bowed their head respectfully as they passed, opening doors for them whenever they saw them coming. It was filling Obi-wan with a deep sense of dread that had nothing at all to do with magical instinct.

They stopped outside an ornate door and Obi-wan’s heart started beating faster in his chest. He knew, without a doubt, who was behind that door. The steward halted the guards with a hand, making them wait. In a quiet voice he spoke. “I hope you understand, Alor, that Mand’alor Fett is being quite patient with you. Do not squander this opportunity to make amends.” His mouth felt dry and he feared that if he tried to speak it would come out strained, so he nodded instead. The man brightened and motioned at the guards.

Reaching for Anakin’s hand he squeezed it reassuringly before letting it go again. “Remember your training in etiquette. This is a lot more dangerous than the usual meet and greet with foreign nobility.” The blonde’s eyes sharpened and a frown tugged at his lips but he didn’t retort with his usual sarcasm. Thank the gods for little miracles.

Entering the room his eyes were immediately drawn to the man sitting on the throne as if he belonged nowhere else, save the middle of a battlefield. Standing nearby, armor marked with the royal sigil, was the Crown Prince. Standing next to him was the second prince, looking uncomfortable and shifting from foot to foot. Beneath them, sitting on the dais steps and scowling like an angry kitten, was the third prince. It had been four years since he had seen these boys and they had all grown considerably.

The eldest, Cody, had been thirteen when they’d first met and he certainly hadn’t had that scar curling around his eye back then. He’d grown into a tall and imposing young man with intelligent eyes that shone a brilliant gold. Rex, the second child, didn’t have his brother’s bulk but he was wiry and lean. In a few years he would probably rival his brother, if not in intelligence then most certainly in brutality. His copper eyes flashed as a wide smile crossed his face, clearly remembering Obi-wan. Last was young Boba, the same age as Anakin. He was often a surly child unless he was around the stables, kennels, or the eyrie. The lad had a way with animals that he would have thought magical if he didn’t know otherwise. His amber eyes were nearly the same shade as his father’s, though they didn’t yet have the same sharpness to them.

“Ori’jate! Tyrric, leave us.” The steward bowed, letting his eyes drop to the floor in submission, before he retreated from the room. The doors closed behind them with a loud thump of finality that left Obi-wan feeling trapped. Wetting his lips he hesitantly made his way to the bottom of the dais and knelt, left fist going over his heart. It had been four years and yet his body still remembered his time as a Mandalorian. He’d been so immersed in their ways that by the time Qui-gon found him again he had almost become one of them. Now he would have to fall back into those habits if he wanted to keep himself and Anakin safe. Or relatively safe, in his own case.

“I have explained that your hibir does not yet understand Mando’a. They will speak in the trader’s tongue until the boy has finished his education.” That was about what he expected. Jango might have been known for his ironclad rule and ruthlessness in battle but few truly understood how terrifying the man was. His ruthlessness was tempered by a sharp intelligence and emotional control that would make senior jedi jealous. After all, a foolish king was a dead one. “Come, rise. You need not kneel in my presence.” Obi-wan had serious doubts about that statement but he got to his feet anyway, Anakin only a beat behind.

“Vor’e, Mand’alor. Thank you, highness.” The man smiled at him indulgently and he swallowed, suddenly nervous. “Allow me to introduce my squire, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, this is the Mand’alor’s sons. Cody Fett is the Orilor’ad, Crown Prince, of Mandalore.” The younger man’s eyes caught his and his expression softened, golden eyes kind. “Standing to his right is Rex Fett, Alori’ad, Prince, of Mandalore.” The fourteen year old grinned at him, amusement and excitement barely contained. “Finally, sitting on the dais, is Boba Fett. Evaarla Alori’ad, the Younger Prince of Mandalore.” The boy had been watching him, a frown tugging at his lips. After a moment there was a spark of recognition and those amber eyes went wide.

“Tracyn buir?” The boy asked loudly, voice filled with hurt surprise. Obi-wan flinched. When the boy had been seven he had been very clingy. He’d latched onto Obi-wan as the missing second parent in his life and had quickly wormed his way into Obi-wan’s heart. Leaving the children behind had been one of the hardest parts of escaping Mandalore.

“Hello Boba, you’ve grown quite big.” The boy’s eyes narrowed into a fierce glare as he jumped up from the dais stairs. Obi-wan could swear the lad’s eyes were glistening with unshed tears.

“Aruetii!” Even though he had expected some kind of outburst being called a traitor was like a kick to the stomach. He blanched as the boy turned and ran off, shoving the side door out of his way, startling the guards, and bolting down the hall. Jango growled and the other boys both stiffened in shock.

“It’s alright, he’s not entirely wrong.” Obi-wan closed his eyes for a moment and tried to find his serenity. “I’ve betrayed his trust. All I can do is try to earn it back.” Jango’s eyes bore into him for a moment before he stood from the throne. Cody and Rex bowed their heads in deference as their father passed, showing him proper respect even if they were his children.

“You will. Boba will be happy to have his buir back, as I’m sure Cody and Rex are.” Stopping directly in front of him Jango caressed his bare face tenderly. “Ner mesh’la cyar’ika.” He rumbled affectionately. Obi-wan felt his face turn warm. Leaning down the man trapped his lips in an almost soul devouring kiss, the hand on his cheek migrating to the back of his neck to hold him in place. Obi-wan’s breath caught in his lungs as Anakin gasped beside him. If his squire hadn’t understood the situation before he certainly did now.

Jango finally broke the kiss and Obi-wan took a grateful gulp of air. There was a smug look of satisfaction on the king’s face, pupils wide with excitement. It left him feeling like he had when Jango kissed him the first time, both terrified he was about to be eaten and shamefully aroused.

“Sadly, I have duties to attend to. I’ll leave you with Cody and Rex for the time being. They can show you around. I’ll see you both at dinner.” He turned to his sons with an amused grin. “Behave, adike.” He turned back and glanced toward Anakin. “That means you as well, boy.” For the first time since waking it seemed that Anakin was finally beginning to understand how powerful and frightening the dragon king could be. Rather than kick up a fuss he gave a respectful bow.

“Lek, Mand’alor.” Jango nodded, pleased that the boy was already learning his place.

Once the king left the room an awkward silence descended upon them. Not one to be held back for long Rex jumped down from the dais, avoiding the stairs entirely, and rushed over to him. “Buir! We’re so happy you’re back!” His bright smile was infectious and Obi-wan found himself unable to resist the blonde’s charm. He smiled and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder affectionately.

“Hello again, Rex. You’re taller than I remember.” He teased. Rex just grinned at him before turning to Anakin.

“Well met. It’s nice to see someone else with golden hair, there aren’t many around here.” Anakin blinked at the other boy, uncertain, before he decided to just smile in return.

“If you two cause trouble I’m not bailing you out.” Cody stated dryly, eyes sparkling with mirth as he descended the stairs at a more sedate pace than his younger brother. Rex rolled his eyes and grinned when he caught Anakin doing the same. Obi-wan shook his head before turning his attention back to the crown prince.

“Cody, I’m glad to see you. What in eternity did you do to yourself?” The young man faltered for a moment, face reddening slightly.

“You should see what I did to the man who gave it to me.” He mumbled, a dark look coming over him. “Ask Rex how he earned his jai'galaar'la sur'haii'se, the story is the same one.” The blonde glowered at his brother, his hand pressing against his right side subconsciously. Obi-wan was certain there would be a nasty scar beneath the boy’s hand and felt a pang of sadness. If he had been here maybe he could have stopped such a thing from- no. Qui-gon had helped him get over the guilt of leaving. He couldn’t allow himself to fall into that trap again. Mandalore was not his home, the Fetts were not his family. The Coruscant mountain temple and the jedi were his home and family.

“Maybe you can regale me later.” He chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. “I can’t quite seem to remember this place. Tell me… where are we currently?” The boys looked at one another, a silent conversation passing between them in the span of seconds.

“Keldabe.” Cody’s answer shattered whatever hope Obi-wan had of a quick escape. Keldabe wasn’t just the capitol city of Mandalore, it was a highly fortified stronghold embedded in the Manda’yaim mountains. They were at the very heart of Mandalore.

Cody’s eyes burned into him with a feeling he couldn’t quite place and he had to look away. Clearing his throat he tried to smile down at Anakin but his squire could tell that something was wrong. “Well. Since I’ve never been here before, and neither has Anakin, why don’t we start the tour?”

Even Anakin could tell that he wasn’t happy with the news. But they all pressed on despite this.

“Do you have any particular interests?” Cody asked Anakin, watching the boy curiously.

“Uh… I like smithing and, um…” Concerned blue eyes looked up at him and he smiled encouragingly, placing a hand on the boy’s head. He knew why Anakin had hesitated and he was glad the boy was still so unsure about the jedi referring to him as the prophesied Thamaturge.

“Anakin is fascinated by natural sciences. He is an accomplished Ferromancer as well as a brilliant Alchemist. But don’t let his scholarly pursuits fool you, he is quite talented with the sword.” A pleased blush crossed his squire’s face and he couldn’t help but chuckle at the boy’s embarrassment. Rex looked absolutely fascinated.

“I assume your own tastes haven’t changed in the years you’ve been gone?” Cody asked politely. Obi-wan smiled.

“They have not. I’m still a voracious reader with a love of history and poetry.” The crown prince nodded, taking a moment to think.

“If you’ll permit it, Rex could always take Anakin to visit the smiths while I show you to the royal library. It has an entire section on the history of Mandalore.” Obi-wan’s eyes lit up with interest. Mandalore was very secretive about its roots as a kingdom. Everyone knew about their conquests but no one outside of Mandalore knew about their origins. Being allowed to read the original texts was like Yule come early.

“As long as Rex can promise me Anakin will come to no harm. Remember, he is not Mandalorian. If there is trouble he will be the one at risk.” Obi-wan’s tone was deadly serious as he looked between the three of them. If there was even a small chance that Anakin would be harmed he had no issue denying the suggestion, no matter how reasonable. Three pairs of eyes widened slightly and he frowned at them, waiting for an answer.

“He’ll be safe, buir. Haat, ijaa, haa’it.” Rex swore, fist thumping against the kyr’bes sigil on his armor. Obi-wan smiled and nodded curtly, accepting the sworn oath.

“Go, have fun.” Rex and Anakin wore matching mischievous grins as they sped off toward the large door. “Oh, but Rex?” The prince skidded to a halt and turned to look back at him, confused. “Don’t let Anakin get too involved with the smiths. Otherwise we won’t see him for days at a time.” The boy thought he was joking and grinned at him. Until he realized that Obi-wan was not joking and turned around to hurry after Anakin, who had rushed on ahead. The little idiot didn’t even know where the smithy was… trust him to find it on his own though. Skywalker luck.

Turning back to Cody he opened his hands and splayed them wide in a playful gesture. “I’m all yours, Cody. Lead on.” The young man blinked at him for a moment before smiling.

“Of course, this way.”

It was a pleasant walk through the stronghold as the two of them shared stories from the past four years. Cody told of assassination attempts, skirmishes, and his duties as the heir. While Obi-wan countered with chasing criminals, political intrigue, and more than one occasion of fighting magical creatures who were not where they should have been. “Those ogres had no reason to be near that lake. I have more sense than to go up against four ogres by myself. It was dumb blind luck that saved me… and Anakin causing an avalanche with one of his alchemical concoctions.” Cody shook his head, silent laughter making his shoulders shake with mirth.

“You get into the strangest situations, Obi-wan.” He chuckled at the exasperated huff coming from the prince. “Here we are.” Cody stopped in front of two large doors. “This is the royal library. You’re only allowed inside if you’re with one of us. Otherwise the guards would stop you from even entering this wing.” Obi-wan understood the underlying meaning. This was a great honor bestowed upon very few. Since the Fetts considered him one of them, and Cody had accompanied him there, he was one of those privileged enough to be allowed inside. Cody watched him then motioned him toward the door with a small smile. “Care to do the honors?”

Stepping up to the door he pushed against it and was surprised when it swung open easily. Looking into the room he froze in awe. There were books filling every shelf within sight, all kept in immaculate condition. Bustling around were two servants in uniforms he had never seen before, their sigil a crossed horn and feather quill. One of them noticed them and dipped into a bow before moving onward.

“Those are the royal librarians. They go through a very rigorous selection process and are highly trained.” He nearly jumped, having not noticed Cody coming up behind him. The younger man looked down at him with a playful grin that was very much like his father yet entirely different. Obi-wan felt his pulse speed up and quickly tore himself away from that warm golden gaze.

“Well, lets make sure not to disturb their work.” He cleared his throat. “You were going to show me to the ancient history section.” He reminded the man gently. Cody moved away from him and he let out the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding.

“This way.” Obi-wan only hoped that Anakin wasn’t getting into any trouble. With the connection dimmed to practically nothing all he could feel was that his squire was alive and in no immediate danger.

“Obi-wan?” Coming out of his thoughts he realized he’d been left behind and hurried to catch up.

For the next two hours he immersed himself in old texts, barely lifting his eyes from the pages of ancient tomes unless prompted to by Cody. At one point the man even leaned over him and shoved a new book into his hands, right on top of the one he had currently been trying to read. He had been about to protest when the man chuckled at him. “You’re reading the sixth volume, Obi-wan. Start at the beginning or it won’t make any sense.” With a shrug he took the new book and fell back into, fascinated by the beliefs and thoughts of those long gone.

Eventually all good things must come to an end and Cody had to practically drag him, complaining the entire way, out of the library. In the end Cody stopped and gave him a stern look that made any protest further die on his lips. “You can come back again tomorrow. But we need to get ready for dinner. Father will be expecting us.” Those words sobered him immediately. How could he have forgotten about Jango?

Cody watched him quietly, a complicated look on his face. When Obi-wan seemed less inclined to turn around and head back into the library the prince finally released his arm, though he seemed reluctant to do so. The long walk to the dining hall was a quiet one.

Turning a corner he heard an excited cry and smiled as his squire ran up to him, practically bouncing. Rex trailed behind him. “Ori’vod!” His heart stuttered in his chest as Anakin called him elder brother in Mando’a. Considering the cat caught the canary look on Rex’s face he knew just who had taught him that word.

“Vod’ika.” He replied with a smile. Anakin beamed at him, radiating joy like a miniature sun. Even through whatever the Mandalorians had used to dampen their bond he could feel the happiness like liquid sunshine.

“The smithy was so much fun. They have a lot of rare metals that they don’t have at the temple, and their techniques are so different!” It was nice to see his squire so lively but even from six feet away he could see the smudges of ash on the boy’s clothes. Thankfully the tunic they’d chosen for him was black… For one horrified moment he wondered if Jango had known about Anakin’s proclivity for metal working and planned accordingly. The clothes, after all, were perfectly tailored to fit and seemed chosen to appeal to a very specific aesthetic. Anakin frowned at him in concern.

“Obi-wan?” Shaking his head he smiled down at his squire.

“I just realized that I don’t have a handkerchief on me and you are smudged with soot. How did you get so messy, ner hibir?” The boy looked down, scuffing his boot on the floor and glancing over at Rex. The older blonde’s face went carefully blank and Obi-wan knew the two of them had been up to no good. He sighed.

“I’ll deal with the aftermath later.” He said dryly, making Cody cough as he tried to hide a laugh at his brother’s expense. The blonde’s eyes narrowed at his brother, there would be a reckoning if Obi-wan had to guess. He had forgotten about the competitive nature of the Fett family. “Is there somewhere we can clean off the worst of the mess?” He asked the two princes.

“I’ll call for a servant.” Rex said quickly and sped off down the hall. How he could still have so much energy after being with Anakin for over two hours he had no idea.

“Your brother must have quite the endurance, if he kept up with my squire this long.” Cody laughed as Anakin pouted at them both.

“He’s the squire of Knight Captain Mereel Skirata. If Rex couldn’t keep up with a hyperactive child for a couple of hours then there’s no way he would be able to keep up with that lunatic.” Obi-wan reached up to stroke his beard only to remember it was gone and let his hand drop back down with a sigh.

“I believe I remember those of Clan Skirata. They are all quite… determined.” Cody nodded, though his eyes hardened slightly. “Cody? Is something wrong?” The man sighed, crossing his arms.

“According to Mereel, Kom’rk and Sev have been seeing each other in secret for a while. Stars know why. Kom’rk finally asked Sev to be his mate and Sev seemed inclined to agree. But then the head of Clan Vau heard about it and everything fell apart.” Cody shook his head. It was well known that Clan Skirata and Clan Vau had a very rocky relationship. They were allies and would fight for each other if needed, but anything further than that was taboo. “Clan Skirata issued a challenge to Clan Vau, they want to adopt Sev into the clan so he and Kom’rk can be together. I think Father is still working out the details.” Obi-wan frowned.

As a jedi he was supposed to be impartial, a neutral party during conflicts. But if he was being honest with himself he was not very fond of Walon, the head of Clan Vau. The man was far too indifferent to the suffering of others. It sent a shudder of fear through him just thinking about it.

“Buir!” Rex returned with a servant. The woman gave them all a proper bow before beckoning Anakin over. The blonde looked up at him and he nodded his assent.

“Rex, has your knight master spoken about the situation between Clan Skirata and Clan Vau?” The blonde prince grimaced and ran a hand through his short cropped hair.

“Alor’ad Mereel has complained about Alor’ad Kom’rk a few times. He doesn’t have very many good things to say about Clan Vau’s patriarch either.” Rex looked around with a frown then came closer, dropping his voice. “Vau beat Sev terribly for seeing Kom’rk behind his back and now Sev won’t talk to anyone, even his twin brother Scorch.” Obi-wan could practically feel the disgust rolling off of Cody. “If things between the Clans aren’t dealt with soon I think Kom’rk is going to take matters into his own hands. Mereel said his brother was crazy to fall in love with Sev but he’d watch his back if he wanted to rescue his cyare.” It shouldn’t surprise him that Rex was just as perceptive as his brother, even if he was more inclined to jump into things recklessly. They were both children of the dragon king, after all. Jango would not let his sons remain ignorant.

Finally Anakin returned, looking far nicer than he had when he’d left. He thanked the serving woman, who bowed and returned to her duties. Following behind him was a sullen looking Boba. Rex looked between him and Obi-wan for a moment, looking as if he was fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

“Hey Bob’ika, how was practice?” Rex tried to distract his younger brother by asking him about his training but the boy would have none of it. He just glared past Rex and said nothing. Obi-wan felt a twinge of guilt. The boy had been only seven when Obi-wan had disappeared, after a year of having the man there to care for him. It didn’t matter than Obi-wan had only been seventeen at the time, or that he was a jedi. All Boba knew was that there was someone there to read him stories, teach him his letters, and take him to see the animals. While Jango was not a particularly distant parental figure the man was still very busy. What time he spent with his sons was very precious to him and he doted on them when he could.

Obi-wan shook himself out of those thoughts, chiding himself for falling into the same trap as last time. He wanted to blame the dragon’s elixir for the invasive feelings but he knew himself well enough to accept the truth. His greatest failing as a jedi was that he cared too much. When he saw injustice he wanted to rectify it. When he learned of another’s plight he wanted to help them. And when three children without a mother were given to him to care for… he did. By the end of that year Boba and Rex treated him as if he had always been there, taking the place of the mother they didn’t remember. Only Cody had never once called him buir, remaining friendly but distant.

Suddenly the door to the dining hall opened and a servant stepped forward with a deep bow. “Alore, dinner is ready.”

Entering the large dining hall he followed Cody to the head of the table. He knew from experience where Jango would prefer him to sit. Cody looked across the table at him and gave him an encouraging smile. With a friendly nudge Rex stood to his left while Boba sulked next to Cody. Unfortunately this left Anakin unsure where he should go. Rex made a low pitched whistling sound to get the boy’s attention than tilted his head toward the seat next to him. With a wide grin Anakin dashed around the table and stood next to the older blonde. Obi-wan shared an amused look with Cody before the door behind him opened and he froze.

Without turning around he knew who had just entered the room. He could feel that intense gaze trained on his back and fought the urge to shiver. Heavy footfalls and the faint clatter of a sheath against a muscled thigh reached his ears. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from turning around.

“Ori’jate, the family is all here.” Stopping beside Obi-wan the man set something down next to his plate and leaned in to kiss his temple. It was simple and affectionate, the kind of thing a happily married couple would do. It made him feel distinctly uncomfortable.

Once Jango was seated the rest of them took their seats as well. One did not sit before the king. Finally able to take his eyes off Jango he looked at the item next to his plate and his stomach dropped through the floor. It was a single fire rose. They were very rare on this side of the ocean. As if he were no longer in control of his body he reached out to gently pet the beautiful petals and felt a lump forming in his throat. Fire roses were native to Stewjon, his land of birth. Glancing over at Jango he could tell the man was very pleased with himself.

“Vor’e, Jango.” The word felt hollow on his tongue but at the same time he truly was grateful. He had very few ties to his homeland but fire roses had always been his favourite. The fact that Jango knew, or perhaps remembered this about him, filled him with a spark of warmth that he smothered beneath repetitions of his jedi oaths.

The servants came forward with the first course, a simple vegetable soup, and Obi’wan began to eat automatically. If he pretended it was like any other dinner he’d attended as a guest of nobility he would be fine. Beside him Rex and Anakin started up a quiet conversation about golems that Obi-wan was very pointedly going to ignore. If he had to listen to the story of how Anakin built Threepio without even knowing he was a mage one more time- he would rather drown himself in his soup.

Jango let out a huff of amusement. “I heard Cody took you to see the royal library, Obi-wan. Did you enjoy it?” Looking across at Cody he wondered if the question was some kind of test or if the young man had overstepped his boundaries somehow. Cody’s expression remained calm and unbothered. Swallowing his mouthful of soup he turned to Jango with a smile.

“I did. I had no idea how extensive the records were on Mandalorian history. Some of the insights into your ancestors and how they lived were fascinating.” The king laughed.

“Wait until you get to the part where our people overthrew the Warlock Tanzayah then conquered her lands, freeing those she’d enslaved.” Obi-wan’s mouth fell open slightly in surprised awe. There were records of the Warlock known as Tanzayah but the details were very minimal. From down the table Anakin made an annoyed noise.

“Wonderful. Now he’s going to hide in the library and we won’t see him for a week.” Rex snorted and even Boba let out a surprised giggle.

Turning towards Anakin he fought to keep the amused smirk off his face. “Excuse me? At the very least I don’t track soot and oil through our quarters after disappearing into the bowels of the smithy for days at a time.” Anakin rolled his eyes, as children are wont to do.

“I’m not the one Padme yelled at because I didn’t sleep for five days and ended up collapsing on the floor. You really gave her a scare.” A sudden and intense feeling prickled at the back of his neck. Anakin’s blue eyes widened and he shrunk back slightly, trying to hide behind Rex.

“Who, pray tell, is Padme.” Came the king’s voice from beside him. It was not a question so much as a demand for an explanation. Taking a deep breath and telling himself it was nothing to panic over he turned to Jango with a smile.

“Padme Amidala Naberrie, she is the Crown Princess of Naboo. Qui-gon and I-” The tension in the room jumped and Obi-wan lost the ability to speak for a moment. He had forgotten that Jango despised Qui-gon for the man’s role in his escape from Mandalore, and that the boys shared their father’s distaste. But he was an integral part of the story and Obi-wan refused to leave out the man he regarded as a father. “My knight master and I were on a diplomatic mission between one of the major trading clans and the Nabooians. As you know Naboo is a small kingdom but has an abundance of trade due to its location. The Neimoidians decided to use their superior warships and their army of golems to try and force the Nabooians to submit to their rule. The je-” He coughed and stopped himself before he could commit another mistake. Jango eyed him carefully and motioned a servant over to fill his glass.

“Vor’e.” He said politely before sipping at the spiced wine. “We were sent to mediate. When we arrived we were taken to a room to negotiate and were immediately attacked with poisonous gas.” There was a collective scoff of disgust from the Fetts and Anakin. None of them believed in using poison against an enemy.

“Cowardly toads.” His brother muttered, much to Rex and Boba’s amusement.

“We fled with the crown princess, seeking aid from one of Naboo’s allies. But we were followed and attacked by assassins. We had to make a choice. Try to hurry and fight off the assassins or throw them off our trail by going in a different direction to our end goal.” He looked over at Anakin with a small smile. “We chose to follow our instincts.” Anakin grinned back. “We found ourselves in the Tatooine desert, with no way to return and no money. It was while I was on guard duty, falsely believing I was guarding the real princess while she and my knight master were out to acquire good horses and a cart, that Qui-gon found Anakin.”

“I knew right away he was a jedi. I saw his lightsword!” Obi-wan gave him a look and the boy flushed. “Sorry, crystal saber. I told him I could find him the best horses and a cart that wouldn’t break but Watto wouldn’t accept their foreign money.” Jango had turned his attention toward the boy and was now listening to him patiently.

“Watto?” He probed.

“Watto was mine and mom’s owner.” Anakin spat the word. The emotional scars from his time as a slave were still something Obi-wan and Shmi were slowly working on. He didn't even try to correct Anakin's poor grammar.

“Owner?” Jango’s attention swung back to him and Obi-wan’s eyes closed as he took a moment to compose himself.

“Anakin and his mother were once slaves. But Watto had a terrible vice. My knight master convinced him to let Anakin race. Anakin had been secretly building a racing golem and suggested Qui-gon use it as his part of the bet. Safe to say that Anakin’s golem won the race.” Jango’s expression was thunderous while the boys each looked different mixtures of horrified and disturbed. Obi-wan should have remembered that Mandalorians despised slavery, having once been enslaved themselves for a time.

“So you freed the boy and his mother. Why?” The blunt question made Anakin splutter in outrage but Rex’s hand on his shoulder stopped him from saying anything. Obi-wan, however, could not let the insult pass.

“The jedi are scholars more than warriors, Jango, you know that. As much as he would love to stamp out slavery there just aren’t enough of us. Magic has its costs.” As much as he hated to admit it he wasn’t one to turn away from the truth when it was right before his eyes. “Anakin is… a bit of a magical prodigy.” He would not be mentioning the prophecy but he had to give the man at least that much. “Qui-gon took him with us because he thought the boy would make a good jedi. But Anakin didn’t want to leave his mother behind.” He smiled at his squire. “After Qui-gon explained the situation I… I just couldn’t leave her there.” He shook his head. “While Qui-gon took Anakin to bargain for the horses and cart I slipped away. After concealing the princess and her handmaidens with magic. I took the crystal from my sword and bet it against Watto’s remaining slave. When he asked me what I wished to bet upon I told him; myself.” A roguish grin crossed his face at the memory of the leathery faced merchant gaping at him in surprise. “I bet that I could win in a one on one fight against the arena’s champion.”

The longer he spoke the wider Jango’s grin grew. Rex, Boba, and Anakin were absolutely entranced. No one even noticed when the servants brought the main dish. Only Cody looked on disapprovingly. Why, he had no idea. Maybe it was how he’d tricked Watto? Fighting a jedi one on one was not a particularly fair fight. “They didn’t expect an eighteen year old ‘herash-miaan’ to be skilled enough to defeat their champion.” Anakin sucked in a breath and choked on the bite of rabbit he’d just crammed into his mouth. Rex patted his back and handed him a goblet of water. Obi-wan felt his ears redden slightly at having used such crude language in front of his squire. He’d been doing so well too. He’d only cursed maybe six times in front of Anakin and each time it had been in a life or death situation where the boy was too preoccupied to notice.

He looked at Jango, hoping he wouldn’t need to translate. The sharp look in his eyes told him that the man understood what the word meant, and promised retribution if anyone were to say it about Obi-wan again in the future.

“It’s safe to say that I won. My knight master was not best pleased with me when I returned, though he was happy to see Shmi was safe. Then we were all attacked by a horned warlock.” His face fell as he recalled the sheer wrongness that rippled outward from the corrupted magic user.

“Qui-gon and Obi-wan fought him off though, and we escaped!” Anakin picked up the story again and began telling them about the journey to Coruscant. But Jango’s attention was mostly on Obi-wan.

“Um, I wasn’t there for the rest…” Obi-wan noticed all of the eyes on him and sighed.

“Qui-gon and I fought the warlock, but the magical barriers were acting up. There was too much condensed ether in the air, both light and dark. It caused the barriers against siege weaponry to activate, cutting me off from Qui-gon and the warlock. I urged him not to fight alone but he wouldn’t listen…” Sorrow that still ate at his soul filled him. Even if Qui-gon hadn’t always been the best knight master he had still cared about him.

There was a loud scraping sound but he paid it no mind. He only opened his eyes when small arms wrapped around him and hugged him tight. Looking down at Anakin he smiled and pet his hair gently. “I lost my knight master that day.” Then his voice hardened. “But I sent that warlock straight to Tartarus with my own two hands.” Jango placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently, a silent show of support. Obi-wan knew he didn’t care that Qui-gon was dead, he would have killed the man himself if he could. But the support was nice.

“Go back to your seat, Anakin, and finish your supper.” The boy pouted at him but obeyed.

“This is all very fascinating, but what does it have to do with you falling unconscious in a library?” Obi-wan snorted in amusement at Cody’s dry delivery. He flapped a hand at the young man to shush him.

“While I fought the warlock, Anakin found the control spell for the golem army and utterly destroyed it. All the golems went dormant. Because of these two acts we are considered heroes in Naboo. As such we have a very cordial relationship with their monarchs. Padme is a good friend to Anakin and I. She’s also not afraid to yell at either of us when she thinks we’ve done something foolish.” He looked slyly over at Anakin. “She’s only four years older than Anakin and I think someone hasn’t forgotten how lovely she looks in her regalia.” Just as he expected his squire’s face turned a bright red and he let out a low moan of ‘Obi-wan no!’ Rex outright cackled and Obi-wan would have to warn him away from teasing Anakin about it too much. The boy did have a temper and his magic could still be a bit unpredictable.

“The moral of the story is; don’t leave Obi-wan alone in the library. He forgets to eat or sleep and makes himself sick.” Anakin said with a scowl. Cody nodded in understanding, an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips when Obi-wan glared at them.

The final course was a local dessert, one that he knew Anakin had never tried before. It was a sticky sweet spice cake loaded with nuts and berries. Obi-wan tried to warn him not to devour it all at once but the boy just didn’t listen. Obi-wan closed his eyes and counted down from five. A yelp reached his ears and he let out a sighed, “Anakin.” Apparently Jango found this uproariously funny, which earned him a blue eyed death glare from a certain blonde.

“Some milk, if you please.” He asked a nearby servant. The woman glanced at Jango, who nodded, and she went off running. Once Anakin had downed half the glass of milk and the burning had finally died down he took slower, more tentative, bites of the dessert. In the end he enjoyed it, as long as he took a few sips of milk between mouthfuls.

When dinner was concluded Jango stood and held out a hand to him. Obi-wan hesitated but a sharp look was all it took for him to cave in. “Where will Anakin be housed?” He didn’t need to ask about himself, he already knew the answer.

“For now he can stay in Rex’s old quarters. It’s right next to Boba’s. There are always guards and servants on duty in case something happens.” Anakin looked over at him and he tried to give his squire a reassuring smile. The boy’s expression just darkened as his eyes glared holes in the floor.

“K’olar.” Jango commanded. Obediently he took a step, intending to follow, but stopped when he saw the bright splash of color next to his empty plate. The king turned to him, annoyed, but calmed when he saw Obi-wan picking up the fire rose and cradling it to his chest as if it were something precious. He smiled and put an arm around his waist, pulling him closer.

“Jate ca, adike.” He called over his shoulder. There was a chorus of responses, with Anakin’s only a beat behind.

Everywhere they went Obi-wan could feel eyes on them. They weren’t hostile, thank the Sages, but they were certainly curious. It wasn’t every day the king walked through the stronghold with his arm around a stranger. A stranger that felt like an ally. Well, at the very least there was one upside to drinking the dragon’s elixir. His presence was all but invisible to the Mandalorians now. Even if he was what they referred to as a Dragon Priest, someone with magic who had survived drinking the elixir, he didn’t set off their sense of danger whenever he passed. It would make escaping a little easier.

The muscled arm around his waist, however, would make it much, much, harder. Jango was no fool. He had already lost Obi-wan once. Those tactics would not work a second time.

They suddenly stopped and Obi-wan almost tripped over his own two feet, lost in thought as he had been. He could feel Jango’s amusement and wondered if the magic dampening powder was beginning to wear off. Not that it would matter in the long run. Mandalorians were mage killers. They were born, or reborn, able to resist magic. But the ability to feel the bonds he had with others and to enhance his own body be useful at the very least.

“What is going through that brilliant mind of yours, my fire flower?” Obi-wan froze as warm breath caressed his neck. The gentle brush of lips against skin sent small shivers through his body.

“Worrying about the children.” Jango chuckled. The sound would have been pleasant if he couldn’t hear the underlying anger simmering beneath the surface.

“The boys are fine. Focus on us.” Obi-wan desperately did not want to.

He closed his eyes as Jango led him into their quarters but opened them again when he was shoved against the closed door. “Four years.” That voice growled, low and dangerous. “Four years the jetii kept you from me.” In the low light of the flickering candles his bright amber eyes were impossible to look away from. “Now that you’re here I’m not going to let you go again. I’ll carve their lies out of your mind with tooth and claw if I have to.” As if to emphasize his words Obi-wan felt the prickle of multiple points against his shoulder. He knew what dragon’s blood did to those who ingested it and had seen a full transformation once before. If Jango truly wanted to hurt him all he had to do is turn his fingernails into claws. Stronger than steel and sharper than any blade they could rend flesh as easily as tearing a single sheet paper.

“I’m not going anywhere, my king. I’m here now… with you.” Forcing away his apprehension he stared into Jango’s blazing eyes and slowly reached up to place a hand delicately against his chest. The man watched him for a moment, judging his sincerity, before the pressure on his shoulder decreased. Sliding his hand down his arm he grabbed Obi-wan by the bicep, leading him farther into the room without another word.

Chapter Text

Five Years Ago

The conflict between Kalevala and Mandalore had escalated quicker than they had anticipated. The princess watched him quietly, hands clasped in front of her as if in prayer. Another Mandalorian patrol had just swept past them, their clan symbol easily recognizable against their dark cloaks. Obi-wan cursed under his breath. Two months ago he and the princess had been separated from Qui-gon during an ambush on the way to negotiate a peace treaty between the kingdom of Mandalore and the principality of Kalevala.

Hundreds of years ago Kalevala had been part of Mandalore but had since gained its independence. Then, half a year ago, there had been reports of skirmishes and bandit activity. Both sides blamed the other and it had all gone down hill from there. He glanced over at Satine, feeling his heart clench in his chest. She just wanted peace to return to her people. They didn’t have the resources to fight against the might of Mandalore.

Of course it ended up being entirely the fault of Mandalore. Instigated by a clan Satine identified as Vizla. As a jedi he shouldn’t have been surprised. They were warned to avoid these mage killers as best they could and to steer clear of the ‘dragon’ kingdom. It was only because the jedi had ties to Kalevala that they had even allowed Obi-wan and his master to help. After all Kalevala had one of the rare kyber mines where they found crystals for their swords. His own crystal came from the Illum mine in Kalevala.

“It’s safe to move. Keep to the bushes on the left.” He whispered. Satine nodded, rising shakily to her feet. For all that she was against violence she was tougher than he’d first thought. Unlike some of the nobles he’d met before she didn’t complain about the dirt, the cold, or the rips in her once beautiful dress. He held out his hand to steady her and she smiled gratefully at him.

They almost made it to the rendezvous point. Almost.

A second clan he hadn’t noticed pounced on them the moment they tried to cross the river. He drew his sword, told the princess to run, and held his ground as best he could. But Mandalorians were born and bred to hunt mages and he was still only a squire. They overwhelmed him quickly. While he was distracted by a couple of archers, knocking the arrows from the air with his sword, one of the others came up behind him and slammed the hilt of their axe against his head. With a cry of pain he fell to his hands and knees, panting. The helmet he had been using for a disguise clattered to the ground and rolled across the rocks as his vision swam. A curtain of red-blonde hair fell around him and he heard a gasp.

“Ge’tal gemasla jetii?” Obi-wan knew some Mando’a, Satine had been teaching him whenever they had the chance to rest, but at the moment the ringing in his ears made it too difficult to comprehend.

“Ke’mircir kaysh!” He tried to fight back but there were too many of them. With an annoyed curse one of the warriors grabbed him by the hair, making him grunt in pain, and shoved a cloth in his face. He held his breath for as long as he could but slowly whatever it was began to take effect. Once he began to succumb everything became hazy and all his strength left him at once. The last thing he could remember before falling unconscious was someone screaming his name.

When he finally came awake he had to force his eyelids open, they still felt heavy from whatever drug had been forced into his system. Rolling over he got his hands under him and carefully tried to get up. The resulting nausea made him groan. The sound of fabric dragging along stone caught his attention before he heard a surprised gasp.

“Sir Kenobi!” The princess crawled into his field of vision and gently laid her hands upon his shoulders. Her blonde hair was disheveled but she seemed relatively unharmed, a small miracle.

“Good morning, princess.” He said lightly, trying to smile through the pain. The young woman clicked her tongue at him disapprovingly as she helped him sit up and lean against the wall of the cell. Once he was situated she hurried to a corner of the cell where a small barrel was located and dipped a ladle into it. She returned with the ladle full of water and carefully helped him to drink. The coolness of the liquid running down his throat helped to focus him a little and he gave Satine an appreciative smile. “Thank you.” She smiled in return and went back to fill the ladle again.

“You’ve been asleep for a while, although I’m not sure how long exactly. Four days, perhaps?” Obi-wan frowned in concern, he didn’t like that he’d lost so much time. Looking around the cell he let out a small sigh.

“Do you know where we’ve been taken?” He asked her gently.

“I heard the guards talking. We’re in Kranarsa. One of the larger strongholds, if I’m not mistaken.” Obi-wan mentally cursed in every language he knows. Which is quite a few. He tries to reach out to Qui-gon but realizes he can’t feel his knight master. For a moment he panics, thinking the man is dead. But there is a slight whisper in the back of his mind that assures him his master is alive. Whatever is cutting him off from Qui-gon has nothing to do with his master’s current condition.

“Mage hunters… I’d heard the stories but never encountered them before. Of course they would have weapons to counter jedi magic.” Satine’s expression was grim as she watched him, body tense with fear and concern.

“Will you be alright?” Reaching up to feel his head where he’d been struck he let out a small hiss of pain. There was a sizable goose egg where the butt of the axe had met his cranium. It was healing, albeit slowly.

“I’ll be fine, Princess. I just need to catch my breath.” Kneeling next to him she curled her legs beneath her and leaned into his side. Carefully he put his arm around her shoulder and held her against him. In the last two months they had become something quite like friends.

“You may call me Satine, Obi-wan. You’ve seen me at my worst, the least you could do is treat me like a person; not a title.” She huffed, laying her head on his shoulder. Obi-wan chuckled then winced when it made his head ache.

“Of course, Satine.”

They spent some time quietly resting against one another, soaking in the comfort and reassurance that they were not alone. When the sun was beginning to shine through the narrow window above them he heard the sound of heavy boots and the creaking of armor. He nudged Satine gently and pulled his arm away, not wanting the Mandalorians to have any more leverage than they already did. The door to their cell opened just as Obi-wan got to his feet and stepped in front of the princess protectively.

The man who entered was wearing dark blue tunics with silver accents and a grey cloak. The weapon at his hip was plain but clearly of high quality. The sheath looked a little worn but well cared for. Whoever this was they were probably high ranking. Deciding to take the initiative, since the man had yet to speak, he tried to give the man a cordial smile.

“Good day. I know we are prisoners, and I am sure I am about to be horrifically tortured or some such nonsense, but I have a question of my own I’d like to ask.” Behind him Satine let out a low sound of disapproval. He knew without looking that she was going between glaring at him and giving the man a worried glance. The man just watched him, one side of his mouth twitching as he tried to hide whatever emotion he was feeling. He crossed his arms and waited for Obi-wan to continue to speak. How polite.

“You are not beholden to Clan Vizla by any chance, are you?” Behind him Satine stepped closer, grabbing the back of his tunic. He could feel the faint tremble running through her body and felt a pang of regret for acting so flippantly. As a jedi he shouldn’t let the fear and uncertainty color the way he spoke and acted. It wasn’t just himself he had to watch out for now.

“No. I am not beholden to Clan Vizla… why do you ask?” Obi-wan relaxed a little. If the man was not lying then at the very least they probably wouldn’t be immediately gutted. They might even listen to what he had to say.

“Because I have evidence that Clan Vizla is plotting to overthrow two ruling monarchies and attempted to halt peaceful negotiations by using underhanded means.” Obi-wan watched the man’s expression twist into something that might have been distaste for the briefest moment before the emotionless mask returned.

“Come with me.” Obi-wan nodded and stepped forward. “The princess as well.” He stiffened, dull blue-green eyes narrowing. Sword or no, magic or no, he had sworn to protect Satine and he would do just that. The man stared at him for a moment before he let out a small huff. “She’s safe, for now. I would worry more about yourself jetii.” He grimaced. He really didn’t need someone else to tell him how much danger he was in. He’d already figured that out for himself, thank you very much.

The man turned around and strode out of the room. Satine gasped when she saw the symbol emblazoned on his cloak. Obi-wan gave her a curious look and opened his mouth to ask but was interrupted by the impatient Mandalorian. “We don’t have all day. Get your shebs out here.” Frowning he led Satine out into the stone hall. Waiting for them were three more warriors, all wearing the same dark blue tunics with grey cloak. He assumed it meant they either shared a clan, held the same rank, or were some sort of elite unit. Satine grabbed his arm and held onto him, looking grim.

They were marched out of the dungeons and up into a very sturdy looking fortress. No matter where he looked he found no means of escape. The high windows were meant for archers, not for pleasure. The doors were built of thick sturdy wood reinforced with metal and there seemed to be an overabundance of guards stationed everywhere. Either something had gone terribly wrong before they were captured or they were particularly focused on making sure their jedi prisoner did not escape. If that were the case then he would be flattered if he wasn’t so damned terrified.

The man spoke in Mando’a to another guard in hushed tones, too low for him to make out. The heavy door was opened and they were waved through quickly. Excitement spread through the room as they entered what had to be a training hall of some sort. There were weapons mounted on the wall at frequent intervals and benches had been shoved unceremoniously out of the way to make room for the large amount of people milling about. At the end of the hall sat a man in full Mandalorian armor. His presence made the hair on the back of Obi-wan’s neck prickle and what little he could sense of the force practically screamed of how dangerous he was.

“Myles. Me’vaar ti gar?” The seated man’s voice was a deep rumble that sent a shiver down Obi-wan’s spine. The voice was too refined to quite call a growl but it was almost feral sounding all the same. The man who had come to fetch them stopped and bowed low at the waist, showing deference.

“Alor. Ni ganar mirci’te.” Obi-wan watched the exchange carefully, hoping to learn as much as possible before he had to play diplomat. “Jet’ika bal Alori’ad be Kalevala.” He frowned slightly as he tried to translate what was being said. He knew that Alor meant Lord, or Sir. It had been easy enough to remember from Satine’s lessons. But the rest escaped him.

“K’olar.” The man commanded. Myles, or at least he assumed that was the man’s name, turned to them and motioned them forward. Taking a deep breath he walked forward, keeping himself calm and steady even as he felt as if he were walking toward his doom. Satine stuck close to his side, refusing to hide behind him regardless of how scared she was. Even disheveled she held herself as if she were a princess.

Stopping when they were close enough to get a good look at but not to incite an attack he glanced at Satine, unsure what to do next. Depending on the man’s titles he would have to be approached differently. Bowing when one should kneel was a good way to get yourself killed by an enraged noble, and Mandalorians were widely known as impatient and quick to anger. Satine lowered herself to one knee and Obi-wan followed suit, bowing his head as she did. After a moment of silence Obi-wan couldn’t help but look up, only to find impossibly bright amber eyes regarding him carefully.

“You are quite a ways from home, Alori’ad be Kalevala.” Satine let out a small breath, lifting her head with a nervous smile.

“Elek, Alor. Ni ola-” There was a loud scoff of disgust nearby as someone stepped out of the crowd. Obi-wan grit his teeth, digging his nails into the palms of his hands to keep himself from moving.

“Aruetiise nu’ru'kir jorhaa'ir cuun joha!” Spat the man wearing the colors of Clan Vizla. Satine’s eyes turned angry but she bit her tongue rather than respond.

“I beg your pardon…” All eyes turned to him and he had to use every ounce of jedi training not to flinch. Even Satine had turned to him, incredulous. “I understand that you would all prefer to conduct your business in your own language but I must admit to my own failing in this area. I do not understand Mando’a, and as I have been told, you dislike when non Mandalorians speak it in any case.” Silence filled the hall. Obi-wan knew he was taking a chance, he might very well have offended quite a few people. But being unable to comprehend what was being said and being unable to feel anyone’s emotions with his magic made him feel woefully lost.

The man from Clan Vizla snarled, eyes filled with murderous intent. The sound of someone chuckling brought Obi-wan’s attention back to the lord. The man had a wide grin crossing his face as his shoulders shook with mirth. Those around him were watching him with interest and mild surprise.

“I can’t tell if you have guts or if you’re just foolishly reckless, jet’ika.” Obi-wan licked his lips. Maybe he could salvage this situation after all.

“It may very well be both, my lord.” There was a glimmer of amusement in the man’s eyes as those around him stiffened. Obi-wan couldn’t tell if it was because he had said something to offend them or if it was the fact that he responded at all. Everything was just that much more difficult without access to his magic. “If I may, milord… I am here as a bodyguard for her highness. We were on our way to a peaceful meeting in Concordia when we were attacked and waylaid.” The man listened to him patiently, an amused grin on his face as he spoke. It made Obi-wan feel like an animal that had been caged and prodded at for entertainment.

“Cuyir gar sushir at ibic jeti? An val vaabir cuyir jehaatir!” Vizla spat, glaring at the lord. Satine froze beside him, letting out a small sound of anger. Obi-wan wasn’t sure how the man heard her, since he had barely heard Satine and he was kneeling next to her, but the lord’s gaze shifted toward the princess with a thoughtful look.

“You disagree with Lord Vizla?” Spoken to directly the princess finally looked at him.

“Yes, highness. Squire Kenobi has been a steadfast ally to me in my time of need and is an honest man. I would not hear him disparaged in front of me. Least of all by those of Clan Vizla.” Vizla bristled and opened his mouth to speak.

“Ne’johaa!” The command wasn’t particularly loud, but then it didn’t need to be. There was power in that voice. The unspoken confidence that his word would be obeyed. Vizla clenched his teeth hard enough that Obi-wan could see a muscle twitch from the strain.

“What is your reason for naming Clan Vizla in particular?” Satine glanced at him and he gave her as encouraging a smile as he could without being obvious about it.

“Clan Vizla is the one who ambushed my carriage and killed my guards, highness. We also have reason to believe they are the instigators of the many attacks on our borders.” Vizla looked ready to interrupt once more but the lord silenced him with a look. Obi-wan was impressed. He wished he could silence someone with a single look.

“Do you have proof?” Satine motioned toward him and he straightened.

“Squire Kenobi had coded letters among his things when we were captured, highness. From the information he and Sir Jinn were able to find they believe that Clan Vizla is paying bandits to attack our borders. Although they have not explained to me the reasoning behind it.” Amber eyes fell on him and the man’s brow rose questioningly.

“From what Sir Jinn and I have been able to gather, those of Clan Vizla planned for the Princess to cross into Mandalorian territory. From there they were intent on killing her and making it seem as if her party were attacked by a different clan of Mandalorians. In this way my master and I believed that Vizla wanted Mandalore and Kalevala to go to war. If this is true it also concerns the Jedi Order. As we are allies with Kalevala we would be obligated to aid in their defence.” It was a simplified version of what he and Qui-gon had been able to parse together from snooping around and listening to their magical instincts. “Clan Vizla wishes to weaken Mandalore in order to stage a coup.”

The moment he stopped speaking the room erupted into chaos. Angry words were thrown around, words he could not understand for the life of him. Satine shifted closer to him, her slender body trembling faintly. He wanted to soothe her but without magic it would be far too obvious.

“K’uur!” The room went deadly silent as the lord rose to his feet and commanded them to be quiet. At least that’s what Obi-wan assumed he’d said. “Vizla, what do you have to say about these accusations?”

“Alor, ni orjo-” There was a low growl and the man quieted once again.

“In the trader’s tongue! You are speaking against an outsider’s claims. Respond in kind.” Vizla looked as if he’d eaten something rotten before he turned violent umber eyes toward Obi-wan.

“I will not take this insult to me or mine! I cry challenge.” There was a lot of murmuring around them as the gathered warriors talked amongst themselves. Obi-wan swallowed hard. He had no idea what was going on anymore. The lord raised one hand and the room settled down.

“I will explain to our guests, as I am certain the aruetiise do not know our ways.” It would have been a relief if Satine wasn’t radiating fear and concern strongly enough that he could feel it without magical assistance. “You have accused Clan Vizla of treachery. That is a very heavy accusation to make. I have been told that most of your belongings were lost, as such I doubt you currently have proof of your claims.” Obi-wan bit the inside of his cheek, wanting to curse. “A challenge of this nature is a one on one duel. Champion versus Champion. Looking at the state of her highness I assume that you will be the one to fight in her stead?” Obi-wan nodded curtly. There was no way he was letting the princess fight in his place!

“You will each be allowed one weapon of your choice,” Obi-wan already knew exactly what he would be requesting, “but will not be allowed to wear armor.” A small smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. While jedi did tend to wear a leather jerkin beneath their tabard they were not accustomed to wearing armor. It was an advantage he would gladly take. “In normal circumstances the duel would end at first blood. However we Mando’ade believe that treachery is one of the worst crimes one can commit. The duel will end when one of you can no longer continue. Incapacitation or death.” Obi-wan closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“What if I refuse?” The room went eerily silent.

“Then you will be executed for spreading discord amongst my people.” Obi-wan frowned, something about that sentence sounded a little off but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. His choices were either duel someone and possibly die or certain death. It wasn’t much of a choice really.

“Then I accept. I would like to request my sword be returned to me.” Getting to his feet he stood tall with his shoulders back. Even if he was at least a foot shorter than nearly everyone there he did not want to look weak in front of these people.

“Your fancy crystal won’t help you here, jetii.” Someone called out. Obi-wan let out a small huff.

“It’s not as if I can touch my magic at the moment. I forged that sword with my own two hands. I wish to have it returned, regardless of whether or not I am allowed to use it during the duel.” The lord made a motion to someone nearby. They bowed then took off running. Obi-wan was hopeful that meant he would be able to hold his sword again. It had taken him many years and a lot of hard work to become a squire. The crystal, more than the sword itself, was proof that he was a jedi.

“Cody, k’olar.” The lord held out his arm and a boy, who had been standing off to the right, trotted over to stand next to him. The lord’s hand went to the boy’s shoulder and there was enough of a resemblance that Obi-wan assumed the child was his son. Of course ‘child’ might not be quite right. He looked to be the same age as an older page or younger squire. Not much younger than Obi-wan himself if he hazarded a guess.

“Tion at ja'hailir, ner ad?” The boy turned golden eyes to Obi-wan for a moment and he could sense a sharp level of scrutiny in that look. The boy turned to his father.

“Elek, buir.” The man smiled proudly down at the boy.

“Ori’jate! Ratiin ja'hailir gar aru'ese.” The boy smiled and it was a warm and pleased thing that Obi-wan hadn’t expected to see in a room full of hardened warriors. But he supposed that they were people just like anyone else. They had families, lives, and were mortal just like every other civilized species.

The man returned with his sword and he almost made a fool of himself snatching it away. Thankfully he remembered not to make any fast movements, anything that could be seen as threatening, and instead took the sword carefully. “Thank you.” Turning to the lord he held the sword horizontally in his hands and bowed his head, offering his gratitude. The man seemed surprised for a moment but nodded back, a smile of approval curling the edges of his lips upward. Obi-wan swallowed and averted his eyes, trying to ignore how his pulse suddenly jumped.

That smile should be outlawed. Shame on him for using it and shame on Obi-wan for finding it mildly attractive.

“Are you ready now, jet’ika?” Obi-wan startled and looked back at the lord to see him grinning.

“As long as simple cloth robes are not considered ‘armor,’ my lord, then I am.” He stopped suddenly then sheepishly looked around. “However… if someone would see fit to lend me something to tie back my hair I would appreciate it.” He had almost forgotten that the leather strap he used to tie his hair back had broken when they were fleeing Vizla’s men. It would be a lot harder to fight if his hair kept getting in his face.

The boy looked up at his father, shifting on his feet. The lord looked down, questioningly, and the boy reached up to free his own hair. “Will this do?” He asked, his voice heavily accented but almost gentle. The lord’s eyes flickered with uncertainty for a moment but he nodded. The boy stepped away from his father and walked up to Obi-wan, hand outstretched. “Here.”

Slowly, his eyes never leaving the boy, he reached out and took the hair tie with a small smile. He could feel tens of eyes on him as he interacted with the boy. One set in particular made it hard for him to draw breath. “Thank you, that’s very kind.” He waited for the boy to return to his father’s protective side before he reached back and quickly braided his long locks. Normally he hated to braid his hair tightly, it gave him headaches over long periods of time, but in this case it was better to ensure his hair would be out of his way. Tossing the long braid over his shoulder he looked at the lord and bowed. “I am ready, my lord.”

“Good. Pre Vizla.” The man stalked forward, a cruel look in his eyes. “Normally I would allow you to appoint your own champion. However, as the clan patriarch it is your responsibility to keep your clan in line. As the one accused of treachery you will be the champion for your clan.” The man’s face went blank and Obi-wan shivered. The sheer rage he could feel in the air made him wonder if his magic was coming back or if everyone could feel the depth of the man’s pure hatred.

“As you command.” He finally ground out.

It took Vizla a moment to take off his armor, handing the pieces off to one of the members of his clan. The weapon he chose was a heavy curved blade just shy of the length of his arm. Obi-wan’s own sword was a piece of slender steel that ended just past the length of his own arm. It was well balanced with a much smaller guard than usually seen in his part of the world. Vizla looked at his weapon and chuckled.

“Are you going to fight me with that flimsy little thing?” Obi-wan’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t reply. Instead he brought his arms up and held his sword in the stance jedi referred to as the ‘center of being.’ He took a deep breath and let it out, calming himself as much as he could. Normally this was where he would start flooding his body with energy, forcing his muscles to move faster and his senses to grow sharper. But without being able to actively perform magic all he could do was get himself ready to take a beating.

The warriors formed a ring around them, speaking loudly in their mother tongue. Princess Satine had been led by the man named Myles, possibly a knight captain or a steward, to stand near the lord and his son. When everything seemed to settle down the lord stepped forward. “Remember. Incapacitation or death. We do not accept surrender, jetii.” Obi-wan clenched his jaw and nodded.

The lord took a moment to look between them. “Begin!”

The moment the word left the man’s mouth Vizla leapt at him, using his superior height to swing down at him from the left. Obi-wan ducked under the swing and stepped back, bringing up his sword and deflecting a strike to his side. He dodged an overhead strike then flipped backward onto his hands when Pre tried to kick him. The people around them called out jeers and suggestions, at least that’s what it sounded like to him. Pre gripped his sword tighter and glared at Obi-wan. If looks could kill then he would have been long dead by now.

Pre ran at him again and he leapt over a slash to his unprotected legs. “Stop dancing around you coward!” Obi-wan felt a spark of anger as he landed. In all his years as a page then squire he had never been known as a coward. They called him abnormal, they called him useless, overemotional, and far too attached for his own good. But never had he ever been considered a coward. Dashing forward he slid past Pre’s guard and flicked his sword toward the man’s side. He barely had time to get out of the way of the man’s sword, let alone dodge the kick aimed at his stomach. He let out a choked sound of pain as his breath stalled in his lungs. He leapt back and fell to one knee, coughing and trying desperately to breathe.

“Hah. Haa'taylir sha laandur sarad’ika.” Obi-wan didn’t know what the words meant but he understood the cadence. It was the same mocking tone Bruck had used to harass him in the temple when they were pages. Forcing himself to exhale then gulp down fresh lungfuls of air he scrambled to his feet as Pre came for him again. The man’s sword slashed across his chest, deadly sharp. Rather than fall back he stepped past the man’s guard and thrust his sword into his shoulder. Pre snarled and kicked him viciously in the head. He really should have expected that.

Dazed he jumped back and nearly tripped when he almost collided with a wall or armored bodies. “Beg pardon.” He apologized before turning to the left and running along the edge of the informal ‘ring.’ Already his body was shaking from the strain, unused to fighting without his magic to sustain him. Something warm trickled down the side of his face and he was fairly certain it was blood. Vizla’s boots had metal pieces stitched into them and he had taken that boot to the side of his head. Either the skin was cut or it was torn. He didn’t really have time to figure out which or stop the bleeding.

His head pounded and lungs burned as Pre and he exchanged blow after blow. The sun crept lower in the sky, lighting up the windows of the hall and filling the room with sporadic splashes of color. Obi-wan jumped back, panting for breath, and felt a tingle down his spine. It was the smallest thing, a shiver rather than a whole body sensation, but it was there. He lowered his sword and closed his eyes, trusting in himself and his magic. Pre cursed and lunged at him. Obi-wan opened his eyes and ducked, faster than anyone thought possible. Vizla’s sword sliced through the air over his head and he sensed more than saw the blade cutting through the end of his braid. With a grunt of effort he pushed himself forward, using his legs like a wound spring. There was a feeling of resistance in his arms and the sound of someone choking back a scream of pain.

Pre slumped to the ground, arm around his middle, as Obi-wan stood over him. The light from the windows shone in his eyes and his hair fell loosely around his body but it didn’t matter. Pre was no longer able to fight. He’d won.

The silence that filled the hall then was so complete that at first Obi-wan thought his hearing had been affected by the boot to his head. He turned to look at the lord, bloody sword in hand, and froze. Burning amber eyes stared at him as if they could see into his soul, radiating a desire so strong it held him rooted to the spot. Pre cursed from his place on the ground and the lord’s expression turned downright cold.

“Are you going to finish what you started, tracyn sarad?” Obi-wan blinked and the spell was broken. He glanced at Vizla then looked back up at the lord.

“You said I only had to incapacitate him. I’ve done what I set out to do.” The man smirked at him, something almost playful but still quite vicious lurking in his eyes.

“If it were you on the ground he would kill you without hesitation. There is a chance he will survive and hunt you down in revenge for this humiliation.” Obi-wan couldn’t help but to grin self depreciatingly.

“Unlike what Vizla claimed, I am no coward. If he survives and wishes to kill me later I welcome him to try.” The silence broke with a raucous cheer that actually made him jump o the spot, hand tightening around the hilt of his sword.

“Baar’ur Jarice, take Vizla to the medical wing and see what you can do to keep him alive.” The tone of his voice suggested it was not, however, a top priority. Obi-wan got the impression that the lord had hated Vizla as much as Vizla hated him and this was as good an excuse as any to get rid of him without seeming at fault. “Baar’ur Vhipirla, please see to the jet’ika’s wounds when we are finished.” A couple of people stepped out of the ring and gathered up Pre, silently taking him away. A different warrior stepped up beside him, deep blue eyes already assessing the damage to his head.

“I want Myles, Alphard, Kahla, and Vhipirla to stay. The Princess will remain here. The rest of you, utrel'a dayn.” With a lot of bowing and shuffling about the hall quickly emptied of occupants. Only the man he assumed was the steward, a grizzled old warrior who looked like he could eat Obi-wan for breakfast, a serene looking older woman, and the person he assumed was a medic, stuck around. The lord’s son looked up at his father but was given no indication whether he should stay or go. He chose to stay.

“Jetii. How much are you willing to sacrifice for the Princess and her people?” Obi-wan’s eyebrows snapped together, showing his anger for the first time since waking in a strange location. Satine was watching him, eyes shining with unshed tears as she stared at his blood streaked face.

“I am a jedi. I would give my life to protect her and her people.” He stared directly into the man’s eyes, pushing every ounce of his sincerity and determination to the fore. The lord’s eyes wavered and for a moment he thought the man might have shivered.

“Then I will give you a choice… Kahla. Be’Manda behirot.” There was a collective gasp from those gathered around, except from the lord’s son and the elder woman. She looked at the lord, her eyes searching, then looked at Obi-wan. Whatever she found made her suddenly crack a smile and cackle. She pulled a small corked bottle from her belt and handed it to the lord. “What is your name, jetii?” For a moment he stood there, staring blankly at the man. Had he truly not given his name before? Well that was just rude.

“Obi-wan Kenobi, of the Jedi Order. Squire to Senior Knight Qui-gon Jinn.” He attempted to bow but stumbled slightly, hand going to his head as the world spun. He was still a little rattled and bruised from the duel. He really should remember that.

“Obi-wan Kenobi. This,” he indicated the corked bottle, “is the Dragon’s Elixir. Have you heard of it?” Obi-wan frowned and wracked his mind for any mention of such a thing. After a moment he shook his head.

“I’ve heard of dragon’s blood and what it can do to those who have magic. But I have never heard of a dragon’s elixir before.” The lord didn’t seem all that surprised.

“Here is your choice. Drink the Dragon’s Elixir and become one of us.” Obi-wan already dreaded the second option, as the first seemed absolutely abysmal. “Or have the Princess drink it.” He was right. The second option was far worse. “You fought and won against Pre Vizla, Count of Kranarsa and Patriarch of Clan Vizla. By all rights his clan and territory is now under your control.” Oh gods, no! “However, considering the circumstances, that is not an option at this time.” Obi-wan bit his lip. He knew he shouldn’t but…

“Why is that?” He was weak. Curiosity and his runaway mouth were going to get him killed.

“Because Clan Vizla is not going to exist after today.” It was said with such finality that no one appeared to doubt his words. “I do not abide traitors.” He looked around at each of the different faces. None of them had the least bit of sympathy for the Vizla clan.

“What is your choice, Obi-wan Kenobi? You or the Princess. One of you must take responsibility.” The way he spoke tore at Obi-wan’s mind. As if asking him whether or not his earlier declaration was only for show. He inhaled, released his fear on the exhale, and accepted his fate.

“I’ll do it. The Princess is needed by her people.” Satine shook her head and went to take a step toward him. The steward held her in place.

“Obi-wan, no. You’ll die!” He gave her a knowing smile but didn’t respond. He’d already made his choice. Looking at the lord he nodded.

“I’m ready.” An almost predatory smirk crossed the man’s face as he stepped forward, potion in one hand. Uncorking the bottle he held it up. Obi-wan reached for it but it was moved away from his hand, making him look at the man in confusion.

“It’s missing an ingredient.” He explained simply. Obi-wan frowned in confusion. The man gave him a wicked grin, twitched slightly in pain, then knocked back the bottle of liquid. In one smooth motion, while Obi-wan was off put, the lord grabbed the back of his neck with one hand and pressed their lips together. He gasped. Warm liquid that tasted strongly of metal and heavy spices filled his mouth. Instinctively he swallowed. The kiss lasted a moment longer and left Obi-wan feeling breathless, his cheeks red and body feeling boneless.

“I am Mand’alor Fett, King of Mandalore. But you, ner venriduur, you can call me Jango.” It was the last thing he heard before his entire body caught fire and he lost the ability to control his limbs.

[Jango]

He watched his future mate as the elixir took hold. Catching the man in his arms he waved the others over to help lower the man to the ground and hold him there. Sometimes those who drank the elixir flailed around and ended up injuring themselves. Kahla took out a piece of bark and pried open Obi-wan’s mouth, placing it between his teeth so he did not accidentally bite down on his tongue. Already the elixir was working its way through the young man’s body, purifying his blood and changing him.

“What about Manda’s Flame, highness?” Kahla asked him, carefully holding the man’s head between her hands. It was a very real concern. Manda’s blood did not mix well with the kind of parasitic magic used by jedi. If a jedi were to drink untainted dragon’s blood they would spontaneously combust. They died in agony as their entire body was engulfed in the golden flames of the dragon god.

“He’ll survive.” It was a blessing given to those destined to become Mand’alor. The ability to tell when someone would make a good Mando’ad and live through the transformation. When he had first laid eyes upon Obi-wan he knew immediately that he was a perfect candidate. There was something about him that just felt right. He was intelligent, brave, stood up for what he believed in, passionate, loyal, and strong willed. He had been polite to Cody. Not out of fear, although he was certainly cautious, but out of kindness.

But it didn’t stop there. When he’d spoken with Obi-wan he’d thought he’d make a good Mando’ad. Then he’d taken up Vizla’s challenge. Jango hadn’t been that excited to watch a duel in years.

From experience he knew that being in battle and watching from the outside were two very different things. But what he saw of Obi-wan in the few short minutes of battle… it sent a shiver of anticipation through him.

He started the duel cautious, wary, trying to judge Pre’s reach and level of skill before committing to a course of action. Although his was slender he used his superior flexibility and speed to attack from unexpected angles and dodge blows that would have been crippling had they landed. Then Vizla had called him a coward and whatever restraint was left shattered. The anger that shone from his eyes made the blue-green color turn sharp, like gemstones.

He could admit to feeling a little annoyed when Vizla managed to sever the end of Obi-wan’s hair. It was a rare color and quite fetching. But then Obi-wan had risen from his crouch like a vengeful spirit. The light of the sun washed over him as he thrust his sword through Vizla’s stomach, catching on the long locks and settling them ablaze. In that moment Jango decided that he wanted him. He felt a desire he had not felt in years, like lightning in his veins.

“Father. When you say future mate… do you mean…?” Jango looked over at his eldest son and gave him a reassuring smile.

“You’ll have a second parent soon.” He declared happily. Cody looked torn between happy and wary. It filled Jango with a mix of sorrow and soul piercing anger. As the eldest child the boy had been old enough to actually remember his mother, may the gods cast her spirit into the eternal void where it belonged.

“Don’t worry, Cod’ika. Trust in my judgment, and learn from it.” His son looked at him and smiled. A cry of pain pulled his attention back to Obi-wan. The transformation had spread outward from his core now. Pulsing blue lines beneath his skin were overtaken by liquid gold, burning away the parasites that infested his body and fed on his natural energy. It spread faster and Jango was surprised to see that he was not as infested as the other jedi, almost as if his body was naturally resistant. Looking at his red hair he suddenly wondered if he might be…

“Qui-gon!” He was honestly surprised that Obi-wan was conscious enough to cry out, let alone something as intelligible as a name. The man’s eyes snapped open and Jango sucked in a breath. Where before they had been a dull green-blue, easily mistaken for gray, they had fully transformed into drake’s eyes. Now his eyes shone like aquamarines, bright and clear.

From the roots of his hair the color began to shift and Jango’s eyes widened in surprise. What had been a fairly attractive red-blonde was now turning into a vibrant red. It was beautiful.

By the time the transformation had run its course the young man had finally passed out from exhaustion. Unconscious, injured, but very much alive. “Vhipirla, take him to the quarters across from my own and tend to his wounds. Set guards nearby. No one goes in or out but those of Clan Fett. Understood?”

“Yes, highness. It will be done.” Jango stood back and watched the healer and the priestess work. As they were leaving Alphard leaned down and picked up the crystal sword. The man contemplated it for a moment.

“Shall I clean it and place it in your personal armory for now?” Trust Alphard to know what he’s thinking. He nodded and let the veteran warrior get back to work.

“Now that the excitement is over, I think it’s time we spoke about the situation between our people.” The princess looked absolutely terrified of him. Good. She should be.

Chapter Text

Entering the room with a sword at his hip and book under one arm, Cody Fett, Crown Prince of Mandalore and blessed child of Manda, wondered what his father could want so early in the day. Seeing his younger brother standing in the study, arms behind his back and feet planted a shoulder’s width apart, he knew that something big was about to happen. Especially as Boba was nowhere to be seen. Family meetings weren’t frequent because the Fetts often talked over dinner, catching up and enjoying one another’s company. Small matters were often seen to by his father, Myles, or himself. There would be no reason for Rex to be present unless his brother had pulled a remarkably foolish stunt. Again.

“What did you do this time?” He asked the blonde as he stopped next to him, looking down at him half in amusement half exasperation. His brother side-eyed him, expression a cross between worry and annoyance.

“I don’t know, Codes. Knight Captain Mereel said that the Mand’alor wished to see me and dismissed me for the rest of the day. He had a huge grin on his face. Whatever this is… I don’t like it.” Cody didn’t like that his younger brother was so uncertain. The boy, young man he chided himself, was a very confident person by nature. It was often seen as cockiness by others but in truth Rex was just that good. He was one of the greatest sharpshooters in the kingdom and his talent with the twin arming swords hanging from his hips was well known. However when it came to their father his brother was always trying his best to impress the man. Rex loved and idolized Jango, which pushed him to do things he might not otherwise have done as a way to get attention. Thankfully he was slowly growing out of that phase.

“Father was away for a month and returned from the last skirmish quicker than expected. Something must have happened in the field.” A shiver went down his spine and he wondered if more traitors had been discovered. The kingdom of Mandalore was quite large and was home to many different species. The fact that they also took in anyone who wished to start their life over didn’t help matters either. More than a few times during his father’s reign outsiders had meddled in their affairs or manipulated the clans to try and gain power over their people. It filled him with righteous anger just thinking about it.

The door opened and closed behind him. With a triumphant expression on his face their father walked over to his desk and leaned back against it, looking between his sons. There was something almost giddy about the tilt of his father’s shoulders that made both of them relax. At least it didn’t seem to be bad news.

“I found him.” Those three simple words and the brightening of the man’s amber eyes were enough for Cody to understand exactly who his father was talking about.

“B-buir?” Cody looked down at his younger brother, who had fallen out of his rigid stance in surprise.

“Obi-wan is back. However…” Cody felt a shiver run down his spine at the sharp look in the man’s eyes. He’d seen that look when he was eight years old and his mother had been executed, then once again when Obi-wan had left them.

Their grandfather, Jaster, had been betrayed and killed by someone he trusted. Leaving Jango to complete Manda’s Pilgrimage alone at fourteen. Since that betrayal their father had a particularly strong hatred for traitors. Even more so than any normal Mandalorian. The fact that Lamia Fett, former princess of the Kaminoans and Jango’s lawful wife, had tried to smuggle Rex and Boba away when the Kaminoans planned to invade Mandalore… well their father finally lost his patience when it came to personal attacks and betrayals. Then Obi-wan was ‘taken’ by the jetii and their father lost any semblance of sanity. He took all his rage and aimed it directly at the jetii that had dared to take someone he loved away from him.

Now Obi-wan was back and Cody was concerned.

He’d known that something was wrong that night. When Obi-wan found Cody still awake studying in his room after putting Rex and Boba to bed. The man watched him for a moment before wishing him a quiet good night. When Cody looked up at him the conflicted expression on Obi-wan’s face and the tension in his shoulders had been a dead giveaway. It was the first week his father had been away in a very long time and he knew the redhead was going to leave. He wasn’t sure how he knew, instinct perhaps.

At that moment in time he had the ability to raise the alarm or to try and talk him out of it, to keep the man there with them. Obi-wan was a precious member of his family. He made all of them so happy and it was clear he loved them as much as they loved him. Yet… he’d still run away. And Cody hadn’t tried to stop him that night. Even now he wasn’t quite sure whether he regretted it or not.

“…he’s wearing those damned robes and has a jet’ika with him. He reeks of spirit leeches.” Jango grit his teeth and let out a long breath to try and calm himself. Cody looked at Rex, catching the rapid shift of emotions on his younger brother’s face.

“But now he’s home. We can deal with the spirit leeches soon enough.” Both Jango and Rex turned to watch him as he spoke. It used to be unsettling when his father would go quiet and listen to him, as if everything he said was important. As if his words had weight and meaning to them. Now that he was older he understood. He was the Crown Prince. One day he would rule Mandalore in his father’s place. Before then he had to prove himself capable. Jango listening to him was both a way to gauge his suitability and allow his son to speak his mind without fear of judgment.

“For the time being we should get him settled. I assume you already had him checked by the healers.” Cody figured it would be one of the first things his father would do once Obi-wan had been… found. ‘Captured.’ The more practical and realistic part of his mind whispered. “How old is the jet’ika?” Jango’s jaw clenched.

“I’d say a little younger than Boba. He’s pretty small.” Cody nodded then crossed his arms, shifting the book in his hand so it was against his chest and out of the way.

“If he’s Obi-wan’s squire then we’ll have to keep them together for the time being.” Rex frowned, copper eyes flashing with jealousy. Cody knew where his brother’s mind was going and he’d have to stop that nonsense before it got out of hand. “Is there anything you’d like me to do for you, buir? I can take over your duties if you want to go see him.” Jango’s smile turned fond and his eyes softened.

“I have to talk with Tyrric. I’ll send Myles over with the documents that need looking over.” Pushing off the desk he stepped forward and slung an arm around both of them for a hug. “Things will be a little confusing for a while. He’s been away for so long and only Manda knows what they did to corrupt his mind. But everything will be fine in the end.” He pressed his forehead against Rex’s then turned to do the same with Cody. It was affection and reassurance both. “I’ll make sure of it.”

“Oh, before I forget. The jet’ika doesn’t know Mando’a.” Jango looked distinctly annoyed by this but pressed on regardless. “So I want you to speak in the Outsider’s language for the time being. Understand?” Both of them nodded and Jango smiled. “Good.” After ruffling Rex’s hair and clapping Cody on the shoulder their father left to go speak with the Seneschal.

“Stars, Codes…” Rex muttered, staring at the door their father had disappeared behind. Cody sighed.

“I know Rex’ika.” While Jango was difficult to read his children both knew he was elated and enraged in equal measure. Rex looked torn. “Hey, it’ll be okay. It’s Obi-wan.” The blonde scoffed.

“He left us Codes! Didn’t even… I mean he… I thought it was strange.” Cody blinked, tilting his head and waiting for Rex to get his thoughts in order. “Do you remember how he used to tell me stories before bed?” Cody smiled and his brother flushed slightly in embarrassment. “He’d only ever tell me one, maybe two. But that night he told me five. Five. I thought it was odd but he was so calm and relaxed I didn’t think much about it. I just drifted off to sleep, happy that he was there. Then when I woke up; he was gone. Dad was livid, you were quiet, and Boba was just inconsolable!” He threw up his hands before letting them drop to his sides, shoulders drooping. “I thought he loved us…” It damn near crushed him to hear his brother sound so broken and lost.

“Hey, hey now! Obi-wan did, does, love us. Don’t you ever doubt that. He was just very confused. The jetii don’t teach about love, Rex. The spirit leeches eat away at their minds and they slowly lose the ability to feel emotions. But Obi-wan is one of us. Manda wouldn’t have changed him if he wasn’t worthy and couldn’t learn our ways.” He ran a hand through his dark hair, sighing. “The jetii filled his head with lies and took him from us. What he needs right now is for us to show how much we missed him. That we want him here and we still love him. We don’t want to accidentally push him away. That will only reinforce whatever lies the jetii told him.”

“But I’m still angry.” Cody snorted in amusement.

“I know. I’m not happy about it either. But trust me on this. We need to show him we still want him here. We can yell at him later.” Rex grinned.

A knock at the door signaled Myles arrival. Cody looked at his younger brother and smiled. “For today, let’s just be happy he’s home. Everything else can wait.”

An hour’s worth of paperwork later one of the servants came to fetch him for his father. They were going to be meeting in the throne room. With a sigh he tidied up his father’s desk, putting the work he’d already completed off to the side so Jango could look it over later and add his signature.

When he entered the room his father was already sitting on the throne, eyes bright with anticipation and excitement. Rex stood nearby, doing his best to appear relaxed and failing at it miserably. Sitting on the stairs beneath their father’s feet, looking frustrated, was Boba. Around this time in the day he should have been out for a ride, training with his hawk Nejair under the watchful eye of his protector Cort.

He waved at his younger brother and signed at his father. ‘Estimated time of arrival?’ His father quickly signed back. They were almost to the doors. Cody had come just in time. Looking at his younger brother he whistled. The boy looked up at him, annoyed. “Shift over, Bob’ika. You know better.” The kid rolled his eyes but moved so he was not sitting between Jango and the rest of the room.

“Why do I have to be here too? You didn’t even tell me who’s visiting.” He grumbled. “I was going to invite Tup’ika to come riding with us this time!” A wide grin crossed their father’s face and he leaned over the arm of his throne to raise an eyebrow at his youngest, who quickly quieted down as his ears turned red.

“Tup’ika, hm? That wouldn’t happen to be Tulip of Clan Gaarla, would it?” Boba’s face turned even more red and he crossed his arms over his chest, sulking. Cody hid a smile and decided to file that information away for later. Tulip was a sweet girl. Only a year younger than Boba with long dark hair, warm honey eyes, and a love for all animals big or small. Although shy, she wasn’t afraid to stand up to even the most belligerent warrior if she thought something was wrong with their horse. If she didn’t become an animal healer she would certainly grow up to be a great stable master or even trainer for warhorses.

Climbing the dais he ruffled Boba’s hair and chuckled as his hand was slapped away with a hiss. Cody smiled fondly, his youngest brother was such a feral little thing. Bumping shoulders with Rex he stood in his customary position next to the throne and looked over at the ornate doors.

They didn’t have long to wait.

When Obi-wan and his squire entered the room Cody almost had a visceral reaction to the two of them. On the one hand Obi-wan looked and felt the same as he had before he’d left, welcoming and safe. On the other hand the child standing next to him was an affront to everything he had ever known as a blessed child of Manda. Their father was right. The boy reeked of spirit leeches. Enough that it made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. It was as if he were standing in the presence of ten senior jedi, rather than a single squire. Now he knew why Jango had been so agitated earlier. The boy, Anakin, was only a child yet his very presence screamed ‘enemy’ to them.

Obi-wan began his introductions and Cody’s focus shifted back to the redhead. His voice and mannerisms were the same as they’d been before he left. It had a surprisingly calming effect on them… except for Boba apparently.

“Fire buir?” Cody winced at the hurt surprise he could hear in his brother’s voice. His outburst wasn’t entirely unwarranted though. He watched his younger brother run off with a small frown. For now he knew his brother would want to be alone, or maybe he’d visit old Wolffe in the kennels. The one eyed warrior was one of the few that Boba actually liked and confided in.

“It’s alright, he’s not entirely wrong.” Obi-wan’s expression was one of anguish and regret before the man carefully concealed his feelings once more. “I’ve betrayed his trust. All I can do is try to earn it back.” Cody bit his tongue. Boba wasn’t the only one who’d felt betrayed. Wasn’t the only one who’s trust Obi-wan had to earn back. He glanced at Rex to see his brother clenching his hands into fists before he let it go. Their father stood from his throne and Cody bowed his head. Not out of fear or tradition, but out of respect.

“You will. Boba will be happy to have his buir back, as I’m sure Cody and Rex are.” Cody’s mind warred with itself for a moment. As much as he loved Obi-wan he didn’t consider him a parent. They were too close in age. If anything he used to think of the redhead as something akin to brother. Someone he wanted to protect and see happy, like Rex and Boba.

Cody’s eyes slid away from Obi-wan and his father as Jango kissed the man, mildly embarrassed. While physical affection was seen as perfectly normal in their culture and no one would begrudge a couple who wanted to take a moment to reassure themselves of each other’s safety and love, it was still embarrassing for the kids to see their parents kissing.

The jet’ika gasped, his eyes going wide and face paling slightly. There was a deep fear and concern in his expression that Cody didn’t like. He had the feeling that the boy’s mind was going to a very dark place and anger rose within him. Infested with spirit leeches or not he was still a child. What sorts of things had the jetii been teaching him that he would immediately take such a small show of physical affection as something to be concerned about?

His father finally broke the kiss and spoke, sounding quite pleased with himself. “Sadly, I have duties to attend to. I’ll leave you with Cody and Rex for the time being. They can show you around. I’ll see you both at dinner.” Jango looked back at them with amusement. “Behave, children.” Cody heard Rex snort quietly to himself. “That means you as well, boy.” There was barely a hint of anger and discomfort in his father’s voice and Cody was impressed with the man’s emotional control. The boy was both an abomination to those with Manda’s blood and a tie to the jetii; two things Jango hated above all else.

“Yes, highness.” Smart boy. His father gave the blonde a pleased nod before turning and leaving. His swift departure left the room in a drawn out silence, no one quite sure what to do. Before Cody could speak his younger brother suddenly leapt from the dais and ran over to Obi-wan.

“Buir! We’re so happy you’re back!” From the sound of his voice Rex was smiling ear to ear. He may still be angry that Obi-wan left them but he had taken Cody’s warning and advice to heart. Watching the redhead’s shoulders loosen and a small smile cross his face Cody began to relax. Rex might be a terror on the battlefield or in the sparring ring but he was also an openly caring and kind individual. It was why the younger squires and the pages all clung to him. If he’d been a little better at masking his emotions and wasn’t so reckless Cody would have suggested diplomacy training for his younger brother. He could be disarming enough, if he wanted to be.

Obi-wan reached out to grasp his shoulder affectionately. “Hello again, Rex. You’re taller than I remember.” Rex grinned. He wasn’t much shorter than Obi-wan. In the next two to four years he’d probably shoot up like a weed. Cody was fairly certain his brother would be taller than him, if not as bulky. Their mother’s people had been quite tall and slender. Not physically strong, but they were quite intelligent.

Not intelligent enough to reconsider tangling with the Mando’ade though. There was a reason no one had seen or heard from the Kaminoans in the last decade.

His brother turned to the jet’ika and told him that blonde’s should stick together. He wanted to groan when the boy smiled back at Rex.

“If you two cause trouble I’m not bailing you out.” He stated dryly, drying to keep the smirk off his face as he left the dais. He caught the smaller blonde rolling his eyes and knew Rex was doing the same. Obi-wan shook his head, amused, then turned his attention toward Cody.

“Cody, I’m glad to see you. What in eternity did you do to yourself?” His footsteps faltered for a moment when he realized Obi-wan was staring at the scar around his eye. Unbidden the memory of that incident surfaced. Anger bloomed in his chest even as he grew slightly embarrassed. They had been on a trip to the border stations, doing an inspection, when he’d started to feel stifled. His fourteenth birthday had just passed and everyone was walking on eggshells around him. As an adult he had the same rights as every fully grown Mando’ad. He could join the army, become an apprentice, marry, claim new clan members with the permission of his clan head, and cry challenge if someone impugned his honor. No one wanted to accidentally insult the crown prince now that he was a legal adult. It felt like everyone was edge around him and he’d wanted to get away for a while.

He’d snuck away for some time alone to just think about things and settle his mind. So lost in thought was he that he didn’t notice the assassin until they were almost upon him. If Rex hadn’t followed him that day and was watching his back he might not have survived the encounter. He ducked when his brother called out a warning and the knife grated against the side of his head. It burned and bled, getting into his eye and blinding him on that side, but the knife missed anything important. Then Rex was there, arming sword in hand and trying to fend off the much larger attacker. Once he was able to get his feet beneath him he’d pulled his own sword and charged the assassin. Rex cried out in pain as the man’s knife dug into his side and Cody saw red.

Later, when they were both alone in the medical room, Rex would speak in hushed awe about what he’d seen. The blood of Manda didn’t just purify those who wished to become the dragon god’s children. It changed them on a fundamental level, remaking them from the inside out. One of the more rare blessings was the ability to borrow Manda’s abilities. Or at least emulate them. According to his brother he’d set the very air on fire when he drove his sword into the assassin’s chest. Then he’d promptly fainted from blood loss. There had been a lot of stitches involved for the two of them, among other things. “You should see what I did to the man who gave it to me.” He rumbled darkly.

Their father had yelled at them, swearing a blue streak and calling them both idiots, before hugging the daylights out of them. Later, when he was more calm, he presented Rex with the shriek-hawk eyes, personally painting them on his helmet. It was a symbol of great honor and had surprised the hell out of Rex. But saving the life of the crown prince, regardless of whether Cody was his brother or not, was considered worth that kind of honor. His brother had been over the moon for months after that. “Ask Rex how he earned his shriek-hawk eyes, the story is the same one.”

Rex’s palm found its way to his side where the assassin had slashed him, copper eyes flashing at him angrily. Neither of them liked to think of that day. How Cody was almost killed by his own negligence. There was a faint flicker of guilt in Obi-wan’s eyes before it was pushed away and that false jetii serenity was back.

Then he just had to ask where they were and his face fell. Cody bit his tongue. He knew the look of someone who’d just lost hope. He wanted to reach out and tell Obi-wan that everything would be okay. That he’d realize he loved them and they loved him, that staying with them would make him happy. At the same time he couldn’t help feeling a little hurt that he was already planning his escape. The man shifted the topic to a tour of the stronghold and he wanted to sigh.

Instead he looked at the blonde boy and did his best to ignore the internal shiver of anger and disgust. “Do you have any particular interests?” He asked, curious.

The boy started to answer, stuttering as he looked up at Obi-wan. The man put a hand on his head, smiling a sweet smile.

“Anakin is fascinated by natural sciences. He is an accomplished Ferromancer as well as a brilliant Alchemist. But don’t let his scholarly pursuits fool you, he is quite talented with the sword.” Obi-wan chuckled at the boy as he blushed, both embarrassed and happy to be praised. Rex perked up when Obi-wan spoke of the boy’s talent with the sword. There was a fierce light in his brother’s eyes and he knew that he would be challenging the other blonde to a sparring match as soon as he could.

“I assume your own tastes haven’t changed in the years you’ve been gone?” Cody asked politely. Obi-wan smiled.

“They have not. I’m still a voracious reader with a love of history and poetry.” He nodded. Obi-wan had often had books nearby whenever he relaxed in the evening.

“If you’ll permit it, Rex could always take Anakin to visit the smiths while I show you to the royal library. It has an entire section on the history of Mandalore.” Cody was pleased to see Obi-wan’s eyes light up with interest.

The man’s expression suddenly turned sharp and Cody could admit that he felt a small shiver of fear for a moment. It was the same sensation he felt whenever his father got protective over them. Obi-wan’s eyes brightened, doing an amazing impersonation of an icey lake, as his pupils narrowed slightly. “As long as Rex can promise me Anakin will come to no harm. Remember, he is not Mandalorian. If there is trouble he will be the one at risk.” That was… fair. The boy certainly felt like an enemy and any unprepared Mando’ad would probably attack first and ask questions later.

“He’ll be safe, buir. Truth, honor, vision.” Rex swore, fist thumping against the kyr’bes sigil on his armor. Obi-wan smiled and nodded curtly, accepting the sworn oath easily. He knew what those words meant. Rex would do everything within his power, even fighting someone with live steel, in order to protect the boy.

“Go, have fun.” Obi-wan told them. Rex and Anakin wore matching mischievous grins as they hurried off toward the large door. “Oh, but Rex?” His brother stopped so quickly he skidded across the floor for a moment before turning around, impatient and a little confused. “Don’t let Anakin get too involved with the smiths. Otherwise we won’t see him for days at a time.” Rex grinned and Cody shook his head. He could tell that Obi-wan was serious. It looked like the redhead had picked up a student who had similar bad habits to his own. That sounded like Obi-wan, all right.

Turning back to him he spread his hands dramatically, like an entertainer or courtier might. “I’m all yours, Cody. Lead on.” He wasn’t quite sure if he liked that or not. It made him look fake, like he was putting on airs.

“Of course, this way.” The walk to the library was long but they filled up the time by catching up. He explained what had been happening in the kingdom since Obi-wan had left and in return he got to hear all of the crazy reckless things the redhead had gotten up to while under the thumb of the jetii. Did they have to send him on such dangerous missions with no back-up? Absolutely suicidal, all of them. He’d thought Obi-wan had more sense than that but he knew from experience that this man didn’t always think about his own safety when trying to help others. Like when he took the place of the princess of Kalevala to fight Pre Vizla. Of course she could have demanded her own champion from her own people but his father had chosen his words specifically to make the then jeti’ika believe he was the only option.

Cody knew his father could be shrewd, ruthless, merciless, and manipulative. But he always tried to use those traits for Mandalore and their people. That day was probably the second time in his life he’d ever seen his father acting on a selfish whim. Although in hindsight it wasn’t really all that selfish, now that he thought about it. More like killing two birds with one stone. Jango already knew that Pre was guilty, that the Vizla clan had been planning to try and overthrow him. But having an outsider humiliate him and then kill him, even if Obi-wan had refused to land a killing blow and Pre died of his wounds later, meant that the Vizla clan couldn’t challenge him directly. Cody had known, like his father did, that Obi-wan would make a good Mando’ad. That he would survive if he drank the elixir.

His curious interest had turned to surprise when his father kissed the outsider and claimed him in the most unabashed manner possible. After the death of their mother Cody had no hope that his father would ever remarry, or even find a companion. He was too wary of anyone getting close to him, too hurt from the betrayal. Then Obi-wan had shown up and everything shifted. His father began to open up more, to lose some of the edge around him.

Then Oobi-wan left and all of it had come rushing back. It was the first time that those in Clan Fett felt terrified of their own patriarch, their own king.

Stopping outside the door to the royal library he smiled. “This is the royal library. You’re only allowed inside if you’re with one of us. Otherwise the guards would stop you from even entering this wing.” He motioned to the door. “Care to do the honors?”

Obi-wan stepped up to the door and pushed it, looking mildly surprised when they swung open easily. Cody looked up at the ceiling. It was a little less conspicuous and far more polite than a full rolling of the eyes. Obi-wan stood in the doorway and drank in the sight. To be fair it was a very large library and a very impressive sight. He noticed Obi-wan following one of the library staff with his eyes and stepped closer to him, so he didn’t have to raise his voice.

“Those are the royal librarians. They go through a very rigorous selection process and are highly trained.” Obi-wan tensed and looked up at him. Cody tried to give him a playful grin, knowing he’d startled the man. But a flicker of fear and apprehension crossed his face for a second before he quickly turned away.

“Well, lets make sure not to disturb their work.” He cleared his throat. “You were going to show me to the ancient history section.” He said gently, trying to lighten his tone to sound playful. Cody backed away from him and watched his shoulders relax. He sighed inwardly.

“This way.” The man didn’t follow him inside and he had to turn around to look for him. “Obi-wan?” Snapping out of whatever daze he was in the man strode forward swiftly to catch up.

For the next two hours they spent their time perusing the shelves. Or at least Cody did. Obi-wan found a small table in a nice little corner and after looking over the titles nearby he carefully collected a stack of old tomes before sitting in the chair and cracking one open. That’s when Cody lost him entirely. He couldn’t help chuckle to himself as he watched the redhead devouring the books like they had the secret to eternal life in them. He knew once the man slowed down he could actually discuss what Obi-wan was reading but for now he knew the man well enough to see when he would be too distracted for a conversation.

At one point he saw the man pull a book over to himself and start to read without even looking at the title. With a snort he grabbed the first volume and leaned over the smaller man. “You’re reading the sixth volume, Obi-wan. Start at the beginning or it won’t make any sense.” He said as he deliberately shoved the book in front of the man’s face, not even realizing he'd switched back to Mando'a. Obi-wan blinked at him, a slight annoyed look on his face, before he took the new book and fell back into reading.

Eventually the servants alerted him that the dine for dinner was approaching. If they wanted to be on time they had to leave soon. Pulling Obi-wan away from the books was both a lot easier and more difficult than he thought it would be. Cody was bigger than Obi-wan and could easily haul him around, though he had to be careful not to hurt him. Honestly it was the almost childish whining and the small pout on his face that made forcing Obi-wan to leave the library difficult.

Stopping dead he looked down at the man with a stern look, the kind of look he’d give Boba when he was being particularly annoying. “You can come back again tomorrow. But we need to get ready for dinner. Buir will be expecting us.” Obi-wan blanched and sagged next to him, the fight leaving him entirely. Cody nibbled the inside of his cheek. He didn’t like seeing Obi-wan so afraid and he had no idea what to do about it.

Obi-wan stopped struggling to return to the library and their walk to the dining hall was the exact opposite of their walk to the library. Quiet, tense, and unproductive.

Coming around the corner he heard someone shout. “Big brother!” Not recognizing the voice he looked up and was surprised to see the boy and Rex entering from a different hallway. Obi-wan’s face softened and he smiled gently.

“Little brother.” It had been so long since they’d heard the man speak in Mando’a and it sounded just as pleasant as he remembered. Obi-wan had never been able to perfect the almost growl that came with some of the vowels so his voice always sounded musical.

Rex grinned at him, pleased with himself, while the smaller blonde smiled at Obi-wan like he was the most amazing person in the world.

“The smithy was so much fun. They have a lot of rare metals that they don’t have at the temple, and their techniques are so different!” It was obvious that the boy’d had his hands all over the metals, and most likely the tools too. He raised his brow at his brother and Rex just gave him a small shrug. Obi-wan had said not to let him get lost in the smithy and to keep the boy safe. He’d never said anything about not letting him get dirty. Cody shook his head in amusement.

Obi-wan’s expression turned contemplative in a way that Cody might have called anxious. “Obi-wan?” The man shook his head and smiled at the boy, hiding his emotions once again.

“I just realized that I don’t have a handkerchief on me and you are smudged with soot. How did you get so messy, my student?” The boy looked down, scuffing his boot on the floor and glancing over his shoulder at Rex. His brother’s face went blank and he stood a little straighter, trying to look innocent and failing miserably.

“I’ll deal with the aftermath later.” Obi-wan said dryly, his tone bordering on exasperated. Cody coughed to try and hide a laugh but he could feel Rex’s eyes on him, they promised trouble. Cody grinned at him and subtly signed. ‘Gonna challenge me?’ The sign he used for challenge was different from the one used when someone challenged another’s honor. This was more like the sign for play-fight. A spar.

Before his brother could respond Obi-wan spoke. “Is there somewhere we can clean off the worst of the mess?” Cody let Rex handle it. For all that his brother had complained earlier that he was angry with obi-wan he still wanted to please the man. He still considered him a parental figure he loved.

Anakin was taken away by a servant and they spoke about the situation between Clan Skirata and Clan Vau. Cody hoped the situation didn’t escalate any more than it already had. Walon Vau might be a prideful man and think he was top of the food chain but Kal Skirata was terrifying when anything involved his children. Eve if Kal couldn’t take up the challenge for one reason or another Ordo was a formidable heir who’d earned the nickname ‘death on legs.’ Even their father was wary of him. Thankfully Kal had instilled in his sons the proper ways of Manda. Ordo would never challenge Jango for the throne because he didn’t have Manda’s blessings. Although if Jango ever tried to mess with Kal he’d find himself facing down seven pissed off knights and three pissed off squires.

Cody was supposed to be impartial in clan disputes but he disliked Vau. From what the older warriors had told him the man had come to Mandalore after escaping his own homeland. No one was quite sure why but they knew he had been exiled. While Cody tried not to distinguish between those who were born Mando’ad and those who chose to become Mando’ad he sometimes found it difficult to relate to those who became Mando’ad later in life. Their previous cultures were just too different and they still retained some of their old traditions. Vau was an example of this. He still acted like an aristocrat from a foreign land. Even though he had married a Mando’ad and had children with her it never felt as if he’d settled properly into his role as a clan patriarch.

Hearing that Vau had beaten one of his youngest sons for falling in love made Cody angry. He put his arms behind his back as casually as he could, hiding how white his knuckled were turning as he clenched his hands into fists. What kind of coward beat his own children!? There were times when Jango had hurt him, that was true, but it had always been an accident during his training. The man had never beaten them for disobeying him or doing something he disliked. Although he certainly yelled a lot before he calmed enough to explain why he had been angry at them.

Spying Boba behind the returning jet’ika he tried to give him an encouraging smile. Rex saw immediately that their little brother was still upset and tried to engage him in a conversation. But their feral little brother would have none of it. He just looked past Rex and glowered at Obi-wan.

“Alore, dinner is ready.” Not a moment too soon. He was fairly certain that if they hadn’t been interrupted the jet’ika would notice Boba’s hostility and the two would get into a fight.

Standing next to his customary place to the right of his father’s chair he smiled at Obi-wan across the table. As the one promised to the Mand’alor he would always have the seat to the left of Jango. It was a place of trust. If Jango had not been the Mand’alor then the two of them would be sitting at the head of the table together, to show they were equals. But the Mand’alor was the sole ruler for a reason.

Rex whistled at the other blonde when the boy looked a little lost, motioning to the open seat next to him, and Boba sat next to Cody, still sulking. Obi-wan looked over at him, amused, and he returned the smile.

Then Jango entered the hall. Obi-wan stiffened and a look that was nervousness bordering on fear crossed his face. Cody wanted to frown and felt his stomach clench in concern. Riduure should never be scared of one another.

“Excellent, the family is all here.” Stopping next to Obi-wan his father placed the flower he’d been carrying next to his plate and leaned down to kiss his temple affectionately.

Once Jango was seated everyone followed.

The discussion over dinner was funny, aggravating, worrisome, and heart wrenching in equal measure. They’d heard about the Neimoidian trading clans attacking Naboo but as Mandalore was self-sufficient for the most part they hadn’t particularly cared. It was a foreign country, one that wasn’t allied with them. There was no real reason to get involved. But to hear that they’d sent Obi-wan and his jetii knight master, alone, made Cody annoyed. The way he acted so flippantly in the face of almost being poisoned to death.

He spoke of how his knight master freed the boy but for some reason couldn’t, or wouldn’t, free his mother. It sounded suspicious to him. But then they were Mando’ade. They would have either killed the merchant or intimidated him into giving up the woman. But of course obi-wan had to go about it in the most roundabout way possible, endangering himself in the process. If he heard too many more stories like that his start turning white before he’d even hit his prime.

The word he spoke was one Cody didn’t know, but obviously their father did. He radiated the kind of anger that meant he was personally insulted and wanted to do something about it. Something violent. But he let it slide without comment.

The longer this tale wore on the more worried he became. He felt bad for Obi-wan when he spoke of losing his knight master. From what he remembered the man was almost like a father to him. Losing Qui-gon must have hurt him a lot. Even their father was showing sympathy, even though he would have ripped Qui-gon apart if he’d ever gotten his hands on him. He blamed the man for Obi-wan leaving after all.

When the tension became too much he finally spoke up in an attempt to clear the air a little. “This is all very fascinating, but what does it have to do with you falling unconscious in a library?” Like he’d hoped his words lightened the mood.

“While I fought the warlock, Anakin found the control spell for the golem army and utterly destroyed it. All the golems went dormant. Because of these two acts we are considered heroes in Naboo. As such we have a very cordial relationship with their monarchs. Padme is a good friend to Anakin and I. She’s also not afraid to yell at either of us when she thinks we’ve done something foolish.” Obi-wan looked slyly over at the boy and Cody smirked. He knew that teasing look anywhere. “She’s only four years older than Anakin and I think someone hasn’t forgotten how lovely she looks in her regalia.”

“Obi-wan no!” The blonde’s face turned red and he put his face in his hands to hide his embarrassment. Rex cackled loudly and Obi-wan gave him a side glance. There was something of a worry there. He might warn Rex away from using that information as fodder for teasing.

“The moral of the story is; don’t leave Obi-wan alone in the library. He forgets to eat or sleep and makes himself sick.” Cody nodded in understanding, an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips when Obi-wan glared at them. That sounded like Obi-wan all right. The man became so engrossed in reading he forgot the outside world existed.

The servants took their plates and Cody was pleased to see they would be having Uj’alayi for dessert. Used to the amount of spices involved in the rare treat he had no trouble eating it. The boy, it appeared, had no such luck. Obi-wan let out an exasperated utterance of the blonde’s name while their father burst into laughter. It was a bit of a mean trick to play but he doubt his father had done it on purpose. He’d probably chosen Uj’alayi because it had been one of Obi-wan’s favorites.

Dinner concluded with no other issues and their father stood up from his chair. Cody watched him reach out to Obi-wan but the redhead hesitated. Jango’s patience was wearing thin, he could see it in his father’s eyes.

Obi-wan hid his own fear under the guise of worrying about the boy in his care. “Where will Anakin be housed?” He didn’t ask about himself. Everyone in attendance knew where Obi-wan would be sleeping that night.

“For now he can stay in Rex’s old quarters. It’s right next to Boba’s. There are always guards and servants on duty in case something happens.” The boy glared at the floor as Jango spoke, looking very upset.

“Come.” Jango ordered Obi-wan. Obediently Obi-wan obliged, onlt to stop and reach back for the fire rose Jango had gifted him. His father wrapped an arm possessively around his waist and pulled him closer, smiling. Cody couldn’t help nibbling the inside of his cheek with worry. While he was overjoyed Obi-wan was back he couldn’t help the twisting in his gut every time Obi-wan looked frightened or anxious. Jango wouldn’t hurt Obi-wan, he loved him… so why was he feeling just as nervous?

“Good night, children.” Jango called over his shoulder.

“Good night, buir.” He replied at the same time as Boba and Rex. The boy listened to their response for a moment and was quick to repeat the words.

“Come on, Anakin. I’ll show you were you’re sleeping.” Rex slung an arm around the boy, giving him a reassuring smile, and signed to Cody that he’d deal with the young jetii.

On their way out of the dining hall Boba stopped and looked up at him. “Buir’s mad at fire buir… really mad.” Cody nodded. “W-will he end up like… like our other buir?” Cody froze, feeling cold.

“No, Boba. Buir loves Obi-wan. I’m… I’m not sure how much he actually loved Lamia.” His younger brother was twelve now. He was close enough to adulthood that he should probably learn the truth. Not that they’d particularly hid it from him or anything. But he knew that talking about their birth mother made their father very upset so, like everyone else, he avoided the topic.

“Good. I… I’m mad at fire buir but… I don’t want to lose him again.” He whispered, looking torn. Cody hugged his little brother, pressing their foreheads together.

“Well. We’ll have to work hard to keep him then, won’t we?” Boba smiled at him before hurrying off again.

‘I let him go and he went through so much pain… I won’t make that mistake a second time. We’re the only ones who can protect him. After all, he’s family.’

Chapter Text

Five Years Ago

Obi-wan Kenobi is not an idle person. With the kind of life he’s lived up until now, working himself to the bone to keep up with his peers, desperately trying to prove himself to his knight master, and being on the run for a good portion of his time as a squire, he can’t afford to stay in one place for long. So when the darkness finally begins to fade he finds himself immediately aware of his surroundings. Groaning at the almost too bright light he slowly sits up, nursing his throbbing head. It takes him a long moment to adjust before he’s able to open his eyes.

The room he finds himself in is quite nice. Not opulent by any means, it is too utilitarian for that, but it is quite big and the furniture is of good quality. For a time the young man just sits there, hands in his lap, wondering why he is waking up in a strange room, a strange bed, with no recollection of the night before. He crosses his legs and closes his eyes, letting his breathing even out as he falls into a restless meditation.

There is something wrong. Something…

“Fierfek!” He cursed in horror.

Scrambling from the bed, ignoring the deep ache in his bones and the trembling in his limbs, he ran to the nearby window. It was tall and slender, just enough to stick his head and shoulders out of. Leaning over the sill he looked down the many, many, feet to the ground and felt his stomach twist into knots. From where he was located in the keep he could see figures in now familiar armor patrolling the outer walls diligently. Below people of all kinds and stations went to and fro, busy with their daily lives. Everywhere he looked the sigil of Clan Vizla was being replaced by a horned skull. Obi-wan’s insides clenched and he suddenly felt very lightheaded.

“Kyr’bes... the Dragon’s Crown.” He said aloud to himself, unable to take his eyes off the sigil that had meant death to jedi for thousands of years.

The sigil of the Mand’alor.

“I’m surprised you actually know that term.” Came a voice directly behind him. Shoving himself away from the window he whipped around and placed his back to the stone wall. The man from the day before, the one he assumed was the Seneschal, placed a tray laden with food on the table across the room from him. The man straightened and gave him a quick once over. “Well, you don’t seem to be in as poor a shape as Baar’ur Vhipirla thought you’d be. Small blessings.” The man stopped talking and watched him quietly, motionless and calm. As the moments ticked by ad Obi-wan did nothing but stare he finally let out a sigh. “Do you remember me from yesterday?”

Obi-wan nodded. All the while wondering if he should try to jump out the nearby window or not.

“Please don’t try.” The redhead’s eyes widened. How had he-? “I’ve seen enough cornered men in my life to know what it looks like when someone is going to do something desperate and stupid. Whatever it is, please just don’t.” He sighed. “I’m not here to hurt you. I thought you would appreciate something to eat and would like to be filled in on what happened after you fell unconscious yesterday.” He cocked his head to the side slightly. “Or I could leave if it would make you more comfortable.”

The man’s words and way of speaking were so reasonable and calm that Obi-wan felt almost obliged to respond in kind. Slowly his shoulders relaxed and he tentatively stepped away from the wall. When the man made no attempt to move the redhead made his way over to the table and hesitantly took a seat. The man nodded in approval and took the seat across from him.

“I am Myles Vhehn, of Clan Fett. I hold the title of Mand’al’verde.” The man raised a brow at Obi-wan and motioned for him to start eating. What was set before him was a hearty looking stew with a small loaf of bread. With a sigh he dipped his spoon into the bowl and took a small bite. Immediately he could taste the strong herbs and spices that had gone into the broth and let out a small sound of delight. Myles smiled at him. “The Mand’al’verde doesn’t have an equivalent in the trader’s tongue but if I were to try and translate it I suppose it would be King’s Commander.”

“Hm... Is that not the equivalent of a Captain of the Royal Guard?” He asked cautiously. Myles grinned at him.

“No, that would be Alphard Ta’rayd of Clan Fett. A King’s Commander is his right hand. Someone trusted to fulfill the king’s duties if he is indisposed, and able to keep up with him in battle. Until the Crown Prince is of age I am second in command of the kingdom and our forces.” Obi-wan’s mouth fell open slightly. It was a lot of responsibility for one man, and to have him be the one to bring Obi-wan breakfast was just… it made no sense.

“Is there a reason someone of your personage would bring breakfast to a jedi prisoner like a common servant?” The man’s eyes narrowed slightly and Obi-wan shut his fool mouth.

“Jango has you under guard. Only those of Clan Fett may enter this room. Which is a very short list of names.” Obi-wan swallowed thickly. His last memory from the day before rose to the surface and he felt his cheeks warming in embarrassment.

‘I am Mand’alor Fett, King of Mandalore. But you, ner venriduur, you can call me Jango.’ Why would a king of Mandalore, one of the Jedi Order’s two major enemies, offer to allow him the use of his name? Just moments after forcing him to drink a mysterious concoction by- his lips were rough and warm. They moved against his own forcefully, demanding the redhead’s submission. Obi-wan shook his head to try and clear it.

“I… don’t think I quite understand.” The Mand’al’verde looked at him, patiently waiting for him to elaborate. “I understand being put under guard but why is it that only those from Clan Fett may enter?” If the child he had seen yesterday was truly the Mand’alor’s son then he would be of Clan Fett as well. Surely that didn’t mean the boy had permission to enter as well? That would be irresponsible.

Myles let out a snort of amusement. “First thing’s first, verd’ika, you are no longer a jetii.” Obi-wan’s face scrunched up in denial. Of course he was a jedi! “Second, because Jango claimed you. From the moment your transformation was complete you became Obi-wan Kenobi, of Clan Fett.” He shook his head emphatically.

“I’m afraid I have to decline such an offer. I am a Squire of the Jedi Order. If you aren’t going to have me killed then surely you can return me to Coruscant? Or at the very least leave me at the border of Mandalore.” The quiet that settled around them was an uncomfortable one. Myles’ expression shifted back and forth between disbelief and offense. It took him a long moment to speak.

“Verd’ika, you drank the elixir. The parasites in your body were burned away by Manda’s liquid fire and your body was forever changed. We’re not asking you to become Mandalorian. You already are Mandalorian.” Parasites… burned away… the world swam before his eyes and he suddenly felt sick. Putting his hand against the surface of the table he tried to stand but found he was trembling far too much. Instead he let his forehead rest against the cool wood and tried to take slow, deep, breaths.

“My mana veins… oh sweet ether!” He’d thought it was because of the drug they’d given him, or maybe the elixir had something in it to dampen a magic user’s senses, but as he reached into himself he knew he was wrong. Rather than the hundreds of threads that made up a magical network inside a jedi’s body he found an unsettling nothingness.

‘…Qui-gon?’ He reached out with his mind to try and find the bond he had forged with his master but only his own voice echoed back from the empty void. For the first time in years he found himself utterly alone and cut off from all he knew and loved.

A broken sob left him before he could rein himself in. Tears clouded his vision until he closed his eyes, trying desperately not to feel as if all hope was lost.

Normally when a jedi lost control over their emotions it agitated the symbiotic mana worms living inside them. Working in defense of their host the mana worms would lash out, tossing objects and mentally attacking those nearby in an attempt to protect both themselves and their jedi. He supposed it didn’t really matter anymore, did it? Even if his emotions spiraled out of control, without the mana worms he could no longer channel ether. Myles was right; he was no longer a jedi.

A heavy hand gently landed on his shoulder, in silent support or reassurance, and he twitched. He wanted to be angry. To scream, cry, beg. Ask the great unknown why he was born only to fail and fail again. He wanted to get up from the table, take his sword, and challenge Fett to a duel. Death would be preferable to the giant hole that had been torn through his soul where his bonds used to be.

But he didn’t. He did none of that. Because whether or not he had mana veins Obi-wan still believed himself to be a jedi. Whether he could channel ether or not he could still be a proper diplomat. Even if they didn’t send him on missions anymore they would allow him to work in the archives. And maybe… just maybe… there was a way to undo what had been done to him.

After this terribly emotional display he slowly started coming back to himself. Opening his eyes he realized he was being held against an armored chest and blushed furiously. Lifting his head he looked up into warm orange eyes. Apparently, while he had been trying to search for his bonds, Myles had risen from his seat and gathered him into his arms. One of the man’s hands was on the back of his head, where he’d held Obi-wan against his shoulder, while he other was rubbing calming circles into his back. It was a gesture he would not have expected from those of a warrior culture.

“Are you feeling a little more calm now?” Calm wasn’t really the right word but he supposed it worked well enough. If anything he felt tired and numb at the moment. He nodded anyway. “Jate.” Letting Obi-wan go Myles slipped back into his chair across the table. “Finish your breakfast.” It was a command, not a request, but the man’s voice was warmer than before. Obi-wan complied.

When he was finished eating as much as he could, which wasn’t much at all, Myles took the tray and told him to go back to bed. Obi-wan wanted to protest, he was already awake, but the man gave him a stern look. “The elixir takes a lot out of a person and besides, you were injured before that. You need time to heal.” When Obi-wan finally gave in and returned to the bed Myles nodded in approval. “Someone will come by with lunch, if you’re awake.” Then the man was gone.

Left alone he stared up at the ceiling above him and sighed. Closing his eyes he let his breathing even out and began to meditate. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep.

[Jango]

Staring down at those kneeling before him he held back a growl of annoyance. The main family of Clan Vizla had already been taken care of and the rest of the families under their banner had been redistributed. Now only the orphaned Vizla children remained. It would take work and a lot of negotiation with other clans to have them adopted, since Jango certainly wouldn’t be doing it.

There were three candidates to govern Kranarsa, although to be fair there had been four of them a minute prior. Quiren of Clan Rattak, Marda Sohm of Clan Jaair, and Sphen of Clan Tarsus. Silently the body of Montross, patriarch of Clan Ramses, was taken away. From what information his men had gathered the coward had been a staunch ally to Pre, agreeing to back the man’s claim to the throne and add Clan Ramses’ power to Clan Vizla’s in exchange for the role of Mand’al’verde.

“Marda Sohm of Clan Jaair.” The woman looked up at him expectantly. “Your Clan has the most able bodied warriors at this point in time. Kranarsa is an important border fort and the recent bandit activity isn’t going to stop just because Vizla is gone. Do you accept the duty of governing this land?” Her expression brightened before it hardened into something fierce.

“You have my oath, highness. I will govern this land and protect it well. Truth, honor, vision.” She placed her fist against her chest and Jango nodded, accepting her pledge.

“Quiren of Clan Rattak, I am gifting your clan the territory of Cuirbral. Sphen of Clan Tarsus, I am gifting your clan the territory of Wervheti.” The two men bowed their heads and spoke in unison.

“Thank you, highness.” A smile tugged at the corner of his lips at how pleasantly surprised the two sounded. He had chosen the perfect lands to gift these two loyal clans. Rattak was a clan that prided itself on its textiles and always needed more land for their flocks. While the Tarsus clan could use the fertile soil that Vizla had been neglecting to plant more medicinal herbs.

Myles entered the room and he quickly dismissed the three clan heads. He’d already accomplished what he set out to do, there was little else to discuss with them until they took up their positions and moved into their new lands.

“How is he?” The Commander let out a sigh and gave him a pointed look, which Jango refused to acknowledge. The man already knew he got an almost twisted sense of satisfaction purging spirit leeches from outsiders and adopting them into the Mando’ade. It was Manda’s will after all. Especially when the the newcomers quickly realized just how harmful the damn things had been to them and remained with the Clan that adopted them. The Gaarla had a particularly good track record reforming jetii. More than half of the jetii that disappeared near their lands were now living productive lives as Mando’ad. In a way it was the least violent revenge he could think of against the jetii after they had slaughtered the Mereel Clan in cold blood. If he hadn’t been undergoing the Pilgrimage at the time he would have been killed as well. The jetii, and particularly Dooku, had a lot to answer for.

“Healing faster than we thought he would.” Jango looked over at Myles in surprise. “At least from the elixir. His wounds from the duel and whatever injuries he had before will still take time. But I was surprised to find him up and about when I arrived.” A small smile crossed his face. He had a sneaking suspicion he knew why the redhead was resistant to the spirit leeches and had taken to the dragon’s blood so well, and this new information just added to his suspicion. “You don’t think…” Apparently Myles had the same suspicion.

“I do. There’s only one people besides our own that are inherently resistant to infestation. If he starts exhibiting any of the same traits as our distant ‘cousins’ then my suspicion will be confirmed. Of course, we could always just ask him but there’s no guarantee he’ll tell us, even if he did know the answer.” Myles tilted his head in understanding.

“Jango…” There was concern in the man’s voice. He sighed and stood, looking the man in the eyes. “He’s an emotional wreck right now. You know what the elixir does to those bonds the jetii are so reliant on. The verd’ika broke down sobbing and didn’t even notice when I held him.” Jango’s eyes narrowed slightly but Myles remained steadfast. “He’ll need time to adjust. If he sees you right after what happened he’s liable to panic. When I called out to him he looked ready to jump out the window, regardless of how high up it was.” He grimaced and ran a hand through his loose locks. He already knew how hard it was on the jetii when they were cured. Just because the leeches were gone didn’t mean the brainwashing they had undergone since childhood would go away any time soon.

“I’ll leave him to you and Vhipirla for the time being. We’ll be here for the next tenday to ensure the transition from Clan Vizla to Clan Jaair goes smoothly. After that we’re relocating to Concordia.” It was the closest stronghold and they had a couple of guests there that might get along with his venriduur. “I’ll need to pen a message and send it to the boys to warn them that we have a new member in the clan.” The thought made him smile. It was rare he allowed anyone into his clan and the boys would certainly be excited to have another parent around.

“I’ll take care of him, highness.” Jango nodded and left to go find a messenger.

[Obi-wan]

The days passed slowly. The Mand’al’verde appeared every now and again to speak with him, always trying to keep the topics light and positive but it was clear he knew Obi-wan wasn’t doing well. But at least he was less intrusive than the healer, Baar’ur Vhipirla. That woman had a stubborn streak a mile wide and every time she appeared he dreaded whatever nasty concoction she tried to shove down his throat. Although to be fair he noticed that the bone deep ache and the random shakes he had been experiencing always went away after drinking her medicine.

Every time the door opened he froze, dreading an inevitable meeting with the Mand’alor. Myles had been suspiciously tight lipped whenever Obi-wan asked what the words the man had spoken meant, or what it meant for the king himself to allow a jedi to use his name. Some questions, like asking when he could leave, made the man’s orange eyes harden and he quickly dropped the line of questioning. But other questions, asking about the language, the significance of certain actions, and cultural practices, all made Myles’ eyes light up with approval. It was… difficult… to dislike the man. He was only doing what he was ordered to do and he had been nothing but kind so far.

Unfortunately that didn’t fill the gaping hole inside him where his bonds once lay. Now he knew that not all of his relationships were dependent on bonds. Nield and he had never created any sort of mana bond for instance. But the horrible silence inside him, that emptiness, ate at him. The more he thought about it the more tired he felt. By day seven of his captivity he could barely bring himself to get out of bed, let alone hold any meaningful conversation with Myles.

The door opened and he flinched in surprise. Every day Myles or Vhipirla would bring him breakfast, mid-day, and dinner. He was on a strict schedule. Or at least he had been. Judging by the light coming into his room he was fairly certain it was not meal time. Closing the book he had been trying to read, he was still learning Mando’a and without the mana worms it was harder to focus and remember, he sat up on the bed and waited.

What he expected to see was the dreaded Mand’alor. What actually came through the door made his jaw drop. It was the boy from before. The one who offered Obi-wan his hair tie… the Mand’alor’s son. The boy could not be older than fifteen or younger than eleven, and Obi-wan was very good at guessing ages. All the warriors seemed quite large, as was the Mand’alor, so it was safe to assume the boy was bigger than average at whatever age he was now.

“Su’cuy’gar.” The greeting sounded pleasant on the boy’s tongue, a small smile crossing his face. There was none of the nervousness of a youngling who was disobeying orders or doing something they shouldn’t be. Just the quiet confidence of someone who knew they were breaking no rules.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand what that means…” The boy’s eyes were calculating as he watched Obi-wan for a moment. The boy shrugged and came further into the room, footsteps sure.

“Hello. I don’t believe we have exchanged names.” Obi-wan frowned for a moment before he understood.

“Obi-wan Kenobi, je-” he sighed and closed his eyes tight. “Just Obi-wan Kenobi.” The boy stopped outside his reach. Even though he seemed very strong for someone of his age, and obviously he would have a scary guard detail, it was the cautious intelligence in his eyes that made Obi-wan wary.

“Cody Fett, of Clan Fett. Orilor’ad be Mandalore.” He gave a polite bob of the head. Obi-wan turned and gave him a much more respectful bow. After all this was the child of a man who held a lot of power. Politically, militarily, and personally. Just because Obi-wan had been preoccupied with other matters didn’t mean he hadn’t noticed the way the Mand’alor moved. Self assured, wholly comfortable in his own skin, competent, and almost predatory. He had no doubts the man could, and would, destroy him if it came down to it.

He stared at the boy for a moment, wondering what he could want, but no answers were forthcoming. After a few more moments of awkwardness he finally gatehred up the courage to ask.

“I, uh, is there a reason for your visit, highness?” His eyes flicked to the door and he wondered if someone was watching them, making sure he didn’t hurt the boy. Not that he would.

“I wanted to meet the new adat be ner aliit.” He said with a welcoming smile. “Olarom, Obi-wan Kenobi be te Fett Aliit.” Obi-wan twitched when he heard his name but slowly shook his head.

“Ah, I’m, uh, still learning Mando’a.” He said, by way of an apology. He knew some of the words, certainly, but stringing them together was still a little difficult. Even if it seemed to be a very straight forward language. After all there were no gendered words nor were their many identifiers. Everything seemed to be based around context and cultural information he just didn’t have. He felt as if he were trying to decipher a code without the key.

“He said he wanted to meet the newest member of his clan, then welcomed you into the clan.” Oh, there he was. The boy’s bodyguard. The man was older, scar over one eye, with dark eyes an amber color bordering on red. The man regarded him with steely eyes and Obi-wan couldn’t help feeling scrutinized and found wanting.

“I… see.” The man narrowed his eyes at him and the boy watched him quietly. He was unsure what to do now that they were there, staring at him as if the gods would grant them an epiphany. This situation was entirely outside his expertise.

The boy, Cody he should do his best to remember that, looked back at his bodyguard. “Alphard, kaysh cuyir trikar'la.” The man let out a small sigh.

“Elek, alor. Kaysh cuyir.” Obi-wan was starting to feel quite annoyed at being left out of the conversation. He’s right here, thank you! The man looks at him as if he can sense his unease and gives him a crooked smile. “Apologies, the prince is still learning the Trader’s language.” There was no hint of deception, that he could see, so he just nodded slowly to show he understood.

“Obi-wan.” He looked back at the prince. The boy’s eyes flicked to the book resting on the bed before going back to him. “Do you like reading?” This, at least, was a safe topic.

“Very much, your highness.” The boy smiled and came to sit on the bed next to him. The guard leaned against a wall, resigned to wait. Obi-wan was unsure what had come over the child, or the guard, that they would want the prince of Mand’alor to talk with a jedi but… it was nice to have company. For the moment the empty echoes inside his mind were filled with a growing warmth.

[Cody]

Leaving with Alphard after Vhipirla politely told them to leave, the crown prince of Mandalore frowned. The man known as Obi-wan, who was now a member of his clan, seemed very knowledgeable and well traveled. Even the oft difficult to impress captain of the royal guard seemed in awe of some of the things the former jetii had pulled off. When he’d first entered the room and noticed how scared the man was he hadn’t been sure whether coming to visit was a good idea or not. His father had not forbidden it and he had said that only members of Clan Fett may enter the room, so he wasn’t breaking any rules. But there seemed to be a reason his father was keeping the redhead locked up. A reason which had nothing to do with the possibility of retribution by the dissolved clan Vizla.

Venriduur, his father had said. Future mate. After kissing the man and making him drink the elixir. Obi-wan had agreed to the elixir, he’d heard it himself so he had no issues with that part. But the kiss had been… surprising. Not because he didn’t believe his father had such desires but because no matter who the man took to bed he never seemed so… invested. The rare companion Jango allowed in his bed only ever stayed for a day, maybe two, before his father moved on. Never once had his father mentioned wanting a new mate.

Sure. Obi-wan was very pretty, he doubted anyone would deny that, but there was more to it than that. His father had seen something in the redhead, and Cody wondered if it had to do with Manda’s blessing.

To be honest Cody was… wary. Obi-wan seemed very kind, for a former jetii. Even if he tried to hide it behind a flippant nature. However, Lamia had also been kind. Up until she tried to steal his brothers away… up until they knew what she’d done. Cody didn’t feel any resentment towards his father for killing his birth mother. Not after he learned the truth of the horrific magical experiments the Kaminoans had been conducting on Mando’ade. But ever since then there had been a hole in their family, a place where someone had once been. That Jango thought the new verd’ika could fill that void… it was just a little confusing.

“Alphard.” The man looked down at him.

“Yes, highness?”

“I want to visit with him tomorrow as well. If he is to be father’s future mate then I want to get to know my new buir.” The captain of the royal guard eyed him for a moment. Determined golden eyes met reddish amber and the man bowed at the waist briefly.

“As you wish, highness.”

It was a good idea, Cody thought. This way he could judge the man for himself. Even if he trusted his father’s judgment he was a future Mand’alor, and his father had taught him to always think for himself.

Chapter Text

[Jango]

Pulling Obi-wan further into their quarters he finally let go of his beloved. Divesting himself of his weapons and clothes he watched the younger man hungrily as he placed the single rose down on a side table and stared at it, as if deep in thought. The light from the fireplace licked at his skin, bringing out the warmth of his ruby hair and the shine of his ethereal eyes. Jango shivered with anticipation. It had been far too long since Obi-wan shared their bed.

“My beautiful fire flower.” He rumbled as he stalked closer to the one who set his soul aflame. Placing his hands on those slender hips he pulled the man to him, bringing his attention back to the present. Undoing his belt he let it fall to the floor and reached for the laces of his vest next. Obi-wan slipped out of his layered tunics and dropped them to the floor in one smooth motion. Leaning down he pressed their lips together hungrily. Sliding his hands over milky white skin he pinched a delicate pink nipple and reveled in the soft sound it elicited. Taking advantage he deepened their kiss, snaking his tongue inside to get a taste.

“Obi-wan… My Obi-wan.” Deftly he slid his fingers through long ruby locks before curling his hand into a fist and tugging- hard. Obediently Obi-wan let his head fall back, baring his neck. Dragging his sharp teeth carefully along the man’s sensitive skin he latched on where the neck and shoulder met, being careful not to draw blood. His love let out a nearly breathless moan.

“So perfect.” He growled out as his hands began to roam. Every new scar he discovered was both reassurance and damnation. Proof that Obi-wan had survived more brushes with danger… without Jango.

“Strip.” He commanded. Without a fuss the man untied his trousers and let them drop to the floor, along with his braies and tights. Now completely unclothed Obi-wan stood before him, face flushed and pupils wide with excitement. Jango slid the slender circlet off his head and tossed it on the pile of clothes littering the floor. Gripping Obi-wan’s chin he forced the man to look directly into his eyes.

“Tell me, Obi-wan, how do you plan to apologize to me?” He didn’t bring up apologies for their sons, now was not the time. Right here, right now, he wanted to know how his betrothed planned to start making up for his four year absence. Leaning closer he pressed his nose into the man’s hair, just above his right ear. As always his dearest one smelled of spring rains and warm spices. “Or shall I tell you how?” He growled. The man let out a small whimper and he knew it was not out of fear.

“Back then I was patient with you, I let you get away with much. But now?” Obi-wan shifted until he could press his forehead in the crook of Jango’s neck. He was trembling faintly.

“Kneel.” Obi-wan slid to the ground, looking up at him, expression one half apprehension and one half desire. Jango wound his fingers through ruby locks and gave another harsh tug, a wide grin crossing his face at the gasp it earned him.

“Now it’s time I taught you your place.”

[Obi-wan]

Waking with the dawn, as was his habit, he lay there for a moment in confusion. He was used to Anakin coming into his room after a nightmare and snuggling up to him, although it was a far less frequent occurrence these days. But the weight against his back and across his waist was far too much to be his wayward squire. Soft puffs of breath tickled the back of his neck and he could feel the rise and fall of a chest against his back. Slowly turning his head he looked into the sleeping face of the Mand’alor and froze when he felt the man stirring.

“G’mornin.” Half lidded amber eyes watched him, like a giant sleepy cat. Sitting up he released his hold on Obi-wan and stretched, a few of his joints making popping sounds as he did so. Wild dark hair framed his face as the first rays of sunshine filtered into the room. Leaning down Jango captured his lips in a kiss that was so sweet and languid that it made his heart clench in his chest. Battle hardened hands slid down his shoulders, caressing his skin. Obi-wan flinched as he rolled onto his back and his body protested. Jango stopped and looked down at him with a critical eye.

“You’ll need a Kolto bath.” Looking down at himself he tried, and failed, to hide his wince. His body was littered with bruises, hickeys, and cuts from sharp nails that dug in during the heat of the moment. Jango had been too far gone in his possessive mating instincts to be careful with him. The man sighed. “If we were already mated this wouldn’t have happened.” He muttered under his breath heatedly. Obi-wan swallowed hard to keep from saying anything in response.

Part of the man’s anger with him was probably over the fact that Obi-wan had fled two weeks before their ‘mating ceremony.’ He had been so unsure and confused at that time. In less than a year Jango had shaken his belief in the Order, lavished him with affection he had never experienced before, and given him the family he had always wanted. But it wasn’t… Obi-wan wasn’t… he mentally shook himself to clear his head. It was all in the past, nothing could change that.

“Come on, beloved. There was someone I wanted you to meet this morning. But you need to eat and get ready first.” Looking up into the man’s eyes he wanted to shrink in on himself. Jango looked at him with such possessive devotion, Obi-wan was certain that no one had ever wanted him more in his entire life.

“Alright.” Before he could even try to get out of bed on his own Jango was lifting him in his arms with a cheeky grin. Obi-wan let out an indignant noise and clung to him. “Jango!” He received an amused chuckle in return.

After the warm bath in Kolto infused water, an imported kind of bath salt with strong healing properties, he was attended to by a handmaid he had never met before. Once he was properly dressed, this time in creams and deep greens with the same copper embroidery as his other tunic, he and Jango were served breakfast. They sat together in companionable silence, though Obi-wan kept glancing over at him to try and judge his mood. After last night it seemed the man had calmed considerably. Making certain that his ‘mate’ had not been touched by anyone else and claiming him again soothed his alpha tendencies for now.

The servant placed a steaming cup of tea next to him and Obi-wan almost cried. He hadn’t been able to have tea in weeks during the mission he and Anakin had been on. Taking a small sip he almost melted at the taste. It was light and citrusy with a hint of spice. Jango smiled at him when he let out a pleased noise, making Obi-wan flush slightly in embarrassment.

“This person you wanted me to meet? Who is it?” Setting down his cup he nibbled on his breakfast while Jango gulped down some of his morning caf.

“It’s a surprise.” He chuckled when Obi-wan frowned at him. “No one unpleasant, I promise.”

Once breakfast was finished he was led through the wide corridors and large halls. Finally they made their way outside and stopped. Obi-wan’s mouth fell open when he took in the absolutely stunning garden in front of him. There were flowers from all over the known world, each in their own grow beds. Stone pathways wound throughout with wooden benches situated in quiet places so one might relax. Jango tugged on his waist insistently and they made their way through the garden. He tried to stop once but the man’s arm just tightened slightly as he led him away.

They came to a walled section with a hanging drape of flowering vines. Pushing them aside Jango nudged him forward and he complied. The moment he entered Obi-wan gasped. There was no stone pathway here, only soft moss and grass. Around the edges of the garden were beds of fire roses, interspersed among them were other flowers he recognized as coming from his homeland of Stewjon. Soft pink Primroses, white Gardenias, and sweet smelling Lilacs. After taking it all in he finally noticed the small pond, and the woman with smiling eyes who was quietly waiting nearby.

It took him a moment to place her, she seemed so familiar yet he was certain he had never met her before. Jango placed a hand on his back and steered him closer.

“Obi-wan, this is Peony of Clan Gaarla. She’s the one who has been looking after your meditation garden.” Surprised he looked up at Jango, eyes wide. The man gave him an amused smirk. “Yes, yours. I had it made for you when we were still in Concordia.” He flinched at the near anger in those words.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Obi-wan.” Looking back to the woman he saw the faint flicker of something glass-like behind her and marveled at the shimmering wings. A Fae named Peony…

“Senior Knight Connifer?” The woman’s smile brightened and she let out a pleasant laugh.

“I used to be. Now I am just Peony Gaarla.” The switch to Basic was so easy and hearing her speak it in her pleasant alto voice eased something inside him. “Do you like your garden?”

“It’s beautiful! I didn’t think you could grow Fire Roses anywhere but Stewjon.” It was honestly a surprise.

“We have a couple of Stewjonian gardeners who make sure the soil is just right for growing them. But you can only find them in this private garden.” Obi-wan felt his heart stutter in his chest. He looked at Jango and the man looked so smug he wanted to roll his eyes at him. Instead he turned back to the former Jedi Knight.

“How did you end up here in Mandalore? They moved your painting to the Hall of Remembrance in the Temple, assuming you were dead.” Jango stiffened beside him and he bit his bottom lip worriedly. But the former Jedi Knight just laughed lightly.

“I was on a mission to rescue some stolen children from slavers. I crossed into Mandalore without realizing it and some Mando’ade found me.” She shook her head in amusement. “Four brothers who offered to help me get the children back, even though they knew I was a Jedi.” A fond look crossed her face. “We worked together for two weeks but when we found the children the slavers had driven into a den of monsters. We fought the monsters and slavers both. Wolffe lost his eye and I nearly died… would have died had they not convinced a Dragon Priest to save me.”

“Why didn’t you inform anyone at the Temple that you were alive?” He could feel angry amber eyes on him. Jango took a breath to say something but stopped when Peony shook her head.

“Cin Vhetin.” She said simply. It was a phrase that had a direct and indirect translation in Mando’a. Directly it meant White Field. Indirectly it was the name for the change one underwent from Outsider to Mandalorian. It wasn’t just the physical change that came from the Dragon’s Elixir either, it was the cultural change as well. “Senior Knight Peony Connifer has ceased to exist. I am Peony Gaarla, wife, mother, and proud Mando’ad.” Obi-wan’s mouth fell open slightly.

“Y-you have children?” The woman’s smile brightened.

“I do. My eldest son, Hemlock, my twins, son Ray and daughter Echinacea, and my youngest daughter Tulip. They are the light of my life.” Obi-wan felt shaken to the core at this revelation. If a Senior Knight could turn their back on their duty for family…

“Obi-wan.” Jango pulled him closer, one arm around his waist and the other brushing loose strands of hair away from his face. “The Gaarla Clan have close ties to the Fett Clan. You can come and talk with Peony any time you like. Her family lives here in the stronghold. I want you to take your time and reacquaint yourself with our culture.” He pressed his lips to Obi-wan’s forehead before leaning down and stealing a proper kiss. “I have work to do. Don’t worry about the boys, I have Alphard and Cort looking after Boba and Anakin today.” The mention of his squire made Obi-wan freeze but he slowly relaxed. Alphard was a hard man, a true warrior, but he had a soft spot for kids.

“Who is Cort?” It was a name he hadn’t heard before.

“Cort Davin, Clan Fett. Formerly Clan Vhehn. He’s Myles' younger cousin and Boba’s personal guard.” Obi-wan smiled. Myles had been a good friend to him four years ago. If Jango had invited Cort into the Fett Clan then it meant the man was trustworthy, enough to become the guard of his youngest child even.

“I’ll see you later at dinner. Enjoy your garden. If you need anything there are always servants around, or Peony can fetch someone for you.” Jango looked over at the former Knight and gave her a respectful nod. The woman curtsied in response. Then Jango was striding away, disappearing behind the curtain of vines that hid the doorway to the not so secret meditation garden.

“Are you truly happy here? Was this something you wanted?” Smiling the woman motioned him to come sit with her and Obi-wan obliged. They sat across from each other, legs crossed as if they were about to meditate.

“It’s not something I ever thought I wanted when I was a Senior Knight. I had my former Squire, then Knight, and my Knight Master. I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything at all.” A playful light entered her eyes and a small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “Then a gruff warrior, who was more like an untamed beast than a man, stumbled into my makeshift camp with three identical brothers on his heels. They were rough around the edges but honest in their curiosity. They treated me with a wary kind of respect and I grew attached to them quite quickly.” A fond sigh left her and Obi-wan couldn’t help smiling. “When Wolffe was injured I reacted emotionally, rather than logically. All I could think about was how to protect him.” A small blush colored her cheeks and she looked down at her hands. “After I was changed and had recovered from my injury he fought for me to stay in their Clan and helped me transition into my new life. I think we danced around each other for the better part of four months before he finally asked me to be his mate.”

Even from where he was sitting he could feel the waves of love and contentment. “Since then I have had many beautiful children and have lived as a gardener, herbalist, and royal healer. If I wanted to pick up a sword and fight for what I believe in my clan, my family, would be behind me. But here I feel at ease.” She looked at him finally, her leaf-green eyes serene. “What is it that you want, Obi-wan? I can see that you are conflicted.”

“I… I don’t know.” He whispered after a long moment of silence. “All I ever wanted was to be a proper Knight. But I’ve always had trouble with…” Peony gave him an encouraging look and he took a steadying breath. “Now I have a Squire who I know would never survive the transformation. I have to think about him and his safety. I c-can’t… we can’t…” They couldn’t stay. He had to find a way to get him and his squire out of Mandalore.

“Obi-wan, just breathe.” As if to demonstrate the woman took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Copying her, like he had done with his own Knight Master once upon a time, he felt himself falling into a familiar rhythm. “Good. Why don’t we meditate? It might make you feel more at ease.” Nodding he closed his eyes and just let himself drift.

[Anakin]

Waking up in a strange bed, in a room he didn’t recognize, he sat up and looked around in confusion. In some ways it reminded him of the quarters he and his Knight Master stayed in when they visited Naboo, except all the decor was wrong. The color scheme for the room was black, white or cream, and a medium blue that was surprisingly calming. He tried to feel for Obi-wan through the force but found he was still blocked, it made him scrunch up his face in frustration.

A noise to his left caught his attention and he started in surprise. There was a man coming into his room! Jumping out of the bed he put it between himself and the stranger, falling into the stance Obi-wan had taught him. It was one that made it harder for someone to land a blow and gave him a lot of options to fight or retreat. The man stopped in his tracks and eyed him carefully.

“Good morning.” He said pleasantly, holding up one hand in greeting.

Anakin just frowned at him.

After a moment the man sighed. “I’m not here to hurt you, ad’ika. I just brought you some new clothes and a message from the Mand-uh King.” True to his word there was a set of clothes over his other arm. He draped them over a chair in the middle of the room then backed away until he was almost at the door again. “His Majesty and the Rid-er… Sir Obi-wan are going to be busy this morning. But you will be able to see him at the mid-day meal. Until then you have a choice to make.” The man waited to see his reaction and shook his head when Anakin said nothing. “You can either follow Prince Boba’s usual schedule, breakfast, physical conditioning, and fencing practice. Or you can follow whatever your usual schedule would be. I was told that jet’ika do things like meditation, fencing, and their ori’haamyc magic.”

Scowling he finally relaxed his stance and watched the man warily as he came around the bed. If he had to he could always just push through whatever it was blocking his ability to use the force. It would hurt but he’d done it before. “Boba was the angry one?” He was always terrible with names and he’d been more worried about Obi-wan yesterday than anything. The man chuckled.

“Prince Boba doesn’t like people much, and he was very upset with the- with Sir Obi-wan yesterday.” Anakin frowned. The man kept stuttering and it was always when he talked about Obi-wan.

“Can I follow Rex’s schedule instead?” The man blinked at him in surprise.

“Well… we’d have to speak with Knight Captain Mereel. His Highness is a Squire and has a lot of responsibilities. But I don’t see a problem with asking.” Anakin finally smiled. He liked Rex. The other blonde had been a lot of fun and hadn’t treated him like an enemy the day before. Or like he was an annoying kid who didn’t belong, like the older squires and some of the pages did back at the Temple.

“Go get changed and breakfast will be here when you get back. Afterward we’ll go find the Knight Captain.” Grabbing the new clothes he ran around the screen that hid the corner of the room where one would bathe and quickly changed.

The man, who introduced himself as Cort, made him brush his hair and tie it back, just like Obi-wan always did, before letting him sit and eat breakfast. Knowing that the Mandalorians liked it when they spoke their language he asked about different words between bites and tried to memorize as many as he could. Cort was like some of the Junior Knights, or Obi-wan’s agemates. Helpful, and he didn’t act as if Anakin’s lack of knowledge meant he was an idiot.

They went out into the hall and Anakin saw an older man standing there, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He had a wicked looking broadsword strapped to his waist and an obvious hunting knife in his right boot. The man gave him a quick once over, frowning slightly, but nodded at them politely.

“Kaysh copaanir at mar'eyir Alor'ad Mereel.” Cort said in Mando’a. Anakin focused on his words, trying to understand them. He knew that Kaysh meant he/she/they and Alor meant Sir. He didn’t know how adding Ad on the end of it changed its meaning though.

“Tion’jor?” The older man asked, sounding mildly amused.

“Alori’ad.” He raised an eyebrow and Cort gave him an amused grin. “Val cuyir burc’ya, ni mirdir.” That got the older man’s attention.

“Already making friends with his Highness, ey ad’ika?” They both turned to look at him and he couldn’t help fidgeting.

“You mean Rex? He showed me the smithy yesterday, it was a lot of fun.” Their eyes softened slightly and he had no idea why.

“You like to work with your hands, ad’ika?” He nodded. There wasn’t really a reason not to, Obi-wan had been very vocal about his talents yesterday.

“Well yeah. I built my first Golem when I was eight, but I gave him to my mother to help her with her work. She lives in the Jedi Temple and works as a caretaker…” With a sudden rising horror he realized that he and Obi-wan had gone missing. They didn’t have the chance to send a message to the Order to let them know they were still doing okay, because they had to make a detour and had been knocked out.

“Talyc haran, ad’ika ganar buir!” Anger bubbled up and he glared at the two men.

“Stop speaking Mando so I can’t understand you!” The two of them stopped and exchanged a look.

“We’re sorry, ad’ika. Basic isn’t our first language so we tend to speak Mando’a first.” Anakin crossed his arms but didn’t say anything. He kind of understood. Huttese and slave hand signs were what he had always used first, before Qui-gon and Obi-wan had freed him and his mom.

“I thought jetii didn’t allow ad’ike to know their parents.” Cort said, sounding curious and… worried?

“Qui-gon and Obi-wan found me when I was nine and freed me. The jedi said I was too old but Qui-gon said he’d train me anyway. Then he died and Obi-wan promised to make me a Knight!” More significant looks passed between the two of them before they were all interrupted by the door across from them opening.

“K’uur! Ori’vaar.” The boy he hadn’t really met yesterday, Rex’s younger brother, looked like an angry wildcat. His almost curly hair was messy and he was glaring at them tiredly. “Ke’slanar be’chaaj.”

“Elek, Alor.” Cort bowed to the youngest prince then turned to Anakin and motioned for him to follow. The other man strode forward and was looking down at Boba, arms crossed and looking unamused. Boba was glaring back as if his eyes could set the man on fire. Anakin followed Cort without another word, he knew when it was better to retreat.

[Rex]

Wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve he got up from the ground, where the captain had dumped him, and took a proper stance. Mereel Skirata eyed him critically for a moment then nodded in approval. Twirling the weighted training spear in his hands he stepped forward and parried the two swift strikes Rex threw at him. Dodging the butt of the spear he stepped back and away, eyes always moving as he watched the man’s every move.

All of the members of Clan Skirata were terrifying. But especially the oldest three, not counting their Patriarch. Mereel was more outgoing than his twin but his playfulness had a viciousness to it that A’den’s didn’t. A’den’s smile wasn’t coupled with an almost manic look in his eyes, unlike Mereel. The spear came at him again and he ducked. Spying an opening he aimed a kick at the back of the man’s knee but dropped to the ground hard in the next instant, his breath hitching and lungs on fire.

“What did I tell you about those brawlers tricks? Don’t use them unless you know your opponent is off balance.” His head was prodded with the end of the spear and he let out a wheeze instead of an answer. Mereel chuckled. “I’ll give you a minute to catch your breath.” Rex let his head fall back as he tried to just breathe. His Knight Master could be an absolute bastard when he wanted to be. With the current trouble between Clan Skirata and Clan Vau his training had reached a new tier of hellish. He knew it was because Mereel felt it was his duty to protect his younger brothers but damn, he didn’t have to take it out on his poor abused squire.

“Are we interrupting anything?” Tilting his head back he looked behind him at Cort and waved a hand weakly. He was finally able to catch his breath when he noticed the younger blonde staring at him with wide blue eyes. He wondered if Anakin’s eyes would get brighter or if they would become darker and more vivid when he became a Mandalorian. Although with how Cody and his father had acted he didn’t think Anakin would be given the Elixir any time soon.

“Not at all. I’m just teaching my squire a lesson.” Mereel said with false cheer. “Did you need something?” Cort’s lips twitched, whether in amusement or something else he couldn’t tell. The man was just as hard to read as Myles. It seemed to be a Clan Vhehn specialty.

“Anakin here wanted to know if he could join the Alori’ad until Sir Obi-wan is free around mid-day.” Cort hesitated for a moment before switching to Mando’a. “The King wanted him to either tag along with his Highness Boba or focus on his own studies. But Anakin specifically asked to join Rex today. His Majesty also wishes that we speak the Outsider’s tongue around him, as he does not yet know Mando’a.” From Anakin’s glare not knowing what people were saying around him made him quite frustrated.

“I don’t mind if he joins me for training. But it isn’t up to me.” Slowly getting up he dusted himself off and turned to smile at the smaller blonde. The boy smiled back, his tense shoulders beginning to relax.

“If he thinks he can keep up.” There was a twinkle in his Knight Master’s eye that he wasn’t sure he liked very much. “Have you been learning the way of the sword?” Anakin rocked back and forth on his feet, looking excited.

“Yes! Obi-wan said I’ll have to grow a bit more before I can forge my final crystal sword but I’ve been training to use a longsword.” He frowned slightly. “Obi-wan uses a strange sword though so it’s hard to train with him sometimes…” Rex had seen the ‘strange’ sword before so he turned to his Knight master to clarify.

“It’s a sword from the far east. One handed, double-edged straight sword, about the length of his arm. Good balance, fast, but not as weighty as the traditional curved blades you typically see around here.” Mereel nodded at him in understanding.

“Why don’t you and Rex have a friendly spar? If you can keep up I’ll let you join us for a ride.” Anakin beamed and started to climb over the fence before he stopped and looked sheepishly back at Cort.

“Uh… am I allowed to get these clothes dirty?” Rex snickered and Anakin pouted at him.

“They’re yours to do with as you wish. Besides, I think his Majesty expected this to happen.” Then the man tacked on, almost under his breath, “at least you won’t get animal droppings all over them like his Highness.” Rex broke into unrepentant giggles as Anakin looked between him and Cort in confusion. Cort’s face colored slightly in embarrassment. If Boba ever found out he’d sulk for days. It would be hilarious.

“Come on An’ika, a longsword against my arming swords.” Smiling brightly he hopped over the fence and grabbed a training sword that was about the right size and squared off against him, a competitive glint in his eyes.

‘Oh I’m going to enjoy this!’ He thought to himself with a grin.

Chapter Text

[Jango]

Sitting in the study he’d chosen for himself he heard a knock at the door and grunted a sharp, “enter!” The door opened and Vhipirla entered quietly, closing the door behind her. Jango held up a hand and motioned her to wait as he finished up the last bit of paperwork from his stack. Once he was certain he wouldn’t lose his place he gave the medic his full attention.

“I’m here to report on the- on your- the verd’ika.” The woman wasn’t the best orator but she was one of the finest medics in the country. She was one of three medics that he trusted his own health and the health of his children to.

“How is he?” The woman shifted on her feet for a moment before sighing.

“A damn mess.” Jango’s eyebrows shot up in surprise before he scowled.

“Myles said he was healing well.” It came out as a partial growl that promised trouble for the man in question.

“Oh he is. Now.” Vhipirla glared at him when he went to speak so he shut his mouth and waited. The woman let out a harsh breath, not quite a scoff. “He’s malnourished and exhausted. I can tell he’ll need lots of rest and a strict diet if we want to get him to a healthy weight. On top of that he has old scars that… frankly make me want to stab someone.” He frowned. Jetii were warriors in their own right so it made sense Obi-wan would have at least a few old scars. But none of them should have been anger inducing.

“Tell me.” He commanded. She did.

By the time Vhipirla was done Jango was wholly on board with the idea of stabbing someone, not that it took much convincing. Whip marks? Scars around his wrists and ankles? Small burns that spoke of torture rather than a fair fight? Damn right he wanted to stab someone! First of all that was his venriduur, he was Clan Fett now and no one hurt Jango’s family. Second of all the man was all of seventeen. What the fuck kind of missions had the jetiise sent him on? And wasn’t there supposed to be an older mentor watching a young jet’ika’s back? Who in the eternal void dropped the ball that hard?

“I asked him about illnesses and he says that he’s rarely been ill, only mentioning times when he’d been drugged either purposefully or accidentally.” Vhipirla’s lips were a thin line and she glared at his desk for a moment, breath harsh with anger. “It was a lot of work just getting him to admit to that much. I haven’t even begun to ask him about internal injuries or any trauma he’s suffered. I can tell he mistrusts me but I can’t be certain if it’s because I’m Mando’ad or if it’s because I’m a medic.” She shook her head. “But it’s probably the fact that I’m a medic. He talks with Myles just fine and I heard the Prince has been visiting him with no incident… seems to like kids from what Alphard has said.” That matched up with what Alphard had reported to him on his son and venriduur’s interactions.

“Oh, something interesting.” He cocked his head slightly, listening. “He’s definitely a true Stewjoni’ad. The elongated ears and red hair were obvious enough but he’s had the right kind of reactions to the medicine I’ve been giving him. I suggest finding him somewhere to relax that has a lot of fresh air, sunlight, and plants when we get to Concordia. It’ll be good for his health.” Jango grinned, feeling very smug. He and Myles had been right then.

“So he is one then.” Vhipirla looked like she wanted to roll her eyes at him but just huffed as she turned to go, finished her report for the day.

“At least we know we can accommodate him. There are elves living in almost every major stronghold in Mandalore.” She said almost dismissively as she left him to his work.

[Obi-wan]

The next three days were the same as the last seven with one notable exception- the prince. The boy came every day around the same time. He knocked politely on the door, even though they both knew Obi-wan could not deny him entry, and would greet him in Mando’a. His guard would come inside and lean against the door, looking one part intimidating, one part curious, and one part fond amusement. Tentatively Obi-wan started to open up to the boy, answering his questions about the world outside of Mandalore. Whenever he answered a question about a culture that seemed opposed to the Mandalorians he would glance at the guard, to make sure he wasn’t saying anything heretical that would land him in hot water. But the man just listened passively, translating as needed and watching him to ensure the prince’s safety. Not that he had anything to worry about, Obi-wan would never hurt a child.

That afternoon found them sitting at the table in his room, sipping warm cups of a spiced citrus tea they called shig. “We leave tomorrow.” The boy said excitedly after their usual discussion had wound down. “For Concordia.” He looked to Obi-wan then over at his guard.

“We’ll be leaving early in the morn.” There was a small pang of loss in his chest and he gave the boy a sad smile. It would be lonely without his presence. Obi-wan hadn’t even realized how much the boy’s presence, much like Myles’, meant to him. He decided it was best to tell him how he felt, so the boy didn’t feel as if their time together had been a nuisance.

“I’ll be sad to see you go.” Two confused Mandalorians stared at him for a moment before the guard burst into laughter. The prince huffed and said something to him. The guard forced himself to straighten out with the ease of long practice before he spoke to the boy directly in Mando’a. The prince’s eyebrows raised and a disgruntled look came over his face.

“Gar cuyir olaryc ti mhi.” The prince huffed, forgetting to speak Basic again in his agitation.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding here. You’re coming with us.” Obi-wan blinked owlishly at the guard then looked to the boy who was watching his reaction to the news carefully. It made no sense. Why would they be bringing a jedi… former jedi, with them?

“Why?” The prince already knew what that word meant and he doubted his confusion would need any direct translation. The prince looked to his guard and spoke in rapid fire Mando’a. The skin around the guard’s eyes grew tighter for a moment and his mouth became a thin line of disapproval. He responded in his own rapid fire stream of Mando’a, his voice a low growl, and the prince looked momentarily chastised before replying.

The guard sighed. “The Mand’alor’s work here is done. The royal family’s current residence is in Concordia for the time being, since the Mand’alor doesn’t like staying in one place too long when he could be traveling and helping his people instead. Since you are now a part of Clan Fett, and are a verd’ika, you will be coming with us. Clan Fett, as your sponsor, will help you transition from your old life to your new one.” There was something being left unsaid, he could see it in the man’s eyes, but just that amount of information was enough to make Obi-wan twitch.

Hadn’t Myles and the prince been speaking to him of all things Mandalorian for the past tenday? Talking about all of their virtues and taking it as a fact that Obi-wan would fully transition, as if it had been decided by fate? Honestly he should have been expecting this to happen. Yet… somewhere deep down he had hoped they would let him go. Even if he no longer had a connection to the Ether he was still a Jedi at heart. He could still teach theory or maybe help in the creche… anything!

His breath hitched in his chest and he felt a burning behind his eyes as he realized they were never going to let him go. He would never see Qui-gon or his crechemates again.

“Kaysh cuyir trikar'la jii! Tion'jor cuyir kaysh trikar'la? Meg gar sirbur?” The prince looked to his guard, torn between concern and confusion.

“Te haat.” The man stated brusquely, shaking his head when the prince opened his mouth to say something else. Obi-wan looked down at his trembling hands as the man spoke so fast that he couldn’t follow. The only word he caught and registered was Myles’ name. A smaller hand came into view, resting on his own, and he looked up into worried golden eyes.

“Alphard says I must go. See you in the morning.” The boy said. Obi-wan was once again struck by how well the boy could speak Basic. It seemed that he knew more than he let on but was being careful about what he said and how he spoke. It was a very princely thing to do.

He didn’t want to worry the boy unnecessarily, he was just a child after all. Giving him a small smile, though hesitant, he thought back to the words Myles had been trying to teach him. “J-jate ca, Alor.” It was simple, and stilted, but some of the tenseness in the boy’s frame eased and he gave Obi-wan an encouraging smile before his guard and he finally left.

Obi-wan was left alone with his thoughts for perhaps ten minutes before Myles appeared at his door. Like Cody and his guard the man looked concerned, although Obi-wan had no idea why. Why did any of them care?

“Oh, verd’ika.” The man said with a soft sigh as he came over to pull him up into a warm hug. Obi-wan stiffened in the man’s hold, confused and uncertain. He had always been raised that physical affection was a very seldom and private thing but without the mana worms to let him feel his connection with others he felt so alone. The gentle hand petting his hair and the low murmurs of what might have been reassurances in Mando’a were both surprisingly soothing and he found himself relaxing almost involuntarily. There was nothing inappropriate about any of it yet still he felt a niggling in the back of his mind that he shouldn’t be allowing this. He was old enough now that he shouldn’t need comfort.

Before he could feel too awkward or protest his treatment the man finally let him go and motioned him to sit down. Obi-wan sat, still a little shaken and confused. “Why?” The word was insufficient for all the emotions he was feeling at the moment but he could see understanding on the man’s face.

“I have two daughters older than you and a son not much younger.” His voice was quiet, calm, and his eyes were kind. They were the eyes of a parent. Something Obi-wan never had growing up but vaguely experienced as Qui-gon’s squire.

“Oh.” He swallowed down the feeling that he was imposing, or that he was being weak, before he could speak again. “I’m… we’re leaving tomorrow morning?” Myles nodded.

“For Concordia. I was going to talk to you about it once you’d finished your discussion with the Orilor’ad but the lad beat me to it.” Lacing his fingers together he leaned forward on the table and gave Obi-wan a seriously considering look. “There are two ways we can do this, verd’ika. We can put you in the back of one of the wagons with a group of guards so you don’t try to run away,” he gave Obi-wan a look when he tried to speak and the redhead shut his mouth, cowed. “We both know you’re going to want to try. I’m going to try and convince you not to try running.” The man sighed. “The Mand’alor is… a formidable man. He claimed you for his Clan and most people would consider that an honor. No, let me finish. It would be considered an honor because Jango Fett does not trust easily, he is very wary and very intelligent.” There was a slight hesitation before he continued and Obi-wan wondered what else the man thought about the Mand’alor. “He expects you to run and I can assure you he has planned for every attempt you could wish to try.”

“How… prudent.” With each passing moment he was becoming less and less certain he could get away. Myles might have steered the conversation away from certain topics or shut them down before but he had never lied, to Obi-wan’s knowledge. Out of everyone he probably knew the Mand’alor best, being his second in command.

“The moment you try to run we’ll be ordered to tie you up or sedate you, neither of which I want to do. But if the Mand’alor orders it…” Obi-wan knew what the man was doing, it was classic manipulation. Sad to say that it was working because he was probably right. The redhead didn’t really have many options. “But if you can swear to me that you will not try to run, and mean it, I will convince Jango to let you ride your own horse. Rather than shoved in the back of a cart.” Obi-wan swallowed, nibbling on his lower lip.

Could he swear and mean it? Swearing an oath and then keeping with that oath was important for a jedi and as much as these people believed him one of them he was a jedi through and through. But the benefit of being able to see where they were going would be useful to him if he tried to escape later. The oath only had to be until they reached Concordia.

“I swear to you, on my crystal, that I will will not attempt to leave, escape, or evade anyone in the Mand’alor’s retinue while traveling to Concordia.” There, that should about do it. Myles watched him as he swore, eyes never leaving his, and a small smirk played at the corner of his lips.

“I accept your oath, Obi-wan Kenobi of Clan Fett. I hope you know how to ride a proper horse.” He said with a chuckle. Obi-wan made a face.

“Of course I can, and if the horse panics I can… oh.” He had no access to ether any more. Could he calm an animal down without the use of ether? He’d never tried it before.

“I assumed as much.” He looked up at Myles inquisitively as the man stood. “We have experience with former jetii. You should be fine with a more docile animal as long as you know the basics. We won’t be in a rush in any case. I’m sure you’ll do fine, verd’ika.” Myles pat him on the shoulder as he passed by. Obi-wan was surprised to find himself feeling a little lonely. Normally Myles stayed for much longer discussions.

“Before I forget we have some clothes for you to wear. If you go walking around looking like a jetii you’re liable to get attacked. You’re allowed to keep your underthings and leather jerkin but the cloth from the jetii robes will be reused.” Obi-wan bit his tongue. They were just clothes, he could get new ones when he returned home.

“What about my sword? Will I be allowed to carry it?” Myles stopped and seemed to think about it for a moment.

“I will ask, but I can say with almost certainty that the answer will be no. You’ll have to earn that right from your Clan Patriarch.” Who was none other than the Mand’alor, a man who had pressed him into a duel then given him a choice-that-was-not-a-choice in order to trap him. Earning his sword back would be the work of months, not a singular conversation.

“I… understand. I will do my best to earn that trust.” Myles turned to look at him, eyes bright but filled with guarded emotion.

“We’ll see, verd’ika. We’ll see.”

Chapter Text

Checking the small magical device on his desk he noticed the time and let out a mumbled curse. Setting down his quill he closed his personal study journal and quickly put the book he had been studying from back on the shelf. He knew he was going to be late so there was no point in hurrying but he still felt the need to rush. His friends would forgive him with only a minimal amount of teasing, they knew better than to give him a truly hard time about it. They understood his responsibilities to the people of Mandalore. It was why they had planned this outing three weeks prior, to give him time to rearrange his schedule and deal with anything urgent that came up before his father returned.

It was just bad timing that had returned Obi-wan to them the day before. Now the entire stronghold was abuzz with rumors and excited chatter. It wasn’t every day that the Mand’alor walked the halls with one arm possessively wrapped around the waist of a pretty redhead. Even more damning was how their king had lead the ‘stranger’ to the secret garden he’d commissioned years ago for his venriduur. Since there were very few Stewonji’ad in residence, and the man’s attire had suggested someone of high standing, everyone was already guessing that their long absent Rid’alor had returned.

Coming around the side of the stables he spied the group waiting for him and let out a small sigh. Of course Flick and Shak were glaring at one another while Hemlock goaded them on and Tenri tried to stop them. “Atten-tion!” He barked in his best impersonation of Alphard. The group of teens jumped and turned to look at him, nearly tripping over themselves in an attempt to look as if they hadn’t been contemplating an all out brawl a moment ago. Once they recognized him and began to relax he raised an eyebrow and they began to grumble.

“You absolute ass!” Hemlock said with a wide grin, dark green eyes flashing in amusement.

“I don’t want to see anyone arguing today, thanks. I’ve spent the last three weeks dealing with clan disputes and I don’t need to mediate for my friends when I’m trying to have fun.” Looking between Shak Skirata and Flick Vau he gave them both a very pointed look. The two teens huffed but didn’t argue with him.

“Sorry Cody, I tried to stop them.” The youngest of Clan Vhehn said with a small shrug. Tenri was normally a bit on the quiet side but, much like the majority of Clan Vhehn, he had hidden talents and wasn’t afraid to speak up if need be.

“I don’t blame you guys just… not today.” He received a nod of understanding from each of his friends and the last bit of tension bled from his shoulders.

“All sorted then?” Wolffe asked gruffly, striding out of the stables and looking them over critically. Hemlock smirked mischievously.

“We’re good, old man.” Wolffe’s eyebrows rose and he looked his eldest in the eyes. They stared at one another for a long moment before a wicked grin crossed the older man’s face.

“Cheeky brat. I should keep the lunch your buir packed for you.” Hemlock’s expression fell slightly and Cody couldn’t help but snicker along with the others. Peony’s meals were amazing. She knew exactly how to season the dishes with spices and herbs to bring out the best flavors.

“Aw, hell, I’m just playing buir. Come on!” Hemlock practically whined at his father, eyes wide. Wolffe let out a bark of laughter and shoved the satchel at his son.

“Go on. Don’t get into any trouble.” He glanced at Cody, giving him a warm smile and a respectful nod of the head. “Orilor’ad.” Cody gave a respectful nod in return and waited for his horse to be brought out. Sheres was a beautiful ten year old palomino mare, a gift from the Gaarla Clan on his tenth birthday. She was a very calm and steady beast, not prone to spooking or lashing out. He’d adored her moment he saw her.

The group mounted their horses, waiting a moment for Cody to greet his mare before joining them. The plan was to ride out to the far side of the local lake to spend the day swimming and sunning on the rocks. Nothing but the earth, the sky, and the refreshing feeling of cool water on his skin. There’d be a few challenges between them, they were all too competitive not to, but they would only be for fun. The moment someone tried to bet something more serious than some of their lunch he would step in and stop them. Childhood friends or not they were all adults of prominent clans and any disputes between them needed to be settled before they festered and spilled over… like Skirata and Vau.

Cody eyed the two of them and wondered how his father was going to deal with the current disaster that was a step from being an all out clan war. After the death of Mand’alor Jaster Mereel, and the majority of his clan with him, Cody’s father had struggled to unite all of their people under one banner once again. The last traitors to be killed had been Vizla and Montross five years ago. He didn’t want to see more fighting between the clans. But he had to admit that Clan Vau was becoming an increasing problem for them and he was fairly certain his father was going to break up the clan soon if things didn’t improve.

Of course at the moment his father was distracted by the return of his venriduur so it was probably going to fall to Cody to figure this shit out.

“Is it true that your buir is back?” Looking over at Tenri he gave the young man a small nod. The other gave him a sympathetic smile. “I bet that caused a stir.” Cody chuckled.

“It did at that. According to the rumor mill the guards who threw him into the dungeon were terrified that buir was going to demote them for treating the Rid’alor like a common criminal. The servants were pretty excited too, since they love to gossip.” He’d heard that Obi-wan had a beard when he was captured, he was pretty sure he knew what happened to it and wanted to sigh in exasperation. His father was a very controlling man. One had to be, to be able to lead a kingdom of people who were blessed with the blood of dragons. Cody could also guess the reason Obi-wan had grown the beard in the first place. Stewjoni’ade aged differently than other species. Obi-wan was a little taller and more filled out than he had been before but his face was still quite young looking. The beard would have made him look older and more dignified. It was also something he could hide behind when emotions became too difficult to him.

“If buir wasn’t so busy he’d have already come to greet the Rid’alor. He used to talk about him a lot and my sisters and I came to consider him a distant cousin, you know?” Cody smiled.

“I know what you mean.” Obi-wan was a special breed, even for a Stewjoni’ad. He was compassionate and kind to everyone just for the sake of being kind. Yet he was also a fierce warrior who would stop at nothing to protect those around him, especially children. They were endearing traits to the Mando’ade. “I’ve always considered Obi-wan to be more like a vod than a buir though, since he isn’t much older than I am.” Tenri let out a noise of acknowledgment, brow wrinkling slightly in thought.

“I think I’d like to meet him.”

“I’m sure that could be arranged. He’ll be living in Keldabe from now on with his vod.” Tenri frowned.

“No one said anything about a second person being captured.” Cody pursed his lips.

“Because his vod is more like his ad, he’s only Boba’s age.” His father had been adamant that others not talk about Anakin. Everyone took his warning to heart, knowing how volatile Jango could be when it came to family, especially children. “He’s also a jetii and…” he could feel his skin crawl at the thought of the spirit leeches infecting the kid, “he’s too far gone to use the elixir on. Buir and I both knew that he’d die if anyone tried. So buir is having a Talisman made for him.” Talismans were the only way they could allow someone infested with spirit leeches to stay in Mandalore. It was made of a special material only found in the Manda’yaim mountains. Its properties included suppressing the spirit leeches, stopping their reproduction, and slowly killing them so that the person could be free to become Mando’ad. It was a painful process though and he worried that his father wasn’t thinking straight when it came to the boy.

“How is everyone faring?” Cody’s smile turned fond.

“As well as can be, I suppose. Rex and Anakin, Obi-wan’s vod, are getting along quite well. There’s going to be an increase in pranks, I just know it.” Tenri snickered. “Boba is… Obi-wan leaving hit him hard. So he’s been pretty standoffish and upset.” From what he could see Boba was afraid that if he got close to Obi-wan again he’d just lose him. But the kid wanted nothing more than to crawl into Obi-wan’s lap and cling to him like he had when he was seven. “Buir is…” He looked down and wanted to let out a sigh. His father was ecstatic that Obi-wan had finally been returned to him but he was also being very overbearing. It was clear he didn’t want Obi-wan out of his sight, or out of sight of anyone he deemed absolutely trustworthy.

“Being your buir?” Tenri supplied delicately. Cody nodded, thankful his friend was so quick witted and diplomatic.

“Yes.” He and Tenri shared a look before the voices of the other three were urging the two of them to go faster.

After setting up a small camp on the edge of the lake Cody flopped back onto the blanket he’d laid out and stared up at the sky. There were a few clouds in the sky but nothing to suggest it would be raining any time soon. The wind rustled his hair and he began to relax. The indignant squawk of Hevy cursing when Shak shoved him off the rocks and into the water made him laugh along with Fixer and Tenri, who were taking a little longer to head down to the water.

“Orilor’ad, Cody…” Opening his eyes he looked up at Fick’s concerned gaze and quickly sat up. “I know you said no politics, and I understand why, but this is important.” There was a near pleading in the undertone of his friend’s voice and Cody felt his insides clench. He took the thick envelope that was being held out to him, filled with enough parchment to be considered heavy. “Its something you and the Mand’alor should see, before you make any decisions.” The teen’s eyes flicked over to Shak before coming back to stare at Cody.

He understood immediately. Flick was giving him something he thought was incriminating, but was important enough he would risk the frustration of the Crown Prince and his own friendship to do it. Taking the envelope he tucked it into his saddlebag where it would be protected but easily found again later. The tension bled out of his friend, although he still looked a little spooked. “I’ll bring it up with the Mand’alor when we return. For now let us put clan identities away and just have fun.” Standing he stretched before stripping down to his underclothes. “Race you.” He said challengingly. Flick’s mouth twitched upward in a smirk.

“You’re on.”

Chapter Text

The next day dawned bright and early. Baar’ur Vhipirla burst into the room, seeming even more agitated than usual, and quickly checked his health before declaring he was was fit to ride. Then she watched him as he drank a vile concoction that was supposed to be medicine before nodding in approval and leaving him to his breakfast. Not long after Myles brought in a set of clothing and Obi-wan had to, shyly, explain to the man he had no idea how to wear anything other than his jedi robes.

“There’s no shame in not understanding something new, verd’ika, I’m glad you felt you could ask me.” After explaining how to wear the new clothes the man seemed to notice, or maybe just understood, his shyness and quickly left him alone in the room to change. The clothes felt too tight and revealing after all his years wearing the robes of a jedi but it was better than nothing. At least they weren’t trying to stuff him into a set of stuffy armor, he shuddered at the thought.

When he allowed Myles back into the room the man looked at him and smiled in approval. It was obvious enough that Obi-wan couldn’t help the small flush of embarrassment that colored his cheeks. “You look good in green, verd’ika.” Myles said with amusement as he adjusted the belt to sit properly, closer to his hips than he was used to. The belts the jedi had were always worn higher up on the waist, due to the waist sashes they wore to denote rank. His own sash still the tawny brown of a squire.

Since he had nothing with him, being stripped of all his meager belongings, he had nothing to pack. So he sat on the bed with a book and kept one eye on the door, waiting for someone to fetch him so they could leave. He didn’t have long to wait. As the sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains, heating the morning dew and causing a faint haze to cover the ground, the prince’s bodyguard, who was also the Captain of the Royal Guard if he’d understood correctly, came to fetch him.

Walking beside the much larger, and well armed, man he felt a the strange prickle of eyes on his back as they made their way through the stronghold to the courtyard. Mutters in Mando’a followed him and he had to wonder if he would be made an outcast here as well. The thought that he would be just as ostracized with the Mandalorians as he was in the temple, if not more, made him clench his fists at his side as the despair threatened to overwhelm him.

“Udesii, verd’ika. They’re just curious. Hair like yours is rare after all.” Looking up at his escort in surprise he saw nothing but blunt honesty on the man’s face and some of his anxiety began to settle. Even at the temple his reddish blonde hair had always brought some whispers and speculation. Now that his hair was practically the color of fresh blood it was sure to attract all kinds of attention. Taking a slow breath he let it out calmly and saw Alphard give him a look of amusement out of the corner of his eye.

Down in the courtyard the horses and carts were already laden with all the supplies and he was quickly led past the majority of warriors to a saddled bay mare. Alphard waited beside him as he greeted the mare, who lipped at his palms and butted her head against his shoulder affectionately. Smiling he gently rubbed her nose before taking the reigns from what he assumed was someone’s squire.

“Do you need any assistance?” Blinking at the captain of the guard he gave a small smile. It was kind of the man to offer, even if he didn’t need it.

“No, thank you.” Even without the force he easily swung himself up into the saddle and quickly settled into place. While the jedi did tend to prefer their own two feet for travel they were adept at all manner of transportation. Including sailing vessels, in case the need arose. While Obi-wan was not particularly fond of sailing, or golems, he was quite content when it came to animals. They just seemed to sense he had no ill intent toward them and calmed in his presence.

“Stick close to Ramikad Adatoya. He’ll be your minder for this journey.” The man who had been pointed out to him was wearing armor patterned with the Royal Guard’s dark red. Two symbols adorned his chest, one the Kyr’bes of the Mand’alor and the other a stylized tree. Dark wine colored eyes observed him calmly. Obi-wan gave a half bow from the saddle and the man bowed his head respectfully in return. It looked as if some things were universal. If one showed respect one would get at least some consideration in return.

“Obi-wan Kenobi… Clan Fett.” He was uncomfortable naming himself one of them but Myles and the others had reiterated it enough times he was certain that not using it as part of an introduction would be seen as insulting. “It seems we will be getting to know one another on this journey, however long it lasts. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Adatoya Gaarla, Clan Ta’rayd. Don’t stray too far, verd’ika, or I’ll consider it an attempt to flee.” The man took his helmet from another red armored Mandalorian and held it in his hands a moment, locking eyes with Obi-wan so the teen knew he was being serious before slipping the helmet over his head.

“Ta’rayd… like Sir Alphard?” A couple of the surrounding warriors snickered and Obi-wan bit the inside of his cheek, forcing himself not to show any embarrassment or confusion.

“My father.” The guard said neutrally. Obi-wan sat there in confusion for a moment. Alphard couldn’t be older than forty and this man also looked to be in his forties. “Don’t let his appearance fool you.” The man said, his voice finally taking on a hint of amusement. “Ori’ramikad Alphard turned sixty-four this season.” Obi-wan’s mouth fell open slightly in surprise. He had heard that Mandalorians lived longer lives than others but he hadn’t understood what that meant until now.

“Ke'sush!” A voice barked out suddenly above the din. All noise stopped and almost as once every soldier, guard, warrior, or otherwise straightened and placed a fist over their chest, heads bowed respectfully. It was almost eerie how synchronized they all were. Following their gaze he saw the reason for the sudden deference and froze. Mand’alor Fett was nearing him on the back of a large black warhorse. On either side of him was Myles, on a chestnut colored warhorse, and Cody, riding a dun colored mare. Their eyes met and Fett held up his hand, signaling to the others to stop with him.

“It’s nice to finally see you again. Baar’ur Vhipirla assured me you would do well if left to rest.” There was a contemplative look on the king’s face as he took in Obi-wan’s appearance. “She was right, as always. How are you feeling this morning?” There was a playful smirk playing at the edges of the man’s lips and Obi-wan couldn’t help but stare for a moment before he realized he should be responding to the man’s question.

“I feel fine, Highness, thank you.” Myles frowned slightly and Cody looked a little concerned but neither of them said anything as Jango nodded in acknowledgment.

“Good to hear. Myles assured me you wouldn’t try anything… risky, if I allowed you to ride on your own. That you swore it on your sword. I will hold you to your oath and expect you to obey whoever is assigned to accompany you.” Obi-wan bowed his head in acceptance. “Who is assigned to guard te tracyn sarad?” The king asked, eyes straying from Obi-wan for the first time since he’d arrived. It was like a physical weight had been shifted from his shoulders and he let out a quiet sigh of relief.

“Ni cuy, Mand’alor. Adatoya Gaarla be te Ta’rayd Aliit.” The guard thumped his chest with his fist and dipped his head momentarily.

“Jate.” Looking back to Obi-wan the king smiled pleasantly and it made the redhead wary. “Obey Ramikad Adatoya, or there will be consequences.” That said the man nudged his horse toward the front of the procession, Myles and the prince leaving with him. Obi-wan let out a sigh and glanced over at the royal guard, who was watching him carefully.

“I’m not going to try and run. I swore an oath.” He stated firmly, beginning to feel quite miffed that no one seemed to believe him. The guard tilted his head slightly and Obi-wan could swear the man was amused.

Orders from the front had everyone still on the ground mounting their horses and preparing to leave. From what he could gather their destination was a week’s journey through plains and forest. He would be surrounded by his captors on all sides, at all times, and if any of them thought he was trying to get away he would be tied up like a criminal and thrown into the back of a wagon. Which wouldn’t be very useful… or comfortable. At least while he was riding he could map out where he was. It would aid in his escape later.

The procession began to move and Obi-wan resigned himself to being bored, stiff, and sore by the time they stopped for a break. Five days was a long time to be on the road and he didn’t even have Ether to focus on anymore. Patting the mare he was riding he let her follow the lead of the other horses in front of them and closed his eyes. Focusing on his breathing he tried to fall into a meditative trance but found it difficult with all the talking and laughter.

The first half of the day passed with no issue, except for a tense moment after they’d stopped for a break, when he tried to lead his mare to a nearby river to drink and his guard grabbed him by the shoulder, stopping him dead.

“Buurenau, hiibir ulike at yustapir.” Another man in royal guard red took the reins and Obi-wan quickly let go. Adatoya let his own horse be led away and settled Obi-wan down on the grass near a group of other guards. They sat with their helmets off, talking animatedly and chewing on what looked to be field rations. One of them handed Obi-wan a cup and filled it with something that smelled heavily spiced. Tentatively Obi-wan took a sip and his eyes widened in surprise. Whatever it was had a faint spiciness to it and was laced with a citrus flavor he couldn’t name. It was surprisingly good.

“What is this?” He asked aloud, looking around at the guards.

“Shig.” A surprisingly feminine voice said to his right. Looking at the guard he realized that due to the nature of their armor he had assumed she was also a male, like the other guards. She seemed to understand where his mind had gone and gave him a wicked grin.

“But this doesn’t taste anything like the tea I had back at the fortress?” There was a moment where the Mandalorians shared wide grins with one another before turning back to him.

“Shig is the word for any kind of herbal infusion. We usually use whatever is available on the road so it never really turns out the same way. Except for the behot.” The explanation just brought up more questions.

“Behot? What’s that?” That word sounded a little familiar to him but he wasn’t sure why.

“It’s an herb, a stimulant, makes the tea taste like oranges.” The woman said. “Helps to keep you alert on long guard shifts or days of hard riding in the saddle.” The others quickly agreed with her and the discussion moved on to what they would prefer to be drinking, some sort of hearty ale from what he could gather. Someone passed him some field rations and he ate them quietly.

“Hey verd’ika, mind if I ask a question?” One of the others said, turning toward him. Obi-wan blinked and swallowed his mouthful.

“Not at all.” He smiled.

“How did you become a jetii?” The others all quieted down, their focus shifting toward him. He swallowed nervously.

“I was brought to the temple before I was even a year old. It was explained to me that my parents were merchants and died during a bandit raid on their village. As I already had the gift of Ether I was taken in by the Jedi Order and raised as one of them.” Silence fell and he felt a creeping dread climbing up his spine at the dark looks they were all sharing.

“Well, you’re Mando’ad now, verd’ika. Be te kote tigaanuryc Fett Aliit.” The woman, he really needed to get their names, grinned at him and reached over to clap him on the shoulder. He gave her a hesitant smile and continued to eat his mid-day meal, listening to a mix of Basic and Mando’a as the guards joked and roughhoused with one another.

After traveling for the rest of the day they made camp at a site that looked well used. All of the Mandalorians seemed to know exactly where to set up their tents and he wondered how well traveled the roads between their fortresses were. He would need that information for his future escape plan. Ramikad Adatoya motioned him toward a tent and he realized upon entering that he would be sharing with a group of three others. Thankfully it wasn’t that unusual. He was used to sharing rooms with other jedi after all.

The two current occupants looked up when he entered. They had been taking off their armor and setting it beside their cots when he walked in. “I don’t think we were introduced earlier. I am Obi-wan Kenobi of the Fett Clan.” Saying it was becoming a little easier than before but there was still some hesitance to his voice.

“Buurenau Gaarla, Clan Ta’rayd. This is my brother, Tracyn Gaarla, also Clan Ta’rayd.” The two men took off their helmets and Obi-wan gaped at them for a moment before he realized what he was seeing. Twins. The two men shared a small, amused, glance before looking back at Obi-wan.

“Nice to meet you, verd’ika.” Tracyn said pleasantly. “I’m guessing from the look of surprise that you don’t see t’adii very often. Dar’baati, your reaction is pretty common.” Buurenau nodded along.

“Although your reaction will get pretty old right quick if you keep being surprised. There are a lot of t’adii Mando’ade.” It took a moment for his mind to translate what they were saying, since they continued to mix Mando’a into their Basic, but when he finally understood he felt gobsmacked.

“Twins are… common?” The brothers shrugged.

“Pretty much. More common than single children or three children born at once. Although it really depends on whether the parents were born Mando’ade or are adopted Mando’ade.” That made some sense, at least.

“Buurenau, Tracyn, stop distracting the verd’ika.” Obi-wan almost jumped at the voice behind him, turning to see the guard who had been assigned to him.

“Dar’baati, ori’vod. We were just getting him used to the idea of t’adii. Most Outsiders have never seen t’adii before, we didn’t want him to panic.” The guard seemed to think about it for a moment but let it slide.

“Your cot is over there. Across from mine.” The man said, pointing to a cot that had been set up with folded blankets on top, just waiting to be made. Smiling he nodded gratefully at the man and went to set up his bed. When he was finished he sat down and watched the three men interact. There was something seamless about the way they moved, like a group who had known each other for years.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” He asked Tracyn when the other two were deep in a conversation. The man sat on his own cot, one leg hanging off and the other folded beneath him.

“Nope, ask away verd’ika.” Obi-wan smiled.

“What does vod mean? And how does adding something to the word change it?” The man blinked dark wine red eyes at him then his smile turned fond.

“Vod is… hmm. Buurenau and I are vod, we were born together from the same parents.” Obi-wan nodded.

“Brothers, then?” The man frowned.

“Well, not quite. If Buurenau had been female we’d still be vod.” Obi-wan looked down for a moment.

“So… more like the word for siblings?” Snapping his fingers he nodded.

“Yeah, siblings. We don’t have the same… problem between males and females a lot of kingdoms seem to have. So the words we use don’t really have that… uh… you know…” The man stopped for a moment, frowning. “Osik, I’m not the Miit’aylir’or of the family. Ori’vod, you’re better at the Outsider’s words than I am.” The other two guards stopped speaking and looked back at them. Adatoya sighed.

“What was the question?” Obi-wan fidgeted.

“I was wondering what Vod meant, and how adding extra syllables to it changed the meaning.” The man looked mildly surprised for a moment before he actually smiled.

“Vod is the word for sibling. There is no distinction between male or female in Mando’a, unless there is an important reason to make the distinction. Say, for the sake of a species whose males and females have vastly different anatomy and a medic needs to know. Ori’vod denotes someone older or someone of a similar age who the speaker considers like an older sibling. Vod’ika is for a younger sibling, or someone you consider like a younger sibling.” He paused for a moment, thinking. “Vod can be used among friends as well, since we do not judge others based on blood ties.” Obi-wan nodded in understanding.

“But you three are… blood related siblings?” It was fairly obvious, since they all had a similar look to them. But they could have also been cousins for all Obi-wan knew. It was an educated guess, but still a guess.

“That’s correct. These two are my younger siblings.” The man stopped and eyed him critically for a moment. “You certainly are curious.” Obi-wan’s eyes widened and he hunched in on himself slightly.

“I apologize if I’ve overstepped. Myles was adamant that I begin learning Mando’a as soon as possible and there isn’t a lot of information on Mando’a or Mandalorian culture in the archives at the temple.” The man watched him silently for a long moment.

“You haven’t overstepped. If you do I am sure those around you will be quite vocal about it.”

“I’m certain they will.” Obi-wan chuckled.

When the late meal was ready he followed the three brothers out of the tent and sat by the fire with some of the warriors, listening to them speak and trying to pick out words he knew. The food was spicier than anything he’d had before but he was slowly getting used to it. Some of the guards teased him for needing more bread and water than they did, to curb the bite, but the others teased them right back and Obi-wan didn’t feel singled out.

“Okay, worst mission location?” Different names were thrown out, most of which Obi-wan had never heard of. It went around the circle until everyone was looking to him for an answer. He licked his lips nervously.

“Uh… Melidaan, back when it was still Melida/Daan.” His throat tightened at the very thought of the kingdom which had once been at war with itself. A few of the warriors froze, eyes going sharp.

“You mean to tell me you were in Melidaan? When?” Someone asked incredulously. Everyone was staring at him and he began to fidget, uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

“Yes. I helped end the civil war.” Someone cursed, low and hard.

“That happened four years ago!” Another warrior protested. “How old were you verd’ika?”

“I was thirteen when I met Nield and… Ce-Cerasi.” He said, naming the two leaders of the Youth he had come to know and love. “His Highness, Nield, still sends me letters, letting me know how the new kingdom is faring in my absence.” He supposed now Nield and the others who had been part of the Youth must also believe him dead. There was a heavy weight in his stomach and he set his plate on the ground, no longer interested in eating.

“Shab!” Someone muttered emphatically under their breath, loud in the silence that had befallen them.

“I’m not very hungry.” Obi-wan said finally, refusing to meet any of their eyes, “I think I will turn in for the night.” Standing he abruptly left the fire and went straight to the tent he was staying in with the three Ta’rayd brothers. Taking off the outer layers of the borrowed clothing he folded them neatly and slipped them into the cot at his feet. That would keep them warm and dry for the night with the added bonus of keeping his feet warm as well. Kicking off his boots he tucked them under the cot and slipped into bed, turning his back on the entrance.

Even after the others had returned Obi-wan didn’t turn around, just focused on his breathing and trying not to think about all the people who now thought he was dead. All the people he might never see again…

[Jango]

Stopping by different fires he greeted his people and stood talking with them for a time before moving on to the next group. Unlike other monarchs a Mand’alor wasn’t some unknowable force sitting in a fancy castle, commanding a people he didn’t know. The Mand’alor was meant to be among their people, to understand them and do right by them. That was how Jaster had always been as Mand’alor and how Jango had been raised to be as well. What the outsiders didn’t understand was that the deity of the Mando’ade was among them, in their blood and bones. And Jango was Manda’s avatar. Their mouthpiece, their enforcer, and their champion.

Coming up to another fire he frowned at the apprehensive and discomfited looks his warriors were sharing with one another. “What happened?” It didn’t take a genius to know that something was wrong. Adatoya and his brothers were also missing- not a good sign.

There was silence for a moment before a younger warrior finally spoke up. “We were just messing around, Alor. We didn’t think the verd’ika would take it so seriously…” Eyes narrowing he looked around the circle one hand resting on his hip above the hilt of his sword.

“We were talking about our worst missions and asked the verd’ika for his.” There was a tension in the air that Jango did not like. “He told us his was the civil war in Melidaan.” Sucking in a breath he looked around the circle but saw no hint of the warrior’s words being a lie.

“That was four fucking years ago! He couldn’t have been older than fourteen!” He snapped, ire rising.

“Told us he was thirteen then, and that the Outsider Ruler still corresponds with him.” Jango ran a hand over his face. He wasn’t sure whether to be enraged at how the teen had been placed in such danger or excited at the prospect of his ven’riduur having contact with foreign rulers. “He left right after that, didn’t finish his meal.” There were worried murmurs and he wanted to sigh. His people were such mother hens.

“The jetii are cursed stupid and crazy if they think letting a child out on the battlefield at thirteen during a civil war is acceptable.” Ruusad Davin said heatedly. There was a chorus of agreements, Jango’s among them.

“He’ll need to talk to someone. You can tell just from looking at him that he lost someone during the war. He could barely say that second name.” Crossing his arms he stared into the fire for a moment.

“I’ll send a hawk and have one of the soul healers on standby.” He finally decided. The tension bled from the warriors and Jango had to suppress an amused snort. They’d barely met his ven’riduur and already they were protective of him. Then again the teen did give off a sense of needing protection. Even if there was proof to the contrary in how he’d defeated Vizla.

“If there’s nothing else to report?” He prodded the warriors patiently. No one reported anything urgent or asked to speak with him so he bid them good night and headed back to the tent he was sharing with Cody. On the way he slowed as he passed the tent he knew Obi-wan was sleeping in. He wanted to invite the teen to stay with his family, it was his right as part of the Fett Clan, but he already knew that the offer would be denied. Myles, as always, was a calm force with a steady stream of advice. His ven’riduur needed time to come to terms with the fact that he was no longer a jetii.

Besides. He was Mando’ad now, Jango had all the time in the world to woo his ven’riduur.

Heading inside his tent he raised an eyebrow at his son, who was sitting on the rug with an oil lamp so he could write in his journal. “A bit late for that, isn’t it?” He asked, slipping off his bracers and setting them aside. His son glanced up at him, golden eyes wise beyond his years and reflecting the light of the small flame.

“I don’t want to forget while I sleep. I had a few ideas for helping Obi-wan.” Jango sat on his cot and grinned. He knew that his son had been speaking to his future mate every day at Kranarsa but he hadn’t known the boy was making another one of his plans.

“Oh?” Cody nodded and set his quill down before flipping back a page.

“He’s well traveled and has a good grasp of other languages, his knight master was some sort of warrior diplomat, as far as I could tell, and he likes books.” The boy paused, a small smile crossing his face. “Really likes books.” Jango chuckled.

“So what’s the plan?”

“Giving him access to a library and letting him talk with the Jorhaa’ka’ad should help him feel more welcome. I think he wants to learn about us but is too nervous to ask for much.” A small worried frown crossed the boy’s face and Jango leaned over to ruffle his dark hair.

“I know something else you don’t know.” He said with a smirk.

“What’s that?”

“Vhipirla, Myles, and I, all think he’s a true Stewojni’ad.” Cody’s eyes brightened.

“Then he’ll need time outside as well. We’re lucky, Concordia has really nice gardens.” Jango shook his head.

“Not luck, Cod’ika. Always remember; Manda provides.” His son nodded, closed his book, and got ready for bed.

“I wish to ride with him tomorrow.” Jango looked at his son and smiled.

“Just don’t give Ramikad Adatoya a hard time.” Cody snickered and blew out the oil lamp before getting into his cot and snuggling into the warm furs.

“Good night buir.” Jango smiled in the darkness.

“Good night Cod’ika.”

Chapter Text

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.