The Mandalorian stands there, practically looming over where he sits. There is a hawk perched on his shoulder, one with silver feathers that look like they’re made of the same beskar the man wears. He feels the way Lysa’s ears twitched anxiously where they brush against his thigh; she’s large, much bigger than the bird, but that hawk has got a set of what appears to be metal talons overtop its natural feet, and he knows that those would shred Lysa the moment the hawk caught her. Val’s talons scratch at the table next to where his fingers clutch the glass of spotska; there is no place to burrow in the Cantina.
Then he saw the child, with little green hands stroking a gentle magpie’s black and white feathers. He relaxes and lifts the glass up to take a drink, watching the stiff way the Mandalorian stands, one hand on his holster, the other held to the side with twitching fingers. There is something here between them that is not being communicated, he just hopes that one thing isn’t going to be why he gets shot.
“Who are you?”
He pauses, taking in The Mandalorian’s voice, it’s filtered through the helmet, but despite the robotic sound to it, it rumbles as an engine purrs. He takes another drink from his cup like he’s not affected.
“I’m Cobb Vanth, Marshal of Mos Pelgo. The jakrab is Lysa, and the owl is Val.”
He watched the way the hawk tilted its head, studying both Lysa and Val, sizing them up probably. He lifts his cup to take another drink.
“Where you get the armor?”
So no return introduction than, he lowers the cup enough to speak.
“Bought it off some Jawas.”
Val tenses, claws shifting when the hawk moves, four wings steepling, and talons readjusting. That’s not posturing; the hawk is angry and considering taking flight. He swallows, setting his cup down, fingers stroking down Val’s breast, trying to calm the owl. He’d not have this turn into a fight.
“Hand it over.”
He freezes for a second, hears the way Lysa scoffs where she sits. Her back leg scuffs against the floor; it’s her wanting to stomp but resisting the urge. He hears the sound of claws tapping against the floor. The magpie has moved to place itself between the child and the room’s building tension.
“Look, pal, I’m sure you call the shots where you’re from, ‘round here I’m the one tells folks what to do,” He says, pressing his leg into Lysa’s side, her ears are quivering where they’ve lowered, she’s getting annoyed, and Val is about ready to make a run for it. A fight in the cantina would not be a good idea.
“Take it off,” The Mandalorian growls, taking a threatening step forward, his hawk’s eyes were narrowed, talons gripping the metal pauldron below it tightly, “Or I will.” Well, shit, guess this was gonna be a fight.
“We gonna do this in front of the kid?” He asked, gesturing to the little green child watching from behind the magpie.
“He’s seen worse,” The Mandalorian replied, taking another step, his hawk shaking out her wings, silver feathers catching the light. He had to get this out of the Cantina, really he should get it out of Mos Pelgo, but he didn’t think he’d get that far, not with the way the Mandalorian reaching for the blaster on his hip.
“We doin’ this right here?” He laid his hand over Val’s feet, stopping the anxious way they were tapping against the table.
That made him sigh, and he let Val hop onto his wrist, he transferred the owl to perch onto his pauldron as he stood up. Lysa kicked the chair, moving it back to give them room. The hawk narrowed its eyes, focusing down on the jakrab as she stood, probably recognizing Lysa as more of a threat.
Then the beast made its appearance, the cantina shaking violently and the ground roaring with fury; it was like an earthquake had started. Lysa jumped to action, leaping past The Mandalorian and out onto the walkway right outside the door, he lifted his finger to give the other a “give me a sec” motion as he strode out the cantina after the jakrab. He heard The Mandalorian follow, either to investigate the commotion or to make sure he didn’t run off with the armor. He watched how both the hawk and its armor-clad human tilted their heads the same way. He wonders if Mando has the same resigned scowl on his face as the hawk does. The town people scramble to get back into their homes, banthas crying in alarm. Val fluttered his wings and let out an alarmed chattering call; they know what’s coming.
The Krayt Dragon screams as it tears through the town’s ground as if it’s swimming instead of digging. Machinery was ripped free from the ground, the walkways rattling as they struggled not to give under the creature’s strength. Lysa leans back against his shins and growls low in her chest. They watch as the dragon launches out of the sand to swallow one of the town’s bathas, the poor creature giving a frightened cry before disappearing into that maw.
“Help us kill that beast, and we’ll give you the armor,” Lysa says with a threatening kick against the wooden walkway below them, her tall ears slicked back, brushing against her rump with how long they are. The Mandalorian turns his head to focus his vizor down at her; the hawk, however, is staring him down with unblinking yellow eyes. He feels the way Val’s claws dig into his shoulder, they needed that beast dead, and the Mandalorian needed the armor, though perhaps it was a bit selfish to demand such a high price.
Their speeders raced across the sand, Lysa huddled against his chest, her back legs anchored against under the controls, and long ears tucked safely against his chest so they won’t be whipped around by the wind. Val is nestled against his neck, protected under his scarf. The Mandalorian rides beside him, his hawk and magpie both cradled in his lap, beaks moving, either speaking to each other or The Mandalorian himself. The child is tucked away safely in the pouch of the speeder, out of sight.
“You don’t get it what it was like; the town was on its last legs,” He began; Lysa glanced up at him with a raised brow, he didn’t know why he was trying to explain himself, but he needed them to understand why he’d been wearing the armor. “It started right after we got the news of the Death Star blowing up; the second one.” He felt the gaze on him, seeing that blank vizor turn to face him as he spoke, the birds were watching him, having gone still.
“The Empire was pulling out of Tatooine. There was blaster fire over Mos Eisley. The occupation was over.” He felt Val cuddle up against his neck, soft feathers puffing up to offer him comfort from the memories. “That very night, the Mining Collective moved in. Power hates a Vacuum, and Mos Pelgo became a slave camp overnight. We lit out; took what we could from the invaders, grabbed a camtono, had no idea it was full of siliax crystals,” He stroked a hand along Lysa’s leg as he spoke, feeling the way the muscles under her skin flexed, her peach fuzz tickled his palm. “Guess every once in a while, both suns shine on a whomp rat’s tail,” he joked; Lysa huffed and rolled her eyes, back leg giving the speeder a tap.
“We wandered for days, no food, no water. Val had been flying above as a scout, he wasn’t built with the stamina needed to fly for so long, he was exhausted, could barrel lift his wings. We really didn’t think we would make it, but then we were saved; Jawas wanted the crystals; they offered their finest in exchange,” He tilted his head as he spoke, glazing at The Mandalorian. That vizor was facing the desert stretched out in front of them, but the hawk’s yellow eyes were locked onto him.
“Our treasure bought us more than a full waterskin. It bought our freedom,” Lysa continued for him, back paw giving a few quick taps against the speeder, her brown eyes unfocused as she stared out into the horizon.
To call sitting in a camp full of tuskens nerve-wracking was an understatement. Val was puffed up, anxiously twitching his tail, and shifting his weight between his feet where he is perched on Cobb's thigh. He strokes his fingers through the owl’s breast feathers, smoothing them down and trying to calm Val by offering him a grounding touch. Lysa is sitting beside him, between his side and The Mandalorian. Speaking of The Mandalorian, he sits quietly beside him; vizor focused on the hand movements of the Tuskens. His Magpie is seated on his pauldron, brown eyes taking in everything going on in the huddle around the fire and everything happening around them in camp. The magpie's beak was moving, speaking so quietly that even sitting this close, he can't make out any words. He isn't sure quite where the hawk is, not willing to look away from the tuskens, but he can hear the child's giggles and figures the hawk must be watching over him.
He tenses when The Mandalorian begins making the same noises as the Tuskens, hands moving. Val flutters his wings and adjusts his footing in unease. They're trying to keep up with the conversation clearly happening between them, but he has no idea what's going on, and it's just pulling his nerves taut. He feels like a child again, staring up at cruel adults who speak a language he doesn't understand, plotting to bring him harm for something he hadn't known he had done wrong. He jolts when Lysa leans her weight against his thigh and hip, her warmth comforting, grounding him in the now.
Val warbles quietly in fear when one of the Tuskens offers him a black cracked open plant; black dust swirls out of the plant. It's not a friendly sight, and the smell is horrible. He looks to The Mandalorian for advice; the magpie flutters from one pauldron to the other, brown eyes focused on him. The magpie's gaze wasn't nearly as intense as the hawk’s or as intimidating as that black vizor turned on him.
"What am I supposed to do with this?" He asked. Val keeping big yellow on the Tuskens for him. Lysa leaned further into him, gave him a quick look.
"You drink it."
The magpie clicked its beak with an amused look in its brown eyes, looking like it wanted to say something.
"Do you want their help?" The Mandalorian asking, speaking before the magpie could speak. The black and white bird huffed, smacking a wing against the cheek of the helmet gently like it was trying to reprimand the warrior.
"Not if we have to drink this," he said in reply. Val fluttered up in panic when the Tuskens next to them started signing and vocalizing angrily. Lysa moved quickly to slide her back legs under her body in case she needed to move fast.
"He says your people steal their water, and now you insult them by not drinking it." The Mandalorian translated, voice taking a tone that made it clear he was trying to appease. "They know about Mos Pelgo; They know how many Sand People you killed," The Mandalorian continued, vizor focused on the Tuskan and tone becoming neutral. His shoulders hunched and Val warbled anxiously again, and Lysa’s foot scuffed the sand.
"They raided our village; I defended the town," He hissed, turning his eyes on The Mandalorian. The magpie made an uncertain sound, beak clicking a few times and one of his nails tapping against the metal pauldron below it.
"Lower your voice," The Mandalorian ordered, holding a hand out. Silver feathers caught the fire’s yellow light as with several surprisingly quiet flaps of its four wings, the hawk appeared, taking the empty space on The Mandalorian’s other pauldron, yellow eyes taking in the situation.
"Knew this was a bad idea," Lysa grumbled, foot thumping but not making much noise because of the sand. The Tusken stood up, and he didn't hear The Mandalorian’s next words when Val gave a warning call, landing in the sand beside Lysa.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the screech the hawk let out; all four wings spread in a threatening display, and the flames from The Mandalorian's flamethrower highlighted it in an eerie way. His hair was standing on in, and he heard Val dig a shallow hole, tossing sand over his feathers to hide from the clearly angry predator. Once the flamethrower was turned off, The Mandalorian began to sign and vocalizing to the Tusken, who seemed cowed and ducked their head.
"What are you telling them?"
He froze when that vizor swung to him, he ducked his own head as he got sight of the hawk’s disapproving glare.
"The same I'm telling you. If we fight amongst ourselves, the monster will kill us all."
He sat down feeling properly scolded, which was frustrating, and he itched to argue just not to feel like he was submitting, but he knew the hunter had a point. Lysa settled back down, back legs sliding out underneath her so she could stretch out again to show they were going to relax, though Val remained hidden against Lysa’s side, peering over her back to watch the hawk who had folded its wings.
"How do we kill it?"
The hawk’s voice was stern and very feminine, her voice rolling over the words in a way that reminded him of a sandstorm blowing against clay walls. The Mandalorian signed along to her words to Translate for the Tuskens.
The silence is heavy as they worked to put the tent up; Val nervously preens the feathers under his left-wing, trying to pretend like the tension between them wasn't there. Lysa gave him a hard nudge in the leg with an expression that screamed, "fix this,” he sighed. She was right.
"Hey Partner," He started, that visor didn't turn to face him, but The Mandalorian titled his helmet in his direction, so that was probably an indication he was being listened to. "I uh, I'm sorry for earlier-"
"You don't need to apologize," The Mandalorian said; the line of his shoulders were tense, both of his birds were behind them, the hawk perched on the rock watching over the magpie who was playing with the child; letting him toddle close and try to grab at the black and white bird with little hands before hopping out of range with a chattering sound that he realized was laughter. The child was giggling excitedly at this little game of chase they had going.
"I think I do," he argued, frowning at the side of the helmet.
"You have a right to be angry," The Mandalorian replied, still not facing him.
"But you defended the Tuskens," Lysa replied, her tone just as neutral as The Mandalorian’s. Her ears snapped up in interest when the armor-clad man sighed, shoulders moving with the motion.
"They're a people forced off their lands, constantly have to fight to keep what is sacred to them, and are treated as less than others for doing what they have to survive. My people are similar to them in that manner," The Mandalorian explained, speaking more words now than he had in any other conversation. There was a flap of wings, and the hawk appeared, perching on one of the tent’s poles now that it was set up.
"They're brutal people. They need to be to survive in this even more brutal landscape," the hawk offered, her voice commanding their attention, she shook her wings out, "but that does not mean they are unkind," she added, yellow eyes fixed down on him. It was mostly seen as wrong in most cultures for Daemons to speak with humanoids that are not their own, but not all cultures, Mandalorians appearing to be one of them.
It was Cobb’s turn to sigh, he closed his eyes and frowned. He felt Val adjust his footing and ruffle his wings. The hawk was right, and that only really made his guilt worse. He knew the pair wasn't saying these things to get him to regret his actions before because he doesn't, they're offering him a view from the other side, and he had to admit he sympathized with the Sand People and with The Mandalorians.
"Most people of Tatooine can say they come from slave parents, but some like us were slaves," Val whispered, tail twitching as he held gazes with the hawk. He saw The Mandalorian finally turn his vizor to face them. "Slaves are encouraged to only know a few words of the language of their master, only the words that are commands. That way, the people in power can talk about anything, and the slave will have no idea what is going on," Val leaned his small body into Cobb’s hair, seeking comfort, and he brought a hand up to stroke the owl’s breast. The hawk looked pained, metal-covered talons digging into the pole below her, and The Mandalorian’s shoulders were tense as well.
"We could teach you some of the signs," the magpie chirped as it appeared; its voice was nondescript, no gender distinction in it, but it is was high and lilting a bit. "We won't have time to teach you everything, but we could give you enough to understand," they continued, wings fluttering in a way that was both excited and anxious.
"Thank you," He said, baffled and flustered by this sudden generosity being given to him. He knew Val was all puffed up, and Lysa was ducking her head, resisting the urge to happily tap her tail.
That's how he ended up sitting across from The Mandalorian following patient instructions on performing Tusken sign language. Lysa was fully relaxed, stretched out beside him, her ears drooping as she listened to the magpie chatter to her, he couldn't tell what had the magpie all excited, but the jakrab seemed content to let them talk her ears off. Val was playing with the child, rolling in the sand and digging shallow holes to disappear; the kid cooed and moved little hands through the sand trying to find the owl and giggling in delight when Val would pop his head out of the sand; the hawk was still perched on top of the tent, overseeing their little group but also watching the Tuskens and making sure nothing emerged from the dunes.
"Let me see if I got this correct; if I make this motion with this finger instead of this one, it changes it from 'work' to 'fuck'?" Cobb laughed, he grinned when The Mandalorian huffed in amusement and shook his head.
"Yes, I don't think you want me to pull my flamethrower out to break up a fight," The Mandalorian said; Cobb chuckled, recognizing the words as a tease.
Cobb paused, taken aback a second before turning his attention to the magpie who was staring up at him with curious brown eyes. "She says there was a pair of battle talons that came with the armor?" The magpie asked, tilting their head towards Lysa to indicate the she they were talking about.
"Yeah, it did," he replied, uncertain by being addressed directly; the Mandalorian didn't seem uncomfortable, so he guessed it was okay.
"Can I see them?" The magpie asked excitedly, feathers puffing out. The Mandalorian signed and tilted his head like he was rolling his eyes fondly under his helmet.
"Yeah, sure," He reached back and opened a pouch on the back of his holster, retrieving the metal talons that were neatly wrapped up with leather straps. He hesitated before handing them over, unsure if he should set them down for the magpie or pass them to The Mandalorian. Speaking of the latter, he huffed and held his hand out, making the decision for the marshal, he set the metal talons on the gloved hand fingers brushing against the soft orange leather of the Mandalorian’s fingers.
The magpie flutters over to land on The Mandalorian’s wrist as he uses his other hand to unwrap the leather freeing the talons, and they're just as wicked looking as he remembered from the first time he had unwrapped them himself. The magpie makes an interested sound, pushing at the metal talons with one of their own metal-covered feet with little clinks every time the beskar makes contact.
"There a reason you wanted to see them, or was this just to see if they were in good condition?" He asked, hands resting on his thighs as he watches as The Mandalorian rolls the talons between his fingers.
"That was part of the reason," The magpie said; they turned eager eyes to him as they offered him a bird smile, beak clicking. "The other reason is that I thought we could learn something about the Daemon they were made for based on how they were designed," The magpie explained, eyes dropping back down to the talons.
"How would you do that?" Lysa asked ears lifted high into the air with interest.
"Well, to start, these are talons built for a bird of prey. I can tell that by the way they curve inwards. They're similar to the ones that miss Priss over there wears."
The hawk turned her head out to the sands with a scoff at the nickname, and the magpie snickered.
"However, the underside of these are sharpened. Whatever this Daemon was grabbing in these talons was going to get shredded, so I figure the owner of the armor was trained to be a warrior," The magpie explained, holding the larger talons in their own in a way to show them the undersides. "Though since these were wrapped up, I reason that the Daemon did not like wearing them," The magpie added, releasing the talons to be held by The Mandalorian.
"Is there a hidden compartment in the chest plate?" The Mandalorian asked. Cobb shook his head, the magpie hummed.
"So, there wasn't a Daemon that was small enough to need protection, and the owner had a bird that didn't wear its battle talons," The magpie considered, idly tapping one metal claw against The Mandalorian’s vembrace with a thoughtful gift. "If it was an animal large enough to have its own armor, it maybe has either dusted away from its humanoid or the owner of the armor is still alive," The magpie reasoned with a tilted head.
"More reason to get the armor to you after this is over than," Cobb replied with a nod; the Mandalorian and the magpie looked surprised by his words, but the magpie offered them a pleased expression. The Mandalorian rewrapped the talons and handed them back for him to put back into their protective pouch.
The battle preparations had been stressful, the town had agreed to work with the Tuskens, but the tension in the air was evident. Cobb had spent a lot of time stroking Val’s breast feather to center himself as they all worked together to prepare to kill this beast. The Mandalorian’s silent presence at his back was also a comfort before he had been nervous about having that black vizor and the hawk’s intense yellow eyes at his back, but he had gotten a glimpse of the man under the armor, had seen the playful and talkative side of the magpie and had glimpsed the kindness the man held under his beskar usually only reserved for the child.
He had feared the breakdown of their truce when the tension had snapped, a dropped canister, rising tempers. Lysa had shoved herself into the range of a pair of snapping jaws, foot giving a hard thump, and he had put himself between the Tusken and the townsfolk. Had made the miner go cool off, had ordered it. The man's dog had backed down, tail drooping, and ears slicked back.
When he had returned to standing at The Mandalorian’s side, his head was tilted the same way the hawk’s was. When he lofted an eyebrow to non-verbally express his exasperation with the almost fight, The Mandalorian’s shoulders had shaken up and down with a quiet chuckle.
Now that they stood overlooking their chosen battlefield, the charges being laid, and people bustling around, there was a calmness to the Mandalorian, his breathing was measured, and both of his birds flew overhead to keep eyes on everything. The hawk soared high above, all four wings flapping lazily, and the magpie fluttered around sporadically between the townsfolk and Tuskens. Both birds were a lot farther away than should be comfortable, but there was no twitch or hitch in breathing to indicate that the Mandalorian was bothered, just the steady stance of a trained warrior preparing for battle.
He tried to match his breathing to the Mandalorian’s, hands gripping the detonator tightly, he watched the way Lysa’s long ears twisted and flicked, picking up every sound as they stood straight up in the air. She sat between his legs, so close the tips of her ears brushed his pelvis when they flipped backward. Val was on his pauldron, wings brushing the cheek of the helmet he had put on as he ruffled his wings.
It was time, Val tensing up, the Tuskens' calls echoed, and the dragon roared back, It screams making the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. The hawk screeched from overhead as the Mandalorian swore, the dragon was retreating. His fingers twitched against the sides of the detonator, Lysa growled, ears slicking back and brushing against his legs as they did so.
Lysa was tapping her front paws. She wanted to be down alongside the townsfolk and Tuskens as they threw explosives and fired blaster bolts at the beast; however she couldn't painlessly stretch their bond like the Mandalorian could, she growled again in frustration. Val gave off his chattering call in warning as the people were fleeing; the dragon was rearing back with the start of a roar. The magpie fluttered past them, hearing the call, and gave a warbling cry as well; the hawk tilted, making a wide turn, and gave a loud shriek as she dove. Some of the people scattered away from the large bird dropping from the sky, as the hawk swept back out of the range the dragon released a spray of acid, the actions of the birds was able to chase a good number of the townsfolk and Sand People out of the way, but not all were lucky.
The dragon had collapsed right on top of the hidden charges after releasing its acid, and Cobb did not hesitate to hit the detonate button. The dragon screamed as the charges exploded against its soft underside. As the sand sprayed everywhere, the dragon dived down into the ground. Val warbled, his talons scratching against the pauldron below him, mimicking the motion of digging. It wasn’t over.
The air was tense as they all waited for the dragon to emerge again. The canyon wall rumbled as the dragon erupted from it; the hawk gave a shriek in alarm and dove, wings tucking to dive out of the way as the dragon spit acid at her that rained down on the people below. "It's picking us off like womp rats!" Cobb spit, throwing a look at the Mandalorian from under his helmet, "Let's get after it!"
The Mandalorian grabbed his rifle as Lysa jumped up into Cobb’s arms, clambering to find purchase against his chest plate, her teeth clamping down on his scarf and front paws tucked between the armor pieces. Val took flight, not as graceful in the air as the Mandalorian’s birds, but it was still flight. Both armor-clad men activated their jetpacks and launched into the air. Landing right beside the dragon was nerve-wracking. Val flapped his little wings taking up recon with the other two circling birds. They fired blaster bolts into the side of the dragon's face trying to draw its attention away from the people below; Lysa muttered in displeasure against his scarf in what sounded like mumbled curses. Brown eyes locked on the dragon and back legs thumping against his chest plate, but she had no real leverage to throw power behind the impacts.
"This ain't doing a thing!" He spits.
"Just keep shooting!" The Mandalorian called back, a tone in his filtered voice Cobb couldn't decipher.
Lysa made a very distressed sound that sounded like "oh fuck" as the dragon swung its head towards them. They blasted out of the way of those massive jaws, the hawk shrieking in talons clacking against hard scales to draw the dragon's attention away from them. The dragon growled, trying to catch the silver hawk who barrel-rolled out of the way, being smaller and more graceful.
They stumbled into a landing, Lysa grunting at the jostling. She adjusted herself in case they needed to blast off suddenly again, he gave her a quick boost, letting back paws thump against his vembrace and jostling his arm. Once she was secured, he anchored himself and hefted his blaster alongside the Mandalorian. The hawk was huffing for breath as she soared down, perching on the Mandalorian’s shoulder, needing to catch her breath. The magpie fluttered past, Val following at her tail.
Lysa’s ears snapped up, twisting backward, and her heart rate spiked. Cobb spun around to face where she was hearing, the Mandalorian followed his lead. Just as they both turned, the dragon exploded out of the sand with an enraged roar, barreling down the hill towards the people. It was intent on swallowing them all whole.
"I've got an idea!" The Mandalorian called, glancing at him, he turned his own vizor to look at him, "get its attention." He could do that. He dropped the rangefinder, Lysa drooping her ears and tucking her face further into his scarf away from the loud sound she knew was coming. He leaned forward enough to give himself a good shot, watching for the dragon to give him a clear shot. The split moment the dragon revealed itself, he fired, the rocket exploded right into the space beside the dragon's eye. The beast screamed in pain, shaking its massive body. It swung towards them with a growl.
"I got its attention! Now what?" Cobb asked, taking a half-step back in fear, the magpie's warbling cry from above being almost drowned up as the ground rumbled as the dragon charged.
"Still have the detonator?" The hawk asked between panting breaths, spreading her wings behind and above the Mandalorian’s helmet.
"Take it! What's the plan?"
He unhooked the detonator from his belt and passed it over.
"Take care of the Child," The Mandalorian said.
"What are you two going do?"
"I don't know, but wish me luck."
The strike against his jetpack startles him, and Lysa makes a high shrill cry into his scarf as they're laughed into the air. Pain rips through his chest, followed by panic; Val was too far away. He feels wings stop beating for a second, feels the wind rip out from under feathers. Metal covered claws wrap around a feathered chest as the magpie sweeps Val out of the way of the dragon.
He crashes to the ground with a grunt, Lysa being thrown off behind him. She tumbles with a grunt, the magpie crashing to the sand beside him with Val, not used to having to fly so fast while carrying a bird similar to their weight. He scrambles up to a sitting position to look back at the Mandalorian and the hawk. He watches the dragon swallow the Mandalorian and hawk as the hawk gives a battle cry, wings giving threatening flaps.
The ground rumbles as he rips his helmet off, the dragon ripping out of the earth, blue electricity sparking through its entire mouth—the Mandalorian flies out, clutching the hawk to his chest desperately. The dragon roars in agony as the bombs in its body detonate. The dragon collapses with a shower of sand, the Mandalorian barely lands on his feet, the hawk grunting as she's jostled against his chest plate. The magpie chirps out relieved words that he doesn't hear but launches itself at the Mandalorian and hawk. The Mandalorian huffs for breath, leaning his helmet to lean into the feathers of the magpie as they dive into his cowl.
Cobb can't help his chuckle, staggering to his feet, scooping up Val with one hand. Lysa bounds to his side, her legs shaking a bit from the remnants of fear. The Sand People start cheering, and the townsfolk join in; the hawk climbs up onto the Mandalorian’s free shoulder just as covered in dragon spit. She spreads her wings and lifts them high above her head with a screech, the Mandalorian’s shoulders shaking. The beast is dead.
Later, when the harvesting of the meat is in full swing, he hands the armor off to the Mandalorian, cradling the helmet that had protected him off.
"Sorry, I didn't have time to explain-"
"No need," Lysa says, loping alongside him, the magpie smiles where they rest on the Mandalorian’s shoulder.
"This was well earned," Cobb says as he hands the helmet out with a smile; Val is nestled into the folds of his scarf, exhausted. A glance at the hawk laying on the speeders seat as the child coos at her tells him the Mandalorian has got to be too.
"It was our pleasure," The Mandalorian said, offering his gloved hand for a handshake that he happily accepted. He relished in the fingers brushing against his clothed wrist.
"Why don't you stay the night?" Before Cobb can speak, Val chirps, wings giving a flap as he climbs to his feet on the marshal's narrow shoulder. The owl’s voice is strong, hinting to the same authoritative tone Lysa often possessed. "You three and the Child have to be exhausted. Rest in Mos Pelgo. It's a lot safer now that the beast is dead. We have a spare room," Val said, yellow eyes locked on the black vizor of the Mandalorian’s helmet, staring like he knew exactly where the man's eyes would be.
"We need to g-"
"He's right, the Child, and we need the rest," the magpie interrupted, their head tilted to look into the vizor when it turned to face them.
"I’m loathed to agree with them, but the Chatterbox is right. We’re exhausted. We'll be no good if we leave now," The hawk added, head lifted to also look at the Mandalorian.
"It looks like you're outvoted," Cobb chuckled, smiling when the Mandalorian turned to him with a sigh.
"So it seems."
They leave the barbecue to wind down, Lysa leading the way to their home, the Mandalorian at their heel. His house wasn't much, but it was homely, and he hopes that was worth something. Lysa leaped up onto the couch and went boneless with a pleased groan; Cobb chuckled and shook his head at her.
"The refresher is down that hall and to the left if you want to get cleaned up, I'll watch the kid. You can find some fresh clothes in the dresser in the room across from it," Cobb offered, taking the child from the Mandalorians with a smile. The man seemed to hesitate, uncertain, but the hawk didn't want to wait for him and took flight from his pauldron, purposely smacking the helmet as she did so. The magpie cackled, and the Mandalorian sighed as he followed after the hawk.
He was relaxing on the couch with the kid resting on his chest, chewing on his scarf, and babbling when the Mandalorian reappeared with his armor being toted along to be gently set on the table in a neat stack. The man was wearing a set of Cobb's clothes that seemed to only fit him because of the fact that the marshal had a height advantage; the helmet had stayed on.
"Howdy partner," he said; the kid perked up, ears lifting and cooing as he reached for the Mandalorian. The man picked the child up, the kid's hands giving the helmet a little pat as if making sure his Dad was okay, and he smiled fondly. He froze when the hawk swooped down to land on the coffee table, careful not to scratch up the wood. She dipped her head and, with what was clearly practiced ease, untied the leather around her ankles and slid her feet out of the metal talons. Her natural claws were long, but the metal talons were double their length. The hawk hopped off the table and glided over to the couch, stepping around the Jakrab still flopped on one of the cushions. Cobb shivered when he felt the brush of silver feathers against Lysa’s back, as the hawk affectionately ran a wing down the hare's back before she nestled herself down to rest. Val peered up at the hawk where he was nestled against Lysa's other side. The magpie fluttered over, collapsing into the cushions without any grace, pulling the strings loose of their own battle talons, stretching their feet when the talons were off with a joyful sound. The Mandalorian plucked the smaller talons off the couch and set them on the coffee table before collapsing onto the sofa with a groan of relief that made Cobb chuckle.
"Gonna miss being mostly blaster proof," Cobb joked, stretching out and putting his heels on the table, careful not to touch any of the beskar there. The Mandalorian huffed in amusement, stroking the Child's back with a bare hand; the kid cooed, nestling closer.
"If we never fly with a jetpack, I'll be happier for it," Lysa grouched, back leg twitching with the urge to stamp; the hawk chortled quietly in amusement.
"Where is your sense of adventure?" The magpie teased, rolling onto their back with their legs in the air.
"Left it behind the first time we flew," Lysa deadpanned. That pulled a sound of amusement from everyone on the couch.
"Our first flight with the jetpack, Copikla was still unsettled, and they were a marten. They squealed and clung so tightly to my cowl that I thought their claws were going to tear holes into it," The Mandalorian offered, chuckling as he tilted his head to watch the marshal with that vizor.
"Thank Manda, I settled as something with wings! I never want to be carried like that again!" The magpie cackled, Cobb laughed along with.
"Copikla?" Val asked. The Mandalorian tensed up, but the magpie grinned wide, beak clicking excitedly.
"That's my name; it means charming or cute in Mando'a!" The magpie explained, wings spreading across the couch, and the tips of the right one almost touched his thigh. The hawk was watching him with yellow eyes, studying him and waiting for his reaction; it was a test.
"Nice to officially meet you than, Copikla," he drawled and made a motion like he was tipping a hat he didn't have. The magpie snickered.
"Bic's ner pleasure," The magpie chirped, the language rolling off their tongue like it was second nature, but they hadn't spoken it in so long. He realized that it must be the same language their name came from and offered an awed smile. The Mandalorian's shoulders eased their tension, and he sank back into the couch.
They spoke for a while quietly till the kid fell asleep, then the Mandalorian left to settle him down in the spare room so he could sleep in peace. When the man returned, Cobb had moved to the kitchen to pour himself a drink, Lysa had begrudgingly moved to jump up onto the counter and was stretched out along one side of it. Copikla had followed and was perched on the back of one of the island chairs to watch the marshal as he moved about. Val and the hawk shared a fur-lined perch next to the island; they could fit comfortably because of how small Val was compared to the hawk.
"Care for a drink, think I got a straw?" Cobb asked, pulling out some brown alcohol he had stored in his cabinet.
The marshal grabbed a second glass setting them down on the table before he turned to dig in a drawer and pulled a straw out. He set the straw in one of the glasses and poured the alcohol in, sliding to the Mandalorian as he sat in the chair Copikla wasn't perched on. Cobb poured himself a drink and set the bottle aside, leaning forward on the counter with folded arms. He watched as the Mandalorian tipped the straw to slide under the helmet before he took a sip of his own drink, humming at the chill against his dry tongue.
"I have some questions about Mandalorians; you can tell me to fuck off, of course," He started, setting his glass down so he can pet down Lysa’s flank; she twitched her ear at him but didn't stir from her doze.
"Determines what you asked about," The Mandalorian replied, head tilted and holding the straw away from his helmet for the moment.
"You mentioned you were looking for other Mandalorians. Do you not know where each other are?" He asked, watching the way the Mandalorian sighed; Copikla clicked their beak and fluttered over to land on the counter.
"The short answer is no," The Mandalorian explained. Cobb lifted his eyebrow, pausing as he went to take a drink.
"The long answer is that there is no way to know how many our number is anymore, we are forced to either travel in small groups or live in hidden coverts. There is little to no contact between coverts," The hawk said, expanding on the topic.
"So, you need to find at least one Mandalorian who can either answer your questions or can point you to a covert?" Cobb asked, wanting to clarify the thoughts in his head; the Mandalorian nodded.
"How do you keep in contact with your family and friends that are Mandalorian?" Val asked, shifting his footing. Copikla and the hawk dropped their gazes as the Mandalorian sighed again.
"We usually don't; I haven't spoken with either of my siblings in a few years," Din replied quietly, fingers tightening around the glass of alcohol.
"I'm sorry," Cobb replied, taking a large drink out of the glass before he poured himself another. An air of understanding settled between them, and they lapsed into a silence that wasn't really awkward, but it wasn't comfortable either. The lot of them were just lost in thought.
"What happens when a married couple is in two different coverts?" Val eventually asks after some time has passed; the Mandalorian lifts his head and tilts it.
“There is a tradition where a Mandalorian can present their partner an accessory made with something important to them, if the Mandalorian has Daemons, they usually use a part of the Daemon or something to symbolize them. This accessory is a promise that the partner will always have a part of the Mandalorian, and it's a promise to return," The Mandalorian explained, sliding to straw under his helmet to sip at his drink again.
"That's very sweet," Cobb whispered, a small smile on his face. "Some slaves used to do something similar since you never knew if you would get sold away from your partner," He offered in return swallowing back another drink from his glass. The silence was more comfortable now as they continued to drink in each other's company.
It wasn’t surprising when he started to notice the hawk was dozing on the perch, he figured the three of them had to be exhausted; two of their group had been swallowed by the dragon. He finished off the last of his drink and grabbed the bottle to return it to the cabinet it had been in before. The Mandalorian seemed to stir, vizor following him as he moved about the kitchen. He let him take the empty glass from the counter and set both of the glasses in the sink to be handled later.
"If you don't want to disturb the kid, we can share my room. The curtains are blackout; neither Lysa nor Val is nocturnal, so they will not be able to see much, so you could even take your armor off if you wanted," he offered. The Mandalorian tilted his head, he hadn't had much to drink, but Copikla was laying on their back in his lap playing with the fingers of his hand with their feet with little giggles, so he had to at least be a bit tipsy.
"That would be nice," The Mandalorian said slowly, an uncertain but pleased tone making it through the voice filter in his helmet. Cobb nods and scoops up Lysa, who grumbles but cuddles into his chest; Val flutters to land on his shoulder, swaying in the air a lot more than usual; he must be tipsy as well. The Mandalorian slips his hand under Copikla, who happily flops against his bare chest with a giggle. He holds his free arm out to the hawk, and she steps onto a bit more gracefully than expected, but the way she is holding her head tells him she's not willing to let herself look silly, and he huffs a bit in amusement.
He leads the way to the bedroom, he deposited Lysa and Val in their makeshift nest, the owl fluttering around a bit to get comfortable amongst the sprawl of the Jakrab's long limbs. To his interest, the hawk stalked across the bed once set down to nest herself down against Lysa’s side, crooning happily and dropping her neck to tuck in her chest feathers. Copikla remains sprawled where the Mandalorian placed them, still giggling to themselves about something; the hawk lifting her head to grab her counterpart by a few tail feathers and drag them over to the Daemon pile before settling back down. The Mandalorian sat down in the bed and watched him behind that visor as he walked over to close the blinds, the room descending into complete darkness.
It took some fumbling for Cobb to get out of his boots, slide his belt off, and find the bed without disturbing the Daemons, but Cobb managed it. He could hear the filtered breathing on one end of the bed for a long while till he heard the click of the helmet's seal and the gentle ring as the helmet was set down on the nightstand. The bed dipped as the Mandalorian laid down beside him.
"My hawk, her name is Atiniir, it means to endure." The hesitant voice that spoke into the darkness was unfiltered and a lot softer than Cobb expected but just as deep as it had been before. "Mine is Din," The Mandalorian added after a moment, tone dripping with uncertainty and worry.
"Yall have lovely names," he replied, smiling when he heard the Mandalorian relax, the bed shifting as the Mandalorian presumably rolled over to face him. He copied the action knowing he wouldn't see anything besides a vague outline.
"I wish I could kiss you," Din whispered, and he was shocked; the alcohol definitely had a play in this.
"Why can't you?" He asked breathlessly, wanting the other man to kiss him as well.
"If I do, I won't be able to leave," Din said, tone forcibly calm.
"I understand. Your kid needs you," Cobb replied, he slid his hand over the sheets, pleased when he found the other's hand and he didn't pull away.
"I'll do my best to come back," Din promised.
When Cobb wakes the next morning, he notices several things. The blinds had been opened to let the light in as he struck him in the eyes, Din and his Daemons were gone, and that there were several feathers in his hand. The feathers he recognized easily, one was the metallic silver of Atiniir and the matte black and white of Copikla. The feathers had been wrapped together neatly by a leather cord and strung together to make a necklace. He admired the gift, knowing its significance.
Lysa crawled up the bed to lay down, pressing her long body into his stomach. She didn't look at him, but he knew she wanted comfort. Val was still asleep in the nest at the end of the bed.
"When did they leave?"
"Early this morning, before dawn. They woke me."
"What did he say?"
"He apologized for both waking me and for leaving."
"What did you do?" He finally reached a hand down to stroke her side, wanting the comfort as well as he felt the ache in his chest.
"I wished him well. It would have been cruel to ask him to stay. The Child needs him," Lysa whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear. He pulled her further up the bed and pressed his face to her back, her peach fuzz brushing his cheek.
"He left us this gift."
Lysa was quiet for a long time, letting them just feel the ache. Val finally crept up the end on tired legs and settled into the space between his neck and the bed. The Jakrab rolled over to face him, making him pull his face from her side.
"We have a job," she said firmly, her authoritative tone back but underlined with gentleness. She was right; they had a job to do.
He climbed out of bed and dressed for the day, he felt exposed without the armor, but that was his new regular; he’d adjust. He slipped the leather cord of the necklace around his neck and marveled at the way the feather looked against the red of his shirt. Val fluttered up onto his shoulder, and Lysa bounded off the bed. Together they made their way into the kitchen to grab his holster and blaster.
They made a cup of cafe, watching the twin suns lift higher over the sand dunes. The feathers were a comforting warmth against his chest, and he hummed an old tune to himself; they'd be okay. The Mandalorian and his birds had made a promise, he doubted there would be very little in the universe to make them break it.