Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
[FIC] Your Man Until the End
This was my entry into the latest Duelling Circle Challenge over at KFM. The request was: Submissions about guilt. Submissions in which characters from the KOTOR series confront their pasts in some way, shape, or form that touches on the feelings of guilt and regret for their actions or choices.
Your Man Until The End
He had no reason for regret.
His was a life of honour, pride and, above all, victory. At Revan’s side he had reclaimed power and glory for Mandalorians across the galaxy. Revan knew that success was what mattered. He knew that, with defeat comes obscurity, oblivion, a million little deaths as you are forgotten from minds one by one.
I’m your man until the end, Revan …
… no matter how this plays out…
Canderous Ordo – the hope of Mando’ade, Mandalore himself – leaned against the wall of the cargo hold of the Ebon Hawk and his jaw tightened as he watched the small shape of Jali T’riela dance through the motions of her Ataru form as she prepared to die.
He had felt uncomfortable around her at first, but gave her the respect due to Revan’s top General and first war leader. She certainly wasn’t what he had been expecting, with her tiny frame, dusky skin and elfin face. This … this girl … this child … had been responsible for the utter decimation of his troops, the end of his people?
She had been bright and quick, deadly in a firefight and determined to walk their entire rag-tag group into as much trouble as possible as she flitted from lost cause to lost cause across the stars. How could this tiny creature have been the mind behind the shadow generator?
Ordo had heard others speak of her pain, had even seen Force-sensitives cringe as she passed by. But he felt nothing, saw nothing, as he watched her. He saw her banter with the pilot and the bounty hunter. He listened to her debate with the young not-Jedi they’d somehow adopted, and soothe the Zabrak’s simmering anger.
Canderous had heartily disapproved.
Where was the General he’d been told to expect? Where was the ruthless war leader who had slain millions? Where was the Exile, who had thrown down her lightsabre and walked away from the Jedi council? Her cheery disposition grated at his nerves, rubbed him raw in places he didn’t even know he had.
She had been different since their last stop on Dantooine. The witch had stabbed them all in their collective backs before disappearing – the pilot had taken days to recover in the medlab – but Jali had changed on some fundamental level.
Or maybe she hadn’t.
Maybe this was the General he’d been looking for.
So, why did he feel, if anything, more uncomfortable as he watched her new silence? Except for a few terse commands on the Leviathan, she’d spoken almost not at all – not even to that lack-wit of a pilot she seemed so attached to. Not even the light chatter with the little droid. Ever since Jali had walked back from the ruined Jedi enclave, she had been grim, withdrawn and determined.
Why did it feel like a loss?
Why did the loss feel so familiar?
Watching her flow across the cold, steel floor, Canderous Ordo confronted himself. He was Mandalore. He did not hide from unpleasant truths.
If you stick your head in the sand, you’re likely to get your ass bitten by a womp rat.
Of course, came the unbidden echo, there was also something to be said about not picking at scabs.
The warrior pushed the thought away as unworthy, and dug deeper into his own memories while watching the young Jedi battle her own demons.
He had barely scratched the surface when she seemingly noticed his presence for the first time. When she spoke, her voice was rough, as if she had forgotten how to use it during her days of silence.
“We’re in for a rough one, Mandalore. You have people to take care of.” She brushed past him through the hold’s narrow door. “Go to them.”
“I’ve never walked away from a fight before, Exile. I’m not about to start now.”
She turned and stared up at him, her neck craning to meet his eyes as he towered over her red-tinged hair. “The rest will follow me. They have no choice, it seems. But, I am not Revan. You owe me nothing. Go home.”
This was true. She was not Revan. Perhaps his place was on Dxun, firming his grip on the fragile threads that made up the Mandalorian people. The people she had killed.
“You’re going to Malachor V aren’t you?”
She ran her fingers through her hair. He noticed, not for the first time, how small – how childlike – her hands were. He also noticed that her hands were shaking.
“Yes, to Malachor. It ends there. It all ends there.”
“You took us down there. We were the enemy, then.”
Her eyes met his, sorrow in their brown depths. How could I have not seen that before?
“I am sorry. I will not ask you to come with me to that place.” She placed those small fingers on his arm. “When I look at you, I don’t see an enemy. I see a friend who has stood by me…”
Ah. And there it was.
When I look at you … I see a friend …
Small hands, desperate, on a blaster.
Whatever you used to be, you’re one of us now …
So much hope … and so very wrong.
Revan and Bastila had focused their energy on the larger target, the enraged wookiee. They fought side by side, a symphony of darkness. But, it had been his shot that had taken down the young Twi’lek, his finger that pulled the trigger.
There was no regret there. The child had chosen the wrong side. It happens.
So why did his eyes slide away from the compassion that shone from Jali T’riela?
No. No shame in following the man who’s battle prowess outshone the entirety of the Mandalorian people.
He had killed children before. He had been a child when he claimed his first kill.
Why did the loss of the young Jedi’s persistent laughter rattle in his chest? Why had he never picked up a Pazaak deck since that day on the beach?
He and Mission, they had both stood in the sands of Tatooine to say goodbye – she to a brother, he to a brother-in-arms. She had placed a slim blue hand on his arm and looked up at him to say, “I’m sorry.”
He had said the same to her broken form, huddled on sand that was rapidly turning crimson beneath her. But Revan had already boarded the Hawk, and hadn’t heard.
“No, you aren't Revan. But he’s not the only one I owe debts to, Exile.”
For the first time since Dantooine, he saw her smile. He scowled back at her, to deny the awkward warmth it created.
“We’ll get you out of there, and then I’m done.”
“You must wait for Revan.”
“No. Revan is one of the greatest military leaders in the galaxy. In history. He has no use for a people who have already been beaten once. He told me the time of the Mandalorians was over. The Mandalorian wars had killed us. And he laughed.”
She nodded sadly and patted his arm again. “I’m sorry.” Her fingers – and her eyes – shifted into a brilliant shade of blue in his vision.
“I’m sorry, Mandalore. I wish …” She shook her head, and red curls tumbled over her dark skin. “No, there is no room for wishes, now, is there?”
“No, Exile, no matter how many we might have. We can only deal with the choices we have made and move forward.”
The pain that he felt radiate from her made him want to cringe. But an Ordo does not cower before pain. Mandalore does not cringe. So, he shouldered his rifle and followed her.
“Many battles does that one have left in him ... as Revan intended … And Canderous is a loyal beast, no matter how much he is broken upon Revan’s will.”
"... I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room." - Ray Bradbury