Utrelsor holds a giggling Jango by his legs as the child squirms, trying to get himself free. She smiles and walks, the giggling increasing in decibel as she continues to move with firm hold of him.
From the living room, she hears Arla scoff.
“Kar’yai!” Jango directs imperiously.
“Elek, Alor’ika,” she replies in mock-subordination, marching with over exaggerated movements to where Arla is playing with her new comm on the couch.
The thirteen year old looks up at them first with confusion and then dawning dread.
“K’tra’cyar!” Jango yells.
Utrelsor hauls him up and throws him in one fluid movement, sending him into a shrieking Arla while he laughs uproariously. She laughs too, then fishes her children apart before the scratching and biting can start. “Alright, that’s enough.”
Jango pouts openly, Arla hiding her own pout quickly in favour of a teenage sulk that tries to be dinterest.
Utrelsor smiles. “Go wash up for lunch, ‘lek? We’re going to go out and start working on the fields after.” Winter soil treatments to make sure it’s healthy for the spring planting. Perfect work for a thirteen year old and a six year old.
“Buir,” Arla protests, only to shut her mouth quickly. This time she doesn’t hide her pout.
Utrelsor ignores it, though. “K’olar, oyaoya.”
The two get up and trot off to wash up for lunch and Utrelsor is ready to do the same when her own comm goes off.
She flicks it on, there’s only a few people who it could be and it all means one thing: the new Mand’alor has been elected.
“Su cuy’gar, vod’ika,” Tor says. Fury is clear in his voice.
Utrelsor shuts her eyes. “Give me a moment.” She steps into the other room, where Arla is already waiting for her brother. “Arle’ka, help your tat’ka with lunch. I have a comm call.”
Utrelsor takes the comm to the office and seals the door. “What’s wrong, Tor?” she asks, not hiding her exasperation.
“Did you know?” he spits.
“Did I know what?” The muscles in her jaw are tensing. She can suspect what he’s upset about.
“Jaster was elected Mand’alor!”
She rolls her eyes. She can’t help it. “Shouldn’t we be happy for him, then?” she asks. Maybe her reaction can help make him actually think about this. “One of Aliit Vizsla is Mand’alor again.”
“He was not born to us!” Tor explodes. “He is not prepared for this. I was the one who was supposed to be Mand’alor! Gatana’s family was supposed to secure it for me! How else am I going to protect you all?”
Utrelsor’s eyes are wide. She figured this would happen, but she wasn’t ready for his argument on why he was supposed to be Mand’alor. Protect them. She almost wants to laugh. “We don’t need protection, Tor. We’re all grown, we’re all capable.”
“I’m the oldest, I am the head of Aliit Vizsla,” Tor argues. “It is my responsibility to take care of all of you, it’s…” He trails off with a growl. “I was going to fix everything Buir broke.”
Utrelsor swallows and shuts her eyes. Of course he’d see it that way. “All that aside,” she says, trying to calm her own tone and lead him to the same peace, “you know that being Mand’alor is a fundamentally religious position. What did you expect? Even if Jaster hadn’t been the one to be elected, it would have been another Force sensitive.”
Tor is quiet. He takes an audible breath, but despite her, and likely his, best efforts, his next words are venomous. “Then I suppose Jaster is preferable. But he’s too soft. You know him, Ut’ika. He is an idealist. What will they call him? Te Vercopaanur?”
“Buir was te Atin’resol,” she points out. “The sixth to endure the Duchy. Maybe we need someone like Jaster.”
“I would not have endured them,” Tor snarls. “They are the biggest threat to our people. The new Duke seems fine now, but how long will that last before he starts doing as his ancestors have done and passing laws to deny our heritage? In baba’buir’s time, they closed the university.”
Protecting them, protecting Jaster. That’s what he says he wants.
“You should trust Jaster,” she tells him. “Buir saw him well trained, he’s smart. And he’s kar’tigaanur. That is what we expect of our Mand’alore.”
“Then maybe we need to change,” Tor says, quiet as a knife into a lung.
Utrelsor’s stomach drops. “Ne’johaa,” she finally snaps. “Gar nari di’kut. The only reason you want to buck tradition right now is because you didn’t get your way, but newsflash you never were going to!”
“Utrelsor,” he snarls.
“Nayc. Actually look at yourself. Do you actually think Jaster will do a bad job as Mand’alor?”
“Utrelsor, you know that’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean, Tor?” she asks.
“Jaster’s not going to go against the status quo that buir set up in our family. Not without me smoothing the way...”
She should have killed him. Even if he doesn’t go on to start a war, this makes her want to kill him. Or puke. Or both, frankly. These are her ori’vode, all of them grown or not, and the idea that he would go against what Jaster had clearly settled into for himself is disgusting. “You and Jaster stopped being in a relationship like a decade and a half ago. You have a riduur and an ad’ika.”
“Prii likes Jaster more than Gatana.”
“A slug would like Jaster more than Gatana, vod. And,” she adds loudly, “Jaster now has two jobs to be married to instead of just the university one.”
Tor chokes on a laugh. Good. Good.
“We’re all grown, Tor.”
Tor breathes out messily. “I can’t just give up, Ut’ika.”
You can, she wants to tell him. You really can. She sighs. “I’ve got to get the kids ready to go out and work on the fields.”
“Isn’t it winter where you are?” he asks, confused.
“Gobral’ran,” she mocks.
She can almost hear the eye roll. “Vhett.”
“I’ll talk to you later, Tor. Just…think about it. Don’t make any sudden decisions. You’re smart; don’t act like you’re not.”
He huffs. “I know, vod’ika. I’ll talk to you later.”
Parjaya arrives in time for dinner, frazzled and tired.
“How did Jaster take it,” Utrelsor asks while they’re doing dishes, the kids running around outside.
“Fine, he was expecting it. None of the other candidates that were actually, you know, viable to the majority of the aliit’alore. None had the kind of training he had, and a number of the aliit’alore read a bunch of his papers in the last couple years, since it was clear that te Atin’resol was going to die soon.”
It’s been natural, she realizes, for she and Tor to drop their buir’s name from their vocabulary. Jaster too, she thinks.
The only time the deads’ names are said by those whose voices they would recognize is during remembrances, at risk of disturbing them.
But it still feels odd for Parjaya, who was so close to him compared to most of the aliit’alore, even those who were sworn to Aliit Vizsla, to now refer to him by his title as Mand’alor.
For most dead aliit’alore, they’re simply ruus’aliit’alor. But her buir was Mand’alor.
The title that took away her buir as also taken away her ori’vode, she tries not to think. One by the throat and one by the hooks of envy and desperation for things he can’t have.
She blinks her tearing eyes. “Tor called. Right after the vote, I think.”
“He disappeared as soon as it was called,” Parjaya says. “Jaster hadn’t seen him by the time I left. But Jaster’s also been inundated with people who want to support him. Or use him. I’m his rid’vod so I got a special pass to be there glaring at people. But I also left within an hour.”
“I’m not sure if I hope they talk or hope Tor avoids him,” she admits with a sigh, then tells her riduur about the conversation.
Parjaya becomes more and more drawn as her explanation continues. When she gets to what Tor said in reaction to her reminding him it was a Force sensitive preferential placement, he raises his hand to stop her. “This is why you still haven’t told any of your aliit about Jango, isn’t it?”
She purses her lips. “I don’t know,” she says honestly, after a moment. “It didn’t feel safe.”
He nods. “Is it now?”
“Maybe Jaster,” she shakes her head, “but he’s busy, now. In a few months.”
He nods again, smiling. “Your buir was a bastard.”
She raises her eyebrows. “What brought that on?”
“Just how he treated you and Tor. Sometimes it’s very clear why he played favourites so much.”
She grimaces, he’s not wrong. “Why?” she still asks.
He tilts his head. “On Chalacta, they’re considered talents. People who can become adepts without any Force sensitivity. They’re star-touched, just not as heavily, not in the same way. Maybe it’s better to say they have more jate’kara than most people. You can, well. You can see things clearly. Even if it’s just a judgment like continuing to keep Jango’s Force sensitivity a secret. Once emotion was out of the equation, anyways.”
She scowls. “Sometimes you sound like a Jetii from a holofilm.”
He snickers. “The other branches of the family have resulted in three Jetiise. Two of them are just slightly older than Jango, though the decision came because they were orphaned and the Jetiise found them in the custody of pirates who were going to sell them. One of them is a bit younger than me.”
“Huh.” She frowns. “How did you hear about the younger ones.”
“The Raaja updated me.”
She makes a faux disgusted face. “I was supposed to be the weirdly connected one in our relationship.”
He laughs and blows soap bubbles at her.
Utrelsor tucks herself into Parjaya’s arms on the couch and fires up the holocomm. “Su cuy’gar, mir’sheb.”
Jaster looks like he hasn’t slept since he got elected. Or maybe since the election started.
She gives him an unimpressed look. “I will come to Keldabe City and lay on you.”
“Shab gi balyc.”
She sticks her tongue out. “Kar’taylir balyc.”
He cracks a smile and she counts it as a win.
“How are you doing?” Parjaya asks.
“My other siblings came down. Which is nice. But everyone else is not. Kill me. Let someone else do this job.”
He sighs dramatically. “Have either of you heard from Tor?”
Utrelsor considers. Parjaya’s silence is similar. Eventually she says, “Yeah. He’s…not in a great place. I talked him down a bit, but… I wouldn’t want to be on Concordia right now.”
She wonders, a bit, what they might hear from there soon.
She wonders if she’ll feel anything about it.
“Jas…” she says, worried.
“He’ll figure out some way so I can’t get involved,” Jaster says, rubbing his temples. “He won’t want anyone involved. Especially not the Duchy. And she’s his riduur, he wouldn’t…”
None of them can be sure.
“I don’t remember him being violent off the battlefield,” Jaster says quietly.
Behind her ear, Parjaya sighs. “I can guess how it will happen.”
He says it, and like a prophecy it comes to their ears as news weeks later.
Tor divorced Gatana. She didn’t react well, attacked him. He killed her in the moment. Her aliit heard. The most intelligent of them left. The most loyal and the most stupid tried to attack the Vizsla compound.
It ended about as well as you’d think.
Jaster speaks with the Duke, who has a young daughter. Despite his own morals, and time, and a lack of inclination to be with Tor any further, Jaster loves him. So he points out Prii, the same age as the Duke’s baby, and he points out the unhappiness of the marriage, and he points out that not all of the clan was part of the attack, and that they had a history of bullying others.
The Duke does not press. Those that are left from that clan integrate into others. Concordia is quiet.
Utrelsor next talks to Tor with stilted words, and he’s much the same.
They all know he didn’t have to kill them, that they were weak and he was strong and skilled and smart. They all know he wanted to kill them.
Ka’ra, her brother is vengeful.
He would not be a good Mand’alor, not now. Maybe not even in the days of the Crusaders.
That night, she holds Jango and Arla close and pretends that their ba’vodu is not going down a path he can’t return from and hopes that she can continue to pretend for just a little longer, a little longer, a little longer still.