Jaster tends to comm when the children are asleep.
It’s a pattern that starts because they had pretty early bedtimes when they were younger, and there’s such a difference in what time it is for them and what time it is for him, but as time goes on since he was elected Mand’alor, it growingly becomes “because Jaster needs to curse some people out” and they don’t have the heart to tell him that Arla’s already picked up most of the words from her friends.
He also rants about policy, which is surprisingly little different from when they were younger and he ranted about his papers.
Today, at least, is interesting, instead of being more railing against Sundari’s latest tax policy that Keldabe City is looking at like a rotting animal corpse deposited on their doorstep.
“I think there’s too much confusion about who is Mando’ad,” Jaster starts the conversation with.
Parjaya and Utrelsor exchange a look and Parjaya gets up to pop some bangcorn. “Oh?” Utrelsor says, prodding him for more elaboration.
“So many Kalevalan immigrants continue to make their way to the south, but none are interested in our traditions.” He snorts, because Kalevala has never been interested in Manda’yaim, really. “And they are saying they are Mandalorian but that no one off of Mandalore is. It’s becoming more of a problem as the years go on, and it shapes policy.”
“Mmhm,” Utrelsor agrees, accepting the bowl of bangcorn that Parjaya hands her.
“We have Mando’ade on Coruscant!” Jaster says sourly. “And they are not counted.”
“Because the Duchy has no power over them,” Parjaya points out.
Jaster huffs, clearly agreeing. “It’s not just that either,” he says mournfully. “I tried talking about this, but Tor and others who have been given titles under Kalevala’s attempts to control them are content to play with Kalevala’s puppet in return for the benefits. The titles, on Kalevala and in the Republic. The tax benefits, the import and export benefits, the privileges. They don’t care how others are suffering because of those very policies. They don’t care how it ties them to the Republic.”
Parjaya hums. “So what are you proposing?”
“A distinction. Mando’ade and Mando’iise. Mandalorians, culturally, and those from Manda’yaim.”
“You’d think most of the ones who call themselves traditionalists would jump all over that,” Utrelsor points out. She’s not sure what Jaster’s been hearing, but her people who are still around Concordia have said that Tor is championing the darker side of traditionalism. “But they’re not, are they?”
He shrugs in the holo. “I’m going to suggest it to the Tsad. It lets us lessen confusion among the wider population, it lets us put a distinction between us and the Duchy, and if we can fix it with the Duchy as well, we can stop confusion that they’re having as well. I think I can convince the Duke of it, but with everyone who won’t be interested in the distinction because right now the confusion allows them privileges…”
“It’ll be hard,” Utrelsor agrees.
If Tor just hadn’t have been a shit, he’d have been all over it.
“Have you talked to Tor about it?” she asks, knowing he hasn’t. The easiest way to get Tor on board would be to give him the barest amount of attention and hope.
“Good,” she says, clipped. Because he would run with it. “Do not sacrifice your own safety and health for our people, Jaster. Do not be like our buir.”
“I know, I know,” Jaster says quietly, shaking his head. “I hate this, Utre’ka. Why…why did it have to change? Why did it all have to change? We were happy, once.” It hurts her, for him to say it like that, because she knows he’s not happy now. “Sometimes I wish buir had never seen anything in me.”
“You are the best Mando’ad for the job, Jas,” Utrelsor murmurs. “Even before buir saw you, you were.”
Arla turns fifteen without much fanfare. They invite her friends to a party and the raucous bunch of teenagers tear up a mostly resting vhetin and they’ll be cleaning up illicit beer bottles for the next year. They’ll have to make her do that.
The family event is a bit more settled, everyone eating on the couch while watching a holofilm she likes, even if it means Jango’s got his face buried in Parjaya’s shirt half the movie.
Presents come after.
“We went ahead and got you a new comm unit. It’ll fit with your current code, so don’t think you need to ‘worry’ about showing off a new code to your friends,” Utrelsor tells her as she unwraps the package, llike she was never guilty of that at her age.
Arla rolls her eyes. “Elek, buir. Vor’e.”
Parjaya smiles. “Your modules are done, elek?” he asks, leaning back and crossing his legs.
She gives him a suspicious look and Utrelsor bites her tongue. “Elek.”
He nods. “Okay. What do you think about three months before you have to start them again. For credit, even?”
The suspicion grows stronger. “Doing what?”
If they were a normal family, or even a branch family of the Fetts, it would be helping on the farm.
“Our cousin was wondering if you’d like to help out at the family temple,” Parjaya says lightly, lips twitching. “In Dilhu.”
Arla’s eyes go wide. “Really?” she asks, hoping up. “I’d really get to go to Chalacta for three whole months?” They’ve only ever gone on family trips that cap out at about a month, including travel. Just like those, travel is included in the estimated time away. But it’s still two months more. “By myself?”
Parjaya moves his head back and forth, considering. “We’ll have our family trip either at the beginning or the end. Your choice. But otherwise, yes. You will, of course, have to obey whoever the Raani assigns to be your minder, and you will have to obey the Raani himself. But at least one of our Jetiise cousins will be there gaining her marks of illumination. You two are about the same age.”
Part of the reason for the yearly trips have been to get Jango training, thank Ka’ra, so when he turns fifteen and goes he will only have the tests. It’s also helped him a lot, even with Parjaya’s training on the regular.
It will be interesting to see how it’s going for the little Billaba.
“Well, I already know Raani, more than her,” Arla says, nose in the air, then jumps when Parjaya reaches out and pinches her. “I’ll be nice, Bu’ka!”
Parjaya snickers. “You will. If not, I will take off from work and come get you and if you’ve chosen for us to visit at the end you will have to stay with—.” He stops himself short, frowning, then looks over at Utrelsor.
There’s no good option right now, she realizes with him.
“I promise I’ll be nice,” Arla says, softer and more cowed. They’ve not talked much to her about her ba’vode, and she’s asked less and less as the years have gone on. They don’t want to ruin her fond memories of either of them, not right now, not like this.
“Good,” Utrelsor says seriously. “I might just tell Raani to make you scrub the family temple from top to bottom until you repent.”
That brings the characteristic teenage scowl to her face and the mood clears again.
“My turn!” Jango says cheerfully, hopping up to give his or’tat a brightly coloured box. He clings to her pant leg as she unwraps it, anxiety and excitement clear on his face.
He’s growing so much. Both of them are.
The box contains a necklace, on a beskar chain that cost most of Jango’s pocket money for the month, and on it is a little clay sculpture with a heart made of a shiny black stone that was one of Jango’s favourites in his little collection he’s picked up on trips out of the vhetta. He made the sculpture himself, under Parjaya’s supervision, both with his hands and with the Force. Allegedly, it’s a shriekhawk, because Arla got into researching them after a brief stint where she was very, very interested in Utrelsor’s family history.
Now it’s far more likely she’s getting into ornithology in general.
The pendant itself is pretty crude, handmade, but Arla still latches it around her neck immediately and squats down to hug her tat’ka and smack a wet kiss on his cheek, making him squeal. “I love it.”
“Your ba’vode sent you things too,” Utrelsor says after letting them have a little moment. She gestures that Arla sit again and passes her the box from Jaster.
The packages had arrived by mailship a few days ago and it had been on her to wrap them.
Jaster’s is revealed to be a book about shriekhawk ecology, signed by the author who Utrelsor remembers is a work colleague from when he was teaching on Concordia, a gift that’s at once more useful and less precious as Jango’s.
“Oh, this is cool,” Arla says, leafing through it. “I’ll send him the thank you comm tomorrow?”
“That’ll be perfect,” Utrelsor agrees. With a heavy heart, she passes Arla Tor’s gift. It’s heavy and it made she and Parjaya incredibly angry, but…what can they do about it? It’s up to Arla, and it’s her birthright from the one ba’buir she ever knew, but it’s an insult for Tor to send it.
The package contains the two hal’cabure from their buir’s beskar’gam.
It would have been worse if it had just been a chunk of beskar, as that would really imply that the Fetts couldn’t afford to buy more beskar. As it is, they aren’t the pieces of their buir’s beskar’gam that Utrelsor would have chosen. Those from their first buir who died, maybe.
But not from this set of beskar’gam.
“Oh, wow,” Arla breathes.
“They were your ba’buir’s,” Utrelsor says, trying to keep it from coming out stiff. “I figure we can replace the durasteel growing-gam with it.”
“Awesome!” She beams at them. “I’ll definitely sent Ba’vodu Tor a thank you.”
It’s probably her favourite thing she’s gotten tonight, even eclipsing the necklace, because it’s been years, now, but she’s still angry that Utrelsor wouldn’t let her go see him before he died.
She’s still angry even though he was distant to her.
It smarts, but Utrelsor ignores it all in favour of hugging her oldest ad. “Briikase gote’tuur, Arla.”