Tsark woke up suddenly to the sound of his sister, shouting at him from the cockpit. They had been sent on a mission by the Lady Trina to negotiate an alliance between her and members of a Mandalorian clan, something that he was not looking forward to. He hadn't questioned the orders at the time, but couldn't stop himself from thinking aloud as he sat besides Kalira.
"We are not cut out for negotiations. There are others more suited within the Order for this type of mission."
Kalira remains silent. Her brother had been getting involved more and more in Sith politics. Rumours of dissent and coups were common, as was the Sith way, but she had lived long enough among them to know the difference between rumours and reality. They were always the most dangerous of times for a Sith, and judging from what she had heard this one promised to be more divisive than anything over the past decade. Tsark spoke again after a few seconds.
"The Lady Trina must want this to be kept a secret. It would be dangerous to speak of this to others."
Again she remained silent. The Infiltrator landed outside the small fortress of Choruk Yaim, and the two Sith descend the landing ramp and walk up towards the gates. Normally they would expect a guard or two to be posted, but no one could be seen. As they waited the pair noticed the architecture of the fortress, made out of a material resembling stone but likely much stronger. Once it may have stood proud but the dents, rubble and blaster marks tell a different story. A battle had taken place here, they had been told, and it had not gone well for the inhabitants.
After a few minutes of waiting the gate opens and a single Mandalorians stands before them, clad in the traditional Beskar armour of his people from head to toe, painted in gold and black.
"You are the Darjetii?"
The answer was obvious, and so the Mandalorian allowed them no time to speak before continuing.
Tsark and Kalira follow obediently. The fortress looked a lot larger than at first glance. Within was a small town which had at one point probably been bustling with activity. For now the streets were mostly empty, save one or two people hurrying along. Again signs of battle could be spotted, though more subtle this time. Repairs had been made but traces of a fight remained still. It didn't take them long to reach another set of walls and they walked through another gate. In front of them was Choruk Yaim proper, the original fortress itself from which the town had been built around. It seemed like most of the activity was centred here, as people worked and warriors trained. Kalira nudges Tsark and speaks in a quiet tone.
"They're all wearing black and gold armour. Think that's a clan thing?"
Tsark shrugs and the Mandalorian leads them inside the main building. It does not take them long to reach what was obviously the command centre. Or council chambers. Or throne room. It depended mostly on the clan, at least to Tsark's knowledge. The room was bare, the only prominent features being several statue bases with names engraved onto them, denoting important Mandalorian leaders of the clan. The statues seemed to have been removed, likely destroyed during the attack. In the middle of the room were two long tables and beyond them was a stone chair. A dozen or so Mandalorians were sat at the tables, talking among themselves. The Mandalorian leading them stops.
"Te Darjetii cuyir olar. Vaii cuyir Skira?"
After a minute or so of conversation the Mandalorian turns to the Sith.
"Skira will be here soon."
With that he joins his brethren and Tsark and Kalira are forced to wait.
Ten minutes go by. More men and woman join those at the table, and the room is filled with conversation. Kalira can feel Tsark's impatience and every so often she tries to talk with him, but he isn't in the mood for it. The door opens behind them and the noise dies down momentarily. The pair turn and another Mandalorian enters the room. Unlike the others, he heads directly for the stone chair. It is difficult to tell whether this is there leader. His armour is impressive and it is easy to tell that it has been through many a battle, but then the same could be said for everyone they had seen so far.
The Mandalorian sits at the chair and takes his helmet off, revealing that he was in fact a she. Her hair was greying and her face wholly unremarkable, save the odd scar or two. This must be Skira.
She yells the word out and everyone stops talking. She then proceeds to gently recite words in Mandalorian, almost like a prayer. All those present, save Tsark and Kalira, join her.
"Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc, ni partayli, gar darasuum."
They then continue by saying a fairly long list of names. They both guess this is their clan's way of opening an official session or council. The room goes silence once again, and Skira speaks.
"Darjetii, we welcome you to our home. You came here with a proposition?"
Tsark expected them to forgo the normal diplomatic procedure, and answers without hesitation.
"Our Mistress, the Lady Trina, has sent us here to form an alliance between her and the Clan Vohn."
Talk begins again around the tables, though in hushed tones. Skira does not speak for several seconds, and it becomes clear to Tsark that she is waiting for him to elaborate.
"Lady Trina wishes a mutually beneficial agreement. You would provide her with your warriors and loyalty, and in return we will help you recover from your current position."
Skira begins to laugh, but not in a warm or welcoming way. Rather it was as if she found what he said to be utterly ridiculous.
"Recover? Recover from our position? What do you even know of our position, burc'ya?"
Tsark paused. Not much was known about how Clan Vohn had fallen from grace. Only rumours from those who had committed the attack. He remained silent.
"Our Clan had honour, glory, power. We forged Empires that spanned hundreds of systems across the Galaxy. Our ancestors were the stuff of legends. Ambition became part of our blood, Clan Vohn was destined for greatness. We all believed it. The title of Mand'alor almost became synonymous to the title of Ori'verda, the traditional name for the leader of our clan."
She rose from her seat. The talking stopped.
"We followed he who was chosen to lead us. We were behind him when he formed the Mandalorian Hegemony. We helped him build it from the ground up, we charged into battle against its enemies and ultimately bled and gave our lives for it. When it fell we supported our leader. He left us, but we waited for him. I waited for him."
"The other clans smelt weakness. For decades Clan Vohn had been at the centre of power on Mandalore. Many were jealous of us. Our rivals began to grow in number. Before too long rumours of an attack on Choruk Yaim surfaced. We expected him to return, but he did not."
"Their numbers were overwhelming. My aunt died on the walls. My sister in the streets. They rushed to the main fortress and cut us off, so I ordered my Vode to withdraw to the streets. I was forced to abandon those within the fortress. My father and many other warriors died and they sacked our ancestor's halls."
She gestures towards the statue bases, confirming what the Sith had already assumed. Tsark was surprised at the calmness with which she was telling him this. He had expected anger and rage from the Mandalorian, but it was almost as if she was exhausted of it.
"If you want our warriors, Darjetii, then you will provide a safe haven for our people. Food, medicine, supplies, weapons, armour, anything they need you will get for them."
"But that is not all. The clans that did this to us must pay. You will help us with this."
Again, a nod.
"Finally the Dar'manda who left us to be slaughtered must die. He may not have been able to save us all, but perhaps had he fought besides us as Vod then he could have died an honourable death, and maybe my aunt, or my sister, or my father would have survived. Maybe Akeero's sons would be alive, or Rook's wife, or Parma's Grandmother. He was Ori'verda, worth three or four of us. Instead he let them all die so that he could live. He does not deserve the title, perhaps he never did, but the only way to reclaim it is to take it from him. Painfully."
The tone had changed. It was malicious, each word dripping of pure, absolute hatred.
"You know him as Deus Dai. By accepting our service, you are swearing an oath to me that the Dar'manda will die and that you will help us kill him."
Kalira was taken aback. She had heard of Arbiter Dai and his prowess in combat. Not only that, but he was personal bodyguard to the Emperor of the Nexus Enclave. She was about to tell her brother to refuse but was too late.
"I accept your conditions."
He had no choice. To refuse would be to fail Lady Trina, and she had made it quite clear that that was not a viable option.
The hate within the room was tangible to the two Sith. The anger and rage had been exhausted from these Mandalorians. All that was left for them to feel was hatred. Pure, unfiltered hatred. Cassus Vohn had taken the honour of their clan from them, had betrayed their trust and had left them to die. What was a Mandalorian without honour? Without respect? Without principles? Tsark was fairly certain that he was looking at it right now, and though he may not want to admit it, it scared him.