Talyc met with Nriwe and Fane near the docking station. Nriwe had dolled herself up a bit. She always looked stunning, but Talyc noticed she had taken particular care to put some makeup on and to dress lavishly.
‘My, you’re dressed to impress!’ remarked Fane, voicing Talyc’s very thoughts. Nriwe blushed.
Talyc nudged her. ‘I’m sure Lian will think the same, and more.’ Talyc looked at his chrono. ‘We should get going. I’ll go clear our departure in person.’ He pointed at the booth. Then he noticed Vax standing nearby in the shadows, looking ominous. ‘I think our friend Wapita has his recruit spying on us. I’ll just check what he’s up to.’
Vax didn’t seem to notice him. Talyc approached as the others head inside the small freighter they would be taking to the Crypt. As Talyc got closer, he heard Vax talking into his com.
‘They’re taking the green Twi’lek with them. They’re going to the Crypt, but I’m not sure for how long.’
‘Just for dinner!’ Talyc cut in. Vax spun around looking like a bantha had just sat on his stomach. Talyc leaned in towards the transponder. ‘Or maybe overnight if all goes well. Nriwe’s got herself a date. I’m surprised you’re a bit late on the news, Wapita. Next time, get someone less conspicuous to spy on us.’
Vax quickly switched his comlink off. ‘Talyc!’
Talyc pointed at the comlink. ‘If Wapita wants information, he just needs to ask. I’m not one to hold a grudge. Dargoza was the one with whom I had an issue. Our clans don’t need to be rivals.’ Talyc put his hands on his hips. ‘Anyway, what does Wapita gain from following us and gaining information on us.’
Vax looked down a moment. ‘I’m really sorry, Talyc,’ he said in a low voice. ‘I’m sorry to deceive you like this.’ He looked up again. ‘You understand though, that Mandalorians or bounty hunters don’t usually tend to hang out with Jedi, let alone collude with them.’
‘Collude?’ laughed Talyc. ‘If that’s what you want to call it.’ He winked.
‘My point is, Wapita has distrust. Plus there is a Sith who’s with Shadie and Knarf all the time. A Sith! You need to be careful with that one. I don’t trust him, what’s his purpose here on Mandalore?’
‘We can trust the old man, he’s on our side,’ said Talyc. ‘For now. Don’t you worry about me, Vax. I’ll be fine. And tell Wapita we’ll inform him how the date went.’
Vax nodded. Talyc made his way to the shuttle after clearing their departure with the Mando in the booth. He sat down at the controls; Fane gave him a quizzical look.
‘Vax was spying on us for Wapita,’ said Talyc. ‘Apparently, he’s mistrustful of Usharr, mostly.’
‘A little late to not trust us,’ said Nriwe. ‘We didn’t just now recruit Jedi into our clan.’
‘I know.’ Talyc sighed. ‘It’s weird. Why be dodgy now? I’m telling you, when we get back, I’ll have a word with Wapita, from one clan leader to another.’
* * *
The trip to the Crypt was inconsequential, other than Nriwe kept going back to the refresher to make sure she looked fine. Her heart was pounding when they arrived at the Crypt. She noticed the outside of it changed some more.
Upon touch down, Fane and Talyc wished her luck and she walked to the entrance of the first chamber. The door slid open for her, and she heard Lian’s voice welcome her. She walked through the rooms, making idle chitchat with the Jedi.
It seemed like it took much longer this time to reach the bottom of the Crypt and walk through its massive hall. Lian stood by the door, ready to greet her. He was garbed in simple Jedi clothes, as opposed to his usual Jedi Master garb, but it suited him.
Lian took her hand and led her to a table in the centre of the room.
‘I trust your trip here went well?’ he asked.
‘Yes, quite!’ said Nriwe.
‘I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some snacks. While I don’t need to eat, I quite enjoy the taste. I hope you like nerf?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
Nriwe noticed that his tone was different, nervous. They sat down and began chatting, but it was different too.
‘We don’t need to talk about just simple things, you know,’ she said. ‘You’re usually full of Jedi talk and reminiscing about Tython.’ Lian looked up at her. ‘What I mean is, you seem to not know what to say.’
Lian looked down at his plate. ‘I apologise. I was worried I would bore you with all the Jedi talk of Tython and how I miss the place.’ Nriwe shook her head. There was a short pause. ‘I’ve had another talk with Lord Void.’ This piqued Nriwe’s interest. She raised her brows. ‘He believes the Dark Council is withholding information from him. He thinks it has to do with the fact that his apprentice failed and is no longer on Relsor’s ship.’
‘Well, I don’t know who in their right mind would want to be on his ship,’ said Nriwe.
‘Void is concerned. He has thus far been willing to work with us behind the scenes, but he suspects there is much information to which he is not privy. He has warned us to be vigilant. He believes the Sith are planning a coup against Relsor.’
‘Are they trying to let themselves be wiped out? There is no way they can take on Relsor.’
‘Not to destroy him, but to cripple him,’ said Lian, ‘in order to renege on their alliance.’
‘Does that mean the Sith would be willing to join the Jedi and the Republic in the fight against Relsor?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Lian. ‘Our list of allies grows, but many are unwilling to commit to anything right now, all from the fear Relsor’s mere existence creates.’
‘I understand. Well, Mandalore stands with you, regardless!’
Lian looked up from his plate and stared at her for an uncomfortable while. ‘You would be so willing to risk your life for the Jedi? For the Republic?’
‘It’s not like it’s not the first time,’ said Nriwe. ‘Shadie’s my friend, my clanmate. It all started with her and Knarf. A few more Jedi added to the mix doesn’t change the fact that Relsor would attack Mandalore anyway. He’s done it before; Gourd has done it. We’re in this war whether we like it or not.’
‘And you don’t like it?’
‘Of course, I don’t like war! But I’m a warrior, a fighter. I’m Mandalorian. I will stand by my friends, my clan, my family, and fight till the end.’
‘I would not want you to die for the Jedi,’ said Lian. He looked down again, then up and around. ‘This is what has become of my life, because I was dedicated to fighting for the Jedi, ready to sacrifice myself. Would you risk injury, imprisonment, death?’ He looked back down and closed his eyes. ‘You do not have to fight for the Jedi. You do not have to risk anything for us.’
Nriwe reached for his hand. ‘I risk it willingly. I risk it for you.’
Lian opened his eyes but said nothing for a long moment. Then, ‘I’m sorry.’ Lian took his hand away from hers. There was a silence.
‘Listen, do you need me to go? I don’t mind, it’s okay. I’ll go.’
Lian said nothing. Nriwe stood and slowly made her way to the door.
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