A Star Wars OC story. Set after Welcome to Mandalore [link]
As the sun began to set over Solykad, Mandalore, Andis Meyer and Starla Winter sat on a boulder at Lake Ralin, waiting for Andis’ mother Tani to talk with them. It was an important meeting for Starla, and she was nervous. She twirled her long hair around a finger, a habit she had when she was trying not to think too hard. Andis ran his hand through his straight, dark hair as he felt her emotions swirl within and around her. He believed in Starla more than she believed in herself sometimes. Andis then took Starla’s hand, then kissed her hair to calm her. A wave of love flowed between them.
Starla tried to focus her nervousness and excitement into energy for her new commitment. The Jedi training that Starla completed a few years ago was just a beginning, and very different than T’ad Kad and the Mandalorian lifestyle. She was ready to commit to a way of life that allowed her to love and fight passionately, but with discipline and power.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Andis’ mother Tani appeared, put her hand on Andis’ shoulder, then sat next to the couple. She didn’t waste any time. “So you want to learn T’ad Kad do you?” she said to Starla, who looked the older woman straight in the eyes without hesitation. “Well, we don’t normally teach anyone outside of the clan, let alone a Jedi, but in this case I’ll make an exception.”
Andis felt a wave a relief and happiness flow from Starla in the Force, and it made him feel better, too. He was confident, but not sure if his mother would accept Starla as a training initiate. He smiled and turned to Starla, “It’s a great honor to be learning this fighting style. In the past four millennia very few people outside the clan have been trained in it. You could probably count the number of people on one hand.” Starla was speechless with gratitude, and she felt that Tani had more to tell them.
Tani continued, “Now this is how it's going to work: I will be teaching you while you are here on Mandalore, and while you are offplanet with Andis, he will teach you. And I’ll be making periodic checkups via the holoprojector, so you two better not slack off. Is that understood?” They both nodded.
She added, “I will warn you now, this will not be easy, and it is not something that can be learned in a few months, it takes years of dedicated practice to master T’ad Kad. One thing that is very important in T’ad Kad is stamina, fighting with two swords can get very tiring very quickly, so we’ll start off with that. We will begin first thing in the morning. Get some rest, you’ll need it tomorrow.”
As the three walked back to Andis’ house, they noticed Andis' little sister Tes eavesdropping by a tree, giggling to herself, a mischievous grin on her face as she ran off into the shadows.
The couple then went to the Verd’dalab “Warrior’s Sheath” Tavern for dinner. It was Andis’ favorite pub. Andis ordered the Roba pot pie. Starla was too preoccupied with her responsibility to be hungry, and she knew she shouldn’t drink the night before her training started. The couple shared a long table with Tobin, Smit, Ace. The burly men wore scuffed, dented beskar’gam and glared at Starla. She decided to let Andis do the talking.
Smit smiled at them, “So, we heard.”
Andis grinned, “Tes has a big mouth.”
Tobin looked confused, “Heard what?”
Andis turned to him, “Starla is going to learn T’ad Kad.”
Tobin slammed his fist against the table, “I won’t allow a … a Jedi to learn T’ad Kad!” He burst from his seat and went for his lightsaber, in an instant Andis ignited his lightsaber, and aimed the tip at Tobin’s neck, and inch away from his throat. “What … what are you doing?”
Andis replied, “Why don’t you just sit back down, shut up, and enjoy your soup? On second thought, leave. Now!” He put away his lightsaber, and Tobin left.
Smit looked at them, and said to Starla, “Sorry about that, Tobin’s a bit of a hot head.”
Then suddenly a low voiced boomed, “Well Andis, looks like you’re still causing trouble.” Everyone turned around to see a tall man with silver grey hair and green eyes standing near them, wearing gold armor with red trim.
Andis lit up, “Hey, gramps.” His grandfather was an amazing man, Andis admired him greatly.
“So this is her?” the man asked. Andis nodded as the older man turned to her, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Starla. I’m Ar’gan Meyer, Andis’ grandfather.”
The man looked rather young, but she could sense his age. Ar’gan was a man of experience. Starla was impressed by him. His strength and intelligence were obvious, and she felt his approval instantly, which calmed her entirely. Her appetite improved and she stole Andis’ Roba pot pie and tore into it. “Hey, get your own dinner, cyar’ika!” Andis smiled at her. He was happy because she was happy, and he was thrilled that two of his favorite people had an instant rapport. His grandfather was inspirational to everyone he met, unless they were the enemy.
Ar’gan wanted Starla to know something that she could keep in her mind and heart as she went through her training that would make the hardest moments surmountable and prevent the darkness deep within her from conquering and destroying her. He looked deep into her eyes and said in a low, hypnotic voice, "I can sense the conflict within you, this is not something you should fear, but control. Meyers see the Force as a tool, a weapon capable of both good and evil, not something that can control you. You should seek to control it, as we have."
Ar’gan began to suppress the light within himself, a darkness overcame the surrounding area. Starla could feel it, and it sent a shiver down her spine. He then shifted to pure light, and he returned to his normal black and white spiral. "Many in the clan are like this, including Andis. The dark side is but one part of a whole being, without one you can’t have the other. If we relied on purely the dark side, or the light side, we’d be much weaker. True strength comes from drawing power from both."
Starla was mesmerized. She absorbed the elder man’s wisdom in a trance-like state. Ar'gan continued, "With us, it is about balance, the path we walk is that between the one Jedi follow and the one the Sith follow, like a moderate between two extremes."
Ar’gan concluded, "I have a suggestion for you, try to balance the darkness with the light. Use the compassion and love you feel for Andis to combat the darkness within yourself. As the dark and light roaring torrents spin around each other, they cancel out into a spiraling yet smooth calmness." He then took Starla’s hand, and she blinked as if she had been asleep. She felt a new sense of peace and determination that she hadn’t quite been able to obtain before. Starla smiled at Ar’gan and Andis, who had just taken a last gulp of Netra’gal.
The couple left Ar’gan at the tavern, and walked hand-in-hand back to Andis’ house without talking. The only sound was their boots crunching on the path and an occasional nightbird flying past them. They then curled up under the bedcovers in a warm embrace, and fell asleep.
The morning sun just begun to rise when Starla began her first training exercise. Tani had a strict schedule of specific tasks that would gradually and effectively build Starla’s skills and strength. The meadow near Cabur Cerar or "Guardian Mountain" was still wet with dew. Tani instructed Starla to sit on the wet ground, forcing her to take her attention away from her discomfort to focus on the task ahead. The first thing Starla did was start to build up strength in her wrists by lifting a stick with a weight at the end with nothing but her wrist. It surprised her, it sounded so easy but in practice, but it wore her down quickly. After a while, she wondered if she could use her Force skills to help. Starla decided that she had nothing to lose by trying. She focused on the stick and her wrist with laser intensity. Tani quickly noticed when Starla finally looked over at her, the point of her beskad inches away from Starla’s beloved boots.
“So you’ve figured it out, my dear,” Tani said, matter-of-factly. "If I was an enemy, you would have been long-dead by now. So remember to utilize your Force talents wisely – this is a waste of your energy. We’ll do this exercise first thing every day for quite a while, by the way, and you will not use the Force to do such work.” Starla sighed, and forced herself to not get discouraged.
In the late morning, Andis and Starla went down to Lake Ralin to meet his mother for Starla’s next task. Andis knew what was coming. He kissed Starla softly and quickly as Tani walked over to them. The woman said sternly, “Now I want you to swim across the lake and back.”
Starla was confident she could do this, “Sounds easy enough.”
Tani nodded in disapproval, “You didn’t let me finish. In battle, you will often be carrying extra weight, so you’ll be carrying this weighted sack. I made it easy for you this time, so it’ll only be 30 pounds.”
Starla was incredulous, and felt her anger rising. The Jedi had made her do something ridiculous exercises, but this seemed unnecessarily tortuous. “Are you serious?” she coughed.
Tani nodded, “Yep, now get started, I don’t have time to waste if you’re not committed to this.”
Andis walked over to a small boat moored at the lakeshore. He knew Starla had to do this alone. She nodded and put on the weighted backpack. She began walking out into the shallows, and started off. It was a struggle from the beginning, by the time she was 100 feet out in the water had gotten much deeper, and she was completely drained. Starla was having trouble staying above the water, she couldn’t get the bag off, and she was terrified that she was doing to drown.
She couldn’t yell for help, every time she tried, water came rushing in. It was as if the darkness was enveloping her, and she could remember nothing that Andis or Ar’gan had told her. As she went under the water again and began sinking, a hand came down and pulled her up: it was Tani, with Andis in the boat. Tani pulled her onto the boat deck, “We’re here for you Starla, just try to relax.”
Starla sat up and began coughing, Andis went over to her, stroking her wet hair away from her face. “It’s okay now, you’re going to be alright.” He turned to his mother, “Let's head back to shore and call it a day.”
“No….” Starla coughed, as she took heavy breaths, “Not… yet.”
Tani smiled, it appeared Starla was devoted to this after all. “Alright, but we’re done with this part for now. We’ll take a break for lunch and resume training afterwards.” They went back to shore, and took a break for lunch. Andis had made her favorite sandwich of Nerf meat with herbs and vegetables on Haarshun bread. Starla was exhausted and starving, she devoured everything that was put before her. She felt revitalized quickly. Tani had faith in Starla, and it seemed like a good time to reassure her, “Don’t worry about what happened, the same thing happens to most of us on the first try. Hell, I had to cut myself loose from the bag.”
The afternoon was bright and warm, and Starla felt ready to take on another task. Tani instructed, “Alright, the next thing I want you to do is begin to become accustomed to two blades. You’ll start out with a training lightsaber and a dulled beskad.” she handed her the training lightsaber and the dull beskad. It was apparent to Starla very quickly that this was a very different style then she had ever done before. Tani moved Starla’s arms around, try to develop a rhythm to it so your blades don’t bump into each other.”
They continued with that through out the rest of the day, Starla struggled with her coordination, and kept constantly mindful of her stance and motions; but her confidence grew as she practiced. She finally achieved an empowering balance and utilized the Force effectively. She was proud of herself.
As the sun set, Tani looked at Starla and smiled, “Not bad for your first day. I think you’ve got what it takes.” Andis smiled at Starla with confidence, “Tomorrow, we’ll be making your blade.” Starla was so happy at that moment. She was energized by his love, yet physically exhausted. She grabbed his hair, and kissed him passionately.
"Thank you, brave Mandalorian," she whispered into his ear as they held each other tightly, remembering what she had said to him after he risked his life to save hers.