The moment Din saw Moff Gideon wielding the Darksaber, he knew Bo-Katan had betrayed him.
It didn’t really come as a surprise. He’d known going into this that she was a traitor. She’d been Death Watch once, before breaking the Resol'nare and turning her back on her comrades. Their alliance had only been tentative, based on their shared enemy. Din had actually believed she cared that a Foundling was in danger. Not any more. This was the only reason she was here - to reclaim something she hadn’t even won fairly the first time around.
Gideon smirked and offered him Grogu in return for quitting the field. Din’s eyes hovered longingly over the humming blade. It didn’t belong in the hands of Imperial scum like this. He might not know the details of the Purge, but he was still certain that Gideon hadn’t won it fairly. It was spoils of war - there would have been a kind of honour in that, but not for something as vital as the Darksaber.
The choice wasn’t a choice. Foundlings were the heart of the clan, the heart of Mandalore. Din made his promises and went to collect the child.
Gideon swung for his head. The beskar spear strapped alongside his spine was the only thing that saved him. Din staggered back, blocking blows with his gauntlets until they were back out in the corridor where there was space for a proper fight. He ripped the spear free.
“You know what this duel is?” he asked Gideon.
There was a flicker of anger in the man’s eyes. He’d been hoping to take him down like a coward - this hadn’t been in his plan. He held the Darksaber warily in front of him. “I do,” he said. “Assuming you win.”
“I’ve got no plans to die today,” Din said. The ka’ra would decide his fate, decide whether he was worthy to win that blade. The idea of holding it was more than a little terrifying, the kind of responsibility he wasn’t sure his shoulders could bear, but any Mandalorian wielding it would be better than Moff Gideon.
The Moff was stronger than he looked, more of a warrior than Din had given him credit for, but Din had fought a real Jedi wielding lightsabers and after that this was almost easy. He finally hooked the end of the spear around the hilt in Gideon’s hand and sent the Darksaber tumbling down the corridor. He swept the Moff’s feet from under him and leveled the spear at his throat.
“Do you yield to me?” he demanded.
Gideon’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Mercy? How uncharacteristic of Death Watch.”
“I’m not sure I’d call it mercy,” Din said, grinning under his buy’ce . “There’s a lot of people waiting to take their pound of flesh from you.”
“Hmm.” Gideon nodded. “I yield. The Darksaber is yours - for however long you can keep it.”
“I can handle Bo-Katan,” Din growled. He sheathed the spear and pulled a set of cuffs from his belt. Standard beroyar loadout, but helpful in a situation like this. Once the Moff was secured he retrieved the Darksaber, and then returned to the cell where Grogu was waiting for him patiently.
“They didn’t hurt you too bad, did they?” Din said, patting the kid down gently to check for any obvious injuries. Nothing, but he looked tired and worn out.
Grogu burbled at him, and held his arms up to be lifted. Din tucked him into the crook of one arm, then ignited the Darksaber. The hilt seemed to buzz against his palm, rhythmic like a beating heart.
“Now we go deal with the rest of our problems,” Din told him. One specific dar’manda problem.
He marched Gideon through the empty corridors until they reached the bridge. Bo-Katan turned from the viewport as they entered, giving Din a look of pure rage the moment she saw what he was holding. “What is this?” she demanded.
“I think I should be asking you that question,” Din replied, pushing Gideon towards where Fennec and Cara were waiting. He didn’t want any interruptions from the man. This was a Mandalorian matter now.
Cara grabbed the Moff by the collar and gave him a shake, giving him a wide smile full of teeth. “He’s brought us an Imperial prisoner, is what he’s done,” she said. “The Rebel Alliance will reward you well for this Din.”
“That isn’t what she’s talking about,” Fennec said. She had tensed, ready for a fight as soon as he’d walked in. She had some idea of what this meant.
“I told you to leave Gideon to me,” Bo said. Her hands hovered over her blasters. “If this had gone as planned…”
“What?” Din demanded. “Did you think you could keep it a secret afterwards, that I wouldn’t find out at some point?” He circled, keeping his eyes on her but moving close enough to one of the technician’s stations to find somewhere comfortable and safe to put Grogu down. There hadn’t been time to find a way to get those cuffs off of him, and he hated leaving them on for even a moment longer, but he couldn’t take his attention over Bo-Katan. He knew the stories, passed down from Lady Kast. She had broken faith, broken her honour and that of the Resol’nare. She was dar’manda ; he couldn’t trust that she would give him a fair fight for the blade.
“What are you talking about?” Cara asked, looking back and forth between them.
“This,” Din said, gesturing with the Darksaber. “The blade of the Mand’alor. The weapon that unites the clans, that marks the leader we should all bow to. Supposedly.” He directed that last bit towards Bo-Katan.
Again her eyes sparked with fury. “Are the remnants of Death Watch still clinging to their loyalty to a dead outsider?” she asked. “That creature was not one of us.”
Anger boiled inside him. He’d only been a child back then, it wasn’t as though he knew any of this from his own experience, but he’d been raised knowing the tales as truth. The Sith warrior who’d won the Darksaber in fair and open combat might not have been raised to their ways, but he possessed a Mandalorian’s spirit. Lady Kast and the others who had stood at his side would have taught him of the Resol’nare in time, if only this dar’manda in front of him hadn’t sold her people out to the Republic and called in a foreign army when she wasn’t strong enough to win on her own merits.
He wasn’t sure what that anger might have spurred him to do if the cruiser’s scanner hadn’t happened that moment to start blaring an alarm.
“The ray shields have been breached,” Fennec said, scanning the displays. “We’re being boarded.”
“How many life forms?” Bo asked, internal conflict put aside at this sign of a new external threat.
“None,” Fennec said, her face grim. “It’s the Dark Troopers.”
Din had really hoped their boot jets weren’t powerful enough to keep up with the light cruiser after being jettisoned into space. Apparently he’d been wrong. As Bo-Katan and Kosca busied themselves with monitoring the droids’ progress, Din sheathed the Darksaber and went to finally get those cuffs off Grogu. He’d come so far, finally gotten the child back, and now they were probably all going to die. Gideon would loot the Darksaber from their corpses.
No. He wouldn’t let that happen. He’d execute the man himself the moment the Dark Troopers got close enough. Perhaps the threat of death might even be enough to get Gideon to call them off, although Din doubted it. The Moff had the air of a true believer.
“Seal the blast doors!” Fennec said. The droids were right outside. Their footsteps, metal on metal, echoed even through the layers of durasteel shutting them off. Then those noises transformed into ringing impacts as they began to hammer on the doors.
Could they really get in that way?
Apparently they could. With successive, repetitive blows, durasteel started to bow inwards. There wasn’t much time left. Din levelled his blaster at Gideon’s head.
The scanner started beeping again. Not an alarm this time, not yet. Just a proximity alert.
“What is it?” Bo-Katan asked.
“One ship coming out of hyperspace,” Cara said, closest to the console.
A flicker of movement out in the black. Din tracked the shape against the backdrop of the stars as it looped past the viewscreen.
“A TIE-Advance?” Bo-Katan said. She turned on Moff Gideon. “One of your friends?”
The Moff looked as confused as the rest of them. On the security monitors the fighter came in to land in the main hangar, deftly navigating the wreckage of the shuttle they had arrived on. The pilot exited, walking with purpose but not in a hurry. He wasn’t wearing a TIE-pilot’s blacks, and if he’d had a helmet he’d left it behind in the ship. Din caught a flash of a man’s face, a uniform of some kind, a cloak flapping out behind him, but nothing was clear enough to pin down who or what he was.
As one, the Dark Troopers pivoted away from the bridge.
There wasn’t much to do but keep guarding the doors and watch the feed from the cameras. A thrill of anticipation shot through Din’s stomach when the view changed again and revealed the stranger fighting, taking Dark Troopers out with a lightsaber .
“A Jedi?” Bo-Katan said aloud.
Whatever he was, he was cutting a swath through the droids. Din knew personally how tough they were, but they didn’t stand a chance against someone wielding a lightsaber and knowing very well how to use it. Something warm and fizzing curled in his groin, and he flushed underneath the protection of his helmet. He couldn’t help it. Competency - particularly when it came to the art of war - was sexy.
Suddenly a blaster fired closeby. Din whirled to see Gideon, armed from somewhere and peppering Bo-Katan with shots that ricocheted from her beskar’gam . One of them must have skimmed her between the plates, because she went down to one knee with a grunt of pain. The Moff pivoted and trained his weapon on Grogu. There wasn’t time for thought. Din leapt, covering the child with his body. Someone hit Gideon - the man grunted in pain and the impacts of blaster bolts ceased.
Din pushed himself to his feet, snarling. He pulled the Darksaber from his belt and ignited it, stalking over to Gideon where Fennec and Cara had wrestled him to his knees and pulled his hand back to strike his head from his shoulders. Only the faint look of relief on the Moff’s face stopped him.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” Din asked.
The relief vanished, replaced by badly-hidden fear. Gideon glanced at the security feed again. His skin had an ashen tint.
“You know who that is?” Bo demanded.
“I think I might know who that is,” Cara said, not looking much healthier than Gideon. “I’m really hoping I’m wrong, but there’s not many people out there with lightsabers these days.”
“Uwah,” Grogu said. He was standing up on the console, reaching for the image of the man on the screen, though his ears dipped down low and he looked worried more than anything. Din assumed he was sensing something with his powers. Something good, or something bad? The kid didn’t seem to be afraid at least.
Outside the blast doors, metal crashed and crumpled. Droids went flying in pieces. Cara and Fennec trained their heavy blasters on the door as silence finally fell.
“Should we… open the door?” Din asked the room.
“Absolutely not,” Cara snapped.
Turned out they didn’t get a choice. Pressure built like the air before a thunderstorm - Din found his ears popping as he swallowed. In a single moment of perfect violence, the blast doors ripped from their setting with an unholy scream and hovered in razor-sharp shards, a cloud of frozen shrapnel.
The stranger stepped through, his outstretched hand returning to brush dust from the shoulder of his white cloak. One by one, gentle as falling rain, the pieces of the door dropped to the ground.
He was dressed all in white. It was clearly a uniform, some kind of colour-swapped Imp officer’s getup, with the floor-length cloak draped over the top of it. A wide black belt had several code cylinders tucked into it, a lightsaber hilt clipped on at his hip. Knee high black synthleather boots, polished to mirror sheen, clicked against the deck. The whole ensemble was neat and tidy, with no sign that he’d just spent the past twenty or so minutes brutally destroying an entire platoon of Dark Troopers.
The man turned his head to take the bridge in in a smooth arc. He looked standard-human, maybe thirty or so, but his eyes were a bright yellow-gold with a faint red rim around the irises, which wasn’t a colour generally found in humans. He smiled, and it lit up his face in a way that Din found very appealing.
“Hello,” he said. “I must say this wasn’t what I was expecting to find here.”
Din cocked his head. “What were you expecting?”
“A rescue of some kind,” the man said, gesturing towards Grogu with a wide sweep of his hand. “I guess you’ve done my job for me. You’re… Mandalorian, right? I’ve only met one person wearing that kind of armour before.”
There was something mesmerising about his eyes, as though he was looking right through Din’s buy’ce and into his mind and thoughts themselves. He blinked, trying to regain some sense of control in this situation. “Yeah, I’m Mandalorian.” Which was simplifying things by a lot, but an outsider wouldn’t care. “And who exactly are you ?”
He’d surprised the man. “You don’t know?”
Din shook his head. “Are you a Jedi?”
The man chuckled, then tried to cover his grin with one hand. Behind Din, Cara growled, “He’s a Sith. He’s a traitor. He’s Darth Vader’s son .”
Darth? That was a Sith thing right? “Is that name supposed to mean something to me?” Din asked.
Now the man threw his head back and laughed properly - this was going to be one of those times where Din’s lack of interest in galactic politics came back to bite him he could see. “I mean, my father’s only the Emperor,” he said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “So I guess you might have heard of him.”
This was making Din feel like an idiot, which he didn’t enjoy. “So that makes you, what? Some kind of Prince?”
The Sith nodded. “Darth Patience, officially.”
Weird name, but Din had heard worse. “And someone as important as you came all this way… for Grogu?”
“I heard his call half-way across the galaxy,” the Sith said. “He worries about you, you know. He wants to be trained so that he can protect you.”
Din let the Darksaber’s point drop further towards the floor. Something half-way between relief and grief was starting to mingle in his chest, clutching at his heart. “You’re going to train him,” he said.
“If that’s what he wants,” the man offered.
“Wait…” An inconsistency struck him. “If you’re so important, why did you come here expecting to have to rescue the kid?” Din gestured to Moff Gideon, who’d been kneeling very quietly on the floor perhaps hoping everyone would forget that he was there. “Couldn’t you have just ordered the Moff to turn Grogu over?”
Golden eyes dropped to Gideon, and the Sith frowned. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at that conclusion, given you apparently don’t know a lot about the Empire.”
“I know about the Empire,” Din said, feeling the need to correct him. He wasn’t ignorant or anything, he just… “I just don’t need to know who’s who inside of it.”
“Moff Gideon here isn’t loyal to the true Empire,” Patience said. “He’s part of one of several splinter groups that split off after Emperor Palpatine died. We’ve been hunting down people like him for several years now.”
“ We are following the Emperor’s final orders,” Gideon said, defiance warring with his fear. “Your father’s coup…” His words cut off in a gasp as some unseen force tilted his head back and jerked him a foot into the air. Cuffed hands came up to pull uselessly at his neck. Din had seen this before. Grogu had done it to Cara when they’d been arm-wrestling, believing that they were fighting for real.
“How many secrets are hiding inside your head Moff Gideon,” Patience said, with a terrible gentleness. “I will drag them all out into the light.” He let the Moff drop, and turning to Din said, “I hope you don’t mind me claiming your prisoner.”
“We mind,” Cara said before Din could reply. She still had her rifle trained on the Sith. “Do you think I’m going to let a traitor like you leave here?”
“If you think you can kill me why haven’t you tried already?” the Sith asked.
Cara shifted, her discomfort obvious. Her mouth was a thin, hard line. She didn’t answer.
“So, are we done here?” Patience asked. “You won’t all fit in my TIE, but I can give you coordinates to pilot this cruiser…”
“You’re not… just taking the kid?” Din blurted out, a sudden surge of hope taking him off-guard.
“I mean…” the Sith frowned. “You’re his father aren’t you? Don’t you want to come with him?”
“We met a Jedi before we went to Tython. She said she couldn’t train Grogu because he’s too attached to me. Even when our goran quested me to deliver him to his kind she implied I would no longer be a part of his life.”
The Sith’s eyes flashed gold. In Din’s hand, the Darksaber took on a deeper vibration. “I’m Sith, not Jedi. Attachment is important. Family is important.”
Din looked at Grogu, who cocked his head and burbled happily. “Yeah,” he said, mouth dry. “Yeah, of course I’m coming with you.”
“I do have some questions about this Jedi you say you saw…”
“No.” The sharp voice was Bo-Katan’s. Koska had helped her up, and now she stood with both blasters in hand and pointed at the Sith. “Enough of this. This ship is ours, not the Empire’s, and Din Djarin has something of mine.”
Din turned to face her, putting his body between her and Grogu in the same movement. “You gonna fight me for the Darksaber here and now? Way I see it, you’re not in the best shape for that.”
“Mandalore doesn’t belong to Death Watch,” Bo hissed. “Not since you bowed to an animal. I took my throne, scattered your poor, sad remnants to the winds. If not for the Empire…”
“ My Empire?” Darth Patience was smiling, something fierce and predatory behind his eyes. There was a coiled power to him that sent a jolt down Din’s spine. His dick twitched behind the protection of beskar . He told himself this wasn’t the time. “I don’t know who you are, Mandalorian, but I know treason when I hear it. I will be taking this ship. It’s your choice as to whether you remain on board it or not.”
Bo-Katan snarled, and Din didn’t need to see her face to tell that it was twisted with pure hate. She switched to Mando’a and said, “I suppose you’re going to kneel for another dar’jetii like the cowards who raised you?” The word she used for ‘kneel’ had decidedly sexual connotations. “Do you imagine your new master will hand Mandalore over to you? You have no shame.”
“You’re one to talk,” Din replied.
Bo snapped her fingers at Kosca, Cara and Fennec. “With me then,” she said. “Let’s leave this Death Watch shabuir to his fate.”
Briefly, Din saw red. He would do anything for Grogu, how dare she criticise his level of care towards his child. The Darksaber swung towards her head - Bo brought up her arm to block and punched him twice hard in the flank, where there was no beskar’gam . Din grunted and kicked out at her knee. She moved out of the way enough to take it on bone and muscle rather than the joint itself.
He wasn’t sure how that fight might have gone if Fennec and Kosca hadn’t gotten in between them, Kosca muttering, “This isn’t the time ,” to Bo.
“I’ve got a ride of my own to catch,” Fennec said to Bo, gently crowding Din back and away from her. That was right; Boba was meant to be coming back for them. How were the Fetts aligned these days? Din knew nothing about that particular clan.
Bo and Kosca both gave contemptuous little shakes of their buy’ces and stormed off the bridge. Cara followed them with a half-apologetic look Din’s way. Aside from that she didn’t take her eyes off Darth Patience the whole way out, still more wary and afraid of him than Din had ever seen her.
In all honesty, Din didn’t like that this Sith was Imperial. The Empire had grown out of the Republic, the same Republic that had propped up an illegitimate dar’manda government before and during their civil war, then lent troops to Bo-Katan Kryze to depose Death Watch and the true Mand’alor Maul. At least the Empire had walked that back in a sense when they’d exiled Bo-Katan and put Gar Saxon in her place - he was Death Watch, he’d still been Mandalorian.
The Purge though…
That was harder to forgive.
Still, at this point Din was used to forging alliances with people he had reasons to dislike, or who disliked him. They might be temporary, but so long as both parties could hold to their honour it worked.
Mandalorians and Sith went together a lot better than Mandalorians and Jedi.
“So… Darth Patience,” he said. “Where to now?”