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I'll keep your brittle heart warm

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The Armorer grew up in the forge, just like the rest of the children. There were more children then, constantly peeking in on the (then) Armorer's work. For the most part, she was respectful, sitting near the forge but out of the way, just wanting to watch. She kept her face neutral and didn't shy away from the sparks, just like her brothers and sisters did.

(As foundlings they were taught: all of the foundlings are your siblings, every parent is your parent. She had a dozen parents, some in helmets, others not. She had dozens of siblings, mostly human, but not all.)

They all dreamed of becoming warriors someday and fought each other with sticks for lightsabers, tossing stones for rockets. There was always disagreement on who had to play the losing (Jedi) side, so the Armorer (she'd had a different title then, a name to share) often found herself breaking up the disagreements.

"It's important to know when you're losing," she said to her siblings, with her lightsaber stick at her belt, holstered. "A good Mandalorian knows when to retreat."

"Never!" her little brother screamed, barreling into the assembled group with two sticks held high, but with the others' help, the group of tiny Mandalorian forces eventually won.


They weren't all fighters in the end, of course. Some kids didn't really want to fight, once they thought about it. Others couldn't keep up with the training. The Armorer wiped a lot of tears off of grimy cheeks. She was one of the older kids in the cohort, counting down the days until she could put on her own helmet. She watched six-year-olds struggle to keep their faces as stoic as the helmet's heavy gaze, and she watched slightly older kids disappear into their new faces. She watched the Armorer take their names and call them Mandalorians.

(The title was for strangers, of course. If they could be interchangeable, who could count them? Who would dare to ask?)

It was a small group, usually, who were still wearing their helmets by the time it came for them to go off world and earn for the tribe. Sometimes, rarely, they would return with foundlings and stories. The future Armorer would listen raptly.

Two weeks before her ceremony was to have occurred, the Imperials attacked, and it was nothing at all like she had dreamed. Her people in flight were beautiful, like the stinging winged insects that bothered them every spring. But she barely got to see that before she and the other foundlings were pushed onto a shuttle and evacuated.

Their guards were sixteen at most, and nervous. One wouldn't quit clearing his throat, which sounded weird from the helmet. He and the others complained bitterly about the fact that they'd been sent back to watch the kids instead of joining their parents.

After they'd arrived at the rendezvous point, however, the griping quickly faded. For almost a week, they were alone. Then the others began to trickle in, but not nearly as many as there should be. Every night she prayed, although she wasn't sure who would listen. She prayed for her entire family to return.

When the Armorer came, she carried helmets with her, and as many people as could fit crowded into the makeshift forge to watch them melt. The future Armorer knew who each of them belonged to. Each helmet was as individual as its wearer. Without their owner, they were dead and could belong to no one.

She watched three clan crests dissolve into the flames. With no members of the clan alive, they too were retired until another clan rose to bear the mark.

It was too hot to cry in the dry heat of the forge, so she focused on the shapes and committed them to memory.

When she put on her helmet later that night, the future Armorer thought about the crests and the helmets of Mandalorians past, now embedded into hers. Extra beskar was always for the foundlings. No one begrudged her building her future out of this loss. The Mandalorians always did. This was the Way.


The next day, when the Armorer handed her the tools, she was still adjusting to her new sight lines, and the hammer was strange in her hands. The forge was a wall of heat in front of her, and the Armorer stood behind. After a long moment, the future Armorer turned and gently handed the implements to her master.

"I'm not ready yet," she said.

The Armorer tilted her head in a gesture that the future Armorer had always thought of as a smile.

"You will be," she said, and took the hammer from her hands. The future Armorer watched as her master made the forge sing. She made it look so easy.

The next time the Armorer handed her the hammer, she took it and swung.