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Rakantha Province: Bajor

Stardate: 53251.1

Laria and Tigranian stood and stared out at the barren plains that had once been the most fertile and verdant farm land on Bajor. Several automated soil reclamators slowly traversed their way across patches of barren soil and scrub brush. A few places had been made well enough to grow some crops, but it would still be decades before Rakantha would be what it once was.

“What happened here?” Tigranian asked Laria.

“The Cardassians happened…” she said painfully. “When they realized the Resistance was growing stronger than they could control, they poisoned Bajor’s breadbasket to cut off their food supply. Millions starved, but we still kept fighting.”

She looked out a granite mountain dominating horizon. A huge peak almost touched the clouds while two smaller peaks flanked each side. Despite the warm spring breeze, all three stone edifices were still covered in pure, white snow.

“That’s Mount Yanalit,” Laria said. “It’s one of the holiest sites on all of Bajor. The sacred texts say that’s where the first orb was gifted to us by the Prophets over ten-thousand years ago.” Laria pulled a holocamera out of her bag and took a picture. “My parents will love this. My mother kept a small painting of Yanalit in our kitchen on Gault while I was growing up. She said she prayed I would get to see it one day.”

“I’m glad that we could make that come true together,” he said smiling back at her. “Why haven’t your parents visited since the end of the Occupation?”

“They said it would be too painful…the Bajor they knew is gone.”

The two of them began walking down a dirt road towards a small cluster of buildings set against the backdrop of the empty fields. Most looked abandoned, but there was a small Bajoran Temple in the center of the village next to the road.

“I wonder if there’s anyone in there?” Tigranian asked.

“Only one way to find out,” Laria replied. They walked up toward the carved wooden doors of the stone building. As Tigranian was about to push them open, Laria paused.

“Wait,” she said reaching into her bag. She pulled out a pure white scarf and wrapped it around her head to cover her hair. “Not a lot of Bajoran women still do this, but I was kinda raised traditionally,” she said.

Tigranian nodded and pushed open the door. They stepped inside the space and were immediately confronted with the beautiful sensory experience of stained glass, the dancing glow of candles, and the heavy scent of centuries of incense soaked into the very stone of the building.

Laria immediately walked towards the altar as Tigranian followed. When she reached the gilt iconostasis painted with the Bajoran eternity symbol, she bent down on one knee, raised her palms towards the heavens, and started whispering something in Ancient Bajoran. Tigranian stood next to her in silence as she quietly prayed.

Suddenly a voice spoke from behind the iconostasis.

“Your family’s from here, aren’t they?” An older man dressed in Vedek’s robes stepped out from behind the altar and stood in front of them. Laria rose to her feet and looked back at him. Before she could respond he spoke again. “It’s the eyes. You only find that shade of hazel here in Rakantha.”

Without another word, he stepped forward, reached underneath her scarf and gripped her right ear.

“Your pagh, it is amazingly strong. It is of Bajor, but also of something else…”

Laria and Tigranian stared at him in amazed confusion. Gently he pulled back her scarf and examined her earring. A tremendous grin crossed his face.

“You’re about 22 years old, aren’t you, child?”

“How did you know that?” Laria said in shock as he crossed his hands in front of his waist.

“They had a girl. I was hoping it would be a girl…The Prophets have brought you home.”

“Who are you?” Tigranian said.

The Vedek didn’t turn away from Laria. “Your father’s name is Jion and your mother’s name is Lanassa….”

Laria felt her knees start to shake.

“My name is Vedek Grigan. I married your parents right here in the temple, and then, a year later when they found out they were with child, I arranged to have them smuggled off Bajor.”

Laria leaped forward and wrapped her arms around him like she was meeting one of her own family.

He hugged her back and looked at her, still with a smile.

“What did they name you?”

“Amira Laria,” she said with tears forming in her eyes.

“Well, Laria, let this home of the Prophets be yours as well. Stay as long as you wish, but first, come with me.”

Grigan led Laria and Tigranian behind the sanctuary and into the vestry. He approached a narrow wooden door and produced a large key from his robes.

“I think you’ll want to see these,” he said as he unlocked it. Inside, they were confronted by a small stone room lined with wooden shelves stacked with ancient leather bound books.

“What is this?” Laria asked in wonder as the Vedek started to peruse the volumes.

“These are the records of Rakantha going back almost two thousand years. Ah, yes, here it is,” he said as he pulled a book the size of a briefcase off the shelf and placed it gently on a table. He carefully opened it to a page and pointed at the parchment.

“There they are,” he said as Laria looked down. In hand-written Bajoran script, were the signatures of her parents in the province’s marriage registry. “Amira Jion and Teesa Lanassa,” along with the date of their nuptials.

“By the Prophets,” Laria whispered as she stared down in disbelief. Grigan flipped back a few pages.

“And here are the names of your grandparents and their wedding dates.”

“Can I… can I look through the rest of the book?” Laria stammered almost beside herself.

“Of course, just be careful. It is very old.” Laria began flipping through the book as if it was made of precious glass. Tigranian and Grigan smiled as they saw her happiness in reading through the names.

“These were not easy to preserve during the Occupation. The Cardassians confiscated them to copy the family records and then destroyed them. Both me and my predecessors had to hide them in the old grain cellars to keep them from being discovered.”

As Laria continued her journey through her family’s past, Grigan stepped away and motioned for Tigranian to follow. They stepped outside the room just out of earshot.

The Vedek reached up and grabbed Tigranian’s ear. Then, he got a surprised look on his face.

“Remarkable…” he said softly as he released Tigranian’s lobe.

“What?” Tigranian.

“Like her, your pagh is strong…and like her, a piece of you is of Bajor. However, you are also something else.”

“How is that even possible?” Tigranian asked skeptically. “I’m a human from Earth.”

“The Emissary is human, but he is of Bajor. I don’t question the Prophets, I merely try to walk with them.”

Tigranian flashed him a look.

“You are very important to Laria, but for a reason she does not yet know.”

“What do you mean?”

“For centuries, her family has worked the land around us. Their d’jarra, their purpose, was to bring food to the people of Bajor. However, when the Cardassians destroyed this place, the Prophets placed a new purpose in her mother’s womb.” Grigan looked into Tigranian’s eyes.

“When you hear the war drums, your blood boils. The same is true of Laria. I felt it in your paghs. But others have taught you to control the fire. You must do the same for her. You must be her guide. She is capable of greatness, but also of terrible things if not placed on the right path.”

“Are you sure we’re both talking about the same woman here?”

“Tell me you have not seen it.”

Tigranian thought back to all their time on the holodeck together.

“Maybe I have, I’m not sure.”

“Well, I am. You must teach her as you were taught. Otherwise, she will destroy herself.”

* * * *

Laria and Tigranian walked hand in hand along Deep Space’s Nine Promenade.

“That was an amazing experience, Laria,” Tigranian said softly. “Seeing where you came from, seeing your planet, and sharing the whole experience with you. I had no idea Bajor was so beautiful.”

“My parents told me stories of how things were, and then to see how barren it all is now. What the Cardassians did to Rakantha, it’s just terrible. Generations of my family worked the land there and now it’s just gone,” she said as she looked out the large circular windows to their right.

“But they’re rebuilding,” Tigranian said with a strong bit of hope. “They’re repairing the soil, and in maybe ten or twenty years, farmers will be able to return.”

“But what about families like mine?” she asked angrily. “Scattered across the galaxy, forced to make new lives where their fortunes cast them. We were lucky. My parents were finally approved to move out of the camps and receive land on Gault. What about the others still living in camps like animals or on the desolate fringes of galaxy?”

“Bajor has already agreed to grant new homesteads to any Bajorans still without permanent settlement.”

“I don’t know if that makes up for what was taken from them.” Laria suddenly spoke with a new ire in her voice. “I hate the Cardassians, Daniel. I hate them all.”

Tigranian stopped walking, grabbed her chin, and turned her eyes towards him.

“Because you have a warrior’s soul, Laria. Vedek Grigan told me so. But you must always remember, a warrior only fights to protect what she loves, never to destroy what she hates.”

She instantly softened under his gaze.

“Instead of commiserating what we’ve lost, why don’t we celebrate what we’ve found?” He slowly leaned in and they kissed.

“I’m still upset,” she said pursing her lips together, “but somehow you know how to take the sting off.”

“I have something else in mind that will help you take your mind off things,” he said with a grin. He took her hand and started leading her down the promenade.

“When you get like this, it makes me really nervous, Daniel!”

They rounded a corner and he stopped at a large counter underneath a red sign with a Klingon Tri-foil. Beneath it were pictures of strange creatures and animal parts. A fat Klingon with a long beard dressed in chef’s garb stared at them angrily.

“Oh no!” Laria said. “No, it’s been an amazing day and I don’t want to spend all evening vomiting in your quarters.”

“Who says this food will make you sick?” he said playfully. “I’ve heard about this place for years! It’s some of the most authentic cuisine outside of the Empire and I’ve always wanted to see if it lives up to its reputation. C’mon please?”

“No!”

“Why?”

“Because,” she said sounding almost juvenile. “It’s gross…”

“Laria, you mean to tell me you’re willing to slaughter a thousand angry Romulans with a Mek’leth at Klach D’kel Bracht, but you’re afraid of a little Klingon food?” he said playfully egging her on. “Why do you think I’m honored to have you as my par’Mach’kai!”

“I’m not afraid…” she said staring down at the floor, her pride a little wounded. “It’s just like worms and stuff, right?”

“There are worms, yes…but it’s a lot more than that.”

She still seemed unconvinced.

“What if I take you for a jumja stick afterwards?”

“I love jumja sticks…”

“That’s why I offered. Please, can we try this place? For me?” he said giving her a look. She sighed.

“Fine…I can’t say no to that face and you know it.”

“Excellent!”

They walked up to the fight Klingon who yelled at them.

“Gah Tek Or?” he said angrily. Tigranian looked him straight in the eyes.

“Gagh je Gladst vaD cha’”

The Klingon started laughing. Tigranian leaned forward and growled. The chef grinned and nodded.

“tlhutlh?” he asked Tigranian

“Warnog cha’”

“Very good,” the chef said switching to Federation Basic. “You have a good taste for matching food and drink. It makes my heart sing as a chef. I am Kaga.”

“I am Daniel, Son of Tigranian.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, where did a human like you learn to speak Klingon so well?”

“On a bird of prey, of course.”

Kaga laughed so loudly, the entire restaurant turned and looked. Tigranian plopped down a few strips of latinum.

“You order will take a few moments to prepare, please have a seat.”

“Why was he laughing?” Laria asked Tigranian as he pulled a chair out for her from a nearby metal table.

“Because when you order Klingon food for two, it generally is a prelude to more…carnal activities.”

“Well, he’s not necessarily wrong I hope,” Laria said sarcastically batting her eyes at Tigranian.

“I never said he was. I just reminded him it was none of his damn business,” he said taking a seat across from her.

Laria laughed before suddenly growing nervous again.

“What did you order, by the way?”

“Don’t worry, I kept it simple. Its beginner’s Klingon.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, a little bit of everything wrapped up in a bit of a familiar package.”

“Ok….”

A few minutes later, Kaga wheeled a cart up to their table. He produced two large metal cups which he filled to the brim with a bubbly golden liquid from a pitcher he then placed on the table. Tigranian immediately picked up his warnog and took a sip.

“pov!,” he said nodding to Kaga who grinned back at him.

“Thank you, I bring my casks of warnog fresh from the empire.” Laria reached over and took a taste of her cup. It was very strong, but not entirely terrible. After a few sips, she could see herself learning to enjoy it.

Kaga placed a dozen metal bowls on the table between them. One at a time, he pulled off their lids. Laria did her best not to scream at the sight of the horrors in front of her.

The largest bowl in the center of the table held a giant mass of writhing serpent worms. The smaller ones held various sauces, animal parts, tentacles, and a curious substance that looked like chopped chunks of some unidentifiable organ meat in a bright red paste. Finally, he pulled out a large basket filled with brown, moist leaves that looked somewhere between mushrooms and pieces of lettuce.

“I thought you said this was beginner’s Klingon food!?” Laria said nearly in a panic.

“This is beginner’s Klingon food,” Tigranian replied calmly. “Gagh je Gladst: Worm and Leaf. There’s a bunch of worm and leaf places all over Qo’nos that cater to tourists.”

“Worm…and…leaf?”

“Trust me, you’ll love it!” he said picking up one of the brown leaves. “Now, the order of this is very important. First, take your piece of gladst. Then you take your index finger,” he said holding up his right hand. “Take one finger full of grapok sauce,” he said running his hand through a bowl of brown sauce. “…and place it inside your gladst.” He wiped the sauce along the inside of the leaf so that it had a thin coating of the condiment.

“What’s grapok sauce?”

“Just a common Klingon sauce: goes great with gagh and racht. Tastes kinda like a cross between tahini and soy sauce.

Ok, next, take a good finger-full of gagh,” he said reaching into the writhing bowl of worms. He pulled out several them and placed them inside his gladst. “Now, this is a basic wrap, but you can absolutely experiment with all the dishes on the table. I’m really fond of the pipius claw and the heart of targ chutney,” he said first pointing to what looked like some kind of crustacean meat and then to the organ and red paste combination. “Any way you go, this is key,” he said wrapping the leaf and worms up into a tight ball. “You have to eat the whole thing in one bite so that you get all the flavors at once.”

He handed it to Laria who cautiously took the wrap from his hand.

“Oh Prophets,” she said wincing. “It’s all slimy and I can feel it moving!”

“Trust me, just dive right in.”

“I don’t want to…”

“C’mon, shieldmaiden! Eat it.”

She closed her eyes and started moving it to her mouth. At the last second, she pulled it away.

“I can’t!”

“Laria, tlhIngan maH!” She looked at him and took a deep breath.

“tlhIngan maH…” she said hesitantly before taking a deep breath, closing her eyes tight, and popping the whole leaf wrap into her mouth. She started furiously chewing to try to get it down as quickly as possible, but eventually slowed and opened her eyes. Finally, she swallowed and looked at him.

“So, what do you think?” he asked with hope. She paused, looked down at the spread on the table, and then back at him.

“Make me another one…this time with some of that targ heart chutney.”


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