"If the swords made here are so good, why don't you just replicate them?" Alex asked as they walked down a stone path towards one of the smaller buildings behind the shrine. Torlek stopped in his tracks and rubbed his eyes.
"That is the real tragedy of the Federation," he said shaking his head. "You have so much, and yet understand so little."
"What?" Alex asked not understanding his disdain. "It would be far more efficient than making them by hand."
"Alex, it's the same reason you can't replicate a person," Tigranian said trying to explain. "I don't understand," she replied. "People aren't objects. They're alive."
"Exactly, Alexandra," Torlek said. She furrowed her eyebrows skeptically.
"Are you saying that the weapons made here are lifeforms?"
"Nothing so crude as biological matter," Torlek said as they approached a sliding doorway. A young Klingon in white bowed to them and gestured for them to enter. "The smith's also grant the blade it's yinqa': the weapon's living spirit. It enters a blade at the forge as surely as the soul enters a child in the mother's womb."
"Right…" Alex said skeptically as she entered the darkened building.
"You will learn," Torlek said with a confident smile. There were three other men inside, all dressed in the same ubiquitous white uniform. White cloths were wrapped around their heads to protect their long hair from the flames of the brick forge erected in the corner of the room. It was already piled high with glowing charcoal. In the center of the chamber was a large anvil and workbench stacked with assorted hammers, chisels, and pliers made of black wrought iron. The oldest of the three men, a Klingon easily approaching 80 Earth years of age, bowed deeply and introduced himself intlhIngan Hol. Tigranian and Torlek bowed back.
"This is grand master Ho'mach," Torlek translated for Alex. "He and his apprentices have already been working steadily for two months on this particular bat'leth. Today, he is ready for us to make our contribution to his work."
"And what exactly are we contributing?" Alex said. Much to her chargin, Torlek's answer reverted to his earlier ambiguity.
"You shall see," he said taking his place next to a small, wall-mounted shrine containing a forty centimeter tall statue of Kahless on the opposite end of the room from the forge. He knelt down on the brick floor, closed his eyes, and began to pray under his breath. Tigranian joined him as the smiths began their work. Alex walked over and took a seat on the ground next to the two, whispering warriors.
Master Ho'mach reached into a long basket next to the forge and pulled out two billets of dark, gray metal welded to iron shafts. The two younger Klingons next to him grabbed large hammers from a rack on the wall. The shafts on the tools were nearly a meter and half long. They looked so heavy, Alex wondered if she could even pick one up. The other apprentice who had greeted them at the entrance walked around behind the forge and began working a large set of bellows made from wood and leather. Air raced into the burning charcoal and the entire forge roared like an angry beast as he stoked the fire. Glowing sparks rose towards the ceiling and Alex feared the entire wooden roof would catch alight. Ho'mach placed the two billets into the heart of the fire.
"Dan," Alex whispered. "I'm sorry to interrupt your prayers, but I really have no idea what is going on and would appreciate a little context."
Tigranian opened his eyes but didn't move from his rigid, penitent position.
"Two months ago, those billets were raw baakonite hand smelted from ore mined on the slopes of Kris'tak. These men have spent countless hours heating, hammering, and folding them into what you see today. Each one has been folded over a hundred times to create over a million layers in the metal. One of the billets is very soft metal. It has the flexibility to withstand trauma and shock without ever shattering. That will be the core of the sword. The other billet is extremely hard. It has the strength to be honed to an edge of unparalleled sharpness that will cut through anything that stands in its way. That will be the skin of the sword. Together, Master Ho'mach will weld them together like two parents coming together to conceive a child."
"Is that when the sword comes to life?" Alex asked trying to keep herself from laughing.
"As a matter of fact," Tigranian said turning to look at her. "Yes, it is."
She cleared her throat and went back to watching the smiths work. The massive flames from the roaring forge were quickly heating the space to an uncomfortably warm level. Alex was grateful the large doors were letting in the cool morning air from outside. Sweat was already pouring out from the smiths' bodies and they had just begun the day's labor. She wondered how they could do this for endless hours every single day.
Master Ho'mach pulled the first billet out of the burning coals. The metal glowed bright orange as he placed it on the anvil in front of him. Using a smaller hand-hammer, he tapped on the billet where he wanted his two apprentices with the large hammers to strike. The two men rained down blows on the red hot metal in a booming rhythm that reminded Alex of a heart's beating pulse. Over the next several hours, the rectangular billet of hardened baakonite was pounded into a flat jacket that would be wrapped around the softer core. They then repeated the process with the other, softer billet, shaping it into a long bar that would be placed inside the jacket.
The low-light, burning heat, and booming rhythm of the hammers had a strange effect on Alex. Time seemed to slow down and she became lost in the intricate dance being performed before her. It was only when she suddenly felt sunlight on her face that she realized it was now past noon.
Finally, Master Ho'mach nodded to his apprentice on the bellows. The young man grabbed a ceramic bowl from a small shelf, and then moved to Torlek, Tigranian, and Alex. He bowed and held up the empty bowl in front of Torlek.
"What is this part?" Alex asked.
"It is the nobvavpu'," the Klingon warrior said as he drew a d'k tahg from his belt, sliced his palm, and then released a few drops of blood into the bowl, "The Gift of Fathers." This act is the whole reason we came here."
Then, the young man moved the bowl in front of Tigranian. The captain drew his own d'k tahg, cut his hand, and added his own blood to the mix.
The apprentice began to turn back to the forge, but Torlek growled in tlhIngan Hol.
"No, her as well."
The apprentice looked confused at first, but Torlek's firm tone caused him to move the bowl in front of Alex. He bowed as Tigranian flipped his dagger over to the clean edge and handed it to Alex.
"Um, no thanks, I'm good," she said awkwardly.
"Please," Tigranian said. "You have to believe me when I say how important this is." Something in his pleading tone made her relent. She took his d'k tahg, sliced the outside of her right hand, and winced as she dripped blood into the bowl. The apprentice bowed to them again and rushed back to the bellows. He began to rapidly stoke the fire as Master Ho'mach reheated the billets back to a bright orange hue.
"Why did we just give these men our blood?" Alex said.
"Our blood was not for these men," Torlek said. Tigranian turned to Alex.
"When a Klingon warrior is born," the captain explained, "it's also traditional to birth a bat'leth. Just as the women of the house pray over the expectant mother, the men of the family pray over the forge as the smiths work. We implore Kahless to watch over both spirits as they mature, to imbue them both with honor, and ensure that the righteous blade is wielded by the child's righteous hands. Then, at the Blood Christening, the two first meet. It is hoped that they will grow up together, protect each other, and learn to respect one another."
He turned back towards the forge as Ho'mach pulled the two glowing pieces of metal from the forge. The apprentice handed the bowl to the master who expertly poured the blood over the flattened jacket. The liquid sizzled as he placed the other billet on top and began to rapidly hammer weld the two pieces of metal together with the help of his apprentices.
"This sword is for your son, Alex," Tigranian said softly. "This is all for your son."
Her mouth dropped open as she watched the Klingon smiths finish joining the two pieces of metal together into the finished block of baakonite that would become the bat'leth. As it glowed in the dim light of room, she realized that their DNA was now sealed inside the weapon for all eternity. They were a part of it. Whoever held this sword would always carry a physical piece of her, Tigranian, and the head of the House of Torlek along with them. At that moment, it seemed impossible that anyone else besides her child should possess something so unique and precious. Her mind still told her how strange this all was, but her heart finally started to understand.
"Wow…" she whispered again.