Veb Quarter, First City: Qo'noS, Klingon Empire
"See, I told you we'd get to spend a night together eventually," Laria said holding onto Tigranian's arm as they walked down a darkened side street.
"Now, if we can figure out how to do it more than once a month, we'll really be in business," he replied. They both laughed.
The nentay transported the Imperial jenSa' of Cardassia to Qo'noS for "The Day of Unity." It was one of the most important Klingon holidays and less than a week away. As a jenSa', Tigranian would be participating in the military parade along with Torlek. He and Laria had arrived a few days early at the behest of the High Council. They just spent three days briefing Chancellor Martok and the heads of the High Houses on the current situation in Cardassian Space. The proceedings had gone well and the Tigranians earned praise from both Torlek and Martok on their actions. The topic of degrading relations with the Federation only came up once. The Chancellor silenced it quickly by stating that, "he would burn in Gre'thor before letting Federation pujchovnatlhpu who never picked up a weapon in their lives dictate how Klingon warriors comported themselves, the Khitomer Accords be damned." It was a moment of significant surprise to many in the Great Hall.
The meeting was now over, but Tigranian and Laria agreed to spend a few days retreat up at the family estate. However, the couple demanded at least one night to themselves out on the town. Torlek laughed, but acquiesced when it was obvious that Laria and Tigranian needed some time alone.
Now, with Laria in a printed kamakha and Tigranian in a casual tunic, the pair walked through the cool night air together. They purposely avoided the trendy areas where rich commoners and tourists congregated for fine dining, gambling, and night-life. Instead, they searched one of the quieter neighborhoods along the Qam-Chee searching for an authentic Klingon meal.
They rounded a corner and saw an establishment peeking out from the corner of an alley. Large red lanterns lit the entrance and a welcoming sign in pIqaD read:
Dralmok's 'oynot DuHmor
"Here we go," Tigranian said interested. "Want to try some 'oynot?"
"What is that?" Laria said hesitantly.
"It's pieces of meat, seafood, and…" he hesitated in order to choose his words carefully, "other assorted bits…put on skewers, covered with sauce, and then given just a hint of smoke over charcoal. It's kinda like a 'choose your own adventure'."
"What if I don't like where the adventure ends up?" Laria said furrowing her brow.
"Trust me, I won't let that happen," he said with a grin.
"Ok," Laria said raising a hand towards the door. "Let's see where the story takes us…"
Tigranian laughed as he led her over to the sliding wooden door. He opened it and the pair stepped inside. The tiny restaurant's atmosphere hit them in the face. It's dim lighting mixed with the smoky aroma floating off a large brazier. A muscular Klingon with a long beard stood behind a long wooden counter and flipped several dozen small skewers of animal parts over a tiny fire. Ten wooden tables scattered around the space were filled with commoners enjoying their dinner and drinks. An older woman in a cheap, well-worn kamakha bounced around the room taking orders, distributing food, and delivering drinks. She looked like the place's only waitress. Tigranian smiled as he realized that this was a small, "SoS and vav" joint that catered to the neighborhood's working class residents.
"This is perfect," Tigranian muttered to himself.
"If you say so, Hon," Laria said shaking her head skeptically.
"nuqneH," the server said without looking up as she served two goblets of bloodwine to a pair of gentlemen. The men were ripping chunks of klongat meat off a set of wooden skewers with their fangs. Then, the server looked up to see her next customers and froze. Her abrupt silence caused the other customers and the chef to look over. The entire restaurant grew completely quiet.
"General Daniel, Son of Tigranian and the Lady Laria," she said in tlhIngan Hol. It was only then that Tigranian remembered he and his wife were as infamous in the empire as they were in the Federation. It was not often that non-Klingons achieved such high ranks in the KDF.
The server placed her empty tray in front of her and bowed deeply at the waist.
"A noble son and daughter of the House of Torlek honor this meager establishment with their presence. Long live the Empire."
Silently, the other patrons of the restaurant along with the chef rose to their feet and bowed as well.
Laria wasn't sure how to respond. Tigranian dropped down and returned each one of their bows in kind.
"Long live the Empire," he responded. "But a joH's belly must be filled as well. We could smell the aroma of your excellent cuisine from the street outside and it beckoned us to come in. Do you have a place for us to dine?"
"HIja', joH," the server said running over to an empty wooden table in the front corner and wiping it clean with a towel hanging from her belt.
"Return to your meals," Tigranian said to the rest of the room as the server pulled out a chair for Laria. "We are just customers here, the same as you."
The rest of the room went back to their food as Tigranian took his seat.
"Something to drink?" the server asked.
"Warnog," Laria said.
"Make that two warnogs," Tigranian added.
The server bowed and went to fetch their drinks.
"You may be a customer here," a hoarse voice shouted from the far end of the room, "but you are not the same as me…"
Tigranian looked over and saw a shriveled old man with long gray hair draped in moth-eaten coat. He was seated alone a small table near the back door.
"Be silent, Old Man!" the chef screamed from across the counter. "You dishonor this place with your rants!"
"All you ever do anymore is tell me to be silent, Dralmok!" the old man yelled back. "But not this week. This is the Week of Unity when we celebrate our ancient warriors!"
"We'll take you to the parade to get your salute in four days. Until then, be quiet!" Dralmok shouted.
The server returned with two goblets of warnog and placed them in front of Laria and Tigranian.
"Ignore him, My Lord," the server begged.
"Who is he?" Tigranian asked. She paused, but finally answered.
"I am Gralla, Daughter of Targor. He is my father, but he is a tired old man who has lived far too long. His tongue is no longer controlled by his brain, but he has nowhere else to go. We keep him here while the restaurant is open. Would you like food?" she said desperate to change the subject.
"Two skewers of bakrat liver, two skewers of bregit lung, two skewers of pipyus chunks, and two of ramjep feet."
"Excellent, My Lord," Gralla said running over to speak with the chef.
"It's not often you meet a senile Klingon," Laria whispered skeptically.
"No, it's not," Tigranian said. "Most are lucky enough to die before their minds are stolen from them…"
"Yes!" the old man screamed. "I am a stupid old man and I have lived too long! I fought for my empire and was too unfortunate not to die after my comrades fell in battle. Now, all I see around me is shame and disgrace! I see Klingons bowing and scraping to a pair of novpu who have somehow extorted titles out of our once great nation."
"Shut your mouth, Targor!" another customer said. "You are in the presence of noble warriors and a General of the Empire!"
"I see no noble warriors here!" the old man shouted back. "Just Ha'DIbaHpu wearing costumes." Tigranian grimaced. He knew that he couldn't ignore things anymore. Laria's eyes were filled with pity for the old man's circumstances, but this was Qo'noS and she knew what Tigranian's title and family name obliged him to do.
"Make it quick," she whispered.
Tigranian pushed back from the table and walked across the restaurant. He towered over his frail opponent. There would be no honor in this, but still it was demanded by this society. Even the server and the chef knew that things had come to a head. They didn't even try to plead for the old man's life. It would stain what little honor their poor family had left.
"What have I done to offend you?" Tigranian asked firmly.
"You exist," was all Targor responded. It was then Tigranian noticed the bronze badge on the lapel of the old man's coat.
"That badge?" Tigranian said. "You were in Kor's Legion?"
"Yes, My Lord…" Targor exaggerated the honorific to let Tigranian know it was not said out of respect. The rest of the restaurant looked on this exchange with horror. As a nobleman, Tigranian would be well within his rights to simply storm away and have everyone in the restaurant put to death for abetting this dishonor.
"You were at Axanar, Tarsus, Organia…" Tigranian said in awe.
"And Caleb IV," Tagor added. "All great victories for the empire. All given away by politicians to people who look like you."
"My body may be human," Tigranian replied, "but my soul serves the empire."
Targor painfully put his shriveled arms on the table and pushed himself up to standing.
"Do humans have souls?" he asked angrily. "For at every opportunity they seem to relish the opportunity to take away all that made us great. Now, we cower behind our own borders. We fear our own strength and we forget our heritage as conquerors."
"Father, stop!" Gralla implored. "He can kill us all for your sedition!" Tigranian held up his hand.
"I have no urge to kill a hero of the empire such as you," he said, "but if you desire a demonstration of my strength, it can be arranged." Tigranian said the words of a warrior, but his heart was not in them. He just wanted this terrible situation to end.
"Go ahead!" Targor shouted. "For eighty turns, I have watched my brothers and sisters fall away like the wilted leaves of autumn. My true country-men only exist now as story, song, and fading memories in the heads of worthless, senile old men like me. I call to them! But they no longer hear me.
Those who will soon celebrate on the Day of Unity in Chancellor's Square, those that made the empire great, are gone and this pathetic old fool is all that's left. I have been cursed with a long life. Glorious death eluded me at every opportunity, but at least I have my honor!"
Targor suddenly drew an old KDF issue d'k tahg from underneath his coat. He lunged at Tigranian, but the attack was so slow, Tigranian easily had time to draw his own d'k tahg and parry the strike. Targor didn't even have enough strength left to resist. Tigranian knew what he had to do. He quickly plunged his blade up to the hilt into the old man's chest and then hugged him close in a final embrace.
"I release you, warrior," Tigranian whispered into the old man's ear. "You have earned paradise…"
Tigranian looked back into his opponent's face. He could have sworn he saw the hint of smile cross his ancient lips. Then, the general ripped his blade out of Targor's chest and cleaved the old man's heart in two. He instantly fell limp into Tigranian's arms.
The restaurant fell absolutely silent. Tigranian slowly lowered Targor to the ground. With great care, he placed the old man's d'k tahg over the wound and then crossed the Targor's arms over it. Tigranian ripped a piece of cloth from his own sleeve and polished the badge of Kor's Legion to a bright shine.
Finally, he leaned down and pried opened Targor's eyes with his thumbs.
"And Kahless said unto them," Tigranian whispered trying to maintain his composure, "Be not afraid, for the death that takes you from this life is merely an awakening. For the honored dead, the River of Blood shall wipe away all tears from your eyes and sorrow from your heart. That which is awaits you in Sto'Vo'Kor is the true world, and this illusion will pass away like a dream…"
Tigranian reared back his head and roared to the heavens. He then silently rose to his feet and stared down at Targor's corpse.
"Dream now, Warrior," he said returning his blade to its sheath. "You have earned your rest and more…"
Tigranian turned back towards Laria, but words from Gralla stopped him.
"My Lord," she said bowing to him. Her husband did the same. "For the shame my father has caused you to endure, my husband and I offer the House of Torlek our lives but we implore you, spare our customers. This is not their fault."
Tigranian looked towards them.
"What shame?" he said firmly. "Your father was a hero to the empire and died in honorable combat. His deeds bring glory to your family." Tigranian placed a fist over his heart. "For his sacrifice, I salute you and your husband, Gralla, Daughter of Targor," he said bowing deeply.
Dralmok and Gralla were completely shocked.
"If I have not proven too much of a burden, may I still dine in your establishment?" Tigranian asked humbly.
"Of course, My Lord," Dralmok said returning behind the counter. Tigranian then turned to the other patrons.
"It was not my intention to disrupt your meal. For that, I ask forgiveness. For the rest of the evening, if anyone else besides me pulls money from their wallets, I will consider it a personal insult. Tonight, we celebrate all great warriors of the past during this Week of Unity, but especially him," Tigranian said pointing to the corpse lying on the floor.
"Targor of Kor's Legion, Hero of Axanar, Hero of Tarsus, Hero of Organia, Hero of Caleb IV, Hero of all Klingons, now sails with the Black Fleet. Tonight, we eat, drink, and toast to his courage. Qapla'!"
"To Targor of Kor's Legion! Qapla'!" the rest of the restaurant shouted in reply. Tigranian then returned to his table and sat down across from Laria. He placed one of his palms down on the wooden surface in front of him. His face was like stone, but she immediately noticed that his hand was shaking uncontrollably. With a comforting gaze, she reached out and held it tightly.