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The flitter glided effortlessly through the air as K'met handled the control while his comrades drank blood wine and sang songs.
'Typical,' he thought as a glanced of them. 'They get to enjoy themselves while I pilot.'
K'met had to admit that he did an entirely mind piloting to the great hall. The five great houses, two of which sat above the others, met in the council chambers of the great hall once every forty sun rises; and this was one such occasion that gave K'met the chance to see the grand architecture, and feel the history within its walls.
The two Ruling Houses are set on either side of the victory gardens, which stretched out from the steps of the great hall. If the great hall show with Varna Colony could do with a single goal, the two houses on either side showed what they could do when split by rivalry. Both houses, Mok'ju to the west of the gardens and Kalgot to the east, had been embroiled in a blood feud for longer than anyone outside the two houses could remember. In truth, some wondered if even they knew she was about.
Still, as strained as it was, the two houses cooperated from honor of the colony. Aside from the occasional skirmish, there was order; the governor of colony saw to that.
Even with the governor's orders, K'met still kept one eye over his shoulder on these trips to the city. Being the only the son of a minor house to call if you need worry, however since his sister married into the house of Mok'ju their feuds were down his. He couldn't help but think about it every time he sat down one of the landing pads.
After securing the controls are down the engines, he turned forth the others.
"Give me that cask before I take it," he said in a low growl. "And your arm along with it."
"I welcome you to try," replied one with a fierce laugh. "But take the blood wine anyway; it wouldn't be right to be sober among friends."
K'met took the cask and drank as they exited the craft, letting the spiced liquid warm is hearts. It was raining, which wasn't unusual. Yet today there was also a strange chill in the air moments before his eyes fell on Jod'chu, a senior member of the house of Kalgot; and one well known for starting fights for no honor.
"Look here," muttered one of K'met's companions as his eyes fell on Jod'chu. "It's that ******* targ pup."
"Hold your tongue Mallak," snapped K'met.
"Only long enough to bare my teeth," he replied. "It's only a challenge if he has any honor."
K'met glared at him, but to no avail as Mallak did as he promised. As he turned back towards the other Klingon he had what he once heard a terran trader call an 'oh shit' moment. Almost on cue, Jod'chu turned to see Mallak's insult and returned with a snarling expression of his own as he rushed towards them.
"Here he comes," said Natesh. "With fire in his eyes."
"Let him come," Mallak replied.
"No," K'met interrupted. "There is no honor in this, not on the day of council."
Jod'chu, it seemed, had other plans as he approached with D'k tahg already in hand. The already tall Klingon raised his shoulders back and lifted his body, making himself look as intimidating as he could; although Mallak had the distinct impression that he looked like a Krelarian ground bird, all top heavy and no balance.
"Do you bare teeth at me?" he demanded, gripping the hilt of the dagger tighter.
"You had better make it a battle of wit," K'met muttered. "You'll win easily, and you know what the guards will do otherwise."
"I ask again," Jod'chu said more fiercely. "Do you bare teeth at me?"
"I do for the sake of honor," Mallak replied.
"But do you bare teeth at me!" Jod'chu looked like he was about to lash out without an answer even as more from his house joined him.
"I bare my teeth at those with honor," Mallak said again. "Therefore I do not see how I could be baring them at you."
"Careful with your words p'taQ," said one of the newcomers from the house of Kalgot. "Lest you imply we have no honor."
"What need is there to imply what is common knowledge?"
"Watch your tongue before I cut it out!" exclaimed another as he drew his own dagger.
"We are of a noble house!"
"As are we," Natesh said confidently. "As noble as any."
"Oh, but not better?" jested one of the Kalgot."
"Better, and more honorable then yours every day," Mallak said.
That had been the final blow in their battle of wits, or as K'met thought ruefully their witless battle. Jod'chu lunged at Mallak, leading with the point of his blade. Mallak pivoted to his right, dodging out of the way as K'met and Natesh dealt with their own combatants. Dodge, parry, thrust, again; all these steps were as familiar to them as their own heartbeats. When blades were knocked away, fists were used; when knuckles were bloodied, feet began to fly in a flurry of blows. If all else failed, they would throw their entire body weight into the attack to try and get the upper hand.
Eventually the guards arrived, watching for a moment, and then finally pulled them apart. The scene was eventually cleared, and most of the observers had moved on. K'met, however, knew they wouldn't be simply moving on.
The office of the governor was an intimidating place, filled with trophies of great hunts and relics of valiant battles. However, the most intimidating thing in the room was what almost seemed to be a bone-crushing presence one felt upon walking through the doors. This, of course, was the commanding will of the governor himself as he watched K'met and the others brought in. K'met's nerves also were not eased when he saw Lord Mok'ju and Lord Kalgot were there as well.
"What is the meaning of this," Lord Mok'ju bellowed as he looked at the group bruised and bloodied warriors.
"Isn't it obvious Mok'ju," Lord Kalgot said gruffly. "Your warriors tried to dishonor mine."
"As if any effort need be put to the task."
"That is enough out of both of you," the governor stated, commanding the attention of the whole room. "These constant disruptions of order are becoming tiresome."
Several mouths opened, but none dared to speak against him. His word was as commanding as honor itself, and even the two ruling houses paled in comparison. So when he spoke again it was quieter, more subdued, but no less authoritative.
"I will only say this once, so listen well," he said as he watched each of them. "Your feud, as honorable as it may have once been, has lost meaning. You don't even know what, in the name of Kheless, you're fighting for anymore! And now, by continuing it, you challenge my honor, and the honor of the world I govern."
Kalgot looked as though he was about to speak, but a quick glance from the battle scarred warrior made him think twice.
"Your petty disputes," he continued. "Leave me no choice but to pass a new edict. Any fighting in relation to this feud will be met with death."
"Governor, you can't be serious!" Jod'chu exclaimed, wincing as one of the guards struck him for speaking out of turn.
"I am quite serious, and I suggest you don't forget it. Now get out of my sight!"
After the council meetings that day K'met, Mallak, and Natesh made their way towards the southern edge of Victory Park, where the autumnal festival was being held. There they purchased some Wyvrek shanks, a couple tankards of ale, and met with two more comrades while discussing the events of the day.
Mok'ju's son, Korum, and Garthen, the only member of the house of Kalgot with even a shred of honor joined the others after a time. There were two reasons this group welcomed Garthen into their midst; first, he had fought alongside them when pirates tried to raid their world. And second, he thought this feud was becoming as much a waste as the governor did.
"The warriors of my house," he said after hearing their story. "Have little more sense than the snarling of a half brained targ; and that is an insult only to the targ."
"And even still gives those warriors too much credit," Korum replied as he banged a goblet of ale on the table they had gathered around.
They talked of great battles, and quests for honor; even traded insults about each other and others around them. Insulting speech was, after all, and art form among the Klingon Empire. They talked of many things before the subject finally turned towards Korum's love life.
"Are you still trying to court Serilla?" Natesh asked.
"By the fires, I wish," he replied. "I can't get her out of my mind. That face of beauty-"
"As flat as a terrans," Garthen muttered through stifled laughter.
"That long heir, black as night," Korum continued, dismissing Garthens comment with a warning look.
"Hiding the ears of a Vulcan!"
"And the beauty of her voice-"
"As shrill as a Ferangi," Garthen said, breaking out into full laughter along with the rest of the group. "I swear my friend; you could find beauty in a Horta!"
"Bah! What does it matter?" he replied angrily. "She will not even hear me anymore."
"If you have eyes for a beast, then even a blind man can see there is much more worthy game out there."
"Enough of you," he said, waving Garthen away. "Drive your blade deeper, show mercer to your friend and finish me off!"
"Oh no, I have a worse fate for you," Garthen said slyly. "And worse still for you all, a test of your restraint."
Garthen revealed four small data-chits he had been carrying and handed them to his comrades.
"What are they?" asked K'met as he elbowed Mallak to wake him up.
"Invitations my friend," he replied with a smile. "We shall ride like the warriors we are, infiltrate the enemy stronghold during their masked festivities tonight, and make way with wine, food, and if all goes well enough, beautiful women to ease our good friends aching hearts; and right from under Kalgots nose. What say you Korum?"
"Will you leave me be if I say no?" Korum asked, not really needing to hear the answer to know what it is.
"Of course not," the warrior replied as he placed a hand on his friends shoulder. "I would be remiss in my duty as your brother in battle to do so."
"Well... in that case," he replied as he grabbed his goblet and hoisted it into the air. "To Victory!"
"To Victory!" they cried out as they met his oath with theirs.
The party was extravagant by Klingon standards. Lord Kalgot had his servants raise a fire in the great open courtyard that was so large; one might swear the flames reached high enough to burn new stars into the sky. Spoils of the days hunt and placed around the fire and several tables circumferenced the area with wine, ale, mead, and food. As was traditional for many of Kalgots feasts, the guests donned ceremonial masks and garments agent Klingon heroes.
"Jahlaya!" Lady Kalgot beckoned as she moved about the house. "You there, servant!"
The servant jumped, nearly dropping the blood pie.
"Yes my Lady?" she asked calmly.
"Where is my daughter?"
"I believe she is still getting ready my Lady."
"Very well," she said as she waved the servant away. "Be gone."
The servant scurried away and out of sight, determined to get the blood pie to its destination before anyone else interrupted.
'That insufferable girl,' Lady Kalgot thought as she made her way to her daughter's room. 'What is taking her so long?'
There were so many things to plan, it wasn't right for Jahlaya to be late; not if this marriage of houses was to go forth.
Lady Kalgot thought about her own marriage to lord Kalgot, arranged by their parents. She was not fond of the man at first, a fine warrior, and honorable to be sure, but there was no drums of passion in her hearts for several years. Then again, she supposed it was better than a fiery love grown cold; she hoped her daughter was as lucky.
"Jahlaya," she said as she stood in her daughter's doorway. "Are you in here daughter?"
"Yes mother," came a voice from the back room.
"Why do you delay?" she asked as she followed the voice. "There is something important I must speak to you about."
"What is it?" asked the young girl as she looked up from amidst a swarm of servants busily getting their mistress ready; focusing on even the most miniscule bit of detail.
'Not that it matters,' Lady Kalgot thought as she looked fondly at her daughter. 'It is difficult to improve on perfect beauty.'
"It's about your future," she said with an air of authority. "And it's about time you start to think on it."
"Mother, I'm still young. I have a great deal of future to think at my leisure."
"Battle women younger then you have taken husbands. Your cousin has three given three strong children to her mate."
"Yes, yes... for the sake of honor," he replied, returning her attention to the servants. "But what of the honor of battle? My cousin scarcely has time for that."
"That is something to discuss with your future husband."
"You make it sound like you've already decided," Jahlaya replied casually. Then with sudden clarity in her eyes, she glared at her mother. "You didn't! Did you? Oh, mother, how could you make such a decision without speaking to me first?"
"Jahlaya, calm down," her mother demanded. "There is more to it than that. We told Pak'chu that yours would be the final word, and that he would have to court you."
"Mistress," one of the servants said. "Even I have heard that Pak'chu is a handsome warrior, and honorable too."
"Then I want nothing of him Sahja," Jahlaya replied smugly. "For if he claims to be both, then he is neither. An honorable warrior would have too many scars to be handsome, and a handsome warrior would have to few to be honorable."
"At least meet him Jahlaya," Lady Kalgot said, smirking at the sharp blade of her daughter's wit. "I'm sure the act of courting you will be as honorable as any great challenge."
She didn't add 'and if I know my daughter, he'll have just as many scars for his effort.' But she thought it... very loudly.
"Very well mother," Jahlaya said finally. "I will meet him, but I will promise nothing else."
The servants finished helping her, and with the exception of Sahja who was still messing with minor details, they left to go about other duties.
Sahja, whom had been the master servant for many years, and many more years a simple servant of the House of Kalgot, stood there smiling at her mistress.
"Sahja, why do you look at me that way?" asked Jahlaya with a puzzled expression.
"Oh mistress, I am sorry," she replied, smiling all the same. "It is just pride for a child not my own, yet who I love as though she were."
"You speak in riddles," Jahlaya said as she smiled back.
"By my soul, mistress, if that is so then I blame an aged mind," Sahja said as she placed her hands on Jahlaya's shoulders. "I've known you since the day you fought your way out of your mother's womb, although I was not the master servant then."
"And I was no end of trouble the way I hear it told."
"Yes mistress and more than the whole staff could handle at times. But I would not trade those years for the sword of Kahless," she replied proudly. "But go now, they are waiting for you!"
Upon arriving, Mallak proceeded straight for the ale. K'met and Korum had long since decided he would one day drink he way to the barge of the dead, but for now that day was still a long way off. Garthen moved off to court with the women, pulling the reluctant Korum along while K'met eyed a fresh dish of Gagh. Lord Kalgot was moving about the crowd, greeting all of them in turn as music played through the night.
"Come Korum," Garthen urged again. "Court the women!"
"No friend, I say none are of the same level as Serilla."
"Open your eyes look at the woman there," he replied as he pointed into the crowd.
"The one here as the Warrior Queen Ma'ab."
"The short one? She's not even six feet."
"So she shall have to look up to you, nothing wrong with that," he jested. "And it gives you a better view of her... 'Aesthetic qualities?"
"Of course that would be the only thing on your mind."
"Just being true to myself," Garthen said calmly as he looked off into the distance. "And I believe I see a worthy pray now. Good luck my friend, I must take my leave of you now."
Korum shook his head as his friend wandered off, noting the irony of a man like that giving him advice. 'Although if my ears are full of more than rumors, he would be an expert on the subject.'
He walked among the people, although he didn't feel very social. The fact that he was in the den of the enemy didn't help, and it certainly kept him on his guard.
'If nothing else, I may as well enjoy the food.' he thought as a servant walked by with a tray. As he took some food from the servant something else stood out against the crowd, drawing his attention. It was a woman, wearing white battle armor and the mask of The Warrior of T'Galla.
"Servant, who is that vision of honor and beauty?" he asked, ignoring the voice of subconscious thoughts in his mind.
"That is my lady, Jahlaya," the servant replied. "Daughter of Kalgot."
"What? Are you sure?"
"Of course sir, I have served this family for several years. I would know her even if my eyes were plucked from my skull."
"Frel'k" he muttered, unbelieving the servants words. "That such an angel could be surrounded by such darkness. It is as if I have been blind all these years, and only now given vision by the power of her honor and beauty."
"Nothing, leave me," Korum said as he walked off, leaving a very confused servant in his wake.
Behind the servant stood a less confused man, one whose ears burned at what he heard. He knew that voice, recognized the words, and was overcome with anger that this p'taQ had the nerve to come here.
"Jod'chu, why do you wear a mask of anger?" asked his uncle as he approached.
"Lord Kalgot, it is for the sake of your honor that I am angered." he replied as he moved his hand to his D'k tahg. "That son of Mok'ju is here, and my blade will find him."
"Stay your hand for a moment," ordered Kalgot. "Korum is respected by many, and the governor's orders still stand."
"My lord, I can't stand aside while he is here."
"Oh can't you?" Are you the lord of this house now?" Kalgots temper faired as he stared Jod'chu down. "Or are you so much more important that you would risk dishonor on this house?"
"No my lord, I only -"
"Enough get away before I decide to unleash my anger."
Jahlaya moved around the courtyard, greeting people, laughing at their jokes, and being respectful to her father's guests. That was, after all, her duty as a daughter of this house. Even so, these events bored her. It was usually the same thing, old windbags boasting of great battles that happened so long ago that the stories had grown beyond belief. She had just finished listening to her eleventh, 'or is that twelfth' story when she felt a hand on hers.
"My lady, if my hand dishonors yours I shall remove it from my arm, but allow it to remain a moment that your beauty may reforged my skin to a more honorable metal."
"Honorable sir, you give my hand and my beauty to much credit. You skin feels like it has a very honorable texture."
"Only made so by the fires of your hearts."
She couldn't help but smile at the masked warrior's words; most men couldn't come up with such things.
"Good warrior," she said, still smiling. "Give my ears the honor of hearing the name of the one who speaks to me this way."
"That, I fear, would be a dishonor to your ears, and on that I believe my continued presence will do the same."
The warrior left, leaving Jahlaya standing there in the middle of the crowd. Sahja, noticing the look of confusion, walked up to her mistress.
"My lady, is something troubling you?"
"Only that I am not sure what this feeling is," she replied. "Who is that there, leaving just now?
"I believe that is Garthen and K'met," Sahja replied. "They are often seen together."
"I am sorry my lady, I have no answer for you."
"Please go find out, and quickly."
And she stood there again, alone in the middle of a crowd while she waited for her servant to return from her task. It seemed, to her, like an eternity went by with each heartbeat until Sahja finally returned.
"My lady, I had no idea that man was here," Sahja said quickly. "If he has offended you"
"His name will be quite enough."
"It is Korum my lady, the son of Mok'ju, your father's rival."
"You are sure?"
"Yes my lady."
'How can this be?' she wondered as she watched him leave. 'Why do my hearts betray me? Why do I feel this way for my father's enemy?'
"Thank you Sahja," she said slowly. "I feel fatigued; I think I shall return to my bed chambers."
"Yes my lady."