Book 1 of "Tales of Death and Honour"The midnight bell boomed out from the village as the two Klingons strode slowly but purposefully up the well used mountain path. The light from the ruined moon Praxis outlined the clouds that scudded across the sky in brilliant silver, painting the mountainous landscape in an eerie monotone.
Which are stronger, the bonds of Maternal love or the dictates of Honour?
In the lead was a male holding up a lantern to light their way. Slightly built for his race, he never the less carried himself with the lithe power of the seasoned warrior. The woman on the other hand, was a statuesque beauty with a tumbling mass of blonde curls, fine teeth and delicate brow ridges. Dressed conservatively in maternity clothes, she carried a small bundle that squirmed occasionally.
Their monotonous climb eventually brought them to the summit, their goal becoming apparent as a strange stone building came into sight. Whilst Klingons have little time for religion, they have a complex culture and deep rooted traditions. The building would best be described as a temple although those who came to it worshipped a way of life rather than any god. It was a simple but massive structure consisting of an imposing dome atop a circle of columns.
At the last curve in the path, within metres of the arched entrance, the female faltered. "I cannot do this thing!" she spat in their guttural tongue. Klingon women were inured to a long painful childbirth but this labour had been particularly bad by even Klingon standards and she had come close to death. It was not the obvious pain that each step was costing that she spoke of though. Hitching the bundle higher in her grasp and swapping hands, she pulled the course blankets apart slightly to uncover the head of a sleeping infant. "There can be no honour in killing an innocent child!"
The male turned to her and growled in turn "It must be done for the honour of the family." He looked away, grunting in resignation. "Come into the temple with me, we will speak of this one last time and then we will do what you know must be done." He was uncertain as to whether he should help her since she looked ready to fall at every step but knew that she would take it as an insult.
The last few, painful metres covered, they entered the temple. Along the perimeter of columns was a low wall that marked the outside of the building. Into these, benches were hewn into the solid rock. Slowly, painfully, the female eased herself into the nook closest to the entrance. Her mate strode to the centre of the small temple and placed a hand on the flat rock in the centre. Without looking back he spoke into the darkness.
"The life of a Klingon is a battle that cannot be won. We are born into this world of strife and must fight all our lives to survive, knowing full well that no matter how skilfully and bravely we fight eventually we will die, for death is inevitable. Some die young, some die old but die we will and a Klingons' life is a preparation for that day."
He turned from the rock and started pacing the earthen floor, his voice gaining volume as he warmed to his subject. "If we are lucky, it will be in battle surrounded by the bodies of our enemies, soaked to the armpits in their blood! To go to Sto Vo Kor preceded by an honour guard of a dozen mighty warriors is every Klingons dream." If the female had been close enough she would have seen the gleam of fervour in her mates' eyes as he talked of his dreams of glory.
Turning now to his wife, his voice dropped almost to a whisper. "Not to die in battle is against the very purpose of our existence and it would be a waste of our life. In this we battle against fate - fire, storm, accident ... sickness." Roughly he grabbed her by the nape of the neck in what was, for them, a show of tenderness. "This is his first battle ..." he rumbled into her ear "... to show that he has the strength to combat the elements." Levering the child out of her arms, he stood, looking down into the small round face. He had woken now but was silent, his dark eyes gazing deeply into those of his father.
Turning quickly - did he doubt his own ability to see this thing through? - he strode to the flat slab of volcanic rock that squatted in the centre of the temple and with a surprising gentleness laid the baby in the shallow depression on the top.
"Your first battle. " From his belt he drew a D'k tagh, the Klingon ritual blade - and held it up to the high domed ceiling. "You will either live a Klingon, with the strength to hold your own against the world, or die a Klingon, fighting the elements." looking down to the quiet child, his voice broke to a growl once again. "This is the only gift I can give you, the chance of a short life and an honourable death." He placed the D'k tagh at the head of the baby and, spreading the blankets to expose the naked waif, turned to the entrance. "We go."
His wife leapt to her feet, gasping momentarily at the effort that this cost her. Flinging her head back she drew her lips back into a snarl "Glorious dreams of death and honour!" her sneer stopped him in his tracks. " I care nought for your pretty fantasies! All I see is someone who is trying to hurt my child and it would be a dishonour to me - as a mother if not as a Klingon - to let that happen!" Reaching into the folds of her cloak she pulled out her own blade and slowly, painfully advanced on her stunned husband.
"Are you mad!" His astonished shout rang from the depths of the vaulted ceiling, but as he looked into her eyes he knew that, yes, she was. The grim determination he saw flew in the face of all reason.
"What else can we do?" His tone changed from challenging to reasoning in an attempt to defuse the situation. "Would you have me not do this? Every Klingon child goes through the same ritual as soon as they are weaned from their mother. We would be dishonoured, driven out of our homeland, our families would disown us and we would be doomed to live the life of penniless vagabonds. " Still she advanced, step by step. Rage swept over him and he leapt back to the stone where his son lay, snatching up the D'k tagh.
"I would see him dead before I would let you do this to us all - to force us all into a dishonourable half-life!" This made her hesitate in her tracks. She knew she could not overpower her husband, in fact she had expected death herself but this would mean nothing if her son died also.
Slowly the male brought the blade away from the baby's throat, his tone once again changing to reconciliation. "In battle there is always the chance - the hope - of victory." He reversed the blade in his hand. "You have my word that if he survives the night he will be given every chance to live." For long seconds the two glared at each others in silence across drawn steel until the female slowly drew herself erect and returned her blade to its' secret place in her cloak.
"It was a black day for me when first I set eyes on you, if only I had known that at the time. You will keep your word, I do not doubt that. We will let him fight his own battle. Be gone, for I do not want to set eyes on you unless you hold our son alive in your arms." Abruptly she turned her face away from him. The male snarled in frustration, making as if to go to her and force his will on her, but in the end he spun on his heel and marched to the exit, only pausing at the entrance to give another wordless snarl.
For a scant minute or two the female stood motionless, breathing deeply, until with faltering steps, she approached the baby who, through all this, had uttered not one sound. Tenderly, she bunched the blankets to the infants' sides, as close as she could get to covering him without breaking the spirit of the ritual that, even in her maternal madness, she knew to have an element of justice. Q'onos was a hard world and life as a Klingon was a brutal one in which the weak died young.
Not knowing if this was going to be the last time she saw her child alive she tried to memorise every aspect of him, laid bare as he was on the rock to the increasingly chill night air. From his squashed nose and bold forehead crests, to his tight cap of black curly hair, his eyes like twin pools of blackness in the night and his one good arm waving in the air above him. She loved him. That was the be all and end all of it. In her doting mothers' eye she only saw his beauty ... not his withered left arm with a flipper like stump for a hand ... nor his non-existent legs. Infant deformities were rare in Klingons and the few who lived rarely last long, mainly because of the may'ram - the ritual battle against the elements that her beautiful son was to undergo tonight.
"Be strong and fight hard, my little warrior! But mark this well - your mother loves you, no matter where your brave soul wanders." and so saying she turned abruptly to stagger, choking back tears, to the exit.