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VC Compleat: Cha'Kago, Cha'Kago, It's My Kind Of Reservation

The Gorkon Trail (Takes place just after the drive)
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 9:28 PM

Miss Kathryn had finished saying goodbye to her boy, keeping her chin up and her eyes straight. Who would've guessed her boy would turn out as he did? Huddling in her woolly coat, she watched from a distance Tom finish preparing the horses for their journey.

They'd have at least a good week at least on the trail, those two. Independent, both of them, they were off on their own again--this time together. Still, time had done wonders with them, Kathryn knew. Yet she regarded them carefully as Chakotay said his goodbyes.

Tom packed up the last of their provisions and set the bags over Frisco's back, B'Elanna gave her father a little smile before passing to check on Kona's packs.

"That's all of it," Tom told her, then turned a look to Chakotay. "Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on her."

"I know." Chakotay turned a wistful look to his daughter. "Hard to believe she couldn't even talk about her Klingon Indian side not this past spring, and here she is, going off to a reservation--with you."

Tom grinned. "It's not like we're going there for good," he said. "But B'Elanna really wants to pay a visit. For that matter, I've liked the idea, too." He gave the foreman a long look, a little grin. "I'll take good care of her, Mr. Torres."

Chakotay wasn't lost by Tom's manners, but smiled at them, too. He'd come to appreciate those gestures as genuine, come to trust him more than he ever thought possible. Of course, he still knew who was the elder between them. "I know you will. But do me a favor?"


"Will you try to convince her to marry you once and for all?" He shrugged at Tom's pleasantly surprised expression. "The Klingons might take a mating bite as common law, but not everyone does. I'd be more comfortable if you two were wed, seein' as I know what y'all are doing when you sneak off. I've been patient, as has your mama--but we won't be forever. Pretty soon, you two have to settle down, make things legal."

Tom nodded. "I know." He sighed his resolution and gave another nod. "I'll try her again, but I can't make her marry me, as if I could make her do anything. She can be pretty stubborn, you know."

Chakotay laughed. "Yeah, I know. She gets that from her ma. --Don't say it....Okay, maybe she gets it from me, too."

"I'll say," B'Elanna said as she rounded Frisco. She leaned her head up and kissed her father's cheek. "Now don't you worry. Tom and I will be back as soon as the spring breaks."

"You write me girl," Chakotay told her, then looked at Tom. "And you keep her outta trouble."

"Yes, sir." After shaking the older man's hand, Tom put that hand around B'Elanna's waist. They waved Chakotay off as he crossed the gravel to where Miss Kathryn still stood. Tom turned his gaze to B'Elanna. "Guess we're off, then?"

She grinned. "Reckon so. Give me a leg up?"

He complied, and was happy that their parents were across the street and unable to hear his soft groan in lifting her and her heavy sigh of relief once up on Frisco. While she checked Kona's lead, Tom moved around to Intrepid's side and mounted him. Without looking back to their parents, they started down the road aside each other.

Chakotay eyes followed the two until they were all but out of sight. He looked at Kathryn, who continued to stare. "They'll be fine," he told her quietly.

"They're up to something," Kathryn said.

"What makes you say that? Look, those two need to get away. It's been a long drive, and they're not nearly as much trouble as they used to be. You do remember that, I suspect?"

"Oh yes, I recall quite clearly."

"So don't you think it's a good thing they've calmed down, started acting responsible?"

Miss Kathryn's eyes narrowed. The young couple were but a dot on the horizon, then. "That's what bothers me," said replied, and turned to go back to the hotel.

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 2
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 9:38 PM

The foothills and woodlands were deceptive, B'Elanna knew well as she followed Tom up the first rise. She half-expected Madame D'Alaireux to come riding through them.. She knew the lady was well versed in off-trail riding. But she also knew the lady had lived many lives too. The time had come, all her plans, hers and Tom's, really, were coming to light. B'Elanna was half tempted to put Frisco into a hard gallop into the hills.

Night began to fall, and Tom took them off the trail, finding a nice clearing soon after. Dismounting, he helped B'Elanna down from Frisco and began to set up camp while she collected some wood. Tom had almost finished putting up the small tent he'd bought, and was checking the stakes when he heard a rustling in the woods. Reaching behind him, he caught his rifle. "B'Elanna, that you?"

"I've got some," she called from the other direction. "How's the tent coming along?"

Tom paused, and heard nothing more. He set the rifle back down. "Looks real good. You'll be nice and cozy once we get the rest set up." And then he stood to do just that. Lighting the lantern, he started setting the fur and blankets down on the floor of the tent. Hearing another sound, this time from behind, he turned to see B'Elanna walking in with a pile of wood in her arms.


A guide at an outpost they stopped at told them the trail to Cha'Kago was five miles and into the hills, and after leaving letters for their parents in the mailbag, they continued on. By midday, they were on the Gorkon Trail.

It was a strangely warm day, and B'Elanna gladly loosened up her cloak and coat and enjoyed the sun. Grinning across to her mate, she noted a particularly pleased look on his face as they rode without haste up the rocky path. He'd had that look about him for a while. Even the hardships of the cattle drive couldn't erase that grin, at least not for long.

He's a proud one, all right, she smiled to herself, and turned around to see how Kona was faring. She was getting to the stage where too much fuss was bothersome to her. B'Elanna knew the feeling.

Kona was fine, but glacing out on the trail, she saw a creature B'Elanna had never seen before--and it seemed to be following them. "Tom," she whispered. "What in blazes is that thing?"

He looked, then scowled a bit. "Heck if I know," he said, then noticed the look on her face. "Don't worry about it, B'Elanna, I'm sure he don't mean any harm."

"He's stalking us," she growled. "Why don't you just shoot it or something?"

Tom grinned. "It's not doing anything to us," he said and reached into the saddlebag.

B'Elanna glared at him as he threw the creature a strip of jerky. "Tom, that's our food! We can't be throwing it off to the animals!"

He sighed. "It's my food, B'Elanna. You keep getting on me to lose a few pounds, well, there's the start....Look, he's taking it. And now he'll leave us be."

Sure enough, the creature had stopped. As they rode away, it laid down to enjoy the offered meal.

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 3
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 9:47 PM

Tom slipped into their makeshift bed behind B'Elanna, shivering a little as he drew her back close to him. She shifted a little to allow his arms around her, and snuggled into that embrace. Immediately, his hands pressed on her belly, and she could feel 'that' grin pressed against her head.

"Dang, I like this," he whispered, breathing deeply.

"Me too," she breathed, purring at his caresses. It was good to have a relatively comfortable night's rest again. The drive had been harder on her than she wanted to admit, even to herself. "Nice that the weather's been good to us." A pause, and her closing eyes opened wide with a jolt. "You feel that?"

Tom laughed. "Dang right I did! Wow. Felt almost as strong as a colt."

"I'll say it did!" she returned, failing at her attempt to sound scolding. "Look what you did to me, Tom Janeway. They aughta hang you from the highest tree." He chuckled at that, as did she as she nuzzled back into his embrace again, sighing off the rest of the day.

Hearing her laugh subside, feeling the kicking ease, he settled, too, letting her warmth penetrate him completely. His smile then was gentler, thoughtful. "I like sleeping with you, B'Elanna." He closed his eyes. "I don't want to go back to not being like this."

She was almost asleep already. "We won't, Tom," she whispered.



The fifth day on the trail had grown so warm that Tom had tucked away his gloves and opened his coat. B'Elanna had done the same, draping her cloak over her saddle and letting her coat hang free--though she kept her gloves. For mid-winter, the warmth and sun was a blessing, even if the path was not.

The trail in the foothills had straightened, and the road opened up on a wide plain of short grass. Off in the distance, the next rise didn't seem to be approaching too quickly, making their ride seem longer than it was. As a loss of chatter descended upon them, B'Elanna got bored, and started fiddling with the ropes that Kona was hooked up with--at least as best she could.

She turned to check the mare, then growled when she saw it again in the distance. "D@mn if that thing ain't following us still. I knew you shouldn't have fed it."

Tom glanced back and grinned, reaching in his bag for another strip of jerky, which he dropped for the creature to find. "Well, don't fuss. It still hasn't made any tro--...What's this?"

B'Elanna drew her eyes forward and saw the camp appearing over a small hill in the road. "Nobody told us there was a cavalry division out this far," she said, feeling a slight quiver. Why she felt fear, she could guess, and she instinctively slowed her horse. "Tom..."

He saw her alarm and moved Intrepid closer, putting a hand on her leg. "Probably just one of the outposts. Since the Klingons are used as guides sometimes, it figures they'd have some people close to their territory." He didn't mention what he knew about the treatment of those guides from time to time. "Let me handle it, okay?" He saw her nod in the corner of his eye. The guard out front had seen them, was waiting for them. Tom put on his best face.

When they approached, Tom maneuvered Intrepid around to B'Elanna's right, tipping the brim of his hat to the cavalryman. "Mornin' Sergeant."

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 4
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 9:54 PM

The guard held up his hand so they'd stop. "You've reached Outpost 153," he told them. "What brings you out this far?"

Tom grinned. "Visiting an old friend." Tom answered, praying B'Elanna's tongue was caught in her teeth when the man turned to her with a sneer. "She's with me, sir. My wife."

The soldier snorted. "I see. Well, you're h*ll and far away from anything right now, boy. Where are you headed to?"

"The reservation at Cha'Kago," Tom told him. "You know how far it is?"

"Cha'Kago! Jeez, boy, you're still a good four days off, riding through the day at that. You haven't even crossed this here Narendra Range." Again, then man's eyes looked B'Elanna over.

"Well, maybe then we'd better be moseying by," Tom replied, feeling himself chill not only by the sergeant's examination but in knowing where they were.

One of the many deadly invasions and subsequent massacres had occurred on that plain, where once a thriving Klingon village had stood. It was hard to think about, hard to imagine. The plain had grown over, leaving no evidence of the blood shed there. But it had come to some good, perhaps, as it had begun talks between the Klingon Indian Tribal Council and the cavalry.

Of course, the evidence of the Cavalry's goodness wasn't visible in the sergeant, whose examination of B'Elanna caused Tom to reflexively place his hand to his holster. Amazingly--and thankfully--B'Elanna hadn't stirred. But Tom could tell she wouldn't be still for long. "Is there anything else, sir?"

"Colonel Pressman requires that all Klingons are registered at this post."

A muscle in B'Elanna's jaw jumped, and Tom flashed the man a careful grin. "But she's only half-Klingon, and doesn't live here. We're from way out in Voyager City. She don't even have relations here."

"No matter. Rules stand." The sergeant gave them a wave. "C'mon down," he said, emphasizing his syllables for B'Elanna. "You come down here, woman. And leave your weapon with the horse."

Tom's eyes darted around. Their presence had already attracted attention, and they were well armed. From the makeshift building, too, a tall, balding officer had come out, pulling on his neat, grey gloves. He regarded the other man again. "She's in no condition to be climbing up and down a steed, sergeant. Can't we have this...inspection as she is?"

"Sergeant MacDuff," said the Colonel with a cultured command voice, "who have you here?"

"A traveler to the Cha'Kago reservation. Got a half-breed with him, sir."

Colonel Pressman was no fool. He could see the young man on the fine mount would've liked to shoot a few holes through his snarky sergeant, and the woman was on the verge of trampling him. But the well-bred officer said nothing, only looked up to the man and introduced himself. "What seems to be the problem?" he said, a little too nicely. "There are rules we do have to abide by in this region, being as it is."

"She's with child, sir," Tom said, reigning in as much patience as he could muster with the condescending tone he detected. "And we've still got a long way to go before we get to rest. She doesn't need to get overtired."

"We wouldn't want that, would we?" The officer moved around and found the woman's gaze. "Do you speak?"

"Yes," B'Elanna said, blank fear alone keeping her calm. Every muscle in her body longed to kick Frisco into action--and she might have had she not thought she'd get a bullet in the back. She knew Tom had stayed silent about it earlier for her benefit--but she'd met their sort before. "He is right, sir. It's not easy, getting up and down." She hoped he'd buy it. As much as it curdled her heart to act helpless, she didn't want to stay a second longer than they needed.

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 5
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 9:58 PM

Pressman's eyes went to her mek'leth, then back to her. "Are you certain you wouldn't like to rest, Mrs. Janeway?"

She crunched the sudden smile that formed at hearing that address, turning it into a cordial grin. "No, thank you, sir. We'd like to reach the next rise by sundown, and it does seem far off."

Pressman nodded at the truth of it. "It's a few hours at best." He considered another moment, then looked back to Tom. "Very well, Mister Janeway, you may pass. But I'll caution you--You're entering Klingon Indian Territory. I can't speak for the hospitality of all of them, in spite of your wife's heritage."

"Much obliged, Colonel Pressman," Tom said, bowing his head a little as B'Elanna repeated him.

Pressman nodded, waved them off. "Move along."

B'Elanna remained silent for many minutes after they passed, forcing herself not to look back again and again. The officer had let them go, but she didn't trust him. Glancing to Tom, she could see in his rigid face the same thoughts crossing his mind.

When they were finally far enough away that B'Elanna felt no trouble in checking on Kona, she noted as well that the creature that'd been following them had disappeared from sight.


"What in blazes do you think we should do?" B'Elanna demanded. She threw up her hands, and would have walked around in a circle if she wasn't still on Frisco. "This is just so pretty! We'll never get there or we just might! D@mn!"

Tom stared at the fork in the road, then squinted up at the sun through the bare treetops. The winds had started up, chilling the air--and B'Elanna's mood that day, and it looked like it was going to snow. He knew he couldn't make a wrong decision, else have to hear her wrath for yet another three hours--if not more. He was too tired to listen to it. "Give me a minute."

"A minute?" B'Elanna asked, glaring at him. "We'll be here all day if you--

"You, intruders!" came a ragged cry from the trees, and a Klingon woman appeared, her weapon held before her. "What do you want, p'tahks, coming into my territory?!"

Tom willed himself to not roll his eyes, but pointed them at the woman, recalling B'Elanna's many lessons on how to treat her mother's people. "My name is Tom Janeway. This here's B'Elanna Torres. We're going to Cha'Kago."

"Do you know the way?" B'Elanna added, still impatient and not bothering to hide it. But she knew a Klingon wouldn't be bothered by such a tone.

The woman regarded the other, and seemed to let up--a little. "It's the left trail. Why are you going there?"

"We're looking for a woman there," B'Elanna told her. "We need to find her."

"Maybe you'd know her," Tom said. "She calls herself Madame D'Alaireux."

The woman's eyes widened. "K'Fae," she said. "I know of her. Why do you seek her?"

When B'Elanna didn't answer immediately, Tom told her, "It's a matter of family honor. She might be able to help."

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 6
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 10:03 PM

The woman nodded, not breaking her stare. "I am Grilka, chief of the Kozak tribe and the watcher for this part of the trail."

"A lady Chief?" B'Elanna asked. "I never heard of that."

Grilka's mouth twisted uncomfortably. "It's a long story," she muttered and plowed on, "There have been threats of invasion from the Romulan Tribes. Be prepared. Do not sleep on the road."

Tom looked at B'Elanna. She'd already paled with frustration, lowered her head into her shoulders as she grit her teeth and turned her head away. He knew she'd been doing too much--though he didn't dare remind her--and the thought of not being able to camp..."Are there any more villages along the way?"

"No," Grilka replied. "But the reservation is not far. If you ride through the night, you will reach it at mid-morning. Or can you do that? Are you as I have heard about your people?" She had neared Intrepid as she spoke, fearlessly reaching out to Tom's leg. "More flesh than blood?"

Her hand had almost touched the man's calf, but stilled as the shing and glint of a mek'leth appeared before her eyes. She looked up to who it was attached to and found two deadly black eyes pointed at her.

"You get your grimy little hands away from my mate, Lady Chief, or you'll be nothing but blood and a heap of flesh." B'Elanna was calm; her intent was not.

Grilka laughed heartily as her hand dropped. Amused and impressed, she moved away. "Come to my village. You will rest before your trip continues. It will be a long night's ride." They seemed to hesitate and she frowned. "You would not dishonor me by refusing?"

"No," Tom said, giving B'Elanna a look. "We'd better now, while we can and it's safe."

B'Elanna stared at him, but finally understood the concern in his eyes, and she couldn't deny she was hungry. "Okay."

"And perhaps you will tell us how you know K'Fae," Grilka suggested. "It will make good tale around the fire. Follow me."


The tale ran long over their meal, longer still as the couple insisted on cooking their meat over the raging warm fire at the center of the dugout. B'Elanna, despite her exhaustion, spoke in the dusky orange light of the day she faced the demon soul of Seska with the help of the Chiefs, how she vindicated her mother's death and earned the mek'leth she wore on her hip.

The Klingons there nodded approvingly. "It is a good omen, to be assisted by the souls of Sto-Vo-Kor on the field of battle," said one elder. And another said, "It is a story you will proudly pass to your own."

Grilka noted the young woman's nod to the compliments. It was slight and growing slighter, showing her other half more as she slumped, leaning back on a hand. Her mate sat near, watching this, too. Finally, Grilka rose her hand. "You will all leave now, let us have time, B'Elanna and I."

With a turn of her head and a little growl, they did comply--Tom last, as he looked back to Grilka curiously.

Grilka grinned. "Your mate is not fully Klingon--and even if she were, she would require rest before the ride you prepare for. I have simply arranged for that without dishonoring her."

Tom was impressed, as was B'Elanna. "Much obliged, Grilka," B'Elanna told her, then, to Tom, "You said you were itching for a walk, anyway, right?"

"I was," he said. "I'll be back soon." Nodding his thanks to the chief, he ducked out the door, thankful that the chief had interfered.

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 7
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 10:08 PM

The men had already gone back to their work, some tending the horses, others nearby sharpening their half-moon blades. They were mainly silent, and ignoring him. So B'Elanna does get it from this side. All business.

Moving to Intrepid's side to adjust his blanket and check his feed bag, he peered down at the deadly weapon. He remembered Madame D'Alaireux carrying one, saw the damage it could do in Vallek Guley. "What's that called again?" he asked the man who sat, methodically sharpening the points.

Kor looked up with a growl, but let his initial distaste pass when he noted the fair-haired man did not flinch, nor did he lose his curiosity. His eyes, like a morning sky, remained intently trained on the weapon. Kor's heavy brow rose a bit. "It is called a bat'leth. You have never seen one."

"No," Tom said. "I just never heard the proper name. I knew there had to be one."

"Hmm," rumbled in Kor's throat and he got to his feet to face Tom. "You use firearms," he told him. "They are the weapons of cowards. You need not face your enemy to use it. The bat'leth is a weapon of skill and honor."

Tom nodded. "Yeah, it looks like it. How do y'all use it?"

Kor didn't expect this, but was pleased nonetheless. He grunted towards the dugout. "The women will take much time--they always do. Come, and I will show you some of our ways."

"Much obliged," Tom said and followed Kor to another clearing. While en route, he happened to glance into the wood--and saw the creature, staring at him, its head tipped. Tom opened his mouth to ask Kor what in creation was that thing, but it hopped back and disappeared before he could speak.


B'Elanna awoke before the warm fire, stretching deliciously under the heavy fur blankets. Reaching behind her, she felt the empty space and her eyes opened. She jumped a little to see the lady chief, staring at her with a little grin.

"You slept longer than I expected," Grilka said. "Your ride was longer than you say."

B'Elanna shrugged, pushing herself up to sit. "We'd finished a cattle drive just before setting off for here." She breathed deeply, waking up with the help of the acrid cedar odor in the fire. Then she remembered..."Tom still prowling around?"

"Yes. He convenes with the other men." Grilka leaned over and put a mug in B'Elanna's hands. "Here, take this red bark tea, and then we will find them."

B'Elanna complied, cringing a little at the bitter taste. But she didn't mind it as much as the first time, and the warmth and sleep had made her feel much better. She hoped Tom having some time to himself might've helped too. Since that last outpost, they'd both been crabby.

B'Elanna burrowed deep into the fur coat Grilka had put on her when she walked out into the wet winter air, following the proud chief through her village. It was a fine one, she noticed, with half-stone dugouts and busy people by well-tended fires. Their horses were plenty and, though saddleless, of great breeding. They passed Intrepid, Frisco and Kona, and B'Elanna stopped to give them a pat and a quick check.

Grilka grinned at this. "She is in wait as you."

She nodded, smiling. "It'll be a fine day when the colt is born. Frisco's even a little anxious, I think." Grilka laughed at that, and B'Elanna looked on her mare again. "We've been waiting a long time for it...for them," she said, her tone turning inward. "I'd almost forgotten how much."

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 8
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 10:11 PM

They continued on the next clearing, one surrounded by rocks and covered with pine needles. Upon entering, the first thing B'Elanna saw was Tom landing hard on his back, bat'leth in hands and a dumb look of shock on his face--then a large Klingon coming at him with his own weapon.

B'Elanna instantly took a step closer, opening her mouth to call out, but Grilka stopped her.

"They are only having a game. Your mate is in no danger..." she grinned, "for now."

B'Elanna relaxed a little, though she stiffened as the warrior hollered out before lunging. But Tom whipped up onto his feet and blocked the assault, then prowled a circle across from the other man.

He'd taken his coat and gloves off, down to just his workshirt, and a faint sheen of perspiration covered his face and neck, gone through his shirt on his chest and back. And that shirt was thin enough that B'Elanna could see muscles flexing underneath as he moved with a grace she knew existed all too well. He was still maybe a bit on the diner's side, But dang, does he look good, she thought, a hawkish little smile crawling into her lips.

Tom was, perhaps, feeling still a little awkward with the balance of the new weapon, but all his senses and instincts were up and intent on that mock battle. Kor had given him the basics, and they were starting to come through for him as he got involved in the technique. He'd even forgot about the time, his worries and even where he was, as he turned the blade in a swing of his wrist, staring to the black eyes of his opponent.

Another blow, and Tom turned away, swinging the blade behind him to divert the reacting swing Kor delivered.

The Indian lunged again--Tom blocked and scraped to thrust, catching the point of his bat'leth in the handhold of her other. With a hard growl, Kor brought the grip up to punch Tom with it, but he feinted and pulled the blade to his chest, meeting the Klingon eye to eye.

Kor stopped then, grinning fiercely. "You take well to it for one of your kind," he said roughly. "But the women are now here."

"They are?" Tom looked--and hit the ground a moment later when Kor thrust him back. The older man laughed loudly, and so did Tom, realizing he'd fallen for it, literally. Crawling to his feet, he gave the other man's shoulder a firm pat. "Nice one, Kor. But you won't be so lucky next time."

The warrior was pleased. "There will be a next time, then?"

"You bet. I like this." His smile twisted, at that. "For that matter, I hate to lose."

Kor nodded and looked to the women. The younger one had already collected Tom's coat and was approaching. "Grilka! This white cub has promise!"

"So I see, Kor," Grilka responded, watching the young couple together. Tom was putting on his coat as B'Elanna smiled proudly up to him. The older woman could not help but smile, too. Youth. "You will take more hot drink, Tom, and warmth, before leaving. The night is approaching soon."

And within the hour, it was. After seeing B'Elanna up to Frisco, Tom turned his thanks to his hostess, then to Kor, who stood straight and intent upon him. "Hope we'll meet again, when we come back thought this way."

"I will welcome it," Kor said, and presented Tom with the bat'leth he'd used. "Take it, Tom Janeway. It is yours. --Do don't refuse my gift. It is given with honor."

Tom bowed his head respectfully. "That honor's mine, Kor, seeing as you helped me to it....Grilka."

The woman gave a nod, then stepped back as Tom mounted Intrepid and turned the horse back to the trail, B'Elanna by his side.

"It will be a long ride," Kor said.

Grilka drew a breath. "I hope they find what they seek. There is desire in their eyes, in their blood....Qapla' to them." With that, Grilka spun to return to the dugout, leaving Kor to wonder.

RE: The Gorkon Trail, part 9
D'Alaire — 6 Oct 1998, 10:22 PM

Tom's eyes stayed wide on the trail. It was a bright night, but the shadows were long, and could've sworn he'd heard rustling within them. He'd wondered many times if they should turn back and remain the night at Grilka's village. But asking B'Elanna, it was decided that they should simply get that ride over with, since it was a third gone by already.

He heard another rustle in the wood. "B'Elanna..."

The strike came from nowhere--and all Tom heard was a thud and B'Elanna's cry before she fell from the horse. Tom whipped around and grabbed both bridles and his rifle. Another pelt rock flew by, missing him, and he jumped down from Intrepid to B'Elanna's side.

Without warning, a party flew out of the brush and surrounded the horses--silent and fast, and trapping Tom between the steeds. Shooting a stare down to B'Elanna, Tom dropped the rifle and reached up to the bat'leth hanging on Intrepid's saddle to maybe strike from beneath--and lucky he did take it, for the saddle was soon ripped from the horse's back.

He still thought to crawl under the horse and fight off the bandits, but they were took close and too many, he knew. He grit his teeth.

He heard behind him Kona brurr loudly. "Get away from her!" Tom yelled but was blocked from acting when the mare was wedged between the flanks of the two stallions, already nervous, squeezing Tom and B'Elanna, at his feet, into a tiny triangle while the steeds were quickly stripped or their gear. He didn't want to let go of the horses, so he lunged out for her bridle and just held her, thinking fast. They'd have nothing if he didn't act soon--

But a minute later, the bandits scattered, and the woods silenced.

Tom stood very still, rubbing Kona's nose and wondering why the bandits didn't even try for the steeds. After a few minutes, he eased the horses apart and led them around B'Elanna to a tree, tying them on. Looking down the trail both ways, he saw nothing. He returned to B'Elanna's side, dropping to his knees.

His hands and breath shook as he looked at her in the sparse light. He checked her breath. It was there but weak. He pressed a hand to her belly, but didn't even know what to feel for, so with frustration pulled his hand away. Feeling in her hair, he felt the wet of blood where her hat had been knocked off, and fought to control of himself, fought to clear his head, figure out what to do next. They'd been robbed right nicely, left with nothing but the horses, their weapons and the clothes on their backs.

Swallowing hard, he hooked the bat'leth on his belt hook and picked B'Elanna up, carried her to Frisco's side. She was big, but not too heavy, so lifting her wasn't too much a problem. "Stay still, now, boy," he whispered as he carefully got her up on the stallion's bare back, slumped against his neck, then secured her there with the bridle, holding her in place as he reached for the other horses.

Tom carefully led them to a fallen log and climbed up on behind his mate. He peeked back to Kona. "Hope you don't mind a canter, girl," he said then clicked for all of them to set off, double their earlier pace, holding a limp B'Elanna tightly against him. It was tricky balancing with her and no saddle, but Tom kept his concentration, mainly for fear she'd fall again.

But the more he drove them through the darkness, the more he grew from fear to fury--If anything happens to B'Elanna for this, I'll find them and kill them myself. I swear I will. Tom started to understand why the Klingon Indians lived as they did, if what'd happened to him was any example of that territory. No Klingon would commit such an underhanded act.

Not too far behind him, the creature darted off the trail and into the wood.

VC: Dances with Targs, 1
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 1:50 PM

The smell of cedar had been the first, and the smell of coffee...and then the dried herbs hanging around an starscape mural on the ceiling. Then her breath nearly knocked back out her when a felt a definitive kick upwards in her belly. She moved to sit, then she groaned, falling back.

Madame D'Alaireux smiled and turned from the large stone fireplace. "Well, there you are," she said quietly, knowing the girl would still have a headache.

"What happened? Where's Tom?"

"Tom's outside--I told him to go away. What do you last remember?"

"Riding on the Gorkon Trail," B'Elanna whispered, and tried again to get up.

"No, no. Remain as you are." She moved behind her patient and propped some cushions behind her. "Better? Good." She moved swiftly away and opened a bag on a large wooden table. "You were attacked by a Romulan Trail Party. They hit you in the head and stole your horses' gear."

B'Elanna's eyes shot open. "What!? All our things, my saddle?...The horses--they're all right?"

"Be calm. Tom brought you and them here." Madame D'Alaireux peered to B'Elanna, who was both visibly upset and relieved. "Tom rode through the night with you out and bareback, mad as Fek'lhr, and more so when it was said you should allowed to die. --I tell you this so you might be over it a little before he returns. I don't think it'd be wise to rouse the tribe again. By the time I arrived he'd picked a good couple challenges. Luckily, I do have some say with the warriors. They've stopped demanding the hegh'bat."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes at that prospect. "Thanks. But he's all right?"

"He's had a few days to calm down, to watch you heal. It's been nearly four days now." She stirred some hot water into a small pot and poured in some leaves.

"Are you at war now because of this?" B'Elanna asked.

"Thankfully, I was able to convince them that retribution was precisely what they intended," the woman told her. "Why else would they disgrace you but leave your horses? If they wanted them, they would have had them easily. The Romulans had probably tracked you from Grilka's village, struck you to make their crime all the more shameful. They didn't need your gear. They needed your fury--and ours. Romulan Indians know exactly how to raise a YAK's hackles, and they did."

"YAK? What's that?"

"Young adult Klingon. Feisty sort, loves to play with bat'leths and explosives. Anyway, the Romulans sought to humiliate you, B'Elanna, and thus any family you had, so they'd seek revenge. Once Tom saw this, he calmed down--then started fussing over you. So I told Vagh to take him for a walk. He'll return soon."

B'Elanna watched her old friend work on some other herbs while the tea steeped. She was the same woman she knew, though certainly not as strange as she seemed before, perhaps because she was home. Finally, she decided to ask. "D'A, I need to ask you about something. It's the reason we're here."

She nodded. "Yes, Tom has told me of your mission."

B'Elanna drew a breath, then cringed at it. Her ribs felt like a horse kicked them. "And?"

"It's impossible for you to fight for that honor, B'Elanna," Madame D'Alaireux replied. "You were wise to be only mated to Tom--the council will like that sacrifice of your learned ways for Klingon tradition. And that you'd journey here for that purpose is respectable, too. But there isn't a one in the tribe that would accept a challenge from you."

B'Elanna paled, and then felt an anger crop up behind it. All her plans, delaying Tom, putting them all in danger--for nothing..."Why not?"

She giggled. "B'Elanna, you look like you swallowed one of your horses. Not even a child would fight you now. You can state your case to Gowron's Council, but to challenge it is useless."

"You mean I did all this for nothing? Ma will always be regarded with dishonor, and I'll never have a place here?"

Dances with Targs, 2
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 1:53 PM

She didn't answer at first, but sieved the tea and dumped the leaves on the table, looking down at them. A strange smile played across her face. "I never said that." Picking up the cup, she moved to B'Elanna's side and handed it to her. "It is sweetened with honey, but don't tell the warriors that."

B'Elanna sipped at the tea, and was right thankful it was better than the bark stuff Grilka has served her. "I'd like to check on Kona."

"She's very well--and you're not. --Do not argue me. I've had enough trouble with the other Klingons here without you buckling over in front of them....How long had you planned to stay?"

"Till the ice breaks at least. The Delta Flyer won't pass the gorge until it does. Why? What are you thinking?"

The fortune teller grinned. "It will serve you well. Until then, you are members of my household, you and Tom."

Her statement was not lost on B'Elanna. "You honor me, D'A."

She smiled. "I am home now, B'Elanna, and have resumed my duties as this village's seer and tea maker. You may call me by my Klingon name, K'Fae. Madame D'Alaireux is what I use when I am traveling, not here."

B'Elanna nodded, then the door string pulled. Looking over as the skin-lined stick door opened, she saw Tom come through it--and stare at her. His hair was a mess, he had a bruise on his cheekbone--and his nose...and his knuckles, and the shirt under his coat wasn't his, but the grin she spotted was rightfully his when he moved straight across to her open arms. He kissed her gently, touching her almost in amazement as he breathed his relief to her.

K'Fae went to the door where Vagh and Kurak stood, watching the reunion between the two. She smiled. "I told you she would conquer her injury."

"Yes, her strength served her. What now with them, then?" Kurak asked, her mouth still bent ill.

"They will remain with my house until the spring," K'Fae replied. "They will travel to Gowron's council when they call their session."

Vagh was scowling. "You do not seriously think that B'Elanna can fight in the council for her mother?"

K'Fae smiled. "I have seen, Vagh. She will not have to, when he is ready to prove himself for her benefit."

Vagh's eyes shot open. "That whelp? He has no training in fighting Klingons."

"Considering who he's mated to, I'd say he has more than she does, and he should get more while he's here." K'Fae's lips curled into a smirk. "Time, Vagh, is all that's required. Leave it to me. He'll be ready."


Kurak looked up from the pelt she sewed to raise a brow to Vagh. "She's doing it again."

Vagh stifled a smirk. K'Fae, born a half-breed, and prone to traveling amongst outsiders, was yet a respected seer, and certainly as pleasingly cruel as any Klingon woman. She looked it, too, as she approached the rancher and the other half-breed with Navarre, ready to ride.

The young couple had finally gotten some time outside, the female healed enough to walk freely. But after a few words with the couple, Tom Janeway nodded and gave B'Elanna a peck on the cheek before setting off into the village. K'Fae pointed towards Vagh and Kurak, and B'Elanna smiled slightly, nodded.

"Vagh! Kurak!" K'Fae called. "I am required at the meeting hall this morning. Ask B'Elanna to tell you the tale of Vallek Gully. Tom will return presently. When he does, Vagh, why don't you take him on your hunting party? He will do well to learn the way."

A moment later, K'Fae rode away, and B'Elanna walked across and took a seat by Kurak. "Says she needs some dried cho'ta flowers for the tea ceremony, but doesn't have time."

Kurak and Vagh shared a look. They knew what side of the village the rancher would have to go to for the flowers. To her credit, Kurak said nothing. "Help me with this pelt," she said, "and tell us the tale."

B'Elanna nodded and did so. She had little else to do.

Dances with Targs, 3
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:01 PM

Tom had quickly come to understand why B'Elanna had avoided looking into that side of herself. But it also made him understand that his woman didn't know what a temper was--even if lately she was showing hers right nicely.

Big as a house and unable to do much, by K'Fae's orders, since they'd come more than a month past, B'Elanna had definitely gotten in touch with the general mood there--bad. She even made Kurak look like a lady some days--a term he had to remind himself never to call a female Klingon again. Though, he couldn't be all sorry that Kurak had made friends with his mate. The work was drudgery to B'Elanna, who dreamed of riding again, but Kurak did keep her busy.

For himself, Tom never thought he could get in so many fights--with her or anyone else. Though the hunting parties were getting easier, he still couldn't cross a dugout without crossing someone trying to kill him, or get ten paces from K'Fae's without being offered a switch.

And he was getting bored with it.

"You, p'tahk!"

Tom rolled his eyes and pulled the strap of the supply bag closer up on his shoulder, too tired by then to bother with the bat'leth strapped over his back. "Look, mister, I don't have time for this, my mate's waitin--."

But the warrior lunged forward, striking Tom in the chest with a heavy fist. Momentarily knocked for breath, Tom swung his arm back and spun to throw his other fist in the Klingon's face, throwing the warrior back into a fence. Then he set off, again, before the man got up.

He turned a corner near the horse corral and heard the all-too-familiar epitaph again. "Dangit, I don't have time for this," he muttered through his teeth as another warrior came at him.

A few minutes later, Tom, shaking his arm to dull the pain, had finally gotten back on the center path to K'Fae's dugout. Never reckoned it'd take this long to get a bag of lichen for whatever deadly brew K'Fae's up to this time. Took less time than yesterday, though.

Yet when he entered to dugout, Tom almost wished he'd stayed outside. B'Elanna stood there, neat and pretty and very pregnant, wearing the skin dress Kurak had made for her, which prompted a grin. But her fists sat on her hips, her eyes were glaring. Tom swore beneath his breath. Here we go again.

"Where the h*ll have you been?!" she demanded. "I've been waiting here for three hours."

Tom put the supply bag on the table. "Well, B'Elanna, if this place would let a man walk from one end to the other without--"

"I had dinner all ready and I had to eat without you," she cut in.

Tom's brow rose. "You made dinner?"

"Got nothin' else to do 'round here. --But forget about it, 'cause dinner's long gone."

Feeling at his empty stomach, Tom took another look at her. Maybe he had dallied..."Well, I could stand for something to eat. That was right nice of you."

"Not anymore it ain't," she said. "I fed it to the dogs."


B'Elanna grinned evilly. "I took your bird, cooked over the fire and nice and juicy, off your plate, walked outside, and fed_it_to_the_dogs. And they liked it."

Tom felt his face redden. "You threw my supper out 'cause I'm late?!"

"I'm sitting here all day like a lump!" B'Elanna snapped. "I can't work with my horses, I can't ride, I can't fight for my ma or for me--Can't do anything but sew them d@mn pelts! And you go off foolin' around all day, doing whatever you like!"

"Foolin' around!? I get right beat like a rug every time K'Fae sends me out! If they're not out to kill me, I'd swear she was!"

"At least you can go somewhere! Which is just dandy! Get out and find yourself something to eat, 'cause I'm not bothering again!"

"Fine!" Tom spun and stormed out, slamming the door-- then heard the unmistakable THUNK! of her mek'leth hitting it. "I am in h*ll," he told himself.

Dances with Targs, 4
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:05 PM

Crossing the court, Tom shot his glare to the corral. Intrepid was there, doing nothing, so Tom made his way there. He needed to ride--fast and hard. Anything to get away.

"Where of you going, p'tahk!?" came a voice to his side, and Tom dimly recognized the warrior in the torchlight. There'd been so many after him that he'd lost track. "I have not finished our--"

"H*ll with this!" Tom growled and reeled around with a yell. He pummeled the warrior, delivering a crack to the man's nose--then receiving a blow to his ribs. Sure they were all broken by then, anyway, Tom swung back.

K'Fae had been walking up to her dugout with Kurak and smiled upon the scene of the two men throttling each other. "Ah, so nice to know Tom has finally made a friend."

Kurak rose her brow. "I thought it might never happen." Going inside with her friend, she soon learned what B'Elanna, still enraged, did with Tom's supper.

Seeing the mek'leth stuck hard in the door, Kurak laughed loudly. "You do have Klingon blood in you, my friend! There is hope!"

K'Fae merely smiled and went to prepare some tea for B'Elanna, and some Java for herself.

The women sat by the fire for some time after, K'Fae talking about Timmy and Baktag's jungle adventure for the winter, and Kurak of her husband's riotous hunting parties and blood wine distilling in the backwoods. And then there were the YAKs, whose mention brought Kurak to spit in the fire.

"Let the men do their male things," Kurak finally said. "A warrior must be free to show their brak'lul--tiring as it is for us."

But B'Elanna sighed. "That's not the Tom I know. Back on the ranch, he's--"

"You are not on the ranch, B'Elanna," Kurak told her. "If he kept himself as a lily-white rancher here, he would be dead. Let him be the man he is proving to be." And Kurak motioned to B'Elanna's belly with a grin. "His rifle certainly shoots no blanks. And his dedication to his mate is not a question. But that is only a part of it."

Still, the younger woman shook her head. "I shouldn't have let him come with me."

"It will come of use," K'Fae told her, sipping her java. "Just let--."

The door flung open and the warrior from outside entered, a snarl planted on his bloodied face. "I want blood wine, K'Fae!"

"Get it yourself," K'Fae replied--and he did. She looked back at him, grinning at the work done on the formidable warrior. Tom is doing very well, indeed "Tell me," she asked, a little amused, "where is your friend?"

"Tom Janeway? He is gone."

"Gone?!" B'Elanna cried out, struggling to her feet. "What'd you do to him?"

The man scowled down at her. "He left on his stallion. He said not where."

B'Elanna threw her glare to K'Fae, who only smiled and said, "Let him have some time."

"The h*ll I will! Jeez, K'Fae, he don't know this land any more than I do! And he'll never stop to ask for a guide!"

K'Fae tipped the demitasse, taking in the last sip of her drink. It is time. The fortune teller drew a breath. "Let him go."

B'Elanna growled and started pacing.

Dances with Targs, 5
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:09 PM

Tom rode through the frigid night, not giving a d@mn about his numb hands, empty stomach or especially going back, not until at least B'Elanna calmed down. She wasn't herself, was big and bored and frustrated, and he knew it. He wasn't about to make things worse by nagging her to come around.

At that point, only K'Fae seemed to have any sense about her--and she was the one constantly getting him in trouble by sending him out, and always with that dang annoying smile. He minded her only because he knew that it was she that'd stood up for him and B'Elanna when they first arrived. He felt a duty to pay her back for all her help.

Didn't make his ribs feel any better, though.

As the sun rose over the far hills, Tom stopped to look at it. Below in a canyon stood a large village, teeming with Klingons. Knowing he'd have to fight again if he went to it, Tom turned Intrepid off in the other direction, riding some time before reaching the next rise.

Coming around the first bend, he heard sounds through the rocks--sounds foreign to the ones he'd gotten used to. Sliding off Intrepid's back, Tom tied the horse on and crept around to see who was there. His eyes widening, then narrowing with recognition, he backed off, then lead Intrepid off a bit so he wouldn't be heard. Then he saw it.

The creature was there, staring at him. Tom shooed him off with a hand, and scowl. It didn't move, and Tom had no jerky to offer it that time. Blowing a breath, Tom mounted his stallion and rode back to the village. He came to the frosted cliffs again, paused.

He could see them going about their day, the warriors and their gear, the women hanging meat to dry, the children playing mock battles...Pummeling or not, they've gotta know, he decided, and set Intrepid down the rocky path, actually allowing himself a grin at the reminder of the horse race he'd won...How long ago?

Sure as he'd expected, not a few warriors came out to greet him as he rode fast into the village, ripping him down from the stallion with fierce cries and challenges.

"I ain't got the time to fight you!" Tom yelled, scrambling to his feet to grab Intrepid's reigns. "There's a Romulan camp over in the next gorge--plotting on taking you out!"

A large warrior pushed through the throng and grabbed Tom by his coat collar. "You come to herald a battle with the Romulans?"

"Yes," Tom said, meeting the man's glare.

The well-ornamented warrior put Tom down, eyeing his bat'leth, the scar on his jaw. "You come to join our fight against the Romulan tribe?"

Actually, he hadn't--he was tired, cold and hungry and sick to death of fighting. But he also knew what'd happen to him if he said no. "I'll fight with you," he said. "I'm an outsider here, staying at Cha'Kago, in K'Fae's house with my mate, but I'd be honored to help y'all out."

The large man grinned, showing his teeth, his bulging eyes shining with the promise of battle. "We shall see who helps who," he told Tom. "And is your pet going to assist as well?"

Tom looked quickly. The creature had followed him again, and had taken a seat by Intrepid's side. Tom flushed, growled to himself. "That's not my pet. It's been following me around for more than a month, now."

"It has? Odd, for a wild targ." But he let it pass. "As Gowron, chief of the Klingon tribe, you are welcome to our fight." He turned to the others and bellowed, "A glorious battle and victory will be ours today!"

RE: Dances with Targs, 6 --*Correction*
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 9:27 PM

Tom gulped, not knowing whether to be happy he'd been accepted along or sorry he'd come. He had no idea he'd arrived at Gowron's camp. Gowron, who could make or break B'Elanna's honor.

As he watched the chief excite his warriors further, he heard his own name being called from a distance. Tom held his hand up against the glare of the cool sun to see who it was. A rider coming in fast stopped before him. Tom coughed in shock to see it was Kor, bat'leth at the ready, his peppered grey hair looking worn for the road, his hot breath puffing in the air.

The older man was grinning wide. "I had no idea in tracking you that I would find you keeping your promise to me so well!" he laughed. "Your mate fetters after you like a laying bird--made me swear to find you else let my blood to her caldron!"

Despite himself, Tom shrugged, grinning back to Kor. "Maybe I took her kicking me out a might seriously."

The older man laughed. "And now she knows the power of her words! She's turned the land over seeking you--Against K'Fae's wishes rode a ditch around the village waiting and watching--then beat down a full grown warrior in the court when he suggested she replace her mate when your corpse is found."


Kor chuckled. "The warrior was unwise to try a mated woman in wait--she made short work of him. When I arrived, B'Elanna nearly ripped me from my mount demanding I continue on. And here you are, preparing for battle. I am glad to have listened to her."

Kor dismounted and turned to Gowron. "Venerable chief, may I join in the glory of your battle? This white cub hates to lose as much as I--and I have awaited stripping some worthless Romulan skin for too long!" Gowron gave his old friend a firm nod. Kor grabbed Tom's arm. "We shall fight together, for the glory of the Klingon tribe, and our houses! Come! We will prepare!"

With amazing speed, the village went into action--horses were prepared, food was delivered, weapons sharpened, and Tom gladly sat by a fire with the high chief to grabe a bite. He could've eaten that targ by then, and didn't care if it was raw...Well, maybe he did a little. But anything was better than Hop-sing's pickled pleeka rind, which B'Elanna had hogged on during the whole drive.

The high chief glared at Tom as he ran the sharpening stone over his weapon, watching the fair man eat. "Why come to Cha'Kago, brave K'Fae's village, Tom Janeway? No man of your...birth has willingly stayed among us, except for their own purposes, and few have joined our battles."

"My mate needed to come. Her mother was Klingon, and B'Elanna grew up away from all this. She wanted to get to know y'all."

Kor's eyes narrowed. "And? --You said so much at Grilka's fire."

Tom considered it, deciding to remain careful. "My mate has no place here. She wanted to make one. Personally, I think she didn't have to earn her honor with you, as she's a right honorable woman, but she wanted to be accepted here, as she came to be back home."

Kor nodded. "But she cannot challenge anybody because she lays in wait."

Gowron's heavy brows both rose and furrowed at that, and he caught a quick, telling glance from Kor. He looked back to the fair man. "Let the challenge remain with our enemy, then we will discuss the rest. Fight today, Tom Janeway, for your mate. And we shall see how her honor is served."

Tom held the chief's gaze on that thought, then held out his hand to the other man. "Lend me your sharpening stone, Kor?"

Kor grinned approvingly and gave Tom his stone.

Dances with Targs, 7
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:16 PM

"You did what?!"

K'Fae couldn't help but be amused by the livid B'Elanna, who standing before the fire resembled more a big demon than a lady. "I sent him out purposefully, so that his blood would start to boil enough to handle this day. I didn't expect, though, that you'd help so much."

"You mean to say you'd seen all this coming? That you'd let my mate get chopped up by a bunch of Romulan Indians?!" B'Elanna threw her hands down on the table as she shook her head, almost trying to disbelieve what she then knew. "I thought you were my friend, and you've done this to Tom."

"I've done this to you both," K'Fae replied. "You did wish to have a chance at earning a place here, yes? Well, that would be impossible if your mate did not make a name for himself as well. Honor is shared throughout a family, B'Elanna. If one falls, so do the rest, unless there is restitution for that failure. It is the balance that makes the Klingon tribe what it is."

B'Elanna was still. She couldn't fight that. "I just hope Kor's as much a warrior as he looks, that he'll find Tom and get him back here."

K'Fae grinned. "Kor is man of great distinction, of far more influence and ability than he looks. You can trust him--as you must trust Tom to live up to your destiny."

"And what is my destiny, K'Fae? What else have you seen?"

Her eyes turned to her work. "An arrow, straight and sure, will seal it."


The bloody cries filled the air as they flew through the gorge to the Romulan camp, which jumped at the cries to their weapons. Riding at Kor's side, Tom kicked Intrepid into the thick only to see how many Romulan Indians there were. Fear alone bracing him, he grabbed his bat'leth. It was either do or die at that point, and he knew he had to do.

Hopping the stallion up the rock steps, Tom braced his weapon against his forearm and struck out at a readied Romulan, and cut him from his mount. The last look on the alien Indian was fury beneath his green warpaint. Tom ignored it for another approaching, and buried his blade into the enemy's side before taking off after three others.

The Romulans had trained their horses for that terrain, Tom knew, seeing the agile jumps their steeds were taking, and followed them up the gravel hill, chasing down the invaders into their hold. A pair of archers there barely realized Tom was coming before his boot hit one in the head, and his bat'leth took down the next.

Kor had followed, but his horse struggled in the loose rock. The warrior jumped down and set his horse free, running into the throng of other unmounted fighters. As his bat'leth sliced through the chest of one opponent, he didn't expect the blow from behind, nor hear Tom's cry as he came charging with his weapon raised.

Tom drove Intrepid back down into the ground battle, eyes white with purpose, as he watched the Romulan raise his tomahawk for the death blow. "Kor!" he yelled, and Tom's weapon found its mark with one blow, dashing off the arm of the Romulan, who got kicked back by the warrior he'd attacked. Tom grinned when Kor pulled up his head. "C'mon, there's more where that came from!"

Kor waved him off. "Go, Tom! Fight to win, as you say--as shall I! Qapla'!""

Tom nodded and turned Frisco back. The battle had moved mostly to foot for the terrain, and the sounds and sights of the gory battle started spinning in Tom's head. Yet as he turned again to choose his next run, he felt himself pulled off Intrepid. Still not used to riding bareback, he came down easily--but acted quick enough to swing his blade with his fall, cutting down the Romulan who'd gotten him.

Dances with Targs, 8
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:20 PM

Scrambling back to his feet, Tom saw in the distance Gowron engaged with two Romulans, crying out gloriously in the thrill of the fight. But as he took down one, another replaced the dead, and a couple lucky blows had diverted the proud man's thrusts, heaved his breath and his yells. Tom rushed in to join him. As he approached, he saw another coming at the chief from behind. Tom raised his bat'leth, crying out with his lunge.

Gowron turned only to see the flash of steel pass by his eyes and into the throat of the Romulan, whose tomahawk whipped through the chief's battle coat, completing its swing. Ripping back his bat'leth, Tom's stare shot back to the chief. Day met night in a moment's understanding before the former yelled--"Behind you!"

The chief whipped around and stabbed the Romulan, twisting his blade in the Indian's heart. As the corpse slid from his knife, the chief looked round to see the battle driving down, and some Romulan cowards escaping. A smile revealed his sharpened teeth, then spun back at a scream behind him.

Tom had fallen forward on his hands, an arrow having passed through the muscle of his shoulder from behind. "D@mn!" he spat.

Gowron quickly retrieved one of the fallen tomahawks and threw it into the rocks. A moment later, a bleeding archer slumped over his post. Lowering to his knee, he pulled Tom up to his knees and wrapped his dark hands around the arrow, breaking off the tip. "Brace yourself."

Outside the gorge, Intrepid bucked at his master's holler echoing out from the rocks, but could not move forward. The targ would not let him, having cornered him in a group of rocks.

Tom was dizzy, and didn't bother hiding it. After the Klingon death ritual echoed in the gorge and faded away, one of the Klingons came to him and packed cloth under his coat and shirt, around the wound. Gowron then pulled him up. Tom's head lolled with the pain.

In that haze, he heard his name being called. He looked across to see Kor, his head bleeding but eyes smiling. The old man had turned from a supply sled with a fine saddle in his arms.

"This is your mate's, I think!" Kor called. "Maybe now she will take you back!"

Tom barely had the strength to laugh.


"To the glory of the Klingon Tribe!" Gowron announced holding up his chalice to the bloody yells of the warriors around him. The bonfire burned as wildly as their hearts on the night of their victory, their honor well-earned, and that of those who died in the battle. After rounding the camp, his grin faded to see the fair warrior, nursing his wound and a mug of blood wine, staring into the fire as Kor extolled scenes from the battle.

To this man I owe my life, Gowron knew, albeit grudgingly, and so took a seat between him and Kor. When Kor finished, the chief emptied his chalice and held his arm straight out for more. As it poured, he said, "Why so reflective, Tom Janeway? This battle was an honor to you, your mate, and your child!"

Tom grinned with that irony. "B'Elanna'd rather have earned it for herself."

Gowron laughed. "Of course she would! She is Klingon! But what of you? Did you not wish to build your family's honor?" Tom nodded but weakly. The chief eyed him. "Tell me--What house does she belong to?"

Dances with Targs, 9
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:23 PM

Tom drew a breath, cursing himself for letting the topic go there, wishing he'd left sooner. "She has no house here."

"Ahh," Kor said, watching the young man's jaw grind. "There has been a disgrace in her family?"

"Her mother was disowned for marrying outside the tribe." Tom wiped his food-stained hands on his nearly ruined jeans. "I don't think that B'Elanna should bear the dishonor for her mother's choice, but I reckon I'm as much an outcast as she is." He turned to Gowron. "You still think I brought honor to your battle, or do I dishonor you just by being here?"

He scowled. "You offered your life for mine, Tom Janeway. I would be in Sto-Ko-Var now, among the dead, and the tribe in want for a new chief, if not for your courage. Kor, too. You have acted honorably, in joining our fight, and with duty for rousing us to battle. For that, I am willing to hear her."

Tom brightened. "You are? You mean she can come and make her case?"

"Bring her to me," was all Gowron said, then jumped to his feet to rejoin in the celebration.

Tom smiled after him. "Much obliged," he said, and met Kor's grinning eyes. The older man reached over and squeezed his arm, then also left. Letting the blood wine do its own work on him--mainly at that point dulling the pain--Tom leaned back on the rocks, not noticing behind him Kor pulling Gowron aside.


Tom's return from the Battle of Kor'tova Gorge had initially been greeted with the result of her worry--B'Elanna was furious for thinking him dead somewhere. But when Kor pulled Tom down from Frisco and into K'Fae's dugout, when she saw the wounds and she heard the story, a rare set of tears fell from her eyes, thankful that the arrow of K'Fae's prediction had not killed him.

She didn't even care about getting their gear back--or at least, not right off. She instead remained by his side as K'Fae treated his wounds, thanking Kor for finding him, and Tom for, intentionally or not, doing them so much honor. As Tom rested, Kor told her the entire story of the day, and also related Gowron's willingness to hear her plight for her mother's honor.

B'Elanna bent her head with a relieved sigh. "Then it wasn't all in vain," she whispered, and spoke of her disappointment in coming to Cha'Kago. "It was bad enough I couldn't do anything to help myself, but worse that Tom got beat up for it--in the village, and by me."

Kor grinned. "He fought valiantly at Kor'tova, and for you, B'Elanna. He earned in your name great respect and honor. I think that speaks for you and your intent. He knows its importance to you." She seemed to accept that, smiling a little. Kor peered curiously down to her. "Tell me about your home, B'Elanna, how you came on this ambitious mission. I had not thought that outsiders could have the heart of a Klingon."

B'Elanna smiled and said it was a long story. Kor told her he had much time to listen. Her pause after that was for wondering where to start. So she did at the beginning, at the Maquis Ranch, with her mother and father and the Cardassian threat.

Kor took in every word. In the two weeks that passed before they rode back to the council, he heard all from both of them, and later from K'Fae. So, it was with a knowing pride he accompanied them back to K'Nos, then stood at the side of the meeting hall, watching B'Elanna release her mate's hand and step forward to make her case.

Holding herself as straight as she could, she looked up to Gowron, perched properly in his chair and glowering at her. But she wasn't antsy under his gaze. So much had happened to get her there, so she was right glad to finally speak the words:

"My name is B'EAHlanna," she said proudly, "daughter of B'Etor. I have come to demand my honor be recognized by the Klingon Tribe..."

Dances with Targs, 10
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:28 PM

Once again, Kor heard her story, listened as she spoke of her life and battles. She lived not a warrior's life, but had earned the honor of one, as had her mate. Thus, she demanded her place and her mother's. But Kor did not need to be convinced. He'd heard her tale well the first time.

Kor's life, much alone since the loss of his son, then his daughter, and finally his wife, had long been one in search of those who spoke to his soul. No one had until those children came into Grilka's dugout. Hearing of the much-honored souls who aided B'Elanna fight against those whose people murdered her mother, then seeing Tom's interest in the bat'leth, Kor knew his path--even if it took him some time to admit it.

In following them to Cha'Kago, meeting them again, he knew his eyes had opened. And in speaking with Gowron and the other council members, he already knew the end of that path.

B'Elanna finished her demand, and stood proud, ready for any challenge despite her belly, despite her knowing Tom had insisted on fighting for her. She held the chief's eyes hard in her own. Waiting.

Gowron's mouth twisted into snarling grin. "B'Elanna, daughter of B'Etor, has made her demand of this council. But your demand must also be made of your mother's house."

"Then I'll make it," she replied. "I've come this far, haven't I?"

The chief was pleased, and looked to the side of the hall. "What say you, Kor? Your decision will affect mine."

Kor almost smiled to see the stunned expression emanating from his granddaughter's face, and even glanced to enjoy Tom's shock, too. But he pushed it down to step forward. "B'Etor left us for the love of an outsider. I know now this was her path--for it was her child's path was to return to us with a mate willing to fight for her, and to help bring victory to our tribe against our blood enemies.

"You belong to the outside world, B'Elanna, but you have a Klingon heart, fierce and loyal. From B'Etor's mistake came an honorable woman, and partially for B'Etor's lessons. I see clearly now--she did not sacrifice all her ways. This served us well, and you." He paused, inward for a moment, then, "It was in my power to disown her. It is also in my power to claim you."

Seeing B'Elanna's eyes close for a moment in relief, then open more brightly to his own, Kor took two more steps forward, looked down to her. "Tell me this, B'Elanna: You vindicated B'Etor's death. Are you willing to vindicate the disgrace I bore for your mother's path? To give me the honor I was denied?"

B'Elanna took a breath at that, realizing what he was asking. Glancing aside to Tom, she saw him ask right back with a raised brow and a tiny grin. She grinned back, then turned to her grandfather.


"Do not deny it, Tom! It likes you!"

Tom laughed and shooed the targ off with a "Git!" and a sweep of his hand. But the creature kept returning, giving Kor and Vagh even more reason to taunt him as he examined Kona's week old colt--for the fifth time that day.

But despite the needling, Tom wasn't about to go any further than he was, so he grabbed a strip of jerky from his shirt pocket and threw it into the corral. "Go'on now!" The targ found and gobbled the treat, only to jump back to Tom's heels, prancing back after attacking his spurs.

Kor leaned back on the post, grinning as his adopted grandson chased off the stupid creature that for no apparent reason had adopted him and B'Elanna. "He is a man, but young still, like his wife. They will do well when they decide to return to their true home. It is where they belong."

Vagh nodded. "Yes. I shall miss Tom in the hunt, but he speaks more often of home of late. And your granddaughter misses her horses more each day--Kurak is growing impatient with hearing her speak of it."

"It is her life," Kor agreed. "And Kurak will complain most when B'Elanna returns to it."

RE: Dances with Targs, 11 --eew, another *correction* (grr)
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 9:50 PM

The colt jolted away and out to the patches of fresh grass, on which his mother fed. Shaking his head, Tom followed him out, gave Kona an affectionate pat before leaning back down to the colt. "Hold still, now, Kos'mo."

Suddenly through the village a wild war cry echoed, and, stopping his work, Tom ran back to the dugout. But Kurak appeared before he could touch the door, snarling at him. "Go back to the other men," she ordered, "and leave this work to women. You've already given her enough work to do."


"Do not make me damage you," Kurak growled, then shot a glare to the others. "Can you not keep this cub busy? Men! Go kill something, make yourselves useful."

She pushed past Tom and moved to fill another bucket with water. Turning back to find Tom trying to look in the door, she crushed her grin before returning, shoving past him and slamming the door in his face. Tom slumped where he stood, then straightened when he heard the next throe.

Kor watched Tom's face contort with each new yell, and recalled his own experience in the wait--though Kahlest's mother did actually strike him down bloodily. Vagh's expression spoke similarly. "Come Tom!" said Kor. "Let us go kill something, then--like the pits in our stomachs! You grow too thin as it is!" The younger man didn't move, and Kor, growling, stomped up to extract the rancher from the door.

Tom went a few steps, then remembered--"I aughta get my bat'leth if we're going out--it's just inside--"

Kor growled again for want to laugh, yanked Tom forward. "It has been weeks since any have dared to challenge you. Do not think I am unwise of your tactic!" Glancing back to the door, though, he added, "We will not go far."


K'Fae had said her good-byes, and smiled from the door of her dugout as Kor held the infant up above his head, squinting against the warm spring sun, laughing proudly as a nervous Tom behind him resisted grabbing her. But Kor brought the baby down safely, tried to look into the child's eyes once more before relinquishing her.

He might never see those eyes again, K'Fae knew, as a warrior's life was always left to question. But at least his own are opened.

But he'd already seen the eyes of his great-grandchild after the birth, from which B'Elanna had recovered admirably--as he knew she would. She was of his stock, after all, he'd boasted. K'Fae wryly contended that it was more because B'Elanna was anxious to ride again--get out of the house and be free.

Thankfully, she was indeed healed soon, giving both parents some much needed time doing the thing they loved and knew so well...Well, the fortune teller smirked, one of the things, considering.

Kor turned to his grandson, admiring again the ornaments Tom had earned in battle, hooked onto his belt and his coat. "You will continue to honor my granddaughter, keep her well."

"I promise, Kor," Tom said, grabbing the man's shoulder and giving it a firm shake--thinking how relieved he'd be to shake a man's hand again. "I reckon she'll be doing the same with me."

Kor grinned, glancing to the diminutive horsewoman, who was meticulously checking on Kona and the colt's leads. "Do me one more honor?"


"Have me known to Beata. Let her know the tale of my life, and the honor her parents earned here, in her birthplace."

"You can rest assured I will," Tom told him.

Dances with Targs, 12
D'Alaire — 9 Oct 1998, 2:42 PM

"And let her know her blood," Kor continued. "It would be a waste if you both had fought for your honor only to have it forgotten."

"I'll say," B'Elanna said, coming around Intrepid to take the baby. With Tom's help, she got her settled in the furred skin sling Kurak devised for her, then took her grandfather's hands. "And just 'cause we live far off don't mean you can't come calling. I'd think you'd have battles aplenty at Quark's alone."

Tom snorted. "If you didn't kill Quark outright...Never thought I'd miss the little wart."

Kor grinned. "Perhaps someday."

That was enough for B'Elanna, who pulled her grandfather down a bit to place a kiss on his gruff cheek. Wordlessly accepting the gesture with a squeeze of her arm, Kor moved away and back to K'Fae's side. "Qapla'!" he told them, and had the same returned.

With a smile to her husband, B'Elanna went back around to Frisco, mounting him easily as Tom did the same, got herself comfortable as he settled his hat on his head. She looked over to the dugout, catching K'Fae's little smile and bright stare, her grandfather's proud nod. When she heard Tom's click, she echoed it, turning Frisco expertly to set off again on the Gorkon trail.

Several days into their ride, past Grilka's village and the Narendra range, B'Elanna finished setting the baby to nurse and checking on Kona and the colt, only to raise her eyes behind her again. In the distance, she spotted the targ on the rise not too far back, sitting within the long, green grass of the range. It seemed to be watching them intently.

"I'll be d@mned if that thing ain't still following us," she said. "You think we've got ourselves a pet?"

Tom chuckled at the very thought. "Mama'd never have that thing on the ranch." He glanced back. The targ hadn't stirred. "Though I think I'll miss the little cur."

"Maybe we aughta take it with us, then," B'Elanna smirked. "Sourdough needs a playmate."

He laughed again. "B'Elanna, you're a mean as a snake!" He reached his stirruped boot over and rubbed her leg suggestively. "I like that."

"You'd better," she replied smartly, pushing his leg away in equal play, giggling at his mock hurt. As her smile faded, though, she looked ahead, pointing her eyes out on the horizon. "You think Pa and your mama took the letter okay?"

Tom had to think about that, and could see the best and worst of that scenario. "I reckon we'll find out soon enough," he said, then laughed lightly. "I don't suspect they'd think we'd always stay outta trouble, anyhow. But at least I did keep up my end and marry you like he told me to."

"Think a Klingon Indian ceremony's gonna be enough for them?"

"It's gonna have to. I kept my promise to your daddy, now we've got ours to Kor. We told him we'd abide by it."

B'Elanna nodded. "And so we will."


K'Fae looked up at the stars as if to count each one, breathing in the cool spring evening as she lay on the grass. Hearing a grunt nearby her, she smiled and held out her hand. A moment later, she was scratching the head of the targ, avoiding the inevitable drool down his fangs.

"Good boy," she whispered.