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Dances With Targs

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.