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The Gorkon Trail

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.