Gi'ral fastened her family jinaq necklace around her daughter's neck. It had been worn by her, and her mother before her. It was now Ba'el's turn to take a mate, and she had chosen Toq.
"I never dared to dream that this day would come," Gi'ral said quietly. "But now that it has, I'm happy for you, daughter."
Ba'el smiled. "Thank you, mother."
Tokath entered the room. "It's time." He held his hand out for his daughter, and Gi'ral left to take her place in the stone courtyard. Not long afterwards, the drums sounded, which only added to her nervousness. He gave Ba'el's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Are you ready?"
She nodded quickly.
"It's perfectly natural to be nervous," he continued, "Anyone who is serious about marriage feels that way."
"With fire and steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart..." They could hear Jadel's voice resonate through the whole compound as she recited the Klingon story of creation.
"I probably shouldn't say this," he covered his mouth with his hand, "but I'll tell you anyway. Toq threw up all over Dhaval earlier. He wasn't happy. I wouldn't be surprised if he attacks Toq in earnest when the time comes."
Ba'el laughed. "Thank you, father. That helps."
"Good. I love you." He held her close to him. It was only then that she realized how hard all of this was for him. "With all that I've done wrong, I must have done something right to have a daughter as beautiful as you."
"And the gods asked the heart, 'Why have you weakened so? We have made you the strongest in all of creation.'"
"I am alone!" Toq blurted.
"He's always so impatient. That's one thing you're going to have to correct," Tokath grumbled.
"Now, father," she giggled again.
"And the gods knew they had erred. So they went back to their forge and formed another heart..."
Tokath smiled. "That's your cue." There was the slightest glimmer in his eyes. It was the closest thing to a tear she had ever seen from her father.
Ba'el took a deep breath and stepped into the courtyard. She searched the crowd for Toq, and at last their eyes met. The look on his face was priceless. Before she knew it, she was at his side. Dhaval announced his approach by nearly tripping on a crack in the stone floor. Mercifully, he caught himself in time and handed them the bat'leths, mumbling something about "superfluous Klingon rituals."
"But the second heart beat stronger than the first, and the first was jealous of its power."
She barely remembered to block Toq's mock strike, she was so caught up in the moment. He seemed to enjoy it when she held her blade to his neck. "If we join together, no force can stop us." Then they gave their bat'leths back to Dhaval, and Toq took her into his arms.
"And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a terrible sound. For the first time, the gods knew fear. They tried to flee, but it was too late. The Klingon hearts destroyed the gods who created them, and turned the heavens to ash. To this very day, no one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts."
"Toq, son of Morgoth, does your heart beat only for this woman?"
He nodded, but his eyes never strayed from hers. "It does."
"And will you swear to join with her and stand against all who oppose you?"
"Ba'el, daughter of Gi'ral, does your heart beat only for this man?"
"Yes." The sound of her own voice startled her, and she was surprised when it didn't awaken her from this wonderful dream.
"Do you swear to join with him and stand against all who oppose you?"
Jadel raised her arms. "Then let all who are present here know that this man and this woman are married!" She turned to embrace Ba'el. "Now we are truly family. Welcome to our house."
With a loud cry, Dhaval and the Klingons charged at them.
Given their current state of affairs, the wedding feast was simple, though not in the least lacking in joy and conviviality. L'Kor surprised everyone by hauling out his secret stash of bloodwine. "This is the best reason to bring it out I've ever had. Be careful, everyone, it's been in my cellar since before Toq and Ba'el were born."
Soon, even Tokath was in good spirits, and the celebration continued long into the night. When the sun rose on their little corner of Carraya IV, it found most of them passed out all over the compound. Not surprisingly, Toq and Ba'el were no where to be found. A few of the older, wiser inhabitants had likewise retreated to their homes before things got out of hand.
Dhaval awoke to the sound of knocking. The sunlight stung his eyes, and his mouth felt like a cotton ball. K'Lor was serious when he said to be careful. Note to self: always listen when a Klingon warns me.
The knocking sounded again. Where was that coming from? He looked around. Beside him, Anne was sleeping deeply. He groaned. It wasn't going to be any fun when she woke up.
A third knock. It was then that he realized it was coming from the front gate. He blinked in bewilderment. Visitors? On Carraya IV? Now he had truly experienced it all. Since no one else seemed to be stirring, he would have to answer the door. Nothing ever changes around here...
He pulled himself to his knees when the callers pounded a fourth time. "I'm coming!" he growled. As he neared the gate, he could hear what sounded like the chattering of many people. They didn't sound at all hostile, so he opened the heavy door. About a dozen half-naked, pink pigmy people were waiting outside. They peered curiously at him, then the one Dhaval guessed to be their chieftain stepped forward.
"Star dweller," she said (at least Dhaval thought the being was a "she"), "We are the Ohmjhab. I am Jathen. We wish to speak with your leader."
"...of course," he answered. Assuming Tokath is in a fitting state to be seen. "Just a moment." He closed the gate, then went to find Tokath. He was nowhere around the courtyard, so it was logical to assume he had been one of the ones wise enough to retire early. Dhaval knocked on his superior's door, then attempted to straighten his uniform. It was wrinkled and dirty, but he was fairly certain he wouldn't get in trouble—this time. Gi'ral opened the door.
"My lady...well, the oddest thing has just occurred. Representatives of some alien race are waiting outside the gate to speak to the commander."
She stared at him for a moment, as astonished as he was. "But where did they come from?"
Dhaval rubbed his aching temples. "I didn't remember to ask them. Sorry."
"I'll get him." She looked around the courtyard at the people sprawled about and sighed.
"I know," he said, expressing his own embarrassment.
"Show them into the main gathering room. We'll be there in a few minutes."
Dhaval did as he was told, leading the strange visitors through the sea of bodies. The pigmies looked horrified. "They're alright," he tried to explain, "Our leader's daughter was just married last night." At once, they seemed to understand. Smiles appeared on their faces, and a few of them giggled, only to be shushed by their matron.
Tokath appeared in the gathering room not long afterwards. He looked gruff, but at least his hair and clothes were clean and in order. Dhaval wasn't able to say the same for himself. He introduced his commander to the strangers.
"We were fleeing the marabunta," she began.
"Do you mean the ants?"
She thought about the word for a moment, then spread her hands, indicating the affirmative. "Then a great flood came and drowned them, saving us all. But what was at first a blessing is now a curse. The floods have destroyed our crops."
"Yes," said Tokath, "That is our predicament as well."
Jathen continued. "Now we must move on. We're going to the sea to trade with the water dwellers for food, and perhaps learn some of their water farming."
The Romulan blinked. "Water dwellers?"
"Do you not know them?"
"Until today, we didn't know you were on this world, Jathen. We thought this planet was uninhabited. How many other peoples are here?"
"We have always left your kind be, Star Dweller Tokath, because we didn't know if you would wage war upon us. But we have been watching you for many, many seasons, and have discovered that you are indeed peaceful." She grasped her walking stick. "To answer your question, we've only had contact with the water dwellers in my lifetime, though the ancients speak of sand dwellers on the other side of the world. I cannot tell you if they are still there, or if they ever existed at all."
Tokath wearily sat down. Dhaval didn't know if it was his hangover, that he had "lost" his daughter only the night before, or that he had just found out that they had alien neighbors—or perhaps it was a combination of all three? His own head was spinning with excitement. He couldn't wait to tell Anne. She would surely be thrilled to meet any new people.
"We have been traveling for over a week, and have still many days to go before we reach the realm of the water dwellers."
"I suppose you can stay here as our guests for a day or two," Tokath offered. "But we don't have enough food for you to stay any longer than that."
"You are generous, Star Dweller. Thank you."
He smiled. "Just 'Tokath' will do. I wonder if these 'water dwellers' as you call them would trade with us, too?" He stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"The only way to know would be to ask them," she answered.
Just then, L'Kor staggered in. "Who's that? What's going on? Am I still drunk?"
Hang on to your hats, y'all! We're rolling again!