I should have known. The arrival of the message had been too convenient, the meeting place too isolated, the promises of aid too sincere.
And now, for my error, I face an assassin, his qutluch glinting against the light. I draw my own blade and allow him the first action. He is skilled, but not so much that I cannot block his attack and return it, the pommel of my knife striking him full in the face. His cheekbone cracks under the blow and he falls.
Behind me! Another assassin! Duras honors me by sending two to kill me. Or perhaps he cannot afford a single quality assassin, settling for two of lesser skill, for this one's blow is much like his fallen comrades, wide and too slow.
I block his swing and, for good measure, drive the armored toe of my boot into his midsection. My blade follows on behind to open his belly and, with a satisfyingly wet sound, he slumps to the floor.
I turn again to find the first assassin rising to the attack. I swing confidently to open his throat but he counters, not so hurt or inept as I had first thought.
The pain as the teeth of his blade drive up under my ribs is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Severed muscle and tendons pop like over-wound springs, ruptured organs mix their contents together and the tools of breathing are shredded. Such a thing can only feel like death.
My view from the floor shows the assassin with the broken face helping his comrade rise from the floor. The trail of blood that he leaves as he limps down the corridor will be fatal if he does not receive medical attention quickly.
I should have known. And now, for my error, I lie in a pool of my own blood watching my killers walk away. For my failure, my elder brother will be made to stand alone against the lies of Duras. His execution will be the end of the House of Mogh.
I am enveloped in cold darkness, the emptiness of a dishonored warrior.
I should have known.
A light! There, in the distance, is a faint red glow of fire and life. I approach with eager steps and enter into a great hall.
Pillars of ancient stone rise to a grand vaulted ceiling. Fires burn in great braziers, casting the hollow promise of warmth to shadowed corners. The throne upon the dais sits vacant. I occupy the throne, like a forgotten ruler of a desolate realm.
"What place is this?" I call out, my voice echoing down empty corridors, but there will be no answer.
Realization creeps upon me as a loathsome creature of midnight incarnate. This is the place of the dishonored.
I should have known.
Why am I alone? If I were in gre''or I would take comfort in at least being with other Klingons, even though they are the dishonored dead. In this place there is no one but me.
No. There is a warrior standing in the middle of the hall. He made no sound in his entrance yet stands at full height, ready and relaxed at the same time, as if he were there all the time and, invisible to me, I had walked through him in passing. It seems that I should know him but that recognition eludes me.
"Who are you?" he asks, seemingly indignant that I should be sitting in the seat reserved for him.
"I am Kurn; son of Mogh." I reply with pride.
"Are you?" he questions with a chuckle. He begins striding towards the dais and, with some inner amusement, his eyes break contact with mine.
I yield the throne to him. By his manner and confidence, he is obviously a leader of warriors, comfortable in his command. Yet, as he sits upon the throne, he seems out of place, pensive. He would be much more comfortable on the field of battle. He doesn't seem dishonored.
"Son of Mogh," the Leader says almost derisively. "Do you even remember your father? Would you recognize him if he were sitting here before you?"
"Of course I would," I respond. "He is my father." He is right in some small part. I do not remember my father but I would recognize him as easily as I would recognize myself. It would be as looking in a mirror.
This Leader is not my father, as he might have me believe with his riddles. He . . . is gone.
The throne sits empty.
There is movement in the shadows and I turn to see someone standing in a dark alcove. I move towards him but he vanishes, a creature of animate shadow. Another phantom warrior detaches himself from the deep recesses only to evaporate again in the light.
"What is this place?" I call out to the hall. "Who are you?"
"I am Kurn," a voice says behind me, but in turning, there is no one there. "Son of Mogh," comes the voice again from behind. Turning, I find emptiness.
"You speak in riddles. What is this place? Are you the veqlargh?"
"And why would I be that?" says the Leader, back upon his throne as if he never left.
"No more games," I say. "A trick, a test, it does not matter, I challenge you!"
"You are a fool," he says, not moving from his throne. "And your challenge can only result in a fools death."
"I am already dead, at the hands of an assassin. I may have died a foolish death but it was not dishonorable. I did my duty. I stood by Worf's side."
A shadowy form is there, lurking beside a buttress. And another. And more still, forming an army of darkness just outside the circle of light cast by the brazier of fire. A voice emerges from one of the shadowy figures. "Worf has made a choice and he will die for it." For a moment, I recognize the phantom as Duras. "You can still be safe. Let him stand alone."
"He is my brother. I will not betray him."
"Do you know your brother?" the Leader asks. "How do you know he would not betray you?"
"Betray me? Impossible!" I counter. "He returned to the Empire to face the lies of Duras and restore our family honor."
"What a noble act," A voice sounding like my own emanates from another lurking apparition. "How selfless." The apparition draws away from the shadows and becomes my brother. "I know who you are, Kurn. Son of Mogh."
"What?" The words were those of the traitor Duras but Worf speaks them. My brother stands in his Federation uniform with the blade of an assassin in his hand. His eyes are filled with hate.
"It was a wise choice to hide your family name. Do not err now by embracing it again. For you only embrace death."
"Brother," I yell, trying to break him from this evil spell. "Do not do this thing. We are the sons of Mogh."
A tear runs down his cheek. A tear as a human might shed. In his eyes, I see clearly his decision to kill me. I reach for my own dagger to challenge the impossible, that I must do battle with my own brother, but the scabbard is empty.
"I have no family!" he cries as he lunges, driving his blade deep into my chest.
I am awake suddenly, the pain of the blade still penetrating my chest. Realization of where I am and what has happened takes a few moments as I sit up, gasping for breath.
I sit in the sick bay of the Federation starship Enterprise. The attack by Duras's assassins was several days ago. By the narrowest of margins Worf has escaped execution by accepting discommendation for the crimes our father didn't actually commit. This done to protect the integrity of the High Council. And, to protect me, Worf has decided that my identity will remain a secret. For now, I am Kurn, son of . . . Lorgh.
The visions have visited me each night since the attack. Each time different yet similarly themed, powerlessness, theft of honor, betrayal.
I struggle out of the soft bed as I fight against the thought that my brother would betray me. He has sacrificed himself so that one day we may both stand proudly before the short-sighted fools in the High Council and reclaim the honor of our father.
My guts still hurt. The Federation doctor has done well to repair the extensive damage but has been careful not to do too much healing. I would be angry not to have a scar to remind me of these events.
Perhaps it would have been better to die at the hands of Duras's assassins rather than live this slow, lingering death of waiting. Worf is confident our day of redemption will come and I trust my brother's words but in the meantime he will return to his comfortable Federation. I will remain within the Empire's borders, each moment a lie.
No. Not a lie, merely an unclosed circle.
At the sink, I splash water on my face to wash away the treasonous dreams. Worf would not leave me without the chance to pursue our family honor. He would not lock me into a future of pretending not to be the son of Mogh. Worf is my brother; he would not betray me.
Looking up in the mirror I see a face not my own! The tearing pain in my chest becomes unbearable as the scream of anguish bursts from my lungs.
I awake with a stabbing pain in my chest that quickly fades. Out the window of my room it is still night with just the faintest glow on the horizon to mark the approaching dawn. Again I have awakened before my alarm and again it is because of a dream.
At least, I believe it must be a dream. On waking, the dream is gone and only occasionally does some echo remain. A sound, an emotion, an elusive insight without knowledge, retreating into the shadows of night.
Perhaps they are the vestiges of memory; fragments left over from before the plasma discharge that cost me the knowing of my life. Perhaps they are visions of a future life yet to be. Perhaps they are nothing.
Either way, of this dream nothing remains, just as nothing remains of night once the day has begun.
I am at the window, taking a deep breath of the night's chill before it is driven away with the mists when I hear a sound behind me in the hall. I turn and, for some reason am surprised to see my father in the doorway.
"Up early again?" he asks.
"There is much to be done if I am to join the fleet next month. Every day that I train I discover skills I didn't know I had."
"The details may have been lost but the soul never forgets the warrior's ways. When they've become weapons of your mind again instead of merely weapons of your heart you will be a true soldier of the empire. You will bring honor to this house and your father."
"And perhaps, someday I will command a ship," I say, hopefully
"Perhaps, my son," he says with a smile. A sad smile. "Come, your sister will be impatient. It would not do to for the elder brother to keep his sister waiting on her day of her ascension. As you said, Rodek, we have much to do."
As he leaves and I gather my things to follow, I reflect a moment on my dreams. Father has told me many things about my forgotten life. Some seem right and familiar and others feel foreign, as if he were telling me of someone other than myself. Sometimes the dreams seem like a faint echo of these misgivings.
Bah! I shake the treasonous thoughts from my head. He would not lie to me. He is my father.
Besides, they are only dreams.
|http://www.tasigh.org/kordite/glass.html -- Revised: 18 May 2002
Copyright © 1997, 2002 Kevin A. Geiselman