The tiny temple was overflowing with people in every manner of dress: Bajoran, Starfleet, and Klingon. Languages from all over the galaxy echoed off the low stone ceiling and the incense burning on the altar gave the whole space a reverent atmosphere. A small wooden platform had been erected between the spectators and the altar. It was covered in pale orange fabric and adorned with white flowers.
Torlek and Elessa made their way to the front row of the standing room only audience and greeted Amira Jion and Lanassa. Murphy walked over to other familiar faces in the crowd as Scharr and Phil took their places behind Torlek.
"Overgeneral Rhaan, Colonel Kira, Welcome! Glad you could make it," Murphy said reaching out a hand to each of them.
"How could we miss this?" The grizzled old Bajoran veteran said to the admiral. "She saved our world. The least we can do is wish her our best on her wedding day."
"Besides," Kira said next to him. "Rakantha has seen enough tragedy of the past generation. It's time it saw something really special."
"Well, I think this will certainly count," Murphy said.
"Admiral, what is that?" Rhaan said looking down at the wooden stick Murphy was carrying.
"Just wait, Sir," Kira said as her memory flashed back to Worf's and Jadzia's wedding in Quark's over two years prior. "The Klingons have to work physical violence into everything they do, including nuptials."
"Sounds…unique," Rhaan said skeptically.
"You have no idea," Murphy said shaking his head.
The door to the rectory opened and Vedek Grigan entered wearing his traditional wedding vestments. The crowd instantly quieted down and took their places. The old clergyman stood tall in front of the altar. Tigranian then exited with Annabeth following with her blades. Grigan beckoned him to take his place on the right side of the marriage dais while Annabeth took her place as Tawi'Yan on the ground behind him.
A nod from Grigan to an acolyte in the corner of the temple signaled the beginning of the wedding service. The young Bajoran pulled a chain to ring the bell of the temple nine times: one for each of the Orbs of Bajor and the holiest number in Bajoran theology.
At that moment, a harp player began playing in the back of the temple. The doors at the rear of the building opened to reveal Alex's smiling face. The crowd parted and Alex began walking towards the dais carrying her bouquet of lilacs.
As she walked, she caught the eyes of her wife standing behind Tigranian. Alex and Annabeth smiled at each other, tears of joy forming in their eyes. When Alex reached the front of the dais, she turned to face Jion and Lanassa, curtsied, and then took her place next to the dais across from Annabeth. Katie and T'les then followed, repeated the curtsy to the Amiras, and then stood behind Alex.
Then, the doors at the rear of the sanctuary suddenly closed. All the Bajorans in the temple raised their hands next to their heads with their palms facing the sky. The doors opened once more, revealing a beautiful woman dressed in a cream colored silk. A white veil hid her face from view. As she began walking forward towards the wedding party, Tigranian felt his heart stop in his chest. Everyone could not take their eyes off the bride as she walked towards the dais, another bouquet of flowers in her arms.
As she reached the front of the spectators, Alex appeared next to the bride and took her bouquet. Without a word, Laria knelt down in front of Jion and Lanassa and bowed her head. She raised her hands, and her parents took one in each of theirs. They slowly escorted her to the dais, and lifted her up onto the platform face to face to Tigranian. As the harp music reached its crescendo, Jion and Lanassa gently placed their daughter's hands into Tigranian's. Then, they reached up, grabbed the ends of Laria's veil, and pulled it back to reveal her smiling face. Tigranian's Klingon stoicism failed him, and he choked back a tear.
"Thank you," he whispered to Laria's parents.
"Welcome, my Son," Jion said stepping over and placing a kiss on each of Tigranian's cheeks.
"My beautiful boy," Lanassa said kissing him next.
With a final nod, they returned to their place at the head of the crowd. Vedek Grigan continued with the ceremony.
"Peldor Pai'en Pagh Ra'tren," he said raising his hands above his head in a gesture of peace.
"Pai'en vos chem'ha na'an," the Bajoran witnesses replied with the same gesture of peace.
"The Peace and Spirit of the Prophets be with you for those non-Bajorans in attendance," Grigan continued with a smile. Today is the happiest duty a Vedek has in the Bajoran faith: the joining of two young people in the holy union of marriage. However, today it is not only Bajorans we have with us to celebrate. Though the bride's parents are old friends of this temple, her first visit to her homeland was only a few months ago. The groom is from Earth, but now also calls Qo'nos home.
Now, in this temple, we have Klingons, Humans, Andorians, Vulcans. We have those who remember the difficult days that Bajor passed through during the Occupation, and we have those that only know the promise of a new tomorrow. It is in this way, that I hope this wedding will help bring the old into the new, and secure a bright and wonderful future for not only this happy couple, but also the whole of our planet."
Grigan's words caused Laria's ears to perk up as her experience in the Celestial Temple started push back into her consciousness. She shook off the strange feeling as Grigan continued with his remarks.
"The Bajoran wedding is a simple affair where two people affirm their lifelong commitment to each other in front of those that they love and in the eyes of the Prophets. However, while preparing for this ceremony, I also learned much about how Klingons view marriage out of deference to the groom and his family.
In the Klingon wedding, the officiant recounts the story of the creation of the first two Klingon hearts, and how they grew stronger once they joined together. Now, I do not believe I could do justice to the telling of that story as my Klingon is a bit rusty…"
The comment drew quiet laughter from the crowd.
"…However, one phrase in particular stood out in my mind. 'With Fire and Steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, 'On this day, we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens…'
You might ask, why would on old Bajoran be intrigued by this phrase? Well, because I have come to know Daniel and Laria very well. Their own personal strength is only surpassed by their love and dedication to each other. Their hearts are truly made of fire and steel, and may the mercy of the Prophets be with anyone who would try to separate them. And now, let us begin…"
Grigan turned to face the altar, raised his hands, and began to musically chant in old Bajoran.
"Aran vos t'has naren. Qu'rem ist la itane ist ne'en."
"Varo ay tem." the Bajoran witnesses repeated in unison.
"Khost em'turuk man'e stam ekinem. Ra'tren alle' vos mev."
"Varo ay tem."
"Anaj voch t'lek garane nas te'as kana vas."
"Varo ay tem y Ma'kora."
Annabeth looked back into the crowd at her new friend Kira. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed lost in the ceremony. It was as if the Vedek's words were some comforting balm that carried her away to some place without worries or worldly troubles.
Grigan reached down onto the altar and picked up two crowns fashioned from Bateret leaves. Laria and Tigranian's hands were still joined as he held one over each of their heads.
Grigan turned to Laria and continued to chant.
"Laria, qu'es channe a Daniel y'tem? Tuk essa nas vok las lave a ara est Ra'tren alle' vos mev?"
He held up one of the Bateret crowns in front of Laria's mouth. A tear ran down her smiling her face as she gave her answer to the Vedek.
Laria then gently kissed the crown. Grigan reached over and placed it on top of Tigranian's head. He then turned to the groom and held up the other crown.
"Daniel, qu'es channo a Laria y'tom. Tuk esso nas vok las lave a aro est Ra'tren alle' vos mev?"
Tigranian smiled and answered.
He leaned forward, kissed the crown, and the vedek placed it over Laria's veiled head. Grigan then turned around and picked a silver bowl of spring wine off the altar. He raised it into the air and bowed his head before turning back around.
He then passed it to Laria who took it into her hands. She leaned forward enough for Tigranian to take a sip of wine. Laria then passed the bowl to Daniel. He then held it as she took a sip. Grigan then sealed their vows with a final chant. As he sang, another acolyte walked around the couple shaking a censer of burning incense. Several other Bajorans chanted something under their breath. The non-Bajorans didn't understand the words, but it's beautiful, lyrical tone literally sent shivers down their spines.
"Bore a pre aro' kei. Tol'ah ta en para bor'esh. Pree a' Daniel, Pree a' Laria. Abrem. Varo ay tem."
"VARO AY TEM!" The Bajorans in the crowd shouted joyously. Lanassa literally collapsed with joy into Jion's arms, and the old Bajoran man wiped away tears from his eyes. Murphy looked back at Kira and Rhaan who were once again raising their hands and genuflecting towards the altar. Rhaan was actually crying as well. Somehow, he knew that this wasn't simply because of the wedding. The expression on the Overgeneral's face said it all. It was as if all the struggles in his life were suddenly worth it. Despite forty years of Cardassian oppression, despite forty years of attempted extermination, this beautiful, musical ceremony of hope still existed in all its sacred glory.
Grigan grinned as he addressed those who could not understand the liturgy.
"Now, with the Grace of the Prophets, may I introduce Mr. and Mrs. Tigranian!"
The crowd began applauding wildly as Tigranian and Laria kissed for the first time as husband and wife.
"It's real, this is all real," Laria whispered to Tigranian in disbelief.
"Yes, my wife, it is," Tigranian said gently touching his forehead to his bride's.
Suddenly, a battle cry echoed through the temple as Scharr, Phil, and Murphy lunged at the dais wielding their Ma'Stakas. Laria and Tigranian looked up just in time to see the Andorian and two humans start to playfully hit them with their sticks. Annabeth then jumped up onto the platform and joined in the attack.
As Tigranian and Laria shielded themselves from the blows, they began to laugh.
"Will the great Daniel, Son of Tigranian not defend himself and his new bride from these villians?" Torlek called from the crowd while chuckling uncontrollably.
Finally, Tigranian looked over to Laria with a sly look on his face. Despite the leather balls pummeling her, she returned the glance with a nod. Laria screamed and lunged right at Phil. She grabbed the wooden handle of the Ma'Staka, pulled downwards violently, and sent him tumbling head over heels onto the dais. Tigranian ducked down and trapped Murphy's arms under his own. With an upward twist of Tigranian's hips, Murphy went down to the ground, releasing his grip on his own weapon.
Laria and Daniel were now armed and extremely dangerous. The bride flicked her veil behind her shoulders and held her Ma'Staka at the ready. Scharr tried another foolhardy attempt to charge, but Laria swung downward, knocking his stave away as Tigranian thrust his palm directly into Scharr's chest, sending him flying backwards right into Torlek's arms. Now, Annabeth was alone on the dais with the Tigranians.
"Do you yield, Number One?" Tigranian said with a grin.
"Never!" Annabeth replied still lost in laughter.
"I was hoping you'd say that!" Laria said rushing forward and knocking Annabeth's stick to the ground. As Annabeth gasped, Laria raised the Ma'Staka over her head for a knock-out blow. She yelled and swung downward violently. Just as Annabeth closed her eyes and prepared for the shock of impact, she felt a gentle tap on the tip of her nose.
Annabeth smiled as Laria wrapped her arms around her. Alex, Katie, and T'les ran up to join in the embrace. Tigranian leaned down to help Murphy and Phil back to their feet. Scharr pushed away from Torlek and brushed himself off.
"My apologies, General," the Andorian said trying to regain some of his dignity.
"None is required, Commander. You fought valiantly." Torlek said with a bow as he looked up at his brother and new sister-in-law.
Tigranian and Laria climbed back up at the dais together, linked their arms, and bowed to the crowd's thunderous applause.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," a jovial Grigan called out once again. "Once again, Daniel and Laria Tigranian. Certainly a force to be reckoned with"
As Laria rose from her bow, she glanced at over at her parents who stared back at her with a look of amazement and joy. As happy as they appeared, they still seemed shocked that the woman standing before them, strong and confident, was the same daughter they had sent off to Starfleet Academy five years before. Laria looked back at them with love, but then nodded her head as if to silently say that while she was still their child, she was now so much more.