The doors of the HoS' shrine room parted with a metallic hiss. Alex and Annabeth walked in first. As Max's parents, they were both wearing grey stoles emblazoned with the crest of House Torlek. Max himself was wrapped in red swaddling clothes so that only his head and arms were free. Elessa had arrived at their quarters earlier in the morning to dress him "in the traditional manner." It was such a complicated procedure, Alex wondered if she would ever be able to get him out of it. However, the baby didn't seem to mind as he slumbered in Annabeth's arms.
Tigranian and Laria followed behind them. Laria was also in a stole, but Tigranian decided to wear full Klingon armor. He told them that as Max's qa'vav, hisgodfather, anything less would be an insult both to Torlek and to Max. The Governor and Elessa entered next with the rest of the Pershing's staff filling out the guest list.
Behind the altar, a large statue of Kahless loomed over everything. However, a table covered with a thick klongat fur was placed in the center of the room. On a sword stand behind it was a bat'leth as striking as it was deadly. The wall torches reflected brilliantly off the swirling patterns on the weapon's curved, baakonite blades. It's handles were wrapped in black krencha skin and two roaring vIghro' cats were engraved along the inner spine with amazing detail. From across the room, you could see their striped bodies and extended claws shimmering in the orange light.
"Is this the same bat'leth we saw on Qo'nos?" Alex said in disbelief as she walked up to the sword stand.
"Yes," Torlek said walking up from behind her. "Master Ho'mach and his apprentices did excellent work."
"The way you described it, I never thought it would be so beautiful," Annabeth said examining the blade's construction.
"And that is for Max?" Laria asked in disbelief.
"Yes," Torlek replied with a nod of his head. "They came into existence together, and they will spend their entire lives in partnership."
Alex gently rubbed her hand as she remembered the small piece of herself that was forever inside the sword thanks to Master Ho'mach.
"When my parents baptized me," Phil said from behind them, "all I got was an ugly white christening gown, a Bible, and lifetime of embarrassing stories."
"Your parents made you wear a dress?" Katie replied with a chuckle. "That lifetime of embarrassing stories just got a little worse for you, Babe."
"Human practices are quite strange," T'les said.
"I've been around them for my entire adult life, and I still don't understand them," Scharr whispered to her.
Tigranian leaned forward to examine Max's bat'leth even more closely. As he read the Klingon letters engraved between the two vIghro' cats' outstretched paws, he smiled.
"That's a very appropriate choice for the inscription," he said to his brother, "and I know Max will come to understand it."
"Why?" Alex asked curiously. "What does it say?"
"The words are from the end of a very old story," Torlek explained. "In the ancient days, when the memory of Kahless was still new, before the Hur'q had darkened our skies, a father took his son hunting in the Hamar Mountains. At the end of the day, they sat around the fire together, feasting on the flesh of a fresh targ kill.
The boy, still too young for the First Rite of Ascension, looked up to his father and asked, 'What does it mean to be Klingon?' The father looked at his son and explained that all was temporary. The words of the Unforgettable might one day fade. All great houses could fall. He could someday find himself alone in a strange and unfamiliar land away from his home and people. However, the father then pointed to his bat'leth and said that to be Klingon is to always know your sword, for 'vam voq laH SoH.'"
Alex and Annabeth looked to Tigranian for a translation. The captain smiled as he spoke:
"This, you can trust."
"We should begin now before he gets fussy," Elessa said looking down at Max. Torlek nodded. The Lady gestured towards the klongat fur and Annabeth gently placed her son down at the foot of the sword. Tigranian beckoned for Annabeth and Alex to join him standing behind Torlek in front of the altar. Elessa stayed at Max's side and gently stroked the fur next to his head to keep the boy calm. The rest of the audience stepped back and watched in awed silence. They adjusted their universal translators to understand the ceremony.
Torlek bowed deeply to the statue of Kahless. Tigranian led Max's parents in a similar bow.
"Kahless, the Unforgettable, Prophet of Honor, Bringer of Truth," Torlek began, "today we beseech you to look upon us with favor as we bring into our House Maximilian George, Son of Hunter-Geist. Watch over him as he grows every day in the shadow of your wisdom. Strike fear into those that stand against him, and from this day forward guide the blades of our house into the hearts of his enemies. Be with Maximilian now until the hour that you call him to the gates of Sto'Vo'Kor, for I swear unto you in the presence of these witnesses that the House of Torlek will be his shield and protection just as you are the shield and protection of all Klingons. pIyajchu'."
"pIyajchu'," Tigranian echoed from behind him as Annabeth and Alex glanced at each other. Now, they were worried exactly what they agreed to.
Torlek rose back straight and turned to face the three humans behind him.
"Who presents this child for Blood Christening?" Torlek spoke in a booming voice.
"We do," Annabeth and Alex said in unison. Their unvarnished Klingon accents actually made Elessa wince, but Torlek didn't break stride.
"Daughter of Geist, Daughter of Hunter, do you swear to raise this child with honor in service of both his people and his house?" Torlek asked.
"We swear," they replied.
"Then I, Torlek, Son of Ro'vagh, joH of our house, swear to you that I shall protect Maximilian George with all that I have and all that I am."
A strange feeling washed over Alex. She had heard many promises in her life, and many of those had been broken. However, when this Klingon spoke to her, she knew in her heart that he meant what he said.
"Who stands with the parents as qa'vav?" Torlek asked next.
"I do," Tigranian replied.
"Daniel, Son of Tigranian, do you swear to help raise this child in the teachings of Kahless? Do you swear to stand with him against his enemies and protect him at the cost of your life?"
"I swear," Tigranian said. Torlek stepped forward. He and Tigranian took a position on either side of the bat'leth and looked down at Max. Annabeth and Alex looked on with the others.
The two brothers each reached up a hand and touched their palms to the razor sharp edges of the bat'leth until they drew blood.
"boghtlhInganpu', SuvwI'pu' moj, Hegh," they said in unison. The Starfleet UTs let the other witnesses understand. "Klingons are born, live as warriors, and then die."
"SuvmeH'ejcharghmeHboghtlhInganpu'," they continued. "Klingons are born to fight and conquer."
The pair removed their hands from the bat'leth and then walked to either side of Max's head. He now had his eyes open and stared up at the two men with wonder. Elessa smiled as she continued to gently rub the baby's little arm.
Torlek and Tigranian both touched the tips of their index fingers to their bloody palms like they were dipping old fashioned pens into an inkwell.
"Maximilian George," Torlek spoke in as he gazed down at the baby, "From this day forward: Conquer! Conquer your fears, conquer your enemies, and conquer death. For, from this day forward, you are Klingon."
Torlek and Tigranian reached down with their crimson fingers and painted two streaks from between Max's eyebrows to the top of his forehead. If he had a crest, either side would be bright red. Annabeth was shocked that he didn't make a sound.
Elessa smiled, reached down, and lifted Max into her arms.
"Welcome to the House of Torlek, Little Warrior," she said in tlhIngan Hol as she touched her little finger to his nose. The audience all applauded as Annabeth and Alex rushed up to see their son. They were still amazed that he seemed more curious than afraid of everything happening around him.
"You were so brave," Elessa said sweetly into Max's wide eyes.
"I don't think he'll ever be this well-behaved again," Annabeth said with a chuckle.
"He shouldn't be. Well behaved warriors seldom fight when they must," Torlek said with a laugh. He looked down and repeated the HeH DuP. "Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya. Gung…Gung…Gung…"
As his finger came to stop in front of Max's face, the baby suddenly reached up with his tiny right hand and grabbed Torlek's digit with surprising accuracy.
Annabeth and Alex's jaws dropped. Tigranian wrapped a proud arm around Laria.
"Oh my God," Alex said in amazement. "It does work."
"Very good, Max," Torlek said to him in tlhIngan Hol. "That is the first step." Torlek looked up to the boy's parents, still standing aghast. "First comes faith. Then comes work," he said. "Now, we move forward, Qapla'."
Alex looked down beneath Max's bloody forehead and into his tiny eyes as they glinted in the firelight. He still was holding onto Torlek's finger as he shifted his tiny head to look past the bat'leth to the statue of Kahless. As the stone face of the ancient Klingon gazed back, Alex realized that her son had now started down a path that she didn't understand and filled her with more than a little dread. However, she also could tell by looking into her baby's tiny face that somehow he belonged here. If she tried to pull him away now, he would never forgive her.
All she could do was pull Annabeth close to her and whisper, "Qapla'."