Chancellor's Palace: First City, Qo'nos
Troth, Son of Met'an stood on the narrow walkway at the top of the palace's high stone walls. The barriers separated the bustling, urban metropolis of the First City from the tranquil gardens that provided a refuge for Martok when he was at his residence. It was a stark contrast between the synthetic, modern world constructed by a major interstellar power and the wild beauty that all Klingons seemed to crave.
Troth laughed when he thought about it. Men like Martok were rich and powerful enough to create this island of nature in the middle of artificial sprawl, but for a commoner like Troth, the only part of the First City he ever knew was the working class slums on the other side of the central boulevard.
After he had been discharged from the KDF at the end of the war, he was disgusted with the idea of returning to his old life in the filth and urban decay. He was fortunate enough to find a job with the Imperial Guard and luckier still to be assigned as security for the Chancellor's compound. It wasn't the military, but it was a still a uniform and it was still prestigious when compared to the menial labor most of his childhood friends were now suffering through.
Sometimes in his spare moments, he would gaze upon the Yan'Isleth, the Chancellor's personal body guards, with their polished bat'leths and black armor and dream that he was one of them. However, only the best QaS DevwI' of the KDF were invited to attend the selection process (men from common families were used because no chancellor wanted a rival from a noble house guarding him). Even fewer selectees made it through the brutal training regimen based on physical hardship, discipline, and hand to hand combat to earn the title of "Brother of the Sword." Their loyalty was absolute, their discipline was perfect, and they even had to take an oath of celibacy for the duration of their service. Troth had never risen beyond the rank of basic bekk and certainly wasn't the best even among the lower soldiers. He had to lie on his application to be accepted into the Imperial Guard, but you would never know it from his reputation in the old neighborhood. His mother spoke of him to her friends now as if he was a warship commander.
Normally, this job was a dream. Tonight, it was only a burden. A friend was having a birthday party in a bar in the Old City. He had purchased a barrel of bloodwine and invited every single woman in the old neighborhood. Unfortunately, Troth had pulled a night shift walking a section of perimeter wall. His pleas to his supervisor had gone ignored and instead of drunkenness, debauchery, and song, he found himself staring through the stone crenulations at the blinking lights beyond. He grumbled again in frustration as he pulled up his cloak against the night chill and held a worn out disruptor rifle instead of an intoxicated woman looking forward to his companionship.
He was so angry that he didn't notice a hand reach over the stones behind him. A figure dressed from head to toe in black silently climbed over the wall. The man's eyes and painted face peaked through his black hood and snuck up beyond Troth. The man flung his arms around Troth's throat. The last thing the Son of Me'tan ever heard was his own neck snap in two before collapsing to the ground.
Once the hapless Troth was no longer in the land of the living, the figure in black removed a long rope from his torso and flung it down the exterior of the wall to the ground below. Nineteen more assassins soon had reached the top and disappeared into the palace gardens without a word.
In the center of the palace's ornately manicured forest of trees was a stone courtyard with a tiered pagoda shrine. It was Martok's personal refuge and place of faith. Every night, his last act before bed was to walk through darkened gardens, kneel in the shrine, and say his daily Plea for the Dead. Though it was customary to recite the prayer at noon, his demanding schedule often prevented it from happening.
He actually found that in the quiet and solitude of night, it resonated much deeper with him, especially when he was forced by cruel fate to add his daughters and beloved Sirella to the list after Morjod and Gothmara's hideous coup two years ago. It was almost as if he was saying goodnight to his family each evening, and it brought him a bit of comfort.
This night, Martok leaned on his right knee beneath the shrine's roof. He had commissioned a new statue of Kahless to rest in the center of the pagoda. Instead of the Unforgettable's traditional pose holding his sword high above his head, this life size rendition carved in black marble had his bat'leth at his side. This Kahless held a pen in his right hand and a blank piece of parchment in his left. Martok thought this scholarly version of the divine Prophet of Honor was more appropriate for the future he imagined, even though he could never show it to the public.
As the chancellor prayed in flickering candlelight, four Yan'Isleth guards knelt on the stones behind him and faced outward in silent meditation. Their deadly bat'leths rested on the ground in front of them. Though their eyes were closed, their ears were open. They listened to the solemn words of their chancellor as he spoke with the "Father of All Klingons," while also searching for dangers that could be lurking in the shadows.
"Kahless," Martok said gazing at the statue in front of him, "we implore you to remember those warriors who have fallen in your name. Lift them out of the cavern of despair and reveal yourself to them in all your glory. Remember Urthog, Son of Martok. Remember Krigar, Daughter of Bhran. Remember Shen, Daughter of Martok. Remember Lazhna, Daughter of Martok. Remember Sirella, Daughter of Linkasa… "
The bells in the spire of the new Great Hall across Victory Square from the Chancellory began ringing midnight. Deep chimes echoed across the courtyard and drowned out the chirping crickets. One of the Yan'Isleth guards suddenly had a strange rush of tova'dok. He felt someone's gaze watching him from the trees on the far side of the courtyard. He opened his eyes and scanned the darkness. The moonlight from the hulk of Praxis shimmered off the stones in front of him. He focused his eyes and then saw movement. He reached down, picked up his sword, and leapt to his feet.
"YAN'ISLETH!" he roared loud enough to be heard in Sto'Vo'Kor, "Protect our Lord!" The other three swordsmen rose with their weapons at the ready just in time to see twenty black clad assassins charge out of forest and straight at the shrine. Each enemy drew a tik'leth straight sword from a sheath on their back and raised them high over their heads. Without hesitation, the four honor guards charged forward bellowing their war cry, which was also their pledge of loyalty to their Empire:
Martok turned around just in time to see a spectacle which gave even the veteran warrior pause. His four protectors were running across a moonlit battlefield into a sea of black qutluchpu each with a blade aimed straight at his heart. He unsheathed his dk'tahg and clicked open the blades.
The Yan'Isleth was outnumbered five to one, but they each dove into the fray with the ferocity of a Cob'lat. The clash of baakonite on baakonite was deafening. The first three assassins lunged at the nearest honor guard and simultaneously slashed downward with their tik'leths, but an overhead block from the Yan'Isleth's bat'leth stopped their blows cold. The guard spun his sword in a powerful arc and cut the assailants down with a single slash.
Two more assassins rushed at the next guard. Effortlessly, the master swordsman stepped aside and thrust his knee into the gut of the nearest qutluch. The man in black doubled over and was immediately beheaded. Without breaking his bat'leth's momentum, the Yan'Isleth dropped to a crouch, extended his arm, and impaled the second assassin through the chest. As the honor guard pulled his sword out of his enemy's ribcage. The stones beneath his feet were spattered with gore. The other two honor guards were also locked in combat with the seemingly endless stream of killers bent on killing Martok.
The chancellor held back and watched from a few meters away. He now understood, more than ever, why his men were called "The Brotherhood of the Sword." They were all eerily calm, lost in the highest state of blood euphoria the Klingons called yabHuv or "clear mind" in Federation Standard. It was obvious that their bat'leth's had become more than just extensions of their bodies. The blades were in total control and eager to defend the man they had been sworn to protect. The Yan'Isleth were merely allowing themselves to be used by the yinqa' inside their swords. It was a voluntary and hellishly lethal form of spiritual possession.
One of the assassins broke through the killing ground and pulled a disruptor pistol from his sash. Martok turned just in time to see the particle weapons pointed straight at him.
"MY LORD!" one of the Yan'Isleth screamed as he saw the chancellor about to be vaporized. He leapt through the air as the qutluch fired and used his own chest to block the green blast. The honor guard shrieked in pain as his entire body was reduced to atoms. His bat'leth clattered to the stones. Martok threw his d'k tahg straight into the assassin's chest, rolled forward, and grabbed his fallen warrior's sword. As the Klingon leader charged to his feet, he sliced his attempted murder in half from groin to skull.
The chancellor was now enraged. Not only were these honorless veQ trying to kill him in his own home, but one of his finest had been lost. Martok leapt into the fray to fight alongside his protectors. When they saw that their leader was amongst them, the Yan'Isleth began to howl in anticipation of victory. The remaining assassins began to fill with fear as they fell in bloodied heaps. Too late, they realized they had underestimated Martok and his swordsmen. It was a fight worthy of the highest story and song.
The last three assailants finally broke and ran. Two were immediately cut down by guardsmen, but the final one rolled out of range and took off at a sprint. The chancellor focused his good eye and heaved the fallen brother's bat'leth end over end with all his remaining strength. It's yinqa' did not waiver. The crescent of glistening baakonite sailed through the darkness and buried itself in the qutluch's back. The man in black collapsed to the stones, impaled through his chest.
Martok marched forward and ripped the sword out of the lifeless corpse at his feet. He held the bat'leth up with his right arm and examined the script engraved beneath the blade's middle edge. When selected for the Yan'Isleth, each guardsman was allowed to commission a personal sword to their own specifications. As the "Brotherhood of the Sword" was drawn exclusively from the ranks of common soldiers, it was a tremendous honor beyond the grasp of most born outside a noble house. Commoners usually fought with mass-produced weapons issued to them from factories.
The fallen guardsman was named Gros, Son of Barkran. Martok knew of him because both their families had come from the Ketha Lowlands. Each had followed their path to the Chancellor's palace after a lifetime of service, albeit in different ways. When Martok read what Gros had chosen for his sword's dedication, he shut in his eyes and bowed in respect:
"tay' Hu' maH"
"We rise together."
When a member of the Yan'Iseth died protecting the chancellor, it was traditional to carve their name into a black granite memorial wall in the Hall of Warriors located on the banks of the Qam'Chee River. The brother's bat'leth would then rest beneath the inscription as a living memorial to its fallen owner. Martok decided he would deliver this weapon personally.
He raised the crimson blade towards the sky, reared back his head, and howled towards Praxis. The remaining three Yan'Isleth joined him, their cries echoing off the walls until finally only the chirping of the garden's insects could be heard again.
"My lord," Quolor, one of the other honor guards, said walking up to Martok, "are you injured?"
"No," Martok said shaking his head. "These bIHnuchpu were not worthy enough to die by our swords tonight. Next time, bring a hundred if you hope to have a chance," he said to the dead assassin at his feet before spitting on the corpse.
"Who would be brazen enough to attack a chancellor in his home?" Katar, another guardsman asked.
Kron the leader of this squad walked over to the dead qutluch and rolled him over. He ripped open the black tunic and revealed the house brand on the veQ's right arm. As the men looked down they clenched their jaws. The symbol of a tower rising from flames was well known to all Klingons. Martok growled as he realized the implications of this attack for the whole of the Empire. He could barely bring himself to say the cursed name: