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"No," he lied. "Nothing important. I am merely reenacting the myth of Kahless's labors at the Kri'stak Volcano."
Picard nodded. "Yes, of course...the one in which he dips a strand of his hair into the lava." His brow wrinkled as he tried to remember." After that, he plunged the flaming lock into Lake Lusor -- twisted it into a revolutionary new form of blade, which no Klingon had ever seen before."
Worf had to return the human's smile. Without a doubt, Picard knew his Klingon lore -- perhaps as well as the average Klingon.
And in this case even better, because this particular legend had been nurtured by a select few until just a few years ago.
"That is correct," he confirmed.
Pointing to the northern slope of the volcano, he showed the captain Kahless's position. The emperor-to be had hurled himself across the deep channel again -- this time with a bit less effort, perhaps, thanks to the improvement in the terrain he was leaping from -- and was descending the mountainside, his trophy still in hand.
It was only after much hardship that he would come to the lake called Lusor. There, he would fashion from his trophy the efficient and graceful weapon known as the teat 'telh.
Picard made an appreciative sound. "Hard to believe he could ever have made such a climb in fact."
Worf felt a pang at the captain's remark. He must not have concealed it very well this time, because Picard's brow furrowed.
"I didn't mean to question your beliefs," the human told him.
"Only to make an observation. If I've offended you --"
The Klingon waved away the suggestion. "No, sir. I am not offended." He paused. "It was only that I was thinking the same thing."
Picard regarded him moreclosely. Obviously, he was concerned.
"Are you . . . having a crisis of faith, Lieutenant? Along the lines of what you experienced before Kahless's return?"
Worf sighed. "A crisis of faith?" He shook his head. "No, it is more than that. Considerably more." He watched the distant figure of Kahless descend from the mountain, making improbable choices to defy impossible odds. "A few years ago," he explained, "it was a personal problem. Now. . ."
He allowed his voice to trail off, reluctant to give the matter substance by acknowledging it. However, he couldn't avoid it forever. As captain of the Enterprise, Picard would find out about it sooner or later.
"You see," he told the human, "these myths --" He gestured to the terrain below them, which included not only the volcano but the lake as well. " -- they are sacred to us. They are the essence of our faith. When we speak of Kahless's creation of the teat 'telh from a lock of his hair, we are not speaking figuratively. We truly believe he did such a thing."
Worf turned his gaze westward, toward the plains that formed the bulk of this continent. He couldn't see them for the smoke and fumes emerging from the volcano, but he knew they were there nonetheless.
"It was out there," he continued, "that Kahless is said to have wrestled with his brother Morath for twelve days and twelve nights, after his brother lied and shamed their clan. It was out there that Kahless used the teat 'telh he created to slay the tyrant Molor -- and it was out there that the emperor united all Klingons under a banner of duty and honor."
"Not just stories," Picard replied, demonstrating his understanding. "Each one a truth, no matter how impossible it might seem in the cold light of logic."
"Yes," said Worf. "Each one a truth." He turned back to his captain. "Or at least, they were." He frowned, despite himself.
"Were?" Picard prodded. He hung there in the shifting winds,
clouds writhing behind him like a monstrous serpent in terrible torment. "What's happened to change things?"
The Klingon took his time gathering his thoughts. Still, it was not an easy matter to talk about.
"I have heard from the emperor," he began.
The captain looked at him with unconcealed interest. "Kahless,
you mean? I trust he's in good health."
Worf nodded. "You need not worry on that count. Physically, he is in fine health."
In other words, no one had tried to assassinate him. In the corridors of Klingon government, that was a very real concern -- though to Worf's knowledge, Kahless hadn't prompted anyone to want to kill him. Quite the contrary. He was as widely loved as any Klingon could be.
"The problem," the lieutenant went on, "is of a different nature.
You see, a scroll was unearthed alongside the road to Sto-Vo-Kor."
Picard's eyes narrowed. "The road the historical Kahless followed when he took his leave of the Klingon people. That was . . .
what? Fifteen hundred years ago?"
"Even more," Worf told him. ,"ln any case, this scroll -- supposedly written by Kahless himself -- appears to discredit all the stories that concern him. It is as if Kahless himself has given the lie to his own history."