"There is no victory without combat." -- Kahless the Unforgettable
The Klingons hail from Qo'noS (pronounced KRO-nos) which is located in the Beta Quadrant and is the capital of the Klingon Empire. It is the third of ten planets orbiting an orange, bright, subgiant (Type K1 IV) star. Two moons orbit the planet, Corvix and Praxis (the remnants of which remain in orbit after it exploded in 2293).
A single landmass comprises the entire habitable surface of Qo'noS. The terrain consists primarily of high, rocky mountains, jagged cliffs, and rivers of lava, the result of its unstable tectonics. A greenhouse effect caused by volcanic ash keeps the planet's surface warm and traps its oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. The interaction of cold air over the ocean and extremely hot air over the continent gives rise to sizable storms; with no land on the planet's far side to halt their growth, hurricanes the size of Earth's North America form over the sea and slam into land like a sledgehammer. Visitors to Qo'noS find it difficult to move around in the high gravity (1.23 times that of Earth) and thick atmosphere.
Klingons are aggressive. They fight for almost any reason, notably when their honor is at stake. As aggressive predators, almost anything can set off their warrior instincts - eavesdropping, whispering, failing to make eye contact, signs of weakness. They resolve their conflicts through violence; an insult to one's honor, a difference of opinion, a crime or injustice - these actions and others can set Klingons diving for the knives. Klingons do not shirk from combat, for to do so would be a sign of cowardice.
The Klingon mind ignores ambiguities. Klingons like matters to be clear-cut. They are blunt in manner and speech, so there can be no misunderstanding. Things are either black or white, good or bad, never in between. A warrior proclaims his intent forcefully and says what's on his mind.
For Klingons, everything must have utility in order to be worthwhile. If an object or custom is not immediately obvious, they scoff at it. Mattresses, recreation, holo-programs, these do not strengthen a warrior and are considered useless. Exercise must contain an element of real danger. Rituals must test a warrior's strength. Songs must tell of great deeds.
Perhaps the most important thing to a Klingon is his honor. The sum total of an individual's actions, as well as those of his parents and ancestors, can be measured by his honor. It can be gained through victory and sacrifice and lost through cowardice and treachery. A Klingon will do what he thinks is best for his honor, and avoid actions that could cause him to lose face.
Klingons speak Klingon, or Ta'Hol, in addition to regional and even house dialects. They use their given names followed by their father's name (such as "Worf, son of Mogh").
Ritual is a very important element in Klingon society. They believe that once a Klingon has died the spirit exits the body for Gre'thor or Sto-vo-kor, leaving behind a worthless shell to be disposed of. The honored dead are not mourned, but celebrated. It is traditional to open the eyes of a dead warrior and for all fellow Klingons present to howl into the sky to chase away evil spirits and as a warning to the afterlife that a Klingon warrior is about to arrive. In some cases a funeral dirge is sung in memory to the deceased, or the fallen warrior's comrades will sit with the body "just" to protect it from predators (though a privately held act of respect for the departed). This old practice, known as ak'voh, allowed the spirit to leave the body when it was time to make the journey to the afterlife. Warriors who may have a question about whether they will be worthy to enter Sto-Vo-Kor, such as not having died in glorious battle, may have a dangerous quest held in their name by their surviving mate and his or her companions. Lt. Cmdr. Worf went on one such quest out of concern that Jadzia Dax, a member of the House of Martok, would not enter Sto-Vo-Kor because a possessed Gul Dukat had killed her. If they win their stated deed or battle, they win honor for their late warrior and entry to paradise.
Other Klingon rituals include the r'uustai, a bonding ceremony which joins two people together in a relationship similar to brotherhood. The Day of Honor is an annual event that takes place in the Cave of Kahless, when Klingons reflect on how they can better emulate Kahless. The Rite of Ascension is a test of a child's worthiness to be a warrior, at the tip of a painstik. The kal'hyah is a spiritual and mental journey a groom shares with his friends during the four days before his wedding, and consists of six trials: deprivation, blood, pain, sacrifice, anguish, and death. The tea ceremony is performed when two friends wish to test their bravery and share the experience of mortality together, and so share a cup of poisoned tea. The hegh'bat ceremony is performed when a warrior realizes he is no longer fit enough to stand and face his foes, and he commits ritual suicide.
The warrior ethos has always been important in Klingon society, but it has not always dominated in the way it does today. In the mid 21st century the warriors weren't nearly as powerful, and Klingon society was regarded as being much more fair and balanced. Over the next century the warriors gradually gained the upper hand, until the Klingons were widely regarded as a warrior race. It was even common practice for Klingons to sharpen their teeth before battle!
Personal symbolic weaponry also helps define a warrior, such as the bat'leth, mek'leth, and d'k tahg. All are bladed weapons of various shapes and forms, though the Empire was forced to develop handheld particle beam pistols, being a basic necessity for efficiency in close combat, as most enemies would not be expected to be carrying bladed instruments, or even projectile weaponry. But a true kill is only acknowledged if the enemy is slain with a warrior's prowess, skill and courage, and not by the cowardly depression of a trigger. A disruptor may be efficient, but the method holds no glory for a warrior.
The average Klingon stands 1.6 to 1.9 meters in height. Skin tones range from a swarthy olive to brown, and their hair is black, and traditionally worn long (either braided or worn loose). Their most distinctive feature is the impressive head ridges, unique to each individual.
Internally, Klingons have eight-chambered hearts, two livers, redundant stomachs, and an astounding twenty-three rib pairs. This organ redundancy, called brak'lul, makes them hardy and difficult to kill. Surprisingly, Klingons have relatively little knowledge of their own biology and their medicine is very poorly developed. This is largely due to their warrior traditions - a Klingon who is wounded is expected to be left to survive or die through his own strength, or to undergo the hegh'bat, a form of ritual suicide.
They are noted for having no tear ducts, and while most have red blood there are some whose blood is distinctly pink. Klingons suffer from certain allergies, most notably a strong reaction to small furry animals such as Tribbles.
When the Klingons first made contact with the Federation in 2151 they appeared largely humanoid. The main visible differences centered around the heads, which bore a pattern of prominent ridges already mentioned. In 2154 the Klingons attempted to create genetically engineered super-soldiers using DNA recovered from human Augments; the attempt backfired, unleashing a deadly virus which as a side effect caused the bony cranial ridges to dissolve. The Denobulan Dr. Phlox was able to cure the effects of the virus, but many millions of Klingons still went through the first stages and had their cranial ridges erased, leaving them looking remarkably Human-like. They retained this appearance through to the latter half of the 23rd century when they slowly began to change to something closer to their original appearance. By the 2280's all Klingons had returned to sporting a distinctive set of ridges occupying almost the whole upper area of their heads. Over time these alterations have faded into history - remarkably, by the mid to late 24th century even some Starfleet physicians were not aware that there had ever been a problem. Many Klingons of this era are extremely embarrassed about these cosmetic changes and refuse to speak of it, simply stating that it is "a long story" that they "do not discuss with outsiders."
History and Culture
Klingon history is bloody, filled with the deeds of great heroes. Their greatest hero, Kahless the Unforgettable, founded the empire sometime in Earth's eighth century by killing the tyrant Molor. He is the cornerstone of their mythology, and many legendary feats are attributed to him. It was he who forged the first bat'leth, and with it conquered the Fek'lhri (demons) and skinned the serpent of Xol. He battled his brother Morath for 12 days and 12 nights after the latter lied and brought shame to his family. He fought off an entire army single-handedly at Three Turn Bridge in his bid to unify the empire. Most importantly, however, Kahless developed the warrior's code of honor, by which all Klingons live their lives.
According to legend, Kortar, the "first" Klingon, was created in a place called QI'tu' (Qui'Tu). His Klingon heart was created by the gods out of fire and steel - the gods declared it the strongest heart in the heavens, so loud did it beat. When Kortar's heart weakened out of loneliness, the gods created a female for companionship. Her heart was even stronger, and he became jealous of her power. Fortunately the female heart also posessed wisdom, and she suggested that the two could join together to become an unstoppable force. The gods attempted to flee this powerful combination, but the joined hearts destroyed them. (This event is recounted in marriage ceremonies). As punishment for his actions, Kortar was condemned to ferry Klingon souls over the River of Blood to the gates of Gre'thor (ghe'or), realm of the dishonored dead, where they are watched over by Fek'lhr (veqlargh), a vaguely Klingon-esque figure. The Guardian of Gre'thor waited to consume particularly loathsome souls. It is tempting to view Fek'lhr as the Klingon equivalent of the Human devil, but in fact the Klingons have no devil.
Kahless and the Empire
Kahless the Unforgettable was a mighty warrior in Klingon tradition. Kahless performed many amazing and heroic feats; on one occasion he fought his brother Morath for twelve days and nights because Morath had broken a promise and so brought shame on the family. Morath's dishonorable behavior continued; eventually he killed his own father whilst trying to steal his sword. When discovered by Kahless Morath threw the sword into the sea, claiming that if he could not possess it then nobody would. Kahless wept at the loss, and his tears caused the sea to flood the shore. The people begged Kahless to stop weeping and he did, whereupon he walked into the sea to find the sword. He held his breath for three days and nights before finally finding the sword. This incident marked the last time the two brothers spoke.
Still disconsolate from the loss of his father, Kahless went to the underworld to search for him. There he invented the mok'bara, a Klingon martial arts form which he showed to his father. His father was able to use the forms to remember his body and so return to the land of the living.
Needing a weapon of his own, Kahless went into the mountains to the Kri'stak volcano. He cut off a lock of his hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock, then plunged it into the Lursor lake and and twisted it into the shape of a sword. Kahless used the sword to kill the tyrant Molor, whereupon he named it the bat'leth, or "sword of honor". Kahless carried the sword in many of his adventures, using it to conquer the Fek'Ihri, skin the serpent of Xol, to harvest his father's fields and even to carve a statue for his beloved.
Ultimately Kahless united the Klingon people to form a great Empire. He issued the laws of honor with which the people would be governed. Feeling that his work was done, Kahless decided to leave for the afterlife. He pointed to a star, telling his people to look for him to return there. 1,562 years after his death (from 2384), or AD 822, Kahless is revered in Klingon society to the point of near-deification, and many aspects of Klingon culture come to revolve around emulation of Kahless's life.
Klingon beliefs were recorded in a series of scrolls collectively referred to as the paqbatlh, or Book of Honor. One prophecy, possibly taken from this book, was of the Kuvah'magh, a religious figure predicted to appear at some future time. Miral Paris, daughter of Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres, was thought by some expatriate Klingons in the Delta Quadrant to be this new spiritual leader.
The Hur'q Invasion
The Klingons' first encounter with an interplanetary species formed their opinions about contact with other beings. Raiders that the Klingons called the Hur'q, or "outsiders," invaded the Klingon homeworld. Once galaxy-wide plunderers who destroyed whatever they could not pillage, the Hur'q pillaged Qo'noS, taking with them many Klingon cultural and historical treasures, including the Sword of Kahless. Thereafter, Klingons would mistrust all "outsiders" - Vulcan, Human, Cardassian, anyone.
The Klingons eventually expelled the Hur'q from their homeworld. It is likely the Klingons stole the invaders' technology, including their warp drive and weapons systems, and used them to expand their empire into space. If Klingon designs were in fact stolen, and not developed on their own, this might explain why Klingon technology seems to advance so little during the ensuing centuries compared to other planets, such as Earth. It also explains how such a warlike and anti-intellectual civilization was able to develop warp drive, in that they reverse engineered it from the technology of an invading race.
Contact with Humans
The Klingons' relationship with the Federation provides a textbook example of their hostility toward outsiders. Early encounters between the two sides were ambiguous. After one of their representatives became stranded after crash landing in a field in Montana, the NX class starship Enterprise journeyed to the Klingon homeworld, but received a decidedly cool reception. During a second encounter, the crew of the Enterprise rescued a ship-wrecked Klingon vessel, and received threats as a "thank you."
By 2223, the Klingons issued an ultimatum for the Federation to withdraw from disputed territories claimed by both sides. Sporadic border conflicts occurred until the Battle of Donatu V in 2245. Hostilities came to a head by 2267, when both sides poised for outright war over Organia, the only Class M world in the sector. Unbeknownst to either side, the Organians were incredibly powerful energy life-forms who imposed the Organian Peace Treaty on both parties. The treaty provided that any disputed planet would be awarded to the power that proved it could develop it most efficiently, ushering in a period where both sides vied for planets such as Sherman's Planet, Neural, and Capella IV.
A new chapter in the relationship between the two sides began in 2293, with the explosion of the Praxis moon. Caused by serious over-mining and lax environmental controls, the disaster meant that the Klingons suddenly found the atmosphere of their homeworld hopelessly polluted. Qo'noS would become uninhabitable within 50 years. The Klingons could no longer afford a cold war with the Federation. Then Chancellor Gorkon, leader of the High Council, initiated a peace dialogue that would dismantle the neutral one between the two parties. Despite Gorkon's assassination by agents of the status quo, the historic Khitomer Accords were signed.
Peace would not come easily to the two sides, however, and raids by Klingon battle cruisers continued. It would take Starfleet intervention at Narendra III and Khitomer - both attacked by the Romulans - to convince the Klingons that the Federation was honorable. The Second Khitomer Accords provided for an outright alliance between these once bitter enemies.
Klingon Civil War
Matters inside the empire were slightly less contentious over the years, and the High Council has always been a hotbed of intrigue. The poisoning of Chancellor K'mpec in 2367 triggered a bitter struggle over his succession. K'mpec had taken the unorthodox precaution of appointing a Starfleet captain as his Arbiter of Succession, and to him fell the task of choosing between candidates from the House of Duras and House of Gowron.
When Gowron emerged the victor, forces loyal to House Duras plunged the empire into civil war by attempting to block his inauguration. The Federation stepped in to assist Gowron by patrolling the Klingon-Romulan border, and thus uncovering Romulan support for the Duras family. Support for Duras among the other houses crumbled and the empire was preserved. There can be no better example of how far the Federation and Klingon Empire had come.
Every Klingon wants to grow up to be a warrior, even though there aren't enough positions to fill the demand. Every Klingon tries to get into a good military academy. Upon, graduation, each petition his house for warrior status. Those who do not make it are expected to find their own ways, supporting their houses through some other profession, such as a factory worker, farmer, or merchant.
Klingons divide their society into four tiers. At the top are the nobility, the lords of houses both great and small. They receive their authority by virtue of the lands they control and the army at their command. Presumed to be the most honorable, the nobility enjoys the most power and privileges in society. Those who intend to walk the warrior's path seek admission to the military of a particular House, and form the second tier. The rank of warrior is not hereditary, though kinship with a loyal warrior counts in the applicant's favor. The next tier consists of the accountants, weapon-smiths, nursemaids, and thousands of other second-rate professions needed to keep society functioning. Generally, these Klingons were refused induction into a house's army, though many simply chose to follow in the family business. At the bottom of the social order are the inhabitants of planets conquered by the empire. Klingons who have no honor, and are banished from Klingon society (a process called discommendation), are beneath this social scale.
Houses both large and small divide the Empire's territory between themselves. They rule directly over their lands - ranging from small planetary regions to entire planets, or, in the case of the most powerful, several planets - with absolute authority. Little more than a federation of petty fiefdoms bound together for mutual benefit, the empire resembles one of Earth's ancient feudal societies more than an intergalactic power.
Most houses maintain their own military forces, training facilities, arsenals, and even shipyards. The more successful a house - winning battles and controlling vast tracts of land - the more warriors want to join. The house is the most important thing to a warrior, for it defines his allegiance. A warrior's allegiance to his house is oftentimes stronger than his dedication to the empire. Every honorable warrior serves his house with undying devotion.
Klingon society is extremely complex. The Klingon Empire is composed of hundreds of family lines, commonly referred to as Houses. A family line may be considered as a Major or Minor House depending on its size, wealth and political influences within the Imperial Klingon Empire. The Great Houses of noble lineage, to which various parts of the population owe fealty, are traditionally represented in the Klingon High Council, which is led by a Chancellor.
A family line is not necessarily composed entirely of blood relations; in some cases, it will occasionally adopt new members if they have skills, contacts or material goods that will bring honor, fame or fortune to the House. While the customs for ratification vary from line to line, generally any family member can sponsor another individual for adoption into his house line. If the newcomer is ambitious, the offering of handsome gifts and bribes when requesting adoption with a line could offer many benefits in return.
Klingon Family Lines are like a network of mutual obligations and defense agreements. Deeds done beyond living memory can put one family in debt to another for generations; such is their emphasis on repaying debts. In this way, there comes a time when the line is too massive to maintain, and some line-founders must split off to form a new name. House names are usually taken from the name of its founder, as in the House of Martok or House of Mogh.
The High Council
The ruling body of the Klingon Empire, the High Council is composed of some 24 of the most powerful houses in the empire. After the last emperor died without an heir in 2069, the High Council seized control of the empire. The Council is a hotbed of political intrigue. Like bullies, they do whatever they want, and can get away with. And convincing a majority of the empire's most powerful people to agree on anything can be difficult, unless the course of action is clear. No one wants to unintentionally benefit a rival, or undermine their position.
The High Council advises the Chancellor on matters facing the empire. He leads the Council though force of will and his own considerable army. A master politician, he plays a delicate balancing game between different factions.
This situation was modified in 2369 when Kahless apparently returned from the dead, although it was later learned that the returned Kahless was in fact a clone of the original created by Klingon scientists. Despite this, Chancellor Gowron allowed the cloned Kahless to take the Imperial throne as a figurehead in order to promote unity among the Klingon people
Despite initial appearances of success their first contact with Humanity in 2151 was disastrous, leading to decades of conflict. A period of peace followed, but ended in 2218 when relations shifted towards hostile again. The lingering tensions between Klingons and humans continued to rise, eventually leading to the Battle of Donatu V near Sherman's Planet in 2245, and later erupted into what was considered the First Federation-Klingon War in 2267, that was quickly ended by intervention by the Organians after only four days of fighting. Over the next several decades the Federation and Klingon Empire made several further attempts to coexist peacefully, with notable breakthroughs including the Korvat Negotiations in 2289 and the Khitomer Accords in 2293. Although the signing of the Khitomer Accords was a milestone, the efforts of Chancellor Gorkon and the Human Starfleet officer James T. Kirk didn't bring a true and lasting peace. There were several periods of rocky relations, but peace was finally achieved after the Narendra Incident, in which the crew of the USS Enterprise-C sacrificed themselves and their vessel to assist a Klingon colony under attack by Romulans. With the signing of the Treaty of Alliance, a pact allowing for mutual aid and defense against aggressors, but forbiding interference in the internal affiars of either government, the Federation and the Klingon Empire became steadfast allies. The alliance held until 2372, when the Federation's refusal to support the Klingon's war against the Cardassians resulted in an attack on Deep Space Nine (see the Second Federation-Klingon War). The alliance was re-instated later in this year in order to present a united front against the Dominion threat. That alliance has continued to the present, and the two powers worked closely throughout the Dominion War.
Klingon relations with the Romulans have also been extremely unstable. In the 2260s the two were at least somewhat friendly; Romulans used Klingon warships in their military. The two later became enemies; the Romulan Star Empire has been typically regarded by the Klingons as a "blood enemy" since at least the 23rd century. Romulan forces were resposible for the attacks on the Narendra III outpost in 2344 and the brutal Khitomer Massacre of 2346, killing some 4,000 Klingons. In 2367 the Romulans backed Duras in his attempt to claim the Chancellorship of the Klingon high council. The attempt failed when the Federation blockaded the Romulan border, preventing supplies from reaching Duras's forces. Sporadic Romulan attacks against Klingon colonies and interference in Klingon affairs have continued to sour relationships between the two peoples.