Chapter 1 - The Vulcan's Forge
THIS WAS NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED! The Forge, an expanse of sprawling desert beyond the L-langon Mountains northeast of Shi'kahr, the least welcoming region on the planet, was living up to its reputation. It was here that young Vulcan children from the House of Surak, underwent their first tests of maturity, the kahs-wan. It was also here that those seeking a new life directed by logic travelled in order to purge themselves of their emotions. They would be too tired and exhausted to have any emotions, Mimi thought wryly, as she made her way up the rocky path. With her next step she tripped on a stone. Although Sordd was walking in front of her, his keen hearing told him that she had stumbled, and he turned and managed to catch her before she landed on the ground.
"Sit down here, m'aih Mimi," he said with a neutrality in his voice that covered over the concern he was feeling for she who was his wife. Mimi sat down on the rock, which was partially shaded by a larger one. Sordd knelt down beside her.
He had expected the journey to be difficult for Mimi, as her human frame was not adapted to the environmental extremes encountered in the Forge, but in no way should it be exhausting her like it was. He had risk assessed the activity. As well as desert boots which were suitable for the terrain, Mimi was also wearing an acclimatisation suit under her Vulcan robes, which were more than adequate for the terrain and environment. She had applied ointment to protect her bare skin from the harsh glare of Nevasa and she was also wearing her specially adapted contact lenses to give her eyes protection. He had ensured that his wife had partaken of a substantial mid-meal before leaving their dwelling. He had also administered an extra tri-ox shot to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Mimi was also very fit. He inwardly shook his head. Despite all the precautions that he had taken, she was struggling more than was to be expected. Illogical as it was, he had somehow miscalculated.
"It's so hot," Mimi exclaimed as she wiped the sweat from her brow. "I know you said it would be taxing… but this is unbearable..."
He tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear before lifting her hood over her head again. He ran a quick scan with his tricorder and immediately diagnosed the problem. Sordd took the water bottle out of her shaking hand, it was nearly full. "It is imperative that you drink this water when you require it, m'aih Mimi," he said to her calmly. In order to prove the point to her, he very deliberately and visibly frowned. Ordinarily he avoided emotional displays, after all had been through healer-adept training on the Mountains of Gol, he knew the disciplines. As well as being illogical, displaying emotions was unnecessary and showed a lapse of control. However, he had found that when he 'showed' emotion towards his bondmate it seemed to assist her in interpreting the situation, so occasionally he allowed a very controlled emotional display.
Mimi looked down at him. It was obvious to Mimi that he was enjoying himself, although 'enjoying' is not a word that he would use. He looked cool as a cucumber. She on the other hand did not. Currently Mimi was a hot and sticky mess.
"You haven't had any water and T'Shahel and Avarak haven't had any either," she replied.
She turned to look at the children, despite wearing the protective lenses she still needed to shield her eyes from the glare of the sun. In the distance Mimi could see that Avarak and T'Shahel had stopped and they were patiently waiting. They were wearing traditional Vulcan robes, excursion uniforms were unnecessary in this environment, they too looked as cool as cucumbers. Mimi then turned to look at I-chle. He had been bounding between the two small groups all afternoon and was currently sitting at Sordd's feet. The sehlat looked totally unfazed by the extreme environment, in fact it looked like I-chle was in his element. Mimi sighed.
"Our physiology is different. Vulcans can go days without drinking water. You cannot, especially in the Forge." Sordd gently stroked her cheek. Another concession he made for she who was his wife. As a rule, the only culturally acceptable way to touch a bondmate in public was by using the oz'hesta, the Vulcan kiss. This involved finger-to-finger contact of a ceremonial, dignified nature, which hid the inner telepathic communication which was taking place between the two participants. He found that Mimi 'needed' 'extra' signs of affection for her emotional wellbeing. "Please drink more water, we cannot proceed until you do," he said quite firmly while handing the water bottle back to her.
"I will drink some if you will," she answered stubbornly.
"It's unnecessary," he insisted. "It would appear that your memory is lacking in recall, T'Sai Margaret."
Mimi sighed again. Oh no, he is using my Sunday name!
"Hakausu V'Mir explained your need for extra water while residing on Vulcan..."
Mimi put her hand up in a stop sign. "All right, no need for the lecture. You win!"
Sordd nodded his head in agreement, "That is a logical conclusion."
Mimi cupped his cheek in her hand while she looked him in the eyes. "There is one condition... You take a drink first."
Sordd had conflicting emotions inside of him. His katra swelled with the knowledge that his mate cared for his physical needs, that she was willing to sacrifice her own water supply for him. While highly illogical in the circumstances, he had to admit that he found the sentiment behind her actions to be quite gratifying. Something stirred inside of him, which he quickly schooled away. He made a mental note to add extra time to his meditations after end-meal in order to deal with his 'feelings.' "Very well, adun'a." He took a very small sip of water from the bottle, then handed it back to her. "Now, you must partake of the water."
Mimi quenched her thirst, while Sordd prepared an extra shot of tri-ox. After drinking a sufficient quantity of water, she looked up at the rocky terrain. The peaks towered over them. "How far is it to the shelter?"
"It is only forty-two minutes from here," he responded to her question, while administering the shot. "I will not fatigue you with the decimal places as I know you believe them to be unnecessary."
Mimi looked at him again and smiled, "Shaya tonat, Adun. Thank you, my husband. Is that forty-two minutes at your pace or mine?"
"It is OUR pace, Ashayam." He held up two fingers, the oz'hesta. Mimi smiled more broadly as their fingers briefly touched together.
Mimi continued to study her surroundings as she caught her breath. "Avarak, has to survive ten days out here all on his own?"
"Ha," Sordd nodded his head. "This is part of his training."
Mimi shook her head in disbelief, it was brutal.
"T'Shahel, has to survive for four months?"
"Ha," he answered her query. "She will have her ritual blade."
As Mimi was too hot and bothered she did not have the energy to say anything more on the subject, although she did think it was nuts that Vulcans would send their children out into this environment un-aided.
Sordd, detected her thoughts and feelings through their bond. He decided not to inquire about the use of the word 'nuts,' he would research that later. Instead he focused on Mimi's immediate needs. "It will be cooler in the shelter," he said reassuringly... Satisfied that her breathing and pulse rate had fallen into more acceptable parameters, "Is it agreeable to proceed?"
Mimi nodded her head before standing up. Sordd took the water bottle from her hand and tucked it into the small rucksack he was carrying. It was logical for him to do so in order for him to monitor his wife's water intake, it was also less for her to carry. He sighed inwardly at her stubbornness, she had insisted on carrying the bottle. They then continued on their journey.
Detecting Mimi's weariness, I-chle followed up behind, he was her protector after all!
A saving grace was that they had not travelled all the way on foot. The shelter they were heading towards was 4.5 days travel from their dwelling place. It was a hazardous journey, even for a Vulcan. Sordd had no intention of EVER inflicting the whole journey upon his wife. They had travelled by desert-cruiser as far and as high as they could, before disembarking. The 4.5 day journey had been reduced to a 0.5 day excursion. Sordd inwardly thanked his logic for making that decision. He also thanked logic that they were making the journey in the late afternoon and early evening, it was cooler now than earlier.
Excursions into the Forge were not new to Sordd, or indeed his children. He had passed his kahs-wan ritual when he was seven year old. T'Shahel had passed it in her eighth year. Avarak had started his training for the ritual at a very young age, he was due to sit the test in four months time. After passing his kahs-wan, Sordd had trained towards passing 'The Rite of Tal'oth' a desert survival ritual conducted by young adults who are required to survive for four months in the desert with only a ritual blade in their possession. T'Shahel, was currently undertaking training in order to pass that rite. After passing the Rite of Tal'oth, Sordd had spent any available free time exploring the remote reaches of his clan grounds. As well as traversing the Forge on a number of occasions, he had also climbed Mount Selaya, 7000 meters high, from its base, with only a ritual blade in his possession. He had done that five times. The ancient survival disciplines which he had learned from his youth and honed through experience, were now second nature to him. The small bag he was carrying was a logical concession to meet the needs of his human bondmate. It contained an ample supply of water, dehydrated meals, snacks (Mimi liked snacks), a blanket for Mimi's comfort, a sleeping mat, and a human medical-kit. He was also carrying a map, a physical copy of the terrain; this was for Mimi's benefit as she liked to study maps and she liked to know where she was going. Logical.
Mimi followed after him, on the well-worn path. "Surak travelled here?" she asked as she stopped to catch her breath again.
As soon as Mimi stopped, Sordd stopped as well. "Ha, Surak often travelled into the wilderness in order to meditate and formulate his philosophies. The path we are on eventually leads to the Shrine of S'wek, who was one of the first adepts taught by Surak."
Mimi nodded her head in understanding. "What is that?" she asked while pointing to a small plant with narrowly lance-shaped red leaves and open panicles of tiny lilac flowers.
Showing a great deal of interest in what Mimi had pointed to, Sordd walked towards the plant. "Lhm'ta herb." He crouched down, took out his ritual blade, which was tucked into his desert boot, and cut off some of the leaves; the cleaner cut increased probability of shoots growing again. "It is used in making traditional tei." He rubbed one of the leaves between his fingers and offered it to Mimi, it smelled of a mixture of lemon and rosemary. He noted the sparkle in Mimi's eyes, which was always agreeable, and always present when she was discovering new things. "We can partake of some tei in the shelter..."
Mimi nodded her head in agreement. "I would like that!"
Sordd ensured that Mimi had another drink from the bottle of water and a small snack, before they continued...
"The shelter is five minutes away..."
Mimi looked up and scanned the sheer-looking cliffs. She couldn't see a shelter anywhere.
"The shelter is built into the mountain," Sordd answered her unspoken thoughts. Just as he said this Mimi looked on as T'Shahel and Avarak seemed to disappear into the rock.
"This way," he beckoned. Sordd led her up the narrowing path. It was only now she realised how exposed they were. Mimi gulped. There was a sheer drop to the right. She edged into the left, closer to the rock face. Sordd, detected the wave of fear through their bond, "It is safe Ashayam," he reassured her.
"Whatever you say!" Mimi wasn't convinced. "Safe is lying on a beach. For our next excursion can we visit the Voroth sea?"
A chill ran down Sordd's spine at the thought of having an excursion to the sea. The sea was disagreeable. He did not want Mimi to go anywhere near the water ever again…
"I could teach you how to surf," she suggested.
"That is unnecessary. There is no logical reason for me to do so."
Mimi laughed, "You're still frightened of the water!"
"Fear is a highly illogical emotion…"
Just as he said this, Mimi slipped on some scree. A wave of fear flowed over him. If it was not for his super-fast reflexes she would have fallen over the edge. He caught her just in time.
Mimi looked up into his eyes, "Fear is illogical, Adun!"
He clung hard to her. "It was merited in the moment. The fear of losing a bondmate is logical."
Mimi smiled at him again. "I'm okay, you can let me go now!"
Reluctantly, Sordd let go of her. The path was too narrow for them to walk side-by-side. He turned to I-chle, "Fo-danan," he commanded. Immediately, I-chle came between Mimi and the edge of the precipice in order to protect her.
A passable opening, which had been impossible to see from further down, appeared in the side of the rock. This opened out into a small amphitheatre. T'Shahel and Avarak were waiting in the middle of it.
There were a number of shelters built into the rock. Sordd approached one of the doors and after a quick retina scan, the door opened smoothly. After he had inspected the interior of the shelter to ensure it was adequate for their needs, Mimi and the children followed. On entering the cave, I-chle flopped on his side, to rest on the floor.
Mimi took in the new surroundings. The shelter had been hollowed out from the side of the mountain. To her relief, it was a lot cooler than outside. There were very basic amenities, cooking facilities, a communal sleeping space, meditation area, emergency rations, Vulcan-medical kit, very dim lighting which was adequate for a Vulcan, and a small rest room. There was also a console for use in emergencies.
"Where are they going?" Mimi asked as she watched the children leave the shelter.
"I have tasked them with foraging for sustenance in order to have end-meal."
"You are letting them go out there on their own?"
Sordd nodded his head.
Mimi frowned. "What if they get lost?"
"They will need to find their way back," he replied in a tone of voice that meant he did not want to be questioned further on the matter. "Would you like some tei and tufeen hushani?"
Mimi simply stared at Sordd as she tried to comprehend why he would send his children out into a hostile wilderness. She then glanced out of the entrance to the shelter, hoping they would return safely.
"Aduna, T'Shahel has passed her kahs-wan. Avarak is ready to sit his."
Hesitating a bit more, Mimi finally took him at his word. "Tei and tufeen hushani would be agreeable."
"Rom!" Sordd removed a small mat from the rucksack for Mimi to sit on while he prepared the tei. He then removed a tiny, but bright, lantern to aid her with seeing in the shelter. Satisfied that she was comfortable, he then took out a small, portable cooking stove.
Surprised, "Do you not want to use the cooking appliance provided?" Mimi asked.
Sordd looked up from his task, "It is unnecessary. This is not an emergency situation." He then took out a collapsible cooking pot, which he filled with water.
"Do children ever use these shelters during their kahs-wan?" Mimi asked, while trying to take her mind off other things.
"It is permitted during emergencies. Although, if a shelter is used by a candidate they will need to re-sit the test at another opportunity."
Mimi watched him closely as he began to boil some water for the tea. He then placed a handful of Lhm'ta herb leaves into another pot. When the water was boiled he poured it over the herbs, covered the pot, and steeped the herbs for five minutes. Mimi could smell the lemon and rosemary fragrance again. Sordd then strained off the leaves, before serving the tei to Mimi with a piece of cake…
Sometime later, Mimi found herself anxiously waiting at the entrance of the shelter. She was about to raise her concerns for the children, an hour had passed after all, when in the distance something caught her attention. Tall and dark clouds were beginning to form in the evening sky.
"Sordd," she exclaimed. "There are clouds forming." Mimi turned to look at her husband. "I thought you said it did not rain at this time of year?"
Sordd left what he was doing and walked towards her. "It does not," he answered. He looked up into the sky. "Those are not rain clouds. That is a sandstorm."
"What about the children?"
"They have adequate training, Ashayam. I calculate the storm will pass here in two point seven hours. The children have an agreeable quantity of time to complete their task and return to the shelter. If there are unforeseen circumstances that will delay them further, they know to find shelter elsewhere. Come, let us sit together." Without another word Sordd turned and walked back to the seating area. Mimi hesitated again before following him.
Sordd, had entered into a state of light meditation, while Mimi was reading a book on her padd. A series of booms and cracks came from outside as the storm moved closer, adding to Mimi's distress. It was quite obvious to Sordd that she was worrying about the children, illogical though that was. He reached for her, offering her the oz'hesta again. "They are on their way back," he said in a calming tone as he fed her serenity through the telepathic touch.
Mimi frowned yet again, "How do you know that?"
Sordd, tilted his head. "The familial bond enables me to assess their current status."
"If we have children, do you think I will have a bond with them like you do with Avarak and T'Shahel?"
Sordd thought for a while before answering, "There is insufficient data, m'aih Mimi." He immediately detected the disappointment that Mimi was feeling... "The fact that we have a bond between us is encouraging and suggests that it is possible," he said in way of comfort.
At that moment, I-chle bounded through the door of the shelter, with a large stick in his mouth. His stubby tail was wagging frantically. He dropped the stick at Mimi's feet.
"Good boy!" Mimi rubbed his face and ears. "Do you want to play catch?"
As Mimi reached to pick up the stick, Sordd gently placed his hand on her shoulder. "It is a gift, m'aih Mimi. It would be unwise to give the impression that you are throwing it away." Mimi looked up at him with a questioning look on her face. "You do not want to cause I-chle offence. A tummy rub would be the most logical response," he added. Mimi looked even more confused. "Do you recall the pile of sticks in the compound?"
Her eyes went wide in realisation, "You're kidding?"
Sordd shook his head, "Nirsh," he replied quite seriously.
Mimi turned to the sehlat, who was nudging the stick towards her with its nose. When Mimi picked it up, I-chle immediately rolled on his back, expecting his tummy to be rubbed.
Avarak and T'Shahel appeared five minutes later, with some foraged items in hand.
"Rom, muhl" Sordd praised them as he looked at what they had managed to gather: cin-cern root, ka-ranj-i, which they could use as a source of water, and lag gum. He then tasked them with building a small fire in order to bake the cin-cern root. While they were doing this Sordd prepared Mimi's end-meal on the small stove.
"You should rest, my wife," Sordd said softly as he pulled out the sleeping mat and blanket from his pack. "You are exhausted."
Mimi could not argue with him. She quickly settled down to sleep for the night, while the children settled down to meditate.
"I-chle, there is insufficient room on the sleeping mat for both you and m'aih Mimi," Sordd explained to the animal. "This is NOT your sleeping area."
Sordd endeavoured to push the sehlat away, without any success. Confused by the animal's reactions, he decided to initiate a light meld to ensure the beast was in agreeable health... Sordd turned to Mimi, "You allow I-chle on your bed?"
Mimi endeavoured to suppress the smile that was trying to break upon her face, "It's logical!" She replied in her best Vulcan accent.
Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!
Sordd's mind went back to Mimi's first encounter with I-chle. He had stated quite clearly that pets were not allowed up on beds. He would have to further clarify. "T'Sai Margaret, pets are not AUTHORISED to be on beds! I fail to see any logic in allowing it."
Mimi sat up. "Well, if someone tries to murder me on my bed, I-chle will jump up and protect me," she replied confidently.
"Aduna, there is no such crime on Vulcan. The last murder on this planet occurred over two thousand years ago."
Mimi pouted, "Well, that doesn't mean that it can't happen again."
"Statistically the odds are…"
Mimi held up her hand again. "Humans allow pets on beds, and I am human. I-chle is allowed on MY bed!"
Sordd visibly frowned. He realised there was no point in pressing the matter further. He conceded, for the moment, while making a mental note to increase I-chle's bathing routine.
"Now, my love," Mimi continued, "You must meditate and I must sleep." She reached up and kissed him on the lips. When she pulled away, she patted him on the shoulder a few times. "Good night, k'diwa!"
Adun'a - wife
Adun - husband
shaya tonat - thank you
Ashayam - beloved
k'diwa - beloved