Wind and rain buffeted the sides of our carrying chair. The storm was getting worse. "Did you hear thunder?" I asked T'Pring nervously. She shook her head but her shoulders were tense.
The walls of our forecourt cut the wind, but the rain still pounded down and the branches of the tek-tek trees groaned as they swayed. Siya, Father's factotum, was waiting at the doorway, heavily cloaked, to help us from our chairs and to lead the aki-kah around the corner to a shed, it would have been inhumane to turn out even those hardy birds in such extreme weather.
The lamps had been lit in the atrium, light reflecting off the polished granite walls. The big, open room was chilly and damp, full of gusty drafts rippling the ancestral banners in their niches. Rain and runoff poured through the square hole in the ceiling, splashing into the pool beneath till it foamed. We made a wide circle around it and T'Sar slid open a panel of the painted silk screens dividing the room of gathering from the atrium.
The lamps had been lit here too, and coals glowed red in a two level brazier banishing the chill.
Mother was there, waiting for us, along with Spock's pedagogue and Respected T'Aishi. Mother sprang from her chair, a deeply cushioned Terran antique, and offered her palms first to T'Pring. "Welcome daughter, please call your birth parents and inform them you have arrived safely."
T'Pring went obediently to the communications/computer set and Mother touched hands with T'Sar. "A stage two weather emergency has been declared." she explained. "All citizens have been requested to take shelter." she moved on to T'Pelle and then to me, her eyes were worried. "I hope Father and Brother are able to get home."
"They will notify us if they cannot." Master Sinat, Brother's pedagogue, said in his dry old voice. "Both are too logical to take unnecessary chances."
Well, maybe Father was...but Spock's logic was decidedly peccable though naturally none of us said so. A loud crack of thunder right overhead made us all start, even Sinat. Mother wrung her hands. Then we heard Father and Brother's voices in the atrium and she all but ran to the screens but regained control of herself as soon as she saw husband and son safe.
She offered palms to Spock before touching fingers with Father with perfect composure. "A warning has been issued." she said passionlessly. "I was growing concerned."
"I was concerned as well." Father answered, eyes warm. "I left the office early, requisitioning a closed car. I went first to T'el Sherat but learned the pupils had already been sent home. I then drove to S'chn Hwa to pick up Spock." Thunder cracked and rolled overhead, again all jumped, startle responses to external stimuli are almost impossible to master. "Fortunately we are now safe at home." Father said. "Let us go in, out of this cold."
"Where is Miyo-ba, please?" I asked T'Aishi as she led us three girls and our guest T'Pring down the shuttered gallery to our quarters. Our sehlat cub is terrified of storms.
A hint of amusement touched our preceptress' stern face. "T'Pai and T'Paan put her in her den when the rains grew heavy."
I suppressed a sigh of relief. Seventy-five kilograms of frantic sehlat constitute a serious threat to household furnishings and even house structure. Miyo-ba's den is a walled off section of a store-room off the day nursery. My sisters and I went at once to check on our pet, peering through the slot in the large door. Small, unhappy green eyes looked back at us from the darkness.
T'Pelle reached an arm through to stroke the cub's soft fur crooning. "Poor, Baba-kum. Poor Baba-kum."
"Baba-kum is safe," I added, wedging my hand in next to T'Pelle's, "Sisters will take good care of their good little cub."
"Make room." T'Sar ordered and T'Pelle withdrew her hand reluctantly. "Miyo-ba is a good sehlat, a sweet sehlat, nothing will harm her." T'Sar continued rubbing our unhappy pet's muzzle.
"Enough." said T'Ping from the doorway. "The creature is secure where she is and you must bathe and dress for the midday meal."
T'Pring, whose own woman, T'Paath, had come over earlier and was waiting for her, joined us in making our afternoon toilet which is rather more elaborate then the morning one. We showered again then our women redressed our hair, refreshed the powder on our faces and added the cosmetics necessary to a formal appearance; tint for the lips, paint to outline the eyes and brows and shade the lids. T'Sar, T'Pelle and I dressed for the midday meal, all alike as is the custom for sisters, in tunic and trousers of peach pink silk beneath a pinkish-purple robe lined in white with a white sash tied in a triple knot falling to our feet and a quilted blue vest - matching the color of our eyes - over all. T'Pring wore much the same but in her preferred colors of white and yellow and scarlet.
A fire burned on the tea hearth and the lamps were lit in the long dining room, their mellow light flickering over the dull red and gold of the small lacquered tables, high backed chairs and backless stools. The warm colors of the of landscape reliefs, copied from a famous set in Shi-Kahr castle, glowed against the dark granite of the side walls.
Father and Mother were seated at their table at the head of the hall, Spock alone at a table just below theirs. T'Pring went to join him, seating herself on the stool opposite. T'Sar had a table to herself, though it was set with a second cover for her absent husband. T'Pelle and I shared a third. Just below us Sinat and T'Aishi sat in high backed chairs at their separate tables. Below them, nearest the serving counter, were floor tables and cushions for our retainers.
Thunder roared again and the dishes rattled faintly on the tray T'Iri, Mother's woman, presented to her. She served first Father, then herself. T'Paath performed the same service for T'Pring and she gravely filled Spock's dishes and her own. T'Paan served T'Sar who helped her absent husband before herself, and T'Ping served T'Pelle and me. Siya filled Master Sinat's dishes and T'Pei served Respected T'Aishi before retiring to their own tables.
Mother intoned a short prayer to T'Paah, tutelary deity of our clan, dropped a pinch of meal into the firepot in the middle of her table as a symbolic offering and we all picked up our tongs and began to eat. There were spiced dumplings and s'al'ta sauce to 'bring the appetite' but I could scarcely swallow them, my stomach roiling with every boom of thunder. We were perfectly safe, however severe the weather became, it was illogical to be afraid - but I was. And so were T'Sar and T'Pelle.
Father and Mother, Sinat and T'Aishi were eating in their usual measured way but I knew they were setting us an example of control under stress and no happier than we girls were. Spock was eating practically nothing and I wondered a little maliciously whether it was the storm or T'Pring's presence that was disturbing him. She ate dutifully looking sulkier than her wont, as she usually did around Spock.
T'Sar on the other hand had a slightly dreamy look in her eyes as she tried to pretend Senok was sitting opposite her as she very much wished he was. Far away on T'Khut he was - or would soon be - also eating at a table with two covers to remind him of his wife on Vulcan.
Thunder rolled but this time it had a muffled, hollow sound. All looked up, we knew what that meant - the city shields had been activated indicating the weather had turned very dangerous indeed. T'Pring bit her lip, then recovered herself with an effort. Her family lived on a modest estate outside the city limits and so were exposed to the full force of the storm.
Father put aside the appetizer and uncovered the main dish; tikh - a kind of grain meal - fried with sour roots and ping-ping, a fat burrowing grub. Vulcan vegetarianism permits the ingestion of animal life beneath the level of cerebration such as insects and fish. He picked up his spoon, cleared his throat and said, "Logically the storm cannot maintain such violence for long."
"The manor house of In-Yar is ancient and has withstood many storms." Spock observed, showing more sensitivity than I, his sister, would have given him credit for.
T'Pring rewarded him with a grateful look before lowering her eyes demurely. "That is so. But I fear our garden will suffer."
"And ours." said Mother. "My poor roses!" she and T'Pring continued discussing gardening, a common interest of theirs. Father listened. Spock went back to thinking his own thoughts.
I leaned over the table to whisper to T'Pelle; "If only Spock liked his betrothed as much as his father and mother do!"
"And his sisters." she whispered back. We do like T'Pring. She is clever and very witty if not always kind. There's nothing wrong with T'Pring - nor with Spock either really. Certainly they want to like each other, being bonded, it is very strange that they don't.
The storm roared on overhead, rain pounding down on the tiled roofs making general conversation impossible without improperly raising one's voice thus we confined ourselves to a few polite comments to our immediate neighbors. Midday meals in our family are not normally so uncommunicative though in some houses silence is the rule and in others meals are accompanied by music or readings from the classics.
We consumed a third dish of fried filets of sandfish and followed it with bitter green Sh'rael tea and crisp, salted t'oe'pa wafers. Then we girls then made our bows to the elders and taking T'Pring with us returned to our quarters for the midday rest.
T'Sar, T'Pelle and I wanted to have another look at Miyo-ba but T'Paan wouldn't allow it. "If the beast has settled you will stir her up again. If she has not you will keep her from settling. Leave her be!"
"Our father was right, the storm is decreasing in violence." T'Pring offered. "Secure in her den your pet has probably fallen asleep."
I certainly hoped so. T'Pring and her woman T'Paath were to take their rest on the day nursery divan, we three sisters and our attendants returned to our sleeping rooms. I found the lamp lit in mine and a small, ceramic firepot set near the bed to take the chill off.
T'Pei sprinkled some grains of Ah-tou incense on the red glowing coals filling the room with a soothing scent however the effect was militated by another roll of thunder.
"How can anyone sleep with all this noise?" I wondered.
"Lay your body down and compose your mind and you will sleep, little miss." T'Pei answered, then ruefully. "It is strange is it not that we should fear storms? It is not logical."
"It is an atavism - or so the books say." I answered. "Such primitive instincts are hard to master."
"Very true. But we must try." T'Pei helped me take off my outer robe and folded it neatly on the bench. I lay down and she spread a soft day quilt over me before unrolling her own sleeping mat and composing herself upon it.
"Sleep well, little miss." she said.
"You too, T'Pei." I answered.
I inhaled the sweet ah-tou scent and regulated my breathing in a standard relaxation exercise, thunder sounded making my heart jump. I was angry with myself, I would not give in to my primitive nature. I was a daughter of the House of Surak and had enjoyed the advantage of the best training. I could and would master these atavistic instincts!
I sank my awareness deeper, my heart was beating too quickly, the blood racing in my veins, with an effort that was no effort I slowed it to a more measured rate. Tensed muscles relaxed, breaths came deep and regular. Thunder sounded but body and mind no longer responded to the stimulus.
Images flitted across the stillness of my mind; T'Prang repeating the teachings of her father; the texts I had studied that day; T'Pring and Spock at table, eyes on their plates ignoring each other; Tae-Konn moves; then I fell asleep.