"I don't understand," Amanda said, squinting at the Vulcan sun as she gazed up at the cornice of the Fortress that was her home. It was a comment she made so frequently during her first few months on Vulcan, she was beginning to think she ought to choose a simple, code word for the phrase. Though Sarek, as yet, had showed no impatience at continuing to hear her speak it. "Why all the lematyas, when you hate them?"
Sarek was taken aback by that statement, so much that a rather surprised look replaced the usually indulgent one he wore when she spoke. "Vulcans hate nothing, Amanda."
"Split hairs all you like, but I seem to recall everyone came running with phasers drawn and stun darts when a couple of little cubs got in the garden, and the poor things were shot and removed post haste."
"They weren't harmed. The estate wildlife conservator has reported that the cubs, after being tranquilized – not shot – and tagged, are thriving with their mother in the foothills not far from here." "
"You didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat here, though."
"As you now know, lematya venom is poisonous, and very often fatal."
"My point exactly. Don't you think it's illogical to evict them bodily from the premises and yet represent them everywhere in imagery? Just look at this place. Amanda waved her arm, encompassing the entirety of the old Fortress in one sweeping gesture. "Lematya banners hanging from the Fortress gates and spires, lematya statuary in the garden. And now I've just noticed you've even got lematya gargoyles carved into the frieze of the building. Do you see?" She pointed. "Way up there on the roof."
"I see," Sarek said, amused. "Though having lived here for many years, I'm well aware of the building's characteristics."
"Then maybe you can explain them. Because I'm beginning to think you have a very peculiar lematya obsession, my husband. And yet not a living pussycat in the house."
"Certainly not. As I've explained—"
"I know. They're venomous. But why all these cats in imagery? It's kind of amusing, actually."
"On Terra, my husband, or at least with humankind, it is usually only crazy little old ladies who keep kittycat knick-knacks everywhere. There's a whole advertising industry that thrives on it. But believe me, you don't fit the doting pussycat type. And yet everywhere I look," she waved at the banners hanging from the sweep gates, past the statuary in the formal garden to the building's rooftop frieze, "cats, cats and more cats. To think of my husband as a kit cat kitsch collector is rather amusing."
Sarek was undrawn. "I don't collect them. The images you refer to were here long before my time. However, there's a perfectly logical explanation for the prevalence of lematya imagery. It is a symbol, something of an icon, representing our clan. The lematya has long been considered a representation of unbridled savagery and violence, and, given their poisonous nature, near certain death in any close encounter. A predator suitable for our clan image. They are not an image of domestic pets or, as you put it," he gave her a flick of the brow, "pussycats."
"I stand reproved," Amanda said amused, copying his phraseology. "But don't you consider it an odd representative, considering your clan supposedly stands for 5000 years of Vulcan peace?"
"True, we now call ourselves the clan of Surak, since he was a direct ancestor and a clan leader at the time of the Reforms. But before Surak, there were equal millennia of war. Thus, the lematya association with our clan is pre-Reform and long before Surak's day. Such a predator was a suitable emblem to be chosen by the most victorious war clan of that time."
"So all these banners, sculptures and gargoyles are something akin to human heraldry?"
"Interesting that Surak didn't change the image of your clan, when he instituted the Reforms. The equivalent of a peace dove, of sorts."
"Surak never wished us to forget our essential selves. Inherent in the nature of control must be the understanding what one controls. Something Vulcans should never forget."
"I can't say Vulcans appear much more inherently violent than humans. Far rather the reverse."
"That you should find us so is essentially the idea behind the Reforms," Sarek said, amused in turn. "I am pleased it is a success. But there is no equivalent "peace dove" on Vulcan. Nor an equivalent to your Terran pussycats. While there are other feline species on Vulcan, they are all wild and venomous."
"So, except for the predators in imagery, no pet cats in the house," Amanda said, as they turned into the garden court. She put out a hand as I-Chiya came woofing out of his refuge in the shade when they approached. "I confess I was surprised you had no domestic felines, since you have all the images. Oh, well, we'll just have to be content with the dog."
"I-Chiya is a sehlat. Not a canine of any type. Perhaps more ursine, than canine, if one must choose a Terran equivalent. Which I would council you against continually trying to divine."
"Six inch fangs aside, he's a dog, in character, if not in appearance. He woofs, he licks, he sheds. Heavens, does he shed." She bent down and patted the upraised head. "Look, he even gives his paw!"
"You shouldn't allow it; pawing is a dominance behavior." Sarek ignored the empathic sehlat's offended look. "Amanda, aspiring human evaluations to non-human eco-systems makes for risky and flawed assumptions."
"And yet it's sort of what I do, isn't it?" she asked, ignoring her husband to shake the sehlat's massive paw, and then submitting to a sloppy lick. "And I make quite a good living at it. Not to mention some minor academic renown."
"I have no objection to your work, in theory. In specific personal application it is…" Sarek looked down at his wife, as she mock tussled with the sehlat. In spite of perfect trust in his pet's use of those six inch fangs, watching her wrestle with anything of Vulcan, he said, "Somewhat risky."
She looked up at him, shading her eyes against the ruby sunlight. "Risky? I-Chiya is a perfect lamb."
"He is a devoted companion animal, quite intelligent and well trained. I trust him implicitly. He would protect you with his life. My warning is more related to your assumptions in general. Nevertheless, even with regard to I-Chiya, he is still a large and only semi-domesticated creature, who behaves instinctively under certain situations. There is always the possibility of accidents."
"He might drown me, licking me to death, you mean." Amanda said, trying to ward off the sehlet's continued attentions. "Really, Sarek. Short of bowling me over, now and then, he's a perfect gentleman."
"It is not with I-Chiya specifically that I believe such caution is indicated," Sarek flicked a brow, holding out a hand to help her up. "Sehlats, after all, have never been chosen to be a heraldic representative of any warrior clan, fierce protectors though they can be."
"Believe me, my husband, I've had the Vulcan wildlife lecture. I know lematya are not pussycats. I'll stay away from them, in all their forms and guises." She gave her hand to him, and let him raise her to her feet.
"All?" he asked.
Her hand in his, she smiled up at him. "You mean, except for the present clan representative? I'm afraid he's already caught me. Though if he's poisonous," She reached up and kissed the scion of the clan of Surak, under his very own lematya banners, "I'll risk it.
"I can't think what you mean," Sarek said, with his very best Vulcan innocence.
"Just that I was wrong, about not having any felines in the house." Amanda said, all innocence in turn.
"Be careful, my wife," Sarek said, amused, "you would not wish to call out the ancient battle herald of that once warrior race."
"Oh, wouldn't I? Pussycat," Amanda teased.
"Madam," Sarek said, leaning down to whisper in her ear. "Those are fighting words."
"Mraowwww," she laughed back, and then romped into the house, giving her resident feline something to chase. And, in keeping with his heraldry, catch.
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