Unwed to a Legend
This is a sequel to "Holography 2: The Wedding Present or the Starling's Lament". If you haven't read that novel, this snippet will make no sense to you.
She felt the bed jostle beside her but kept her eyes closed, unwilling to wake.
"I'm not sure I'm ready to do this," she said.
"Ready or not, you must," Sarek said above her, inexorable as always. "It is your duty."
She opened only one eye. "Tell me again when T'Pau is going to be well enough to resume her duties?"
"The healers say it will be only a matter of weeks."
Amanda sighed and sat up reluctantly. "It can't be too soon for me. I didn't sign up for this. The whole idea is crazy, you know. A human subbing for the Matriarch of all Vulcan."
"You are going to say you are tempted to run away," Sarek said, with teasing indulgence. "But as my wife…"
"I know. I know. I know now, that is," she said, with a sidelong glance at him. "You might have told me before everything that was involved in marrying you."
"Would you have not consented?" he asked, with a raised brow.
"Don't ask me that," Amanda said. "I'm not sure either one of us want to know the answer. All I can say is that Spock had better get married to a suitable girl soon."
"You will have to discuss that with Spock."
"Mmmm, believe me, I will." Amanda rubbed her eyes and yawned and eyed her pillow again, only too tempted to pull it over her head.
"Are you awake?" Sarek asked, watching her doubtfully.
"Just trying to gear myself up to get through this day," Amanda said.
"You will do fine," Sarek said, and extended a hand to help her out of bed. She gave it to him and resigned herself to Vulcan duty. Once again.
Amanda wasn't so sure she shared Sarek's blithe confidence in her abilities. Particularly with a duty she had scheduled for early that afternoon. The guard had been clearly reluctant to take her, but T'Pau had said this was one duty in particular that Amanda would not want to forgo.
Amanda herself was of two minds. Part of her was scared to death to face any echo of that part of her past. Part of her ached to help the girl, as she herself had once been helped by T'Pau.
The guardsmen, braced and stationing themselves to either side of the door, for they could not enter, fixed her with a warning look. "Do not hesitate to call if you require us."
"Why would I?" Amanda's eyes widened. "You don't think…is she violent?"
"She is a traitoress," the guard said. "By her actions she has proven she cannot be trusted to conform to any civilized behavior. Nor is she safe in proper society. That is why she is chattel."
"I was chattel," Amanda said, resenting that implication.
"She is not you, Matriarch. And she does not follow the disciplines. She is as a pre-reform Vulcan, a wild animal. Be wary." The guard's expression vanished as if it had never been and he became a living column.
Amanda drew a breath and went through the gate, not knowing what to expect.
On the other side of the wall was the garden typical to any Vulcan home, pools, fountains, foliage, if all a bit on the austere side, for Stonn, in spite of all his family's wealth, had few resources of his own. Amanda walked along the path, and then paused at a sound. She waited, but heard nothing more and moved. She heard it again, and turned around. From behind a large potted palm-like tree T'Pring came. It was difficult to say who was more astonished, T'Pring at the sight of Amanda, or Amanda at T'Pring's disheveled appearance. The girl's hair was loose, as Amanda's had necessarily been, but T'Pring's looked as if it had not been brushed or otherwise attended to in some time. She was wearing a house shift, but it was stained and frayed. She was the antithesis of the formerly cool, pristine girl Amanda had known. But what was worse was the wild look in her eyes as she approached, even before she recognized Amanda.
"You!" T'Pring said. "Human! What do you do here?"
"I am here in T'Pau's stead," Amanda explained.
Her eyes narrowed, taking in Amanda's ceremonial robes of office. "You are Matriarch?! You?"
"Just temporarily. I'm taking over some of T'Pau's duties until she's well enough to resume them."
"That should be my task," T'Pring said.
Amanda forbore to comment that T'Pring had refused the alliance with Spock that would have, one day, given her that position. Who was she to deny T'Pring even a deluded hope or memory? Once she had been nearly devoid of hope herself.
"Are you well, T'Pring? Can I do anything for you?"
"I need not a human's pity."
Amanda hesitated. "It is not pity. I was as you, once."
The girl stood, barefoot in the dusty sand, as still as one of the garden statues. "Then you know there is nothing you can do for me."
"No. I disagree," Amanda said taking another step forward. "When I was chattel, T'Pau visited me. She brought me much comfort. She saved me."
"You cannot save me."
"What can it harm you, to let me try to help you?" Amanda asked. "Even a little?" She took another cautious step toward the girl. "One thing that I can see you need. A comb. A bath."
"I am not a lyric performer, nor a model, to need such arts. Nor am I a wife."
"But you are yourself, still. The T'Pring I knew would not wish to look so."
"I am not she. I am chattel."
"You can be yourself, even as chattel," Amanda urged. "Let me help."
For a moment T'Pring stood, wavering. Then a cruel smile twisted her features. "I would see a human, his mother, attend me as a servant. Do so then."
Amanda didn't wait for the girl to waver. She doubted T'Pring had anything like human-style bathing facilities. But there was a pool, the mosaic floor patterned with glowing iridescent sand in an artistic pattern, topped with a fountain. It would serve.
For a moment T'Pring balked; then she stepped into the fountain. The sand had made the warm water so soft that soap was hardly needed. Amanda scrubbed T'Pring's face, her filthy arms, her wretched feet with handfuls of the sand, and the pool water clouded and cleared as the filtration units carried away the dirt of weeks? Months? T'Pring flung off her shift. Amanda rescued it, scrubbed it out then hung it to dry on a nearby thorn tree. Then Amanda took a comb from her own pocket and began to painstakingly work through the long tresses, taking her time. The rhythmic motion, the soft tinkle of the fountain, the warm soft water, worked its magic on both of them. Amanda combed and scrubbed and rinsed, until she'd worked out the worst of the snarls. Then she sat T'Pring on the edge of the fountain, while she combed her now clean hair. It was already nearly dry in the baking heat before she had half finished. Drawing her comb through the sweep of blue black strands Amanda broke their silence with a quiet admittance. "That's one thing I envy Vulcan women for – your hair is so beautiful. Like rippling waves of blue-black satin." She gave a rueful smile, "Mine has always been so unruly."
A knock on the walled gate made them both jump. On the other side, Amanda's guardsman said. "Lady. It is time to depart."
Amanda put her comb down. "I am afraid he is right. I have…other duties. But I can return."
Drawn from her reverie, perhaps from memories of a former life, when such services from attendants were the norm, T'Pring rose from the fountain, reclaimed her shift. If it and her hair were still damp in spots she still looked one hundred percent better than she had. Almost normal. But then the wild look shaded her face again. "You need not."
"I can help," Amanda urged. "I can come again."
"I will refuse you."
"I'll have Sarek talk to Stonn," Amanda said, anxious as T'Pring's countenance shifted, feeling desperate to offer something to sustain the girl's momentarily tranquil mood, now fading as if it had never been. To give her back some trace of relief or hope.
"It will avail nothing. Stonn is not Sarek. He is not Spock." The girl's eyes glittered with a touch of madness. "I reap what I have sown. As has Stonn. It is fitting for us."
"T'Pring, please. Let me--"
The girl surged forward, hands outstretched and threatening, madness turning to malice, and Amanda scrambled backward behind the large potted tree, putting it between them, and regarded her with wary eyes. "All right. I'll leave now. But I will come again, just to the gate, and ask if you wish me to enter. If you desire it, I can attend you again." She took a cautious step away, but the girl didn't move, now standing statue still, her eyes remote.
"I am sorry, T'Pring," Amanda said, as she put her hand on the gate that for T'Pring would never open again.
"Sorry." The girl's mouth twisted, briefly, over the emotion. Her eyes shadowed as if she were looking back to what she had been. Her eyes roved over Amanda, the robes of high office that she wore. What she might have become. The hand on the gate that would open for her. "Does Spock have a wife?" she asked.
"No. Not yet."
"Tell him his assessment was wrong."
"I don't understand," Amanda said.
"Tell him that she, who was unwed to a legend, miscalculated." The girl surged forward again. "Now, go!"
Amanda tensed and stood her ground, and the girl, instead of completing her murderous rush, fell to her knees.
Amanda reached out a tentative hand. "I will come again."
"Go!" The girl tore her shift, pulled her hair into knots, and rose again, murder in her eyes, now as stained as disheveled as she had been before Amanda arrived. "GO!"
Amanda stepped back in alarm before this truly deranged and murderous rush, and impacted with the door. The guard, pulled her hastily through the gate, and slammed it behind her as the air rocked with T'Pring's hysterical cries. Of laughter or pain, it was hard to judge.
"I told you, Lady. She is dangerous," the guard said.
"Oh, shut up," Amanda said, suddenly sick of all Vulcans, and reverting to her own, quintessential humanity in the face of this, to her, worst of Vulcan horrors. "I could have been she."
The guard stiffened and withdrew behind a Vulcan mask. "Do you wish to return to the Fortress?"
Amanda drew a slow, shuddering breath, a long avoided decision suddenly crystallizing in her mind. "No. Take me to the spaceport," Amanda said. "I have finally had it. I am done with all this, once and for all." She flung herself into the seat of the aircar, and pillowed her head on her hands, closing her eyes, shaking in horror of the fate she had barely escaped herself.
The guards were sworn to obedience. In their own Vulcan duty, they had no choice.
She kept her head down, even napped, unwilling to face any more of Vulcan until she could leave it behind her. The aircar rocked as it landed at Vulcan Space Central. She raised her head from the pillow of her arms, realizing she had fallen into an exhausted sleep, blinking dazedly as a voice insistently called her name.
"Amanda? Amanda. It is time to wake up."
She turned over, and woke fully. Outside Eridani was rising, the red sun baking the red sands, silver dawn birds curling through the sky as the first day she was to assume T'Pau's responsibilities for the duration of the Matriarch's illness began.
She shuddered in memory of her recent nightmare. "I'm not sure I can do this," she said to Sarek, rubbing her arms, suddenly chilled in spite of the fiery heat of the summer morning.
"It is your duty," Sarek said inexorably. He held out a hand to help her out of bed.
She shivered and looked up at him. "You never told me, Sarek, before I married you, all that it could really mean."
"Don't tell me you are tempted to run away, my wife," Sarek said, indulgently teasing her with the same choice of words she often used to him before unpalatable diplomatic assignments, "there is no time for that today."
"Isn't there?" Amanda asked, still caught in the memory of a dream and looked outside to where T'Pau's guard were waiting with an aircar by the gate. "Isn't there…"
Author's note…just a passing thought, of course, from a human who sometimes has to face too much in Vulcan society…
Unwed to a Legend