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Author's Note: Written for Trek Novel Fest Prompt #93: Uhura's Song - Vulcan stories -- A story of T'Kay, the trickster of Vulcan.
Disclaimer: Portions of From The Terran Coyote to The Klingon K'Ortar: Tricksters of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants (Revised Expanded 4th Edition) by M. Thadiun Bodner, Random House © 2273, excerpted here under Fair Use of copyrighted material as provided for in section 22107 of the United Federation of Planets Intellectual Property Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.F.P.I.P. Section 22107, the articles published on this Internet Node are distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The below tale is but one of hundreds of "Trickster Steals Fire" folktales that can be found in almost every culture across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. It was originally transmitted orally, and the first written record of T'Kay (also known as T'Lei, and in some variants from the Southern hemisphere, a male figure known as Saa'n) appeared in fragments of the pre-Reformation poetry recovered from the Kir Region of Northern Vulcan in 1521 C.E.. The tablets date from the 10th century B.C.E and have been translated from old High Vulcan into modern Vulcan by the Vulcan Language Institute.
Since the Time of the Awakening, Vulcan mythology has been relegated to primarily anthropological study. However, in specific regions on Vulcan (primarily in the Northern Hemisphere), children are still taught T'Kay Tales in their infancy, specifically in the context of "Cautionary Tales" to better understand pre-Time of Awakening Vulcan mores and history.
How T'Kay Stole Fire
In the beginning, when the world was green like blood and lush and ripe with game and fruit that fell from the branches in all seasons, the Watcher's daughter T'Kay came down from the sky to the World.
T'Kay saw that the Lady of the Mountain kept Fire in a great black glass bowl. She was curious, so she asked Seleya why she kept Fire hidden.
"I must keep Fire in this bowl, with the lid tightly shut, because Fire is hungry, and will eat the World."
T'Kay waited until the Watcher had turned her Eye from the World, and stole the black glass bowl from Seleya.
In the valley, she opened the lid of the bowl, and Fire rushed out of the bowl and consumed all the blood-green grass and fused the ground hard like glass that shattered into white sand so fine it was like dust.
And that is how T'Kay let Fire loose in the World, and made the Forge.
T'Kay and the Chief's Son
One day T'Kay fell in love with the Chief's Son. He was tall and slender and strong, with skin that was brown like a nut, and eyes that were dark like volcanic glass. She waited for him to come to the riverbed to gather rushes (this was when the World was young and green, before The Forge) for his grandmother to weave.
T'Kay appeared to him at the water's edge and asked him to come away with her. The Chief's Son asked T'Kay where she lived, and she said she lived in the sky in sight of the Watcher. The Chief's Son asked how he could live in the sky, when he was not a star. T'Kay said that if he came to her home in the sky, she would keep him warm and safe in the darkness. T'Kay appeared to him as very beautiful with long dark hair that trailed in the water, and firm breasts and wide hips. The Chief's Son was tempted to make love to her in the water, but he heard his grandmother crying and ran away home.
T'Kay waited again for the Chief's Son in the forest, where he hunted sehlat with his brothers. This time she appeared to him as a strong, slender warrior, with a spearhead carved of flint and a magic bag which was always full of food. She shared her food with his brothers, who fell asleep on beds of leaves. She asked the Chief's Son if he would lie with her, where no-one could watch them. And the Chief's Son thought she was clever and was tempted to lie with her, but he heard his father calling him and woke his brothers so they could return to the village.
T'Kay came to the Chief's Son into his house in the village, with a pitcher of saya she had spiced. She wore a dress of blood-green silk, and her hair was dressed with opals. When he drank the saya his blood began to burn for her. She lay with him for three nights, and on the morning of the third day she asked him again if he would come back with her to her house in the sky. But the Chief's Son wanted to stay in the village with his grandmother, mother, father and brothers and refused her.
T'Kay went back to her home in the sky, but she cursed him that every seven years the Chief's Son's blood would burn for her and he could not be satisfied until she came down from the sky and lay with him.
The motif of a Trickster being humiliated by a mortal lover is common across the Alpha Quadrant. However in the Vulcan tale, family bonds are stressed as being a significant deterrent to the potential seduction.
Unlike Terran trickster tales where the trickster may take the shape of the mortal's bonded spouse in order to trick her or him into intercourse, T'Kay appears in a variety of shapes while still identified as her own shape. This may refer to the high esper rating of Vulcans which would preclude an impostor being able to duplicate the form of a mortal's lover successfully.
The "Seven Year" cycle is a repeated motif in pre-Reformation T'Kay tales, however its significance is never fully explained in the extant writings and may refer to a biological process unique to pre-Reformation Vulcans which has disappeared over time and evolution.
The last of the three surviving T'Kay tales lack the common elements of the first two. It is theorised that T'Kay in this tale takes the place of an earlier mythological figure, usurping his or her place in the story. It follows a similar narrative structure to the Terran Chakhlyk or Koshchei, who hid his heart in a needle, hidden inside an egg, inside a hare, inside a chest, buried beneath a tree on an unreachable island in the ocean. However, Chakhlyk was portrayed as an evil spirit, akin to a succubus who seduced virgins, while T'Kay acts in the above tale out of fear. And unlike Chakhlyk, cannot locate her soul again, once she has hidden it.
How T'Kay Cheated Death
One day, when the World was still young and the People were still living in the valleys and caves, Death met T'Kay as she drank cool clear water from the stream. Death walked on four paws and had long teeth like slashing knives and matted fur the colour of dried blood, and T'Kay asked what was so funny that Death was laughing? And Death said it was because she was drinking the water. T'Kay asked why that was funny, and Death said that is she breathed and if she drank, that meant she was alive. And all things that were alive would someday be his prey.
So T'Kay took her heart and she hid it in a stone. And she took her and she hid it in the remotest corner of the World, and her heart grew until the peaks of the mountain touched the bellies of the clouds. But T'Kay was still afraid of being stalked by Death, and Death finding her heart. So she climbed to the top of the mountain that was her heart, and she hollowed it out until she found her heart, and she put it back in her side where it beat against her ribs.
Then T'Kay decided if Death still found and ate her heart, he could not find and eat her soul. So she took her soul and put it in a stone with a hole through the middle. And she went back up into the sky and closed her eyes and hurled the stone as hard as she could back down at the World. And her soul dropped down into the sea and sank beneath the water and the waves, and fish swam through the hollow in the centre of the stone.
And she dove into the dark red sea but her soul stayed hidden. She walked all the way around the World on the ocean's floor, until her hair grew tangled and the soles of her feet hard as leather. And she knew that if she could not find her soul, then Death could not find it either.
And that is how T'Kay made sure she would live forever, because she hid her soul in a stone.
"Death" is anthroporphised in the form of a Le-matya—a large predator common to the Gol region—similar to Lion as signifying oppressor to Anansi in Terran West African continent trickster tales. Just as the Vulcan sister-world T'Rukh is anthropomorphised as "The Watcher", and the Lady of the Mountain is the dormant volcano Mt Seleya. In another version of the tale, the Lady of the Mountain is replaced by the Smith of the Forge, which indicates the tale might have been carried from the Northern region of Gol to Mt Tar'Hana in the South.
[Insert - Illustration: T'Kay with Saya, architectural detail of the frieze showing the trickster T'Kay with a circular pitcher of saya, recovered from the ruins of the P'Jem Monastery, Epsilon Indi III]
[Insert - Illustration: Fire Escapes The Glass Bowl, tapestry fragment dating 8th Century BCE]
[Insert - Illustration: Death at the River, fragment of undated bowl, private collection]