Mirror - Ceremonial Daggers, a Vision
Operation: Peace or P'Jem
Timeline: 2394 - Just after: Force Field Diaries
Soral closed his eyes allowing himself a momentary rest from the agonizing device that was attached to him. The Mind Sifter was having its effect. This was the second time that he was in it and this time his resistance was fading.
Just as another bolt of agony shot through his mind a new image formed. The one that had haunted him from the last time but it was also the image that provided salvation to him and kept him from giving into the mind agonizer. He let his mind drift that way again....
++++++ Elsewhere ++++++++++++
Against the backdrop of Mount Seleya, preparations were complete. The intense heat of the day was beginning to ease, although still formidable even to those who had had long since become acclimatised to the Vulcan climate. If that were truly possible. Nature was a powerful force, especially here.
Overnight a sand storm had descended upon the ceremonial site although by the time the first ceremonial bell rang out, those gathered would find not so much as a petal out of place. For not even the bravest of warriors would dare to disappoint the High Priestess who would preside over the blessing of the union between Soral and his wife.
And few would even be brave enough to test Evesta. Certainly not today.
Those assembled had been hand picked, closest of friends and allies. Those who wielded power. Wealth. People who had influence and power which she could, in turn, use to build upon the status Soral's position within Vulcan society gave her. Today - in the shadow of Mount Seleya herself - her marriage would be reconfirmed by the most powerful woman on the planet. It was quite the statement. Yet some saw it for what it truly was.
Sheltered from the glare of the sun beneath robes, Alex Kinglsey's boots left footprints in the sand as she made her way towards the gathered crowd. Remaining out of sight as she found a sheltered spot to wait. The heat and the low oxygen were far from ideal, yet she had one chance. She just had to wait for the proper moment.
Evesta did not know it yet, but out of the both, only one was leaving here alive.
In the preparation cave Soral sat on the bed. His pain was growing worse. Every reaffirmation Evesta waited until he was close to death before she allowed the ceremony. This year, by the merciful fact that a priestess who was presiding was the highest ranking one, he would be allowed an early ceremony. He could not divorce her. She had to choose to divorce him or someone must challenge on his behalf. Perhaps it was her punishment because they were only together once in seven years. He'd lost his love, or rather, lust for her long ago.
He lay back his body shivering. The pain was horrendous he couldn't wait for the bells to ring to signify the ceremony was to start. As he lay there in agony a shadow fell over him. A figure in a robe with the hood raised to hide the face. Normally not a problem but his senses were dulled. He turned but he knew that if it was someone to attack him, he'd be done.
The hidden figure reached up and swept back the hood, revealing a familiar face framed with fiery red hair. A face he had not seen in months. “Evesta,” Alex hissed as her blue eyes took in Soral’s weakened state. So, it was true. Once again, she was torturing him for no other reason than she could. Or, because she could and because she knew.
Discarding the robes in a heap on the floor, she hurried to his side. Hiding beneath it had gotten her to Soral, they served no purpose now. Her attire was far from traditional when one would stand in the presence of a High Priestess, yet was far better suited for combat. If the High Priestess accepted her challenge.
“She will pay,” Alex vowed as she knelt beside him. Fury built inside of her to see the man who had been her salvation and then guardian and teacher reduced to this... he was all those things to her. And more. Had Evesta known that? It would explain the near constant target upon her back this last year. Why the woman had done everything in her power to keep Alex far away from here. Not just her. Soral’s most trusted allies had been scattered.
Soral opened his eyes and took in the flame hair, the beautiful face, the warm gaze that seemed to light his heart on fire. He hadn't seen her in god knowns how long. "You came...back." It was forbidden, during this time, to touch a woman that was not your own but he didn't care. This was Alexandra Kingsley. When he'd found her and rescued her, she'd been in need of care and protection and guidance. He'd taught her how to fight, how to study, how to control her abilities and powers. He'd been her mentor and had seen her grow into this lovely young woman. She had just turned 22 years old a month ago and it had been on that day, the day that he was not able to see her, that he'd admitted to himself that he was in love with her. "Lexi..." He reached out a hand and gently cupped her face.
She leaned into his hand closing her eyes and wishing this was a different place and time. Lexi... how rare it was for him to call her by that name. Yet it was special, only spoken when they were alone. “Thankfully your wife is as bad at hiring assassins as she is at being a wife,” she whispered. “I will free you from her, I promise. I owe you my life and more, Soral.”
"She sent someone after you?" Anger spiked dulling some of his pain. "She will pay for that." He was not a man who asked for help but..."Help me sit up."
She moved to support him and carefully helped him stand. “She tried. But she forgets who my teacher is and they won’t be killing anyone again. And you had Mac following me almost everywhere.”
He smiled a little. "Yes...I was worried. She had said you told her that did not wish to be around me anymore. That I had...outlived my usefulness but I could not let harm come to you." He turned his head. "Lexi...I must tell you something."
There was an undercurrent of fury, at Evesta mostly. She was a skilled manipulative force of nature. And soon she would pay. “She lied. She always lies,” Alex sighed as she shifted her weight so she could support him and face him. “What do you need to tell me?”
"When this is over, when I have recovered, we shall come up with a plan together, I promise you this. Lexi...I...betrayed you. I was your guide, your teacher, I saw so much in you and then...my reasons for keeping you with me became selfish. I fell in love with you years ago."
She was silent for a long moment before she simply said, “I know.”
“I didn’t come back to ask anything of you,” she said quickly. “You are honourable, I knew you would not break your vows. So, I tried to ignore what I felt, what I thought I felt from you... it didn’t work. Soral, we do not have long. Listen...”
Outside musical chimes could be heard. “The High Priestess has arrived.”
"Stay hidden until this is all over. I promise you my Lexi we will come up with a plan together." Footsteps could be heard. "Hide back there."
“I will challenge her,” Alex vowed, refusing to contemplate Evesta sinking her clutches back into Soral once more. But he was right, there was a process to it, a right time. Reluctantly she slipped away from his side and out of sight as footsteps approached.
"Lexi, do not challenge her... It is a fight to the death I cannot lose you." He said before she was out of sight.
“You won’t,” Alex whispered.
Two men emerged, two Andorians. "Come on Soral. Evesta expects you to be dragged down. Just think how it will look. The mighty Soral, weak, pathetic, depending on the great Evesta for his life." They grabbed him hauling him out and down to the ceremony site.
From her hiding place Alex all but snarled, her fury building. Oh, Evesta was going to die for this and those Andorians? She was going to tear off those irritating little antennae. Slowly.
When it was clear she slipped out of the cave after Soral.
The wind seemed to have stilled. Soral was dropped at the foot of the priestess. He could feel every eye on him as he struggled to his feet. His blood was burning and he almost thought his body would burst into flames. He groaned as he stumbled up the three steps to the platform that held the gong. Lifting the hammer, he struck it. Several heart beats later he struck it again.
He watched as Evesta walked around the site. A wave of pain hit him and he doubled over. The silence was coming upon him but he was weak, there was only so long he could fight it. Thankfully Lexi had listened. She wasn't here to see him like this.
He watched as Evesta walked towards the gong. She would have to strike it to seal the union or someone would have to run and put a hand against the gong and call for the challenge. Once she stuck the gong once he got his strength back, he would figure things out.
She had waited, watching from the shadows. She watched as Evesta took her sweet time prolonging the moment. The suffering. A serene, insufferable look of triumph on her face as she raised her own ceremonial hammer and swung towards the gong.
In the split second before her marriage would be reconfirmed, two people became three. Evesta’s eyes had registered surprise as she realised another had dared approach them, although her surprise turned to fury as a hand came to rest over the exact spot she had aimed for. Rather than making contact with the gong, her ceremonial hammer instead seemed to bounce off of an invisible wall before it fell harmlessly to the sand.
“Surprise,” Alex whispered to her with a mischievous grin. Leaning in she kept her voice low, “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
By now there was whispers from the crowd. Clearing her throat, Alex spoke up, “High Priestess. I invoke the right of challenge.”
The priestess stood as the murmurs became louder. "Raika” She looked at Alexandra. "Does thee know the provisions of the challenge? A fight to the death."
“I do,” Alex replied with confidence and without hesitation.
She looked at Soral. "Does thee agree to become property of the victor?"
Soral's eyes filled with tears. If he said no Alex would be dragged from the site in disgrace if he said yes, he'd lose her. He looked over to the crowd seeing Mac and Haru well hidden. Grol and Eyelaya were there too and his children who were closer to Alex then their own mother. He'd have to push the silence away, give Lexi all his strength. "Yes." He managed.
Vulcan ceremonial guards pulled Soral off the platform and tossed him to the side. He watched helpless. Closing his eyes, he began to conserve and channel his strength.
Alex took a deep, calming, breath as Soral was hauled pulled away. She had to focus, losing was not an option.
Severine and Soval locked eyes with Alex. They gave a nod signaling their approval for her challenge and closed their eyes sending her strength like their father.
Alex gave a simple nod in the twin’s direction. Severine especially had always been a close friend and confidante. She could feel as if their eyes were on her, helping an air of calm fall over her which had always been somewhat elusive when her emotions ran riot. Around her there was a flurry of activity as a choice of weapons were offered to them.
Evesta was steaming mad. "This cannot be allowed. My children will not stand for this!"
The priestess turned to them. "Does thee wish to contest?"
Severnine and Soval shook their head. "Glory to Lady Alexandra." They both said.
N'vek, Evesta's son from a previous marriage stepped forward. "Glory to Lady Alexandra." He smiled at Alex and gave a nod walking back to Soral to guard him.
“Ouch, that’s got to hurt,” Alex quipped under her breath.
"The battle will begin with the Lirpa." Each contestant was handed a long stick with a bludgeon end and a sharp fan like blade. "Take your places."
Alex lifted the weapon, gauging its weight as she took her mark. Evesta had picked the side of the ‘arena’ which kept the sun at her back, well aware she had an advantage in this climate. Under the glare of Vulcan’s suns she rolled her shoulders, turned the lirpa over in her hands and blew Evesta a kiss.
Evesta's rage was palpable. She all but growled at Alex as she took her mark. "Watch out you are nothing but dirt under my finger nails. When I win, I will let your precious Soral perish."
“Your own assassins show you don’t like getting your hands dirty,” Alex smiled sweetly. “I’ll enjoy this.”
"You'll never have him. I own him." She charged at Alex and swung the bludgeoning end towards Alex.
Her speed was, honestly, surprising. Diving out of the way at the last moment she felt the tip strike her upper arm yet it was a light touch, far from the crushing blow Evesta was aiming for. Alex rolled and came up in one swift motion, now coated with sand and with the sun at her back. “Not bad,” she complimented. “Might have gave me a bruise. Come on, you can do better than that...”
Evesta roared and flipped the weapon so that the blade was up. "I'm done playing."
Time and again the came at each other, parrying each other’s strikes in what outwardly resembled some sort of dance. One Evesta seemed to grow bored of quickly. Alex sidestepped as the woman lunged at her, although her path easily missed by some distance. Too late she realised Evesta had flipped the lirpa to her other hand and with one sudden move she twisted in mid air, slashing out and able to watch as the blade sliced through exposed flesh on Alex’s side.
The pain was intense and for an instant, Alex staggered, almost dropping her weapon as her free hand moved to clutch her side. She pulled it back, blood soaked but not as much blood as she expected. Anger tore through her as she tried to shake off the pain and focus before Evesta could take advantage of her sudden edge. She dried her hand and turned to face her opponent, “feel better? Or does it still hurt that he thinks of me more than you?”
Evesta grunted. "I'm done with you." She twisted the blade and charged full on. She would be the victor."
A voice, weak, drifted into Alex's mind. She favours her right side. Please, my Lexi, be careful. Take my strength.
It was agonising but she planted her feet and braced herself. There was no doubt she was intending to end her life. This, this was it. Again, the dance, slower, and both emerged from it with tell tale slices to their skin from the razor-sharp blades. Evesta’s delight was palpable, sensing victory in the laboured breathing she saw, in the weakened state. Yet even as her own weapon slipped from her hand, she stood her ground, refusing to give up.
Evesta came again and she took the hit full on, crashing to the ground with Evesta’s full weight on her. A stunned silence fell, everyone clearly expecting Evesta to rise, victorious. Yet neither woman moved for a long time.
She couldn’t breathe as the world spun, the weight on her keeping her pinned as wide eyes stared down at her in horror. Between them Evesta’s weapon was trapped, the blade buried to the hilt at a fatal angle. “Surprise,” Alex breathed, staring at the woman with no trace of emotion as she focused her energy and felt Evesta’s last breath as her heart was crushed.
She allowed herself a moment, trying to get enough strength back to move - knowing Soral would be fearing his wife had succeeded. With a cry, she channeled the pain as she pushed the lifeless body from her. There was a commotion as the sight of the lirpa embedded in Evesta’s chest reached the crowd and as Alex slowly picked herself up off the ground covered in sand and blood.
The priestess stood, "Raika!" She walked over checked Evesta. "Lady Evesta has fallen. A new Lady is to take her place at the head of the house of Soral."
She motioned and N'vek helped Soral up taking him to the platform. The priestess gave a nod as Soral sank to his knees. She motioned for Alex. "Kneel by his side."
Every step was like torture but she kept her eyes on Soral, and one foot in front of the other until finally she was kneeling opposite, facing him. Which was when she allowed herself a small smile of victory.
The priestess touched Soral's head. "He is deep in Plak taw. I will sever the bond with Evesta." Seconds turned to minutes before the priestess looked up. "Are you ready to forge the bond with him?"
“I am,” she confirmed.
The priestess gave a nod. "So be it." She touched both of them and slowly began to weave their minds together like a fine tapestry. Several minutes passed before the priestess was done. "Your blood will begin to burn as his does. Tonight, as your minds link your bond will be activated."
Severine who'd been standing by knelt by Alex. She looked up at Soral and N'vek. "Take father to the marital chambers. Alex let's get you medically looked at. Vulcan...mating practices can be strenuous during this time." She grinned. "You'll need your strength and I fully expect brothers and sisters." She gave Alex a kiss on the forehead.
She wanted to tell them no, to leave Soral right there - give them a moment. But all she could do was nod as Severine all but hauled her to her feet and ushered her away towards the waiting healer. On the way they passed Evesta’s body, a reminder of the fiercest fight she had ever had. But the prize... the prize had been worth the risk. Soral was hers and she his.
The healer was brief and the injuries healed as best as they could. When she was led back to the room where Soral waited he felt her the moment she entered. Pushing through the pain, the fire in him he called out her name. "Lexi..." She was finally his. He'd loved her for so long and now they would be together. He'd felt fear for the first time in a long time when she'd faced Evesta. She was then torn from him, he'd heard the words healer, she'd been injured and he'd cursed himself for not helping her.
She had been impatient, yet mindful of Severine’s guidance she had allowed the Healer to finish his work. The wounds were closed, the blood and sand cleaned from her body and the rest would wait. Severine walked with her in silence until she was left to go through the last door alone.
“Soral,” she breathed as he called out to her. She hurried to his side, feeling as though something had just clicked into place now, she was with him. And she did a very human thing as she leaned in and kissed him. A first kiss that was full of fire and passion.
He held onto her willing the burning to slow. "I wished for this so long. My wife I will always belong to you, mind, body, and soul."
“Always,” she agreed in a whisper.
++++++++++++++ Andorian Ship++++++++++++++++++++
Soral cried out as his body was jolted by pain. His head rolled and he swore that he could see Mac and Alex. It had to be a lie. Alex was safe on the Standing Bear.
"What is the command code for the Standing Bear."
The words filtered through his mind. "I do not know." He simply said before he passed out. Blissful sleep claimed him.