This story is set circa 1867-82 AD in the ASTERIA Universe: Created by Midge Clark (now Baker), 1985
ASTERIA is an alternate-ST:ToS. The setting for "To Live Long" is circa 1867-1882 A.D.
Scanned and OCR'd by Midge Clark Baker
Text editing for website: Karen L. MacLeod, 2008
First published in "Elysia", © 1986 by Elysian Publications
Reprinted with permission of the author. Original material only, Copyright, Midge (Clark) Baker, 1986, 2008, with no intention of infringing on any copyright held by the owners of Star Trek.
© 1986, 2008 by Midge Clark (Baker)
The little girl, hearing the much-loved voice in her mind, hurriedly put her books away and scurried for the East Wing of the Matriarchal Pavilion. Reaching the Ancient One's room, the child burst in, and threw herself joyously onto her Great-Grandmother's lap. The old woman, still strong and vigorous despite her advanced age, chided the little girl softly.
"T'Pralin, child, how times have I told thee not to behave so? Such display of emotion is unseemly."
The child turned solemn, her eyes cast downward.
Great-Grandmother relented, as always, for this favorite of her descendents. With a twinkling eye, she added, "But we are in private. In the Family, there is silence."
T'Pralin brightened measurably; enthusiastically returning her Great-Grandmother's hug and kiss. Then she got down. Instantly becoming the very picture of a well-brought-up Vulcan child, she bowed formally, intoning, "I come at the summons of the Ancient One."
Great-Grandmother replied, just as formally, "It is well. We await the arrival of thy Mother, the Matriarch. You have expressed interest in training as a Healer. This day, that possibility will be examined."
The door of the room opened. T'Palan, Matriarch of Vulcan, entered, followed by the Healer T'Passau.
After the formalities of introductions, T'Passau looked at T'Pralin speculatively. To her mind, the child seemed over young for the thing her Family had in mind.
T'Pralin returned her studious gaze, then said, "I have five years, Healer."
T'passau's eyes widened slightly. Now she could feel the emanations of the little girl's psionic talents, and knew the child had answered her unspoken appraisal. Such power, for one so young! Properly trained and developed, the child had great potential. But she was only five...
T'Passau said, "Matriarch, Ancient One, the child has the power, as thee have said. Still, for one of her youth there could be danger. For her sake, I must insist on a test."
To become a Vulcan Healer required a very special type of individual. The candidate must be of above average intelligence, to be able to master the studies and techniques for the Healing of bodies. This child was most certainly well-endowed on that score. To be a Healer also required a very special type of personality. The candidate must possess strong psionic talents, for most Healers also treated those with damaged minds. The candidate must also have a less strictured emotional make-up than normal, to be able to handle the repeated letting down of the mental barriers, and to deal with the deep-buried emotions of patients.
But first, and foremost, to be a Healer required an unshakeable grasp on reality, both to act as an anchor for the Healer herself, and to overcome and alleviate the delusions of one's patients. This grip on reality must be inborn in the candidate. It was not something that could be learned. It was for the seeking of these qualities that T'Passau insisted on the test.
Receiving the Family's permission, T'Passau returned to the child. She lifted the little girl's chin with a finger, looking deep into her eyes. "T' Pralin, this is the substance of the test. I will meld with thy mind. All you need to do is tell me what you see. Thy Family has given its permission, but it is thee who must decide. Will thee abide the test?"
T'Passau almost hoped that the little girl would refuse. But, no...! "I will abide the test, Healer."
T'Passau seated the child in a chair, setting her so that she faced a large, ornate table that was part of the room's furnishings.
"Relax, T'Pralin. Rest and relax. Watch the table. Tell me what you see." T'Passau melded with her, then sent a subtle suggestion into the girl's thoughts...
T'Pralin watched the table. Amazed, she saw it start to change, to lift onto two legs and dance its way around the room...
The child sensed wrongness. This was not real, it was illusion...tables do not dance... it was... just... a... TABLE!
Incredibly, T'Pralin not only overcame the planted illusion, but turned the tables on the Healer, forcing T,Passau to see the piece of furniture as it really was...
T'Passau broke the meld with a mental snap. Her mouth dropped open in amazement. Never in all her years of Healing and teaching Healing, had she met such power, such strength of reality, such commanding discipline in so young a child. "She has passed the test, Matriarch. Ancient One, I did not believe thee. I beg forgiveness." Great-Grandmother nodded serenely. T'Passau continued, "Matriarch, I will accept the girl as my apprentice if it be your wish, and hers."
T'Palan, Matriarch of Vulcan, looked at her youngest child. "I give my permission. T'Pralin, Daughter, what is thy will in the matter?"
T'Pralin bowed. "My Mother, I give thee thanks. It is my wish. To be a Healer is what I was born to do. I wish for nothing else."
T'Pralin was duly apprenticed to the Healer T'Passau.
During that era of Vulcan history, the profession of Healing was not as efficiently structured, as it would be in later times. Instead, the profession was centered around a loosely organized collection of individual Healers, each of whom carried out their own practice, and had their own complement of apprentices. A variety of different "schools" abounded, each with its own procedures learned mostly by trial-and-error. The head Healers met occasionally to exchange ideas and techniques, but there was no standardization. The quality of Healing a patient received varied according to the quality of the Healing school visited.
T'Passau was one of the most famous Healers on Vulcan. She was also one of the best teachers. She did not push her students, but allowed them to proceed at their own pace. She also maintained a greenhouse wherein the herbs used in medicines could be grown in abundance. Though the plants still occurred naturally on the surface of the planet, they were no longer in great numbers. Tradition had it that the aging of Vulcan's sun, and its growth to a red giant had changed the climate, killing off most of the moisture-needing medicinal plants.
T'Pralin studied with her for the next fifteen years, learning the lore of herb medicines, the structure and reaction of Vulcanoid metabolism, and the techniques of the mind-meld and mental Healing. As she progressed, T'Passau allowed her to treat more and more patients. T'Pralin had a record of cures. None of her patients went unhelped. At age twenty, still only an apprentice in rank, she had a renown on Vulcan approaching T'Passau's own. T'Passau had promised her that in a month or two, she would acknowledge her as a full Healer, taking her on as an associate.
Just days before her prospective graduation, while she was preparing to return home for a visit with her Family, T'Pralin received an urgent message.
"A summons has come from thy Mother, the Matriarch. The Ancient One lies ill and near death. She calls for thee, her beloved great-grandchild."
T'Pralin thanked the apprentice boy, dropped everything, and grabbed her bag of medicines. Great-Grandmother! No! She could not die!
T'Pralin sped to the Matriarchal Pavilion. As soon as she arrived, she was ushered into the Ancient One's room. The rest of the Family, her mother, elder sister, father, aunts and uncles, waited in the foyer outside. T'Passau awaited her inside the room. She left the bedside, making room for T'Pralin to reach Great-Grandmother's side.
T'Pralin glanced at the older Healer, who shook her head. There was nothing that could be done.
"She knows she will not recover. It is her request that you be the keeper of her katra. Meld," T'Passau sighed.
T'Pralin, her churning emotions barely controlled, placed her hands along the Ancient One's head, in the mind meld position.
"I am here, Great-Grandmother. Our minds are nearing, reaching, touching. Our minds are ONE."
When the union of their two minds was completed, the ancient lady bespoke to her great-granddaughter of her life, her experiences, her thoughts, and of the love her Vulcan dignity had never allowed her to express. Her katra passed into T'Pralin's keeping.
Calmly and peacefully, the Ancient One crossed the border into death. T'Pralin, still deep in the meld with her, struggled to hold onto her mind, to keep her from going. Inside her mind she screamed her anguish. She could still sense Great-Grandmother's thoughts. Though her life had left her body, the Ancient One's consciousness survived.
As if seeing through her maternal ancestress’s eyes, T'Pralin became aware of what appeared to be a tunnel, its sides glowing softly with a mistily-white luminescence. The tunnel seemed to open out into a mysterious region of vast open grey spaces, spreading out on all sides and stretching into infinite distance.
Suddenly, dragged along by the bond of the meld, T'Pralin found herself THERE, in that eerie elsewhere. Panicky, she reached out, tried to break away, but she could not find the power to snap the link formed by the mind meld. Great-Grandmother's thoughts bathed her with love, and tried to reassure her.
On the edge of her thoughts, T'Pralin sensed a malevolent hunger reaching for her, and sensed also the mind of T'Passau stretching across the grey void in an attempt to rescue her.
The hunger came from an inky black mist-form, which rapidly approached and stopped near her.
T'Passau's thoughts seemed as a thin silver cord which weaved and bobbed and strove to grab her, to haul her back.
And all the while, Great-Grandmother tried to calm her, sensing no threat. The inky mist flicked a tendril of itself at the silver cord of T'Passau's thoughts. The cord crisped and blackened as if burned, then reached forth anew.
In a swirling flurry of thoughts of concern/love/compassion/wisdom/ strength/power/love, a magnificent glowing GOLDEN BEING OF LIGHT appeared.
With a subvocal snarl of rage in Its thoughts, the black mist wafted backward, stopped, then moved forward again.
The golden being of light reached into the Ancient One's thoughts, so causing her to see the presence of the black mist that threatened the existence of T'Pralin.
The golden being bespoke. My beloved Child, why dost thee try to call thy descendent thus untimely into death? She has much to do before her appointed end. Turn thy thoughts to the Beastness, I say. Yea, behold It! If thee pull the girl into the void, THAT will gain possession of her body, going forth among thy people in her form. Would thee thus kill the child? Would you loose THAT upon a world unsuspecting?
The Ancient One argued, then pleaded, not wanting to believe.
Though T'Pralin could not hear her thoughts, she could sense her emotions.
The golden being spoke again. Then thee would condemn the girl to extinction. If the Beastness takes her body, it will take her soul as well. Would thee condemn her to that also? Is this what thee call thy love of her? Keep her, and you will lose her. Let her go, and she will live, and thee and she will be One forever. Thee have heard the Truth. I will not compel thee either way. The choice is thine.
With that, the golden being, the thought-image of the Power's own Presence, departed.
The black mist moved forward, reaching for T'Pralin. At the same moment, the silver cord of T'Passau's thoughts seemed to curl about the girl's life-essence. With an inward cry of anguish and remorse, the Ancient One snapped the mind meld link.
The silver cord jerked spasmodically, pulling T'Pralin forthwith from the grey wastes...
T'Pralin's mind, with a sickening swooping sensation, plummeted back into her own body. She swooned. T'Passau broke meld with her and caught her, lowering her gently to the floor. Then T'Passau sat down, too, drained by the exertion of her struggle to save her apprentice.
When T'Pralin regained consciousness a few moments later, she burst into tears, and grabbed for T'Passau. Having shared, in part, the girl's ordeal, the Healer allowed her to cry it all out, rocking her, and crooning to her softly.
Once T'Pralin had recovered her composure, T'Passau ordered her to take to her bed for an extended rest. T'Passau then reported to the Matriarch, T'Palan. Out of consideration for T'Pralin's convalescence, it was decided that the Ritual of Passage for the Ancient One would be held at her bedside a few days later.
On the appointed day, the High Priestess and the Family members met in T'Pralin's room. The High Priestess officiated at the Ritual, leading the Ancient One's relatives into the rapport of a mass mind meld. The katra of the Ancient One "passed" through the linked minds as it was released from T'Pralin's keeping.
When the Ritual was finished and the others had left her room, T'Pralin was stunned to discover that she could still recall thoughts, events, and emotional episodes from the Ancient One's life — events that T'Pralin herself, had not witnessed. She realized finally that the golden being had spoken truly. She and her Great-Grandmother truly were One, in a way she could sense but not explain in words. And she rejoiced in that feeling of Oneness.
She had been frightened at the beginning of the Ritual, scared that the inky black Beastness would reach out for her again. She had been safe enough, she felt, with the High Priestess there, and with her entire Family in link with her. But what would happen when she had to link again alone? Without the rapport with the others as a safety net? As a Healer apprentice, her sense of reality was acute. And that Beastness was REAL is a manner that terrified her. The thought of meeting it again began to prey upon her mind.
After a few weeks of convalescence, she returned to her duties as the First Assistant of T'Passau. Over the course of the next few days, she had to do no more than treat a few bodily injuries and illnesses. On the tenth day, however, a severe case of psychic dementia was carried into T'Passau's Audience Chamber. The man was raving, shaking with fear for things only he could see.
T'Passau acted at once, calling to T'Pralin to join her in the meld with him. T'Pralin tried, but the touch of the man's mind instantly recalled to her her own meeting with the Beastness, and with all the terror she had felt then. Weak and shaking, she broke her portion of the link, nearly fainting. Sparing one concerned glance for T'Pralin, T'Passau dismissed her, telling her to send in the Second Assistant.
T'Pralin did as she was bid, then retired to her room in T'passau's home. Hours later, T'Passau joined her.
"How is the patient?" T'Pralin asked anxiously.
"He will be all right. What happened to you today?" T'Passau responded.
"I do not know. The touch of his mind reminded me of the Beast in the other realm, and I simply panicked.”
"And what do you think we should do about it?"
"Teacher, I think I should resign my place. I am no longer fit."
T'Passau considered, then said, "Let us not be too hasty. Perhaps the problem will pass of itself. Your own psychic shock was great. I should not have pressed you to serve again so quickly. The fault is mine. You are the best student I have ever had, and I refuse to lose you until all other means have been tried."
In the days that followed, T'Passau and her other assistants made attempts to aid T'Pralin in relearning the freedom to use the meld. They met only with frightened, panicky resistance. T'Pralin seemed to have lost all ability to stand the psychic touch.
Finally, T'Passau ordered that T'Pralin be sequestered, not to come in contact with any incidence of the touch. Perhaps the lack of it would aid in the cure.
In the year that followed, T'Pralin spent her days working in the greenhouse, her new task the hand pollinating and nurturing of the plants used in healing. Beginning in the first quarter of that year, and under the prodding of some psychic impulse she didn't understand, but which had the flavor of her departed Great-Grandmother's mental voice, T'Pralin began to breed and stockpile a medicinal plant that was rarely used. The plant was a natural antibiotic, and a specific for virulent fevers. Because the resulting medication made from it could have adverse side effects, it was considered too dangerous to use in most cases. In normal events, milder and equally effective antipyretics were used in its stead.
Though she knew it was not logical, nevertheless T'Pralin yielded to the impulsion. By the end of ten Vulcan months, she had a supply of the plant sufficient to have treated half of the planet.
Though T'Passau could see no sense in her choice of industry, she was pleased with the return of confidence the project had brought to T'Pralin, and so did not naysay her seeming whimsy.
Her seeming whimsy... In truth not a whimsy at all, but a precognition, for in the spring of the year, disaster struck the Vulcan people.
It started innocently enough. A breeder of domesticated sehlats, which he sold to homeowners as guardian-beasts, captured a wild sehlat to add to his stable as a stud animal. But in a recurring cycle of every three-hundred Vulcan years, the wild sehlats became carriers of sehlata-firi, the Sehlat Fever. Sehlats were immune to the disease.
Unfortunately, the Vulcan people were not.
The wild sehlat was bred to several females. When the cubs were born, they were sold and distributed to several new owners in seven cities on two continents. The cubs, like their sire, were carriers.
The first victims were improperly diagnosed, and the Healers treated their fevers with the usual anti-pyretics. Their fevers were reduced to normal limits, and the patients returned to their homes.
Two weeks later, the second vector of the bacilloid disease set in. Virulent infectious meningitis. The disease spread like wildfire. In just days, thousands of people were stricken. Several scores of them died. The Healers and their assistants mobilized to the best of their ability in an attempt to treat all the stricken. But it was to T'Pralin they must turn for salvation. For the noxious plant she had been growing and stockpiling, the infamously simply moly plant, was the only known cure for the sehlata-firi — if it could be gotten to the patients in time.
T'Pralin worked days and nights on end preparing the distillations of the plants for distribution. With her foresight and help, the Healers were able to wage war on the insidious Sehlat Fever.
Days later, endless hours spent in waging war on a bacillus, found T'Pralin still at work, racing back and forth between the greenhouse and the drying and distilling rooms.
A boy, the youngest of her co-apprentices, came in search of her. "First Assistant, I beg forgiveness. I grieve to inform thee that an urgent message has come from the Matriarchal Pavilion. Thy elder sister, the Matriosa, has died of the sehlata-firi. Thy Mother, the Matriarch herself, is also stricken. Our teacher, T'Passau, has stopped her fever with the moly distillation, but Teacher says that thee must come and meld with T'Palan, to save her from the mind damage of the fever. You must come at once."
T'Pralin shuddered at the mere thoughtmention of the mind meld. She looked at the little boy.
"If T'Passau is there, what need is there of me? Teacher knows that I cannot perform the meld."
The boy's voice shook as he replied. "First Assistant, Teacher has collapsed. She has caught the fever herself. All the other Healers and Assistants in the city are treating victims of the fever. If the lives of our Teacher and of the Matriarch, thy Mother, are to be saved, thee must save them. There is no one else."
T'Pralin's nerves nearly snapped, and she began to shake. Grabbing the edge of a table, she gripped it until her fingernails cut into the wooden top, and with a Herculean effort, she controlled the frantic quivering of her nerves and limbs.
"So be it. Let us go."
T'Pralin entered her Mother's sleeping chamber. She felt of her forehead. The fever was gone. But T'Palan thrashed in the post-fever delirium. T'Pralin placed her hands in the meld position, began to draw their minds together. Panicky, she drew back. Huddling in a chair in the corner, she bemoaned her own cowardice. Suddenly, she seemed to see a softly glowing, sourceless, golden luminescence, and felt her Great-Grandmother's presence the room. Soft sentiments. Concern. Love. Support. Her Great-Grandmother's voice seemed to whisper encouragement into her mind, promising a haven of safety against the depredations of the Beastness. T'Pralin drew a ragged breath, screwed up the last dregs of her courage, approached her Mother's bedside, and entered the meld.
By the power of her own esper talents and sense of reality, she overcame the fever-born delusions lurking in the Matriarch's mind. Mother opened her eyes at last, and there was sanity in them. She would live.
After a few words of encouragement, comfort, and shared grief over the death of her elder sister, T'Pralin left her mother's room, and went to find and treat T'Passau.
Two weeks later, T'Pralin's vast stockpile of moly had been well nigh depleted, but the sehlata-firi had been conquered. In a ceremony held in her home, T'Passau formally named T'Pralin as full Healer. Because of her foresight and her saving of the Matriarch, she was already beginning to be called the greatest Healer of her times.
Shortly after that ceremony, T'Pralin was again summoned to the Matriarchal Pavilion, this time for an investiture of another sort. Her elder sister was dead of the fever, and she had had no children. T'Pralin was to be her Mother's new Matriosa, her acknowledged Successor.
She was greeted in private by her mother, T'Palan.
"I know thee have no wish to rule, Daughter, but it is necessary. Thee may remain in thy chosen career for now, but at the proper time, thee shall be summoned. Prosper as a Healer, my child. And live long."
Her mother's final words rang in her ears. T'Pralin had come to believe that only through her own death need she ever face the threat of the Beastness again. She feared that meeting with all her heart and soul. If strength of will and power of belief could make it so, she would refuse to die.
To live long...
"That I shall do, My Mother. I vow it."