Elder Selek was not the first Vulcan Balthazar Blake had ever met. He'd been there for First Contact, as it happened; in the aftermath of the Third World War, he'd chosen to adopt an identity closer to the center of events. He didn't have to roam anymore, with Merlin's heir found and as close to fully trained as he could be without undergoing a Quest of his own; so he'd left the traveling to Dave, and chosen a role that would allow him some influence – or a least warning – regarding the outcome of important happenings.
Selek was the first Vulcan he'd met with more than a hint of his race's sorcerous ability, however.
Balthazar had known since the first time he'd touched an IDIC badge still warm from the hand of a Vulcan – and sensed the pax-like enchantment forged into the metal – that humans weren't the only sentients capable of shaping their environment with raw will. But all the rumors he'd been able to glean about their culture implied that those few Vulcans who possessed more than their race's standard gift of touch telepathy were largely kept mewed up in monasteries back home. They were far more acknowledged than sorcerers were on Earth, which was encouraging... but also kept neutral by the ritualized purging of all emotion, which worried him. It would probably take something that extreme to reunite the still-warring Merlinean and Morganian schools of teaching on Earth, but the cost would be more than he, personally, would be willing to pay.
Veronica will be sorry she missed this, he mused, smiling slightly to himself as he separated his fingers into the ta'al in response to Selek's greeting. He'd have to recount the new Ambassador's visit to their shop in full detail for her later.
"Mr. Blake," Selek said, calm and unruffled, tucking his hands back over one another into the sleeves of his robes. "I have come to view the Vulcan artefact you mentioned this morning."
It took a person of either considerable age or well-practiced poise to pull off that sort of look, Balthazar had found. Selek, with his silvering hair, age-bent hands, and warm eyes, possessed both. Balthazar, on the other hand, had the former in spades – but had never quite managed the latter. He looked somewhat crazed, or so Veronica laughingly informed him, when he tried it.
He cleared his throat, steepling his own fingers on the counter, rings prominently displayed over every knuckle. "The vre'katra – or, to be more exact, the urn that was sold to me as a vre'katra?" he replied politely, watching the Vulcan for a reaction.
That would be a long wait for most humans, with most Vulcans... but Balthazar had been around the repressed species long enough to pick up some of their nonverbal cues, and Selek was hardly a normal Vulcan. His aura sang around him, dropping hints any sorcerer above the 501st degree would be able to hear despite his rather impressive mental shielding, one of the downsides of possessing a very strong sorcerous gift. (He'd never had to work to hunt down Morganians; they usually came chasing him.)
"You doubt its provenance?" One elegant eyebrow went up. Selek didn't so much as glance at Balthazar's rings, but his expression had tightened an infinitesimal amount at the implication that the urn that had come into the rebuilt Arcana Cabana the day before might not be the real deal.
It was, of course. It felt too much like the Grimhold to Balthazar to be anything but; it wasn't merely an object removed from some shrine to their ancestors, it was a vessel containing the life essence of at least one deceased Vulcan. The seller had been one of the handful of Vulcan refugees who had escaped their dying world in privately owned vessels, rather than via the Enterprise's transporter beams. Balthazar suspected it hadn't originally belonged to him, or the guy would probably have taken it directly to the nearest Vulcan enclave instead of a curio shop in San Francisco that specialized in 'unique' artefacts from all over the Federation.
Well, either that – or the katra caught in jasif crystal and volcanic glass was one that the Vulcan matriarchs would prefer never be reawakened. Either way, it had roused Balthazar's curiosity enough for him to send a message to the embassy, and Selek had come within two hours of his call.
"No." He gave the Vulcan a polite smile. "But it would only be courteous to cede my opinion to the present expert." He turned to the display shelf behind the counter and carefully drew down the carved urn, then placed it on the counter in front of his visitor.
Selek's other eyebrow lifted as he beheld it, and an expression Balthazar would have called 'awe' on a human softened his features. He held his hands out, one on either side of the urn, and Balthazar felt a gentle extension of the Vulcan's carefully leashed power reach out to touch it. "Ah," he said, in tones of reverent satisfaction.
"It's what you thought it was, then?" he asked, curiously.
Selek cleared his throat, refocusing on Balthazar as though he'd briefly forgotten the sorcerer was there. "Yes. My people owe you a very grave debt for this discovery. We had thought it destroyed along with our homeworld – an irreplaceable loss to our culture."
Balthazar had hoped as much. But he also suspected that even the return of one of their most venerated philosophers would not be enough to save Vulcan culture as it had been from the other losses they had taken. "Will it be enough to anchor the new colony? I don't mean to be rude – but with your schools of the Mind Arts, and most of their Masters, gone...." He let his index ring flare with a little surplus energy to illustrate his meaning, a not so subtle hint in the event the Vulcan's perceptions were differently attuned than Balthazar's own.
Selek's dark eyes narrowed at the comment, suddenly severe where they'd been almost friendly – for a Vulcan – during the rest of the conversation. "A few remain; we shall persevere. Even as your people do, in the absence of such teaching. I was not aware that any human Masters of the Mind Arts existed."
That was Balthazar's cue to raise both eyebrows in surprise; he hadn't been aware there were any untrained sorcerers wandering around. "You know someone whose abilities haven't been trained? That's not good. They could be as much a danger to themselves as to others around them."
Given the much increased digital connectivity of the age, a computer savvy Merlinean such as Dave – or one of his contemporaries among the Morganians – could easily sift datafeeds for the disturbances that would indicate a new potential human apprentice, and send someone to either train or adopt the fortunate individual immediately. The only way one might've been missed was if such incidents had never been detected – or reported. That would indicate they were either at the very bottom of their local society, and thus unnoticeable – or somewhere near the top, and thus untouchable.
Ordinarily, he wouldn't worry about the occasional untrained gifted individual causing trouble; without a focus object, they would be only as capable of destruction as any ordinary human being. But it wasn't impossible for an object invested with enough emotional or psychic energy to become a focus object, given enough time – thus allowing any fledgling sorcerer whose power resonated with the object to use it to express their will upon the universe.
The corners of Selek's mouth tucked in at that, the impression of severity replaced with a particular dance to his aura that Balthazar interpreted as amusement. "That is not an inaccurate description. Nevertheless, I am not certain it would be prudent to reveal his identity, if he is not known to you. Control of such power does not necessarily imply wisdom."
"That's very true, and under any other circumstances I would applaud your caution," Balthazar replied, "but if you don't trust me with it – you must be aware, the exercise of that degree of power can be detrimental to the unprepared mind. If he doesn't take it seriously... or worse, if he does, but is tempted to use it on his own behalf at the expense of others...."
Oddly, the almost-smile Selek was favoring him with grew wider at Balthazar's words. "You need not worry," he said. "Though he does not, I believe, realize the extent to which his ship adds weight to his commands and his protection of his crew; he is nonetheless quite prepared for the consequences of his actions, and has demonstrated the ability to place the good of others before his own."
The ship…? The unknown sorcerer had made a focus object out of a ship…?
Given that he was human, and that a Vulcan ambassador knew him well enough to offer such praise... he had to be a Starfleet captain, which both amazed and horrified Balthazar in equal measure.
He cleared his throat. "You'll forgive me if I find it difficult to simply trust your judgment," he said.
The Vulcan's serene expression conveyed his utter disregard for Balthazar's opinion. "I will convey to him your availability, should he ever become aware of the nature of his tie to the ship and require further information."
Balthazar supposed that would have to do. "Or perhaps you and I could exchange information about our differing traditions…?"
Selek glanced down at the vre'katya, then up at Balthazar again, inclining his head. "Perhaps," he conceded. "I will contact you after my arrival at the colony to discuss it further. In the meantime, there is the matter of compensation…?"
Balthazar sighed, but decided to quit while he was ahead. "Consider it a gift," he said, pushing the vre'katya further across the counter. "In fact, if there's anything else in the store of Vulcan origin, feel free to take it as well. Far be it from me to deprive your people in their time of need."
"That is most generous," Selek replied, turning to glance over the rest of the stock.
...Perhaps it was time Balthazar took up traveling again, after all.