Garden of the Bells
Warning: Character Death
When I was very young my father took my mother and I to his
ancestral home. It was located a short walk away from an
oasis and was the meeting place for the extended clan my father
were descended from. The oasis was beautiful and full of life. Lush
green grass, bountiful flowers, tall cacti
and huge palm trees
bedecked with bells of all sizes. They hung from ribbons attached to
the bark in a way that would
not harm the tree. These ribbons swayed
in the breeze that seemingly always blew through the oasis. This haven
was always full of the sound of bells ringing, of desert birds
calling to each other, and of various animals going about
lives. The glint of the metal as the sunlight hit the bells always
filled me with wonder whenever I saw
it. I was always very impressed
by this, our Garden of the Bells.
There were tiny copper bells, elegant silver bells
the size of a my
father's thumb, bells of bronze, of gold, and of tin. And in one
corner of the oasis, at the foot of
the eldest tree, was the "mother"
bell, the matriarch. Made by the first matriarch to settle near the
oasis and rung
only on special occasions. Its voice was heard only
when peace treaties were hammered out, when marriage contracts were
when trade agreements were reached, and when someone who had
brought great honour to our clan died.
Each bell that
hung in that oasis was a symbol. Each bell that hung
there came with a story and all in the family were entrusted with
learning the stories and adding to them. The matriarch of the clan was
entrusted with something more though. Entrusted
with telling the
stories to all newcomers to the clan, to all children, to keeping the
written record of the history
of the bells up to date and safe, and
with ensuring that each bell was kept in good repair. Our clan was not
one to have such a garden. In fact such gardens were
plentiful on Vulcan. Each family had one. Each family's clan had one.
garden was unique.
It may seem strange and illogical for bells to have become such a
precious symbol to us. For
bells to have come to symbolize reaching an
agreement of some sort. For bells to have become so intrinsically
with our lives. But as illogical as it may seem to
outsiders that is the way it has been for thousands of years. Bells
large in our history. A gong was rung when Surak died. Bell
racks are carried by the honour guard that accompanies a wedding
to the place of marriage. Bells are exchanged between families and
clans to indicate solidarity. They are rung
when a child is born, a
matriarch takes her place as the head of the clan, when a matriarchal
heir is declared, and
at every other important event on Vulcan. It is
said in one of the more widely read books on Vulcan that "to spend a
without hearing the voice of a bell upon the wind is like spending
a week without water." That is how prevalent bells are
to us. How
important they are to us. They are as precious and dear to us as
When my father married my
mother, she gifted the clan with a Terran
made silver bell. Whenever my father successfully bartered a new
peace agreement a copper bell was hung. When his
grandmother, the matriarch of my youth, died and my great aunt T'Laosi
the matriarch a golden bell was hung and the mother bells voice
was heard. When my youngest cousin was declared the matriarchal
she began making a bell and once it was finished it was hung behind
the mother bell, a place of honour.
everyone else on Vulcan, I learned to associate the sight and
sound of bells with beauty and wisdom. One's T'hyla was said
to be "as
beautiful as a bell. With a mind voice clear and powerful. Whose
presence in your mind and Katra resonates
with perfect clarity."
"To you, your T'Hyla will have eyes that gleam and shimmer like
sunlight on a bell. Your
T'hyla's mind will seem as perfectly formed
to you as a bell. Your inner bell and your T'Hyla's will ring in
harmony and every time your fingers touch you will hear the
chime, the chime of your Katra and your T'hyla's ringing clear
loud and powerfully."
As I was growing up, I occasionally heard my father call my mother his
bell and she
would tease him by calling him "mon belle." Her way of
hiding a joke in plain sight for the words might mean "my beauty"
the grammatically correct way to phrase it would be "mon beau" or "ma
belle." "Mon beau" being the masculine form,
"ma belle" the feminine.
My mother knew that as she was a linguist, but she also knew that if
she wanted to tease my
father or to joke with him that she would need
to hide it. I suppose it was their private joke between them and yet I
not ashamed to have overheard it unawares. For it helped me to
clearly see that they cared deeply for one another. That
found their "perfect bell", their true T'hyla in each other.
When I began to feel the burn of my first
Pon Farr, I reached out for
T'Pring, my promised wife. The women with whom I was linked to by
marriage contract and
a fragile mental bond. One that was supposed to
be completed when we met in the place of marriage. I expected to hear
clear note full of promise. Or a gentle tinkling of many tiny bells.
Or the loud call of a gong struck with force and attention.
that would ring true in my mind, that would sound "right." Instead I
heard a dull clang that resonated in
my mind and left a sour taste on
my tongue. Its tone was all wrong. Like an ill tuned instrument played
by someone who
had never seen it before. I flinched upon hearing it
and drew away from her in my mind. I assumed the note sounded "off"
"wrong" or "ill tuned" due to how far away I was from Vulcan when I
first tried to reach out with my mind to T'Pring.
I assumed that once
I got to the place of marriage and was reunited with her that the call
of her mind would sound like
a well played note, like the "clear bell"
I had been told to expect.
I transported down to the planet with Jim and
Leonard, doing my best
to ignore the faint, almost sound of a beautiful note I almost always
heard when I was near McCoy.
I picked up the striker and hit the
"calling bell," the gong that was hung in the place of marriage for my
clan. I soon
heard the honour guards as they shook the bell racks they
carried as they led the marriage party toward us. I went to ring
gong again and T'Pring stopped me.
It brings great dishonour to one's clan when a promised mate chooses
challenge. When ones chosen mate refuses to honour the marriage
contract, refuses to share his or her mind. It sounds a
throughout Vulcan society and the shame of such a refusal tarnishes
the reputation of a clan. I thought I
would never live that shame
down. Never be able to bring back honour to the clan. Never be able to
bring back a worthy
mate to join our clan and make it stronger. That
is until I stopped ignoring the fact that I could hear the faint,
sound of a bell whenever I was in Leonard's presence.
After T'Pring's rejection, he was there. Always there. Wherever
went, whatever I did, he was there. And I soon began to notice all the
things I had refused to notice before our ill
fated trip to Vulcan. I
began to notice the gleam in his clear blue eyes. I began to notice
how they shimmered with
light, how they reflected his joy and sorrow
and wisdom and strength and beauty and weaknesses and intelligence and
much more. I began to notice how his voice reverberated in my mind
and made me take notice of what he said, and give it
weight, no matter
how illogical his words seemed to be. I began to notice that every
time I was near him I could hear
my "inner bell" my Katra ring
vigorously. I began to notice that our debates sounded like music to
my ears, like duelling
bells ringing together until they reached an
I will admit now that it took me many months to accept the
my mind and my Katra were both shouting at me. That truth being that
Leonard was my perfect bell. My T'hyla.
I will also admit that I was
reluctant to inform my clan of this fact. Reluctant to inform them
that I intended to take
Leonard as my T'hyla, my husband. For I
thought they would reject him. I thought they would not understand.
decades had passed since the last time two people of the same
gender joined together as mates in my clan.
them. I underestimated Leonard. His reputation as a
healer had reached their ears. His compassion, his dedication, his
intellect and fiercer personality were all known to him and to
many others on Vulcan. As a well known healer, he was considered
rare prize, a valuable addition, and a welcome one too. When we walked
together to the place of marriage, he carried
in one hand an antique
stethoscope that he had turned into a bell. One that could be rung by
hand. The honour guard
that met us was ten men strong, instead of only
two. T'Pau was there. My parents were there. The matriarch of my clan
there and the matriarch of Leonard's family, his oldest sister was
there as was his daughter. My mother was there. Our
Saavik was there. Our friends were there. And everyone, everyone
carried a bell.
As we knelt
in front of T'Pau and the matriarch of my clan the bells
rang out. As our minds joined I could hear my Katra and his soul
out joyfully. As our minds wove together and became one I finally
understood why bells were so precious to my people.
In a way that I do
not think I'll ever be able to explain in words. As we became one, I
called Leonard "mon belle" and
he called me "bell loved" and I allowed
him to hear my laughter in his mind.
The matriarch of my clan carried the
bell Leonard gave to her to the
oasis and placed beside the "mother" bell. The first bell given by a
man to be placed
there. Placed there to demonstrate how precious
Leonard was to the clan, not only because he was such a well known
but because he was himself, unique and strong enough to
confront the matriarch of Vulcan, T'Pau, without fear.
spent a few weeks on Vulcan "ringing each others bells" as Leonard
says. When we returned to the ship, our friend threw
us a party, and
it touched me in an unexpected way. For at that party was a carillon,
one that Nyota Uhura began to
play. The bronze cup-shaped bells
ringing merrily and clearly, accompanied by the power of Nyota's
voice. It was extraordinary
to me that our friends were celebrating
our marriage by the ringing of bells in this manor. I am still not
our friends managed to find a carillon, much less maneuver it
into place in the recreation room, but the fact that they
went to so
much trouble for me and Leonard meant a lot to me.
Over the years that followed, every time my husband
was honoured by a
planet or his fellow healers or by Starfleet, my clan would hang a
copper bell in his honour. A large
one when he won the Nobel prize in
medicine, an Andorian bell for his discovery of a cure for Persistent
a Bajoran bell for his efforts in getting their
hospitals up and running - an honour he shared with a Doctor Julian
and a hundred more copper bells of all sizes, from many
planets, all given to my clan in his honour.
Today I have
the honour and responsibility of hanging another bell.
This one a silver bell, one that I made myself and polished until
gleamed. A bell upon which one tear landed. A tear that I shed because
"the cause was sufficient." A bell I never
wanted to hang, but had to.
In honour of my T'hyla's memory and all he meant to me. He was my
perfect bell. His mind
rang with clarity, intelligence, humour and
love, so much love. His soul gleamed brighter than any bell ever
He shone with beauty and light and I will never hear his inner
bell ring in my mind again. I am so empty without him. And
of bells in which I stand is barren without him. For the first time in
our clans history, the bell marking
a man's death will be hung behind
the "mother" bell. In the place of honour. The place where usually
bells marking the passing of a matriarch are hung. An unheard
honour for a man whose healing touch was felt by millions,
billions. I touch the bell I made one last time. I hang it carefully
upon a white ribbon and let it go. A strong
breeze wafts through the
oasis and I hear the bell ring and I remember.
I remember all the times I heard Leonard's
mind voice ring out clearly
in my mind. I remember all the times his inner bell and mine rang
together. I remember all
the times our inner voices duelled with each
other in debate. I remember all the times we "rang each others bells"
bed, out of bed, on his office desk, in a hidden closet, and so
many other places. I remember the last time I heard his
with age. Raspy. And oh so dear. I remember and I swallow tears as the
bell rings again and again upon
the desert breeze.