Immense life-forms native to Vulcan; a secretive, near-legendary race inhabiting the desert regions. Subterranean and rarely encountered, they’re one of the planet’s greatest mysteries, and are strongly mythologized in Vulcan culture. Those who see them are supposed to gain great insight into spiritual matters. Although the a’kweth are often believed to be a legend, in part due to this mystical portrayal, they’re not. Their mythical status is due to the rarity of encounters, unfamiliarity with their lifestyle, and deep, near-religious respect for their mental power. They’re otherwise an accepted if little-understood part of the Vulcan biosphere. A’Kweth are found in the larger deserts of Han-shir and Na’nam. Sometimes assumed to be silicon-based, they’re physically immense, rising like living mountains out of the sand. The exact form of the a’kweth is still unknown, though is supposed to be somewhat like a worm. They reportedly have semi-prehensile tentacles that sometimes play with objects on the surface - bright stones or other interesting items. The most commonly seen part of the a’kweth’s body is the back (or what’s believed to be the back), which arches through sand dunes like a whale in water. What is certain is that a’kweth are among the largest planet-bound creatures known to science. Unconfirmed reports suggest they reach thousands of metres, even rearing over mountains on the rare occasions they surface. Most of their lives are spent beneath the ground, sliding through the deep sand of the greater deserts. Sensor records show that they skirt the outcroppings of mountains like a ship between islands. Their behaviour in terms of movement is often simple, and seemingly random. These are not lower animals, though, but beings of sapience, albeit a type alien to Vulcans or Humans. Tales and witness reports suggest immense intelligence, a wise and benevolent spirit, and incredible intellect. Their thoughts are conveyed through a telepathic process that may coincide with aural stimuli; a’kweth communications are often referred to as song by Vulcan witnesses. This song is more reminiscent of pressures in rock strata than the calls of living creatures, though.
A’kweth have never deigned to establish permanent relations with Vulcan Humanoids. Nor have they been observed under controlled circumstances, with attempts at scientific study giving, at best, contradictory data. Still, there are usually a few dozen credible sightings per Vulcan year, and the occasional telepathic contact, rarely with obvious motivation. In the age of modern technology, a’kweth are subject to occasional sensor scans, yet they still prove strangely hard to monitor. Even now, when Vulcan has been mapped by advanced technology, and satellites can see any grain of sand on the planet, very little is known about the movements and nature of the a’kweth. Indeed, most scans prove of little use, considering the weight of natural elements between the creatures and the scanning equipment. What is known is that a’kweth are biologically distinct from other Vulcan fauna. Sensors turn up vast life-sign readings, a level of vitality that would normally belong to a thousand creatures, but movement readings rarely pinpoint more than one source of motion. Sometimes a tracked vital sign disappears completely, without explanation, and without trace. Still, monitoring their movement has led to some insight; for example, realization that a’kweth encounters trail off in the days preceding a major ground-quake. This has led Vulcan geologists to monitor reports of a’kweth encounters; silence from the a’kweth is generally a sign of impending seismic disturbance.
What is certain is the prominent, if understated, role the a’kweth play in Vulcan culture. Their presence has long been influential on Vulcan artistic expression, though direct mention is surprisingly rare. This is largely due to respect, a belief that to maintain the mysteries of the creatures is to best honour them. Such a convention may seem at odds with the Vulcan’s science-oriented culture and infamous curiosity. However, there appears to be an unwritten understanding that the a’kweth are to be kept shrouded in mysticism. The word “a’kweth” even literally translates to “hidden”. It’s one of several names for the creatures, another being tcha-besheh, the Underliers. In equatorial regions of the Han-shir continent, early encounters with a’kweth led to a popular mythology surrounding “the Underlier”, a singular figure similar in function to a genie. This being is said to be the repository of all knowledge, no doubt a detail based in the a’kweth’s formidable intellect and vital spirit. Some Vulcans still claim to have “mystical encounters” with the Underlier, which may or may not be actual meetings with a’kweth
One of the most prominent legends concerning the a’kweth is the tale of Surak’s encounter. According to popular legend - a legend supported by Surak’s own tales and referenced in the Kir’Shara - the founder of modern Vulcan culture encountered an a’kweth as a young man. Having fled his home in horror at the state of Vulcan society and its path to self-destruction, he met with the being in the shadow of Mount Seleya. It made contact telepathically, and “sang” to him, sharing its joy at their meeting. The encounter had a profound effect on the young Vulcan. To commune with something so intellectually powerful, and yet so different from himself, was a privilege, and a joyous insight into the benefits of diverse perspectives. This incident is said to have influenced Surak into finding his philosophy of Kol-ut-shan, and sharing it with the rest of Vulcan, despite the near-certainty of his eventual death by violence. As Surak is often considered akin to a prophet, having met with divine inspiration, so the a’kweth - or at least this particular a’kweth - has become a symbol of a’tha, the immanence.
Poetry aside, a’kweth are little more than a legend to the wider Federation. Perhaps due to the secrecy in which Vulcan veils its culture, the sand-dwelling beings have attracted surprisingly little attention, despite being one of the galaxy’s wonders. Non-Vulcan writings on the culture or history of Vulcan do occasionally make reference to them, though rarely do they offer anything substantial. For example, in her seminal work The Romulan Way, Terise Haleakala-LoBrutto refers to “intelligences of the deep sand” while discussing Vulcan contact with non-Humanoid life. No elaboration is offered, though.
One final mystery is whether a’kweth ever had contact with offworld sapience. The Cetaceans of Earth, another form of intelligence without spaceflight or technological tools, were nonetheless in semi-regular contact with a major space-faring culture, that which produced the Whalesong Probe. It’s often speculated that a’kweth might have similarly sent greetings to spaceborne life, particularly given their great vitality and apparent telepathy. Some theorists even speculate that the a’kweth are themselves extra-Vulcan in origin, even suggesting that the sands of the deep deserts are full of subspace tunnels, by which the beings come and go as they please. This, they say, explains the tendency for sudden disappearance of life signs being tracked from orbit. Whatever the truth, the a’kweth remain one of the greatest treasures of planet Vulcan, and perhaps the least understood.
Tuvok once had an encounter with an a’kweth, which he described as “near-mystical”. He believed the experience contributed to his decision in 2349 to return to Starfleet.