When someone killed her family, Vaxa Ral was in exile. The legal heir to the Ninth House of Betazed – stripped of her home by her vindictive and manipulative parents and removed of her rights by the combined might of six other Houses – could do nothing but watch from afar as Dominion-led attacks destroyed her family home, along with all who dwelled there. To this day, it remains a pile of charred rubble – a testament to the ‘scorched earth’ politics of Betazed’s ruling class who have no interest in seeing this ‘troublesome’ house restored.
Born in 2312 to Kirilow and Alacem Ukinix – then heads of the Ninth House, Vaxa quickly learned that she and her siblings were little more than pawns in a long-running political game. Over the course of centuries, the House of Wealth (as it was known then) received lands from other Houses eager to see it developed by the resource-rich ‘treasurers’. No reliable records of these deals were available – but what is known is that in the early 24th Century, the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth, and Twelfth Houses demanded their lands returned. The Ninth refused. And thus began a saga of vengeance, manipulation, and scandal that would shake the foundations of Betazed’s nobility for nearly a century.
“The Houses used to be far more cordial and helpful to each other,” explains Keehani Ukinix – Vaxa’s granddaughter, who now serves as a First Secretary within the Federation Diplomatic Corps. However, “with mounting pressure, the Ukinix family became defensive and consequently ruthless in their behaviour.”
Keehani, and indeed, every living descendant of the Ninth House of Betazed, seems to have accepted their family’s role in the conflagration. The desire to hold on to their power over the other Houses seems to have died with the last true Matriarch and her husband in the Dominion bombings of the Ninth House estate.
“There’s no doubt that some Houses centuries ago transferred land to the Ninth House,” elaborates Vaxa, looking over the ruins of her old life. “I ask myself now, ‘does it matter? What is best for Betazed?’”
Mother Vaxa, now 87, has never seen justice. It was during this most challenging time that six other ‘noble’ Houses determined to reap their own rewards of the shattered Ninth. Buried in the wreckage of her former life, the grief of loss, and legal proceedings, they forced Vaxa to concede her authority as the rightful Matriarch of the Ninth House in 2376. Since then, the House has been administered by representatives of these other dominant Houses and their own private interests.
“They never let me have a chance,” elaborated Ral. “I think they wanted to make sure a Ukinix would never make waves again.”
The ‘waves’ Ral refers to involve a series of scandalous attempts by her parents to escape land-rights litigation through seduction and marriage, using their own children as pieces to be played and traded. Chief among those in the line of fire was Astradem (Astrad) Ukinix – Vaxa’s younger brother.
“Vaxa… and I weren’t children,” he shared over a glass of wine at his vineyard on Earth. “We were tools in Mother and Father’s power games.” Astrad, now 80, split himself from the Ukinix family of Betazed long ago after tensions with his parents reached a boiling point during his early twenties. “They used me and my sisters in any way they could to make the other Houses back off,” he elaborated.
The straight facts are that, in 2341, Astrad Ukinix – at the behest of his parents – befriended and seduced prominent members of several other Houses in an effort to garner their favour. A directive that would prove not only ultimately unsuccessful but would, in fact, contribute to the splintering and eventual downfall of the Ninth House.
Keehani seems to have come to terms with it. “In 2341, he was having two affairs,” she related matter-of-factly. “One with the Matriarch of the Fourth House and one with the Matriarch of the Tenth… the other houses didn’t receive it well.”
A champion of justice for her grandmother’s cause, fighting diligently within the Betazed justice system to re-establish her House’s independence, Keehani Ukinix is as sharp-witted as she is determined. “It’s not like those Matriarchs didn’t know what they were doing,” she points out unabashedly.
Once Kirilow and Alacem’s scheming had caught up with them, they devised one final ploy – to arrange marriages between their children and eligible suitors in one of their most ardent detractors, the Sixth House of Betazed. Only Astrad and Vaxa were done with serving as their parents’ political pawns by this point.
“My parents arranged a betrothal from Astradem to a Daughter from the Sixth House, to stop the legal action,” Vaxa explains, soberly. “He refused, and left Betazed for good.” Vaxa was not spared this cajoling, either. “After that, my mother offered me for betrothal to the Sixth House along with a sizable amount of land… It was always about land, never about their children.”
But Vaxa and her brother had each, independently, found something worth more to them than land, familial acceptance, or political power.
“Love,” announces Astrad, a smile on his face. His wife of nearly 60 years, Hayley – who hails from Earth and is the true owner and operator of the Terra Tanunda vineyard in Australia – first drew Astrad’s eye as the result of a University research project. “We fell in love, I left my life behind, and here I am.”
When Kirilow learned that her daughter, Vaxa, had also found love with an employee of the Ninth House – Itum Ral – and would not marry to protect the family’s assets, she did everything but strip the Matriarch Ascendant of her title. “She knew it would weaken them in the future,” she elucidates. “So instead, they gave me a small amount of land in the Piri Islands and told me to live there – and stay there until they felt I was ready to return.”
Only that return would never happen. Instead, the Dominion waged war on the Federation. Vaxa Ral would watch, in isolation on the Piri Islands, as her planet, her family, her Imzadi, and her son were systematically erased – followed by the vestiges of her lineage that remained as the other Houses swooped in to ‘declaw’ the disenfranchised Matriarch.
“They punished my grandmother for her heritage,” asserts Keehani. “She was never given the chance to prove herself as a Matriarch… the nobles of six Houses decided for my grandmother what was best for her, when in truth, it’s what was best for them.”
What was best for them, evidently, has been to sweep this entire matter under the proverbial rug. For decades, they handled this matter in quiet legal forums accessible only to the upper echelons of Betazoid society; the conclusions neatly tucked into unassuming footnotes in the historical record. Were it not for the tenacity of Vaxa’s granddaughter, Keehani, and the diligent research of modern legal professionals, the Ninth House may itself have wound up as little more than a footnote.
“It’s about justice,” explains Vaxa of her granddaughter’s petition to restore the Ninth House’s nobility. “Justice for me, justice for Keehani, and Astradem, and his family from Earth.”
When prompted, Astrad describes his once-estranged sister thusly: “I think she will be a very different kind of Matriarch… More grounded in reality,” adding that she and her granddaughter “have very different ideas about what a House should be.”
When pressed for details, Vaxa offered a picture of what a restored Ninth House may look like, “If we are successful in our petition… the Ninth House will be very different from what it traditionally was. I will ensure that whatever land the House has left, which isn’t much, is used for agricultural science students by different Federation Universities…” – a task which she intends to carry out with Astrad’s wife, Hayley Ukinix, now that their families have reconnected.
Now, after two years of delays, the hearing to determine the fate of the Ninth House of Betazed took place in October of 2399. With newly uncovered evidence on their side, and decades to consider the mistakes of the past which led their family to this point, there seems to be little doubt that – regardless of the outcome – these fearsome women will keep on fighting until the bitter end for a better future. Now, for better or worse, they do so in the public eye.
“Whether our Forum petition is successful or not, Keehani and I will still have our extended family,” reflected Ral as the sun sets on the ruins of the Ukinix estate. “It is taking time, but our family wounds are healing. With or without a Ninth House, the Ukinix name will live on and be known as a proper family.”