Black Blossom, Part 14

We continue Black Blossom (website|LJ tag|RSS), the novel that follows The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar. It is a form of quasi-communal storytelling, as described here. Feel free to ask questions, converse or react as you wish in the comments; the Calligrapher and I are at your disposal, as time permits us both. And don’t fear… your questions are shaping the narrative. Read closely in the future and you may see yourself referred to there.

Black Blossom, Part 14
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth

A small piece of paper, clipped to the manuscript:

nejzen [ ne JZEHN ], (noun) — Wall of Birth; the line separating those of Noble or Regal birth from those beneath it.

renainen [ re NYE nehn ], (noun) — city walls; these are the walls that separate districts of the city from one another so that the Nobles and Regals who administrate them know the boundaries of their responsibilities. They are invariably low, usually hip-height: low enough for adults to easily converse, high enough to keep small children from wandering.

      As many of you have yourselves surmised, I too thought that if Ajan knew my purpose, Shame himself must have guessed it… unless, of course, he suffered from that blindness that sometimes afflicts the mind when something affects us personally. I thought it unwise to rely on that possibility, however. It would be my luck to make that assumption, only to have my subsequent behavior poison me in Shame’s eyes.
      So I knocked on the carriage pass-through and had a word with the driver.
      And that, aunera, is how I came to find myself on a beast. I have not ridden often, as my tools can be cumbersome and my joints even more so. When Thirukedi first elevated me, I made some number of journeys on the back of a steed and within a year I’d given it up in favor of a carriage… no doubt why He had sent one to me in the first place. But if Shame would not ride with me in the carriage, then I would have to ride with him on beast-back. We had only the short time before we reached Qenain to begin this nourishment of our acquaintance… for when we arrived, my instinct said I would be hindered by the mask he wore to do his duty.
      This too distressed me, aunera. A Public Servant should not have to be someone else to do what his hhaza, his caste-rank, demands. That is part of the point of being placed properly: that you need never be anyone other than who you are. The flamboyant dancer may dance, the studious Observer huddle with books; the Guardian may lose his aggression in fighting and the Farmer nourish his need for solitude in the fields or the forests. (Yes, aunera… even we know that solitude is a need, and more for some than others.)
      Perhaps the priest who serves Shame has always been different. Perhaps the needs of the empire are so great that he cannot help but suffer. But it is counter to everything we aspire to and work toward, that someone might be unhappy in their work.
      “Calligrapher,” Shame said as I reined in alongside and a little behind him. Our streets are broad but they are meant for pedestrians, and riders are limited to a narrow corridor in the center. “You have lost your carriage.”
      “I grew tired of my own company,” I said. “And thought it better to seek your society instead. It is rare that I have the opportunity to talk with another osulkedi. We are not so many.”
      “No,” Shame agreed.
      “What do you suppose we shall find at Qenain?” I asked. “Have you been there before?”
      “To the Gate-house?” Shame said. The sun off his black hair was so bright it made my eyes water. I thought he would look ill-suited to light and the warm colors of the city around us, but he did not. “No… that I have not. Nor any Gate-house, come to that.”
      “But you have been called to Houses before,” I said. I flicked my ears back, trying to find delicate words. “Is it… usually like our stay with House Elikim?”
      Shame shook his head. “No. Ordinarily it is to one individual I go. The matter usually takes time and study.”
      “And yet we have not made a study yet of House Qenain,” I said. “Your Guardian says such studies are usually abetted by him and his fellows. Should we not stop at your temple to collect them, then?”
      He glanced at me then with too-pale eyes; in sunlight, even paler, so that I saw only pupils. “You have made a friend of Ajan, have you.”
      “He is a good youth,” I said. “He reminds me of my daughter.”
      “You seem young to have a daughter Ajan’s age,” Shame said.
      I lifted my brows and said, “I am old, osulkedi, but not soft in the head. I know very well you can see the strands of silver in my hair.”
      He said, “Your hair and pelt are very fair in color, Calligrapher.”
      “And that would matter not a whit to your eyes,” I said. “I would guess that you know to within a year how old I am. Ah?”
      He laughed. “Enough, enough! Very well, Calligrapher. The point has been made. Even so, I am not magical.”
      “You’re not,” I repeated, skeptical of his tone if not the words.
      “Five years,” he said, grinning: and suddenly, I saw the youth in him also. “Not one.”
      “Shame,” I said. “Should we not stop?”
      He glanced at me. A hesitation. Then he said, “We are sent on this errand, Calligrapher—” When I began to speak, he held up a hand, “—and it concerns me. A Gate complex is subject to different pressures than a normal House, and has a broad sphere of influence… and Qenain’s even more so, for the flowers. I honestly believe it would be a bad idea to tarry.”
      “Even to collect more of your Guardians,” I said.
      “Even so,” he said.
      “Then how will you prepare for this assignment?” I asked, puzzled.
      His eyes lit on something ahead of us and locked there. “I will begin here.” And dismounted.
      On the edge of the street was a flower vendor.

***

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About M.C.A. Hogarth

Genderqueer sci-fantasy writer, animal geek, conlanger, pyrographer, painter, doodler, jewelry artisan, web designer, Kemetic, and musician. Snake-crazy.
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