Black Blossom, Part 97: What Saves a Soul.

We continue Black Blossom, 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 97
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth

      But that was for the future; I must return to the week of our settlement. It was a chaotic several days. Kor returned to a backlog of work of his own, and he and several of his attendants went forth to it; the rest of us put our efforts into arranging the house. Some basic amount of furniture we could expect because of our status as osulked; our living expenses were paid out of tax funds, and we were not expected to spend our own tokens on that task. But osulked do not live luxuriously; our allotment would ordinarily have provided for a sparse population of our rather larger-than-average residence.
      That was before I saw the size of Kor’s sasrith collection.
      All Public Servants live off their stipends. When I was Neriethen’s and served his district, the district’s transaction taxes paid my livelihood; now that I was Kherishdar’s, the entire empire helped fund my work and I had a commensurate increase in pay. But normally Public Servants do not handle money at all; we are fed, clothed and housed by other Ai-Naidar who submit the expense to the lord of the district to be repaid. Our only discretionary moneys come in the form of sasrith: tokens that represent favors from other Ai-Naidar, given to us by clients grateful to us for our labors. I am told you have a similar form of recompense; ‘tipping,’ you call it. I have been fortunate to receive several sasrith in my working lifetime, some from Ai-Naidar with little to give me and some from Ai-Naidar in a position to give me a very great deal… indeed, my most valuable sasrithi came from the lord of Qenain himself, long long ago. I used it to reseed the flower and herb beds of the Physician after a rash of sickness destroyed his gardens.
      So I am accustomed to having a sasrithi now and then to spend on luxuries. I did spend them; it is unkind not to, for to hold them without using them is a form of rejection of the gift. As a result, at the time of Qevellen’s creation, I had two or three to my name.
      Kor had almost a hundred.
      A hundred. I had never seen so much gratitude in one place. The sight of it stunned me into silence. Vekken, who had brought the chest out for me, granted me one of his crooked smiles. “The boy never spent a thing on himself.”
      I swallowed and said, “Well. Now he will.” And bracing myself, tied back my sleeves and dove into the chest.
      I cannot know for certain, but I suspect the capital never saw a rash of purchases quite as broad and enthusiastic as the one Qevellen made to furnish the residence of the First Servant of Shame to its satisfaction. Vekken companioned me on the journey, bringing his dry wit and practicality; Jzeneth was my accomplice, pointing out what he found harmonious at my prompting. Everywhere we went, people recognized the tokens they had given to Shame in their vulnerability and embraced us. They had reached out to him, and now he was reaching back through our persons, and that finished a healing none of us realized needed doing.
      So Kor worked, and the rest of us brought home furs and rugs, pillows and bedding, low tables and high. We filled the pond with fish and hung chimes, set aside a chamber for devotions to the ancestors and a garden for the Guardians’ practices; I rung it round with columns of varying heights and set a bench in it, so that Ajan would have something to climb. Vekken insisted on a room for tools, and this when I looked into it again was hung with a sword and two daggers above a prie-dieu, with a rectangular mat and a wall-case for scrolls. I thought it a yuvrini for Guardians and did not ask after it again. We engaged several Servants to clean and move furniture, and kept on several of them to maintain the house and reign in the kitchen to the satisfaction of everyone in the house; the chef even made a consommé to rival Qenain’s.
      The day I bowed my head to Thirukedi over the tea-table, when first I heard my assignment, I had said to Him that an aphorism would not be enough to succor a soul such as Shame. But, as He was too wise to tell me, I’d been wrong. So in between all the chores and chaos of the settlement I made time to paint an aphorism in bold letters, black as Shame’s pelt and sharp as his incisive gaze, on pale cream parchment. And once it had dried… I leafed the entirety of the parchment around it, from crisp edge at the letters to the very ends of the paper, in scintillant gold; gold for precious things, and to evoke light, and for the treasure of civilization. At week’s end I hung that piece of calligraphy in the family room, which now had the pillows and low-table and chimes I had envisioned when first Shame and I stood in it. I was studying the placement of the piece with satisfaction when I felt his presence at my back. Together we read it in silence, and it felt new to me, and older than time.
      Love is the foundation of society.
      “You have scribed truth and hung it in our house,” he said.
      I smiled.
      “A beautiful piece of work,” he said, and I heard the satisfaction in his voice. “The house and calligraphy both.”
      “Have you seen it all?” I asked, turning to him with some trepidation… but it was for nothing, for the man standing behind me looked whole and good and right. The resumption of his duties had not unmade what we had wrought.
      He saw my evaluation and allowed it with a tilt of his lips. And to the moment, he judged when I had finished and spoke. “I have not. Show me, shinje.”
      So I took him on a tour of the house, from my studio up to the First Servant’s bedroom and all the way down again, and everywhere in between. This tour I ended on the opposite side of the house, in the room that mirrored my studio in the floor-plan. This suite I had appropriated for his use and in his absence filled it with book- and scroll-cases, a standing desk and a small altar table. My room was all golden wood and open windows; his I had redone in rich, dark brown wood, with curtains so that he might withdraw from the world he loved so passionately and restore himself among the books he had told me he sought when no other answers came to him. Other than his logs, I had not presumed to fill the bookcases myself… save for one copy of Ereseya’s Meditations.
      Above his desk, I had mounted and framed the black blossom shavelani given to him at the beginning of our adventure by the shopkeeper, which I had found in the bottom of my trunk.
      As he stood at the door, looking into the room, I said, “I thought of painting the floor for you, but I thought I would ask first.”
      “Better the ceiling,” he said. “To walk on your art would be a sin.”
      I flushed. “You like it, then.”
      “I have never had such a belevani,” he said, voice low. “As love-gifts go, shinje… you have surpassed yourself.”
      We stood together for a time, surveying in a peaceful silence, and I savored his pleasure as he surely savored my love.
      “That desk,” he said, “is also perfect for what I have brought with me.”
      “Ah?” I said. “I did not see you enter with anything?”
      “I left it at the door,” he said. “Stay, I will bring it.”

***

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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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