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 61
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth
viridity, n. 1a: the quality or state of being green b: the color of grass or foliage 2: naive innocence
aunera, n. 1: a color—emerald green, very lush and deep, with a slight tint of blue 2: anything alien, from people to worlds to emotions to thoughts.
This time the Guardians at the Gate with their brightly-sleeved weapons examined the permit produced by Shame and let us pass on. I was expecting more ceremony, perhaps, but there was none, only that careful check and then a wave of a hand. So we kept riding, into the breeze out of the Gate with its coolth and increasingly, its fragrance… something unknown to me, but that felt like the essential definition of cleanliness… or emptiness. Or newness…
I was still trying to find the word when we passed through the film and out of it, instantly, into the colony’s bright, hot afternoon. My eyes began watering at once: the colors were so sharply delineated by that hard white sun that I could not find any gradients at all. Each blade of grass was its own, distinct color and I saw them all as separate things. That together those separate things should have made a gradual shading of the brilliant green at the top of the hill to the shadowed brown in its lap never seems to have occurred to any of them.
My first impression, then, of an alien world… was that it was quite intrinsically, poetically, and completely aunerai.
It also smelled liked flowers, and a high, dry smell like dust, though I felt nothing particulate against my skin with the Gate wind blowing at my back.
The Gate on this side was, like its face on our world, paved toward with roads and set about with buildings, though the terrain here was hillier. Though there was more of it than there was on the opposite side, most of the architecture was familiar: on the right, I saw our warehouses, Guardian barracks, and gate-houses, with the roads connecting them winding around the short hills in a way I found harmonious; there were, of course, the inevitable gardens, though the familiar flowers looked bizarre beneath the foreign sunlight. But on the left, connected by straight roads laid on a grid pattern, there were buildings made in a fashion unfamiliar to me: utilitarian things with slab sides in plain gray or white paint. They came in different sizes and heights, but that was the only clue to their use for they were otherwise identical, as if they had been upended in place out of similar molds.
Well, not the only clue. As Shame showed his permit yet again to a new set of Guardians, I saw plaques on the walls next to the doors, and my ears flattened to my head.
“Kor,” I said, once he’d rejoined me. “They speak a different language.”
He glanced at me. “Of course they do.”
“That we don’t,” I said pointedly.
“We do business with them,” he said. “Someone must speak both languages. The lord certainly does.”
“He at least speaks some form of language they understand,” Ajan said from behind us.
Sadly, aunera, that innuendo took me several moments to grasp.
“Ignore him,” Kor said. “He’s young.”
“Less young than frustrated,” I said, which was my way of teasing both of them at once; and since I won sharp glances from them both I counted myself quite the success.
“You know your duty,” Kor said to Ajan, more seriously.
“Master,” Ajan said, matching his mien. And then his mount fell back and I found myself riding alone with my peer.
“You leave him at the Gate?” I asked, puzzled.
“He’ll join us soon,” Shame said.
Not long after, then, we came to Qenain’s gate-house at the colony, and once again found ourselves leaving our mounts in the hands of their Servants and asking for the lord. Shame sat in the foyer beside the guest fountain, composed, his hands resting on his thighs. I sat across from him and studied the colors of the shadows on the inside of the building. They were grayer here than on our world… less purple, and still sharper despite the sun being on the other side of the walls. I wasn’t sure what I would think of working here. All my art would feel too soft for this world. Too civilized to survive, somehow.
I was still considering the notion of art changing to suit its environment, rather than to reflect the inner world of its maker, when the Servant returned to regretfully inform us that the lord was not in, and that she wasn’t sure where we had gotten our information that he was, as he hadn’t been back across the Gate in days.
“Is that so,” Shame murmured.
“It is,” she said, Abased and obviously distressed. “And we have work here in need of his approval, so if you do find him, osulkedi…”
“We will tell him his duties call him,” Shame promised.
And then we were outside, waiting for our animals.
“Do you think he was there, and the Servant lying?”
“Do you?” Kor asked, glancing up at me.
I thought back to her expression, to the hurried movements of her body and the tightness of her gestures, and the way her face had felt open, like a flower. “No.”
Kor said, “I agree. And I didn’t expect him here.”
“If you didn’t expect him here, then… how are we to find him?” I said. “He could be anywhere. And these creatures…” I trailed off, staring at the complex on the other side of the road. It was not small. “Presumably his interest is in only one of them. How are we to find her? We don’t even know her name!”
“Patience, Farren,” Kor said, with a tone that was like a pleased smile. “Why don’t we have tea while we wait?”
As our mounts were brought to us, I said, plaintively, “Wait for what?”
Naturally, he did not answer. I pulled myself into the saddle and followed him, and once I drew alongside him said, “You know you don’t have to act inscrutable and all-knowing around me.”
His mouth worked but managed to avoid breaking into the smile I heard again in his answer. “Indulge me, Farren.”
I sighed. “Fine. But only because you are a good cuddler.”
No doubt several people wondered why the high priest of Shame in all Kherishdar was laughing so hard when we rode past. I felt some sympathy for their not being able to ask.
We crossed the Gate, as so many of you guessed we would.
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