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 64
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth
You must understand, aunera. Fathriked do not have a proper context outside the houses where they are kept. They do not even have singular names; each person within a household has a different name for a Decoration, so once a fathrikedi is outside her assigned dwelling, what could one even call out to draw her ear in a crowd? What name would one give a Guardian to help locate her if she is lost? That is why the Decorations never leave their compounds without escort; we detach a bit of their context to surround them, to make sense of their presence in the world outside.
For this Decoration to be here in this fashion…
“Take her upstairs, please, menuredi,” Shame said, and I became aware of the proprietor trying very hard not to stare at us all. “It is the last door on the left.”
Ajan bowed again to him and led the fathrikedi, who followed him like a trailing edge of a storm. As she passed me her orange eyes seized mine, and I saw in them… her restlessness, her amusement, her angers. My short fur lifted as if that passing storm had been charged with lightnings, and then she was gone.
“You knew,” I said, as soon as they had vanished up the stairs. Turning back to Shame. “You knew she would come!”
“She knows the aunera that have bewitched her lord,” Shame said. “She has met them several times… more times than the aunera have been reported seen by the house’s irimked.”
“She has been here before,” I breathed.
Shame inclined his head.
“But you knew she would come…!”
“Of course she would,” he said. “She loves him.” He began carefully capping my paints. “Come, we will be wanted.”
I watched, surprised, as he neatly put my materials away, in just the right order, even to remembering where in the box I had stored each color before removing it. He handed me the materials, before carefully covering the new painting and taking it himself. I found myself standing, awkward, holding the paints and wishing I could wrest the evidence of my failure away from him.
“I will carry the painting,” he interrupted. At my look he transferred it to one hand and used the other to slip around my shoulder. By that he pulled me to him, until we were lightly pressed together, the box trapped between us.
The smell of him, like temple incense and tea… I found my nose in his hair and sighed, head dropping.
“Farren,” he said, voice husky. “Trust me.”
I breathed carefully, and knew he felt the tremor I tried to still. And then I let my pain go, for the moment at least.
“Incorrigible priest,” I murmured.
“You would find me the less fascinating if I were elsewise,” he answered, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
I snorted and drew back, just enough to look at him, and that made him chuckle, low.
“You can touch me with your fingers, you know,” he said. “Not just your eyes. Though you touch with your eyes far more acutely than many people can with their hands.”
“One day, Kor Nai‘Nerillin-osulkedi,” I said, mock-stern. “One day…”
“Soon, I hope,” he said, with an insouciant grin.
We turned for the stairs and found the proprietor stopped still beside her counter, all her heart in her eyes and a fullness of spirit welling there.
“Ajzelin!” she whispered.
Kor pressed his free hand to his chest and bowed just enough to allow his ink-spill hair to fall over his shoulders, leaving her staring wide-eyed.
On the way up, on the step behind him, I said, “You must leave a trail of the swooned in your wake when you go out.”
“That is why I rarely do,” he said, resigned.
We found Ajan sitting in a chair facing the door, honing a dagger on a sharpening steel with an air of concentration that fooled no one; no doubt if anyone else had come through the door he would have been on his feet and barring them before they’d taken their first step over the threshold. As it was, he ignored us politely so we could focus on the climax of the room: the fathrikedi, who was perched on the bench beneath a window, framed by its arch above her, and by a spray of white flowers from a vase alongside. It was a perfect piece of artistry, that placement. She had posed herself for greatest dramatic impact, and knowing that all fathriked were so trained did not make me resent it the less.
“So,” she said, very bold. “You have caught me.”
Shame set the painting aside and then folded his arms and rested against the back of Ajan’s chair. The sharp sing-sing of the blade being aligned filled the silence as they studied one another, the woman with lifted chin and half-flattened ears, daring much with her lack of abasement on top of the outrageous act of fleeing her House.
Kor, of course, was inscrutable. As always.
I wondered if they would ever break their war of wills and ignored them to put my paints away in my trunk. When I straightened, the fathrikedi had risen and stalked to Shame, close, closer, so close now that too deep a breath would have broken a thousand rules of courtesy and dragged the entire front of her naked body against his.
“I,” she said, “no less than you, have sacred work to do here.”
“And what is that? Winning back a master who has chosen the company of aliens over yours at every opportunity?” Ajan said unexpectedly, lifting his dagger to examine it.
Shocked, she whipped her gaze from Kor’s to the back of Ajan’s head, her lips drawn back from her perfect teeth. It was a magnificent expression; rage suited her, made her beauty incandescent and perilous. I would have painted it, if I had thought anyone would believe it possible for a Decoration to be prey to such normal Ai-Naidari emotions.
“Enough,” Shame said. He guided her face back with one finger against her chin, and I saw the hair on her shoulders lift at the touch. “You knew he’d fled the house, rather than been transported away early. And you came across the Gate. Without a permit.”
“The lord had arranged for me to come to him before,” she said, haughty. “I told the Guardians that he had sent for me again. They don’t know he was supposed to be somewhere else… the scandal in Qenain has not been bruited about for others to know he was supposedly lying tsekil in his bed.” Again she lifted her chin. “Will you punish me now, Shame? Would you dare?”
“You go too far,” I said, frightened by her defiance.
“I go where the path leads me,” she said, but without looking at me. Her eyes were only for Shame. “I go where my lord has forced me. I am fathrikedi; that is my duty!”
“Your duty is not to summon yourself into your lord’s presence without his permission!” I exclaimed.
“I go to save him,” she said, voice a low growl. “Because I love him.”
“You might,” Shame said mildly, “have trusted Kherishdar to save him.”
“Kherishdar!” she exclaimed. “Kherishdar dithered and whined over everyone else’s reaction to my lord’s choices, and then brought you to judge and send him away forever!”
“You misunderstand Correction,” Shame said, though his words were beginning to grow cold.
“I understand whipping an elder until he bleeds!” she hissed. “I understand the bit and the gag, and the pedestal! I understand punishment!” She bared her teeth at him. “As you and your precious osulkedi-peer will punish me for daring to redeem a lord I love!”
“Fathriked are not supposed to love so passionately,” Shame said. “It is a cruelty.”
“Fathriked are not supposed to love so passionately!” she exclaimed. “Fathriked are not to have passions? What do you know of fathriked and what is cruel for us, and what is wonted? You do not even react to me, Kherishdar’s Shame! Are you even functional?” Her body moved against his in a ripple, but even before she rubbed against him she had made a mistake and I didn’t know what it was, only that it was bad, very bad. Ajan knew, for his ears flattened as he turned, rising from the chair.
But even he did not move as fast as his master. Kor caught her by the jaw, thumb and middle fingers digging into the muscle there so sharply that she froze, eyes watering.
“Enough,” he said again, the word like a blow. She flinched.
“Enough,” he said, more quietly. “I am Kherishdar’s Shame, fathrikedi. I know.”
She closed her eyes, wilting. And whispered. “Very well, then. Correct me of my many errors. But I do not repent.”
He sighed and released her. She did not kneel… she should have, after the insult she’d given him. But though her knees shook, she remained standing.
“I did not leave the penokedi at the Gate to entrap you,” he said, “but because I wanted your aid.”
Extra long one today…
When I originally drew this picture I didn’t think it would actually happen. And yet, here it is, in a context completely unplanned: not seduction, but drama. Sometimes the story leads us in directions we don’t anticipate… but anyway. Those of you with steel-trap memories of the Admonishments will probably have suspicions about why the Decoration’s comment was Very Bad….
We are partway toward a Friday episode! So perhaps we will see what happens next with the fathrikedi then.
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Mirrored from MCAH Online.