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 68
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth
I wept then, a small spill from my eyes. “I was afraid—”
He twisted out from under me and gathered my longer body against his. When I felt the evidence of his release I turned my face from his, feeling as if the world’s floor had fallen out from beneath me. I had forced the issue, and his body, and cross a boundary ajzelin are not to cross, and even if he had recognized it as Correction I felt the grief and risk of it…
It was as if he could read my thoughts… or more like, recognized how far into dismay I was. He cupped my face, thumb resting on the line of my jaw, and turned me back to face him. Then, soft as a blessing, he kissed my mouth with lips that were dry from gasping. And paused there, until he was sure that I understood him before he rested his brow against mine. We shared the same air; in that way, he calmed me, until my shaking subsided and we breathed in the same rhythm, chests lifting in tandem.
“I didn’t mean…”
He smiled and touched my mouth, quieting the words. “You think I would mistake that for a lover’s touch? Farren. I am Shame.”
“Was it truly… did it truly…”
“Yes,” he said, closing his eyes and sighing. Such relief in that sigh, and in his eyes when he opened them. “Yes. You saw a wound, and intuition guided your answer.” He looked at me, brows lifting just a little. “You have had experience in this.”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “A young Noble, who was given to me for Correction. I… I painted her pelt as she read from her caste-law book. With ink that stung.”
“Ahhh,” he said, closing his eyes, for all the worlds as if he had had a drink of some exquisite wine. “Beautiful. A work of art…”
“I failed her,” I interrupted, before he could grow too enamored with my methods. “She sinned again.”
He opened his eyes again. “In the same way?”
“N-no,” I said, drawing the word out.
“Then you did very well for one unschooled, amazingly so,” he said. “I have a staff, Farren, to do research and interviews with me. When someone is finally given to my attentions, their sins are so significant that there is a history there to be uncovered. Without doing that work, my own Corrections would also fail. One cannot understand an Ai-Naidari heart by assuming it is like all the rest, and working from that assumption.”
I thought of all the books in my chest and flushed at the ears.
“To Shame is given permission to shatter a soul,” Kor said, touching my lower lip to draw my focus back to him. “My trials have removed all the limits on my tools, and I can use them to violate a person, body and spirit, entire. I cannot wield that power without knowing that I have done everything possible to understand how much of it is needed. I have trained for this for nigh unto my entire life, Farren. Don’t measure yourself against that standard.”
“I will if it means I may have hurt what we have,” I said.
“You haven’t,” he said. “If anything, you have put us more firmly in our place.”
“Ajzelin—” I began.
“Are not lovers, and you are not mine,” he said. He lifted his brows again. “Did you enjoy my release?”
It seemed unbearably rude to admit I’d found the situation repulsive. “I—”
“Did you even watch my face when I climaxed?” he asked.
I flushed. “That would have been rude!”
“Even for the artist, who loves sight so?” he asked, his voice gentle but, I noted with growing irritation, amused.
“I couldn’t,” I said, scowling at him.
“I am so unbeautiful in bed,” Kor said with a sigh of patently false dismay. I slapped his flank with my tail, an act which was rude in the extreme, and it made him laugh. “No, Farren. You like your lovers female.”
“And you,” I said, with sudden, piercing insight, “like them younger!”
He grinned then. “I fear so. Though Ajan is very near the border of too young.”
“But not over it,” I said, hiding my glee.
“But not over it,” he admitted, charming in his defeat.
I drew in a breath again. He really was completely at ease with me, so I had not destroyed what we had. But one thing remained to be spoken, though I feared it would undo all that I had gained. “You thanked me for my Correction, Kor… but I thought… only the Emperor could Correct Shame.”
His eyes flicked up to mine, abrupt. “Who gave you my journals, Farren?”
I froze against him, and he slowly lifted his brows again, waiting.
“You left one on the bedstand when I was sick,” he said. “I was not entirely insensate with you and Ajan waking me enough to dose me.”
I rolled my lip between my teeth and fretted at it as he spoke, then slicked my ears back. “I swear to you, Qenain really did ask for you.”
“But only me,” Kor said, quietly.
I drew in a deep breath. “Thirukedi sent me to you. To heal you.”
“And you have,” he said, voice gentle. “And you are. Farren… you are His hand on me. Do you think He didn’t know what I would need?”
“No,” I said softly. “He knows all our hearts.”
“And He knew mine,” Kor agreed. “Yours was the body, Farren. His was the Correction. So we are all made His instruments, if we are willing, and our hearts can stand the glory.”
“Which,” I said slowly, “is what this was about for you, wasn’t it. You wanted to be Shame to be His instrument. And it wouldn’t do but for you to be the strongest and most versatile instrument possible.”
“Because He needs all that we can give Him, and because His people deserve no less than everything that can be given to them,” Kor agreed, his voice gentle. “Do you understand, then? The trials?”
“And your ambition?” I said, daring to tease him a little in return on a subject that was, frankly, so vast and so intimate that I could barely look at it.
“And my ambition,” he agreed.
“A little more,” I said. “But I think I shall still call you a masochist.”
He mmmed. “Only if doing so involves you petting me all over again.”
“Without the Correction,” I said, rueful.
“Without the Correction,” he agreed.
He looked so contented there, with his hand resting on my upper arm and his head pillowed next to mine. I could hardly imagine the emotional resilience needed to return from what I’d done to him so quickly. “Kor?”
“You are sure you’re not offended?”
“Offended!” Kor said, opening his eyes. “Why would I be?”
“That I hid this from you. That I am… proof of a sorts that you were in need. That you were weak.”
He blew out a breath and shook me lightly by the shoulder. “We’re all weak, Farren. That’s why we need one another.” Resting a hand on my chest, he said, “I’m not offended at all. I’m grateful. My master, the god of Civilization, has extended me a gift. I will cherish it as He intended.”
“I do think I love you,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“I know that I love you,” Kor said, smiling, and pulled me closer, and this time I did not feel the tackiness at his hips as a brand.
And the formal words exchanged at last.
And this scene isn’t over yet! But fortunately, Friday we will have another.
Mirrored from MCAH Online.