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 70
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth
Reck this: Once there was an aridkedi, a country Merchant, who was known far afield for her gift for making pots of extraordinary beauty… such beauty, in fact, that to see them broken was a cause for grief among all those who bought her work. They often brought her shattered pieces after one of those breaks, begging her to mend the pot, or grieving if it was beyond aid.
Now, the potter was a good friend to an artist, who was taking tea with her one day when another Ai-Naidari brought a collection of these pieces to the shop. After the patron had left, the potter poured these pieces into a box behind her counter.
‘What is that box?’ said the artist.
‘This is where I dump the remains of my broken works,’ the potter said. ‘I have no use for the pieces, so I collect them here until I have time to dispose of them.’
‘Give them to me!’ the artist said. ‘I shall put them to work again.’
The aridkedi did so allow, and the artist took the box home. She assembled the broken pieces into new vases, strange and fragile and variegated. These vases became very popular as vauni haale—vessels used as focus for meditation. Some say they helped popularize the use of such vessels.
This is the parable of the broken pot. Reck it well.
toril [toh REEL ], (noun) – broken piece; shard; particularly, a piece of shattered glass through which one can see refractions.
The fathrikedi made good on her promise and put me to sleep on the massage table. Some part of that was no doubt the greater world-weight of the colony, for the moment I laid my body down, I felt the sudden weariness in every muscle; but some part of it was certainly her skill, and she had it in full. Hers were gentle hands, and deft ones, and though I would have found her touch discomfiting in the past Kor had worn down my resistance to the touch that is, after all, encouraged so deliberately among us by our rules and our customs. A society that does not enshrine touch and give it proper context with names and traditions may claim to be one that has freed touch… but I suspect what it creates instead is the very opposite. Where there is too much freedom, there is also much anxiety about whether one is well and truly allowed what one yearns for. Fear dictates one’s actions, rather than license.
But I digress. I slept until dinner, which the proprietor brought with the faint song of the bells on the door.
“Have you a name for me yet?” the Decoration asked with bright eyes once the proprietor had withdrawn.
“I am thinking,” I said, and distributed the bowls and plates. When I would have risen to knock on the bedroom door, she placed her tail on the floor between my foot and my next step.
“Don’t,” she said. “They aren’t hungry yet. At least, not for this sort of food.”
“I would have thought exertion such as theirs would require fuel,” I said.
She laughed. “They are young, osulkedi. I assure you, they won’t notice.”
So she and I shared our part of the meal, and she ate with the same refinement of grace with which she moved. Truly, she was a pleasure to behold: the thought that she might abandon her hhaza was painful to contemplate.
“Do you truly feel as if you haven’t been living since the lord’s love?” I asked at last.
She looked at me over the rim of her bowl, tapered fingers tracing the cut edge of a pale yellow melon. And then she looked down with a faint frown. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I begin to wonder if… I have just… fallen in love. If in fact…” She stopped, lost in thought, then met my eyes. “If perhaps I have experienced, briefly, what you told me you felt for your wife.”
“The one, rare, perfect love,” I said, remembering our conversation.
“Yes,” she said, eyes lowered. “There is some guidance among fathriked about what to do in such a situation, but… it is rare. The personalities drawn to the caste are not usually the kind to form strong attachments.”
“What is the guidance then?” I asked, fascinated. The things I was learning about the castes on this errand!
“That such affairs rarely end well,” she admitted with a sigh. “We love, osulkedi, but we are rarely loved in return in the same way. And we are passed from hand to hand… even if we do have such a singular love, we are not always lucky enough to remain with the object of our passion.”
“And you fear it is so, with the lord,” I said, quiet. “You love him, and he feels for you, but not as you do. Not any longer.”
She sighed again, glum, and set the melon aside. “How humbling it is, Calligrapher… to know how much you need someone, and see how little they need you.”
“Humbling… and terrifying, I would think,” I said.
She smiled at me, tired. “How lucky you are to not know.”
I set my bowl down. “Haraa.”
“Pardon?” she said.
“Your name,” I said. “Haraa.”
She flushed at the ears and inclined her head. “If it pleases you, osulkedi.”
“It does,” I said. “And I hope it pleases the fathrikedi.”
She lowered her eyes. “You do me honor.”
“I speak what I see,” I said. And that is what I called her forever after: “Courage.”
That is how I came to pass the first dareleni without Kor: asleep on a divan with a fathrikedi for company. If the two lovers made any noises that should have darkened my sensitive ears, I did not hear them, and so exhausted was I that I did not even dream. There I would have stayed the night, in fact, had Shame not come for me at some hour, ancestors alone knew how late. I could not see him in the darkness, but I knew his fingertips when they trailed my cheek, and his breath when he kissed my brow, drawing me blearily from slumber.
“Come, ajzelin,” he murmured. “You need a real bed.”
“Ajan—” I mumbled.
“Has a duty to stand tonight, as usual,” Kor said, sliding an arm under mine and pulling me from the divan.
“Haraa,” I said, giving him a moment’s pause until she answered, her voice gentle.
“I am fine, osulkedi. Go rest.”
As we crossed the threshold into the bedroom, Kor murmured, “You named her Courage?”
“To love is an act of bravery,” I answered, eyes closed, and so I did not see his smile, but somehow I knew that he had.
And with that, I fell into a proper bed, one long enough to stretch my limbs, and Kor wrapped his dense, heavy arm around my torso and pulled me into him amid sheets that smelled of joyful exertion, and of family, and I knew then that I would never go back to living alone. The studio, the temple, our separate work, our possible lovers… all of it could be arranged, somehow. And would be.
Thirukedi was wise.
We are done now with the interpersonal stuff. Next episode, on to the plot! Such as it is!
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Mirrored from MCAH Online.