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 75
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth
Kor was fond of his dramatic comments, but even for him the last one was egregious. We had no sooner settled the lord of Qenain in the tea-house under Ajan’s watchful eye than I cornered him in our bed-chamber. “What did you mean by it? That you didn’t expect it? You can’t be serious!”
He was seated on the edge of the bed, much as he had been the night before. Had my sensibilities been less outraged by his revelation I might have paid more attention to the fact that he was not taking off his shoes, as he had been then, nor beginning to undress… but rather just sitting there. Perhaps I might have been forgiven for not noticing such a small, crucial detail in those days before living side-by-side with Shame honed my powers of observation. It does not seem such a small detail in retrospect.
“Farren,” Kor began.
“They are aliens,” I said.
“They are alien people,” he said, horribly distorting our language just to put the notion into words.
“They are alien aliens,” I said, and the memory of the female’s anguish spurred me. It had to be true that they were entirely different from us, or what had we done? “They are not Ai-Naidar—”
“—on that we are agreed,” Kor said.
“—but they are not people!” I finished. When he did not speak, I said, “Kor. You are Kherishdar’s SHAME.”
“…and I just separated a man from the loves of his life, possibly for the balance of it,” Kor said, voice as sharp as a slap.
I’ve lived with him for decades, aunera, and I still don’t know how he does that with his voice.
I stared at him in shock, finally seeing him… seeing the way he was sitting, the dejection, the exhaustion.
“Farren,” Kor said. “Please. If you will not try to understand, then leave me alone.”
I drew myself up, every limb aching. And then took myself out. But before I left, I stopped at the door and said, “I’m sorry.”
And then I found myself in the antechamber. The very empty antechamber. Ajan was across the hall standing guard in the lord’s room, and Haraa… was not here. No doubt she too was in the lord’s chamber, though what she thought she might accomplish there I could not guess. Nothing, I thought… save to offer him the balm of a familiar presence.
Couriers are swift, and have their own lanes on roads so that they might travel unimpeded. Even so, a message to the capital and back… we might be here several days. Several days in this unforgiving atmosphere under this too-bright sun and on this heavy soil; several days in this oppressive melancholy, with the lord drooping like one of his own flowers, parched, and all the rest of my companions distrait. Truly, Qenain’s maien had taken us all.
The thought would have made me angry a few days previously. On this evening, all I could do was look at the barren sitting room and feel acutely my loneliness, and the emptiness of the coming hours.
So I did the only thing I could, that I knew how to do.
You wonder, perhaps, that I could paint. In truth, it hurt. It hurt my wrists and the fine little bones in my fingertips, and the joints where they bent, holding the brush. It hurt my eyes, which blurred with wetness that I refused to notice, but which I knew the secret name of anyway. It hurt my heart, which did not want to speak through the ink.
But the hand, the eye, and the heart are yoked in an artist. When one is invoked, the others follow, unless something is desperately, fatally wrong. Since it was inevitable, I surrendered; I took up a brush, and with that committed to the examination of a distressed spirit. By the end of it, I had salted the paper with my tears, and the brush had worked the dilution into the art.
So many words I could have chosen. Grief. Regret. Oppression. Taint, again, now that I understood it better.
But I painted shul.
Change. Personal change. The kind of change that a paisathi creates, the breaking, shattering, world-upending sort, that can mean everything to a single person and yet not make any sense to anyone else. A small thing. An ending and beginning thing, inside the self. Shul. Shul. The sound of breaking pots. And I would like to say that I made a great thing of it, that I drew some beautiful masterwork. And indeed I planned it so… but what I ended up doing was… writing the word. My own handwriting, without ornament, without color. Black on cream parchment, spattered with water that fell in beads from my eyes as I bent close.
Shul. I put my head down on the table when I was done, and knew nothing more but the smell of the ink and the salt… and my own confusion at feeling so undone. So completely undone.
The next awareness I had was of Kor’s hand on my shoulder, and very swiftly after that, the ache of my body; I was kneeling on the ground before the low table where I’d been at work, a pose I had not felt while in my artist’s fugue but that I now felt in every groaning joint. I lifted my head; he had sat on the divan behind me and was staring past me at the page.
“So,” he said. “You understand.”
“No,” I said. “No, I do not. And Kor… it frightens me.”
“It does me as well,” he said, and drew me into his arms. I tucked my head against his chest and felt his hand on my hair, and there we abided for some time.
This conversation is not done yet.
We have the opportunity for a Wednesday episode this week, but not a Friday since I’ll be out of town. So if donations appear, we’ll get to see what I think is one of the most leading conversations in the book…!
As usual, you can vote for us on Top Web Fiction here. People do find us that way!
Mirrored from MCAH Online.