M. C. A. Hogarth (haikujaguar) wrote,

Black Blossom Part 87: The Animals Nevermore

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 87
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth

      It was as if Kor read my mind. “He will never go home again.”
      I started, for I had forgotten him, so still had he been, and so silent.
      “His transformation is complete; he no longer has a place,” Kor continued. “The Emperor will find a use for him, but he will never call Kherishdar home again. He has taken too much of the alien into his heart.” He leaned back, then slowly, painfully rose from his knees and took the seat across from me. Pushing his hair from his face, he took a sip of my stone-cold tea and said, “But perhaps that will save us from precipitating a regrettable event.”
      “Thirukedi,” I began. “Surely He already knows…”
      “Surely He does,” Kor said. “But He must have His information from someone, Farren.”
      “I cannot imagine He does not already have eyes here,” I said, perturbed.
      “I know that He must,” Kor said. “But now He has access to someone who is part-alien in his heart. And if I don’t miss my guess… now He also has at least one alien who is part Ai-Naidari in hers.”
      “Lenore,” I murmured.
      “You should draw her,” he said. “And the male also.”
      “I have never drawn aliens,” I murmured, turning the saucer with nervous fingers.
      “You have drawn animals,” Kor said.
      When I lifted my eyes, I saw no humor in his. Nor, I realized, did I expect to. They had learned our tongue; they had fallen in love with one of us. And now they had saved Ajan’s life. Aunera—humanity—would never again be animals to the two of us. That has changed us… you have seen it, I am sure. My association with you, with the scribe who has set down this tale for me, and my other encounters with aunera in the future that was yet to come… all those things were difficult for me, and painful. But I have not regretted them. And for the years that you gave Kor with Ajan, and the family that was built on that foundation, I will always thank you. It is why I am here now, telling you how it began, why I reveal anything of Kherishdar at all.
      To make the gift of your heart is one thing. But it is entirely another to make the gift of another’s heart, to beat on for the decades that would otherwise have been denied it. To give that is to bow your head to the role of witness, and know that for all that you might love an Ai-Naidari with your alien heart, you will never be Ai-Naidari, to love an Ai-Naidari the way we do.
      This is the understanding with which I looked upon Lenore Serapis when she entered again with an exhausted Haraa trailing her. To know that she not only had accepted that she would always be an outsider, but that she could no more think of depriving us of one of our own than she could turn from a fellow aunerai. There was no room in her heart for bitterness when her choice might have selfishly taken that from someone else… and it had been her choice, for she had galvanized us all at a moment where moments were all that stood between Ajan’s living and his dying.
      “Shemena,” I said when she entered. “You have made us a great gift.”
      “Osulkedi,” she began, then halted, head hanging. Haraa paused also, looking at her with more concern than I would have thought her capable of, given all that Lenore had taken from her. Perhaps there was a pattern beginning here. At last, the aunerai finished, “Osulkedi, I could do nothing else.”
      “Yes,” I said. “I begin to understand.”
      “Did… did my caste-peer make everything well and straight?” she asked, stumbling after the words. I thought that perhaps her language was not as formal, but she acquitted herself well. Only in her fatigue did she reveal the strain of it.
      “He did,” I said. “He explained your brother’s role in the matter, and he and the lord and lady have come to an agreement.”
      “We will still go to the capital?” she said.
      “We will,” I said, glancing at Kor. “When… will Ajan be able to travel?”
      “Several days, perhaps,” she said. “He is strong and recuperating well. But if you wish him to be sent without a medical team insisting that they must accompany him… four or five days, certainly.”
      “So soon,” I murmured.
      “They were not difficult wounds to address,” Lenore said. “Only traumatic in Ai-Naidar, who… who never seem to stop bleeding, once they start.” She shuddered so hard that Haraa drew close… even touched her on the arm, shocking me. When Lenore did not object, the fathrikedi wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and this seemed to pacify the aunerai.
      Haraa met my eyes past Lenore’s downcast face. She lifted her brows, as if to say ‘it is how they are.’ I missed the significance of this at the time, aunera… but I shouldn’t have. It was the first, clear sign of our banaj, the one that indicated there was something more between us.
      “Come,” Haraa said to her. “Let’s go upstairs and wait for your companion.”
      “The lord is already there,” I added.
      Lenore nodded and let Haraa guide her away. I watched them go, and wondered if this was some new verse in the poem started by the lord, and how on the worlds I would make any sense of it. I gave thanks I was no poet to have to wrestle with it myself.
      “It is beginning,” Kor murmured against his arm, for his head had come to rest on it.
      “Or it is ending,” I said, eyes still on the stairwell.
      “It is all the same,” Kor said, eyes closing. “It is only we who see divisions and find significance in them, good or bad.”
      I slid my arm under his and dragged him off the chair. “But which is the bad? The beginning or the end?”
      He smiled a little, and I knew then that we would live through this without breaking. “Depends on who you ask.”
      “Priest!” I said as I helped him up the stairs and to our bed.
      “Artist,” he mumbled, still smiling.
      I went to bed, glad to lay my body down. But not before begging a sheet of paper and a lead from the proprietor. On that sheet I laid in the rough for a word. My plan at the time had been to transfer it to the block and finish it… but I never did. And that is as it should be. Yan exists in the Book of Truth and Flowers solely as a glitter of graphite, barely sketched, so light in places it lifts completely off the page that was provided to me by serendipity and another’s generosity. But that is the way with hope, isn’t it? When we grasp at it, it is as yet unrealized. And once a thing hoped for has come to pass, it is no longer the province of hope, but of gratitude.
     All we have of hope is a dream of the future… and the aunera had given us that.

***

avjz [ AHVJZ ], (noun) – Archaic: war

gevenz [ geh VEHNZ ], (noun) – jargon, Guardian: “deterrence.” Gevenz is listed as the first duty of the Guardian Caste in their teaching texts, though it is not discussed outside the caste.

***

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Tags: ai-naidar, black blossom, serial, writing
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