The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

AISIM
aisim [ eye SEEM ], (noun) -- value; only applies to people. In this case, a person's worth, as measured by the things important to Ai-Naidar: the size of their family, their contribution to society and how well they fulfill their ishas.
      The merchant family spilled into my studio, rife with laughter and excitement, adults, children, elders... so many I was hard put to count them. They were weavers by their elegant garments and so from out-district, for no weavers worked beneath my lord's aegis. I wondered at their arrival until a pregnant woman and her gladsome husband approached me.
      "How may I serve?" I asked, smiling.
      The male bowed. "There is hope that there might be enough nemet slips for thirty-odd people, Calligrapher."
      I laughed. "Oh, yes," and went for the bowl. The game was tradition: one virtue was written on each folded paper slip, and all those old enough to undertake childcare drew one to see what fate decreed they would teach the newcome baby. While some families created their nemet slips, it was customary for Public Servants who worked with paper to have a set available.
      I handed the bowl to the woman; while she passed it among her family I turned to the man nearest me, holding a curious baby.
      "May I?" I asked.
      "Gladly," he said, absolving me of any accidental touch error.
      I reached first; he transferred the child to me, and with that warmth against my chest I watched the merchants crow over their results. The eldest, drawing "love," sighed and shook her head as the others laughed: "Advice to cool unwonted ardor!" The two youngest, twins determined to have adult duties, drew "life wisdom," causing identical looks of dismay: "You can figure that out together," an uncle said.
      They were discussing the results when the door opened a final time for a reed of a girl in shimmering layers of rose gossamer: their work, from their pride, and one of their regals, from their silent deference.
      "I am Adalia sul'Matir-masirkedi," she said, naming herself the heir to a district across the city. Her servant, who'd followed her inside, offered me five favor tokens dangling from a cord. "Thank you for the game," she said.
      I bowed to her and said, Abased, "There is no charge for it, masirkedi."
      She smiled, bright and sudden, all the way to her gray eyes. "So I thought. This is for your lord. I would like to commission a Book of Precedents for this family."
      Gasps rippled through the merchants. There were rules for which of my services each caste was allowed to request without special dispensation... but even if they'd thought of it, this family probably could not have afforded the cross-district fee for something so expensive. Merchants tended to commission one utilitarian copy of their Book as a house reference. Their regal's gift would be a priceless family heirloom.
      She turned to them and said, "You have served my family and the city well for generations." And bowed.
      They returned her bow, deeper.
      After they'd left, the warmth of the baby persisted in my arms. I wondered what her unborn peer would add to Kherishdar.... for all Ai-Naidar exist to have value. I kissed my calluses and returned to the work that served my lord.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth