The Aphorisms of
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
"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
"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
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
," 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
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