The Aphorisms of
aunera [ au NEH rah ], (noun): Both a color--emerald green,
very lush and deep, with a slight tint of blue--and anything or anyone
alien, from people and worlds to emotions and thoughts (though more rarely
used for the latter).
"Our lord said I should have you
paint something for me, that you should choose," the man said, moving from
one display to the next with a brash energy that married not at all with
our attenuated limbs. I did my best not to stare at him, for he spoke
without any caste markers at all: my caste was obvious with my studio in
the Public Servant's area, so I typically relied on my visitors to tell me
my place by their speech.
He rambled on as he examined my work
samples. "Such harmonious art, ah! I have been in aunerai
a year now, managing our lord's business. I have not seen such works in
too long. You understand."
At last I did, yes. One year among
--would certainly be sufficient to strip any of us of
refinement. And if he was of sufficient status to negotiate with
out-worlders, then he was kin to my liegelord, and a noble. Now that I
could speak without impropriety, I said, Abased, "A work will be created
for you... you need only specify when it should be ready."
"Delightful, thank you," the man
said. He closed his eyes and pressed his fingers to his brow. "Oh, I have
been doing this wrong, I'm sorry. I forget. You know the aunera
have no castes? It's so hard to tell how to be polite to any of them, or
where you belong."
"It cannot be imagined," I said,
meaning it. "It must have been very difficult not to give offense."
"And they take offense at the
strangest things," the man said, now speaking properly. "Is a week enough
time?" He fidgeted; apparently being among aliens had also shattered his
body-calm. I could not help but pity him. "If not in a week... well, it
can be sent through the Gates, perhaps."
"You shall have it in a week," I
promised, and he left after bidding me an irregular farewell... for what
noble needs to take leave of a mere public servant? Truly, the aliens had
inculcated bizarre habits in him. I knew then exactly what he must have.
Setting aside all other projects, I
cut the largest parchment I could find, set out the most expensive and
delicate of my paints. There on the client table, the only space large
enough, I painstakingly drew the entire heirarchy of Kherishdar... from
the most rarified of beings, Thirukedi, emperor and god, to the lowest of
the low, the umudked caste-rank created specifically so that no one need
be born at the bottom of the tree. I painted the dozens of caste-ranks in
their specified colors, from top to bottom; I traced the Wall of Birth
that separated the nobles and regals from the rest of us in gold leaf.
And then, in broad letters across
the top I wrote the truth of Kherishdar:
Treat gently with each and every
Ai-Naidari, for ever there is one born below you... and one above.
Previous | Next
© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth