The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

AUNERA
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 lands for 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 aliens--aunera--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.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth