The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

DARE
dare [ DAWR eh ], (noun) . family; those related to an individual or under his/her protection as a family (important: this includes chosen-family as well as blood-family)
      "Help me," the historian said, and with those words absolved me of all our rules. I grabbed his elbows before he could collapse and gently steered him to the windowseat, where he crumpled and fell to sobbing. Startled, I cupped the back of his skull and held him. We were not close, the historian and I, but we knew one another from the intersections of our public services.
      "What happened?" I asked when he quieted.
      "My lover broke with me," he said, "whom I thought my beloved."
      I understood then. "Lie here. I will bring you tea."
      The historian sank onto the cushions. I brought him the tea; his hand found mine and we both knew great comfort in the touch, so rarely shared beween acquaintances, even when caste-equals.
      "Tell me," I said.
      And so he did, and the tale was as I suspected. Dallying within the caste was expected and went unremarked, unless the liaison produced family bonds: either in the form of children or in an adult's request to join their beloved's family. Sometimes such formalities sprang from our dalliances; mostly, they dissolved when convenient. The historian's heart had become entangled, but his lover's had not.
      When at last he was spent, I asked, "Why did you come here?"
      He closed his eyes. "I knew you would understand."
      I nodded and tucked a blanket over him. "Rest, then."
      While he slept in the sunlight, I sent a message and retired to my desk to resume working. For a time there was no sound save that of my art: the scratch of quill on parchment, the plangent drop of paint. But soon enough I heard high laughter in the distance, and I set aside my quill to wake the historian. He had just enough time to sit up and wipe his eyes before the children of our lord's House tumbled into the studio, followed by their caretaker for the day.
      "Here are the Calligrapher and the Family Historian," that worthy said. "They have offered to tell you stories this afternoon!"
      The historian glanced at me, wide-eyed, but then the children squealed with glee and arranged themselves around us, on us and against us. With a full lap, I said to him, "Perhaps you should begin."
      He stammered at first, but our lord chose him for a reason. He recovered well. His voice held them spellbound... tickled laughter from them and drew hushed gasps. It was well into the gloaming before the children were herded away, to return to the House and disperse there to their parents.
      I prepared fruit, cheese and tea. Over this light repast, the historian said, "Thank you."
      "I am sorry about your beloved," I said.
      He nodded. "So am I. But I didn't understand... I thought I wanted romance, when what I wanted was family. Without knowing that, I would have found sorrow in every tryst."
      "Romance is a spark," I said. "It kindles nothing without the wood of family."
      He smiled. "Paint that one for me."
      And I did.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth