The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

diqed [ DEE kehd ], (noun) (singular: diqedi): mentor; one who can no longer perform all the duties of his/her caste-rank and is now primarily engaged in aiding others to perfect their own understanding of their duties. Often a role that falls to the elderly or disabled, but can sometimes land on one who is very good at teaching.
      I was sitting on the bench outside my studio door when a passing pedestrian brought the Guardian to me. I thanked her and helped him sit, moved by the feel of his corded arm beneath his sleeve. I would not normally touch a Guardian, but this particular male invoked an Exception: he was burned from cheek to knee on one side, with one hand transformed into a wasted claw and his knee poorly healed.
      "Thank you," he said politely, Abased.
      I dispensed with the formal grammars and sat beside him. "It is as nothing. Was it me you sought?"
      "If you are the Calligrapher?"
      I nodded.
      He blew out a breath. "Ah, then I would put a riddle before you."
      "Speak, friend."
      "An accident," he said, nodding toward his arm. "Alas, I did not receive this burn in defense of my lord... but rather by being beneath a vat of lye when it spilled. Now I retire from his side to teach his other Guardians what I know."
      "Once a son of Saresh, always a son of Saresh," I quoted.
      The burns had unbalanced his smile, but his laugh was a good one. "Just so. In anger, my lord ordered the entire run of paper bathed in that lye burned, and gave me a gift of rather more paper than I know what to do with. You are a man of the pen. What do I do with several boxes of paper?"
      I leaned back; together we enjoyed the late summer breeze in silence.
      "You must keep a third for yourself," I said presently. "To write what you have learned, to make it easier to teach."
      He nodded.
      "One third you should give to the House that trained you..."
      "Eredaeth," he supplied.
      "To Eredaeth, for their own teaching and record-keeping," I said. "And the last third, to the temple of Saresh. Priests are never done with paper."
      His rough face relaxed. "Ah, that is well-advised, Calligrapher. I thank you."
      "It is my pleasure," I said. "May I help you out of district?"
      "If it is not much trouble," he said, "I think I shall sit here in the sun for a time."
      "If it is not much trouble," I said, "I would remain with you."
      And so we did.
      A week later, he returned on the arm of a Guardian wearing the same House sigil. "For you," he said, passing me a red paper lantern with temple token dependent. "And if it pleases you, I would have you help me with my teaching book."
      "It does," I said, bowing. "And I thank you."
      I hung the lantern outside my studio with respect: who did not value the work of Saresh's sons, the Guardian caste? They guarded our streets, our borders and our lords. Inside, I sat and began work on the frontispiece for the Guardian's book. In blood-scarlet and silver leaf, I wrote: When the tree no longer bears fruit, rest beneath its shade and take grafts of its flesh.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth