The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth


ishas [ EES haas ], (noun) . spirit; very specifically, your ishas is what defines your caste and rank no matter caste and rank you're born to. This is your social identity (which for the Ai-Naidar is inextricable from your personality and who you are). On a very real level, you simply are your ishas.
      "It is almost that time again," the physician said in the easy grammar of caste-equals. "Are you concerned?"
     I turned the tea bowl in my long fingers. Such a personal question, and yet we had been taking tea together for seven years now, the physician and I. Never before had he asked. "I believe in Civilization," I said.
     He smiled. "I would have said the same. But fewer Ai-Naidar wish to become public servant physicians, than wish to become public servant artists. You are more likely to have..." He hesitated and finished delicately, "changes."
     "Competition," I said, saying the rude word he hadn't. "Several promising artists have completed their education this spring."
     "And so you have concerns," the physician said.
     I bowed my head, fingers cold against the fine porcelain bowl. "I believe in Civilization."
     We repaired to our residences. With the fullness of summer, the dye that marked each of us as our liegelord's faded. All those who belonged to him, from the lowest servant to the heir, returned to him to be marked... save the public servants chosen to heal and minister to all those beneath his aegis. We alone waited in cold uncertainty for him to judge whether we would continue to serve his people or whether someone else would fulfill that need.
     Anyone can be an artist. Ai-Naidar frequently go through the training merely for the edification. But to be a public servant artist... that requires more. If my liegelord turned me away, I could not stay in the city. I would have to go, find a new lord whose people needed a calligrapher, though the going would rip me from my family, my roots. Such a hideous choice: it illumined why Kherishdar minimized such choices.
     I had seen the work of some of the new artists. It was superb. I did not think of being supplanted; I thought of nothing. But on my window-seat, in the warmth of the sunlight, I trembled.
     So far into that fugue was I that his coming surprised me. As his Guardians spilled into the room I stumbled to my feet and from there to my knees and fingers. When he spoke, it was as if he heard the cry in my heart that I had not uttered, for that it was for him to speak first.
     "Of course I came." His smile was gentle as he lifted my face. "Did you doubt?"
     "Masuredi," I whispered--liegelord--"oh, Masuredi. I believe in Civilization."
     "Your ishas shines in every scroll you write," he said. One of his servants brought him the shadowflower dye. "So long as I am masirkedi, you will serve my people."
     He painted me with his ribbons, and I wept for joy, as I always did to be recognized. And after he left I whispered with the ink of my tears: True civilization recognizes each individual's soul... and places them where they belong.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth