The Aphorisms of
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
"And so you have concerns," the
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
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?"
. I believe in
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