The Aphorisms of
mesiln [ meh SEELN ], (verb) -- to submit; a virtue. Everyone
submits to someone or something in Kherishdar, and to do so with grace is
There is only one Bleak in all of
Kherishdar and I had no desire to see it... but my lord required my
presence, and so I accompanied his entourage into the bucolic loveliness
surrounding the capital. Half a day later we stood in a brooding hall with
the facade of a temple and the mien of a graveyard: not inappropriate for
the last place an Ai-Naidari can go in this life to atone for faults so
egregious her only recourse is to be broken. Every whisper of our robes
returned to us as mocking echoes; the room was without decoration, no
arrases, no paintings, no statues or rugs. Only cold, dark gray stone,
lonely and impersonal, with a ceiling so high it emphasized the
"I have come as I said," my lord said to a
somber Guardian, who bowed deep and withdrew.
I waited with growing anticipation. There
were few reasons any lord came to the Bleak, and since we'd brought no
prisoners it was likely that I was about to serve as formal witness to one
of the most transcendent redemptions in Kherishdar. When the Guardian
returned, one of his fellows held a great, narrow book bound in
silver-stamped leather. The group parted to reveal a woman in nondescript
shirt and trousers, her hands bound with white cord. She kneeled before my
lord... slowly, so slowly. She was several years my junior, but her body
knew no language anymore save grief.
Silence then, in that great hall. Then my
lord's words, soft but carrying. "Do you have a name?"
Her voice was gray with sorrow, Abased
almost to negation. "If there was a name, it would be cursed and buried."
Her ears were flat, her tail limp against the stone. "What the
sees is without form."
"Speak freely. Would you return now to the
society that what-you-were once forsook?"
Her thin shoulders trembled. "Please," she
whispered. "Oh, please. Take me, masirkedi
. I will serve
My lord took the knife one of the
Guardians offered and sliced the cords around her wrist. "Then I will make
you mine. Rise."
As she stood, he continued, "You will
begin as one of my household servants. As is the law, in a year I will
evaluate your ishas
and see you placed where you belong."
She bowed low, shaking. "Thank you, thank
you. Oh thank you."
So it was that my signature was set on the
great book as witness to the redemption of this singular soul. On the way
back to the capital I watched her attend my lord and thought of the
kindness of the empire, to give such a criminal another life. She would
have to bow her head to all the law, the defiance of which had seen her
sent to the Bleak... but who among us did not?
"Paint her something," my lord said. Two
days later, I sent a wooden pendant with a single word: Submit
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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth