The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

mesiln [ meh SEELN ], (verb) -- to submit; a virtue. Everyone submits to someone or something in Kherishdar, and to do so with grace is admired.
      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 unattainable sky.
      "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 masirkedi 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 Civilization again."
      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