The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

nalan [ nah LAWN ], (noun) -- influence; one's effect on others (conscious or not).
     "Eat, friend," the Physician said, ladling more broth into my bowl. "I don't need you joining the petitioners outside my clinic."
      I smiled and obeyed. Every week in winter the Physician brought his broth and I made tea, and we whiled away an afternoon in my studio. Half his reason was to escape his work for a time... the other half, as he forthrightly declared, was "to keep you from brooding. You spend too much time alone."
      Few people come to me in winter when they could be indoors with their families. It made me think too much of my own, living outside the city... and of my wife and daughter, both sped from me.
      With the Physician gone, I returned to my table. My list of pending commissions was blank... the only piece on my desk was a half-realized painting I had started for myself, which I now resumed. Snow was rare in winter, so the fields I painted were dull umber: the wan sun that illumined this landscape could put no sparkle in dew. I mixed a darker brown for the well-maintained fence alongside the fields, remembering it in every particular as my brush described the burls in the posts. Yellow ochre brought forth a dusty road, shadowed in lilacs made with the same cold blue I used for the sky.
      My studio door opened as I washed my fingers between water changes. I looked up and then stood swiftly so I could bow. My lord's heir stood on my threshold, accompanied by his cousin, whom I had advised earlier in the year.
      "Calligrapher," the heir said, smiling at me. "The day's greetings to you."
      "And you, my lord," I said, Abased. "How would you be served?"
      He glanced at his cousin and said, "We were just walking... I thought I'd stop and see the art." Remembering his duties, he added, "And your accounting."
      Hiding a smile, I bowed and said, "The books will be set out for you."
      The two made a show of going over my records before turning with more relish to the sample art. Assured that they did not need my attention and warmed by their presence, I returned to my painting.
      I felt the heir's gaze sometime later.
      "It's beautiful," he said. "Is it ours?"
      I nodded. "The fields in our district, where I grew up."
      He watched me paint a little longer, then said, "May I have it?" He blushed. "You can refuse."
      "No," I said, flattered. "All that is mine is yours."
      He nodded. And then, "There are no people in it...?"
      Surprised, for I hadn't noticed, I said, "An oversight. I will rectify it."
      The following day I sent the finished piece before closing the studio and heading for the nearest cafe. The Physician was right. I spent too much time alone. An Ai-Naidari is only as important as what he shares with others.
      I didn't stop to write that one down. It would keep.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth