The Aphorisms of
nalureth [ nah lure EHTH], (noun) . emotional capacity;
the individual ability to cope with, stretch, give or handle emotional
situations, carrying with it the understanding that each person's is
different. Emotional health is measured in a person's nalureth.
The Winter Tryst consumes us all.
Once a year, from sunrise until sunrise,
we shed rank and custom. We wear no House sigils, no caste-marks, no
identifying colors. We strip our speech and don our masks, and even the
cold is complicit in our celebration, for it inspires the layers of our
enigmatic costumes. To the parks we fly, gaily-clad or somber, outrageous
in our anonymity. And there we mingle, we dance... and we couple beneath
the trees, hoping for Winter's children to enrich our families.
It had been years since I attended a
Winter Tryst, but the gift of the mask compelled me. Early in the evening
I found myself in one of the city's parks beneath the colored lanterns.
"Dance with me," a woman whispered, and
obedient, I followed.
All dances' moves and allowed touches are
codified, and the Tryst's are no exception. They are also salacious in the
extreme, all the more for never knowing whose hand flowed over one's
wrist, whose tail flicked against one's ankle, whose fingers trailed over
one's waist. Farmer, merchant, servant and Servant, guardian and noble...
anyone might be one's partner.
And yet that was not why I turned down the
first invitation to lie beneath the trees.
Nor the second.
The night empurpled and I danced until
winded, and still I could not follow the others, nor understand the tangle
of feelings that prevented me. All I knew was that when at last I came to
a halt, I missed my wife and my daughter more than any breath I labored to
draw from the winter air.
I turned my head enough to see an
androgynous figure, narrow as a spear. "I am done with dancing," I said.
"And with the Tryst?"
"And with the Tryst," I said.
"Why do I hear a sigh in your voice, my
I bowed my head. "I came intending to make
the gift, and I withheld it."
The stranger stepped up to my side, close,
very close, and followed my gaze to the revelers. "Did you dance?"
"The dance is the smallest part of this,"
The other laughed. "Yes. Do you know the
"--are only the end. They are not the
I glanced at my companion and saw nothing
but glitter-white paint and feathers. As if sensing my gaze, the masked
countenance turned toward me. "This," the other finished, "is the reason,"
and drew me into silk-draped arms.
I heard the swift tattoo of another
Ai-Naidari's heart, felt the sough of life's breath against my bare neck,
brushed the living warmth of another body fleetingly, oh fleetingly.
"Now," my companion said, stepping away,
"you have made the gift."
I hesitated, shaken, and the other touched
me on the ceramic surface of the mask. "Do not be ashamed of what you
give, if it is given freely."
Even one gifted in aphorisms can be
taught. I kissed those fingers and bowed, and wished I could have sought
the trees with such a fair spirit.
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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth