The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

sasrith [ sahs REETH ], (noun) -- favors promised to balance a small trouble or debt: the word is often extended to refer to the token used to denote that favor; righting imbalances in the social give-and-take is part of hasmera.
      I did not visit the physician until after notice of the widespread sickness's passing had been posted. That day I found him in the clinic yard, standing silently over his ravaged garden. Stunned, I joined him in surveying the ruin.
      "Your plants!" I said.
      "Served us well," he said, "for every one of them went toward healing the sick. I can mourn none of them... save the maiden's mantle." He looked toward a row of burnt vines with regret. "They are shade-lovers, and harvesting the others exposed them. The herbs I can replant from our lord's seed stores... but the maiden's mantles were a gift, for beauty only, and rare."
      That afternoon I thought of flowers and a commission I'd done several months past. In the bowl I kept for gifts I found the octagonal sasthrithi left by House Qenain's head. My living expenses were paid by my lord from the transaction taxes gathered in the district, but any gifts or tips were mine to use as I saw fit. With token in hand I closed my studio and took myself to Qenain, where the sasrithi earned me an audience with that lord. Qenain's business was botanical: plants grown for medicine mostly, but also for art. They had come to me for a chart of uncommon flowers suitable for art arrangements, and I vividly remembered painting the physician's favorite among the other second- and third-world cultivars. The sasrithi had been a generous tip from a client well-pleased by my efforts.
      "Maiden's mantle seeds!" the lord said, once I explained the favor I sought. "Exotic tastes, for a calligrapher."
      "They are not for me," I said, "But for the physician, whose garden lies denuded after the recent trouble. He can reseed the herbs, but..."
      The lord said, "I will take care of it."
      I set the token between us, as I was not of sufficient status to touch him. "Then I count this favor well-discharged."
      The next morning found the physician on my doorstep, flustered but smiling. "Well, you might as well come with me to breakfast, as it is your doing that I cannot enter my own clinic for the servants cluttering it."
      "Servants?" I asked.
      "Replanting my entire garden with live plants," the physician exclaimed. "Live plants... do you have any notion the expense? I was only planning to reseed the beds. And they are overseen by Qenain himself... who claims he is there at your behest!"
      "And your maiden's mantle?" I asked.
      "Enough and to spare, and other decorative flowers to boot," he said. "Imagine! Flowers!"
      There was a wonder and a gladness on him that belied his careless words. I smiled. "There is a poet reciting today near the cafe you like with the sweet rice and melon."
      "Say no more," he said. "I am entirely at your--and the sweet rice's--disposal."
      I laughed and closed the studio, leaving behind the aphorism I'd been working on: An Ai-Naidari is only as strong as his community.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth