The Aphorisms of
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
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
"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
I set the token between us, as I was
not of sufficient status to touch him. "Then I count this favor
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
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