The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

osulkedi [noun] -- "minister"; highest rank in Public Servant caste, with few members. Osulked serve Thirukedi (the Emperor) directly, but this is not their distinguishing characteristic, as all Ai-Naidar may be called to serve Him. Osulked are known by their service to anyone in the Empire who asks, no matter their rank or their location. They are often sent by Thirukedi to different communities to offer their services, if it is perceived those communities need special aid.
      There is a special quality to the Guardians who ward the Emperor, so when the nakked swept into my studio my heart seized in my breast and my knees fell from beneath me. I was prostrate before they had finished spilling into the room, bringing their scent of weapon oil and leather with them.
      Into their perfect silence came the whisper of robes and the perfume of incense. Rolled silk hems slid over my hands where I held them outstretched before me on the wooden floor. As I waited, shaking, more people crowded into my little domain: six, ten, twelve, more... ancestors preserve!
      Rustle of robes... then long fingers smoothed through my hair and cupped my jaw, stealing my breath. I kept my eyes downcast as He lifted my face but could not still my shuddering. How often in one's life is one touched by the god of Civilization?
      "Good servant mine," Thirukedi said in the highest Implacable. "I have heard much about you."
      Shock stilled my trembling then.
      "Is he always so?" Thirukedi asked, a hint of gentle amusement in His voice.
      My liege-lord replied. "He serves Civilization, Thirukedi."
      "Look at me," Thirukedi said.
      Speechless at this honor, I looked on His face and found it lined with the work of centuries, with eyes both tender and somehow merry.
      "Is that so, then, Calligrapher?"
      "Yes, Thirukedi," I whispered.
      "It must be," Thirukedi said. "As you have served so well that even I have heard of your talents with pen... and truth."
      I swallowed and He smiled. "Speak your heart."
      "It is all that I long for," I said, stripping the grammars as He asked.
      "And would you be pleased, then, if you were asked to do it for all my Empire?"
      I almost swayed on my knees. At my wild glance, my lord smiled and said, "You are worthy. How could I keep you? Though I would be honored if you would maintain your residence here."
      "What say you, servant mine?"
      What could I say, save yes?
      The dye used to mark Thirukedi's servants is permanent, and poison. But I bowed my head to Him gladly and He painted me once on the nape of the neck, where only He may touch with impunity... and then, rather than the expected abstract design, He painted the signs of Empire on my hands.
      The fever came swiftly afterward, but it was His arms that cradled me until it broke... His arms where I slept.
      I was Farren Nai'Sheviet a'Neriethen-jakkedi: humblest member of my family Sheviet, Public Servant to Neriethen's regal Household and its district. Now I am Farren Nai'Sheviet-osulkedi, and my work belongs to all Ai-Naidar... to Kherishdar itself. I could want nothing else. I could be no one else.
      You and I shall meet again, aunerai. Until then, may you find the place where you belong.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth