The Book of Truth and Flowers is a bound Ai-Naidari collection of calligraphic art painted by Farren Nai'Sheviet-osulkedi, the Calligrapher, during the events in the novel Black Blossom. In total, they number thirteen, and are each comprised of a single Ai-Naidari word with embellishment appropriate to the word's meaning and also hinting at the trials the Calligrapher and Shame were enduring. The following are descriptions of each as rendered in the text. There are spoilers here, of varying degrees. Read at your own risk!
Qet (BB Part 21)Edit
qet [ KEHT ], (noun) responsibility-defenselessness; quality describing the social duty one one has to another person based on your responsibility to them and how defenseless they are.
It was my intent merely to write the word in the center, as I often do: decorative, certainly, with illuminated capital, using color to reflect meaning. But as I sketched out the letters, the honeyfletch crept into the drawing, crawling into the letters and filling their bodies with bright cadmium yellows and orpiment. And I found the aunerai flower also, like a poison, curving in a long arc around the word's beginning, framing it with vine black and madder lake: as I felt it framing our errand here, mysterious and compelling, drawing all attention to itself. It issued from nowhere: not from off the edge of the page, suggesting some origin, but evanescing from somewhere beneath the calligraphy... and so I painted my confusion and unease into the piece along with all the intentional things.
But really, very little of that painting was intentional. I question whether even the word I chose was my doing, or if it was whispered in my ear by some benign ancestor, guiding my path.
So, of the many words I painted for The Book, the first is the simplest and to me, the most ominous. I knew it even as I created it, leaning over the paper, tapping out the powdered gold and applying it to the edges of the honeyfletch flowers until the sunlight reflected in their painted veins dazzled my eyes.
Maien (BB Part 25)Edit
maien [ ], (noun) that which creates soul-sickness; a concept, an idea, a thought that, when contemplated, promotes alienation and twisted feelings; it inspires bad thoughts that themselves take root and become breeders of more soul-sickness.
I thought of the kitchen staff as I went to work on my painting. I thought of taint, of how it felt within this house. I ruled the paper, bending close, feeling the texture of it beneath my fingertips and the point of my pencil. My understanding of the situation was so diffuse yet... I traced in some blade-brambles amid the letters, but I kept them understated, not yet choking the word but making promises.
I wasted no time in painting it; my vow to Shame had left me little time to contemplate each of these words before embarking on them, and looking back on them now I feel that urgency in each work, a paring away of nonessentials, a grasping for the heart of the thing. I splashed down a gray wash tinted with rust and blood-browns, just hints in the dark, scattered the surface liberally with salt, and let the water bloom where it would... and as it dried, I pricked forth the letters with a second brush, coaxing the water to gather in the right places, until the word itself seemed formed of the mist... just the faintest coalescing out of it. The brambles received the same treatment, save for their blades; the narrow silver thorns for which the plant is named, those I gave bright edges here and there, like the sight of a wet knife in a flash of sunlight.
On impulse, I added, dark and crisp, a few faded petals of the black aunerai flower.
Esar (BB Part 27)Edit
So the word was esar, but its focus for me was the dangers of its shadow, and without consultation of any of the more rational parts of my mind I embarked on a rather ambitious project for the hours I had, and drew the word twice; once the correct way, and once upside down as a cast shadow. Except that it was the cast-shadow that I painted in colors of light and brightness, and the word itself that I painted in murky tints: umber and carbon black and a touch of verdigris, not just to add a depth to the gray I was building, but also because I knew that as the years passed the pigment would fade, eventually growing brown, and then black. ...
Once I finished the grays I flipped the painting and went to work on the brightness, adding hints of faces in the letters: because esar is inescapably about one's effect on people. I gave them smiles, touched with vermilion, like the blush of healthy flesh, and when I was done one could just barely see them if one looked. Then, on impulse, I flipped the painting again and did the same to the shadows, adding the suggestion of dejected or uncertain silhouettes.
When I had finished all this, I found my pencil and drew in a spiral fall of cloudsbreath petals, starting above the word and twining around the reflection, and where they neared and occluded the shadowed esar they were brittle and old and dry, and as they rejoined the sun they grew pale and healthy, veined in green.
Shemailn (BB Part 33)Edit
(Described by Kor in response to Farren asking what the painting told him about the Calligrapher's grief.)
shemailn [ ], (noun) preciousness; treasure; rarity.
"You choose the word for a rarity, but you didn't paint the word. You painted a floor of flowers around it, leaving it the white of the page. And the flowers you chose were sovereigns."
"So they were," I murmured.
"Pale sovereigns," he said. "As if they had already begun to wilt. A flower used for temple festivals celebrating youth and newness, grown old and indistinct, like memories, and unspoken, unpainted, shemailn, visible among them only by its absence."
"guilt" (BB Part 37)Edit
No word is specified for this painting, though as far as the readers know, it is the only one that has a title.
I am not accustomed to thinking of myself as a violent man, but to this day the painting I made in a few moments of frustration and fear remain a reflection of the tumult that lies hidden in every individual, awaiting only the proper impetus to surface.
as a splash of black ink, mottled with spray from a flashing brush, through which I dragged my small, pointed claws. The gouges broke furrows in the paper; where the ink was still wet it filled them with shadows, and where it wasn't, the paper showed white as bone, fibers frayed like violated skin.
I did not write on this piece, or sign it, or even look at it again while we abided in the House of Flowers. But much later, when I was organizing the calligraphies I completed in Qenain, I found Kor's stark, precise handwriting in one corner.
He had titled it "Guilt."
I call it "Failure." But only in my mind, where he cannot correct me.
Evrul (BB Part 42)Edit
evrul [ EH vrool ] , (verb) to assign blame and innocence to the proper parties; to correctly place people in the roles of victim, perpetrator, bystander and abettor.
I had painted a city street in a long strip from one side of the page to the other. On one half of the painting, I had used no black: the city was all golden light and shadows in lilac and mauve, with bright pale greens for the trees, speckled with pink and white highlights and deepening to blues and purples in the shade. Everything there was sunlit and brilliant and full of color.
On the other side, I had used shades of gray, sucking the life and power out of the buildings, fading them into memories and fever visions, raddled with regret and melancholy.
The division between these was the word evrul: to judge, to assign blame and innocence correctly. I had written it vertically in gold leaf, lined in black and edged it, gruesomely, in the little white blooms of the citrus fruit used for the ceremony of false witness.
Agathe (BB Part 48)Edit
agathe [ ], (noun) the feelings that arise in response to gaul; the tearing grief and guilt and paralysis of knowing that the fulfillment of one duty causes one to fail in another.
I sheared the word at its center, one half of it higher than the other and the cut as sharp as a razor, painted, in fact along the edge of a metal rule. The word I colored in aching scarlet lake, evoking the translucence of blood, and carefully masked the letters so that I could smear orange into the red before it dried; orange, and the white one sees when blinded by a blow. And all this I darkened toward the cut in the center, so that the hole between the halves was implied: the oubliette of despair and tension into which we are condemned by gaul. ...
When I had finished the letters, I painstakingly cut a reverse mask to protect them and painted a gray radiance from the shear, as if the hole there could shine like a bleak star, drawing all light and will into it. I thought I was done then, but lifting my head I espied the vase of silver irises behind the chair where the Observer had sat… and so I added one to the picture, divesting it of two petals on the lower right, for the unease that asymmetry creates. This I drew over the summit of the word.
Henej (BB Part 55)Edit
henej [ heh NEHJZ ], (verb) to reject, violently. Originally medical terminology, used to describe the body's violent expulsion of toxic/poisonous material.
As I petted the paper, my thoughts returned to the lady, to my Correction only partially completed… to the lord’s flight. To the distress of Qenain. I felt it piercingly, that distress. And setting my jaw, I took up my vial of black ink and spilled it on the page, letting it bloom in the tooth, spreading in unexpected patterns. As it glistered, I took up my pen and drew the ink down out of the clot it had formed on the page, and used it to form the letters of the word henej. Henej: to reject, as the body does poison, violently, powerless to stop it. As all Qenain now struggled to vomit up the taint, so the ink ran into what space it could, escaped from the vial, beyond my control save to make of it what I could when it finished.
... Staring at it, some premonition moved me to add one more motif: again, pulling a touch of ink from its spill, I suggested a petal of the black blossom.
Qil (BB Part 63)Edit
qil [ KEEL ], (adjective), pure; clean; unstained.
So I painted, in weak greens and silvers and grays and splashes of unsettled pale brown, thin as veils, so many washes. I painted flowers first, and no words, because there were no words in my head. I let the painting lead me… I believed him when he said there was an answer in it.
When I was done, I had a word. Qil: pure. Clean. Unstained.
It sat on the messiest ground I had ever painted, a thing of chaos, as if I had spilled paint and tea and left it in rings and spatters on a used table.
Shul (BB Part 75)Edit
shul [ shool ], (noun) - change, personal change; the kind of interior epiphany or decision or revelation that changes a life
But I painted shul.
Change. Personal change. The kind of change that a paisathi creates, the breaking, shattering, world-upending sort, that can mean everything to a single person and yet not make any sense to anyone else. A small thing. An ending and beginning thing, inside the self. Shul. Shul. The sound of breaking pots. And I would like to say that I made a great thing of it, that I drew some beautiful masterwork. And indeed I planned it so… but what I ended up doing was… writing the word. My own handwriting, without ornament, without color. Black on cream parchment, spattered with water that fell in beads from my eyes as I bent close.
Ukulij (BB Part 80)Edit
(Painted by Kor acting as Calligrapher for the evening's dareleni)
ukulij [ oo koo LEEJZ ], (noun) - the concept that society/civilization requires refinement/paring away of things that no longer serve it
The word Kor had chosen, then, was ukulij, and he had painstakingly written it in his blood. Let it not be said that he had no sense of artistry, either, for he wrote it much as he had some of his own notes in his journal… long past when the ink of his blood was opaque, so that the letters seemed to be seen through the eyes of someone on the verge of fainting, fading in and out of consciousness.
Yan (BB Part 87)Edit
yan [ YAHN ], (noun) - hope.
I went to bed, glad to lay my body down. But not before begging a sheet of paper and a lead from the proprietor. On that sheet I laid in the rough for a word. My plan at the time had been to transfer it to the block and finish it… but I never did. And that is as it should be. Yan exists in the Book of Truth and Flowers solely as a glitter of graphite, barely sketched, so light in places it lifts completely off the page that was provided to me by serendipity and another’s generosity.
Paisath (BB Part 90)Edit
paisathi [ pah ee SAH thee ], (noun) when an inevitability comes into life, brought there by changes your spirit requires to grow.
I painted flowers, ornate and delicate and lovely, peach and pink and silvery gray, lavender and yellow faint as dawn. I painted sorrow-nots and sovereigns and cloudsbreath, honeyfletch and brightsheaves, lilies and pansies. I painted blossoms that herald youth and those that honor death and all the flowers that celebrate our paisath in between.
I painted them around a vacuum in the center of the page, and left the center blank.