méshválar: (from mésh, a tile or plaque, and válaras, name, itself from val, personal pronoun, and laras, word); a name-tile.
The origin of the name-tile is in the simple courtesy of not bringing moisture or road-dust into the home. Imperial houses are normally constructed with a caráhan, an entry room, which serves the purpose of containing outside dirt and providing space for visitors to prepare themselves to enter the house proper, as well as for requesting permission to enter the house proper from its hearthmistress or her proxy. Such a room therefore often contains amenities such as a small fountain for personal refreshment and cupboards or chests for visitors’ shoes, travel clothing, etc., that they do not wish to bring with them into the home, as well as the traditional welcoming display.
The méshválar, a thin porcelain tile bearing its owners name and sigil, serves two purposes connected with this room:
For visitors, the méshválar is placed upon the cupboard or chest in which they have placed their effects, signifying their ownership of the contents. In some caráhan, associated with commercial buildings rather than homes, these containers lock, and once the key has been withdrawn, the méshválar is placed specifically over the lock, but this would not be seen in a private home. The strength of the custom is more than sufficient to guarantee privacy; indeed, should a guest depart without being able to collect their effects, it is usual to ship the entire chest, unopened, to their home.
Meanwhile, when at home, it is customary to place one’s méshválar on a rack located within the caráhan, thus allowing arriving visitors to know who is currently at home before requesting entrance.