On the tall towers of Velathri, the sundials pulled their shadows behind them, following the day’s crawl. More and more people filled the area that brought to the Whitepath and Eteri even managed to spot a few Daimon among the crowd.
She started at the sight: the living statues, made of the clearest glass, always went forward with a serene smile upon their lips, as if they knew some sort of secret they would not share. She only saw a couple, and always following some Rasena highborn with their retinue. It was a rare sight indeed to have so many Daimon out of the Castle. A sign the Zalethi was getting close.
Perhaps she was also having a positive effect on their sales: her father’s wares were selling fast, while her own lingered on the table.
She sighed as the sun reached its highest point. Perhaps her craft just wasn’t on par with her father yet.
Perhaps it might never will – the idea cast a shadow on the beautiful day.
“You should rest that head,” her father said, putting more wares on the stand. “It’s so filled with thoughts it’s a wonder you can hold it up.”
“Sorry,” she replied with a slight blush. “I just want to contribute to the household a little more. I feel like I am not doing enough, and helping you create more ceramic is not enough. I have to sell it as well.”
“That’s true and all. But do you think customers will want to reach for a stand which owner looks so sad and dejected?”
“Remember the first time I brought you here? You were so cheerful and so loud. It helped us to stand out. The festival has made everyone cheerful, so it’s alright if they are not attracted right away. It’s not your fault.”
“Then should I be more cheerful?”
“It’s not just a matter of smiling more,” he shrugged. “You should be the first to have confidence in your own wares! This is what customers want to see.”
Eteri tapped on her chin, thinking. He was right. Somehow similar to her sister’s advice on how to finally get a boyfriend. But just like Tatia’s social occasions made her feel like she had swallowed nails, she did not feel extremely cheerful. Or confident.
“These are the fruit of your hard work for the entirety of winter,” her father reminded her. You shouldn’t let that effort go to waste.”
She pursed her lips. All those days spent at the forge while snow filled the streets of Velathri and Tatia came home less and less. She was starting to live with Barnabas and that meant Eteri was supposed to take more responsibilities. She had to help feed their mother, help her bathe and also follow her father down in the workshop.
She was nineteen already, and sometimes she wondered if life hadn’t treated her with too much kindness up until that moment: she was born Rasena, in the oldest and wealthiest city of the Dominion, and no war had touched her. She just wanted to do her best as a ceramist and make her family proud.
Perhaps her father was right – she should show a bit more pride in her work.
“I think you are right.” She pushed her plates a little forward, so that they attracted attention more. “Here, here!” She shouted, waving her arms. “Come get the best ceramic in Velathri! Just for today, one-time deals! Do not miss this opportunity!”
And already she started attracting a few gazes from the throng, even though only some people gave the stand a passing glance.
“That’s what I mean,” apa chuckled, patting her shoulders. “Can you keep this up? I want to go check on your mother.”
“Sure. How long?”
“About one hour,” he said pointing at the closest sundial. It was now the fifth hour of light, and soon it would be time for lunch. Maybe if he brought ati there they could enjoy lunch together. Last time the Zalethi had passed through their town for the Harvest Festival Eteri was still very young, and already her mother showed the signs of the chalk-illness. Her hair were getting grey and her skin growing thin and flaky.
It would be a better memory to chase away the previous one.
“I see that I can leave you here at the stand with real confidence.” Apa picked up a few of the coin bags and gave her another smile, wider than the last. “What a terrifying this is to have two daughters. You lose the first one to her man, and the second to her craft…”
“But you are not going to lose me, apa,” she replied, stunned.
“Perhaps,” he chuckled. “I will see you soon!”
Eteri watched him disappear between the crowd. He was alone and carrying money, but he was also a veteran and sporting a nice scar – she doubted her father would deal with much trouble.
Besides, they were under the protection of the Zalethi.
You lose the second one to her craft.
She mused over her father’s words for a while, but then she raised her hand and began to wave her arm again, trying to attract more and more people at her stand. She could think about it later.
Eteri was absolutely sure she would have all the time in the world.
And with this thought firm in her mind, the sundials on the towers mocked her, sliding towards the fatal hour.
One of the advantages of being the Rasena’s timeless protector and immortal ruler was she could take her time to indulge in her slavegirls.
She had picked up a few, letting the others downstairs to serve refreshments to the Loukomon and wave at the throng as they passed through the southern districts. It was the fifth hour from the dawn and soon they would be having lunch.
But before sating her stomach she wanted to sate her eyes.
“Child,” she said regarding Thesanthei, who kept his eyes closed even though he did not doze off. “Would you like to dine with the others?”
“Ah, I would very much prefer your company. I am sure you know as much.”
“Allow me the small pleasure to hear it come from your lips.” The Zalethi set her right hand atop the old Loukomon’s wizened one and addressed the closest slavegirl. She was a brown-haired beauty she had picked up in Velzna, stricken by her emerald eyes. She had seldom seen such a brilliant shade in the last thirty years. A good addition to her collection. “What is your name?” She asked.
“Velturna, o Eternal Grace,” she replied with a quick bow that made the few glass beds on her body tinkle.
“Beautiful name,” she conceded. At a flick of her hand, the beads covering her chest lifted, giving her a look of the girl’s large and well-formed breasts. “And what did you use to be, my dear Velturna?”
What a waste.
“From now on you are a dancer.” She leaned back, showing her a smile. “Well, how about one right now? We have the music, and you have your audience my dear child. Dance.”
Author’s Notes: I should probably put a +18 sticker somewhere for when we will reach the spicier scenes. Add it to the image as well. I do enjoy writing this version, though.
Thanks for reading.