Cage of Glass – Chapter 9

That year, the Harvest Festival did not seem to marvel ati too much – Eteri, on the other hand, felt a smile pull at the sides of her mouth, never leaving her. The noises, the music, all the people gathering together for one purpose. It spoke to her of the glory of the Zalethi, that she was able to speak to the ear of the crafty Sabja merchant just as keenly as to that of the proud Apua warrior.

The blonde giants stood out from the crowd and it was easy for ati to single them out. Eteri noticed the shadow fall on her brow every time she passed by one of them, and her frail body contrasted heavily with their battle-strengthened builds.

“I thought you did like Barnabas,” she asked.

“I do like the man more than his people,” was the answer, as she scooted closer to Eteri, walking through the people who still gave them as wide a berth as it was possible. She wasn’t the only Rasena present who was afflicted by the chalk-illness, but she was by far the most visible one, with Eteri looking so vibrant at her side. “And my judgment has not changed.”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh, especially when it come to Tatia’s future husband?”

“Harsh or not – I do not care. I see the effect of Apua care on the face of your father, every morning.”

Eteri winced as she thought of his scar. She had not been there when he had got it of course, but she  could imagine how bad it must have looked. “I stayed by his side for ten days, praying every hour. When the Zalethi proclaimed her peace, I did hope the mountains of the Moon would be plagued by eternal silence.”

“But if you are so much against Barnabas and Apua…” she whispered as a pair of tall blonde warriors passed by, then she reached for her pouch and pulled ati in the line with her, waiting to buy her roasted meat skewers as her lunch, “why did you allow Tatia to marry him?”

“Because as much as it pains to admit it, he’s a good man. Your father was the one against it, actually.”

“What? But apa loves him! They have so much in common!”

“Yes, two knuckle-heads they are!” Her mother’s raspy laughter turned into a cough, and Eteri held her as she regained composure. “Do you want to know why he was against it?”

“He never told me anything.”

“That’s not the kind of thing he would share with you… you know how he is.”

She did – he was a kind man, often silent, who worked with his hands and his mind and did have many gentle words but sometimes he did not know when to hold them back.

“He used to be against it because Barnabas is a wrestler. He can provide for his future family quite well for now, but in ten years? And there’s always the chance something goes wrong in the arena.”

It was finally Eteri’s turn to pick up her skewer, and her stomach somersaulted at the sweet smell of cooked meat. She bit into it, eager, as she listened to her mother.

“We talked about it. In the end, he decided that they did love each other, and that must account for something.”

“I think it was the right choice,” Eteri mused as she bit through her skewer. “They look fine together.”

“Hmmm… and what about you, hm? When will be the time to give your poor mother nephews?”

“Hey! I can give my mother a lot of silver, I just showed that,” Eteri blushed. The matter of love was… dire.

She was surely not as beautiful as Tatia, not by far. Plus, her work as a ceramist meant she was covered with mud up to her elbow half the time, and the other half was when she was cooking her creations, which meant she was covered head from toe in soot. Not the most dashing picture for a tentative suitor. She was far from a pretty girl, or the kind of girl men sought.

“I don’t know… it’s not something I want to think about. Besides, I’m just nineteen!”

“Tatia is just two years older than you. You want to think about these things when you are young. I had you when I was sixteen.”

“Yeah… those were different times, though.” Times of strife and war.

“The route of the sundial is always the same. Eteri, you may feel like tomorrow will always be distant, but one day it will reach up to you and put you into his dusty bag, just like that! Ow.” She snapped her fingers and yowled at the ache in her bones.

Eteri grimaced, she finished her skewer in a few more bites and then hugged her mother.

“I promise I will give it a thought. But hey, if I am rich I will have a better pick of men, don’t you think? So why don’t’ you give me a bit of time to try that out?”

Ati sighed.

“You know I don’t really want to pressure you. But that’s what time does.” She pulled her closer. “One day you are here, and one day you are not.”

Eteri’s heart skipped a beat. They were not talking about Tatia anymore. Or her.

“I know,” she replied hugging her mother. “I promise I will think about it.”

“You better…” she grumbled, “or my ghost will come to haunt you in your workshop. And you’ll end up alone and surrounded by empty statues! You do not want to end up like that, do you?”

Ati! Now you are just trying to scare me!”

“Yeah well, you got your knucklehead from your father, that’s for sure.”

Eteri laughed softly, taking in her mother’s scent, her body, the frailness in her bones.

She would cherish it as long as she could.

She has spent years hating the chalk-illness with all her heart. Years of teary nights huddled in the dark with Tatia as her older sister passed her hand through her hair.

She had made peace with it. But she still hated it.

At least, one good thing could come from this marriage arrangement: she would have a lot more time to spend with ati.


Far from where Eteri was sharing a warm hug with her mother, the Zalethi tossed a blind look at the former baker, who was now sitting on the pillows on the other side of the carriage, her face still flushed from her effort.

She had enjoyed it for sure.

But the girl was a little too plain.

She turned her gaze to the throng. They were coming closer to the city centre.

Perhaps she would find a girl who stroke her fancy.

Author’s Notes:

Thanks for reading.


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