Cage of Glass – Chapter 21

The question rattled Eteri. It was clear that all these girls had been spirited away here against their will, or at least what their will used to back then. To answer with the truth would show how different she was, and she had a feeling that it would put her in a bad light.

On the other hand, if she did lie, her lie would only crawl so far. The Zalethi would tell the truth, or they would soon find out. 

There was not a right answer – she felt like a plate of ceramic between two ovens. Which one to choose?

“I was chosen,” she said in the end. It was only a half-lie and it might cover what happened easily enough.

Nives gave her another of her sideways glances, but as instructed by Thana, she did not speak and kept scrubbing her body, moving now to her midsection. 

“Don’t we all,” Thana chuckled at her non-committal answer. But she did leave it there for the moment, even though Huin kept looking at her with that tilted smile of hers, as if she knew more than she let on and did not speak about it. 

To distract herself from Nives’ hands rubbing at her skin, maybe a little too harsh than she deemed necessary, Eteri tried to focus on her surroundings. The scenery was indeed beautiful, with the trees, the orchards and the soft hills of moss and leaves-covered grass. It displayed a patina of artificial perfection stretched over pristine chaos and unleashed nature. She had seldom been in nature proper – her family’s craft had always revolved around urban environments, but she had a hunch that the depths of the forests around Velathri would not be as well-kept as this garden. 

“S-So,” she gulped, trying to gather her bearings, “you make all this? Take care of the fruits and make these ointments,”

“I do,” Nives interrupted, this time speaking out of turn. But given that it was something that involved her directly, she was seemingly allowed to speak. “I have had experience with these things. Before.”

“Oh, were you a perfumer? Herbalist?”

She stiffened, her fingers hesitated as she reached for the lower half of her back.

“I was a Noble.”

Things clicked into place in Eteri’s mind, as if in a mosaic she has finally found the last tassel of. 

Her slightly-unusual appearance and Southern traits spoke volumes already. She was not Apua, even with her mane of blonde hair. She could not be Rasena, which only meant one thing – she was Sabja. Likely from some family that had displeased the Zalethi enough to gather one of their daughters in return, as punishment or payment. 

No wonder Nives seemed to be the stiffest among the group of three girls. Wonder what the story of the other two was. Admitted they still remembered it. But yes, the blonde girl might indeed be her ally, if only because she still seemed to retain memories of her previous life. 

At the thought of becoming like Huin or Thana a shiver ran down Eteri’s back. Was she going to lose her family’s memory like that? 

No, she reassured herself balling her fists. She would most definitely not become like that. She had something else to herself than her body: she was a ceramist, and she would prove it to the Zalethi. 

“Do you also make perfumes for her? For the Zalethi?”

Nives quirked her eyebrow and the other two shared a titter. 

“What kind of question is that? How can I presume to do something for the Zalethi herself? She who has everything needs nothing.”

That made sense. Another hope dashed – but she had met with resistance before. Just a few scants hours before she had just sold one of her plates to a Noble woman. She had indeed convinced the Zalethi to take her in. Perhaps she could still find solace in her craft. 

She just needed to find the right time to do so. 

And with that idea stark in her mind, she saw Nives pick up a razor.

“W-What’s that?” She shrieked. 

“No wonder you have never seen one of these,” she sighed. “Sit on the bank.”

Eteri looked at the sharp blade – trembling, she did as she was told. Nives lifted one of her legs and used the razor to shave the fine hairs growing on her skin, clicking her tongue in disapproval. 

“Where did they rase you? It’s astounding how little you take care of yourself.”

“I never paid too much attention to it before… it wasn’t… it wasn’t what I did.”

“I can clearly see that…”

“My sister was the one who…” she stopped. If she said too much, they might find out the truth. After all, if her sister was all that much more beautiful than her, why choose her? “I just miss her.”

“Get used to it.” Nives scraped the blade with a feather touch, scraping against her skin like a series of sharp kisses. It made her feel so vulnerable and exposed, even more than just being naked. 

Remaining without clothes was embarrassing, but it was also a fact of nature. But laying there on the bank with another girl going to the distance to make her presentable, to mould her like she could have done with a vase from raw female material into a proper slavegirl, Eteri was becoming less and less of a person and more of an object. Her heart thumped faster and faster as Nives’ razor exposed more of her shaved skin, leaving her legs smooth. 

She had heard that this was something only whores did, in the houses of pleasure. She was becoming one of them, and in turn becoming ever more aware of her body – its half-there beauty, her hips and her legs, her exposed breasts… her sex that while still laying underwater, was completely without protection.

It was all completely new – she was becoming something new. Nives’ hand removed another patch of hairs. With each flick of her wrist and each time the absurdly-sharp blade scraped against her skin, she felt like a new Eteri was growing in place of the old. And she desperately needed something to hold onto.


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