“You look passable,” Nives announced, giving her one final look as she turned on herself, displaying herself.
She had been given one of those weird clothes that did not clothe anything, the robe made out of strings of glass beads and tiny shards of crystals, held together by thin rope strings. They tinkled and waved as she moved, hinting at her nakedness beneath and below, without ever putting it on a show outright. It was something that set her right in a grey zone she felt most uncomfortable with.
Nives had styled her hair and straightened them, cleaned her body and shaved it, so that not one hair remained beneath her eyebrows.
Makeup and powder applied to her face and oil for her hair and skin.
She had been fitted like cattle for a prize and Eteri could not believe this was her own body – but in the end it was not. It did belong to someone else, it had been fixed for someone else’s tastes and remade for a different purpose.
She was a ceramist no more.
Was she? She looked down at her hands, clenching them slowly. Her nails, usually as dark as jet with all the mud and powder that ended there, were pearl-white and smooth. Smoother than they had been since she was born, most likely.
They did not feel like her hands.
“Now you can go have your dinner,” Nives proclaimed, starting to set everything back into her backpack.
“Thanks,” was the reply. Even though she was not sure she was truly thankful.
She did not feel like she looked passable. She did look exploitable, though.
“As for what else to do tonight,” she began, only for Huin to stand up from her spot, water running down her body.
“I will be escorting her to the gate!”
“… I suppose you will. Very well, I can’t say it has been a pleasure, but I am always happy when I can use my skills for something worthwhile.”
“I do as well,” Eteri replied in a murmur. She shared one last look with the blonde, but Nives did not reply. Only her lips quivered for a moment.
She turned and left the pond.
“Come on, come on, it’s a new night for you and you will enjoy it for sure!” Huin pulled her out.
“Do have fun,” Thana wished her well waving a hand. “We will see you here soon enough.”
Eteri followed Huin – she guided her towards the edge of the garden. She noticed that by now only the last crimson rays of the setting sun lapped at the edges of the massive glass pane walling the garden in – air glistened with gold and running red.
“It’s a vermilion sunset,” Huin mused, crossing her arms behind her back as she walked.
“Does it mean anything?”
“Funny you should ask! It means that tomorrow there’s a chance the day will be clear as crystal! It’s what folks use to say, at least.”
Eteri had never heard that line in her life before. Once again she wondered how much time Huin had effectively spent there… but maybe there was a better answer to that question, one that did not terrify her as much. Eteri was not supposed to know about every folk saying in the world after all.
She looked at her hands again. They had been cleansed of every impurity and she had been in those impurities, she had been them and they used to belong to her.
“I ought not to speak out of turn. I will keep myself presentable and I will do my best to obey the Zalethi’s orders at once. Is there anything I should do? Or know?”
Now that she had left the pool behind her, she felt like she ought to find something to hold onto and fast – the dinner would wait for her just behind those doors, and she’d have to show the Zalethi she was a worthy slavegirl.
Now that the blessed day of the Harvest was about to end for good, there would be little if nothing stopping the Zalethi to just send her home and exchange her for her sister. At least, that was what her scared heart whispered to her ears. She would do anything in her power to keep that nightmare from turning into a reality.
Even if it meant showing up in this ridiculous outfit and pretending to be a living statue, all for her pleasure.
But she needed to know how to avoid any missteps.
Huin regarded her with a faint smile as they finally reached the door, having crossed over the entire garden – she did not even notice it – her sense of time had broken the moment she had taken the first step on the Zalethi’s glass chariot.
“You are worrying too much. You will grow out of this,” she assured her.
“I may. But I need it for tonight first. Please tell me.”
“You are doing fine,” she replied raising her arms in annoyance. “Why do you worry so much? This is the start of your new life, try to enjoy it a little! You are going to sit right next to her after all.”
“Oh…” so that was where she would end up to.
As a kind of a pet.
“Huin… has anyone ever been… sent back from the garden? Sent back home?”
“See, that is exactly the problem. This is your home.”
In a way, she had gotten her answer.
“Very well. I will be the most perfect guest, then. Thanks for… for showing me around, Huin.”
“And this is just the start! Believe me, you are going to have a lot of fun in the future with us. Nives also used to be rough around the edges, but she mellowed out a lot.”
She could almost imagine that. She had also been brought here against her will, she had read between the lines as much. She would find no allies here.
“I will see you after dinner.” Eteri walked towards the doors and once again they opened at her passage without the slightest noise.
Before her stood a Daimon. The same one? Hard to say.
“I am ready,” Eteri said, trying to stand up straight.
Author’s Notes: thanks for reading.