Cage of Glass – Chapter 23

Eteri had not enjoyed the journey back with the Daimon. The living statue did not speak, it did not even breathe. She had believed she would get used to it, but standing on thee cold glass pane with that being so close to her she felt her renewed confidence fray at the edges once again. 

But she had promised herself she would be an exemplary slavegirl. Hence, she kept her head up high and she did not show any weakness. When the Daimon led her to a wide hall, she almost thought it did lead her astray. 

It was different from the wide room at the bottom of the castle, all sharp glass angles and shimmering edges. This was a space built for mortals. The pavement covered in a pretty pattern of mosaics and alabaster tiles that reproduced plants and animals, the masonry walls reaching up to wide arches that covered the entire dome ceiling like the ribs of some long-forgotten beast. 

Decorative plants and weeds and crown of sweet flowers hang from above, together with burning braziers even if from the windows still came the last few blades of light from the dying day.

A few more details stood out from the dining hall: the long and wide table that crossed it over, where already many guests were sitting, chattering in a low murmur, the lines of servants in grey clothing carrying their amphorae full of spiced wine, and the occasional Daimon that just walked about, lost in their own world, or perhaps following some instruction Eteri could not even imagine. 

The servants did not even take a look at her, busy as they were with the dignitaries and nobles sitting at the table – Eteri spotted most of the Loukomon from the Twelve Cities sitting all together as they discussed, and Nobles with their rich clothes, red-painted teeth and deep green shadows around their eyes. They came from all three of the nations under the Dominion, though she mostly saw, as it was to be expected, brown and black-haired heads from Rasena, with the occasional hawkish look from a Sabja merchant or politician, clad in his blue robes. 

She stood out like a bent and rusted nail. Nobody told her what to do. 

Now, where would the Zalethi sit? Most of the seats were already taken, but she spotted a tall chair right in the middle of the table. She has expected her place to be at the head, but perhaps she wanted to sit in the centre of the room rather than at one end. She walked there, waiting for someone to yell at her, stop her or just for the pavement to swallow her up in one gulp. 

Nothing happened. She reached the spot where the tall empty chair was, sitting besides it in quiet contemplation. She could wait here, and maybe hope for…

“Are you the new slavegirl?” Asked a male voice behind her. 

“Ah!” She gasped to find a young man standing just there. Unlike the other Nobles (and he was one, because he dressed in fine clothes and his teeth were painted red just like the others) he carried a large leather bag filled to the brim with documents and parchment of any kind. Her eyes then moved to his face, which showed a clear and for a Noble, quite welcoming smile. “I… uh, that would be me, yes.”

She had received a question and she had answered it. There. It was not so hard, was it? She was great at this slavegirl job. Nothing to worry about. 

“I was eager to know you. I have heard a thing or two about the commotion in Velathri today. You do know you are going to be the talk of tonight, aren’t you?”

She shifted her gaze to the other people in the room – nobody seemed to have noticed her yet, even though a few gazes were directed to the newcomer. 

“I… I would take that as a compliment, my Liege.” Was that the correct way to refer to a Noble as a slavegirl? If only Nives could have told her more. 

“How diplomatic. What did you use to be? A librarian?”

She blushed, looking down at her hands. Her fingers were too stubby and too thick to be anything but a ceramist, a girl who lived with mud literally up to her elbows. 

The Noble set his bag on the chair nearest to that that ought to belong to the Zalethi and took a seat, looking at her with his head tilted like a curious bird. 

“I used to be a ceramist.”

“A ceramist!” He gaped. A grin spread on his lips. “You wouldn’t believe it, but I have just come up from the depths of the castle and I have been looking at alabaster and ceramic tiles for the entire day! Ah, you really have to give me a hand,” he chuckled, which made it clear that he did not really meant that.  

“I would love to be useful. I am still new to this. I hope my appearance or my manners do not…”

He waved his hand and she stopped. New or not, she knew when someone was not interested in what she had to say.

“Come on. If the Zalethi picked you up you must have something interesting going about you. You are… pretty enough, I am sure, but she doesn’t usually go for that look.”

She shuffled her feet, self-conscious. Did they have to remind her at every turn?

“Nevertheless…” he said as he moved his gaze to the main entrance, “I am sure we are all going to have a lot of fun tonight. There is going to be some action, for sure.”

Eteri followed his eyes and she felt a blade of ice reach for her heart as the doors opened by themselves and in walked the Zalethi, looking as stunning as always with her body made out of night. Next to her, laying on a glass pane that moved on its own, rested the ancient Loukomon, though their eyes did not meet.

The immortal ruler did not say a word – but in her tense shoulders Eteri found a deep annoyance. Every noise and voice in the room stood still like the world during one of last winter’s freezing spells. 

“Let us dine on this blessed day,” the Zalethi stated, walking towards her seat, making Eteri feel not at all blessed.


Author’s Notes: thanks for reading.


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