Cage of Glass – Chapter 28

And so it came to this moment for Eteri – setting foot into the personal quarters of the Zalethi herself, as if entering her spire wasn’t enough. She had no idea how high they were in the air, but from there she could see through the glass panes that created the window the spiderwebs of light of the cities and towns caught in the festivities of the Harvest Festival, while to her right lay the dark and mysterious expanse of the sea. 

Night was now in full swing, with its memory of winter, but it was not cold that made her shiver. The wide open space of the Zalethi’s quarters reminded her a lot of the Birdcage, with its geometric volumes and that sheen of artificiality behind each curve.

A large desk stood in the middle of the room, and the floor was covered by wooden tiles, intricately locked into a pattern she did not recognize. It was pretty different from the ones she used to decorate her plates, in another life. 

The Zalethi was right besides her. With a flick of her wrist, a wood-covered glass chair floated from the side of the room to just besides Eteri and she slumped into it, looking up at her. 

“That was a long day,” the Zalethi sighed. She kept walking up to her desk and she set there the notes Eteri had seen Lathie share at dinner. “For some of us more than others.” She leaned forward and with a touch of her finger her clothes fell to the floor, then floated until they folded themselves on a nearby chair.

Eteri tried not to stare. But how could she not? This was the body of night and stars and she marvelled at her feminine curves, hinting at a belly button, generous breasts and a line of abdominal muscles. It seemed that when she thought of her as stars and void poured into a bottle she had been somewhat right, but when the Twelve gave her body they made sure to carve it into perfection. 

She did not take off her helm, though. Without even a movement of her wrist or of her fingers, it changed shape from a tall ceremonial headgear into a less imposing crown, embracing her forehead and still hiding everything from the tip of her nose upwards. 

She had thought that once there she would bare herself, but it seemed as if her face was to her more intimate than any other part of her body. 

“Are you nervous?”

Eteri fidgeted. Twelve above, was she!

That was it, and the thunder of her heartbeat reached for her ears like a rumbling river breaking through its banks to overflow through her body. Her stomach felt tight and cold and her chest felt overwhelmingly warm. She did not know where to look and even if she was supposed to look and-

Something cool and hard touched her chin.

It wasn’t the Zalethi’s finger, but a shard of clear glass that gently tilted her head up. She blinked and found a hint of tears clouding her vision. 

“By the grace of the Twelve, you are. Surely you would very much prefer to go back home, my dear?”

Again with that?

Eteri shook her head.

“I have taken my decision, Eternal Grace. Please have piety on my fluttering heart. I… I don’t know what to do.”

“You are here to learn,” she replied with a sigh, letting the shard leave her skin, even though it kept floating and lingering around her, like a threat. “I would have hoped you to have more practice with Nives and the others, but alas, such is the nature of time. It is always a tyrant, in the light matters just as harshly as in the heavy ones.”

A pause. Eteri felt like she would just cut to the chase and start to pull the trinkets covering her body away, to display her skin and just get this over with. After all that was what the Zalethi was after, so she could be left alone to think about her family and…

But wait, if that was what the Zalethi was actually after… she could have locked her against the wall with a spear of glass and she would have had no choice in the matter. 

But she kept tempting her with the threat or release – and of course exchanging her place with Tatia if she went through with it.

She did not want her body.

Or at least not just that. 

Her mind went to Huin and Thana in the Birdcage, how docile and out of there they seemed, to the point they did not even any notion of what day or year it was. Time flowed around them without even touching them, and that scared her more than anything else. 

That was the real effect of spending time here, as a slavegirl. 

She wanted to break her. She wanted her submission and her annihilation.

But then… why not just take it? something was still off. The Zalethi could everything – she had just showed off her power at dinner.

Eteri felt like she was still missing a few pieces of the puzzle. And she would need them.

“I feel like taking a bath before we start to deal with the most ponderous matters,” the Zalethi smirked, walking away from the desk and towards a short corridor. She beckoned Eteri to follow her – the space had no doors, for who would need them in this holy quarter? They entered a wide circular hall with a large pool that descended towards the open window, looking towards the night. 

The Zalethi began to descend into the water, which started to steam right away, scalding up in answer to some mysterious power. 

“I have seen Nives has done a good job scrubbing your skin in the Birdcage. I hope you have learned a thing or two.”

She leaned into the bath, and a few vials of colorful, scented salts flew right into Eteri’s hands. 

“Why don’t we find out, slavegirl?”


Author’s Notes: Thanks for reading.


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