Cage of Glass – Chapter 30

She hated it when she lost control of her herself like this. It brought back painful memories, from a time before the Rasena, before the Dominion, before the eternal desert of rust and fumes on the outside, and the failure of the world. 

Before her failure.

There was an upside to losing her mind, she had decided long time ago. If she did start to feel her memories fading, then it would mean that one day she would not be racked by guilt anymore, regret would have fallen off her heart like a lost scab. 

But this girl… this ceramist, this stubborn infinitesimal existence had to remind her of that!

“What do you answer?” She hissed, releasing her windpipe. The girl’s finger scrambled towards her throat, and when she looked at her through a veil of tears, the Zalethi’s rage sparked anew because she saw not despair and fear. Or at not just those, but something else, burning beneath, something that seemed to grow especially strong in this girl. 

A defiance that made her heart seize in fury. 

“I… have… given my answer already,” she heaved. “Allow me to serve you, o Zalethi. I will… be… of use.”

At this point what could she offer besides her body? And truth to be told, the day had done its worst to take her out of any playful mood. Nives could perform magic, but surely not miracles, and her body looked even less appealing now that her mood was stained by anger and the hooks of regret biting deep into her. 

She was here, in this situation, alone, and alone, and alone, for a reason – and this girl had to remind her, she had to push the knife deeper into the wound, to remind her that she had failed, didn’t she?

That no matter how much effort or research or energies she put into her gardens, her flowers would always come out misshapen, lacking and fragile. Always swayed by greed or anger or pride, and always they would teeter on the edge of self-destruction. 

She had passed through the fire once already. She had lost much in it.

“You will wilt and grow feeble,” she hissed, swaying her body with the force of her control over glass. “Your family will grow tired of remembering you. You will turn into a memory – sharp at first and then fading, a flash of light upon the water. Something to be cherished and then not spoken of anymore.”

She took a step forward, naked as the day she had been reborn, and levelled the girl’s eyes against her mask, so that she could peer into her hazelnut irises and see the moment when she would break. 

Because she would. 

She ought to.

They all broke. 

“They will forget about you out there. You will spend your time here at my service, and all your worries and your cares will dull under the touch of relentless time. That is your fate. So, why?”

She shook her once again. 

The girl kept looking at her with the same defiance. She had broken armies, and yet she couldn’t get past that stubborn look. All she wanted was for her to admit it. 

To admit that she had made a mistake to lay down her life for her sister. 

That she…

“You don’t know one thing about my sister and I,” she chocked through gritted teeth.

The Zalethi sneered and let her fall to the floor. 

Letting go of any pretence of platitude, she regarded the slavegirl as little more than a piece of furniture. And yet, her failure was, once again, only due to her own weakness. She could have this girl thrown out of the castle, and she wouldn’t have to talk to her ever again. 

But in so doing, she would admit that she was right, that she…

“Perhaps not. But I have seen all that there is to see beneath the sun, and your stubbornness will endure only as long as the sun allows the snow to stay. You are throwing away your life and your ability to enjoy it, and for what?”

“I have made a promise.”

“I did not hear anything like that.”

“It was not a promise made out of words, Eternal Grace,” she replied kneading her throat. “It was made and remade every day. I will not let my sister down. She is about to have a family and a better life than I could ever have. I am only good with my hands and in shaping clay. That is a far lesser call than hers, and if I can do something to relieve her from this fate…”

She stopped talking. The Zalethi took a step back, putting on a new white robe and tying it up around her midsection.

“And yet,” she said after a bit, crossing her arms, “you speak of being useful and of being obedient. But I have seen very little obedience, and usefulness none. I would have wanted a beautiful slavegirl to warm up my night, and what do I have but a sorry excuse for that? In the end, Child, you prove by your existence that your value here… is for naught.”

She waved her hand. 

There. Not the best way to end an argument, and surely she was proving her superiority only thanks to her authority, which more or less meant she had already lost…

… for now. She just needed time, and to let the girl stew in her own disappointment. She would break eventually, and then she would have her victory for sure. 

The slavegirl looked down, seemingly defeated. Her hazelnut gaze roamed over her open palms. 

Then she lifted her head and looked at her straight. 

“You are right, Eternal Grace. I am a failure as a slavegirl. I can never be enticing enough for you, and in that I will never be able to be useful to you. But not having value to you at all?” She pursed her lips, and to her surprise, she now showed a smile. “That might not be completely true.”


Author’s Notes: Thanks for reading.


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