The idea came to her by watching Nives and how she reacted to the others, by carefully watching the Zalethi as she spoke about the blonde slavegirl. She referred to her craft of makeup with great fondness, and the fact she had been allowed to keep it as well, while the others were slowly sliding into that mind-fade that seemed to turn them into dull statues, spoke volumes to Eteri and it fuelled her hope.
As for the rest, it had been a simple matter of asking for the right ingredients.
That night, the very room of the Zalethi would turn into a makeshift furnace. She had asked for the purest water, and she passed her fingers through the jars of cinders. These had to come from the bones of cows, powdered and then burned at the stake, with certain minerals added to the mixture. It was unlikely that they had them at the ready, but the reach of the Zalethi, as it seemed did not have limit, as far as these things were concerned.
Then of course clay, and for the cooking oven she had expected the servants or the Daimon to carry over an entire chimney or something like that, but she had underestimated the Zalethi – she had put on a white robe, one more homely than her ceremonial dress, and as she waved her hand around the glass from the floor took on a new shape, carving a dome and then the furnace’s chimney. Some parts turned frostedand she couldn’t peer through them, but they seemed to work in a different manner than she had expected them to.
As the makeshift furnace began to hum and glare with an incandescent white light, Eteri gasped and the Zalethi graced her with a confident grin. It seemed she knew her way around this kind of craft, even though she couldn’t certainly understand or even imagine how it could work.
But that did not really matter. She had her furnace and she knew what to do with it. Eteri covered her face from the glare and the heat. It could reach higher temperatures than she needed, and maybe she could try a new technique to flash-melt the surface of the plate she would make, so as to permanently etch it with the decorations she was planning.
A risky move, but the result would be stunning.
So, she began to prepare the mixture and sat at the table, pouring water into the bowl and creating the based, murmuring the words that her father told her such a long time ago. As she worked, she kept thinking about her family: where were they, what were they doing right now, and how long would they remain without her?
Probably forever, but once again, it was much better like this. She knew where to put her hands and she knew she was doing it so that Tatia could enjoy her life outside, could keep doing what she was supposed to do and have a family she could love.
While she would keep spending her time here in the spire, and wither behind walls of impassable glass.
But as long as the Zalethi accepted it, it would be fine. And besides, she had an idea or two on how to show her that she would not truly bow to her, that she would still be interesting and valuable. It was not just in her craft, but in the spirit she set in the ceramic, and in how she would set it free.
She had a couple ideas…
She finished the admixture and used the rest of the apparatus the Zalethi had built from the purest glass for her to give it a perfectly-rounded shape. She was carving a large plate out of her efforts, wide enough to be used both to eat from and just to look at. A little masterpiece, if she managed to make it… and with a hidden message as well.
The base finished drying and she got the salts ready for the decoration. Ironically enough, Lathie’s words earlier that night made her think about the secrets patterns that apa taught her through the last few years. She would gladly use those to etch her rebellion onto the plate and teach the Zalethi that she was valuable enough to keep. She would show her that she was more than a pretty face… especially when her face, compared to that of Nives or Thana, was not pretty at all!
But she had a few tricks she could call upon, and with a heavy frown and her heart beating fast in her chest, she began to draw the salts that would create the decoration. The heat would then cook them up and draw out the colours and shades, applying them in relief.
She wrote with the artistic calligraphy that her family kept as its most valuable secret and tradition, gathering knots and lines and nests of letters and bushes of brushstrokes, creating an intricate pattern. She was so caught up in her art, thinking about where to insert her personal message to the Zalethi, that she did not even notice how attently she was looking at her.
And in fact, the Zalethi was looking at her with mute, and yet exceedingly-focused interest. This girl who was challenging her, after all these years, and not out of greed or spite or because she wanted to try her hand at being smarter than her, but actually because she believed she had something to save…
It was interesting. Even if her words did smart her ego, the Zalethi applauded at the change of pace. She would either show her something interesting or give her a reason to throw her out once and for all.
And yet, as she glanced over her shoulder at the lines that began to appear onto the plate’s surface, she frowned – and then a spark of comprehension appeared in her chest.
That pattern… it wasn’t exactly like the one she had been desperately looking for, but… how could it be that this girl of all people could know anything about that?
She walked closer, watching her work with more than simple amusement now. Perhaps this night would not end in disappointment after all.
Author’s Notes: Thanks for reading.