Eteri’s heart scraped against her chest while she paced back and forth, unable to contain her anxiety. She watched sand fall through the hourglass, counting down the time that remained for the plate to be completely cooked. That was going to be the most important piece in her entire life.
Did she trace the decorations correctly? Did she manage to replicate the pattern with the right enamels, so that they would stand out and capture the blind gaze of the Zalethi?
She truly hoped so, for that was her only chance… to end this in any way.
And yet she felt every second as it slithered down her spine, freezing her skin.
She glanced at the Zalethi who waited patiently – she who could afford such a luxury – for the furnace to cool. They did not speak, waiting for time to pass.
At last, the light from the glass oven began to die down, in an echo of the sunset that had occurred while she was still in the Birdcage.
The mouth of the oven turned golden, then red, and at last it did not glow at all anymore. Then Eteri waited a few more minutes, picked up a pair of steel pliers and took out the plate, steaming with the heat. She put it on the glass surface next to it, and at a first glance it seemed to have turned out fine. The enamels would soon show their true colours as they oxidated.
“It is going to be ready soon. It is still…” she couldn’t finish her statement as the Zalethi picked it up. “… very hot…”
But it seemed the scalding material did not bother her at all as she passed her black hands over the plate, gently brushing over Eteri’s decorations.
She must be noticing them. She must be knowing what Eteri did. And in fact, she saw her black lips curl at the sides.
For she did not just want to provide her with the best of her craft. The plate, as it cooled down, revealed the intricate geometrical patterns that her family taught her, creating beautiful knots and lines, and hidden between those she had carved words. Not many, but enough to shout in the face of the Zalethi herself that she was indeed being a little rebellious slavegirl, and that she would stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Which sounded like a weird expression talking about the Zalethi…
Nevertheless, she had placed something special on the plate.
Beneath the decorations, the letters spell out a simple message: Tesru is my father, Sethra is my mother. Tatia is my sister.
The Zalethi chuckled. She shook her head and set the plate right next to the furnace, where she spotted the last few letters: My name is Eteri.
That was her testament. She had given her a gift, proven she could make beautiful craft for her, and that in so doing, she would not forget about her name, about her family and about the reason she had begged to be brought here.
“I have lost much today,” the Zalethi sighed. “One more day with an old friend, a pleasant night with a gorgeous maiden freshly plucked from the tree.” She turned to regard her, crossing her arms on her chest. “And I have gained a rebellious slavegirl with a heart too strong for her own good. You can stay.”
Eteri’s ears ringed. She did not hear that well, she…
“Now get out of my sight. Find a Daimon to bring you back to the Birdcage. And do not put too much faith in your little stunt.”
As it turned out, Lathie was not exceedingly happy to be recalled at that hour of the night. he reached her quarters with his hair a little too messy and with a woman’s perfume still faintly lingering around his neck.
“O Eternal Grace,” he bowed, “What is it that requires my attention?”
“Why don’t you take a look at that,” she answered gracefully, pointing at the slavegirl’s little art piece. He quirked an eyebrow and then did as he was told, regarding the plate with disinterest at least, but it quickly turned into curiosity and then genuine shock. She could see the thoughts knotting together behind his eyes as he read the patterns again and again.
“E-Eternal Grace, this…”
“Yes,” she replied, turning her head to gaze outside of the window and deep into the night.
Unbelievable that at least part of the answer she had been looking after for so long had been hidden beneath her nose.
How could it have been? Perhaps some of the Rasena did keep up with old traditions, but how could they have recognized patterns only she and very few others had seen before? Besides, that was before even the first Rasena was even born, crawling out of the vats.
No, this was perhaps… ancestral memory of some sort. Printed into their souls and then it slowly bubbled up, in the most secluded of places.
And now it was falling back into her hands.
“It is only just a small part of the complete key,” she sighed, as if to temper his enthusiasm immediately. Her own excitement had briefly gotten unruly for the first few moments she had caught the forgotten patterns glisten from the enamel and the ceramic. “But it is a part nonetheless.”
“The girl,” he gasped. “Was that the reason why you picked her up? I thought…”
“Let’s not speak of those reasons anymore,” she admonished him with a flick of her wrist. “These do no matter any more, at the end of such a bad day. You are allowed to make a copy of the inscriptions… tomorrow. For the time being, you should rejoice in knowing that our efforts are not in vain.”
“If you will allow me to reply, I would say this is not a sad day any more,” he chuckled. Lathie’s dark gaze moved over the plate, taking in the lines and the letters. “Eteri, hm. She does seem to have a fiery spirit.”
“For all the good that’s doing her,” was the reply.
Author’s Notes: Thanks for reading.