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Tamara in the Glass Shop

brown wooden houses

The chill of winter meant nothing in the hot shop. The fires blazed with heat in the forges as glass artists created ornaments and baubles for the holiday season. Yulemas was only a week away, and they had been working day and night to keep up with the demand for gifts of all sizes.

Tamara felt sweat bead on her brow as she took her project out of the heat. It was a gorgeous rendition of the midnight star Elodia that would always lead wandering souls back to the warmth of Heimat. She met the gaze of her partner, Fern, and waited until she nodded. She took it to the table where Fern waited and handed the older woman the blowpipe attached to the molten glass.

Fern was a decade older than the Forger, but had only started in the glass shop a few years ago. She waited for Tamara’s signal before blowing into the end of the hollow rod she held.

Tamara wiped the sweat with a towel before it ended up in her eyes and impaired her vision. This was the part she enjoyed the most. This was when she could use her Gift from the Goddess to create something more beautiful than most could imagine.

Damn sweat. If only Enrique believed in creating things without a glory hole. Tamara swore as sweat rolled down her back. Enrique, the head of the glass shop in Heimat, insisted that even the young Forgers learned how to blow glass without using the power in their veins. He insisted they needed to pay their dues, as any apprentice would.

The sixteen-year-old would be lying if she said she didn’t see the wisdom of putting everyone on an even playing field. But it was still annoying.

Just be glad you’ve advanced past the assistant stage. She tried to stay positive despite the sweat rolling off her in sheets and looked back up to meet Fern’s gaze.

Tamara gave Fern a nod once her hands were in place. Fern gave a steady blow, just as she’d been taught, and kept her focus despite the miracle happening a few feet away.

Tamara called to the atoms in the molten glass, urging them into the shape of a star. They had just finished adding threads of orange to the yellow star shape, and Tamara made sure they spread in the way she wanted.

With a final tug of the atoms, she used Fern’s breath to add volume to the star and meld the orange and yellow together until they looked seamless.

“You’re good, Fern!” Tamara yelled, straining to be heard over the noise in the glass shop. They were on the floor where the forges were, their fires only visible through the glory holes that let the artists heat the sand and silica to the temperature needed to create their beautiful art.

Upon hearing Tamara’s words, Fern stopped blowing into the pipe but kept her hands steady.

Tamara kept her hands under the star-shaped glass and said, “it’s done. Let’s bring it to the kiln.” Fern nodded and walked toward the stone oven used to cool the glass without cracking it. Tamara could’ve cooled it with a thought, but needed to preserve her life energy for the actual shaping of the glass. And again, Enrique insisted they go through the traditional processes to gain more appreciation for the Gift bestowed by the Goddess and running through their veins.

A fire was kept roaring underneath the compartment they put their piece in. They kept the fire burning all day while they worked, and let it burn itself out overnight. This ensured the glass cooled slowly without cracking.

Fern stuck the star next to the other figurines and ornaments before tapping the blowpipe and releasing the star from the pipe.

“Do you think we have time to make another?”

Tamara frowned as she considered her partner’s question. With a quick glance to the window, “maybe if we hurry. I may have to cheat a little.”

“I won’t say a word.” Fern’s face was sincere.

Tamara gave her a nod and went to gather what they’d need to make another replica of Elodia.

A little more magic won’t hurt anybody.

A bell tolled, indicating the end of the workday. Tamara knocked back the rest of her water and wiped her brow once more.

Thank the Goddess I can finally get outside for a bit.

She put her used glass in the washbasin, promising herself she would wash it the first thing tomorrow. What she needed now was to leave the blazing hot shop. Fern had offered to clean and put their tools away, since Tamara had done it the day before. They had finished the star with time to spare, giving Tamara a chance to grab some water.

“See you tomorrow, Tamara. Good work today!” Fern called with a wave from the door to the cantina.

“You too, Fern. See ya! Give the twins a squeeze for me!” Tamara shot her a wave and a smile, referring to Fern’s young boys.

The older woman returned the smile before hurrying out of the glass shop.

Tamara ambled towards the exit of the glass shop, intent on taking a walk through town before going home. Winter was her favorite season, with its stark beauty and eerie stillness. She loved nothing more than looking up at the night sky as fresh flakes drifted from above. Or pulling the covers close while candles lit her room. Or walking during the daytime and appreciating Heimat all spruced up for the season.

The cold weather always inspired the people in the city to be a little warmer.

If she was lucky, maybe some of the street vendors would have something warm to sip on while she walked.

“Earth to Tam.” Tamara blinked as a hand waved back and forth in front of her face.

Startled, she stopped walking and focused on the older man in front of her.

“Sorry, Enrique. I was lost in my thoughts.”

“Apparently. One quick favor before you go?” His brown eyes were warm as he gestured to the kiln.

Inwardly, Tamara sighed, not looking forward to the heat of the forging floor. Outwardly, she just nodded.

“It won’t take long, I promise. Just help me stoke the fires in the kiln.”

Tamara followed her fellow glass Forger, grabbing some wood along the way. Of course. Someone must have commented on how quick we made that last star. Dread filled her insides at the thought of being demoted as a consequence of her brazenness.

Sure enough, Enrique looked into the chamber holding the works of art and pulled out her last star of the day. He held it up to the light with a small smile.

“Elodia is known as the North Star because of its position in the sky. We can look to Her to find our way home. Everywhere we look, the Goddess leaves us signs she is looking over us.” He dropped his arm, lowering his gaze to hers. “Do you understand my methods, child?”

His blunt question made Tamara pause. “To make us appreciate our Gifts and put every apprentice on equal footing.” Her response came out as if it was rote memorization, her tone robotic. She avoided his gaze as she leaned down to add some wood to the burning chamber, making sure it was evenly spaced.

She heard Enrique sigh while she straightened.

“Oh, child. If only things were that black and white.” He waited for her to glance his way. “What would happen if only Forgers ran this workshop?”

Tamara frowned and resorted to wit. “We wouldn’t need the forges?”

Enrique sighed and shook his head. “We would lose half of our artists.” He put her star back and removed a gorgeous frosted tree with birds perched on it. “Look at what Mara and James made this afternoon. Why would I close my doors to anyone with skills and creativity like this? We can learn more from those that differ from us if we let them teach us. Our Gifts make us feel invincible and we get lazy. Learning the process forces you to problem solve instead of leaning on your power like a crutch. You understand?”

Tamara cocked her head as understanding filled her eyes. “You’re trying to build community and foster collaboration.”

“Exactly, my dear! That’s the true reasoning behind my methods.” His eyes lit with pride. “The community of Heimat starts with our everyday decisions. I can’t make you create without using your Gift, nor would I ever. But while you’re young, you should be challenged to go out of your comfort zone and learn from those around you.”

Tamara chewed the inside of her cheek and paused before Enrique gestured for her to continue. “I get that, sir, but what about developing my Gift? I don’t want to fall behind on stretching my limits that way.”

Enrique nodded. “Absolutely. If you come an hour before your shift, I will give you private lessons in the mornings. That way, you can practice your new skills as you work with Fern.”

Tamara nodded furiously. “I will. Thank you, sir. You won’t regret it!”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “Please, call me Enrique, child. There is no need for that formality. Now go cool down and enjoy the snow.”

“Of course. See you in the morning, Enrique!” Tamara dashed out of the workshop as fast as she could, grabbing her coat on the way, unable to contain her excitement at getting extra time to use her Gift and the fresh snow falling from the sky.

Tamara only slowed once she was halfway down the street. Looking to the sky, she marveled at the fluffy, heavy flakes dusting her cheeks.

Maybe Enrique is on to something. She thought to herself as she waved to the people on the streets, Mortals and Magicae indistinguishable in their heavy coats and rosy cheeks.

Heimat would always be stronger for the diversity of their population.