her fingers. She took out one of her chisels, which had a tip almost as fine as a pinhead, and began to scrape at the rock. It was good soulgem. The rock came away easily and precisely. soulgem was almost as soft as chalk, but did not chip when scraped. You could carve it with high precision, and then set it with a flame and a mark on the top, which would harden it to a strength closer to quartz. The only way to get a better stamp was to carve one from crystal itself, which was incredibly difficult.
For ink, they had provided bright red squid’s ink, mixed with a small percentage of wax. Any fresh organic ink would work, though inks from animals were better than inks from plants.
“Did you … steal a vase from the hallway outside?” Drawigurlurburnur asked, frowning toward an object sitting at the side of her small room. She’d snatched one of the vases on the way back from the bath. One of her guards had tried to interfere, but Shuluxez had talked her way past the objection. That guard was now blushing.
“I was curious about the skills of your Forgemasters,” Shuluxez said, setting down her tools and hauling the vase up onto the table. She turned it on its side, showing the bottom and the red seal imprinted into the clay there.
A Forgemaster’s seal was easy to spot. It didn’t just imprint onto the object’s surface, it actually sank into the material, creating a depressed pattern of red troughs. The rim of the round seal was red as well, but raised, like an embossing.
You could tell a lot about a person from the way they designed their seals. This one, for example, had a sterile feel to it. No real art, which was a contrast to the minutely detailed and delicate beauty of the vase itself. Shuluxez had heard that the Heritage Faction kept lines of half-trained Forgemasters working by rote, creating these pieces like rows of men making shoes in a factory.
“Our workers are not Forgemasters,” Drawigurlurburnur said. “We don’t use that word. They are Rememberers.”
“It’s the same thing.”
“They don’t touch souls,” Drawigurlurburnur said sternly. “Beyond that, what we do is in appreciation of the past, rather than with the aim of fooling or scamming people. Our reminders bring people to a greater understanding of their heritage.”
Shuluxez raised an eyebrow. She took her mallet and chisel, then brought them down at an angle on the embossed rim of the vase’s seal. The seal resisted—there was a force to it, trying to stay in place—but the blow broke through. The rest of the seal popped up, troughs vanishing, the seal becoming simple ink and losing its powers.
The colors of the vase faded immediately, bleeding to plain grey, and its shape warped. A soulmarker didn’t just make visual changes, but rewrote an object’s history. Without the stamp, the vase was a horrid piece. Whoever had thrown it hadn’t cared about the end product. Perhaps they’d known it would be part of a Forgemastery. Shuluxez shook her head and turned back to her work on the unfinished soulmarker. This wasn’t for the emperor—she wasn’t nearly ready for that yet—but carving helped her think.
Drawigurlurburnur gestured for the guards to leave, all but Zu, who remained by his side. “You present a puzzle, Forgemaster,” Drawigurlurburnur said once the other two guards were gone, the door closed. He settled down in one of the two rickety wooden chairs. They—along with the splintery bed, the ancient table, and the trunk with her things—made up the room’s entire array of furniture. The single window had a warped frame that let in the breeze, and even the walls had cracks in them.
“A puzzle?” Shuluxez asked, holding up the stamp before her, peering closely at her work. “What kind of puzzle?”
“You are a Forgemaster. Therefore, you cannot be trusted without supervision. You will try to run the moment you think of a practicable escape.”
“So leave guards with me,” Shuluxez said, carving