Ess took the rod and pressed it between her hands, to keep it from picking up the deliciously fearful shivers vibrating in her breastbone. Ford stood and opened the door, then waited until Athena and Dr. Sylvia stepped outside.
“How long?” She wasn’t quite sure herself what she was asking.
“As long as it takes,” Dr. Sylvia said. “As long as you feel comfortable working on it. I highly recommend regular breaks for fresh air and food, exercise and rest. Especially rest.”
“Take as long as you want,” Ford said. “But try to finish before we reach Cleveland." He chuckled when Athena sighed loudly. “Once those lawyers get hold of you, I doubt you’ll have any room in your head for experiments.”
“He’s right, in a way.” Athena made a shooing gesture with her fingertips. Ford grinned, bowed, then sauntered away. “Take your time. Expecting miracles in a matter of days will simply put up a barrier. This secret has waited for centuries. Your family has been working on it for generations. It would be ridiculous to expect you to unlock it in a few days. And it would be equally ridiculous not to try, while we have time and opportunity.”
With a smile, she stepped out and closed the door.
Ess inhaled, raising her fingertips again to press, to relieve the sensation of increased pressure in the bones around her ears. When that dissipated, she put the crystal rod down on the table, wrapped it in a fold of the acoustic cloth, and reached to open the box of dust.
The shimmer of sound wasn’t as strong this time, compared to the first time she encountered the dust in the canopic jar. Likely an effect resulting from both the acoustic cloth and the reduced amount of dust. Ess played with the amounts, spreading a little on the table, then tapping the rod, listening to the sound that resulted, gauging the reaction in her sinus bones, then adding more dust. She repeated the process until all the dust lay on the table. Then she experimented with arranging the dust, drawing furrows, piling it as high as she could get it, then spreading it out as thin as she could.
She discovered that while the crystal rod continued to vibrate, it made the dust stick together, so she could guide it into shapes. She had fun with that for a while.
When her thoughts wandered, the next thing she knew she had created a three-dimensional copy of the lotus, without quite knowing how she had done it.