Chapter 15: The Book of Truths

336 56 29

Jane had seen the temple on Mount Naridnya twice before. The first time had been when the gods visited her dreams, a few days after her arrival in Mir, to tell her she'd been chosen as the new avtorka. The second time had been the previous day, when the Pool of Dreams had shown her a vision of Divna, Avdotya, and Sidor seated around a stone table, discussing how her godstests would make the best spectacle they'd seen in years.

The table from the vision was still there, but its chairs were empty now, devoid of godly figures, its surface bare and stony. Jane's hope—that the gods might be there to meet them, to stop Nikolay, to save her—faded as abruptly as it had begun.

Where were the gods? Shouldn't they be here, to watch over her, to supervise? She had thought that Divna, at least, might care that Nikolay was about to Write whatever he wanted.

But perhaps this was just more spectacle for them.

Nikolay's teleportation had carried them just beyond the table, in front of the long stone pillars that framed the temple's entryway. Stairs trailed down the mountain, fading into mist. The temple and its balconies were empty, yet the temple looked pristine, like someone had swept and scrubbed it that morning. Exotic flowers lined its walls, perfectly maintained.

As they stepped through the doorway, the weight of enchantment hit Jane, so thick and stifling that she struggled to draw breath. She knew Nikolay was affected as well, by the way his hand on her shoulder tensed as they entered.

The azdaja had noticed it too. She hissed with agitation and flapped her wings. Nikolay spoke soothingly to her, and she fluttered off to wait outside.

If you had any decency, you'd wait outside too! Jane thought. Although being mind-controlled prevented her from saying words aloud, if she thought things very strongly at Nikolay, he could pick up on the general tenor of her thoughts.

His only response was to tighten his grip on her hand and pull her deeper into the temple.

The temple was mostly bare, save for two ornate podiums. The podium nearest to the door held a book titled Guide to the Book of Truths.

The second podium stood in the very back of the temple, between two narrow pillars. It was taller than it was wide, fashioned entirely of gold, with rubies set into the edges. Engravings of dragons snaked up from its base. On top of the podium, its cover pitch black and gleaming, rested the largest, most ornate book Jane had ever seen. To the right of the book stood a tall quill pen, and beside it, a crimson inkwell.

Jane knew immediately that she was looking at the Book of Truths.

Nikolay must have realized it too. For a moment, he seemed to hesitate, and something like reverence crossed his features.

Then he strode toward the first podium.

While Jane waited, unable to do anything else, Nikolay scanned the rule book. It was handwritten, short, more like a journal than a true book. Jane tried to read it, but she was too far away, and she could not edge closer while Nikolay had hold of her mind.

But their mental connection was a two-way street. Jane remembered the feel of the Zakhar's mind against hers. He had fought back. She could fight back too. And Nikolay was distracted, his eyes hurriedly skimming the rule book—

She focused hard, trying to visualize the mental link between them. A piece of advice Nikolay had given her during one of their battle lessons flitted to the forefront of her mind:

If you must attack, strike fast and unexpectedly; keep your enemy constantly unbalanced until he is down.

If she was going to fight back against the mental bindings, what better time than now, while Nikolay was distracted by the rule book?

The Rest is RiddlesWhere stories live. Discover now