Chapter 21: A House of Many Mirrors

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Jane knew Nikolay had sworn an Oath to protect the tsar, and that when the tsar finally succumbed to his cancer, Nikolay would die for failing to 'protect' the tsar from death.

But knowing was one thing, and witnessing was another. She had not comprehended how badly Nikolay's health would deteriorate in the days leading up to his death.

Lidea put Nikolay in one of the downstairs bedrooms. She set Jane up in a room across the hall. They were small rooms, cozy, with plenty of blankets. In his room, Nikolay tossed and turned feverishly, more often asleep than awake. A couple of times, Jane thought about venturing inside, but she always thought better of it.

Instead, she watched Lidea's mirrors. The house was full of them. They seemed to occupy every spare inch of wall and had even taken over some of the doorways. Each mirror looked out into a different part of Mir. It was like watching an array of security cameras scattered across the kingdoms.

She had spent many hours glued to those mirrors when she first arrived, scouring every surface for some sign of Sandra or the dragon. The last memory she had of Sandra was her sister going limp, clutched in the dragon's claws. The dragon was unconscious now—the Dragonsleep had seen to that—but Jane couldn't shake the sinking terror that her sister was somewhere in the wilderness, confused and badly hurt.

She had asked Lidea for some means of tracking down Sandra after learning that Lidea was a mage. Lidea had regarded her gravely. "Without something of hers—a hair, for example—I cannot track her whereabouts," she said, to Jane's disappointment. "But I can tell you she's not dead or badly injured. She is an avtorka now, and when an avtorka dies, it casts ripples in the fabric of the world that are easy enough to sense, if you know what you are looking for. The best thing you can do if you want to help her is wait here and watch the mirrors. She could be anywhere on Mir, and your going out to look for her in the midst of the war would only complicate things."

So Jane, hating herself for her inaction, stayed put.

Lidea puzzled Jane, but she was so matronly, so kind, Jane could not feel afraid. Jane's Writing had deprived Lidea's charges of their powers, but the sorceress treated Jane like family. She bustled around making soup.

"If you're the nanny of the gods," Jane asked Lidea, as she helped the old woman slice what seemed like half a bushel of onions, "why aren't you a goddess yourself?"

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"If you're the nanny of the gods," Jane asked Lidea, as she helped the old woman slice what seemed like half a bushel of onions, "why aren't you a goddess yourself?"

Lidea smiled sadly. "Divna brought me here from Earth when the gods were very young. They'd just gotten their hands on the Book of Truths and were up to all sorts of mischief." She lay down her knife with a sigh. "Divna was the eldest of the three and felt responsible for the other two. She told me their parents had recently died, and she needed someone to keep Avdotya and Sidor out of trouble and clean and cook and do their laundry. I thought it very silly, them designating themselves gods when they were once humans like you and me, but I agreed to help. They set me up nicely, with plenty of magic, longevity, and access to current affairs, so to speak."

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