Chapter 13: The Pit Cell

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She looked up, panicked.

"Sorry," she said.

"Are you all right? You look like you saw a ghost. Erm. On second thought, that remark may be in poor taste, considering where we are right now-"

Jane's eyes darted back to the tombstone. She reread the words engraved on its front, certain she must have been mistaken. But it was unmistakable. The grave marker was new, and its words were carved in crisp, precise print.

Tsarina Eloise Bauer of Somita, also of Earth, died on 22 Eeyoon 874.

"What's wrong?" said Kir.


"It's not nothing. You're shaking."

Jane's hands clenched the fabric of her dress. "I think... your mom might've had ties with my adopted family."

Her mind worked frantically, trying to remember. She thought her mom had once told her Uncle Bauer lost a child, a few years before Jane was adopted. She had made it sound like a car accident, and it had been quickly forgotten. Jane racked her brain, but she couldn't remember seeing photos of a young woman around Uncle Bauer's house, not even in his study. And Uncle Bauer had never spoken of his dead daughter to them, not once-

How had she never before thought to ask Kir's mother's name?

"It would explain the similar mannerisms," Kir said thoughtfully. His voice grew excited. "Does this mean you met my mother?"

"No," said Jane. "No, I never met her, she must've come here before I was adopted, probably before I was born since you're older-"

She felt like the stone walls of the cemetery were closing in around her. Perhaps it was the aftereffects from the Dragonsleep potion she'd inhaled the day before, but it almost felt hard to breathe.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I have to get out of this corset. It's too tight."

"Here," said Kir, springing up. "I'll help you get back to your rooms.

"You don't have to worry, you know," Kir babbled, as they made their way back. "I mean, I'm just guessing you're worried because she was someone you knew, and she didn't pass her godstests, but you're going to be a marvelous avtorka. Priest Androv was right, you're smart and brave and kind and honest! If anyone can do it, it's you."

"I - I think I can walk back from here. Thanks..."

As soon as she was back in her rooms, she began to pace, stripping herself of the confining dress and corset. She flung on a looser dress and hugged her arms to her chest.

Uncle Bauer's daughter had died here-in Mir-in this very castle. She'd failed her godstests, and then she'd gotten trapped in this world. She hadn't gotten to see Uncle Bauer again before she died; she hadn't gotten to say goodbye; her life had just ended, far too young.

Jane felt like the walls were closing in around her. The air was stifling; it was getting hard to breathe again-

She pushed the door open and hurried into the hallway.

Why hadn't Uncle Bauer ever told her about his daughter? Why hadn't she put the pieces together and assumed this might not be the first time a portal had opened in her Uncle Bauer's study? What had caused Eloise Bauer to fail? And if Uncle Bauer's own daughter had failed, what was stopping her, Jane, from meeting the same fate?

The temple of Sengilach, so packed with people earlier, was now deserted. Offerings were still piled high at the bases of the three effigies.

"I would like some answers, please," Jane told the godly statues.

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