Chapter 9: Rooftop Escapades

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Wind whipped Jane's shoulders as she stared at the space where Nikolay had been. Slowly, she sank to the shingles, trying to avoid the pile of sick.

The roof was a tower spire which sloped at a sickening angle, leaving barely enough space for Jane and the vomit. Beyond the roof's edge, she saw the rest of the castle and its garden, an enclave of trees and a large well. The people who passed beneath her looked tiny, like toy soldiers.

She tried to catch their attention by shouting, but no one looked up. Perhaps she was too far away, or perhaps Nikolay had done magic to ensure they couldn't hear her.

She shivered against the wind. The longer she stared down the rooftop, the dizzier she felt. Her heart beat wildly with panic.

Phillip, she thought. What would Phillip do?

But she was pretty sure her older brother had never found himself on top of a roof with open air at all sides and a terrible, hundred-foot drop waiting to swallow him.

Surely, Nikolay wouldn't leave her to die up here. Would he?

Perhaps he found some other way to break his Oath, said a cold, insidious voice in her head. Maybe he only sees you as a nuisance and doesn't care if you live or die. It would be just like him to find an alternate solution, probably some dark, dangerous magic, and hide it from the tsar.

The wind beat against her, sending goosebumps up her arms. Her hands on the shingles were numb.

Warmth. She could do that much, at least. Trying not to think about falling, she pressed her back to the shingles, cupped her hands in front of her, and closed her eyes. It was not the meditative pose Casimir favored, but it worked. When she opened her eyes, magefire bathed her hands in a warm, steady glow.

She hugged it to her, trying to shield it from the wind. Her breathing eased.

If her brother Phillip had ever found himself in such a situation, he wouldn't have panicked. He would have thought of some way to get down on his own, in his cool, logical way. Perhaps he would have made a rope out of his tunic—no, that wouldn't work, there would be barely enough cloth to make it to the edge of the roof—

Magic, then. She had read about levitation the previous day, but there was no way she could levitate herself off the tower without training. Alternatively, she could try to burn a hole in the roof with magefire, but that seemed distinctly... unwise.

As she reached into her pockets, searching for somethinganythingthat could help her, her fingers brushed something papery.

Casimir's bird! She pulled it out and held it aloft; it fluttered in the wind. What had Casimir said? "If ever you are in need of my aid, unfold the bird, and I will find you."

She definitely needed help now. She had only started learning magic yesterday, for heaven's sake! It was ridiculous for Nikolay to abandon her on a tower and call it a lesson.

She put out her magefire, preparing to unfold the bird.

I bet the gods frown on getting outside help.

She stilled.

It was a fair bet Casimir wouldn't be able to help with her Godstests. She didn't know how the gods judged the tests, but she doubted they'd be happy if she asked for outside help.

Slowly, Jane returned the paper bird to her pocket.

As she stared off the edge of the tower, she realized she knew where she was. Her view was the same as the view from Nikolay's solar. The angle of his tower's sloped ceiling corresponded perfectly to the incline of the roof she clung to now.

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