Chapter 14: The First Godstest

865 117 80

Fences crisscrossed the torn earth. They stretched as far as Jane's eyes could see, and their wires glittered with glass. A short distance away, the earth dipped into a narrow trench. And just in front of the trench—

With trembling fingers, she conjured magefire. The light threw into sharp relief the figure of a man, barely more than a boy, with wide, staring eyes. Shaking, Jane reached across the ground to touch him. He was rigid, stiff and cold, his clothes crusted with blood and dirt. A little further along was another body, and what looked like half an arm.

She suppressed a whimper.

The first body wore the same light green uniform she had seen on the tsar's soldiers. The second body wore a blue uniform, like the Kanachskiy soldiers they'd fought in the forest.

I'm in the war zone between Somita and Kanach, Jane thought with horror.

She was abruptly aware of how bright her light was. If she was in a war zone, calling up magefire was the equivalent of screaming "I'm here!" and setting off sparklers. As if to prove her point, a blast cleaved the night. She put out her light and dropped to the ground, a hand over her head. Another blast followed. This one was so close it made her ears rattle.

Terror swamped her. Some part of her, she realized stupidly, had thought the godstests would be controlled, measured tests of her ability. She had never imagined she might be deposited on the ground, surrounded by dead bodies, in the middle of a war.

She was going to die. She was going to die, and her godstest had barely begun—

Stop it, she thought. You're being ridiculous; you've been studying for weeks, and anyway, if you fail right now, minutes into your first godstest, what will people say? You can't fail now, you'll be eaten by a dragon! You'll never make it back to Earth!

Anyway, there was no way to call off the godstest now. Even if she did yell to the gods that she wanted to give up, they would probably ignore her.

Jane didn't know how long she crouched on the cold ground, shivering, before a third blast hit. This one was so close that debris and glass shards lashed her skin. A noise drew near—a steady beating—the flapping of wings—

Cover. She hurled herself across the ground, into the trench, pressing herself close as possible to the wall. It was hard to find her magic, but she tried to summon a concealment charm, gathering shadows around her to hide herself, to draw attention away from her white nightgown and pale leg-warmers.

A moment later, the wyvern came into view. It was close enough that Jane saw the orange of its eyes, the silhouetted rider on its back. Jane pressed herself into the wall of the trench, half-burying herself in loose earth. She knew her sloppy concealment would never have fooled anyone in daylight, but in the shadow-steeped trenches it ought to be enough—please, please let it be enough

The rider paused. His head turned slowly, as though scanning the area—

—and then, with a great whupping of wings, he flew away.

Jane collapsed, shaking with relief.

She had to get out of here. Maybe that was the objective of this godstest: escape the war zone without dying.

If she was going to leave this trench, she needed to protect her feet. Glass poked the skin of her heels, and it was only a matter of time before she cut herself. She thought of trying to levitate herself, but she knew she'd run out of magic before she made it across the battlefield.

Her eyes fell on the Kanachskiy soldier's boots.

It took a lot of willpower and no small amount of cringing to pry the boots off the dead man. Their exteriors were coated with mud and dried blood, which seemed resistant to every attempt she made to clean them. She really, really hoped there were no deadly blood-borne diseases in Mir.

The Rest is RiddlesWhere stories live. Discover now