Chapter 16: Spies and Secrets

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Soldiers surrounded Jane—lifting her, supporting her. Every movement seemed to embed more glass into her skin. She whimpered.

"I'm the avtorka!" she babbled. "I'm the avtorka and you have to listen to me, Phillip—my brother—"

"I'm sorry, but we have to question you, Miss, since you are an unfamiliar person who has just crossed over the border."

"No, you don't understand!" Her voice felt cracked and raw. "My brother's still out there! My brother, Phillip. You have to rescue him!"

A tall figure appeared behind the soldiers. "What's going on?"

Jane had never been so glad to see Casimir in her life. "Please," she said, "My brother's still on the battlefield—please, you have to help him."

Casimir's face paled. Without a word, he spun away, vanishing into the night. Jane collapsed onto the ground with relief. Casimir would make sure Phillip was all right—Casimir would fix everything-

"Miss," said the soldier sharply. "You have to get up now; we need to ask some questions. Miss!"

Jane shook her head. She wanted to sleep. She wanted to sleep, and maybe in the morning the pain in her hands would be gone, and her feet—

"I will be the one to interrogate the avtorka. Her injuries need assessment. Let me by."

Jane's eyes fluttered open to see Nikolay staring down at her, devoid of emotion. "Did it have to be you?" she whimpered.

"If I displease you, I could take you to the opposite side of the border. I'm sure the Kanachskiy would be ecstatic to interrogate our avtorka. Where are your injuries?"

"My feet—they're full of glass—"

"Anywhere else?"

"Hands, knees, I—I don't know—there was glass everywhere, and I breathed in poison gas during the storm - Phillip's worse off, my brother—"

"Hold still. This will hurt."

It was all the warning she had before Nikolay snapped his fingers, and the world exploded in pain. It felt like dozens of shards were dragged forcibly from her body. Her nerves were on fire. It felt like he was ripping glass out of her knees - her feet - her hands - suddenly, painfully, brutally. Gradually the pain subsided, though Jane still sobbed for breath.

Nikolay tossed away the handful of bloody glass that had appeared in his palm. "Emergency healing," he said. "Temporary measures until you find a real healer."

A commotion rose nearby. "Stay here," said Nikolay, as if she was actually capable of moving. Jane closed her eyes, wishing for the night to be over.

When she next opened her eyes, Nikolay was standing beside her once again, a slip of paper clasped in his hands.

"Your brother is alive," he said. "Also, congratulations. You passed your first Godstest."

Jane took the slip of paper with shaking, bloody hands and burst into tears.

-v-

Ignoring her protests, Nikolay transported Jane back to the palace. Phillip, who was too weak to be moved, remained at the encampment with Casimir. An unfamiliar healer tended Jane's mutilated feet. Nikolay threatened the poor woman with all manner of horrible things should Jane lose the ability to walk.

Once Jane was bandaged, Nikolay ordered her to recount the details of her Godstest. He seemed most interested in her time in the catacombs, and he forced Jane to recount every detail about Zakhar's plan to deploy the sudok in the north.

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