Chapter 20: The Traitor of Somita

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Jane froze. "Treason?" she repeated. "What for?"

The taller mage approached, hands outstretched. Panicking, Jane backed away, but the mage crooked a finger. Jane hurtled forward. The mage grabbed her arm, and with ruthless efficiency, he locked the manacles around her wrists and neck.

"Please," said Jane. "At least tell me what I'm being accused of."

"Silence."

He took her hand, and with a Crack! transported them into a pit cell.

The cell was identical to the Kanachskiy boy's, bare and straw-covered, with only a single light source at the top. Ignoring Jane's increasingly desperate questions, the battle mage attached Jane's chains to the center post. As soon as he finished, he vanished, leaving her alone.

She hugged her knees, her panic growing. The manacles were heavy and glowed a faint silver. Experimentally, Jane tried to melt them with magefire but received only a sharp sting for her pains.

They couldn't have imprisoned her because she'd failed her godstest. Could they? Visions of the dead swam before Jane's eyes again. She wanted to be sick.

The light high above her was fading by the time Kir appeared in her cell. He ignored the dirty straw on the floor of the pit cell and dropped to his knees beside her, staring with horror at the manacles shackling her wrists.

"This is ridiculous!" he exclaimed. "You've done nothing wrong!"

"What's going on?" said Jane. "Why am I here? No one will tell me anything."

"They're trying to accuse you of treason."

Someone coughed. Jane looked behind Kir and saw a tall figure—one of the green-cloaked battle mages from before.

"They wouldn't let me come alone," Kir said angrily. "Olesya was afraid I might help you escape."

Jane sucked in a breath, fighting back tears. She had shed far too many of those lately, and losing her head again wouldn't help matters. "Who is accusing me?" she asked steadily. "What are the charges against me? Are they imprisoning me because I failed the godstest?"

Kir shook his head. "It's worse than that. They're saying — they're saying —" His voice dipped and wavered. "They say you're responsible for the escape of a Kanachskiy prisoner a week ago. And — and on top of that, they want you arrested for impersonating the tsar during your godstest, even though it's obvious you had to do that for your godstest. You weren't being willfully malicious!"

"Wait. Back up." Jane's head swam. "Who escaped?"

Kir swallowed. His eyes shone with tears. "A Kanachskiy soldier who we captured a few months ago, near Dalnushka. Most Kanachskiy take their lives before telling us anything. This one didn't, so Olesya and Nikolay brought him back for questioning. About a week ago, right before your godstest, he... escaped — stole a wyvern and flew to Dalnushka... he was the one who delivered the information to the Kanachskiy mages that allowed them to break the protection spell guarding Dalnushka, the spell stopping the sudok from attacking—"

"The prisoner." Jane covered her mouth. "Oh God—"

"You know about him?"

"Nikolay took him captive on the way here..."

Jane's mind worked frantically. The Magicore mages must have traced her magic when she visited the soldier's cell with Casimir to heal him. She hadn't helped him escape, but would they figure that out? How did the justice system work in Somita? Would she get a fair trial, expert witnesses?

Jane was dubious.

"It's ludicrous, obviously," Kir was babbling. "You didn't free the prisoner — you had no reason to want him free in the first place — there's absolutely no way you're responsible for any of this. You don't even know how to teleport!"

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