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Tien will never be devout enough to receive a miracle from Emperor Gregor.

When Ekaterin was younger, before Tien's brother died, she tried to make up for Tien's lukewarm agnosticism. She would pack Nikki in his stroller, and then leave him in the care of the priests' wives at the front of the temple. She would light all the candles and she would stay on her knees longer than was respectable, murmuring a litany of carefully phrased wishes. Her skirts wore out; Tien had smiled at first, then sneered, then accused her of watching the young archdiacon.

Which, of course, Ekaterin did. For all her faith – and oh, she had so much of it then – her attention would wonder. And a life of service fascinated her, or, rather, a life of service to only one entity. The men who served Gregor directly seemed calm and wonderful to her (and nothing like men at all, whatever Tien believed), and unbothered by matters of economy or intrigue. She envied their wives.

When Tien lost his brother, she thought he would become an atheist.

It made sense. Tien always grew bitter of authority. Tien hated superstition, and superficial comforts. After fate had been so harsh to him, she expected him to distance himself from church, to forbid her from attending.

But he took no stand. All that changed was his jokes became even darker. Usually the punchline was her naïveté, his indulgence in allowing her to waste her time so.

She took it upon herself to represent her family spiritually. She taught Nikolai the basics of worship (and hoped idly that he would choose a deity less grand and distant than the emperor). She prayed for health, she prayed for harmony, she prayed for clarity.

All she got was another row. This time, her sin was doubting Tien's ability to keep a job – though she had never prayed for that. One does not bother a god with domestic matters.

Now, Ekaterin prays for silence, and receives silence while she's praying, and that feels like just enough of a miracle to be worth the effort.