Scent of Magic Page 100

One side of the sack was dented, but liquid squished inside. Not as much as before, but enough to take out a few dead soldiers. The fibrous material hadn’t leaked despite being pierced a number of times with a needle. Impressive.

Down near the bottom of my pack, I found the Lily map. It had been in there since Saul and I had delivered Ursan. Spreading the map out on my lap, I located my current position and deduced the closest clump of Lilys. It was approximately one day east of here. So close!

Frustrated, I tested every wooden slat for weakness again. Solid. Building a pyramid of hay bales, I climbed into the rafters and pushed against the roof with my hands, hoping for a soft spot. None.

Finally exhausted, I stretched out on a pile of loose straw.

* * *

I jerked awake. Surrounded by darkness, I listened. Only the thumping of my heart reached my ears. But an uneasy feeling stirred in my chest. I jumped to my feet. The barn door remained locked tight. What had roused me? I peeked out through one of the small knots. No moonlight or lanterns lit the farmhouse. No movement. No—

An ufa howled, which would have been creepy if it had been a distant keen. But when the noise sounded on the other side of the wall, it went straight past creepy and right into terrifying.

A loud thud shook the barn’s wall. The boards creaked. Alarmed, I backed away. More howls pierced the night. Shouts and screams followed them. Cellina’s ufa pack had found us.

Another thud vibrated. Cracks snaked through the wooden slats. I grabbed my pack and scrambled up the hay pyramid. When I reached the rafters, I kicked the bales, knocking them down.

With a crash, an ufa broke through the wall. It paused as if stunned. Crouched on a rafter, I knew I wasn’t high enough to stay out of its reach. The creature might not see me, but it could smell me.

Through the hole in the wall, I spied a fire. Ufas usually shied away from flames, but I doubted anything could scare the dead ones. The beast below me turned its head, sniffing the air. Smoke and the scent of burning wood wafted inside the barn. Just when I thought it couldn’t smell me, the ufa slunk in my direction.

I pulled the toxin sack from my pack. Perhaps I could rip it with my fingernail and squirt the toxin in its face. But when the creature lunged into the air toward me, I panicked and tossed the sack at it. The ufa snatched it with its teeth, popping it before slamming into the rafter.

The beam shook, and I lost my balance, falling to the ground. The good news, I landed on a pile of straw. The bad, the ufa landed next to me. Before I could move, the creature was on top of me, pinning my shoulders down with its huge paws.

Bracing for its teeth to rip into me, I shut my eyes. But it didn’t. Instead the ufa remained over me as if waiting for further orders. It had been on a seek-and-find mission, not seek-and-kill. Good to know.

The stench hit me a second before the ufa collapsed on top of me. I would have gagged if my lungs hadn’t been crushed under its weight. Using my arms, I pushed on the beast’s chest and wiggled sideways enough to make some breathing room. However, getting the dead weight off me would be impossible.

While I debated calling for help, a thud vibrated the floor boards of the barn, then a second. I froze as snuffling sounded quite close. Long sharp claws scraped at the ufa on top of me. It rocked, threatening to uncover me. I clung to its fur as the other ufa pushed its nose under my ufa’s belly.

My throat burned with the need to breathe, and I was on the verge of passing out when the ufas padded away. After waiting a few more seconds, I sucked in the foul air in relief. Still trapped, there wasn’t much I could do.

Eventually a voice hissed my name.

“In here,” I said.

“Thank— What died?” Enric asked, coughing. “Where are you?”

“Stuck under the ufa.”

He grunted and I pushed. Together, we moved the ufa’s body enough for me to squirm free.

Enric helped me to my feet. “You stink.”

He gave me an idea. I rubbed my back along the ufa’s fur, hoping to cover all my body with its scent.

“Now what? There are ufas all over the place,” Enric said.

“Thanks for the help, but this is where we part ways.” I picked up my pack and ran for the broken wall.

He followed. “I had to pretend to support General Jael, Avry. Otherwise I would have been locked in here with you.”

“Just don’t get in my way.” I’d decide later if I should trust him or not.

Climbing through the gap, I pressed against the barn, scanning the area. A few of Jael’s soldiers fought ufas. The tobacco shed burned, and the house appeared dark.

“The general fled south with most of her men,” Enric whispered.


“I didn’t see her with them.”

Jael probably left her behind. Again. Keeping to the shadows, I headed to the farmhouse. An ufa streaked pass, but didn’t stop. Broken furniture, splintered doors and other evidence of a fight littered the first floor. I ran up the steps to the bedrooms, calling Noelle’s name. She answered. Tracking her voice, I found her in a small room at the end of the hall.

Noelle lay on a single bed in an otherwise empty room, her hair tangled and sweat-soaked.

“Avry, I— You smell awful.”

“Come on,” I said, pulling her up.

She resisted. “I didn’t—”

“Tell me later.” I yanked her to her unsteady feet.


“Enric, help me.”

“Here.” He handed me his sword, then crouched down and tossed Noelle over his shoulder before standing.

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