Scent of Magic Page 104

“Uh-huh.” Ryne failed to sound convinced.

“What I want to know is why you didn’t tell me Kerrick was killed by Cellina’s ufa pack?”

“He wasn’t. He gave Cellina his sword to convince Tohon of his death.” He paled. “Didn’t I tell you?”

“He’s not...” I swayed, and Ryne grabbed my arm to keep me from falling.

“Sit down, Avry.”

My legs gave out, and I plopped down. Joy wanted to explode from my chest, but Ryne’s expression kept it locked inside.

“He took a battalion north just like I said. According to my most recent messenger, he continued up to Krakowa and engaged the tribes.” Ryne glanced down.

“Tell me,” I ordered.

He met my gaze. “Only a couple soldiers returned. The attack was unsuccessful.”

The tribes didn’t take prisoners. Everyone knew that.

The cave spun. The firelight turned into streaks and swirled around my head. I had believed Kerrick died and had been living with the knowledge for two weeks.

Except for that brief instant where I thought...

And just when I didn’t think I could feel any worse...

I did.


He clicked his tongue, urging Oya along the narrow ledge. The horse had done so well crossing the other eight ridges of the Nine Mountains, but even Kerrick had to admit this last one was daunting. A two-thousand-foot drop was mere inches to their left while sheer rock lined the right. Instead of riding, he dismounted and led her by the reins.

They had been on the road for the past nine days and were farther along than even his most optimistic estimates. Canute had been right, Oya was their best horse. The only problem—since she had been bred to live in the ice-covered Vilde Lander, she was pure white. Granted, he could camouflage her when they rode through the forest, but it required more energy. Plus, she drew too much attention in the few towns they had encountered.

Kerrick had spread the news about the tribes as they’d traveled. Many of the town officials invited him to spend the night and share more information. Anxious to find Avry and Ryne, he hadn’t lingered long. Just enough to ease their minds about the tribes and to inquire about any news from the south. No one had heard anything regarding the conflict between Tohon and Estrid.

After coaxing Oya around the tightest bend, the ledge widened. An hour later, he mounted and spurred her into a trot as they entered the foothills. Once they reached the tree line, Kerrick reconnected with the living green, seeking ambushes or intruders. He needed to be more careful on this side of the Nine Mountains.

As the day turned into night, Kerrick sensed activity to the west. Pulling power, he camouflaged them both and headed west. After a few miles, Kerrick knew he’d have to leave Oya tied to a tree. She made too much noise.

Once they got close to Peti, he dismounted, fed and watered her. Even in the dark, her white coat was visible. Kerrick encouraged the surrounding vines to weave into a blanket that covered her. She watched the living cover with one ear cocked back but otherwise didn’t seem to mind the strangeness. Her personality matched the tribes to a tee—unflappable.

A ring of watchers guarded the town, but Kerrick slipped by them with ease. By the time he reached the burned-out edge of Peti, he relaxed and strode out into the open. For once, his brother had heeded his warning and actually evacuated Orel.

It didn’t take long before someone spotted him. They led him to Izak and his Great-Aunt Yasmin amid happy cries and lots of questions. He promised answers after he talked to Izak. His family had moved into the first floor of one of the old abandoned factories. Inside, a kiln roared, pumping out heat in the corner. Great-Aunt Yasmin sat right next to it. Nestled under a blanket, she rocked in her chair.

“Ah, Kerry, I knew you’d return,” she said, gesturing him closer.

He took her hand in his and leaned down to give her a peck on her cheek. Deep lines of fatigue marked her face. Her fingers felt like toothpicks. But her gaze remained sharp as always.

“It’s a miracle,” Izak said as he entered the room, his sarcasm clear. “Your messengers proclaimed the demise of your entire army. What did you do? Hide and let them fight to their deaths?”

“Kerry,” Great-Aunt Yasmin warned, squeezing his hand.

He drew in a breath and ignored his brother. “Is Zila safe?”

“The dear child is with Berna.”

One worry down, a hundred more to go.

“But I’m afraid her brother didn’t make it.” She shook her head sadly. “Zila said he ran off to rescue you. She was quite upset, poor child.”

“Then I’ve good news for her. Danny did indeed rescue me.” Many times, but he wasn’t going to go into details now.

Her face lit up, and she looked twenty years younger. “Where is he?”

Back with the tribe, helping Rakel heal their people. But again it was too much to explain. “He’s safe. Did anyone get hurt when you evacuated?”

“Of course,” Izak said dismissively. “It’s a strenuous climb over those mountains. We had heart failures, twisted ankles, altitude sickness and broken bones. But you seem to have survived your adventures unscathed.”

Kerrick turned to Izak. Great-Aunt Yasmin kept a firm grip on him.

“Aren’t you going to regale us with your exploits, brother?” Izak gestured to the dadao hanging from Kerrick’s belt. “Or have you gone tribal?”

He placed his free hand on the hilt of his new weapon. “This was a gift. And considering the best way to stop Tohon’s dead soldiers is to chop their heads off, this will be quite useful. Unless you made another deal with Tohon?”

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