Scent of Magic Page 105

“Boys,” Great-Aunt Yasmin scolded. “Behave.”

Experience had taught them not to argue with her. They both mumbled, “Yes, ma’am.”

She waved Kerrick into one of the empty chairs and sent Izak to fetch tea. Once he returned with a tray and settled into the other chair, she ordered Kerrick to start at the beginning.

A quarter of the way in, Izak interrupted. “They don’t take prisoners. Everyone knows that!”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Kerrick demanded.

“Hush now, Izak, let your brother speak.”

Kerrick continued until he noticed movement behind Izak. He was halfway out of his chair when a small figure slammed into him, sending him back down. Zila clung to him, her arms wrapped so tight around his neck, he had trouble breathing.

“Easy,” he squeaked.

She relaxed her arms, but her face was pressed into the hollow of his throat. She sobbed. “I tried to stop him...Danny wouldn’t listen...”

He quickly reassured her, telling her Danny was fine. No surprise, she wanted to know more, so he tucked her into his lap and let her stay to listen to the rest of his story.

“There’s no way I’m letting them live in our realm,” Izak declared after Kerrick had finished. “They’re—”

“Honorable people. And you don’t get to decide. I do.”

“So you’re going to come back with us? Deal with the thousands of details of the journey? Be King Kerrick?” Izak didn’t wait for his reply. “Of course not. You’re going to run south to help your friend.”

Kerrick clamped down on his temper. “Okay, Izak. I’ll take charge. I’ll go back to Alga with Great-Aunt Yasmin and Zila, deal with all the details and get the tribespeople settled in the northern territory. And you will meet up with Ryne. I’ll even lend you my dadao because you’re going to need it.”

“Cute, Kerrick. But you know what I meant.”

He did, and he realized he was being unfair. “You did a great job getting everyone here in such a short time, Izak.” Kerrick gazed at Zila for a moment. One thing he’d learned during the last few months was the importance of family. “How about a deal?”

Surprise mixed with suspicion, but Izak said, “Go on.”

“If you handle the return to Orel, promise to let the tribes settle in Alga, then I will abdicate the throne to you.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll still be Prince Kerrick, and once Tohon is defeated and the southern realms are on their way to recovery, I’ll act as a consultant for Alga, be a liaison with the tribes and spend time playing chess with Danny and reading books with Zila.”

Zila beamed at him along with Great-Aunt Yasmin, who asked, “And get married? Have babies?”

“Izak first,” he quipped.

And for the first time since he’d arrived, his brother cracked a smile. “I’ll be king, so I can arrange a marriage for you.”

“Good luck with that.”

They laughed, but then Izak grew serious. “What happens if Tohon isn’t defeated?”

“Then you won’t be king.”

“Why not?” Zila asked.

“Because Tohon will be.”


“No. It’s too dangerous,” Ryne said.

“I don’t care, I’m going—”

“Avry, be reasonable, please.” Ryne spread out a map of the area. He pointed to the multiple clusters of red Xs to the south, west and east of the Healer’s Guild. “Tohon’s units are marching north, doing a sweep. Each X represents approximately four hundred soldiers, both living and dead.”

“But I can—”

“Finding Belen among all those soldiers would be impossible. Besides, you don’t even know if Tohon was telling the truth. It’s typical for him to lie just to upset you.”

“Then we need to make sure. Maybe he’s hurt or—”

“And every one of my patrols has orders to search for him when they do their sweeps. Avry, we’re roughly half the size of Tohon’s army. We’re losing more each day. We need you to heal the injured.”

Ah, hell. He was right.

Ryne put his hand on my shoulder. “I know you’ve just lost your sister, and Kerrick.” He paused, swallowing.

I wasn’t the only one suffering.

“And I fully understand the temptation to find Belen, but we need to be smart. Plus, if you go, then the monkeys and Flea will follow. Would you want to risk their lives, as well?”

“All right. You made your point.”

“Have I? Kerrick warned me you’re stubborn. Do I have your word?”

“Yes, I won’t go off searching for Belen...for now.”

“Thank you.”

I glanced around the cave. “Where are your injured?”

“There’s another cave southeast of here. We’ve been using it as an infirmary. It’s well hidden, easy to defend and has a back entrance. I also would like you to keep harvesting those toxin sacks.”

“If the Death Lilys keep giving them to me, I can.”

“I’ll have the monkeys and Flea escort you to the cave and stay there for future toxin runs and help with defense.”

“Shouldn’t they stay with you?”

“They’ll be safer with you.”

I smiled sadly. He understood if I lost another friend, I’d dissolve into a puddle. A morbid thought crossed my mind. I didn’t have any more family members to lose. At least I’d spent the last minutes of Noelle’s life with her. And that reminded me...

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