Scent of Magic Page 114

Kerrick and I exchanged a concerned glance. Flea’s magic was a wonderful discovery—the only thing to go right all day—but if anyone found out, he’d be a target.

Before we could question him further, Odd and his squad arrived.

“What an incredible stench,” Odd said, covering his nose with his sleeve. He scanned the piles of dead ufas and unconscious soldiers. “Where’s Wynn?” he asked in alarm. “Did she...”

“She’s alive and well.” I disentangled from Kerrick and stood. Time to break Odd’s heart, but I hesitated.

“We should head back before Cellina returns with more soldiers,” Kerrick said. He winced slightly when he lumbered to his feet. “We’ll exchange information as we go.”

I took Kerrick’s hand, then released my magic. He smiled until he felt my power surge through his body.

“Avry, don’t,” he said, trying to shake me off.

“Too late.” Pain stabbed into my shoulder as blood soaked my shirt.

“You shouldn’t have.”

I gave him a flat look.

He sighed but kept my hand. We trudged to the infirmary, taking turns explaining what happened in the clearing with Tohon, Cellina, Sepp and Wynn. After hearing the news about Wynn, Odd clammed up and listened in stony silence. One of his men told us that after the monkeys and Flea had left the cave, Sergeant Odd decided to follow just in case.

“And why did you follow me?” Kerrick asked Loren.

“Flea had one of his bad feelings.” He glanced at Flea. “We’ve learned to trust them.”

Looking better, but still uncharacteristically subdued, Flea shrugged.

After we ran out of explanations, I noticed that instead of tiring, I had more energy with each step. The pain in my shoulder settled into a dull throb. It took me a moment to detect the subtle flow of magic from Kerrick.

I yanked my hand from his. “Save your strength. If even a drop of toxin is in you—” I swallowed “—you’ll need it.”

He recaptured my hand, lacing his warm fingers through mine. “I’ll be good, I promise.”

“Will you promise not to die from the toxin?” I half joked.

“If it will make you smile, then I will solemnly swear not to die from Death Lily toxin.” He made an X across his chest with his finger.

I couldn’t suppress a grin.

Kerrick squeezed my hand and smiled back.

When we reached the cave, we endured another round of questions before we could collapse by the fire and inhale supper.

The monkeys discussed Tohon’s semideath and Cellina’s possible courses of action.

“Will she wait to make a healer or try to capture Avry?” Loren asked.

“Cellina knows I won’t cooperate, and there may be children who have survived the toxin at Tohon’s castle,” I said.

“Plus, she really liked the sound of Queen Cellina,” Kerrick added. “She might be content to let him stay in that state.”

“Well, she’ll have all those troops to command, but only a limited number of dead. And once we hit them with the toxin, she won’t have them anymore. So she’ll need Tohon,” Quain said.

“But we’re still outnumbered,” Loren said. “Even with Prince Ryne’s tactics, we’re in for a long haul unless we get more soldiers.”

“I might be able to find a few,” Kerrick said. He told us about making a truce with the tribes. “They know how to fight. One of them is worth three of us.”

The monkeys teased Kerrick about going tribal until Flea interrupted them with, “First we need to rescue Belen so I can...wake him, then get more troops and restore the Fifteen Realms.”

All humor fled. When listed like that, it was daunting. And I didn’t add freeing Melina or dealing with Jael or deciding what to do with Estrid and her staff who might still be frozen in Sepp’s stasis.

Poor Odd didn’t eat a bite, and he looked devastated. After he mumbled about getting some sleep and left, I followed him. Well acquainted with loss, I pulled him aside to talk to him in private.

“I just feel so...stupid for not figuring it out. Now that I think about it, there were plenty of clues,” Odd said.

“Don’t beat yourself up. We all missed it,” I said.

“Yeah, but you didn’t fall in love with her.”

He tried to brush past. I grabbed his arm. “Yes, I did. She was like a sister to me. An older, grumpier sister, but I loved her, too.”

A quick smile flashed before the haunted expression returned.

“And I know she cared for you. That wasn’t an act.”

He conceded the possibility. Catching movement to the left, I spotted Kerrick hovering nearby. He’d been keeping an eye on me the entire night. And I’d been seeking signs of the toxin, holding my emotions in so tight my muscles ached. He appeared healthy, but I wasn’t going to be caught off guard again. I didn’t want to hope. I wanted to know without a doubt that he would live before I let myself relax. Before I let myself have that happy reunion.

Kerrick kept his distance from us, but his body language said it all. Odd eyed him for a long moment. “So we guessed you were in love with the wrong prince?”

“Yes,” I said.

“At least we got the prince part right. Although I think I prefer Prince Ryne. This one is too overprotective. Doesn’t he know you can handle yourself?”

I laughed. “Oh, he’s well aware of my abilities. We just haven’t seen each other in months.”

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