Scent of Magic Page 13

They grumbled but trudged into the woods as I turned my back on them and counted.

When I reached one hundred, I yelled, “Ready or not, here I come.”

Thea stared at me as if I’d grown a second head. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Don’t worry, Lieutenant.” I saluted her before entering the lush greenery.

I drew in a deep breath. Oh, yes. The Queen Seeker was back!

* * *

I stepped into the shadowy half-light. Streams of sunlight cut through the forest canopy. Without thought, I touched the leafy branch of a bush, seeking Kerrick’s magic. Disappointment stabbed deep.

Moving without matching the forest’s song, I crunched deeper into the underbrush. When I’d gone about a hundred paces, I stopped.

“Okay, Sergeants,” I shouted to the surrounding trees. “You’ve heard me tromping around. Now I’m going to go silent.”

I concentrated, listening to the sounds. An off note came from my right. I headed in that direction and surprised Sergeant Liv. After that, it didn’t take me long to find Odd, Saul and Wynn. Not that I was bragging, but if I could locate Belen, Quain and Loren, who’d all had training, I could find these sergeants who hadn’t.

Ursan proved to be harder to find. He possessed some skill, and I had to wait until he moved to another hiding spot to discern his general location. Once there, I lost him again. I made a few loops until I remembered what Kerrick had done to throw me literally off his scent.

I returned to the original place I’d zeroed in on. Then I looked up, spotting the sergeant sitting on the tree’s lowest branch. Ursan jumped off and landed next to me. His expression unreadable.

Before I could say found you, he stepped close to me. Now he let his anger show along with the blade in his hand. How did I miss that?

“Who the hell are you?” he demanded.


Kerrick offered the hilt of his sword to Cellina. From atop her horse, she met his gaze. If she signaled the pack of six dead ufas behind him, he would be torn apart.

“Take it,” he repeated.

“No. You’re going to need it.” Cellina whistled.

The high-pitched sound pierced his heart, releasing a surge of fear-fueled energy. Grabbing the hilt of his sword, he spun. The closest ufa launched straight at him. Kerrick sidestepped and slashed down with all his strength, decapitating the creature.

The rest pounced. Kerrick lopped off another head before they closed the distance, knocking him to the ground. His weapon flew from his grasp so he punched and kicked as his world filled with gray fur, sharp claws, growls and the rancid odor of decay.

When an ufa clamped its teeth around his neck, Kerrick fought with pure desperation. He grabbed the beast’s jaws, cutting his fingers on its teeth, and pulled the jaws apart.

“Heel.” Cellina’s loud command sliced through the ruckus.

The ufa on Kerrick yanked its mouth from his grasp and bounded over to sit with its pack mates behind Cellina. She had dismounted and now held his sword.

Kerrick jumped to his feet, preparing for another round.

“Relax. I wasn’t going to let them kill you.” She gestured to the pack. “I needed you to fight them so I can lie convincingly to Tohon that you’re dead.”

“You could have told me,” he rasped.

“Then you wouldn’t have fought so hard.” She approached. “Here, grab the hilt.”

Despite her claims, Kerrick didn’t trust her. “Why?”

“Tohon’s magic will sense your blood on your sword, helping to support our ruse.”

Kerrick glanced at his hands. Blood dripped from multiple cuts. As he reached for the sword, he wondered if he could take the weapon and kill Cellina before she could signal her ufas. His fingers closed around the leather. Meeting her gaze, he released the weapon.

“Last chance for you to come with me to Ryne’s,” he said, knowing the next time they encountered each other would probably be on the battlefield.

“Last chance for you to get out of here before I change my mind,” she said.

He gave her a two finger salute and resumed his trek east.

Kerrick’s energy faded after a few miles. Kneeling next to a stream, he washed the dried blood, ufa slime and sweat from his face, neck and arms. His hands shook with a delayed reaction from the fight.

That was too close. He hoped Cellina’s reprieve meant she might be a potential ally in the future. Pushing to his feet, he continued east.

* * *

A loud crash sounded behind him. Kerrick spun, grabbing for his sword. His fingers wrapped around an unfamiliar hilt.

“My bad,” Quain said, returning the copper statue that had fallen to the marble floor, turning it so the dent was no longer visible. He glanced at Kerrick’s hand. “Expecting trouble?”

“Depends. Why are you here?” he asked.

Quain and Loren, or as Belen liked to call them, the monkeys, had been...not quite avoiding him since he’d arrived at Ryne’s castle four days ago, but they’d been keeping out of his way. They had acknowledged Avry’s absence with grief-stricken expressions. Ryne had warned them prior to Kerrick’s arrival, but they had hoped, with Kerrick’s magic strengthening her healing powers, she would have survived the plague.

“Prince Ryne is looking for you,” Quain said. The lantern’s glow shone on his bald head.

“What does he want?” Kerrick planned to help speed up the departure preparations. Every day spent here gave Avry another day to encounter trouble.

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