Scent of Magic Page 14

“Don’t know, but he said right away.”

Kerrick suppressed his annoyance as he headed toward the prince’s office. Ryne probably wanted another detailed explanation of the ufa attack. He realized he still held the sword’s hilt and relaxed his grip. Cellina had taken the sword his father had gifted to him when he’d graduated from boarding school. Before the plague had killed King Neil and most of Kerrick’s family.

He concealed the shudder that ripped through him when he thought of the ufa pack. Kerrick would be content to never see another ufa in his lifetime. But the fact Tohon was training and using them meant Kerrick would likely encounter them in battle.

Worry for Cellina swirled in his stomach. He hoped she’d be able to lie to Tohon. The life magician was quick to anger and could easily murder her with one touch.

Quain followed Kerrick into Ryne’s spacious office. Large windows allowed in plenty of sunlight. Oversized armchairs ringed the huge black slab of obsidian that served as Ryne’s desk and conference table. Loren lounged in a red-and-gold-striped chair but sat up straight and eyed Kerrick warily. A few silver hairs shone among Loren’s short black hair. At thirty-five he was the oldest of Kerrick’s gentlemen and balanced Quain’s youth and inexperience nicely. Otherwise, Kerrick would have lost his patience with Quain long ago.

A memory tugged. Avry had accused Kerrick of being moody, sullen and distant. And from the way Quain and Loren had been acting around him, he guessed they thought the same. He smoothed his expression and approached.

Ryne was bent over a map of the Fifteen Realms. Kerrick waited, studying his friend. Ryne’s dark brown hair fell forward almost covering his hazel eyes. Thin and five inches shorter than Kerrick, his pleasant and average appearance belied his cunning mind.

Tapping the map with a stylus, Ryne said, “I think if we send in waves of smaller units, we could soften Tohon’s troops up before hitting them with a bigger force.”

“Sounds like something you should discuss with Estrid,” Kerrick said.

Ryne looked up at his tone. “I know you’re all about action, but there has to be a great deal of planning beforehand or we won’t succeed. Why are you so anxious to leave?”

“Summer is a few weeks away. It’s prime time for Tohon to launch an attack. We should be there,” he said.

“Tohon won’t attack until we’re there.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“It does to Tohon,” Ryne said. “The Nine Mountains are an effective barrier. If he conquered Estrid’s army before we arrived, then he would have to cross the mountains to get to us. We’d litter the passes with ambushes, and it would make it harder for Tohon to succeed.”

“We’re safe here, so why don’t we stay and see what happens?” Quain asked.

“I said it would be harder for him to succeed, not that it would stop him. We don’t have the resources or manpower to fight him.” Ryne glanced at Kerrick before continuing. “Besides, Avry promised Danny we’d heal our world. That includes all fifteen realms.”

There was a moment of silence as the men mourned their friend. Kerrick hated deceiving them, but he understood the need. Tohon could have spies among Ryne’s soldiers. Plus, he had promised Avry not to tell a soul that she lived, including Ryne. Kerrick would honor his word.

“When are we leaving?” Kerrick asked.

“When we’re ready,” Ryne said.

“What did you want to see me about?” He tried not to growl in irritation.

“Have you talked to Danny and Zila about Avry yet?”

Instantly wary, Kerrick said, “I thought you—”

“I warned them when we left you that she might not survive the sickness, but they need to hear what happened to her from you.”

“Ryne, I—”

“It’s not a request. Talk to them before we leave.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else?”


Kerrick left. Hard enough dealing with the monkey’s gloomy moods, but he felt almost sick thinking about upsetting the kids. No sense putting it off. He strode to the wing where they had been staying.

Not wanting to scare them, he drew in a calming breath before entering their room. A woman sat with Zila in her lap, reading her a book. Danny was at a desk, hunched over a wooden puzzle.

According to Avry, these two might develop healing powers. Tohon had injected them with the Death Lily’s lethal toxin, but they’d survived the poison. Two among dozens of children who had been killed by Tohon’s experiments.

“Can I help you?” their nanny asked.

“Kerrick!” Zila jumped down and flung herself at him, wrapping her thin arms around his legs. The eight-year-old’s bushy brown hair had been wrestled into a braid.

Danny kept his distance. “We heard you’d arrived, but Prince Ryne said you needed some time and we should wait.”

How diplomatic of him, Kerrick thought wryly. He glanced at the young woman hovering nearby. “Can I talk to them?”

“Oh. Sure.” She headed toward another door. “I’ll be in Zila’s room if you need anything,” she said to the kids. “Anything at all.” She shot Kerrick a warning look before leaving.

Danny rolled his eyes. “She’s overprotective.” His black hair was neatly trimmed, and he was an inch taller. No surprise, since at thirteen he was just starting puberty.

Delaying the inevitable, Kerrick asked them how they liked living here.

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