Scent of Magic Page 15

“Oh, it’s fun,” Zila said. “Prince Ryne visits us every day. He plays chess with Danny and wins every time.”

“I’m getting better,” Danny protested.

She ignored him. “There’s heaps of books everywhere.”

“You don’t know how to read,” Danny said.

“I do, too. Berna’s teaching me.”

“Berna?” Kerrick asked.

“Our nanny.”

“Ah. Do you like her?”

“She’s okay for a girl,” Danny said, crossing his arms.

“She’s the nicest person I know.” Zila chewed on her lower lip. “Well, the second nicest. Avry’s the first.” She peered up at Kerrick with big olive-colored eyes. “Where’s Avry, Kerrick? Prince Ryne said you’d tell us what happened to her.”

He crouched down so he was eye level with the two kids. Trying to break it to them gently, Kerrick explained how Avry died from the plague. Seeing Zila’s pretty eyes flood with tears was worse than being knifed in the gut.

“So if we become healers, we shouldn’t heal anyone with the plague?” Danny asked. His voice warbled, and the tip of his nose turned red.

“You won’t find anyone,” Kerrick said. Although there was a possibility Tohon would use the information he’d learned from working with the Healer’s Guild to create another strain. But this wasn’t the time to express his worries. “There hasn’t been a case in over two years. Prince Ryne had been frozen in a magical stasis to keep him alive until I found a healer.” He gave them a wry smile. “I didn’t think it would take me so long.”

Danny kept up his brave front and returned Kerrick’s grin.

But Zila burst into loud sobs. “You killed her,” she shouted, then ran from the room and slammed the door.

Kerrick and Danny exchanged a glance.

“She’s eight,” Danny said. “Her reaction is understandable.”

The nanny poked her head in, asking what happened. Kerrick told her.

She scowled at him. “They’re children. If I’d known what you were here to talk about I’d have stayed with them.”

“They hardly knew her.” Kerrick tried to defend himself as Berna hurried from the room after Zila.

Danny gazed at him with a pained expression. “She rescued us from Tohon.” He gestured to the room. “We went from lab rats to being spoiled rotten. Doesn’t matter how much time we spent with her. She’s...” He swallowed. “She will always be special to us.”

“Yeah. I get that,” Kerrick said. “Sorry.”

Berna returned flustered and red-faced as if she had been running. “Zila’s disappeared. Don’t just sit there, help me look for her.”

When Berna turned her back, Danny rolled his eyes. “Berna gives up too fast,” he whispered to Kerrick. “Come on, this shouldn’t take long.”

Kerrick followed the boy from the room, marveling at the boy’s ability to shift back and forth from a child to a young man in moments.

However, Danny would be wrong about the search. It would extend for hours, enlisted dozens of seekers and covered the entire fifty-room castle without success.

A new worry swirled in his chest. If they couldn’t even find an eight-year-old, how would they fare against Tohon’s army?


Ursan flourished his knife, threatening me. “Talk, or I’ll start cutting off body parts.”

“Yours? Or mine?” I kept my voice steady despite my insides twisting into goo. “It’s an important distinction.”

Grabbing my left hand, he pressed the blade against my wrist. Blood welled as the sharp steel cut into my skin.

“I see.” I craned my neck to meet his gaze a good six inches above me.

He was as solid as an oak tree. He even had muscles in his neck. A square-shaped head added to his sturdiness. His intent to harm shone in his eyes. I would have been terrified, except he held my hand. Skin contact was all I needed to defend myself. Except if I shocked him, then what would I do?

“I’m Irina of Gubkin Realm. I volunteered—”

“Bullshit. You’re one of Tohon’s magicians.” He drew in a deep breath. “I can smell it.”

Oh, no. He was a magic sniffer. I cursed my rotten luck. The day had just been too easy.

“He sent you to spy on us.” Ursan’s knife cut deeper.

I hissed in pain. “Why would I offer to help train your men if I worked for Tohon?” I sensed a softening. “He’d want me to sabotage your efforts, not aid them.”

“But you’re not an ordinary girl, are you?” Ursan sniffed my hair. “Not a water mage or air...” Another snort. “I smell forest magic and life magic.” His grip tightened. “Only one life magician in the Fifteen Realms, which means you’ve been with Tohon.”

I thought fast. “And there’s only one forest mage left. And they’re on opposite sides.”

“Prince Kerrick disappeared. No one knows where he is. He could be dead or Tohon’s prisoner.”

So Ursan knew Kerrick was a forest mage. I wondered what else he knew. However, this had gone on too long. I made a quick decision and zapped him. He grunted but failed to let go. Sending another blast, I forced him to his knees. What was it with these big guys? Didn’t they feel pain? The third assault loosened his grip on the knife. I yanked the weapon from his hand, then released him.

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