Scent of Magic Page 16

I stepped back as he sank onto his heels, panting and sweating.

When he regained his composure, he asked, “What magic is that?”

My initial instinct was to lie, but all he had to do was notice the already healing cut on my wrist to figure it out. “I’m a healer.”

A variety of expressions crossed his face. From surprised to suspicious to confused and then back to suspicious. “The healer with Prince Kerrick also disappeared.”

“Obviously, there’s more than one healer.” I waved my left hand. “I can prove it to you in a few hours.”

His confusion returned. “Why are you here?”

“Tohon lifted the bounty on healers and I was sick of hiding.” I shrugged. “I wanted to help.”

“Why aren’t you helping in the infirmary?”

Good question. Did I have a good answer? “Healers are still not welcome.”

“Not around here. That other healer was here for a few weeks last year. She saved a bunch of lives. We owe her.”

Nice to know I’d been appreciated. “It’s still a big risk. And one I’m not ready to take.”

He gestured to the forest. “Who taught you how to go silent?”

“No one. I’ve been on the run for four years. I’ve learned a few things.” I glanced around. The light was fading fast. “What are you going to do?”


I laughed at his shocked expression. “Yes, you.”

Ursan stared at me. “I’d thought you’d...disappear.”

“Then you thought wrong. I’m tired of running and want to help. I’d rather teach your squad for now. But if you want to expose me...I won’t stop you.” Handing him his knife, I waited.

He clambered to his feet and once again towered over me. The desire to cut and run pulsed through me for a second, but I steadied my nerves.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll do it your way for now. But if I see you doing anything suspicious, I’ll drag your ass to the major. Understand?”



As we headed back, I said, “Lieutenant Thea knows you’re a magic sniffer. She asked you to sniff me out, right?”

“Yes, but not many do. We don’t want too many people to know just in case Tohon sends one of his magicians undercover.” He gave me a pointed look.

“It’s a good strategy. I’m sure Tohon has spies in camp.”

“You’re sure as in you know, or you’re sure as in you think?”

Now it was my turn to give him a pointed stare.

“Yeah. Dumb question. No doubt he has spies.”

We joined the lieutenant and the other sergeants a few minutes after sunset. All five of them turned to us. I kept quiet just in case Ursan changed his mind.

“She found me,” he said. “We’ll begin training my squad in the morning.”

The lieutenant said, “What took you so long?”

Ursan grinned. “I cheated.”

Thea failed to see the humor. “Explain, Sergeant.”

“It’s war, sir. Rules don’t apply.”

* * *

I followed Sergeants Liv and Wynn back to our tent. They lit a lantern and stared at me as if assessing the enemy. I stretched out on my cot, glad to relax for the first time all day. They remained standing.

“You’re a little young to be a sergeant,” Wynn said. Her frown contrasted with her round face and small nose.

“More than a little. She’s just a baby.” Liv smirked, flashing big square teeth. Her light brown hair resembled a fine fuzz and had been clipped so short the hair couldn’t lie flat.

Liv noticed the direction of my gaze. She ran a hand over her head. “Lice. If you manage to get sent out on missions, you’ll be shaving your head, too. Long hair’s a bitch to take care of when you’re a real soldier.”

“You haven’t been promoted from a grunt.” Wynn pointed to my face. “Too pale.”

Resigned to the interrogation, I pushed up on one elbow. “You don’t have any people from the northern realms here?”

“We do. But we’ve been training outside for months.” She pulled her collar down and showed an impressive tan line, visible even in the soft lantern light. “So what’s your story, Baby Face?”

“Just what Lieutenant Thea said, I’ve been assigned to train—”

“Yeah, yeah.” Liv waved a hand. “Who cares about that? Not us. You show up from nowhere with this uncanny skill. There has to be a reason.”

I considered my options. These two seemed to have adopted the whole hardened-soldier persona. But was it all swagger or a true indication of their characters?

“I came down here to see a bit of action,” I said.

They snorted in amusement.

“She’s cute when she’s trying to be tough,” Wynn said.

“You’re going to see more than a bit, Baby Face,” Liv said. “There’s more to being a sergeant than sneaking around the woods. Think you can handle it?”

“Yes.” No sense selling myself short.

Wynn’s demeanor turned speculative. “That’s rather bold.”


Liv and Wynn exchanged a glance.

“She’s training the jacks tomorrow,” Liv said to her friend. “If that doesn’t send her away, nothing will.”

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