Scent of Magic Page 26

Kerrick waited, but Izak didn’t finish. Good. “Before General Zamiel arrives, I’ve another matter to discuss.” He settled into his father’s favorite armchair.

Wary, Izak perched on the edge of the desk, crossing his arms. “Go on.”

“I brought two children with me. Zila and Danny and their nanny, Berna. The kids are...special. And they’re going to need protection while I’m in the north.”

“How much protection?”

“A squad dedicated to keeping them safe.”

Izak dropped his arms. “That is special. What are you worried about?”

“Kidnappers sent by Tohon.”

He stood in alarm. “Why did you bring them here? We’re closer to Tohon. They’d be safer in Ryne’s castle.”

Kerrick agreed. However, with this new threat from the north, Ryne believed they’d be better protected in Orel. “You have the pass between Alga and Sogra guarded, right?”

“Of course. And I’ve a couple battalions along the coast in case Tohon decides to invade from the Endless Sea.”

“Tohon’s been too busy with Estrid to worry about the northern realms. The kids should be fine,” Kerrick said, trying to convince himself.

“I think you and Ryne are being rather naive regarding Tohon.”

An odd statement. Izak’s demeanor set off a warning, but before Kerrick could question him, the door burst open.

Great-Aunt Yasmin entered with a swish of skirts. She clutched her shawl tight, but her sharp gaze sliced right through Kerrick. Uh-oh.

“Three years, Kerry.” She held up three gnarled fingers. “You’re gone three years and I have to hear about your return from my maid.” She radiated indignation, anger and guilt-inducing energy at him.

Izak’s smirk died when she rounded on him. “Don’t be so smug, young man. You haven’t seen your brother in years and you’ve been fighting with him! What kind of welcome is that?”

“How did—”

She harrumphed. “I’m old, not stupid. Now come here, Kerry, and give your favorite auntie a hug.”

Kerrick bent over and gave her a gentle squeeze. She was half his size and all bones. Her white hair had been pulled up into a neat bun. Great-Aunt Yasmin looked pretty good for a ninety-year-old.

She rested her hand on his cheek and smiled. “Ah, Kerry. You’ve found your heart. Who is she?”

He shouldn’t have been surprised. Despite her claim to have no magical abilities, she had a canny knack for reading a person’s soul.

“A healer, but she’s...gone.”

She patted his cheek as if consoling him, but the shrewd gleam in her gray eyes told him she wasn’t buying his act at all. Great-Aunt Yasmin stepped away instead of questioning him further.

“What have you boys been arguing about?” she asked.

They exchanged a glance.

“I’m old, not fragile. If it’s bad news, you’d be better off if I heard it from you and not my maid.”

Kerrick explained about the northern tribes invading Krakowa. “I want to take at least half of the Algan army and drive the tribes back into the wildlands.”

Surprised, Great-Aunt Yasmin turned to Izak. “Didn’t you tell Kerry about the deal?”

Izak’s face paled. “How did...? Never mind. Old, not stupid, I know.”

“What deal?” Kerrick asked.

Izak stepped back as if expecting a blow. “You weren’t here. I did what I could for our people.”

“He was too young when you left him in charge, Kerry. Don’t blame him for panicking and making a deal with King Tohon.”


I scanned the soldiers’ faces a third and fourth time, hoping Kerrick had decided to arrive at Estrid’s camp incognito. It would have been an excellent idea since Jael had no qualms about killing him either. However, no one even resembled him or matched his build.

Disappointment and worry flared in equal measure. Had Tohon’s men caught up to him before he’d reached Ryne’s? Was he hurt? Captured? Or killed? Despite the danger, I edged closer to the procession as they paraded right past Jael’s tent and headed straight for the manor house.

Jael watched Ryne and his men go by with an icy glare. Would she try to harm them? Noelle stood by her side and studied the passing soldiers with a keen interest. Was she looking for me? Did that little smile mean she was happy about my absence?

Belen was far from happy. He strode right up to the procession and blocked Prince Ryne’s path. The horse stopped. Smart horse. Belen grabbed the horse’s cheek strap and spoke to Ryne.

He had to be asking about Kerrick. I hurried to catch up, but Ryne leaned forward and said something to Belen. It must have soothed him, because he released the horse and walked next to Quain and Loren. From atop their horses, both men gave Belen queasy smiles before returning their gazes to Ryne’s back.

They dismounted in the courtyard in front of the manor house and then entered with Belen in tow. I grunted in frustration. Who could I ask about Kerrick? None of the soldiers waiting patiently outside looked familiar. I couldn’t just stroll into the building with both Estrid’s and Ryne’s armies watching.

Frustration welled. I would just have to wait for the camp gossip to reach our company. Or did I? One of the reasons for this ruse was so I could gather information about Estrid’s army and operations. Who could I tell this to now? I’d have to reveal myself, and I still hadn’t talked to Noelle or found Melina.

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