Scent of Magic Page 28

He could shrug. Trouble in the north meant nothing to him, but it made my heart shuffle. Deep breath, Avry.

Once my fears settled, I considered his guess. Knowing Ryne, I dismissed the protection for a retreat scenario. Ryne wouldn’t waste resources. A strategic move made more sense. Perhaps they were planning to cross the Nine Mountains through the Orel pass and drop in behind Tohon’s army. And Kerrick had been assigned to lead them.

It was a nice fantasy. It included Kerrick being alive and well and probably pissed off because he had planned to meet up with me in Zabin. I clung to it for a bit. But it didn’t take long for my healer side to worry that he was injured and dying somewhere and here I was, playing soldier.

“ think, Irina?” Ursan asked.

It took me a moment to realize he was speaking to me. “Think about what?”

“You seem distracted tonight. Something wrong?” Ursan appeared to be the soul of concern, but I knew better.

“Nothing’s wrong. Just tired. What did you want to know?”

“We were discussing Prince Ryne,” Ursan said. “The last thing we need is some pampered, spoiled prince draining our resources. But I’m curious as to his timing. Don’t you think it’s rather convenient that Ryne arrives now? He’s been missing for over two years, and now he just shows up out of the blue.” His expression said what he hadn’t—just like you.

“He’s probably been guarding his realm all that time,” Odd said.

“Coming down here is a big risk,” Liv said. “He’s safer on the other side of the Nine Mountains.”

“Irina?” Ursan waited as if I alone possessed the answer.

Before I could offer an opinion, a figure approached our fire. My heart flipped when I recognized my sister.

“General Jael wishes to speak to Sergeants Ursan and Irina. Now,” Noelle said.

Not good. “What does she want?” I asked.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” she snapped. “Let’s go.”

I stood on weak legs. Ursan had been watching my face, so I smoothed my expression to, I hoped, one of mild curiosity.

Bright lantern light shone through the fabric of Jael’s tent. I squinted as I followed Noelle through the flaps. As I had suspected, this was used solely for the planning of a war. Huge conference tables ringed with chairs filled the tent. Maps hung from the walls along with charts and diagrams. Officers sat in groups, discussing important matters. Or, at least, it appeared, by their stern faces and tight muscles, to be vital. Thank goodness I didn’t recognize anyone except Jael.

Would she see through my disguise? Noelle hadn’t, but Jael’s magic might remember me. Jael stood at the end of a small table, talking to a couple of colonels. Noelle waited until she was noticed and then informed Jael of our arrival. The general flicked her gaze to us before she dismissed Noelle. Jael gestured us closer.

Ursan stayed one step behind me, and I felt his body heat on my back. We saluted, although I had to stifle the desire to stab my stiletto through Jael’s heart as payback for killing Flea.

Despite the lines of strain in her face, she was beautiful. Her long blond hair flowed down her back. Big blue eyes assessed us with mild interest.

I braced for her to recognize me. Would she cry out in surprise or attack me or order her guards to arrest me? With her, any or all of those reactions were possible.

“I’ve been hearing good things about you, Sergeant Irina,” she said. “Major Granvil is very satisfied with the work you’ve been doing.”

Not sure where this was going, I said, “Thank you, sir.”

“Granvil also informed me that Sergeant Ursan and his jumping jacks have been successful employing your training. Would you say they are your best students?” Jael asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I want you to run a training exercise tomorrow afternoon. The teams will be Sergeant Ursan and his jacks versus that whelp Ryne and his chosen few.” Jael pursed her full lips in distain.

“Sir?” I asked.


“What is the objective of the exercise?”

“The objective is for one team to sneak up and ambush the other. The whelp believes our army is lacking in certain covert skills, and I want to prove him wrong. I’ll be observing so don’t disappoint me, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir.” One positive thing about Kerrick remaining in the north, no one to lecture me about how much trouble I was in right now.

“Excellent. You’re dismissed. Sergeant Ursan, a word.”

My cue to leave. I saluted and hurried outside into the darkness. Pausing to let my eyes adjust, I wondered what Jael wanted with Ursan. Instead of heading to my tent, I stepped to the side as if waiting for him. The guards stationed by the entrance didn’t react. They continued to ignore me.

Leaning closer to the fabric, I strained to hear Jael’s voice. Nothing. Either the fabric was too thick or the noise inside was too loud. Would Ursan tell me what she wanted? His yes, sir, though, was crisp and loud. Show-off.

I joined him when he strode from the tent. For the first time since I’d known him, he seemed...distressed. He barely acknowledged my presence as I tagged along, and he remained silent the entire trip back.

Just before we parted ways, I asked, “What did the general say?”

“It’s classified,” he said.

“Was it about tomorrow’s exercise?”

Ursan gave me a blank stare.

Prev Next