Scent of Magic Page 33

This time he met my gaze. “You’re a traitor.”

“Ah. And I’m an assassin, too. Clever.” More muted rustlings disturbed the quiet.

“You weren’t supposed to be here,” Ursan said.

“And you’re not going to kill Ryne,” I said.

“I have my orders.”

“Then what are you waiting for? Your jacks to arrive? Or for Ryne’s men?” I gestured to the surrounding forest. “You know someone’s coming.”

“If I slit his throat, can you heal him?” he asked.

Odd question. “It depends.”

“On what?”

“On how deep you cut, how fast he bleeds out and how quick I can get to him.” The sounds of movement grew louder. I counted at least two people heading toward us.

“If he was bleeding to death, would you heal him at the cost of your own life?”

“I already have, Ursan. I think you’ve figured that out by now.”

“Yeah.” He smiled and stood. “But I wanted you to admit it.” Ursan helped Ryne to his feet.

Ryne brushed dirt and leaves off his back and pants. He frowned at me. “We need to work on your negotiation skills. Generally you don’t goad the person holding the knife into hurrying.”

“You’re still alive. Besides, you weren’t helping,” I said.

“I was keeping out of it.”

“Uh-huh. You’re welcome.”

Ursan made a strangled sound. Belen had wrapped his huge hands around the Sergeant’s thick neck. Belen’s improved silent skills impressed me yet again.

“Belen, that’s enough,” Ryne said when Ursan’s face paled.

He tossed Ursan to the ground with ease. The Sergeant gasped for breath and gaped at Belen. Probably no one had done that to Ursan before. Loren and Quain appeared from the forest with weapons drawn. They had been the two creeping up on us with more noise than usual for them. Probably to distract Ursan from Belen. Loren gave me a careful look.

“What are we going to do with him?” Belen asked Ryne.

“Nothing. He’ll report to Jael that he couldn’t get near me.”

“What if she orders another attack?” I asked.

“I’m going to have a little chat with Jael. I’ll let her know I’m on to her, and have taken steps to ensure Estrid is informed if anything should happen to me.”

“Is that wise?” Belen asked. “She can kill you from a distance. Or send someone else.”

“She doesn’t want Estrid to know what she’s been up to, so I’ll be safe for now.”

“Do you know what she is planning?” I asked.

“Not yet.”

“And what happens when she doesn’t care about Estrid anymore?” I asked.

“Hopefully, I’ll figure out her scheme first. Otherwise, I’ll be in big trouble.”

In that case, I suspected we all would.

“Loren and Quain, you need to stay with Ryne at all times,” I said.

“We don’t take orders from you, Sergeant,” Quain said. “Your man tried to assassinate—”

“He isn’t mine. My man has eyes that change color with the seasons.”

Loren laughed at Quain’s perplexed expression. “Oh, man, you’re not very observant, are you.”

“Wait,” Quain said. “Whose eyes change color?”

His question resulted in more laughter. Once again, Belen pulled me into a hug as Ryne and Loren beamed at me.

It took Quain another minute to put it all together. He grabbed my arms and yanked me from Belen’s embrace so we were face-to-face. “You’re alive! Does Kerrick know?” he demanded in anger.

The rest of the men sobered in an instant.

“Yes,” I said.

“Why didn’t he tell us?” Quain’s grip on my forearms tightened.

“Because I asked him not to.”

“You?” He sputtered. “Why?”

I’d never seen Quain this upset. I explained my logical reasons for going undercover.

“It’s a smart strategy,” Ryne said.

“But why couldn’t we know about it?” Quain demanded. “Do you know what you put us all through?”


“You don’t trust us,” Loren said.

“It’s not...” Or was it? I couldn’t speak.

“In a case like this, the fewer people who know about it the better,” Ryne said. “And I think Avry should continue with the ruse, even though it’s only a matter of time until the word is out.”

Ryne’s matter-of-fact statement scared me more than Quain’s crushing grip. The news would spread, and soon Tohon would know I’d survived the plague. Then he’d want to reclaim me. Not only as a medical marvel to study, but to make Kerrick suffer. A shudder ripped through me.

“Quain, let go,” Belen said. “You’re hurting her.”

He dropped my arms, pushing me away. “She’ll heal.”

His cold words were like a slap in my face.

“We’d better get back,” Ursan said, joining us. He had recovered but kept a respectful distance. Even though I was pretty sure he’d heard every word.

“Not together,” Ryne said. “You and Avry take a different route. And let me do all the talking when we meet up with the others.”

I followed Ursan through the darkening forest.

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