Scent of Magic Page 34

After traveling for a few minutes in silence, he asked, “Why didn’t you tell your friends the real reason you played dead?”

“I told them about my sister.”

He huffed. “That’s not the reason.”

“Yes, it is. Don’t play these games. You know nothing about me.”

Ursan kept quiet the remainder of the trip. Jael, Major Granvil and the rest of the jumping jacks waited for us at the starting point of the exercise. It felt as if we’d been gone days instead of hours. Noelle wasn’t in sight, and Ryne’s group hadn’t made it back yet.

“Report, Sergeant,” Jael ordered Ursan, her agitation obvious.

“The exercise was interrupted by the escaping POWs, sir. I was separated from my men as I tried to help round them up. Were they all recaptured, sir?”

“Yes. Have you seen the other team?” Jael asked.

“Yes. They kept together during the confusion and are on their way here.”

Disappointment flashed for a second before she smoothed her expression. When Ryne joined us, she showed no signs of her earlier distress. They discussed the aborted exercise.

“We can try again tomorrow afternoon,” Jael said.

“No need, General,” Ryne said. “Your men proved their skills today. I was quite impressed. Sergeant Irina is doing a fine job and I don’t want to waste another day that can be used for training.” He steered her from the forest with Belen, Loren and Quain trailing behind.

Belen winked at me, but the monkeys hadn’t even glanced in my direction.

Major Granvil waited until they left before addressing us. “This was a crazy day, but you proved yourselves. Report for training in the morning, but you can have tomorrow afternoon off. Dismissed.”

The jacks cheered and headed back to camp. Ursan and I were about to follow when the major said, “Sergeants, a word.”

We exchanged a glance before turning around.

“I’m not an idiot,” Granvil said. “Something big happened today, and I’m not talking about the POWs well-timed escape. Tell me.”

“It’s better if you didn’t know, sir,” I said.

“Shouldn’t I be the judge of that?”

“No, sir. Trust me. All you need to know is that Sergeant Ursan made you proud, and he should be promoted,” I said.

“And what about you? Should I promote you, too?”

“No, sir.”

“Really? What happened to your aspirations to become an officer?”

I looked at Ursan. “I still need to earn my sergeant’s stripes, sir.”

“I’m not even going to pretend that I understood that. All right, go.”

We didn’t hesitate. Without saying a word, Ursan and I bolted from the forest. Halfway back to camp, we slowed. I considered the day’s events.

“What will you do if General Jael orders you to assassinate Ryne again?” I asked.

“She won’t. I failed. And once Prince Ryne has his talk with her, she’ll know I tipped my hand. I’ll either be demoted or sent out on a very dangerous mission that has no chance for success.”

“Perhaps the major—”

“Generals trump majors,” Ursan said.

“True. But do princes trump generals?”

“I attacked him.”

“Ryne’s not the type to hold a grudge.”

Ursan considered. “Isn’t he a king? Both his parents died.”

“Technically, yes. But he hasn’t assumed the title.”

“Neither has Prince Kerrick,” Ursan said. “Don’t you find that odd?”

“Not with Kerrick. He loved his father very much. I think it’s still too painful for him to assume the title. Plus he hasn’t been home in years.”

Ursan remained quiet until we reached his tent. “Prince Kerrick’s a forest mage. Which means his eyes change color with the seasons. Right?” he asked.


He stared at me for a moment. “Lucky guy.” Ursan ducked into his tent.

I stood there a moment in complete shock. He’d accused me of being a traitor, a spy, and didn’t trust me at all. Yet, he’d said that. And what exactly did that mean?

Why did I bring out the worst in people? Even Quain was mad at me, and I didn’t think that was possible. If the bald monkey started spouting poetry in the future, I’d bury my stiletto in him.

Wynn and Liv had waited for me in our tent. They had lit a lantern, and both sat cross-legged on their cots. Liv sewed a hole in a pair of her fatigues while Wynn sharpened her sword.

“How did the exercise go?” Liv asked, glancing up.

I told them about the escape but not the assassination attempt.

“Odd,” Wynn said. “The POW camp is usually locked down tight.”

“Well, that’ll give the general another reason to shut it down.” Liv cut the thread with her teeth.

“I don’t think that’s enough of a reason for the High Priestess to agree,” Wynn said.

“If they shut it down, where would they keep the prisoners?” I asked.

They exchanged a glance. “Ah, Baby Face. You’re cute when you’re naive,” Liv said. “It’s war. What do you think will happen to them?”

“Oh.” Jael would kill them.

“It’s been one of those...sticking points between the High Priestess and General Jael.” Liv packed up her sewing kit. “The general argues that keeping the POWs alive is a drain on our resources and manpower. Once the battle begins, we’re going to need everything we have.”

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