Scent of Magic Page 36

“Well?” He sputtered. “He—”

“None of that, Kerry. He protected our people. If Izak didn’t make that deal, what do you think Tohon would have done?”

Taken the town by force, killed anyone who resisted, and turned the dead into his soldiers. Kerrick wilted under her stern gaze. “I’d rather leave you in charge.”

“That’s sweet of you, but I think Izak is the better choice.”

“I’ll agree on one condition,” he said.

She straightened. “Go on.”

“That he obtains approval from you on all future decisions.”

“But, I’ve got—”

“One foot and four toes in the grave, I know. Doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, all right, Kerry. I’ll sit in as an adviser. Happy now?”


“What would make you happy?”

“For the fighting to stop, for the tribes to turn around and go home.” He shook his head. “It’s impossible.”

She snapped her fingers at him. “Boo-hooing will not help you. If you think it’s impossible, then it will be. Go.” She shooed. “Make the impossible possible.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He kissed her on the forehead before leaving. Ever since he was little, he knew to never argue with Great-Aunt Yasmin.

* * *

“No,” Kerrick said early the next morning. “It’s too dangerous.”

“What if Tohon returns?” Danny asked.

“He won’t harm you or Zila. You’re too important to him. But the tribal warriors don’t care who you are, and they have no qualms over killing children.”

Danny remained stubborn. “But—”

“No more discussion. You and Zila will stay here with Berna. My brother, Izak, has promised to play chess with you.”


“I didn’t come here to argue with you,” he said. “I came to say goodbye. Where’s Zila?”

Danny gestured. “She’s under the bed.”

Kerrick suppressed his impatience. He knelt next to the bed and raised the edge of the quilt. “Zila, please come out.”

“Not until you agree to let us come,” she said.

“All right, then stay there.” He dropped the quilt and sat on the floor, resting his back against the mattress. He rubbed his face. Three hours wasn’t enough sleep, but he needed to get his troops on the road. Time to try another tactic.

“Too bad it’s too dark under there to read,” he said.

He heard her scootch closer.

“Are there books here?” she asked.

“Just a few thousand or so. Our library has two floors full of shelves and these big soft armchairs that are perfect for reading.”

Zila peeked out. Dust bunnies clung to her hair. “Where is it?”

“It’s hard to find, but I can show you.”

She slid out. “Can we go now?”

“Sure.” Kerrick stood and took her hand.

Danny followed them downstairs to the library. Zila squealed and ran around the shelves. Kerrick hadn’t been lying about the place. His father had loved books, and he couldn’t remember a time where his father hadn’t collected them. They even had a printing press.

Grief pulsed in his chest. He missed his father as much today as he had four years ago when King Neil had succumbed to the plague. Kerrick’s mother had never seemed to have time for him or his brother, preferring to spend all her time with his sister, Rae. And Rae had pretty much ignored her older brothers. He never really knew her.

Kerrick scanned the library, remembering many late nights spent here with his father. At least Zila and Danny could enjoy it. And he’d show Zila his father’s prized possession—the printing press—if he returned.

Standing next to him, Danny crossed his arms. “Well played. Zila won’t think about you until you’re long gone.”

“Did you see the chess set in the corner?” Kerrick asked.

“I’m not falling for it.”

“The black pieces have been carved from obsidian, and the white from milk quartz. The kings wear real gold crowns, and sapphires decorate the queens’ tiaras. And the board is marble. The pieces just glide over the surface.”

Danny took a step but stopped. “I’m still mad at you.”

“And I’m still not letting you come along. You might as well enjoy your stay.”

After Danny checked out the chess set and Zila found enough books to keep her occupied for hours, Kerrick said goodbye.

He then met General Zamiel, Great-Aunt Yasmin and Izak in the front courtyard. The general had managed to gather a couple dozen volunteers in a few hours. Not near enough to make a difference, but impressive nonetheless. Kerrick had considered leaving Zamiel behind to protect his family, but he knew the old general would view it as an insult.

Kerrick gave them a few last-minute instructions. “If we can’t stop the tribes, I’ll send a messenger. As soon as you receive word, gather everyone and head for the main pass. Once you cross over, travel south through Pomyt and find Ryne.”

“The whole town?” Izak asked.

“Of course.”

“It would take weeks to coordinate.”

“You’ll only have a few hours, so I strongly suggest you get everyone prepared beforehand.”

Izak opened his mouth, but Great-Aunt Yasmin put her hand on his arm, stopping him.

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