Scent of Magic Page 38

“Swell.” I wasn’t sure I could trust him, despite his actions last night.

“Did Kerrick help you like he did when you saved my life?”

“It’s complicated,” I hedged.

“She saved you?” Ursan asked.

“Oh, yeah, a merc stabbed me in the guts a dozen times. And she saved Flea from a Death Lily, and healed Loren’s leg, and—”

“Seven times, Belen,” I said. “You were only stabbed seven times.”

“Oh. It felt like a dozen, but then again I don’t have any scars to count.”

Most people didn’t know that when healers assumed an injury, we took everything. Our skin showed the scars, not theirs. Ursan asked for more details. Belen was happy to provide them in gory detail. I muttered an excuse and left them. Before reporting to Ryne, I had something to take care of.

I was halfway to the POW complex when Ursan caught up with me.

“Shouldn’t you be planning the mission with Belen?” I asked.

“Nothing left to plan. Intelligence has pinpointed one of Tohon’s squads in Vyg’s sector two as a potential target. We leave at dawn, just like a regular patrol,” Ursan said.

“Regular? Are you still denying the true nature of those you’re hunting?”

“I’m keeping an open mind.”

Ah, progress. “Why aren’t you enjoying your afternoon off?” I asked.

“What makes you say I’m not enjoying it?”

“It’s hot, humid, and you’ve no idea where I’m going. Oh.” I’d blame my sluggish mind on lack of sleep, but the sticky weather deserved some credit.

“Oh? What does that mean?”

I glanced at him. Was he playing dumb? Hard to tell. “Oh, as in, I realized that you’re following me to make sure I’m not reporting to my spymaster before talking to Ryne.”

“Spymaster? Wow, and I thought being called sergeant was special. Will you introduce him to me?” Ursan teased.

“No. She’s shy.”

“Too bad.”

We walked for a few minutes in silence. But then he asked, “Why don’t you call him Prince Ryne?”

“Don’t you want to know where we’re headed?”

“Nope. I’ve already guessed.”


“Why so doubtful? I figured out what you were doing last night.”

I couldn’t argue. “He’s not my prince.”

“Yet you sacrificed your life for him.”

“He’s needed,” I said.

“So are you.”

“I can save a few lives, but his tactics will defeat Tohon, saving thousands.”

“I think you’re overestimating his impact compared to our army. Every day more troops from our training bases arrive. Every day Tohon waits to attack, we grow stronger.”

“And so does Tohon’s. When you return from your mission with Belen, we’ll talk again.”

When we drew closer to the POW complex, Ursan said, “You won’t get in. They’re on lockdown.”

“I just want to take a look around the outside.”

“You’re not going to find out how they escaped that way.”

I huffed. “So you can read minds now?”

“No. Just following the logic. And that’s one thing I learned about you. You’re logical.”

“Okay then, Mr. Genius, tell me how we’re going to get inside?”

“We ask nicely.” He grinned. “The guard at the gate owes me a favor. So let me do the talking.”

We arrived at the main gate to the POW complex. Ursan sweet-talked his way through the entrance and into the biggest building. Long and narrow, it appeared to be a converted barn.

“Sergeant Dena is in her office. Second room on the right,” a guard said, waving us inside.

The building had been a sizable stable. The rows of horse stalls had been converted into cells. It was at least twenty degrees hotter in here. Dena’s tiny space smelled like leather and appeared to have been a tack room. She scanned a limp paper behind a makeshift desk. Her short, curly brown hair clung to her large sweaty forehead.

“Finally. The repairs are going slow in this heat.” It didn’t take her long to notice our confusion. “Please tell me you brought fresh workers?”

“No,” I said. “Our squads were training in the woods yesterday, and—”

“Ah, hell, sister, I don’t need you to piss and moan at me, too. I’ve gotten enough of that crap from a whole list of officers. I’m sorry your training was ruined. We’re making sure it won’t happen again.”

“I’m not here to complain,” I said. “I’m just...curious about how it happened. The timing seemed odd. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to escape during the night?”

Dena sighed. “I’m too busy to satisfy your curiosity. Go listen to the camp gossip.”

“What if I can provide you with fresh workers? Do you have time for me now?”

“The jacks won’t be happy,” Ursan said.

“I’m not talking about them,” I said to him.

“How many?” Dena asked.

“As many as you need.”

Dena studied us as if she couldn’t quite figure us out. “Okay, but if no one shows up to help, I’m going straight to your commanding officer.” She surged to her feet. “This way.”

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