Scent of Magic Page 45

“Handy,” I said.

“It keeps the gentlemen callers away.”

I laughed while Saul looked confused. “How did you end up in Estrid’s army?”

“Someone needs to bring the survivors together. I’d thought I’d lend a hand.”

We asked Saul about his past, but he was reluctant to share anything besides the fact he was born in Tobory.

When it grew late, I stood, stretched and smoothed out my bedroll. “Should we set a watch?” I asked Thea.

“Yes. Take the first shift. Wake Saul in two hours, and I’ll go last,” Thea said.

“All right.” I checked my belt, making sure my knives were secured, then scanned the forest for a good spot.

“Why do you do that?” Saul asked.

“I’m looking for—”

“Not that.” He pointed at my hand. “Touching the leaves.”

Without thinking, I had grabbed a bush, hoping to feel Kerrick’s magic. How to explain it? “I’m seeking a connection.”

“To the forest?” Saul asked.


He accepted it without asking further questions. Saul and Thea settled in for the night, and I made a sweep around our camp, checking for intruders before I found a location to watch and listen.

Once again I fingered a leaf. No tingle vibrated through my fingers. I hadn’t lied to Saul. To me, connecting to the forest meant linking to Kerrick. Loneliness etched a familiar groove into my heart. Worry for Kerrick flared along with the real possibility that I’d never see him again.

* * *

We found the first clump of Lilys the next day. Four giant white flowers grew between two massive oak trees. I sniffed the air. The scent of honey and lemons dominated. I wouldn’t pick up the slighter scents of anise or vanilla until I was closer.

I removed my pack and handed it to Saul. His queasy expression matched Thea’s. Even though I explained to them about my immunity to the Death Lily toxin, they hadn’t truly believed me. Approaching a Lily went against a lifetime of avoidance and fear.

“Relax,” I said. “This shouldn’t take long.”

I walked toward the flowers, and the clean smell of vanilla greeted me. All four were Peace Lilys. Perfect.

When I reached the base of the closest flower, I placed my hands on a thick petal, hoping it would recognize or remember me. The plants’ roots were all connected. But nothing happened. I tried the next one, then the other two. Same thing. Nothing.

“Now what?” Thea asked.

“We try another set,” I said.

We consulted Saul’s borrowed map and headed farther north to a clump. Again, it contained all Peace Lilys. Again, they refused to open or acknowledge me.

“Should we return?” Thea asked.

“No. We need to locate a Death Lily so I can find out what’s going on.”

Saul and Thea exchanged a glance. One of those she-lost-her-mind-and-should-we-humor-her? looks.

“You can go back,” I said. “There is one Death Lily for every hundred Peace Lilys, so it might take a while.”

They stayed with me. We found one the next day in a clump of Lilys northeast of Zabin. The Death Lily hissed when I approached. Its petals opened as its vines reached for me. Large seed pods hung below its fibrous leaves. Knives and swords couldn’t cut through any part of the plant, but I wondered if a weapon made of liquid metal could.

The speed of the Lily still surprised me, even after being snatched a number of times. Softness scooped me up, then instant blackness as the petals clamped shut. I braced for either pricks in my arms or for it to spit me out.

Last time I’d been in a Death Lily, it had rejected me, claiming I tasted bad. I’d been in the last stage of the plague and had hoped it would take away my pain.

However, this time two sharp thorns pierced my upper arms as the Lily shot its toxin into me. Peace flowed over me, and my consciousness floated from my body, along the plant’s roots and into its soul. Through this connection, not only was I able to see outside the Lily, but I felt its emotions and basic thoughts, as well.

Recognition and joy emanated from the plant. Also approval over my new taste. From my encounters with the Lilys, I sensed the Death Lilys and Peace Lilys were two separate beings spread over multiple plants.

I inquired about the Peace Lilys, asking why they wouldn’t open for me. I need its sacks, I thought. It’s important.

It didn’t know, but it showed me a cluster of Lilys west of our location, urging me to go there.


Find what you need.

And before it could expel me, I asked why the Peace Lily saved my life when I’d died from the plague.

No save.

Yes, it did. Why?

Instead of answering, the Lily removed the thorns. My awareness snapped back into my body as it dumped me onto the ground. Feeling heavy and awkward, I remained there for a minute. Once I recovered from the transition, I realized I held two orange sacks in my hands.

The Death Lily had given me its deadly toxin. I’d no idea why. The soft round casing of the sack was durable, and I could squeeze it without popping it. Tohon had used a metal needle to extract the poison. He had injected it into children, theorizing that the survivors of the toxin would become healers. His hypothesis had been accurate, but at the deplorable cost of dozens of young lives.

I felt a measure of satisfaction that I’d been able to kill Tohon’s Death Lilys, and to rescue the only survivors of Tohon’s experiments, Danny and Zila. At least they were safe and sound in Ryne’s castle.

Prev Next