Scent of Magic Page 46

I lumbered to my feet and joined Saul and Thea. They’d waited a safe distance away. Saul handed me my pack.

“Well?” Thea asked. “What happened?”

Tucking the sacks into a pocket of my bag, I debated how much to tell them. “It directed me to another cluster west of here. Saul, can I see the map?”

He handed it to me.

“Why there?” Thea asked.

“It believes I’d get a response from a Peace Lily there.” I unfolded the map, searching for the spot. There was a mark due west of our location, but it was a few miles over the border in Vyg.

“Did you find it?” Thea asked.

I showed her.

“No can do. Time to go back to camp.”

“It’s not that far into Vyg. We’ll be safe,” I said.

“Major Granvil ordered us to stay out of Vyg.”

“All right. When we get to the border, I’ll go in alone.”

“Are you disobeying a direct order, Sergeant?”

“Yes, sir.”

She glanced at Saul.

“I’ll go in with her,” he said.

I sensed her indecision and tried another tactic. “We don’t need to tell Major Granvil. I’m sure he’ll just be happy that the mission was a success.”

“And when we encounter one of Tohon’s patrols and are captured or killed?” Thea asked.

“Then violating a direct order won’t seem that bad in comparison,” I joked.

Saul laughed.

Thea scowled. “I don’t think you’re fully aware of the danger, Sergeant.”

My good humor disappeared. “I’m well  aware of the consequences, Lieutenant. More than anyone. If this mission wasn’t vital, I wouldn’t risk our lives.”

She stared at me for a moment. “First sign of an enemy patrol—”

“We’re out of there,” I agreed.

“So you can sneak back?” Saul asked.

“Hush.” I slapped him on the arm. This wasn’t a good time for him to be chatty.

Thea didn’t look happy, but she grabbed the map and took point, heading west.

Once we reached the border with Vyg, we slowed and kept alert for Tohon’s troops. We encountered no one from either side. It took us two days to reach the cluster that the Death Lily had indicated. We found them in the late afternoon. There were a number of Lilys bunched together just like the vision the plant had shown me, but there was one Lily that stood apart. It grew between two tree trunks and seemed familiar.

Focusing on the ones I’d seen, I approached them. The scents of anise and vanilla filled the air, indicating three Peace Lilys and one Death. When I reached them, nothing happened. Not even the Death Lily twitched when I touched it. Frustrated, I pulled my stiletto. It had been made from liquid metal and might inflict damage. But I just couldn’t bring myself to harm the Lilys.

Instead, I tried the lone Lily. A faint scent of vanilla tickled my nose. Another Peace Lily. Expecting it to remain immobile, I was surprised when it dipped its petals toward me.

Finally! I waited for it to grab me, but it kept bending until the top of the flower brushed the ground. The petals opened and deposited a na**d man.

I froze in shock for a moment before kneeling down next to the immobile figure.

Recognition pierced my heart, and I gasped.

Flea lay there. It appeared he’d been perfectly preserved except his clothes had dissolved. His skin was bone-white, and his open eyes were dull and lifeless. Still dead.

Fresh grief swelled. When I closed his eyes, a spark shot through my fingertips. A second later, an ice-cold hand grasped my wrist with surprising strength. I stared at Flea’s now open eyes. Had the movement been a reflex? Or had he been turned into one of Tohon’s dead? Fear rose as his grip turned painful.


Standing behind a leafy barberry bush, Kerrick watched the warriors. He counted men and noted weapons, seeking weaknesses. The four units of his army were moving into position—two to the south, one to the west and the other east. It had taken them six days, but they had been able to reach the forest in time to set up an ambush. Kerrick had used his forest magic to camouflage his skin and clothes to blend in with the lush foliage so he could spy on them. The living green was irritated by all the intruders—at least eleven hundred by his count.

The pale-skinned warriors wore white cotton sleeveless shirts and baggy white pants. Colorful sashes around their waists kept them from looking like ghosts against the greenery. Even their long hair braided down their backs was pale yellow.

They carried a thick short sword on their h*ps and had a dagger tucked into their sashes. The sword’s two-foot-long blade was oddly shaped. It started out straight but then widened and curved at the bottom. The end looked as if it had been chopped off. He guessed it was a dadao sword. Kerrick had heard about them but had never seen one.

Regardless of the name, it appeared deadly and ideal for close-quarter fighting. Which was surprising considering the tribesmen acted as if they were very uncomfortable with their location. They jumped at every little noise and kept craning their necks to peer up into the treetops.

The wildlands were flat and wide-open. And Kerrick remembered learning that the tribes followed the herds of snow ufas nicknamed snufas as they migrated. A distant cousin of the ufa, the snufa was the size of a bull with long deadly horns and white shaggy hair. The tribes hunted them with spears. Besides eating the meat, they also used their pelts for tents and clothing. Of course, those heavy garments would be useless in this warmer climate.

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