Scent of Magic Page 50

A sour note to the west startled me. I grabbed my stiletto, pulling the weapon from its sheath as another odd sound reached me. Straining to locate the source, I held my breath. Two or three people headed this way, moving fast. I debated. Should I wake Saul and Thea? Or wait until I confirmed if the patrol was friendly or not? Or hope they passed us by without discovering us?

Before I could decide, the intruders slipped into view. Three of them wearing Tohon’s basic uniform—dark brown pants, shirt, leather armor and boots. They passed my hiding spot without any indication that they had seen me. However, they were traveling in the same direction we needed to go. East toward Estrid’s camp and her main force.

Time to wake Thea. I dropped to the ground. And froze.

More noise sounded to the west. It was subtle at first, then amplified and spread. I guessed the group contained at least a dozen, but kept increasing my estimate as they approached. Pressing against the boulder, I waited.

Soon a few figures crossed my line of sight. Armed with swords and daggers, they wore a dark green collar, stretching from chest to chin. I watched as more and more soldiers marched past. No one glanced in my direction. Other than the noise of their passage, which wasn’t that loud considering their numbers, they were silent. No whispered conversations, coughs or grunts. No signs of life at all. A parade of the dead.

Cold fear snaked through me. I gripped the hilt of my stiletto even though I wanted to run away or melt into the boulder where they couldn’t reach me.

By the time the last one passed, I had counted over two hundred of them. I raced into the cave and woke everyone.

“They’re headed for Zabin. We need to warn our troops,” I said. Shooing Flea off my bedroll, I shoved it into my knapsack. “Saul, get water to douse the coals. I’ll fold your—”

Thea stopped me. “Relax, We have patrols out. They have probably already spotted the invasion and warned our camp. We’ve been training for this for months.” She glanced around. “Finish packing. We’ll follow this company, and make sure they don’t try to get around our forces.”

It didn’t take us long to get ready. Before we left, Saul gave Flea one of his daggers. Thea took point. Even in the semidarkness, it wasn’t hard to find their trail. Broken branches, leaves and boot prints marked their path. Which wasn’t as large as I’d expected, considering the size of the company. The dead traveled light.

We crossed the border into Pomyt as the sky lightened. An hour after dawn, we encountered our first surprise. Another trampled path, indicating a second force was headed toward Zabin.

“Which one do we follow?” I asked Thea.

“The left one.”


“They’re going northeast. There’s a chance that group could bypass our patrols and loop in behind us.”

“And that wouldn’t be good?” Flea asked.

“No. You don’t want the other army to get in behind you,” Thea explained. “Let’s go.”

After an hour Thea skidded to a stop. She held up a hand, indicating silence. The sounds of the army dominated—we had almost caught up. And perhaps we’d gotten too close as a few off notes reverberated from both sides of the path.

Just as Thea signaled a retreat, shuffles sounded behind us. I had a split second to realize we were surrounded before Tohon’s soldiers burst from the bushes. So focused on following the army, we’d walked right into an ambush. Fear sizzled in my blood, igniting my heart rate. The thought of being captured by the dead almost sent me into a full-out panic.

But instinct kicked in, and the four of us turned back to back, facing the ring of armed men. My pulse eased quite a bit when I noticed they weren’t wearing metal collars, and their gazes held life instead of death. I counted ten of them.

They kept their positions as one man stepped forward. The tip of his sword pointed at the ground despite Saul and Thea holding theirs in an attack position. The thick muscled sergeant studied us for a moment, then said, “You’re not a standard patrol, that’s for sure. Which might explain why you’re in this sector. Did you get lost?”

No one replied.

“You’re not supposed to be here, so no one should miss you.” He paused as if considering the situation.

His comment implied he knew Estrid’s patrol schedule. Spies in her camp were a given, but I had thought the patrol locations had been secured.

“Surrender and you’ll be our first prisoners of war, or die.” He acted as if it didn’t matter to him which option we’d choose.

If I’d been with Kerrick and Belen, I would have laughed at the offer. They could handle ten armed men. However, I wasn’t so confident in Thea and Saul’s abilities. Plus, the desire to protect the newly living Flea pulsed through my chest. I’d surrender if it meant saving his life.

“Flea, do you know how to wield a sword?” Thea asked.

“Yes, sir,” Flea said with a little too much enthusiasm.

“Saul, your first task is to get Mr. Flea a sword,” Thea said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Thea, you can’t—”

“Trust me, Irina. Just like I’ve trusted you,” she said.

She had me there. I shoved my stiletto into its holder and pulled two throwing knives, one for each hand. “Flea, do you remember that trick I played on you with the kissing spider?”


“All right, that’s enough,” the sergeant said. “Last chance.”

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