Scent of Magic Page 51

“We will not surrender,” Thea said simply. Before the sergeant could reply, she yelled, “Now!”

Thea and Saul surged forward. I took aim, sending one knife into the sergeant’s upper arm and the second one into the thigh of the man to his left. The ring of metal on metal, curses and the smell of blood soon filled the air as Saul and Thea engaged. I had enough time to throw two more knives before the soldiers closed in.

Switching to my stiletto, I parried a sword thrust, but my weapon was no match against a longer blade. The soldier knocked my attack aside with ease. My stiletto flew from my grasp as the point of his sword poked my chest.

I spread my hands out. “I surrender.”

“Turn around and get down on your knees,” he said. “Hands behind your head.”

Following his orders, I knelt. The clank of manacles sounded as he pulled them from his belt. When he grabbed my left arm to cuff my wrist, I grasped his fingers with my free hand. I zapped him, sending a painful burst of my power into him, overloading his nervous system. With a strangled cry, he collapsed onto the ground. One down.

I glanced at the others. Thea held off three men, including the sergeant. Although injured, he fought with a fierce determination along with two others. Her skills with a sword were impressive. Saul fought three, but he was obviously struggling. Flea had obtained a sword and held his own against one opponent. One man lay in a heap on the ground. Two down.

Stepping behind one of Saul’s attackers, I touched the back of his neck, found the sweet spot with my thumb and zapped him. The man arched back in surprise, then crumpled to the ground. Three down.

A loud clang sounded as Flea unarmed his opponent. “Avry,” he called. Flea aimed the point of his sword at the man’s chest. The soldier held his hands up as if in surrender. I rushed over and touched the back of his neck. Four down.

Saul unarmed another and punched him. The man grunted and fell back. Five down.

Flea had joined Thea, and by the time I reached them, they had knocked two more out. I zapped them just in case. Seven down.

One of the soldiers grabbed me from behind. He placed his knife’s blade on my throat and ordered my companions to stop. They ignored him. I clasped his wrist and sent my magic into him, hurting instead of healing. He jerked and fell to his knees, dragging me down with him. With another blast, he slumped over. I removed the knife from his nerveless fingers. Eight down.

By the time I’d finished, the sounds of fighting had died. Saul, Thea and Flea stood among the prone forms. Ten down. They looked rather smug and none the worse for wear. Although, I checked Flea despite his protests, making sure he was well.

I zapped the last three ambushers to ensure they would remain down. We grinned at each other for a few moments, catching our breath.

“How long will they be out?” Thea asked.

“They’ll be unconscious for three to four hours,” I said.

She nodded. “That’ll give us enough time to catch up to the main group.”

“But shouldn’t we report back?” I asked, thinking another run-in might not end as well.

“Not until we determine where they’re going and what they’re planning to do.”

“What happens when these guys wake up?” Flea pointed with the sword.

“If they’re smart, they’ll return to their base,” Thea said.

“And if they’re not?” Flea asked.

“They’ll chase after us,” I said.

“If they can find us.” Saul smiled.

He could smile. He didn’t have to worry about keeping Flea safe. I opened my mouth to retort—

“Relax, Mom. We’ll protect him,” Thea said.

“I can take care of myself,” Flea protested.

“He’s handy with that sword,” Saul added.

Memories of his vacant stare and blue lips flashed in my mind. Jael had sucked the life from Flea without touching him. I looked at each of my companions, seeking their undivided attention. “Not all dangers are physical. And if the dead soldiers we’re following discover us, all your skills will be useless.”

Saul and Thea exchanged a glance as if they were trying to decide if they should humor me or not.

Flea caught what he probably thought was a mistake. “Wait. Did you say dead soldiers?”

“A lot has happened since you died, Flea,” I said.

“She can explain her theories to you later,” Thea said.

Theories? I gave her a Kerrick look—flat and cold.

“On one level, I know you’re telling the truth, but on another I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Can you understand that?” she asked.

I could.

“Let’s go before the enemy gets too far ahead of us,” Thea said. “I don’t want to trigger another ambush, so this time we’ll slow down and stop frequently. Watch for my signal.”

We stayed close to her, pausing when instructed and listening for sounds of an attack. As the day wore on, I noticed the path we’d been trailing thinned. The light noise of the soldiers’ passage was punctuated from time to time with a strange rumbling noise that vibrated through the soles of my boots. The sounds eventually diminished until I could no longer hear them. Then their tracks faded. We stopped.

“Did we miss a turn?” I asked.

“No way. The path was clearly marked,” Thea said.

Thinking about Ursan and his jacks, I glanced up into the treetops. No movement aside from the light breeze rustling the leaves. No signs of anyone hiding up there either. With that many, at least a couple of their weapons would glint in the sunlight.

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