Scent of Magic Page 57

Unaffected by my comment, he said, “They’re a bunch of wimps.”

Just then Loren joined us. “Who’s a wimp?”

“According to Quain, you are,” I said.

Quain’s smirk died. He sputtered.

“Care to explain?” Loren asked him, putting his hand on his sword’s hilt.

“Go ahead.” I waved jauntily and left the monkeys.

Ryne moved among the squads, assisting when needed. Flea also helped. I watched a few bouts and answered questions. Eventually, Loren and Quain joined the training.

By the end of the day, word of the special strike training had spread to the other companies. Major Granvil organized with his colleagues and scheduled more practice and teaching sessions for the next couple days.

As the groups finished for the night, Ryne approached me. “Sergeant Odd’s team picked up the technique the fastest. Can you ask him if they’ll help demonstrate it tomorrow?”


“And we need to discuss what we’re going to do about the Peace Lilys,” he said.

“How do you mean?”

“First, we need to decide if we’re going to give the information to Estrid. Also if war breaks out, we’ll have fatalities. Do we try to feed one to a Peace Lily?”

He had followed the same logic that Thea had the first night we found Flea. I scanned the area, searching for Flea. He joked with Loren.

“Thea and Saul know what happened. I was so excited about Flea, I didn’t ask if they planned to report it to Major Granvil.” If they had, it would explain Granvil’s nasty look earlier.

“Can you find out?” Ryne asked.

“Yes. And as for the Peace Lily, I think we owe it to the soldiers to try it at least once.”

“I agree. I’ll see you in the morning.” He touched my shoulder before heading to his tent with the monkeys and Flea in tow.

I caught Odd and Liv staring at me. Liv’s lips were pursed in thought, and Odd gave me a knowing look. Sighing, I decided it would be a relief when I no longer had to pretend to be Irina. But, for now, I had to talk to Thea. I found her near her tent.

“Yes, I told the major everything,” Thea said. “It was too big for me to keep secret.”

“Will he report it to his commanding officer?” I asked.

“If he wants to cover his ass, then, yes, he will.” She considered. “He was pretty pissed off when I explained, but he was at the training today. That’s a good sign.”

I guessed I’d have to talk to him. The thought was far from enticing, and I decided to put it off until the morning. Instead, I washed up, filled a tray of food and joined Liv, Odd and Saul around the sergeants’ fire.

As soon as I sat next to Liv, the discussion switched to Prince Ryne. Liv and Odd asked me a bunch of questions about him.

“Liv, I was kidding this morning. You know that,” I said.

“Yeah, but you were so chummy with him today that I thought it might just be possible that he’s the one you’re pining for,” Liv said.

“He touched your shoulder,” Odd said as if that proved everything.

“Tell them,” Saul said.

I hesitated.

“They’ll understand,” he said. “I did.”

Still I paused. Telling them would be the start of the end of Sergeant Irina. I liked her. She was safe. And she’d earned her place as a member of Axe Company. But it would be better if they learned who I was from me and not through the rumor mill.

It didn’t take long. After I finished, the silence stretched to an uncomfortable length.

Then Odd said, “Ursan’s going to gloat. He’s suspected since you arrived.”

“He already knows,” I said.

“Are we the last?” Liv asked.

“No. Only Lieutenant Thea and probably Major Granvil know.”

“Not Wynn?” she asked with a gleam in her eyes.

“Not yet.”

“Ho boy! Can I tell her?”

Then I remembered what Thea had said about Liv and Wynn. How they couldn’t resist passing along juicy gossip. I figured by tomorrow night the entire camp would know. At least I’d have one night of peace.

Except I was wrong. In the middle of the night, I was woken by a hard shove. Noelle stood over me. She held a small lantern in her hand. At least it wasn’t a knife. Progress.

“General Jael wants to see you,” she said.

Half-asleep, I was more confused than afraid. Silly me. “Now?”



Noak held Danny in one hand as if the boy weighed nothing. Danny looked like a fragile toy next to the big man. Pulling a knife from his red sash, Noak pressed the tip to Danny’s neck. The ice growing inside Kerrick seized his heart.

“Cooperate, or he dies,” Noak said.

Danny’s muffled protests were clear. Brave boy. But Kerrick couldn’t let him die. Could he?

Breaking his frozen thoughts, he considered his options. If he refused, they’d be killed and the tribes would continue to advance south, except they would move with caution. If he agreed, Danny would live, and the tribes would continue to advance. However, they wouldn’t be as cautious, and the noise of their passage might alert those pockets of people who hadn’t moved to Orel, perhaps saving them.

Ah, hell. Logic aside, he couldn’t let the boy die.

Still fighting Winter’s Curse, Kerrick summoned every bit of strength and pushed, sliding his torso up the tree. The skin on his arms scraped along the rough bark as the manacles clanked. Noak watched, impassive, as Kerrick stood.

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