Scent of Magic Page 64

When I reached to touch him again, he grabbed my arms with surprising speed, wrapping his fingers around my sleeves.

“No,” he gasped, stopping me. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” I asked.

“Save me.”

“Not your decision.” I tried to move my hands closer to make skin contact, but he held on with all his considerable strength.

“Listen.” He hissed in pain. “It stinks...”

“Let me—”

“Listen! It...all stinks...every...where.” He shuddered, but he wouldn’t let go. “Under...stand?”

“Yes. It stinks. Now let me heal you.”


I glanced at the others hovering nearby. “Help me.”

Ryne stood next to me. “Will you survive?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does,” Ryne said in a soft voice.

“She...won’t.” Ursan convulsed again. “I...know...” He met Ryne’s gaze. “Don’t let...her.”

Ursan’s grip relaxed as he passed out. Before I could touch him, Ryne grabbed me and yanked me back. I yelled and struggled, but he wouldn’t let go. Stronger than he looked, Ryne trapped my arms so I couldn’t zap him.

All I could do was watch as Ursan drew in his last breath. Utter sadness washed through me. I sagged against Ryne until I remembered he had prevented me from healing Ursan.

“Bastard,” I said, jerking from his embrace.

Ryne didn’t reply. Silence blanketed the room. I closed Ursan’s eyes. No life sparked under my fingertips. He was beyond my reach. I glanced at the others. Three jumping jacks, Thea, Major Granvil and Flea stared at Ursan with various degrees of grief. My gaze lingered on Flea, and a bit of hope pushed against the gloom inside me. Perhaps a Peace Lily would bring Ursan back to life.

But something was missing. I scanned the faces again until I reached Flea. Then it hit me. Not something but someone. Belen.

“Where’s Belen?” I asked one of the jacks.

He dropped his gaze and stared at the floor. “He’s gone.”

Terrified, I rounded on him. “What do you mean by gone?”

His buddy answered for him. “Belen disappeared.”


“Are they going to kill us?” Danny asked.

The boy had hooked his arm through Kerrick’s as they walked toward Krakowa with the tribesmen. Unlike Kerrick, Danny’s hands were free, and he had his backpack. Kerrick considered his response carefully. He didn’t want to scare Danny, but he didn’t want to lie to him either.

Was it better to be prepared for death or surprised? Kerrick had no idea. His ribs throbbed with every step, and the rope they’d used to bind his wrists behind his back stung as blood dripped down his hands. His sluggish thoughts felt as if they’d been soaking too long in pickle juice. The combination of not enough sleep and food over the past seven days had taken a toll on him.

“They’ll keep us alive as long as they have a use for us,” Kerrick said. He glanced over his shoulder.

Noak followed the warriors. Since they’d started the trek north, Kerrick had been racking his brain trying to figure out why Noak was returning instead of conquering the rest of the northern realms. Perhaps he was scared of the plague. Kerrick almost laughed at the notion that something good might happen because of the plague.

“How do we know when they don’t need us anymore?” Danny asked. His fingers dug into Kerrick’s arm as he gazed up at Kerrick with eyes wide.

Poor kid was terrified. Kerrick lowered his voice. “Danny, I want you to do something for me.”

Danny’s grip tightened, but he kept steady. “What is it?”

“I want you to make friends. Be helpful. Ask questions and learn about their ways and beliefs.”

“Like a spy?”

“Yes. But you need to be genuine about it.”


Kerrick took a moment to form a reply. It would be so much easier to just order Danny, but the boy would resist. “If you, they’ll always find a use for you.”

“You mean they won’t kill me?”

Too smart by far. “Yes.”

“What about you?”

“Don’t worry about me.”

Danny gave him a long look. “Yeah, right.”

* * *

Over the next day, Danny took Kerrick’s advice. At first the warriors rejected the boy, but he persisted, trying different tactics.

That day—their third on the road—Kerrick estimated they’d reach the outskirts of Krakowa by midsummer’s day. And then what?

Not long after they stopped to prepare for the night, Kerrick dozed until shouts and curses rang out nearby. One of the warriors dragged Danny along by his arm. The warrior talked to Noak in a rapid-fire burst, gesturing wildly.

Kerrick caught the words poison,  sneak and kill. Not good. He summoned his strength in case he needed to help Danny. The boy held a plant in his hands. Dirt still clung to the roots.

Danny tried to explain, but Noak clipped him on the ear. Kerrick pushed to his feet, sliding his back and scraping his arms along the tree’s trunk until he stood. He yelled at Noak. All three turned toward him.

Noak snatched the plant from Danny and strode to Kerrick. The warrior pulled Danny with him as he followed his leader. The boy pressed a hand over his left ear, but held back the tears that threatened to spill over his eyelashes.

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