Scent of Magic Page 68

Bone-pale despite the hours he had trained in the sun, Ursan’s skin was damp from the melting ice. Pain throbbed deep inside me. Anger flared. Stupid, stubborn man should have let me heal him. If this worked, I had a few choice words for him.

“Can you carry him?” I asked Saul.

“With your assistance.”

I helped Saul lift Ursan, but once he straightened and settled the body in his arms, he didn’t need me. We walked to the Lilys. Only a single Death Lily grew among three Peace Lilys. We approached the closest Peace Lily and stood underneath its petals. The faint scent of vanilla wafted in the air. Biting my lip, I waited for the giant flower to move.

Nothing happened.

“Come on, you helped Flea,” I cried.

Not even a twitch.

I grabbed the Lily’s stalk and tried to shake it. The thick green stem didn’t budge.

Yanking my stiletto from its sheath, I lunged for the Lily, aiming the tip at a petal. But vines snaked around my ankles before I could reach it, tripping me. They continued up my legs and along my arms, stealing my weapon.

I thrashed, yelled and cursed, but the plant held me tight. Eventually I ran out of steam and wilted.

Saul had watched my antics with a queasy expression. But he’d remained in place with Ursan.

“Now what?” he asked.

The ground around us rumbled alarmingly. The earth heaved, and Saul stepped back as a mound of loose soil grew as if a very energetic dog dug for a bone.

When the noise died and the dust settled, a deep rectangular hole had opened up at the base of the Peace Lily. Oh, no.

“You’re supposed to take him, you overgrown weed,” I shouted. “Not bury him.”

“Wow,” Saul said. “That’s not subtle. Should I...?”

“No. We’ll find another Lily. Cut me loose.”

Saul set Ursan down and pulled his sword. But as soon as he came close, the Lily ensnared him in its vines, as well. His sword disappeared into the foliage.

“Got any more ideas?” he asked.

“I’m thinking.”

As I considered, roots from the cavity flowed over the edge, wrapped around Ursan and drew him toward the grave.

“Think faster,” Saul said.

But no matter how hard I thought or struggled, there was nothing I could do but watch. After the Peace Lily pulled him in and covered him with a lattice of roots, the dirt mound reversed, filling the hole. Within minutes all that remained was the smooth ground.

The vines released Saul, but they carried me to the base of the Death Lily, letting go just as its petals encircled me in darkness. The barbs pierced my skin, and I connected with the flower’s soul.

I demanded answers to Ursan’s rejection. Instead of a reply, memories came to my mind unbidden.

It was strange to remember past incidents not of my own choosing. Images from my time with Tohon, conversations with Sepp, the death magician, being held by the dead, Danny, Zila and Kerrick all flickered in front of me.

One memory wasn’t mine. A vision of Kerrick sitting on the ground, cradling me in his arms. My lifeless eyes stared at nothing. Kerrick closed them and then squeezed his own shut as he hunched over me in utter misery. Then my eyes opened. This view had to be from the Death Lily, but why show me? Was it significant?


The answer hit me. The Peace Lily hadn’t brought me back to life, Kerrick’s touch had. It was the same with Flea. He hadn’t been breathing until I touched him. And why us? Because we had Peace Lily serum in our veins. However, one wouldn’t work without the other. A person needed both the serum and a touch. But could anyone touch them?

I asked. No answer. What about Ursan? I could touch him, too.

Gone too long. The Lily withdrew its barbs and expelled me onto the ground. It took me a moment to gather my wits. I glanced around in the semidarkness. The sun had set, and Saul had built a small fire.

He hurried over and knelt beside me. “Are you all right? You’re bleeding.” He pointed to my upper arms.

Blood stained my sleeves. “I’ll be fine.”

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure.”

Saul stood and reached his hand out. I would have grasped it except I held an orange sack in each hand. More of the Death Lily’s toxin sacks. Why? There must be a reason the Lily wanted me to have them. I hoped I’d figure it out.

“How long was I in the Lily?” I asked.

“Long enough for me to feed, water and groom the horses,” Saul said. “I also cooked us dinner. You must be starving.”

“I’m sorry about Ursan. We didn’t get him here fast enough.”

“At least there’s hope for another.”

Suddenly exhausted, I sank down next to the fire. “I’ve no idea about the timing. Flea had been dead a couple hours.” According to Kerrick, I’d died inside the Peace Lily. “I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out these Lilys.”

“Don’t give up. It’s too important.”

I nodded.

“We need to leave at dawn. Tomorrow’s midsummer’s day.” Saul handed me a steaming bowl.

After I ate, Saul offered to take the first shift. I gratefully accepted and fell asleep next to the fire. Tohon’s dead hunted me through my dreams. Saul woke me before they could drag me back to Tohon. I spent my shift pacing around the Lilys, mulling over the significance of its toxin.

* * *

Midsummer’s day dawned with another cloudless sky. My horse seemed to understand we were returning home. She chose the path before I could direct her.

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