Scent of Magic Page 70

“Do you give your word?” Kerrick asked.

The man’s full attention slammed into Kerrick. It felt as if he’d been pierced with a thousand daggers of ice.

“You dare question me?” In a blur of motion, his thick sword cut toward Kerrick’s neck, then stopped. The man lowered his weapon, stepped closer and peered at him. He pointed to the scars on Kerrick’s throat. “Who marked you?”

“An ufa.” Kerrick’s voice remained steady, despite his racing heart.

He grunted and sheathed the dadao. Glaring at Noak, the tribesman turned and strode away. Kerrick blew out the breath he’d been holding. Had his scars just saved him? That would be a bizarre twist of fate, but he’d gladly take it. He knew it was just a matter of time before they killed him. In the meantime, he would do all he could to ensure Danny’s survival.

Noak barked orders at his men. One dragged Danny away. The boy shot him a terrified look.

“It’ll be all right,” Kerrick called to him. “Just remember what I’ve told you.”

Then two grabbed Kerrick and led him deeper into town. The tribes had moved into the abandoned houses and businesses of Krakowa. Their pale skin and clothes stood out among the dark wood and red bricks. It almost seemed fitting. The plague had killed this town and now ghosts lived here.

His escorts brought him to the jailhouse. They untied his wrists and shoved him into a cell. The door clanged shut behind him. When he turned around, they were gone. Kerrick scanned his surroundings—iron bars, a pallet to sleep on and a slop pot. The place smelled of mildew and musty sweat. Only a few cells occupied the space—all empty except his. He examined his raw and bleeding wrists. A wave of dizziness hit him. He sat on the thin straw-filled mattress. Rubbing his hands over the week’s worth of growth on his cheeks, he wondered how long he’d be incarcerated.

The last time, he’d been locked up for two weeks. Two miserable weeks worried about Avry. He still was concerned about her, but by now Ryne and the monkeys should be with her and protecting her—if she’d let them. Had the war with Tohon started? Kerrick stretched out on the bed. Better to recover his strength than to fret about things he couldn’t control.

* * *

Danny woke him later that afternoon. Sunlight streamed in through the one barred window. The boy stood between two warriors. He held Kerrick’s pack along with his own.

“What’s going on?” Kerrick asked Danny.

“They’re letting us get cleaned up. Your cuts need to be washed or they’ll get infected.”

The guards unlocked his cell, and for the first time since he’d been caught, they didn’t secure his hands. Kerrick followed them to the bathhouse and washed away almost ten days’ worth of grime and blood. All his weapons had been taken from his pack, but there was a rustle of consternation when Kerrick pulled out his razor. His guards grabbed the hilts of their dadaos, but he ignored them and shaved, feeling better with every stroke of the sharp blade along his skin.

His razor was confiscated when he finished, but he was allowed to keep his pack. It felt like a luxury to wear clean clothes. And the set of lock picks hidden within them was a nice bonus. Kerrick wasn’t sure if or when he’d use them; it was just nice to have the option.

Danny smeared the cuts on his wrists with a sweet-smelling goo and covered them with bandages. The boy seemed jumpy. When they returned to the jailhouse, Kerrick asked Danny where the tribes had taken him.

“I’m in a house with other boys,” Danny said, darting a glance at the guards. “I’m to take care of you. Bring you food and stuff like that.”

“Good, then I’ll know you’re well.”

Danny nodded, but he gnawed on his lower lip.

Kerrick knelt next to him and took his hands. “Tell me what’s upsetting you.” Besides the obvious.

Danny dropped his hands and threw himself at Kerrick, wrapping his arms around his neck, hugging him tight. “It’s the other boys in the house,” he whispered in Kerrick’s ear. “They’re not from the tribes. They’re from Krakowa.”


Saul glanced at me. His shocked expression matched mine. “Did you know Prince Ryne was leaving?” he asked.

“No.” I glanced around the abandoned tent, searching for a note or clue as to where Ryne had gone. “Maybe he repositioned his army as part of a military strategy to counter Tohon.”

“Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?”

“Let’s find Thea.”

She pounced on us as soon as we drew close. “You’re back,” she said with a note of accusation in her voice.

I bristled. “Of course we’re back. You and Major Granvil knew our mission.”

“In light of what has happened, your task could have been an elaborate ruse. Everyone believes you snuck away to meet up with the prince.”

“With Saul along?”

She shot him a glance. “He could be an accomplice.”

“Ouch,” Saul said.

“What exactly has happened?” I asked.

Thea swept her hand out, indicating the empty tents. “It’s midsummer’s day. Ryne’s cowards left last night without a word, so they wouldn’t have to face Tohon’s attack.”

“How do you know why they left if they didn’t say a word?” I asked.

“Why else? If it’s a strategic move, Prince Ryne would have notified General Jael of his plans.”

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