Scent of Magic Page 72


“Indeed. Estrid believes we need Ryne and his army to stop Tohon. I’m here because of her panic.” Jael shoved a long golden strand of hair behind her ear, expressing her exasperation. “My mother-in-law doesn’t put any faith in my abilities during a battle.”

Odd. I hadn’t considered her magic either. My pain forgotten, I scrambled to my feet. “Can you knock a company down?”

“I can send a whirlwind to distract and keep them off balance.”

“Just one?” I asked.


Too bad. “How many soldiers can you neutralize by suffocation?” I asked.

“About a dozen.”

Not enough. And it wouldn’t even work on the dead troops. I wilted.

“Why the sudden interest?” she asked.

“I’m looking for some hope.”


“We need Ryne.”

* * *

I lay on the floor long after Jael left. She hadn’t appreciated my comment and had knocked me flat before leaving my room. At least she no longer considered me a threat. Of course, it would be temporary.

My wrists ached, my head throbbed and my knees stung. When the pain lessened, I climbed to my feet. I wasn’t going to spend the rest of midsummer’s day lying on the ground.

A ripple of surprise rolled through the caregivers when I entered. I wondered if they’d heard Jael’s attack or were just shocked to see that I’d returned. Christina helped me splint my wrists, and I did what I could to fill the herb pouches for the troops. A few soldiers visited the infirmary for cuts and abrasions. I questioned all who entered, seeking news. Nothing about Tohon’s troops engaging ours or Belen’s whereabouts. Or Ryne’s, for that matter. Jael had ordered double patrols for tonight, and her first-wave soldiers guarded Pomyt’s border. She must have trusted Ryne’s prediction that Tohon would strike today more than she let on.

The sun set and still no word about an approaching army. I doubted anyone would be able to sleep tonight. I couldn’t. As I tossed and turned, images flashed in my mind—Tohon and his dead, Kerrick and Belen, Ursan and the jumping jacks.

* * *

During the night, Tohon’s troops attacked. It wasn’t what I’d imagined the start of a war would be like. I’d expected battle cries, the ring of metal against metal and the crash of two forces colliding. I’d expected to be roused from my restless sleep. Instead the assault happened with utter and complete silence.

In fact, nothing appeared to be any different in the morning. As my first shift of caregivers arrived, they reported all was well. But as the day progressed, reports filtered in. The patrols that were due back failed to return. And when the second-wave soldiers arrived at Pomyt’s border to relieve the others, the first wave had disappeared.

Tension permeated the camp. Everyone was on high alert. Rumors reached us that Jael had sent a company of soldiers to the north and one to the south to flank the enemy, she’d doubled the troops at the border and she’d remained with them.

In the middle of another sleepless night, loud voices and yells of pain drove me to my feet. I raced to the infirmary and roused my staff just as the first injured arrived, followed by a steady stream. My world shrank to cleaning and bandaging stab wounds, splinting limbs, treating concussions and dispensing medicines. So far, no one had sustained an injury that needed my healing magic. A good thing, considering my wrists hadn’t fully healed and I needed to save my strength for someone on the edge of dying.

Those who could talk kept repeating the same thing about the enemy. Silent, deadly and without life or mercy. They shuddered in revulsion.

“We are the lucky ones,” a sergeant said to me as I stitched a deep slice on his arm.

“How so?” I asked.

“We escaped. The others...” He fisted his hands. “The others...” The sergeant closed his eyes. “The others were dragged down into the earth.”

Although I wanted to dash out and find Noelle so we both could hide under the bed, I kept calm, finishing his stitches. As I checked on other patients and gave instructions to the caregivers, I overheard more horrible descriptions.

“...the ground opened up, and they poured out like fire ants.”

“Two grabbed Helen and snapped her neck...”

“...didn’t give chase, but most of my team couldn’t run...”

“Our squad climbed through the trees, thinking to get behind them, and they swarmed after us.”

Within a few hours, the stream of casualties stopped. Jael had called a temporary retreat.

I wasn’t surprised when Jael arrived later that afternoon. Haggard and bloody, she clutched a map in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Without a word, I led her back to my examination room. Then I turned to her. “Where’s my sister?”

“She’s running messages for me. Don’t worry. She stays well away from the zone.”


Jael sheathed her weapon and unrolled the map. A bright red arc slashed a long curve around the western side of Zabin. She tapped it with a dirty finger. “This is where they’re hiding. Approach this area, and they...swarm, but back off and they stay in this combat zone.” She took a breath. “How do we stop them?”

I resisted the urge to be petty. “Are they wearing metal collars?”


“Then you have to use the skull jab.” I explained the maneuver. “We were training your troops before...” Ryne left, but I was smart enough not to say his name.

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