Scent of Magic Page 75

The next morning, Danny arrived with Noak instead of his guards. The boy clutched Avry’s notebook to his chest.

“Are you all right?” Kerrick asked, stepping close to the bars between them.

“Yes.” He cleared his throat. “A couple tribesmen have developed fevers, and I need you to help me find the venite plant in the forest.” Danny showed him a sketch of a bush with narrow drooping leaves. “Can you do that?”

Kerrick considered. Through his magic he sensed the difference between trees, bushes and the Lilys. But a specific plant might be beyond his abilities. “I can try.”

Noak stared at Kerrick as if he still couldn’t figure him out. Good.

“We go now,” Noak said. “No trouble or I’ll—”

“Curse me, I know. Isn’t my promise worth anything to you?”

“No. Your people chased us from our homeland and forced us to live in the cold Vilde Lander.”

“You crossed the mountains first, invading and killing my people.”

“We did not go past the Ni Fjell. You came like flakes in a snowstorm. Few at first, then more and more until you roared down the Ni Fjell like an avalanche.”

“That’s not what our history reports.” Kerrick crossed his arms.

“Our ancestors do not lie. Our stories are told from old to young so we all remember.”

“We should go,” Danny said into the heated silence. “Hilmar is very sick.”

Before Noak could unlock his cell door, Kerrick yanked it open and stepped through. “Which way?”

Noak grabbed the hilt of his dadao but didn’t pull the sword free from the scabbard. Kerrick waited as the man sorted through the logic. He had just shown Noak he was more than capable of escaping, but he hadn’t. In fact, he just risked losing his set of lock picks—the ones that had been tucked inside his clean clothes.

“How long?” Noak asked.

He shrugged. “Couple days.”

“You’re holding to your promise?”

Kerrick rested his hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Yes. As long as you keep yours, I’ll keep mine.” He wasn’t sure why it was so important to him that these warriors understood that his people were capable of honor. It just was.

Noak gestured. “This way.”

Two of Noak’s men fell into step behind them. When they neared the woods, Kerrick’s connection to the living green flowed through his body. He inhaled the moist, sweet scent of the earth, feeling a surge of power. Before entering the forest, he studied the picture again, reading Avry’s description. The thick roots had small pebble-sized knots that could be ground into a paste and used on itchy bug bites.

With the image of the venite in his mind, Kerrick strode through the bushes and trees, touching the leaves. As his magic spread throughout the forest, it revealed a map of the area as acknowledged by the living green—more felt than seen. Mild irritations, such as animals and insects, barely registered, but unwanted intruders caused an intense reaction. Kerrick ignored the group of tribesmen hunting about a mile southwest of them. Instead, he concentrated on that one specific plant.

The map changed texture, going from smooth to hairy. Each strand represented a living extension of the green, like a tentacle. Kerrick sorted through them, seeking the venite. He walked with his eyes closed. With this full immersion, he didn’t need to see.

The variety of plants growing in a small area surprised him. And the specific details of each one eluded him. Before he admitted defeat, Kerrick switched his efforts to the roots underground. He crouched and laid his palms on the cool loam, sending his magic to twist and turn through the earth as he searched for the venite’s unique—he hoped—knots.

Kerrick found a possible match, but he couldn’t walk with his hands on the forest floor. Remembering Avry’s trick when they had played hide-and-seek, he pulled off his boots and socks. When his bare feet touched the soil, energy sizzled up his calves. He fingered a leaf, and a picture of the surrounding forest, both above and below the ground, formed in his mind.

After a moment of dizziness, he zeroed in on a patch of venite and led Danny there. On the way, he wondered why he hadn’t ever gone barefoot into the forest before. With this intense connection, he could easily avoid the stinging plants, poison ivy and Death Lilys.

Once they reached the patch, Kerrick stumbled as his strength waned. Finding the venite had used up all his energy. He rested against a tree trunk as Danny pulled and then bundled the plants together.

With bunches of venite in hand, they headed back to Krakowa. Noak led since Kerrick had nothing left. They stopped to pick up his boots and returned to the city by midafternoon. Kerrick collapsed on the bed in his cell. He didn’t care if Noak locked the door or not as he surrendered to his exhaustion.

* * *

The smell of beef woke him. Danny stood next to him holding a tray with a steaming bowl of stew. It took Kerrick a few moments to realize that his cell remained unlocked and the quality of his supper had improved.

Danny sat on the end of the bed as he inhaled the food. The boy worried his lower lip and squirmed.

“Isn’t the venite working?” Kerrick asked.

“It’s great. Hilmar is coherent and Yok is eating again.”

“So what’s wrong?”

Danny glanced at the door. Despite the small measures of trust, two guards flanked the jail’s exit. He lowered his voice to a whisper, “Since the venite worked so well, they brought me to an old warehouse. And there are lots more sick people.”

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