Scent of Magic Page 78

Her tone was derisive, but I caught an edge of fear in her voice. Had Cellina noticed?

“Go fetch your mother-in-law, Jael,” Cellina ordered. “My message is for her and not some underling playing dress up.” She sat straight in the saddle, looking down her pudgy nose at Jael. Her blond hair had been braided and wrapped around her head like a crown. She didn’t appear intimidated, even though she was in the middle of the enemy’s camp. Then again, with a pack of ufas at her feet, I wouldn’t be worried either. Plus she had her sword—

I stared at the hilt of the sword hanging from her belt. Blinking, I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, hoping I was mistaken. No, it couldn’t be. But it was. She had Kerrick’s sword. Which meant...

A wave of dizziness washed through me. I sank to the ground and buried my face in my hands. To never see him again... To never feel his magic again... To never touch him again... I lay there in utter and complete misery.

“What’s wrong?” Saul asked in alarm.

I couldn’t answer.

“It might not be that bad. We haven’t heard any terms yet.” Saul tried to console me even though he had no clue why I’d collapsed. “No sense getting upset before anything is confirmed.”

His logic pierced my fog. Kerrick might still be alive. Tohon might have ordered Sepp to freeze him in a magical stasis or locked Kerrick in his dungeon. Or turned him into one of his dead soldiers. I shuddered.

Saul rubbed my arm. “Come on, Avry, pull it together.”

With considerable effort, I reined in the crushing despair. I needed to be able to function. I returned my attention to the courtyard. Estrid had arrived.

“...I will not discuss terms with you,” Estrid said. “Tohon—”

“King Tohon will accept nothing less than unconditional surrender,” Cellina said, causing a shocked silence. “In exchange for your lives, you and your entire population will swear loyalty to him and accept him as your king. Your army will be incorporated into his.”

“And if we don’t surrender?” Estrid asked.

“Then you will be slaughtered. Every single one of you.”

The ripple of voices from those within hearing distance soon turned into a loud outcry with everyone talking at the same time. Cellina gestured with both her arms. The ufas all howled at once. Silence descended.

“You have one day to decide,” Cellina said. “I will return tomorrow.” She turned her horse and nudged it into a walk toward the border. The ufas followed.

Without thought, I sprinted after her. I had to know what had happened to Kerrick. The ufas snarled when I approached. Not caring, I called Cellina’s name. She glanced back and then stopped the horse. I slowed, keeping my distance from the creatures.

“Well feed me to a Death Lily,” Cellina said. “She lives.”

“You didn’t know?” I asked in surprise.

“We’ve heard rumors, of course, but you had the plague. How did you survive?”

“How did you get Kerrick’s sword?”

She smirked. “You answer my question and I’ll answer yours.”

I almost growled in frustration. Instead, I stuck to the explanation I’d given Estrid and Jael. “Kerrick shared his magical energy with me, and I recovered. Now it’s your turn.”

Cellina studied me. “Kerrick had a nasty run-in with my mutts.” She swept a hand out, indicating the ufa pack. “Unlike you, he didn’t survive.”


Kerrick had spent a sleepless night wondering what Danny would decide and a restless day worrying about him. One of his guards had brought him his breakfast, claiming the boy was busy with lessons.

Last night he had told Danny it was his decision to heal the tribespeople or not. Kerrick would support him either way.

Danny hadn’t been happy with his reply. “Why would you let me decide? It’s my stupid fault that you’re cooperating with them!”

Ah. Kerrick had knelt next to Danny and waited until the boy met his gaze. “No. You’re wrong. Remember what I told Noak’s father, Canute? My information isn’t going to make any difference in the end. In fact, we’re helping our people right now. Since Noak and his warriors are here and not on the warpath, they’ll have more time to evacuate.” Kerrick considered the situation. “Plus, Noak could have easily killed me during the battle. He planned to take a prisoner. Probably because of his sickened tribe members.” Now it made sense why Noak had returned to Krakowa.

Kerrick had touched Danny’s arm. “Okay?”

He’d nodded, and the deep crinkles between his eyebrows had smoothed for a moment before puckering again. “But what should I do about the sick tribespeople?”

“Look deep within yourself. I can’t order you one way or another. Avry taught me that. This is something you will live with for the rest of your life. Can you do nothing and let them die? Think about it.”

Danny had agreed to sleep on it and Kerrick hadn’t seen him since.

When another guard brought him his evening meal, Kerrick decided to search for Danny in the morning if he didn’t show. Since no one had locked his cell door or confiscated his lock picks despite being well aware he had them, Kerrick figured they wouldn’t object. And if they did, he’d deal with it then.

* * *

After the guard left with the remains of his breakfast, Kerrick strolled from the jail with confidence. If he acted as if he knew what he was doing, perhaps no one would question him. Danny had pointed out the house he stayed in during one of their trips to the bathhouse. He headed to it. Kerrick was surprised guards hadn’t been posted outside the jail, but within a few blocks he spotted a couple tails. Noak had probably planted them.

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