Scent of Magic Page 8

The leader, Chane, rounded on my acolyte. “What’s going on? Where is she?” he demanded.


My captive wasn’t the most loquacious. I moved next to him but kept my stiletto pressed against his skin.

“I found him lost in the woods.” I tsked. “Poor thing should know the forest is dangerous at night.”

Swords appeared in four hands within seconds.

However, Chane studied me. I copied him. He was as tall as Belen but not as wide. Although I didn’t doubt strong muscles lurked underneath his robe. His nose looked as if someone had sat on it, and his brown hair had been cut military short. A soldier despite the acolyte’s garb. He appeared to be around Loren’s age—about thirty-five.

He broke the silence. “You’re either incredibly stupid or...”

“Or what?” I asked.

“Or incredibly stupid.”

“Now, now. Play nice. I didn’t kill any of your men. And I could have easily disappeared. I still can,” I said with a bravado I didn’t feel.

He motioned to one of his men. “Hent, check her room.” Then he returned his attention to me. “Okay, I’ll play. What do you want?”

“It’s more about what you want. You sent your colleagues to ambush me. I assume you have a good reason?”

A slight smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I just wanted to talk.”

Yeah, right. “Okay. So talk.”

It took him a moment to cover his surprise. “Just like that?”

“You’re looking for bodies for Estrid’s army. Right?”

“We’re missionaries, spreading the creator’s message of peace and educating the—”

“Save the speech for someone who is gullible enough to fall for it. Fact is, I’m interested. You know I’m skilled. Four of your guys couldn’t catch me. I can fight for Estrid, but I don’t want to be a draftee, devotee or anything else ending in ee.”

Understanding shone in his eyes. He relaxed until Hent returned from my room with the acolyte I’d pinned to the door. Two small rips marked the sleeves of his robe. He clutched my knives in tight fists, glaring at me.

“We can’t wake Tyson,” Hent said.

Every gaze focused on me. “He’ll be fine once the drug wears off.”

“What did you use?” Chane asked.

“Trade secret.”

“And my other acolyte?”

“Sleeping in the woods.”

He paused for a moment before gesturing to the bar. “Let’s have a drink and discuss your...terms.”

I waited.

“Consider it a cease-fire. No one will attack you. I give you my word.”

“And you are?”

“High Priest Chane of Ozero Realm.”

High Priest? An impressive rank. “What are you doing in Mengels?”

He laughed. “Spreading the word. I can be very persuasive.”

I glanced at his men. They still held their swords at the ready. “Uh-huh.”

“They’re overprotective.” He signaled them, and all but Hent sheathed their weapons.

He stared at me as if waiting for the opportunity to throw my knives at me.

Chane noticed. “Hent, give me those.”

With reluctance, Hent handed him the two throwing knives. Chane placed them on the bar, then he inclined his head at me, waiting. I released his man and slid my stiletto back into its holder on my belt. He pulled a stool out for me, then settled on the one next to it as if we were old friends getting reacquainted. But his gaze turned cold when he focused on my ex-captive. “Otto, fetch us some wine.”

The man rushed to obey.

“So, Miss...?”

“Irina of Gubkin Realm.” I perched on the edge of the stool.

“You’ve traveled a long way.”

I shrugged. “The northern realms are quiet compared to what’s happening on this side of the Nine Mountains.”

“As I understand it, you’re looking for a higher-ranking position in the High Priestess’s army. Why didn’t you approach the officers up near Zabin?”

“They weren’t smart enough to catch me while I crossed through their territory.”

Otto placed two glasses of red wine on the bar and retreated to the other end.

Chane swirled his wine. “But I haven’t caught you either.”

“That’s why you need me.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

I swallowed a mouthful of wine. “I’ve been in Vyg. I’ve seen Tohon’s...special troops.” I let the horror and revulsion show on my face. No acting required. “You need me.”

He considered. “Word from the High Priestess is that those creatures are a rumor. A tactic to spread fear in our army.”

I stared at him, doing my best to match Kerrick’s flat expression.

“The information about them came from a dubious source,” he tried.

“Then you are calling me a liar.” And also Belen, Quain and Loren. If Belen were here, he’d squash Chane so the rest of his body matched his nose. I snatched my knives and stood.

“Wait. I apologize. It’s just so...implausible. I know Tohon’s a powerful life magician, but for him to be able to animate the dead is...unbelievable.”

I could have explained how Tohon injected them with an unknown substance and then froze their bodies in a stasis so they didn’t decay. The combination of the mystery drug and magic gave them a fake life. Why it worked, I had no idea. However, that was much more than I planned to reveal to Chane.

Prev Next