Scent of Magic Page 81

So then Tohon’s touch revived the dead. But they weren’t truly living. Tohon’s magic must not bring the dead all the way back. Or else he manipulated his magic so he’d have these obedient, unstoppable creatures. That made the most sense.

I considered. Perhaps if his dead were injected with Death Lily toxin it would counteract the effects of the serum and stop them. I picked up the sacks and was halfway to the door when I remembered we were under a flag of truce. Estrid would never agree to break that for my crazy theory. If it failed, the consequences would be her entire army’s lives.

I could treat my throwing knives, sneak out to the eastern edge of the combat zone and trigger the dead to test my hypothesis. Of course, that was assuming I could keep out of their reach. What if it didn’t work? And what if Tohon found out? He could say I’d been acting under Estrid’s orders and use it as an excuse to kill everyone.

Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I returned to my bed. Setting the sacks back on my night table, I lay down. If I couldn’t test my idea, then who could? Ryne. He wasn’t working for Estrid. Tohon’s encirclement prevented me from searching for him. Although if Estrid surrendered, there would be no need for the dead. Perhaps I could slip away then.

No. Tohon would never allow me to leave. I could ask Saul or Odd. Would they be able to find him? He had to be nearby. I refused to believe he’d abandoned us. Once again I hopped out of bed. I needed to talk to Saul before Tohon arrived, which would be anytime after Cellina reported Estrid’s answer back to him.

Grabbing the sacks, I placed them in my pack. On my way out, I passed Flea’s bed and paused. Flea and I had a connection. Could I use that bond to find him as he had found me when I’d been in trouble?

Flea had said he’d been dreaming. Since there was no way I’d be able to fall asleep, I would need to take a sleeping draft. I glanced out the window and hurried to the infirmary. Dawn was about an hour away.

After giving one of the caregivers instructions not to disturb me unless it was an emergency, I poured a small dose of the draft and returned to my room. Hiding my pack under Flea’s bed, I slipped between his sheets, hoping his scent of earthy vanilla would help me. I swallowed the draft in one gulp.

With my thoughts firmly on Flea, I lay there until my body relaxed. My limbs felt heavy, and then a numbing nothingness pressed down on me.

* * *

“Avry, wake up,” an annoyed voice said.

A hand shook my shoulder. I batted at it. “Go away.”

“You don’t want to miss this,” Saul said, pulling me up.

“Miss what?” My groggy thoughts couldn’t keep up, and I stumbled.

Saul caught my arm. “Cellina’s back.”

“Oh.” The fog in my mind disappeared with a cold realization. I had slept the morning away and hadn’t dreamed of Flea’s location.

With disappointment filling my chest, I followed Saul from the manor house. Cellina and her ufa entourage waited in the courtyard. Estrid’s army had gathered close, but not too close to the ufas.

Soon Estrid and her staff arrived. One look at the High Priestess’s defeated expression and everyone knew her decision. Jael stood to the side. The wind gusted with her anger.

“What shall I tell King Tohon?” Cellina asked.

“We...” Estrid paused. “We surrender.”

The truce flag fluttered. The flaps of the tents snapped. Tree limbs bent and shook. Otherwise, not another sound pierced the air.

“Unconditionally?” Cellina asked.


“Wise choice.” Cellina unrolled a scroll and read from it. “Tomorrow morning a company of King Tohon’s soldiers will come to confiscate all your weapons. You will also release all your POWs. After both are secured behind our lines, King Tohon will arrive. You will prepare a royal feast for him and his retinue. The High Priestess, her staff and all her high-ranking officers, including Jael Ozero and Healer Avry, are required to attend, along with Prince Ryne and his staff. After—”

“Prince Ryne isn’t here,” Estrid interrupted.

Cellina covered her surprise quickly. She lowered the scroll. “Where is he?”

“We’ve no idea. He and his little army disappeared the night before midsummer’s day.”

Scanning Estrid’s soldiers around the courtyard, Cellina didn’t appear convinced. “I will inform the king.” She resumed her instructions. “After the feast, King Tohon will conduct the fidelity ceremony. Every single soldier in your army, every priest, priestess, staff member and member of your family shall kneel before King Tohon and swear loyalty to him.”

Cellina rolled up the parchment. “Failure to comply with his wishes or any attacks on those under his protection will be considered a violation of your surrender and will result in the total annihilation of your people. Until tomorrow...” She swung her horse around and spurred it into a gallop. The ufas kept pace.

After that little speech, I’d leave quickly, too. The murmurs from the soldiers increased to an angry buzz. Estrid returned to the manor house without addressing her troops, which caused even more consternation.

“I guess that’s it,” Saul said. “All that training for nothing. General Jael was right—we should have gone on the offensive months ago.”

“And you would have lost many more lives,” I said.

“Better than being forced to fight for Tohon.”

I paused as a terrible thought welled. From what I knew of Tohon, he didn’t seem the type to trust an entire army to keep to their word. Would he do something to ensure their cooperation? Just when I thought I couldn’t feel worse over this situation, I was proven wrong.

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