Scent of Magic Page 82

“Your training wasn’t wasted,” I said to Saul. “I’m going to need your help.”

Saul hesitated. “I won’t break the truce.”

“This won’t.”

After stopping in the infirmary for a few supplies, he followed me back to my room. I wrote instructions and then wrapped them, a couple syringes and all but one of the Death Lily sacks in bandages, making a soft package that I tied tight.

I handed it to Saul. “Since Tohon didn’t know about Ryne’s disappearance, that means the prince hasn’t been captured. I need you to find Ryne or one of his men—doesn’t matter who—and give this to them.”

“How will I find them?”

“They have to be out past the encirclement. Probably to the north.”

“Why north?”

“If it all goes wrong for Ryne, the Nine Mountains would make a nice temporary barrier.” That was if the tribes hadn’t invaded that far south. “Also, if Tohon doesn’t keep his word, I want you to open the package and follow the directions inside.”

“Do you think he’ll kill us anyway?” Saul didn’t act surprised. Guess I wasn’t the only one with terrible thoughts.

“I hope not.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“My gut feeling is he’ll either turn you into his dead or drug you or use his magic to influence you.”

“Thanks for putting it to me gently.”

“You asked.”

“And we won’t have any weapons.”

“You have your silent training,” I said. “And you could get creative with the definition of a weapon.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“At least you haven’t been invited to the feast.” A shiver raced over my skin.

“It sucks for all of us.” Saul put his hand on my shoulder. “Come to the sergeant’s fire tonight.”

“All right.”

After Saul left, I checked on my patients. The news of Tohon’s terms had spread throughout the camp at lightning speed. The mood in the infirmary was downright glum. My caregivers tried to remain upbeat, but I told a few of them to take a break to compose themselves. I wondered how many people would try to escape tonight. They wouldn’t get far, but desperate people do desperate things.

I, on the other hand, felt eerily calm. Considering how terrified I had been of being Tohon’s prisoner again, I had settled into a detached state. I’d done what I could. The rest would be inevitable. Plus, with Kerrick gone, life seemed lackluster.

Not that I’d given up. If Tohon made a mistake, I’d be the first one to take advantage of it. Despite his powerful magic and keen mind, he had made them before. In fact, Tohon’s army hadn’t spotted Ryne’s leaving.

I mulled over the implications. Four hundred soldiers were hard to hide. And the encirclement had to have been in place before midsummer’s day. The image of Jael’s map with the red circle came to mind. Saul and I had crossed it on our way back from feeding Ursan to the Peace Lily. Then I remembered the horses spooking. Was that where the dead had hidden underground? Ursan had used his last breath to warn us about it.

I was an idiot. But Ryne wasn’t. Oh, no. He’d figured it out long ago. Combined my theory about Ulany’s magic with Ursan’s message, and he’d known. I hoped he also had a plan to stop Tohon.

When my patients were settled in for the night, I joined Saul, Odd and Wynn next to our fire. I gave Wynn and Odd each a long hug before sitting next to Saul. No one said much at first. We stared at the dancing flames, lost in our own thoughts.

“Remember when Liv liked Sergeant Kol?” Wynn asked.

“Yeah, the entire camp knew she was sweet on him,” Odd said.

“She wasn’t the most subtle,” Saul agreed.

“Then when he finally invited her into his tent for dinner, she bolted.” Wynn laughed.

“It’s hard to believe she’d be scared of sharing a meal,” I said.

Wynn laughed harder, gasping for breath. “Oh! Baby’re so...”

“What did I say?”

“When you invite a woman into your tent for dinner, that’s code for inviting them into your bed,” Odd explained.

“Oh. Does the Purity Priestess know this?” I asked.

“She hasn’t bothered our platoon since Ursan invited her for dinner,” Odd said. “She said it was the sweetest—”

“Odd, that’s enough,” Wynn said. “Ursan was just yanking your chain.” She looked at me. “Every guy in the army claims he’ll be the one to take the pure out of the Purity Priestess.”

Our conversation didn’t improve after that. It was raunchy, irreverent and silly. Our neighbors probably thought we were drunk. We talked about everything and nothing. We all knew it was the last time we’d have the sergeant’s fire, but no one wanted to acknowledge it. No one wanted to say goodbye either.

Instead, when it grew late, we said good-night as we had all those times before. We pretended we’d see each other in the morning.

Deep sleep remained elusive. I drifted in and out, dreaming of being locked inside a familiar jail cell. The same one I’d occupied back when I’d lived in Jaxton. Tohon’s dead surrounded the building, but Kerrick stood on the other side of the bars.

“Come on,” Kerrick said, opening the cell  door.

Unable to move, I said, “I can’t. I’m  trapped.”

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