Scent of Magic Page 85

However, Flea’s presence in the dream might not have been wishful thinking. He had been at my rescue last fall but hadn’t been hiding. I had clutched the sheet tight. Perhaps Flea was sending me a message. There was a jailhouse in Zabin. In fact, Flea, Quain and Loren had spent time there when I’d been detained by Estrid. That was where they’d been hiding!

Unable to contain my excitement, I had asked Christina to fetch Saul. He’d arrived quickly. Concern had creased his forehead. I’d spent more time assuring him I was okay than I wanted.

Lowering my voice, I’d pulled him to me and said, “Remember when I said Ryne would be close by?”


“He’s still inside the encirclement.”

“Wow. That must have been some blow to your head. Do you want me to get Christina?”

“Not funny, Saul.” How did I explain about my dream? And how I put the clues together. I didn’t. “They’re hiding—”

“In Zabin. We already thought of that. The town’s been searched. Plus all nonessential civilians have been evacuated well before midsummer’s day.”

“What about the jailhouse?”

“It’s too small to fit more than a dozen.”

He’d been right. I sunk back. What had Flea meant? I’d racked my brain. What else was located inside the encirclement? They could be hiding in the training forest, but that wasn’t a—

I’d sat up, startling Saul. “What about the POW camp? It’s big enough to hold them all. And who looks too closely at faces when they’re all wearing that bright yellow jumpsuit?”

Saul had stared at me. “That’s...that’s...genius! And they all left this morning.”

“How many?”

“I don’t know. But now that I’m thinking about it...more than we had. What if they’re all gone?”

“That would be too risky. Tohon’s army might accept a few they don’t recognize but not four hundred. Probably just a handful so they had a bridge to the outside. You need to deliver that package I gave you before you swear loyalty to Tohon.”

He had agreed to check the camp before hurrying away. All day, I’d had mixed feelings about it. If Tohon suspected I knew Ryne’s location, it wouldn’t be hard for him to extract that information from me. But I couldn’t help clinging to that one bit of hope as I waited for the start of what was sure to be a horrible evening.

The procession entered the courtyard. Tohon wore a huge crown that sparkled with diamonds. I wondered if he had pried the gems from his father’s throne. In comparison to the crown, his silk tunic and pants were elegantly tailored without decoration. His gaze swept over the steps with a possessive glint. At least he wasn’t smirking outright. His smile was closer to smug.

When he spotted me, his demeanor changed for an instant, and I caught a glimpse of molten anger before he hid it. His face smoothed back into his handsome and charming expression. With his black hair, long eyelashes and deep blue eyes, he looked every bit a prince.

Only after he passed me did I notice Cellina. She wore a dark purple gown, and amethyst flashed from her hair. Sepp walked with her. His hair had turned all gray since I’d seen him last. And his resemblance to Kerrick still seemed creepy. Sepp didn’t hide his displeasure at seeing me. The feeling was mutual. Sepp had betrayed us when we’d rescued Ryne.

I wondered why Tohon brought him along. To intimidate Estrid? Or for something more sinister?

A few of Tohon’s generals and a couple bodyguards followed Sepp and Cellina. Behind them marched Tohon’s living army in perfect step. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they fanned out into rows, filling in all the space between the tents and Estrid’s army. The numbers were overwhelming.

Tohon waited at the top of the stairs for his soldiers to get into position before turning to Estrid. She wore her High Priestess gown. Curtsying, she invited him in for the feast.

He said something to her that I couldn’t hear. Her face turned bright red as she knelt in front of him. Tohon waited. Slowly the rest of Estrid’s party knelt, and then those on the steps did, as well. Except me. I just couldn’t do it.

That anger he’d hidden earlier rushed to the surface as he gestured to two of his guards. They grabbed my arms and dragged me up the stairs.

“You must kneel before your king, Avry,” he ordered.

“You’re not my king, Tohon.” The terrified part of my mind squeaked at me to shut the hell up.

“I will be, once you swear loyalty to me.”

“I can’t do that.” And it seemed I couldn’t keep my mouth shut either.

“Why not?”

“I’m sworn to another king.”

“Kerrick’s dead, my dear. Cellina’s ufas chased him down on his way to Ryne’s. I think it was a fitting end for him, don’t you?”

His words twisted inside me like a dagger, shredding my already fragmented heart. I refused to answer. Instead, I said, “You are mistaken. I gave my life for King Ryne. That act is akin to swearing loyalty.”

“And he has abandoned you, my dear. Therefore he has rejected your fidelity.” Tohon grasped my wrist. “You will kneel.”

Pain burned up my arm and spread through my body. My head pounded with renewed fury as my muscles trembled. It didn’t take long for my legs to give out, and I fell to my knees. The pain faded, but he didn’t release his grip.

Prev Next