Scent of Magic Page 9

Instead, I said, “You would have an easier time recruiting soldiers if you showed the people what Tohon’s capable of. Then you wouldn’t have to resort to late-night abductions and rounding up street rats.”

He peered at me as if he had misjudged me. “How do I know you’re not a spy for Tohon?”

“Because if I was spying for him, I would have let you kidnap me. Then I would be like all the rest you’ve conscripted—a nameless, faceless soldier able to blend in with ease. He probably has a dozen spies in place already. Tohon’s no fool.”

When he didn’t respond, I said, “This has been a colossal waste of time. I’m leaving.”

“Where are you going?”

“To join Tohon’s forces. Might as well fight for the winner.” I headed for the door. Would they try to stop me?

“Irina, wait,” Chane said.

I turned, expecting to see sharp blades pointed at me. Instead he sent Otto to fetch him parchment and ink.

“Finish your wine,” he said.

Still wary, I settled back on the stool. After Otto returned, Chane wrote a letter of introduction.

“Give this to Major Granvil,” he said, handing it to me.

I scanned the letter. Even though there were a few compliments about me, three words stood out as if they’d been written in bright red ink.  My aunt Estrid. Chane was her nephew. I almost groaned out loud. So much for keeping a low profile.


The dead ufa pack kept their positions as if waiting.

Waiting for what? Kerrick stretched his senses to the maximum distance and felt the unmistakable vibrations of a galloping horse. A potential ally or more trouble? With six ufas poised to attack, it couldn’t get any worse.

He kept a firm grip on his sword as he speculated on the approaching rider. It could be Tohon, coming to gloat over Kerrick’s imminent death. But why would he travel all this way when he was busy preparing for war? Because it was exactly what Tohon would take the time to do.

After all, Kerrick and Avry had snatched Ryne from Tohon, denying him his revenge. Ryne’s military savvy posed a very serious threat to Tohon’s plans to become king of all the realms.

The ufas didn’t flinch as the horse slowed and entered the clearing. Kerrick recognized the rider. Although lines of strain marked her face and her long blond hair was frizzy and unkempt, she had the same sad smile he remembered from school.

“Cellina, fancy meeting you here,” Kerrick said.

“We’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

“We? Is Tohon here, as well?”

“No. It’s just me and the dead mutts.” She gestured to the ufas, crinkling her pudgy nose in disgust.

“Was this your idea?”

“Nothing about this is my idea, Kerrick.”

“Yet, you’re here.”

“Tohon is a hard man to refuse. He’s forced me into a very difficult position.”

Lyady Realm had been invaded by Tohon last year. To ensure the president’s cooperation, Tohon had taken his daughter, Cellina, with him.

“I’d feel bad, but your position is better than mine at the moment,” he said.


“How did you find me?” he asked.

“The pack was given your scent. Instead of guessing which pass you’d take, we crossed the Nine Mountains and found a place to wait east of the Milligreen pass.”


“Tohon’s plan. Just like these mutts. Dead ufas are easier to train and more loyal than the living ones. They won’t attack you until I give them the signal.”

The four scars on his neck burned as his heart rate jumped. “Is giving them the signal part of Tohon’s plan?”

“Yes. I’m to report every detail of your death and dismemberment to him. I’ve also been ordered to bring home a souvenir.”

Stunned, he stared at her.

“Your sword, Kerrick. Don’t be so morbid.”

He swallowed. “Hard not to be.” He braced for the signal, but she remained quiet. Sensing her ambivalence, he said, “Cellina, come with me to Ryne’s.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? We’ll protect you.”

“I know you’ll try.”

“We’ll succeed. We saved Ryne and the children.”

“But not your lady love.”

“She chose her fate.”

Cellina sat straighter in the saddle. “So did I.”

“There’s no reason for you to return to Tohon now.” But as he said the words, he realized she must still be in love with him. Either Tohon’s life magic had influenced her, or she’d never recovered from her school crush. In his younger days, he would have scoffed at the notion. However, he’d learned love didn’t follow logic at all.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said.

She clutched the reins tighter. The horse moved a few steps to the side, smelling her fear. “I can’t disobey him.”

In desperation, he stepped away from the tree. The ufas growled and snarled but didn’t move. Kerrick pointed his blade at the ground, slowly approaching Cellina. Sweat soaked his shirt and burned in his eyes. But he kept his gaze on her.

He stopped with two feet between them. Her lips pinched tight together as if she’d whistle, but no sound escaped. Yet.

Kerrick offered her the hilt of his sword. “Take it.”


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