Scent of Magic Page 93

“You were smart to leave the large slat in. If you’d have pulled it out in the barn, he might have bled to death.”

Magic grew and expanded deep inside me. I placed my hands on his arm, seeking other problems. He also had a sprained wrist, bruised back and fractured elbow. All secondary in comparison to his leg. The wood and all the splinters would have to be carefully removed before I could heal him.

Christina helped me mix the sleeping draft. Steward gulped it down. After he fell asleep, I cleaned the wound, grabbed the tweezers and then began the slow and arduous process of removing all the little slivers before tackling the biggest piece.

“Why were you in the barn?” I asked Fox as I worked.

“Searching for the enemy. They snuck away last night.” His tone held disbelief.

I paused, glancing at him. “How can that many soldiers get by all of you?”

“Last time we checked, they were sleeping in their tents and the barracks. We didn’t have many patrols out. The noose held all this time so we figured we didn’t need to worry.”

“The noose?”

He grimaced. “That’s what we call the encirclement.”

Ah. Overconfidence was one of Tohon’s weaknesses. “What if they managed to break out of the noose?”

“They won’t get far. King Tohon has plenty of troops. The companies that aren’t here are moving to position themselves all around the perimeter.”

My hopes died. “Encircling the encirclement?”

Fox huffed. “Yeah.”

I returned to plucking fragments.

“That tactic with those...things.” Fox lowered his voice. “We all thought it was a nasty trick, but it saved lives. And this way we’ll all get a little closer to peace.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked, meeting his gaze.

“I have to.”

“I don’t. As long as Tohon’s in charge and the dead obey him, there will never be peace.”

Fox didn’t reply, but he assisted me when I removed the largest piece from Steward. He held his leg as I yanked it out. Relieved it wasn’t gushing blood, I examined Steward’s wound. The muscle wasn’t as badly damaged as I’d first thought, and the wood hadn’t pierced anything vital. He’d live.

I debated if I should wrap it and see what happened, or heal him. If Tohon’s troops found Estrid’s, there could be more casualties today. And some could be life-threatening. In the end, I stitched his skin closed and bandaged it.

Satisfied his sergeant had been taken care of, Fox left to return to his unit. I checked on a few patients until all those sleepless nights caught up to me. Not even bothering to go to my room, I napped on an empty bed for what felt like three seconds.

A ruckus woke me. I sat up and faced a nightmare. Tohon strode toward me with Sepp right behind. I’d never seen him that angry. A numb horror spread through me. When he reached me, he grabbed my neck and yanked me to my feet.

Without a word, he dragged me from the infirmary and into my room where he slammed me against the wall. Pain shot through my skull. Then he wrapped both hands around my throat and squeezed, cutting off my air. In a panic, I latched on to his forearms and blasted him with my power.

He yelled and dropped me. I landed in a heap, marveling that my attack had worked.

“You dare fight back!”

When he leaned over me with murder in his eyes, Sepp said, “You might want to question her before you kill her.”

Tohon hauled me up and pinned me to the wall. This time he put a hand on my cheek and sent white-hot agony straight into my head. The pressure was so intense, I screamed in an effort to expel the pain. And just when I was about to slip into unconsciousness, Tohon eased up a bit before making me scream again. Then he repeated it.

Hours later, or so it felt, Tohon tired of the torture and released me. All I could do was collapse onto my bed. I curled into a ball, gasping for breath.

Tohon sat on the edge. “Get her a glass of water,” he ordered.

Only after I recovered and drank the water did Tohon reveal what had set him off. He pulled out a familiar cloth and unwrapped a syringe.

I was too spent to react.

“Estrid’s troops escaped through a number of holes in the encirclement last night. My special soldiers in those areas were neutralized. Not by decapitation or that strike to the base of their necks. No, they had been shot by a single dart. This was found near one of the breaches.” He held up the syringe. “Do you recognize it?”

“Yes.” My voice rasped. “I use them all the time.”

“What substance did they use to stop the dead?”

“I don’t know. I was with you all night.”

Tohon touched my cheek again. I braced for the pain, but this time a warm tingle spread and I felt as if I had been drugged. Then the feeling intensified, and the room spun as my body flushed with desire. I gasped.

His magic filled me, seeping into my brain and wrapping around my heart like roots. Logic packed a bag and left me. My clothes rubbed over my sensitive skin, and I plucked at them, wanting them off.

Tohon’s voice sounded in my mind. I’ll  claim you, Avry. Then you’ll tell me everything just to please me. Just to  be rewarded by my touch. Cooperate or I’ll take you.

His words had the opposite effect. After all the grief and pain over the last few days, I’d be damned if I’d let the bastard claim me. Concentrating on my magic, I viewed the heady feeling as a disease. As something that needed to be healed. Slowly my body cooled as the desire subsided.

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