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Frost Burned

Frost Burned

Titel: Frost Burned
Autoren: Patricia Briggs
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all,” she said, her voice tight and angry. Then her voice softened to a croon. “How long have you been here, love?”
    The wolf recognized the threat of the knife she held as she slid down the far side of the pit to stand, one foot on either side of his hips. He growled, rolling off his side in preparation to get up—because he’d forgotten he wanted to die. Just for a moment. He shook from exertion, sickness, and from the pain of moving his leg. He lay back down again and flattened his ears.
    “Shh,” she crooned, inexplicably sheathing her knife in the face of his aggression. “Not so long as all that, apparently. Now what shall I do about you?”
    Go away, he thought. He growled at her with as much threat as he could, feeling his lips peel back from his fangs and the hair rise along his spine.
    The expression on her face was not the one that he’d expected. Certainly not one any sane person would turn on a threatening wolf she was standing over. She should fear him.
    Instead . . . “Poor thing,” she said in that same crooning tone. “Let’s get you out of this, shall we?”
    She dropped her gaze away from his and knelt to examine his hips, humming softly as she moved closer.
    She didn’t stink of fear, was all he could think. Everyone feared him. Everyone. Even Him , even the one who searched. She smelled of horse, sweat, and something sweet. No fear.
    He snarled, and she wrapped one hand over his muzzle. Sheer astonishment stopped his growls. Just how stupid was she?
    “Shh.” Her voice blended into the music she was making, and he realized that her humming was pulling magic out of the ground around and beneath them. “Let me look.”
    He was as surprised at himself as he was at her when he let her do just that. He could have torn out her throat or broken her neck while she examined every inch of him. But he didn’t—and he wasn’t quite certain why not.
    It wasn’t that killing her would bother him. He’d killed a lot of people. But that was before. He didn’t want to do that anymore. So perhaps that was part of it.
    He knew she was trying to help him—but he didn’t want help. He wanted to die.
    Her magic swept over and around him, cushioning him. The wolf whined softly and relaxed, leaving the mage in him fully in charge for the first time since the illness had hit. Maybe even longer ago than that.
    Her magic didn’t work on the mage because he knew what it was—and, he admitted to himself, because it wasn’t coercive magic. He was mage enough to read her intent. She didn’t want the wolf to become a lapdog but only to relax.
    But the woman’s helpful intent wasn’t why he didn’t kill her. Not the real reason. He hadn’t been interested in anything in longer than he could remember, but she made him curious. He’d only ever met a practitioner of green magic, wild magic, once before. They hid from the humans in the land—if there were any still left. But here was one wearing the clothes of a mercenary.
    She could pick him up—which surprised him because she didn’t weigh much more than he did. But she couldn’t hoist him high enough to reach the edge of the trap, so she set him down again.
    “Going to need some help,” she told him, and clambered to the top. She almost didn’t make it out of the pit herself; if it had been round, she wouldn’t have.
    When she departed and took her magic with her, it left him bereaved—as if someone had covered him with a blanket, then removed it. And only when she left did he realize that her music had deadened his pain and soothed him, despite his being a mage on his guard against it.
    He heard the horse move and the sound of leather and something heavy hitting the ground. The horse approached the pit and stopped.
    When the mercenary who could do green magic hopped back into his almost grave, she had a rope in her hand.
    He waited for the wolf to stir as she tied him in a makeshift harness that somehow managed to brace his bad leg. But the wolf waited as meekly as a lamb while she worked. When he was trussed up to her satisfaction, she climbed back out.
    “Come on, Sheen,” she told someone. Possibly, he thought, it was the horse.
    The trip out of the hole was not pleasant. He closed his eyes and let the pain take him where it would. When he lay on the ground at last, she untied him.
    Freed at last, he lay where he had fallen, too weak to run. Maybe too curious as well.

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