The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 17


He did, and we both froze in place behind the rails as the captain’s door opened and Wilta emerged, saying, “This late? I’m sure he’s asleep by now.”

“If I’m awake, I can demand any member of this crew to be awake,” the captain called out. “Go get him.”

The door closed again and Wilta pulled a shawl around her shoulders and descended belowdecks.

As quietly as possible, I made one final carving into the binnacle, then dropped the lodestone in. Angling the compass against the nearest lantern on the deck, I watched the direction change by four degrees as soon as I replaced it.

“Four degrees,” I said. “Depending on how far we have left to go, we might never reach our destination.”

Tobias’s smile fell. “Oh, good. That means … even longer that we can be on this ship.”

“We’re not staying here.”

“We’re leaving tonight?” His sigh of relief was louder than it ought to have been. “I’ve got to get out of that tiny sick bay.”

“You will. But maybe not in the way you want.” I hesitated for the next part. He wasn’t going to like this. “I don’t want to do this to you, but we’ve got to trade clothes.”

Tobias’s eyes widened. “What? Why?”

I’d already begun unfastening the buttons of my jerkin and motioned for him to give me his simpler gray tunic.

He began to pull it over his head, then stopped. “Why are we doing this?”

In response, my eyes flicked upward.

“Oh no, no, I won’t.” Tobias instantly pulled his tunic back down. “I can’t climb.”

“You don’t climb. That’s different.”

“I’m afraid of heights.”

“No, you’re afraid of falling, so don’t do that. If you do, fear won’t be your worst problem.” I stepped closer and exchanged my jerkin for his tunic. “Do this for me, Tobias. I’m running out of time and I need to get inside Strick’s office.”

“You’ll only make things worse with her.”

I grinned. “Is that a challenge? Because honestly, I can’t think of a better time to irritate her, when her opinion of me is already so low.”

“That’s your reasoning?”

“Give me your boots too.” He did, and I said, “My reasoning is that every answer I’m looking for has got to be in her office.” I paused. “Amarinda is in there.”

Tobias pressed his lips together, then finished buttoning up my jerkin. “I’ll do this for her.”

Even before he was fully dressed, I started pushing him toward the rope ladder. “Now hurry up there. I’ll be back to trade places with you before dawn.”

“What if they come up to get me and realize what we’ve done?”

“If anything goes wrong, I’ll be there to protect you.”

Tobias frowned, clearly insulted. “I’m not asking you to protect me. I just want to know what to do. I can take care of myself.”

“Yes, but I also know that if not for me, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“If not for you, we’d never be in any situation. Just make sure nobody else goes up this ladder.”

He started up the ladder, then felt the first gust of wind. “At least my hat might block some of the wind.”

“Actually, I need that hat too.” He grimaced, but he shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to take it — hat rims blocked my vision, so I rarely wore them. But now I hoped his hat would block anyone getting too good a look at me.


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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