The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 22

I put the bottle Teagut had showed me inside my jacket and reached for a long rag instead.

“If you fake an illness, she may decide you’re not worth the risk of keeping you on board. I have a different idea, but I’ll give you a choice. Either way, I will send you out of here with physician’s orders that you are not to be on vigil duty for the remainder of the voyage. Your first choice is that I can break your wrist and then bind it for you — that I will do out of the goodness of my heart. Or I can simply bind the wrist and let you pretend that it’s injured, but if you choose that option, there are terms.”

He swallowed hard. “What are the terms?”

“At some point in the near future, I will ask a favor of you. You must do what I ask, in the moment that I ask it. Then all will be equal between us.”

“What is the favor?”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, I don’t know that yet, or I would’ve asked you now. But no worries, it won’t be anything I’m not willing to do myself, and at no point will you be required to sing from the bow of the ship. I cannot guarantee where else your singing talents might be required.”

He frowned. “Why would I —?”

“The point is that we can help each other, or not. Promise to help me, and I will keep you out of trouble with the captain and get you out of any future vigil duty, which means you will avoid all the trouble I will certainly cause before this trip is over. You don’t want any part of that, do you?”


“Then shall I bind your wrist now, or break it first?”

He frowned up at me. “Bind the wrist now. Your terms are fair.”

They may have seemed fair in that moment, but he didn’t know me very well. If he had, he would have chosen the broken wrist.

I couldn’t get back on the main deck again until the next shift change when the new vigils would be busy receiving orders from the previous watch. So after sending Teagut away, I had some time inside the sick bay. I leaned into the corner, hoping for a little sleep, but that was impossible. Directly overhead, I soon heard the captain yelling at someone.

“How dare you abandon your watch, even for an injury!”

Ah, Teagut and his fellow vigil had been caught.

They mumbled their apologies, then Strick informed them they would go without meals for the day.

The captain’s quarters went quiet again, but my mind had already begun to turn. I had a way inside that cabin … more or less.

If the layout was similar to other caraval ships I’d seen, then Strick’s locked closet would be directly above the cabinet where Tobias kept his medicines and other supplies. Digging

through them, I found a bone saw, which would be used only in the case of gangrene or a crushed limb, or another serious injury. Or if I needed a way into that closet.

I had planned to rest until the next shift change, but no sooner had I lain on Tobias’s bed than one of the pirates strode across the deck shouting that everyone had ten minutes to report to the captain on the main deck for the morning assignments.

I groaned. That gave me only eight minutes to sleep, and two minutes to figure out what to do once I got on deck.

When the time came, I pulled Tobias’s hat low, wrapped a cloak around my shoulders to avoid anyone comparing his build to mine, then crowded in alongside the other crewmen up to the deck. Even as they grumbled to one another about being pulled from their beds so early in the morning, I kept my head down and my hand on the knife I had stolen the night before. Most of the crewmen had been asleep when we were called, so I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by half-opened eyes and men who were more concerned with the chill in the air than looking my way. Once on deck, I lined up with the others and tried not to glare at Roden, who was near the front. I was desperate to know what he had wanted to speak to Tobias about, what his plans were that made him think back to their alliance at Farthenwood.

Wilta was standing on the deck behind him, her head down and arms wrapped around herself as protection from the cold. I felt sorry for her, but there was nothing I could do to help without revealing myself.

Amarinda was not here, notably, and that worried me. Wilta didn’t appear to be treated well here; could Amarinda be faring any better?

Strick called Teagut and his companion forward, explained their offense and punishment, then said, “The only reason their punishment is not worse is because I am merciful enough to believe their reasons were just. But the next time a vigil abandons his post, regardless of the reasons, he had better be prepared for the worst I can do. Am I understood?”

“Yes, Captain,” the crewmen echoed around me.

“Where is our physician? Where is Tobias?” Strick called out.

From my place near the back, I raised my hand. Strick said, “Get up into that crow’s nest and check on Jaron. He hasn’t responded to anyone this morning, and I want to know if he’s still alive.”

“Yes, Captain,” I replied, in my best Tobias imitation. Roden was the only one who’d know our voices well enough to tell the difference, but if he knew, he said nothing as I stepped forward, angling my body away from him and the captain to climb.

I slid into the crow’s nest to find Tobias shivering with cold and clearly upset with me.

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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