The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 23

“Y-y-you s-s-said you’d be back.”

“As soon as I could get here. This was as soon as I could get here, Tobias.” I withdrew my cloak and wrapped it around him, then returned his hat. “Now, look over the side of the nest where they can all see you and tell them I’m sick.”

Tobias’s eyes widened. “I-I’m the one who’s sick.”

“No, you’re cold. If you become sick, I will feel terrible guilt, and honestly, I don’t have time for that, so as a favor to me, don’t get sick. But I want them to believe I am sick. Tell them so.”

Tobias groaned, then did as I’d asked, shouting down, “Jaron is sick.”

“Nobody gets sick from one night out in the cold,” Strick called back.

With a glare at me, Tobias replied, “I’m the physician on this ship, and I can promise you, he’s sick.” He rolled back to me, angry again. “We’re the ones who are sick, to stand beside you from one misadventure to the next.”

“We? You and Roden?”

“Me and Roden and Amarinda — everyone who has ever known you.”

I stared back at him as if I’d been slapped, but there was nothing to say. Tobias had just said exactly what he meant, what Roden had meant when he tried to resign as captain of my guard. Maybe Imogen would eventually speak those same words.

“Did you at least see Amarinda?” he asked. “Is she safe? Is she still alive?”

“I didn’t get in.”

He grunted with irritation. “Then what was all this for? You should have stayed here, where you belonged, and I could have gotten into the office.”

“I tried, Tobias.”

“What good did trying do for her?”

After too long a silence, I patted the pocket in Tobias’s tunic. “I have your mixture that imitates an illness. How much does it take to bring on symptoms?”

“Where did you … it takes a while for symptoms to show. That won’t help you here.”

Wilta called up, “The captain orders you to bring Jaron down. She’ll determine for herself if he’s truly sick.”

I pulled Tobias’s tunic over my head and kicked off my boots, and he did the same.

“How much do I take?”

Tobias shrugged. “A gulp should be enough.”

While he finished dressing, I pulled the cork from the bottle, then drank some, trying not to spit it out all over Tobias. Licking the bottom of my boot would have tasted better.

“That was a long gulp,” he said. “I just told you a gulp.”

I frowned at him. “Maybe you should have explained the difference between a long gulp and a regular gulp.”

“If I had intended for anything but a regular gulp, I would have said so.” We fell silent again while we each dressed, then he said, “I threw one of your boots over the crow’s nest last night.”

“You almost hit Roden.”

For the first time since he’d come up here, Tobias smiled. “Did I?”

“I couldn’t have aimed better myself.”

“And why are these carpenter tools up here?”

“Obviously, I’m thinking of building a birdhouse.”

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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