The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 26


Roden pointed to my arm. “Is it broken?”

Tobias shrugged. “We’ll have to wait a few days to know for sure.”

“I’m sure you wish it was broken,” I muttered. “Then you’d be responsible for the second broken bone in my body.”

“You said we have to talk.” Tobias cut between us. “So let’s talk.”

Roden made a silent gesture with his head, signaling that someone was within listening range.

Wilta stepped forward. I hadn’t expected that.

“One prisoner to keep another prisoner company?” she asked.

I shook my head, and I knew Tobias saw it, but he still said to her, “We’re going to take a walk. Keep an eye on him.”

Silently, I muttered a few choice words intended for Tobias. He should have found a way to keep Roden in this room, where I could hear them. Tobias would know that’s what I’d want. So this was obviously a deliberate conversation without me, and about me.

And here I was, with Wilta standing near the doorway of the room, watching me. I desperately wanted to close my eyes and sleep off the pain that was forcing its way through every vein in my body, but all it would take to ruin my plan was for her eyes to flick up to the corner of the ceiling. The piece that we had cut was in its proper place, but if she looked carefully, she might see the cut lines.

So I turned, forcing her into an angle of the room where it would feel unnatural to look up.

“A night in the crow’s nest shouldn’t have made you like this,” she said in a soft voice.

As best as I could, I shrugged, though I kept one hand on the table to hold myself upright. “This is what happens to people on cursed ships.”

She glanced up at me. “Do you really believe in curses?”

“At the moment, I’m certain of it. Am I on fire right now? I mean, can you see any actual flames?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Amarinda finally began speaking to me this morning. She said that if anyone could save my people, it’s you.”

“Right now, I’m not sure if I can save myself, but I promise that if there is any way to help, I will.”

A tear rolled onto her cheek. “Then let me help you first, for you are in greater danger than you know. Early this morning, the captain told a few of the crew members that if you are not more cooperative today, you will not go on to Belland. She believes your defiance creates a bad example for the pirates.”

I couldn’t help but smile. I’d been called a bad example more times than I could count, but this was the first time I considered it a compliment.

“I can handle myself against the captain.”

That didn’t seem to satisfy her. “It will not be that simple. The Prozarians came through the plague not so many years ago. Those who survived it are stronger than any generation of their history.”

I closed my eyes, trying to breathe as a particularly fierce flame passed through my chest. When it had finished, I said, “How is Amarinda?”

“She’s strong too. Just confused. Like you, she wonders why she was targeted by the captain.”

“Do you know?” I asked. Wilta shook her head, and I said, “If it’s because they believe she’s a princess, that’s no longer her title. She has no power in Carthya.”

“She told the captain that this morning, but the captain only laughed and said it was not true. I’ll try to learn more, but I think the captain is becoming suspicious of me.” Wilta drew in a sharp breath. “If I’m found out, it will go worse for me than even for you, because she trusts me a little.”

I curled over and tried to ignore the shooting pains down my legs and up my arms. I needed to remain focused on what Wilta said.

She stood and put a hand on my back. “Are you all right?”

“Is my head upside down right now?”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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