The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 28


“No, I don’t think so. Why does it —”

“You don’t think so? Is it possible he did?” Tobias hesitated and she added, “You gave me a loyalty oath. Answer my question.”

“He kept a lot of secrets from us, so it is possible that he knew. Why do you ask?”

“If Jaron took the throne from his family, justice demands that it be taken from him.”

I tilted my head, curious about her choice of words. Tobias’s tone of voice suggested he was equally curious. “You misunderstood me, Captain. Jaron inherited the throne after his family’s deaths.”

Strick said, “For four years, Jaron was forced to live on his own, struggling for every minute of life. Don’t you think he resented his father for that, resented his brother for living in luxury as a crown prince while Jaron fought for every crust of moldy bread, or for the corner of a filthy blanket on a cold night?”

Tobias faltered. “I don’t … I … perhaps he did. But you don’t think he —”

“Carthya deserves to know the truth. Jaron killed his parents so that he could take the throne.”

I almost shouted out in protest, and might have done so if I could speak at all. But I remained where I was, frozen in shock at the accusation.

Tobias asked, “Is there any evidence?”

“We have all the evidence we need.”

Her words stopped my heart in its place. What evidence could she possibly have to prove something that was not only untrue, but that horrified me to my very core?

Strick continued, “All I want to know is whether I can count on you, as part of this crew, to tell the truth about Jaron when the time comes.”

Tobias stumbled again through finding his words. “The truth? Yes, I can do that much. Thank you for talking with me.”

“Come and join us upstairs, Tobias. Amarinda has been asking to see you, and I see no reason to refuse her.”

“Er … yes, of course.”

“What is Jaron’s condition? Is he still sick?”

Tobias paused a moment, then said, “I wouldn’t rule out the plague.”

A longer pause followed from her. “He must stay in there until you are certain. My people came through the plague only after great devastation, and I won’t risk another outbreak here. We’ll leave someone here to watch his door and make sure he stays put.”

The instant I was sure they had gone, I pounded a fist against the bulkhead, absolutely furious for any number of reasons. This wasn’t only about my parents; it was about Tobias’s willingness to consider something that he knew was not true. I also wondered how he could fail to see that the captain was leading him along the very same path that Roden was on: a path that led away from loyalty to me and ever closer to being a Prozarian servant.

Soon after, the bell rang for the midday meal, and Tobias still hadn’t returned. A rush of men followed from all parts of the ship into the galley, where their far inferior meal would be served. It’d likely be little more than old eggs and crusty bread, and if they offered me a single bite, I’d gratefully accept. I hadn’t eaten since yesterday, and I was beginning to feel it.

The bell must have also prompted a change in vigils at my door. There was a soft knock and I opened the door to see Teagut standing there. He said, “Do you have my coins?”

“Where would I have gotten any coins? I’ve been trapped in here all day.”

“If you had time out of the sick bay, maybe you could find me some coins.” I started forward but he raised an arm, adding, “Of course, if I allow that, there will be an additional price.”

“Oh?”

“Other than me, this deck is empty. But if anyone were to ask why you are no longer in the sick bay, for thirty coins, I might claim you overpowered me and when I awoke, you had escaped.”

“For zero coins, I might just overpower you and escape.”

“Yes, but for thirty coins, I’ll save you the effort. And, because I think we make a great team, I might clear the way for you to get down to the gunpowder magazine. That’s where they put most of the things they stole off our ship. There’s something down there you might want to see.”

“What?”

“You’ll figure it out.”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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