The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 34


“Weren’t you asleep —?”

“Why didn’t you defend me, Tobias? Conner killed my parents, you know that! He killed my whole family, Darius included. And you stood there and accepted her accusation when you know the truth!”

“Why does it matter what she thinks?”

“It matters to me. So tell me, either of you, where did the captain get these items?”

Roden shook his head. “Give me more time. I will get the answers, but until then, please stay out of this!”

“How can I stay out of my own business?” With a growl, I pushed past Roden and climbed the stairs, kicking him away when he grabbed for my leg. Minutes later, I stormed into the captain’s wardroom. She had just broken some bread into her hands, where it remained. Wilta had been seated across from her but now stood, alarmed.

Finally, the captain took a bite of bread and calmly stared at me. “There you are. I wondered what was taking so long.”

“Give me one reason not to use this sword,” I said.

Roden burst in behind me. “Forgive me, Captain. I don’t know how he got that sword.”

The captain sent a glare to Wilta, who cowered beneath it. “Bring Amarinda to me. I want a word with the princess.”

But when Wilta was within a few steps of me, I grabbed her arm and pulled her tight against me, raising the sword.

Wilta gasped. “Jaron, I’m innocent.”

“So was my brother. Why do you have this, Captain?”

Her expression remained eerily calm. “Put down the sword, and I’ll explain everything.”

“Explain now. Wilta and I are fine as we are.”

She lowered the bread and stood to face me. “You are wrong if you think threatening Wilta makes any difference — she means nothing to me. But I believe the owner of that sword would be ashamed to see you use it in this way.”

“Its owner is dead. I’ll work this out with him when I’m on the other side.”

“That will come sooner than you think, if you continue on this path. I have only borrowed that sword, from the true king of Carthya. He insisted it be returned to him in the same condition as when I borrowed it.”

“Who insisted?”

From behind me, Roden added, “That’s what the captain is trying to explain to you, Jaron. Darius is alive.”

I shook my head, angry at his lies, or his stupidity for believing her lies. Angry with all of them for using my brother’s name, even his own most beloved possessions, as a tactic against me, and against all of Carthya, the country that Darius would have one day ruled.

Then I shook my head even harder, determined to stop this deception now, before it went any further.

“This sword isn’t real,” I said. “You’ve had an imitation made.”

“Of course it’s real,” Strick said. “You know yourself that this sword wasn’t at the burial.”

Nor was Darius’s crown. They hadn’t been with my family when I came to the castle, and though I had searched for them, I’d buried my brother without either. I still regretted giving him so few honors.

Strick added, “This wasn’t the way I had hoped to deliver the news to you. But you must accept the blame for that. I asked for cooperation. In exchange, you’ve insulted me, spread rumors around this ship, and faked a very loud episode of the plague.”

“Perhaps I missed your request for cooperation when you had Erick killed. Or maybe when you captured my friends and sank my ship!”

She threw out her arms, the same way my tutors used to do when they refused to argue with me. “You make it sound like all of that is my fault. When were we ever unclear about our purpose? Had you surrendered immediately, your ship would be happily on its way by now.”

I huffed but gave no response, because I had no response to give. There was too much truth in her words.

She added, “Cooperate now, and it may save those who are still alive. You care about the princess, I hope?”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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