The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 35


“Is she safe?”

Strick gestured toward the sword. “He would not wish us to harm her.”

I took that in, letting my eyes graze over the handle. I’d held it before, at times when Darius and I used to practice against each other. The design of a sword might be imitated, but it was highly unlikely that the weight would be so exact.

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

“As I’ve already tried to explain, Darius sent it with me.”

I froze, finally hearing what the captain was saying.

“Darius sent it?”

“This is why I wanted you. This ship is headed to Belland now, as part of our agreement to bring you to him. We are in the service of the true king of Carthya. As we have served the people of Belland.”

I said to Wilta, “You’re here as their prisoner. Does it feel as though they’ve served you?”

She only squeaked out, “Right now, I feel more threatened by you than by them.”

I loosened my grip on her, but that was all. She had to remain in this room until I was certain Amarinda was safely gone.

Strick said, “We offered the Bellanders a chance to join in our quest, to be part of a glorious future. They refused, and now their reward for helping is that we grant them their lives. We tried to be their friends, but we can be as harsh as is necessary until we are accepted.”

“If you truly offered them friendship, harshness would never be necessary,” I said. “Now, where is this brother of mine, or whoever is using his name?”

She smiled. “I told you there is an agreement between us and your brother. If anything disrupts that agreement, we will kill him and simply take what we want. So you had better start cooperating.”

I’d learned to tolerate many frustrations in life: restrictive clothing, overcooked meat, the occasional threat to my existence. But blackmail was unacceptable, particularly when it came from villains such as these.

Strick rolled her eyes. “Your cooperation begins with lowering that sword. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with you right now.”

I had no intentions of harming Wilta, but to be fair, after all that had happened in the last day, I figured I ought to threaten someone. However, my thoughts always ended with the fact that the captain had information I desperately wanted. So I lowered the sword but kept it in my hands as I stood back.

I pointed out the nearest chair to Wilta. “Sit there.” When she did, I asked, “How far away is Belland?”

“Another day at sea, if the winds remain to the west. Once we arrive, you will be greeted by your brother, who will explain his agreement with us, and your role in it. He hopes you will peacefully surrender the throne.” Strick’s lip curled. “Though he is prepared to take it, if you are not careful.”

It was far too late for me to be careful. “How did Darius come to be on Belland?”

Strick shrugged.

“How long has he been there?”

Now she sighed. “Will there be many more questions?”

“Absolutely. Do you intend to attack Carthya?”

“Not if your brother keeps his agreements with us.”

I arched a brow. “What agreements?”

“That is between me and the true king of Carthya.”

I shook my head. “You may have Darius’s sword but you do not have him. My brother is dead. I buried him myself.”

“Did you? Or was it someone who looked very much like him? Darius has a mole on his right wrist. Did the boy you buried have that mole?”

I genuine


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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