The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 47


“Most people give up hours before he finishes talking.”

“‘Sage’ is the name the captain called you when they first brought you on board the Shadow Tide. Who is Sage?”

“The other half of me, I suppose. But that can be even harder to understand.”

She smiled softly. “I don’t think you’re so hard to understand. You value loyalty and sacrifice and dedication, and you expect the same from others. But few people feel these things as intensely as you do, so few people behave with the same intensity.”

I leaned against the rail and stared out across the sea. “Too often, that intensity creates a blindness in me. I expect so much from others that I fail to see them as they really are. And all the while, every flaw in me radiates for the world to see.”

“The people on this boat believe in you, Jaron. They could have raced back to Carthya in fear for their lives, but they didn’t. They chose to follow you because they believe you can bring them home again in victory.”

I chuckled. “They came because they believe something will go wrong and that I’ll need their help.”

Fink put in, “That’s why I stowed away. I absolutely knew something would go wrong.”

Wilta laughed too. “All right, then, perhaps I am the only one who believes in you. And you, of course. Surely you never doubt yourself.”

I didn’t respond, and after a moment, she noticed my leg. “You’ve bled through your bandage again.”

I tightened up the bandage, and my thoughts inevitably returned to Roden. I wondered if I hadn’t chained him to the deck, if he’d also have tried to follow me, just as Wilta did. I might have doomed him.

I worried even more about Amarinda. Despite Wilta’s insistence that Amarinda would be all right, I had seen for myself how Wilta had been treated. Tobias had seen it too. It was no wonder that he was so angry with me.

Minutes later, Imogen came onto the deck. Her eyes were wary upon Wilta, then fell to my leg. “Has Tobias looked at this?”

“He’s not awake yet.”

Imogen glanced back to Wilta. “I can take the wheel. You probably need a rest.”

She probably didn’t, but Wilta took the cue and stood aside for Imogen. “That’s very kind, thank you. I will go lie down now.”

After we were alone, I said to Imogen, “There’s nothing between Wilta and me.”

“Not on your part. She may feel differently.”

“There’s nothing, Imogen.”

Imogen met my eyes. “What you and I share is not so thin that I will react to every young woman who flirts with you, or offers you compliments, or seeks to become your favorite. I’ve seen it a thousand times before, and it does not bother me. But Wilta is different. She isn’t looking to you for an improvement in her social status, to grant her a title, or even to be able to boast to her friends that she earned a smile from you. She’s asking you to risk your life for her people.”

“As she risked her life on that ship for me.”

I limped over to the helm and placed one hand over Imogen’s as she held the wheel. “We must be cautious around her, I agree. But right now, all I know is that I must get to Belland ahead of Captain Strick. Wilta knows where it is. I don’t. We need her help if we are going to reach Belland first.”

Reluctantly, she nodded, and I was sure I even saw a faint smile. “Agreed. But next time we travel, I get to choose the place.”

I kissed her cheek, then said, “I will gladly agree to that.”

By then, the others on the fishing boat began to join us on the deck, including Mott, who quietly resumed his navigation. Tobias took one look at my leg and said, “The bandage isn’t enough. Does anyone have a needle?”

“There’s no needle.” Mott made a face. “Why would anyone here have a needle?”

Tobias turned to me with an apology in his eyes, but before he could speak, I shook my head. “You will not cauterize that injury! Do you know how much that would hurt?”

“It can’t be worse than the wound itself.”

“Well, I don’t intend to find out.”

“I have a needle,” Wilta said, hurrying up to the deck. She lifted her skirt, where right along the edge, a small needle was stuck through the fabric.


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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