The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 48


“Do you always keep a needle there?” Imogen asked.

“All the women in Belland do. It’s easy to lose them otherwise.”

Imogen turned to Tobias. “If you sew up that wound, will he still have use of his leg?”

Tobias shrugged. “I’m afraid so.”

Her shoulders fell with disappointment and I frowned at her. “I have to see this through, Imogen.”

“I know. But I don’t have to like it.”

Tobias accepted the needle from Wilta, and some thread that Imogen gave to him from a loose hem in her dress. We went to the farthest end of the ship for him to sew up my leg, but even then, when he helped me limp back to the group, Fink said, “I learned some new words.”

For Imogen’s sake, I quickly added, “In my own defense, I’ve used those words before. It’s not my fault that he only heard them for the first time here.”

I thought that was rather funny, but Imogen did not.

“You need to get out of the morning sun,” she said to Fink.

He cocked his head. “Stop treating me like a child. I’m old enough to stay for this conversation.”

“But I need help below,” Wilta offered, winking at Imogen as she followed a reluctant Fink down the ladder.

Which left me with Imogen, Tobias, and Mott, who led me back into the same interior wardroom where we had met last night.

I opened the conversation first with Mott. “You were awake for most of last night. Shouldn’t you still be asleep?”

He quickly countered, “Did you sleep?”

“I rested.”

“Did you sleep?”

With a sigh, I placed the scope onto the wardroom table and showed them the engravings in the brass. “This isn’t a code, or at least, not one meant to be deciphered. In ancient times, all royal houses had a symbol known only to themselves. It was used in written communication much like a secret handshake might be used in person.”

“Or the secret word to get inside the palace gates,” Imogen said.

“Exactly!” I pointed to three symbols running along the top of the scope. At the farthest from the eyepiece was a symbol of a circle with lines dividing it into equal thirds. “This is Carthyan. It represents the original three rulers of our land, all equals. Carthya has little significance to the outside world, so I think it might be placed

here on the scope for a reason, maybe for the number three, since there are three slots in the scope.”

Tobias tilted his head, skeptical. “What are the other two symbols before it?”

“I don’t know the first, but the middle one is Mendenwal’s.” It was a triangle, their depiction of strength, or of the greatness of their country. I only knew that because the king of Mendenwal had once gotten into an argument with my father over which country had the best ancient symbol. It remained to this very day the stupidest argument I’d ever heard.

Below the three symbols were many others, none of which I recognized. “I have a theory,” I continued. “I think the three symbols on top are a message for how to use this scope, but the presence of all the symbols must be significant. If this leads to the greatest treasure ever known upon these lands, perhaps the message of the scope is that all countries must come together as one to find it.”

Then I lifted Captain Strick’s notebook onto the table. “According to this, the Prozarians haven’t got the translation, but the first lens led them to Belland. They believe the second lens is there, and apparently it is.” I turned a few more pages. “The person claiming to be Darius made an agreement with them in exchange for the second lens.”

“Could it be him?” Imogen asked.

I turned a few more pages. “The only entry about Darius is here, like notes she made to tease out the truth of his story. I’m convinced now that my brother cannot be alive, because if it was him, he would have told her details only he and I would know. All that’s here are his basic facts. And then she listed what is supposedly the official story of how he came to Belland, and it’s equally sparse on details.”

Mott didn’t seem concerned about that. “The lack of detail is no evidence either way about your brother. Strick never intended for you to see these pages.”

“It isn’t only that. For Darius to still be alive, consider all the questions that must be answered.” I leaned forward. “If Darius is in Belland, then he must have been at the castle up until the time that Conner put his plan into effect.” I paused there, trying to rid myself of any thoughts of my parents. I still ached whenever I talked about my family’s deaths. I supposed in some way, I always would. “So why did Darius leave Carthya, and why did he choose Belland as a refuge? Did he leave with the second lens for the scope, or did he acquire it in Belland? Furthermore, someone is buried in Darius’s grave, someone who looked very much like him. Who is that, and where is his family? It simply does not make sense that Darius could be alive.”

Mott nodded in agreement. “Darius would only have left if Conner had made that part of his planning. But I can’t think of a single reason he would have done that.”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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