The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 50


Wilta said, “Belland is an ancient land. Others have come before, hearing rumors of a great treasure, but without the Devil’s Scope and the first lens, they had no idea where to begin. It’s different now, with the Prozarians. They will not leave until they get the second lens.”

“The very reason we should not be going to Belland,” Imogen said. “If Darius will give them the second lens in exchange for Jaron, that’s the last place you should go.”

“If I don’t go, their arrangement with Darius ends, and they will kill him,” I said. “Captain Strick assured me of that.”

“And you promised to help us.” Wilta turned to me. “You said the Prozarians took five crates of weapons off your ship. Is there any chance of getting those back and using them ourselves?”

Questions began flooding my mind. “Where do the Prozarians keep their weapons? Where do they sleep and meet together?”

“Everything happens on their ships,” Wilta said. “One crate will probably be given to each ship.” Her face fell. “If we could only get one crate, it would be enough, but the ships are very well guarded.” Wilta closed her eyes as if lost in a memory, then seemed to shake it off. “If you could find your brother, maybe he’ll know what to do.”

I took a deep breath, desperate to know the answer, and afraid of what it might be. “You told me that my brother was here. Do you know him?”

“No, he keeps to himself most of the time. But he is there.”

“When did he come? How did he get there?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Didn’t you say that Captain Strick had that information in her notes?”

“I hoped you’d have something more to offer.”

“I’m sorry, Jaron. Usually, if he needs something, his nurse takes care of it.”

Mott turned. “His nurse? Not a servant or a housekeeper?”

Beside me, Imogen pulled Strick’s notebook closer to herself and turned another page.

Wilta said, “We thought that was odd too, but on the few occasions we have seen Darius, that’s how he has referred to her.”

“Does she have a name?” Mott asked.

Imogen looked up from the notebook. “Strick only wrote that this woman was Darius’s nurse at his birth, and that she had worked as one of Conner’s maids at Farthenwood.” She tilted her head. “Who could that be?”

Mott didn’t answer at first, and I briefly wondered if he had frozen in place. Finally, he looked down and mumbled, “As Jaron says, they are such basic notes, they’re not very helpful.”

Wilta shrugged. “Nor is she the one who matters to Jaron, or to any of us. Our purpose in coming here is to discover the truth about his brother.” She turned to me. “And you will. I hope when you see him, you will recognize him for who he is.”

“Or I will recognize him as a fraud,” I said. “All you know about him is who he claims to be. If he is lying, you’d have no way to know otherwise.”

“If he has lied to my people, he will find himself in greater danger from us than he ever could from you,” she said. “We have treated him like a king, so he had better be one.”

Gradually, our conversation faded as we stood on the deck to watch the land grow steadily larger ahead of us. All of us except Westler, who had strangely fallen asleep with his eyes remaining half-open.

Eventually, Imogen leaned against my arm. “You haven’t said much for a long time. What are you thinking about?”

“Everything.”

She sighed, as if I were trying to avoid a direct answer, but that in fact was the truth. Aside from the tiredness that muddied my thoughts, my brain was full of every possible question from the last few days.

“Do you have a plan?” Tobias asked, not for the first time that afternoon.

“It’s the same as when you asked me eight minutes ago,” I said. “I plan to win. Need it be anything more?”

He slumped against the rail. “Well, I had hoped for a few more details.”

A grin tugged at my mouth. “I can tell you that my plan is not dependent on an army of oversized turtles, though if a few were to offer their services, I would accept.”

Fink and Wilta laughed the hardest, but Tobias only scrunched up his face, then asked, “Do you intend to attack?”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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