The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 52

After he’d left, Imogen looked at me for an answer, but I had nothing to offer her either. She pressed her lips together, then excused herself to begin loading the stolen Prozarian items into a pack for Tobias and Fink.

“How many times can you make her angry before she gives up on you?” Tobias asked.

His question pierced me more than he knew. Eventually, everyone gave up on me; I’d learned that long ago. And I was beginning to think that Tobias’s question might be answered before this voyage was over.

A bright moon was rising when Westler found a quiet

cove where we could temporarily dock. From there we transferred to the lifeboat to go ashore, and quickly began unloading the few possessions we had onto the beach.

Tobias stood aside to watch us, arms folded and his hands in fists. “What are Fink and I supposed to do while we’re waiting for you to save all of us? Maybe play some Queen’s Cross, or perhaps a quiet game of chess?”

“Enough!” I snapped. “I know you’re angry at having to stay behind. I know you blame me for Amarinda, and maybe for every other thing that’s gone wrong in your life, but I’m figuring out all of this one step at a time, and I will make mistakes! All I know is that we cannot allow what we’ve stolen from the captain to be stolen away from us. And I have to set foot on Belland believing that Fink will be safe. Unless I learn otherwise in the next few hours, he’s the only brother I’ve got. So protect the things I’ve stolen, Tobias. And protect Fink. Please.”

Tobias had frozen while I spoke, and his only response now was to lick his lips and excuse himself to prepare for arrival. I glanced over at Imogen, hoping for a smile of support, but she turned the other way and went to help Tobias.

From behind me, Fink said, “If it helps, I’m not angry with you.”

“You might be the only one,” I muttered.

“That’s because I already know you won’t tell me anything.” Hardly the comfort I wanted.

Once we reached the shore, Mott pointed out a nearby clump of trees that would offer some shelter. While the rest of the group went ahead to investigate, Wilta stayed back with me, keeping watch over everything we’d brought from the fishing boat.

“You were right to put Tobias in his place,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been so tolerant.” I didn’t respond, and finally she added, “What can I do here? I’m the only one who has not received an assignment.”

I looked around the area, ensuring we were alone, then said, “There is something, but I do not want to ask.”

“If I can help you, I will.”

I sighed. “It’s my leg. There’s a reason it keeps bleeding through its bandages.”

“But Tobias sewed it.”

“It might be infected, and if it is, it’s a serious problem. An infection will slow down my movements, muddy my thinking.”

“Does Tobias have any way of treating it?”

“I don’t want him to know. None of them can know.”

She nodded in understanding. “There are herbs in the hills that can help, though they are hard to find this time of year, and the Prozarians took our dried herbs for themselves.” She paused a moment and said, “But I think I know where I can get some. Your brother’s home is highest on the hill and the only stone-and-mortar home in the village. Meet me outside there in a few hours. If I can find any herbs, I’ll bring them to you then.”

“Jaron, we’re ready to go.”

I turned to see Imogen with Mott behind her, both of them standing on the beach.

I looked back at Wilta. “Thank you. I’ll be there late tonight.”

Fink followed behind Imogen, but Tobias caught up to me. “Can we talk?”

I sighed. “What now?”

He offered me his hand. “I’m sorry for how I’ve behaved. I know you’re doing your best, for all of us. I’ll do my best too, for Fink, and for you.”

I shook his hand, considering the matter finished. But I did add, “If the Prozarians get too close, be prepared to move, or to keep moving.”

He shifted his weight, suddenly looking nervous. “How will you know where to find us if we need to escape?”

“We’re not going to escape Belland. We’re going to conquer it.”

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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