The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 55


Something changed in Darius’s eyes, a softening perhaps. And I realized Trea was talking about someone else. Not Captain Strick, but a different she. Trea was asking Darius if he was prepared to meet Amarinda again.

Darius didn’t answer any of Trea’s questions, but I felt the weight of his eyes continuing to stare in the direction where I had just stood. Trea said, “Let’s go, or they will come looking for you, and that never goes well.”

Footsteps padded away from me, fading, and then the sound disappeared entirely.

When I was sure they had gone, I slumped to the ground, covering my mouth with one hand. I genuinely had no idea what I should do next.

I mogen was the first to find me and must have sensed my despair, for she merely sat at my side and wrapped her arm around my shoulders.

Finally, in a voice as gentle as her touch, she said, “I waited until it was quiet, but then you didn’t return. I was worried.”

“I saw Darius. He’s alive, Imogen. It’s him.”

She froze for a beat. “How did he look?”

“The same. But different. Something is different, but I can’t place what it is.”

“It’s dark out here. Maybe your eyes played tricks on you.”

I looked at her and shook my head, then felt her hand press on my shoulder, asking me to move. “Let’s go.”

“I think he saw me too.”

Now there was tension in her touch. “You think he did?”

“I know he did. And he wasn’t happy about it.” I didn’t tell her about the children. Her brow was already creased enough.

We glanced up as Mott entered the clearing. He didn’t ask any questions but seemed to simply know, as if the effects of having seen my brother were etched into my face.

Mott crouched in front of me, waiting until I was looking at him before asking, “What now?”

I closed my eyes and tried to collect my thoughts. “That bell you heard means Strick’s ship has come in. Darius went to the beach to meet it, along with a woman named Trea. She said that she was there at his birth.” Now I looked directly at Mott. “You know her, don’t you?”

“The nurse that Strick described in her notebook, yes, that was Trea.”

“You knew her name when we discussed this on Westler’s ship. Instead of telling me then, you let me go into this blind.”

Mott only replied, “I have reasons for my secrets, as you have reasons for yours.”

I frowned back at him. “That is unacceptable.”

After a short pause, Mott added, “Trea worked her whole life for Conner, as did I.” His focus shifted to Imogen. “I knew her, but you must have known her too.”

“Not well,” Imogen said. “How could she have worked for Conner and been at Darius’s birth?”

Mott rubbed a hand over his scalp as he considered his answer. “I’m sorry, I can’t explain that.” With his attention back on me, he asked again, “What shall we do now?”

“We must follow them, get a sense for what is happening at the docks. He is expecting Amarinda to arrive with the ship as well, so if we stay close to him, we may have a chance of finding her.”

“Mott and I will go, but not you,” Imogen said. “It’s not safe.”

“When have I ever cared about safety?” I asked.

“How can you not care? Jaron, your leg is still bandaged from the last time you didn’t care!”

“He won’t stay back,” Mott said, showing a rare spark of urgency. “None of us will, so let’s all go, together.”

Imogen glared at him, her eyes widened in disbelief that Mott had actually sided with me. But she knew she had lost the argument, so she merely stood and marched ahead along the path. Mott and I followed.


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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