The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 60

But I did intend to get on the Shadow Tide. Both my sword and Darius’s were there, and if I happened to find anything useful while I was in the captain’s office, I would steal it too.

With that in mind, I snuck far past the last vigil on duty and silently entered the water, then swam beneath the waves toward the Shadow Tide. When I reached a mooring rope that led directly onto the deck, I wrapped my arms and legs around the rope and began to climb, grateful for increasing clouds to mask the moonlight.

I peered over the rail and saw no one, but I had no sooner rolled onto the deck before a vigil came from behind me and let out a heavy groan.

I looked up to see Teagut on patrol, this time alone. He cursed at the devils. “Not you again.”

I did a quick check to ensure that all my weapons were still in place, and found the one best suited for any confrontation with Teagut. “Twenty coins, my friend, to forget I’m here.”

“That bag looks lighter than twenty coins.”

“You’ll get the rest when I’m safely off this ship.”

I reached above the door frame and felt around until I located the key to the captain’s office. It was there, exactly as Roden had described. I grinned and whispered my thanks to him.

Teagut added, “For a second bag, I’ll tell you where they are holding Amarinda.”

Eagerly, I turned to him. “Is she here?”

“They removed her from the ship about an hour ago,” Teagut said. “Give me some time and I’ll find out where.”

I closed my eyes and took that in as a headache began to form. “Who else is on this ship?”

“A few crewmen, down in the bunks, all pirates. They’ll take the later watch tonight, so they’re sleeping while they can.”

I put the full bag of coins in his hands. “Return to the deck, please. Watch for any trouble.”

He shut the door behind me, and I listened for a few seconds to be sure I truly was alone. Other than its slow creaking as the ship moved with the waves, everything was silent. And I went to work.

My highest priority was finding the two swords, but nothing replaced my joy more than the discovery of a different sort of treasure, the greater part of a spice cake, one that had probably been baked in anticipation of a safe arrival back here in Belland. Since I too had safely arrived, I clearly deserved to take a slice for myself. And by slice, I meant the entire thing.

While I ate, I searched the captain’s desk. Most of what I found there were items that didn’t seem particularly useful, but I did pocket the tinderbox that I’d found shortly after being captured. I wondered when the captain had stolen that from me. I took a small knife as well, then continued searching. Beneath the bed were a few other sacks of coins on top of a small tin box, also locked and heavier than it looked when I picked it up. After taking the coins, I sliced off a length of rope that suspended the mattress and ran it through the box’s handle, then tied that over my shoulder. Whatever the captain found necessary to lock up, I found necessary to steal.

I started to look elsewhere, then realized I had caught the reflection of metal while cutting the rope, but my attention had been in the wrong place. I looked under the bed again and saw two swords between the web of ropes and the mattress over it. Mine, along with a belt and sheath, and Darius’s.

I put the belt on and slipped Darius’s sword into the sheath, but kept my sword ready in case its use became necessary. I sincerely hoped it would not.

Yet I had not taken three steps out of Strick’s office when someone called out my name. I turned to see a different vigil on the deck, one of the younger pirates, and shakier in holding his sword than Tobias ever was, if that was possible. I raised my own sword, making my intentions clear if he tried anything against me. The stairs to go belowdecks were between us, and he was definitely eyeing them as his means of escape.

“I am the pirate king,” I said. “You will not turn me in.”

“Captain Strick said you’d be dead by tomorrow. She said the Monarch will rule us now.”

“The Monarch doesn’t have a sword within easy reach of your neck. I do.”

He swallowed hard. “Then you are my king. At least until tomorrow.”

“He won’t be alive tomorrow,” Strick said from behind me. “He won’t be alive by dawn.”

I paused long enough to briefly mutter a question to the devils, wondering why they spent so much time on me. Receiving no immediate answer, I slowly turned around, keeping my sword ready. Strick carried no sword tonight, but the six Prozarians flanking her did. Those weren’t great odds in my favor.

She smiled and took a step forward. “Did Roden tell you where to find the key?”

I tilted my head. Had Roden sent me here as a trap?

“Why did you let him live, Captain?”

She took another step toward me, forcing me to back up by the same distance.

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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