The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 70

“They shouldn’t have made me angry.”

Roden sighed, reached into his pocket, and pulled out some bread, which he pushed through the bars toward me. I took it and mumbled a thanks.

He only shrugged. “You’ll need it today.” Silence followed, then he added, “I heard your leg is infected.”

“If it gets worse, I won’t be able to fight on it.” I paused, then added, “I’ve seen you staring at Wilta. Do you like her?”

He shuffled his feet. “She’s very pretty.”

“Do you like her?” He didn’t answer, so I said, “Just be careful around her.”

“Fine advice coming from someone who hasn’t been careful a day in his life.” He gestured at my leg again. “The Prozarians took all the medicines from Belland. Maybe Tobias will have something to help.”

For some reason, that irritated me. “You’re worried about my leg? After what you just saw in here, why should my leg matter to you now?”

He shrugged. “Because I still have hope for you. More than for myself even. I would consider myself lucky to be on your side of the bars rather than on mine.”

“If you’re convinced of that, change places with me.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Roden said. “I just wanted you to understand that in my own way, I’m as imprisoned as you are.”

My tone softened. “Yes, I know.”

“I’ve asked Darius if he can help me, and he promised to try. He’ll be the king now.”

“I am still your king, Roden. And maybe I wasn’t always the friend you wanted, but I tried to be the king you needed.”

He frowned at me. “I never should have said those things I did in your throne room. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any of it.”

“Maybe you meant some of it.”

“Maybe.” He frowned again. “But it’s too late. I cannot help you anymore. I cannot help myself. This may be all that I can do for you.”

He gave a low whistle, and on cue, two Bellanders entered, leading Imogen down the stairs, her wrists tied in rope. I rushed to the bars, eager to see her but wishing we could have met anywhere else. She eyed me with pity, even as I looked at her with a growing panic. If Roden thought my spirits would be lifted by seeing the girl I loved inside a prison cell, he was deeply mistaken.

My cell door had remained open, but once Imogen was inside, Roden locked it, then said, “Remember, we’re only allowing you to see him because you promised to talk him back to his senses.”

Imogen straightened her spine. “You made a coward’s choice, Roden. Leave us alone, or Jaron and I won’t say a word.”

His expression fell, and his eyes quickly shifted to me. “Listen to her, Jaron. She’s the only one you ever listen to.”

After everyone had left, I immediately began untying Imogen’s wrists. “Did they hurt you in any way?”

“No, but the captain questioned me, mostly about you. Why is she so interested in understanding you?”

“I don’t know. What answers did you give?”

“There weren’t many I could give, since you share so little with me.”

I finished unwinding the rope, then took her hands in mine, hoping things were not too broken between us. “That’s the very reason I share so little.”

Imogen let a beat pass. “No, Jaron, that’s not the reason.”

There was so much I wanted to tell her, the truths about me and my history, secrets that had been tucked into the deepest parts of my heart. But she was right, as always. It terrified me to think of telling her too much, of revealing something that might create a barrier between us, one she could not cross.

For now, I said, “Ask me anything.”

“I have only one question. What do you need me to do?”

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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