The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 71

“Tell me everything you’ve learned. Is there any news of Amarinda?”

Her face fell. “I was hoping you’d have news for me.”

“Not yet. But I do believe she’s still alive, and safe. They’ll bring her out at some point when they feel Darius needs to be controlled. Were you able to find Tobias and Fink?”

“I got there too late. They’d already been forced to separate, so I only found Fink. He was on the north end of Belland.” She leaned in closer to me and whispered, “The scope and lens are in my bag, hidden not far from here. I didn’t want to risk Fink being caught with it.”

“Does anyone know?”

“I don’t think so.”

I was relieved to hear that Fink was still safe, but I was equally concerned for Tobias. Fink had spent most of his young life surviving on his own. Tobias hadn’t.

Imogen touched my face, bringing my attention back to her. “Talk to me, Jaron, please. I know you’re carrying something big inside you. Don’t you understand that I feel the weight of it too?”

Her words hung in the air as she continued staring at me. Finally, I broke. “Darius wants the throne.”

“Oh. What did you tell him?”

“What can I tell him? He is the elder brother.”

Imogen drew in a slow breath. “What if he’s not?”

Based on Imogen’s expression, I was certain that what she was about to say, and the secret I had promised Trea to keep, were the very same.

“He is my brother, Imogen.” I’d spent half my time in this cell debating how to manage what I now knew about Darius. This was not a decision I had come to lightly, but I had made my decision.

She led me to the slab of wood where I’d slept the night before and sat beside me. “I haven’t stopped thinking about Trea since we saw her last night. I told you that I knew her a little when I was at Farthenwood. Every evening at seven, I used to bring a cup of tea to Conner in his office. One evening, shortly before you came to Farthenwood, I started to enter his office, but I heard raised voices. Conner finally shouted that his orders would be obeyed or the consequences would be severe. Seconds later, Trea came from the office, crying. I had hidden around the corner so neither of them saw me, and I never did see her again until now.”

“Did you hear what the orders were?”

Imogen pressed her lips together, clearly aware of how difficult this conversation was for me. “He told her to take the boy away. That didn’t mean anything to me then, but it does now. Obviously, he was talking about Darius.”

“Yes, but what does it matter?”

Imogen took my hands in hers. “You know I’ve been reading Conner’s journal. He wanted his possessions distributed among his heirs, correct?”

“Yes, but he has no heirs.”

Imogen took a few measured breaths. “What if he did? Jaron, I don’t know who Darius’s mother was, but I do believe —”

“No!” I stood and backed away from her, horrified by her suggestion. “You are pulling these ideas from thin air. I will not discuss something that would strip Darius of his identity. He is the rightful king of Carthya!”

“Jaron, he’s not! Conner said —”

“It doesn’t matter! If his adoption means he is not my brother, then Fink is not my brother, and I am once again without a family! I don’t care about tradition. I don’t care about his origins.”

“You should care! Do you know why the Prozarians brought you here? They plan to kill you today.”

“Only if I’m co

nvicted at the trial —”

“Which you will be.”

“And only if I can’t make Darius remember who he was before coming here! Maybe he is adopted, but none of that matters to me!”

She lowered her voice. “Would it matter if you knew who his father really is?”

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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