The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 84


“It was obvious after I realized that no women there had needles stuck into the bottoms of their skirts.”

“So?”

“So Wilta claimed that all Bellander women did that.”

Tobias and Imogen exchanged a look. “That’s your evidence?” Tobias squinted at me, incredulous. “Jaron, that means nothing. Only a few women from Belland were even there.”

“What about the scars on her forearm? She implied to Roden that they were from the captain, but they are left from the plague.”

“How would you know what a plague scar looks like?” Tobias asked.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ve received enough scars to know when one is given in anger. Hers were not. And there’s more. I knew a Prozarian boy once, back when I lived in the orphanage.”

“Edgar?” Tobias glanced over at me. “He stayed at the orphanage in Gelvins for a little while. I knew him too, or at least, I knew who he was.”

“Do you recall the way he pronounced the name of Carthya, with a drawn-out sound at the end?”

“No.”

“Well, he did. Captain Strick pronounces it the same way. And so does Wilta.”

“That means nothing!” Tobias shook his head. “Maybe she learned the name from Captain Strick. Naturally she would pronounce it the same way.”

Imogen pressed her brows low. “I’d never risk someone’s life on so little evidence.”

“Her life never was in danger. She’s the Monarch! They were always going to pull her out.”

“I hope you’re right …” Imogen drew in a breath. “And I hope you’re wrong. She knows a lot about us.”

And she knew how to use that information against me — Wilta made that perfectly clear. My arm tightened protectively around Imogen. Her arm tightened around me too, something I needed.

She continued, “Then to have collapsed the dam! Jaron, what were you thinking?”

“That … did not work as expected. If it hadn’t been for Darius —”

Darius stopped on the trail and looked back at me. “If Father had been here to see that, he’d have locked you in your room for a year.”

“He tried that once. Besides, you were the one who gave me the suggestion, when you reminded me of the time I fell from the parapet. I had to kick the window open to get back inside the castle.”

“What?” His brow furrowed. “When I asked if you remembered racing across the parapet, I meant that I had come to help you then and I would come now. Nothing more.”

I thought that over. “Oh yes, that does make more sense.”

A pause followed, one that neither of us seemed to know how to break. Darius was the first to try. “I see things more clearly now. I’m sorry to have put you through all this.”

“We have more to talk about,” I added. “But I knew you’d come back for me.”

Darius grinned. “You didn’t know it. You made a lucky guess.”

That made me laugh, though it ended with a grunt of pain that only worsened when I tried to take the next step on my own. Imogen’s arm wrapped around me again. “Is anything broken?”

“My ankle is swelling in my boot. Kicking at the rocks was a bad idea.”

Tobias pointed at my leg. “You tore open the wound again. And you’re still shivering — we need to get you warmed up, and fast.”

Tobias braced me from one side, and with Imogen on the other, I began to hobble toward Mott, who had been roaming the area to be sure it was secure.

He said, “Trea told me about an abandoned house higher in the hills. She’s waiting there for us. The Prozarians don’t seem to know about it.”


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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