The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 93


Wilta’s smile was probably the first true sign of happiness I’d seen from her, which worried me. “Other than Tobias, we have everyone. But Imogen threatened a revolt, so we’ve now separated them across all of our ships. You will not know who is on which ship, and if you attempt a rescue of one, the others will be sacrificed.”

My eyes lit with anger. “You only wanted me. They are not supposed to be part of this!”

“They have carried out attacks on my people, stolen from us, defied our rules of order and obedience, and caused unrest here on Belland. All of them deserve their fates.”

Scarcely able to breathe, I looked at Roden again, who nodded his confirmation at me, adding, “Fink was forced to tell them where he hid the stolen items. The captain sent a group of Prozarians to search for them.”

“My lady!” Lump was running up the beach behind us, pushing between Bellanders doing assigned labor.

Wilta stood, clenched her teeth, and said as she began walking away, “The two of you will wait here.”

Roden dipped his head at her. I turned to study the Prozarian ships, wondering which of my friends was on which ship, and whether they were safe for now. If they were, it wouldn’t be for long.

Keeping his head down, Roden mumbled, “Do you remember in the crow’s nest when you said in the end, I’d have to lose?”

“Yes.”

“It’s just the opposite. I need you to lose.”

“After what I just heard?” My jaw clenched. “That is not how this works.”

“Then you do not trust me.”

We locked eyes, fury in mine, pleading in his, and I did not care why.

Having spoken to Lump, Wilta turned and addressed Roden directly. “Our finest warriors are gone to search for those stolen items, and now the pirates have left their ship. They weren’t happy to see Jaron down here alone. You’re one of the pirates. Can you stop this?”

Roden glanced over at me. “Jaron is the pirate king.” He withdrew his sword. “Order them to return to their ship.”

“No.” I stared back at him. “I will not lose … them to the ship. Nor will I lose … their trust in me.”

Seconds later, grumbling sounds began from farther down the beach, growing louder as my former crew of pirates marched around the cave, weapons in hand, and with shouts of anger.

With Lump at her side, Wilta faced them. “I am the Monarch, and you will stop now or face death.”

Lump charged toward the first pirate to reach them, only to be knocked flat on his back by three others, one who put a boot on Lump’s chest. Another two pirates grabbed Wilta.

“Stop this!” Roden cried, pushing them away. “You gave pledges of loyalty!”

“We are loyal first to our king,” Teagut said. “To Jaron.”

“If you are loyal to your king, then your loyalties belong to me.” Roden turned my way, raising his sword. “Jaron, I challenge you.”

I arched a brow. “Seriously?”

Roden took a swing at me. I ducked, but if I hadn’t, he might have done real damage.

When I rose up again, I squinted back at him, only getting another raised brow in return.

In a quieter voice, Roden murmured, “You said you trusted me.”

Now I understood, and I grinned back at him. “I accept your challenge.”

So began our battle. It started with me running away as fast as I could. Without a weapon, what other choice did I have?

I passed the same fallen tree that had tripped me before, stopping only to wrench a branch loose, just in time to hold it u

p and clash with Roden’s sword. He hit hard enough that I fell back to the beach, but I grabbed a handful of sand and threw it in his face.


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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