The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 110


I turned to Darius with a broad smile. “It’s time for me to go home.”

He embraced me and whispered into my ear. “If you should ever need me —”

“I always will need you,” I replied.

He pulled back, his entire face lit with happiness. “Then I will come.”

“And I will never be far away.”

I gave him one last embrace and offered a final wave to the people. With Imogen at my side, we boarded the Shadow Tide, the last ship in the harbor.

Teagut was waiting for me on the main deck. I shook his hand, and he gestured toward the captain’s office. “The pirate king should get that room.”

With a mischievous grin, Roden tried to push past me. “Hear that? I’m taking the captain’s quarters.”

I raised my new sword, blocking the doorway long enough to glance back at him. “Not a chance. Let me know when we’re home. Until then, I’ll be asleep.”

Yet, even as exhausted as I was, I barely slept that night. I could not sleep, not for the emotions swirling within me. Finally, I had no choice but to get up and return to the captain’s desk. I opened the lower drawer and pulled out a black satin bag, then set it on the desktop.

I stared at it for several minutes before finally withdrawing the Devil’s Scope. The last time Roden had seen it was on the beach when Darius sacrificed it for Amarinda’s life. But Wilta had still had it in a pocket of her long coat after I returned to the overlook with the pirates. When I tried to stop her from lowering her arm, my other hand easily transferred the scope from her pocket into mine. She must have forgotten it was there after I began exploding her ships.

The first two lenses were still in their slots, but without the third lens, the scope was useless.

I reached behind me to my belt, where the metal pin used to be. The third lens had easily fit into that gap, though it had nearly gotten me killed to put it in there rather than try to swim away from the rock walls of the lava tube. I still wondered if it was a mistake to have saved it.

By now, surely Wilta and her mother had realized the Devil’s Scope was gone. If they were coming back to look for it, we’d have seen them already.

But they hadn’t come back.

They would go forward, likely for revenge. For utter destruction.

They were on their way to Carthya.

With that in mind, I inserted the third lens into its slot, raised it to my eye, and aimed it toward the candlelight.

And couldn’t help but smile.

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On the front of the castle, between the second and third floors, was a small ledge that overlooked everything up to the castle gates and even provided a good view of Drylliad beyond our walls. It was accessible by climbing from a balcony on the second floor. Nobody knew I was out here, except perhaps the passing sentry below, his head cloaked. I’d have to speak to Roden about that. Even on cold nights, sentries were never to be cloaked.

At least he wouldn’t notice me. I didn’t want his attention, or anyone else’s. I wasn’t sure why I’d climbed to this ledge. Maybe I’d felt a faint hope that Imogen would realize this was all a mistake and any minute now she’d return.

Except it wasn’t a mistake, and both Imogen and I knew it. Regardless of my reasons, I had deliberately kept the truth from her when I failed to tell her I had the Devil’s Scope.

I wished Mott were here, and Darius. I could’ve used Mott’s practicality and Darius’s faith in love. Truly, I would have liked anyone to talk to right now. Tobias and Amarinda hadn’t been married for long; they barely noticed when anyone else was in the room. My adopted younger brother, Fink, wouldn’t understand, and Roden would only say I’d gotten what I deserved. He’d be equally mad that I hadn’t told him about the Scope.

I watched the sentry again, noting the gait of his long legs, his posture as he walked. I knew the sentries who patrolled in the daytime but had rarely taken time to observe the night watch.

Something about him seemed familiar. Too familiar. I leaned forward and under my breath mumbled, “Mercy.”

I didn’t know his real name; I’d never cared to ask. But Mercy was Wilta’s top counselor, one of the crueler Prozarians I’d met, and, somehow, still alive. That couldn’t be possible. Back in Belland, I’d seen him fall to his death. But this was him.

I crouched low to warn the others, but at nearly the same moment, Mercy threw back his cloak and raised a hidden crossbow. He fired off two shots with perfect accuracy and killed the other sentries within the gates.

There should have been a response from the towers at the curtain wall. Where were my vigils there? When I looked to the towers, I saw a glint of metal in the moonlight.


Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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