The Captive Kingdom (Ascendance 4) - Page 8

“They told me yesterday.”

“They didn’t tell me at all. Instead, they went straight to you!”

“Well, I am king.”

“And I’m their captain. They should have come to me first.”

“Fine! Go tell them so.”

“It wouldn’t matter. In that same conversation, my officers asked one another why you chose me as captain.” Roden folded his arms. “I know why. It was a bribe to get me away from the pirates. I would have killed you otherwise.”

I brushed that off. “You wouldn’t have killed me, Roden. We were friends. You just didn’t know it yet.”

“Friends?” He stepped forward. “It’s simple for you to say that from where you stand, at the top of the mountain. You can look down on those of us who serve you and call us friends, but really, we are just servants.”

I stood, feeling my temper warm. “You serve me? Do you know how many times I have nearly died for this country? How many people are still lined up, wanting my life?”

“You’ve become paranoid.” He gestured around him. “When will you stop believing that the whole world is against you?”

“When I have evidence otherwise. Until then, I’ll do what I deem is best. You have no idea what it is to be king.”

He pointed to me. “And you have no idea what it is to serve a king, to serve you.”

We paused as the doors opened and Imogen stepped into the room. Her gaze went from Roden to me, and if she sensed any tension, she simply said, “May we speak in private?”

I turned to Roden, who dipped his head to Imogen. “Can we discuss this later?” I asked.

His half-hearted shrug lacked the respect he had just shown Imogen. “We can discuss this for as long as you’d like. It won’t change anything. I will no longer be your captain.” Then he marched from the room and Tobias followed, promising he would try to talk to Roden.

Imogen touched my arm. “What was that about?”

After a deep breath to settle myself, I replied, “The usual foolishness. Nothing a few hours in the stocks won’t cure. Do we still use those?”

Imogen frowned. “I see the servants were correct. They said that you’re in a foul mood.”

“Not with you.”

She didn’t miss a beat. “With the entire rest of the world, then?”

That was a fair question. I began counting on my fingers a review of names as they came to me. “Let me think: Roden — obviously. Mott, Tobias and Amarinda, Fink, Harlowe and Kerwyn, that man who opens the doors for me a second too late so he always bumps my shoulder.” I looked over at Imogen again. “I suppose you’re right. It is with the entire rest of the world.”

“Well, you’ll have to get over it. There’s a formal supper beginning in one hour.”

I took her hands in mine. “Let’s cancel everything. Maybe have a quiet supper together instead. Just you and me.”

“We can’t cancel an hour before everyone arrives.”

“We could run off somewhere and secretly marry.”

“Where could a king possibly marry in secret?” She arched a brow. “Besides, you might have a good time at the supper.”

“I might be struck by lightning as well. I’d prefer that, actually.”

Her only reply was a soft sigh. “I heard Roden ask why you chose him as captain.”

“He’s asked that several times since the war.”

Imogen shrugged. “Maybe you haven’t given him the right answer yet.” Before I could speak, she added, “Roden fights as well as you … almost. He has a title as grand as yours … almost. He is a good leader … but no matter how hard he tries, he is still not you. Whether you realize it or not, Jaron, you cast a long shadow. Maybe Roden is tired of living in it.”

Tags: Jennifer A. Nielsen Ascendance Fantasy
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