I rushed to the door and put my ear against it, hoping to hear anything useful. Roden did the same by balancing on the cot and trying to listen up to the main deck.
There wasn’t much I could hear from my angle, only Prozarians darting from task to task and chuckling at what a simple conquest this had been.
Roden seemed to be hearing more of value. He drew in a gasp, muttering, “They’ve found the crates. They’ve already begun bringing them on board.”
The crates had been the jewel in our trading with the people of Bymar. After the recent war, Carthya’s weapons supplies were massively depleted, but our last crop of food had been excellent. Since Bymar was farther north, they needed food more than weapons. And we gladly traded for their weapons, five crates full of them.
Now in the hands of the Prozarians.
Since Roden was in a better position to hear, I began searching our room. I didn’t find much — a single stocking, a candle with enough wax for a few minutes of light, a mostly empty tinderbox. I pocketed the items with no particular use in mind for them, but as my only weapon was a small knife in my boot, everything I found had to be considered for its benefit.
After another fifteen minutes, we heard nothing more. The ship seemed to have gone temporarily quiet.
I looked at Roden. “Before you and Tobias came upstairs, what was the last you saw of everyone?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Everything happened so fast. Mott sealed Amarinda in the hiding place, but once he finished, Fink said he forgot something on his bunk. Mott went to chase after him and never came back. When I last saw Imogen, she was preparing the lifeboat. Then Tobias and I ran upstairs. I don’t know how things ended for any of them.”
“Could they still be on the —”
My words were drowned out by the sound of cannon fire directly below us, all of it aimed in the direction the Red Serpent would have been. Even from within our small room, we distinctly heard the sounds of shattered wood, then the horrifying creaks of masts and beams as they fell to the deck, then silence.
Not a true silence, but the terrible shrieking of a ship descending to its own watery grave. And I had no idea how many of my friends were going down with it.
My thoughts flew apart and I felt like screaming aloud, but I had to think. I had to concentrate. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine any possible way that Mott, Imogen, and Fink might have survived, but nothing made sense. I leaned against the bulkhead and slowly sank to the floor.
Erick was gone. And I had little reason to hope for the others.
With that thought, my body forgot how to breathe, or stopped caring to.
Last night, Imogen had told me that the moment she knew I needed time away from the castle was when she heard Roden and me fighting in one of the reception rooms.
That day, I had somehow survived a meeting on the farming of oats, though I still wasn’t sure if it had lasted several hours, or several years. After a while, it made no difference. I had tried my best to fall asleep, in hopes that when I awoke, the lecture would be over. However, it turns out that when the king sleeps, the speaker merely pauses until someone wakes him up, and then prattles on as if nothing happened.
The rest of the day was engraved in my mind. Roden had just entered the room when I told him, “Why don’t you manage this? You can be my minister of oats.”
Roden didn’t even attempt a smile. “I’m already the captain of your guard, Jaron.”
“Yes, but can you do both? I already made Tobias the minister of limiting boring people to no more than eight minutes, and you can see the task has overwhelmed him.”
“I already told you that’s not a real job.” For most of the afternoon, Tobias had been reading at a table in the corner of the throne room. He merely rolled his eyes at Roden, then returned to his pages.
“I can’t accept the position,” Roden said, “and we need to talk about the second. I am resigning.”
I snorted. “No, you’re not.”
“You may be king of Carthya, but you do not control the whole world —”
“— and you do not control me.” Roden faced me directly. “I will no longer be your captain.”
My expression turned to stone. Without looking at anyone else, I ordered them, “Leave us.”
The room emptied, except for Roden and me — and Tobias, who stayed too and was looking intently at me as a warning not to ruin everything. We all knew I probably would.
Roden began, “Just now, I was passing by the council room for my senior officers. They were discussing a concern over a report of strangers in Carthya. Did you know about this?”