“You must be Wilta,” I said.
Her head tilted. “How did you know —”
“Is Amarinda with you?”
“Is that her name? She hasn’t spoken a word since she was brought into the captain’s quarters. I snuck down here to get her something to eat.”
“Is she safe there?”
Wilta tilted her head again, as if the question confused her. “Nowhere on this ship is safe.”
“Are you in danger too?”
She lowered her eyes. “I’m here as a punishment for leading a rebellion. The captain won’t let me die, but I cannot continue to live this way either.”
“What are her plans for Amarinda?”
“I don’t know. So far, Amarinda has been held in binds, but no harm has come to her.”
Cautiously, I stepped forward. “Can you bring me to her? Can you help me get her off this ship?”
Her only response was the last thing I wanted to hear. “You’re Jaron.” Something must have flashed in my eyes,
because she said, “I won’t tell anyone, but the captain will have the truth figured out sooner than you think.”
“What does she want with me?”
Wilta shrugged. “What does she want with any of us?”
I studied her a moment longer. She did not look like she was from any of the lands near Carthya, but she spoke the common language, so she couldn’t have come from far away. “Where is your home?”
“Belland. Have you heard of it?”
I squinted, trying to remember if I’d ever heard of Belland. If my geography tutors had been more interesting, I might have stayed awake long enough to learn where it was.
When I didn’t answer, she said, “Belland is a small country on the western side of the sea, though you can only reach it by water. It was formed by volcanoes hundreds of years ago.”
“Is that where this ship is headed? Or somewhere else?”
Hearing a sound from above, Wilta glanced back. “I should go.”
I stepped forward again, keeping my hands low so as not to appear threatening. “You’re afraid, I understand that. But I have friends on this ship, and they’re afraid too. Can you help us?”
Her eyes darted and she turned as if to leave, so I quickly added, “I know at one time the Prozarians were greatly feared. But I thought they went extinct years ago.”
Wilta paused, confused again. “Why would you say that?”
“I battled a Prozarian boy once. He told me so.”
During my time as Sage, one of the other orphans in Mrs. Turbeldy’s Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys was a Prozarian boy named Edgar. He was about the same age and build as my brother, so at first I had hoped we might become friends. But I quickly learned he was nothing like Darius in character. He had a stash of treasures he wouldn’t share with anyone — rolls of gold coins, a piece of glass art, an old ring of his father’s. I stole some of his coins once to buy food for the rest of us, which ended up making me his target. He began tying me up at night so that by the time I got untied in the morning, what little food there was had already been eaten. It was thanks to Edgar that I had become so quick at untying knots. And he later thanked me for making the knots tight the day I bound him in ropes and dangled him from the window. After I pulled him back in, we got along much better.
Perhaps it was an exaggeration to have called that a battle, but I had won nonetheless. The only thing that confused me now was that in one of our conversations, Edgar had told me he believed his people were extinct. Maybe he was wrong.
“Do the Prozarians have plans to invade Carthya?”
“I don’t know. Though if they did, I think they simply would have invaded, not gone to the trouble of finding you.”
Nor would that explain what they wanted with Amarinda. The captain had noticeably reacted to hearing her name, calling it a lucky thing to have found her.