A knock came to the door and I heard Roden’s voice on the other side. “Tobias?”
“Tell him I’m busy,” I whispered.
Teagut repeated my message and Roden responded, “May I come in?”
“Absolutely not,” I hissed.
“No,” Teagut said. “I’m, uh … spurting blood at the moment.”
I rolled my eyes. That was the best he could do?
But it seemed to work. Roden said, “Maybe you heard a few things while on the deck. You and I need to talk.”
“Ask him what he wants to talk about,” I whispered again.
Teagut did, and after a moment, Roden responded, “I just … I thought you might remember back to Farthenwood, to Conner’s contest for the false prince. Only one of us was supposed to survive that, remember? But for a while, you and I had an alliance, and that kept us alive. I’m asking you to hold to that again. Stay with me, Tobias, for your own sake.”
Again, my temper bristled. Not only because Roden had made me think of a time that still bundled me in knots, but because he was speaking of it inaccurately. Their alliance had not saved anyone’s lives. I did that. All that their alliance had done was to …
“Almost get me killed,” I mumbled.
Teagut looked up at me, alarmed. “You’re going to get me killed?”
“No! Well … probably not. Hush and let me think.”
Had I really understood Roden correctly? Strick told him to get me on my knees — that had been Conner’s plan too, in his own way. Now it appeared that Roden was asking Tobias to help him achieve that goal, so that both of them might have a chance to live.
I heard Roden’s footsteps as he left, but I still had Teagut to contend with. He said, “The only oath the pirates care about earned them the same branding on their forearms that you have. Is it true that Erick is dead?” I nodded and he added, “Then you are our king again, Jaron. What do you want from us?”
“Until I say otherwise, I want you all to stay alive. Which means for now, you will have to follow the captain’s orders.”
Teagut tilted his head. “We are pirates! Not dainty servants laying out tea towels and seating ourselves on a filthy deck for hours. Now, I know you won’t ask all of them out there to risk their lives for you, but let me help. The Prozarian vigil with me is a talkative fellow, and maybe I have information for you.”
“What is it?”
Teagut sucked in a breath, feeling quite proud of himself now. “I told you, Jaron, I am a pirate. If you want the information, a few coins in my pocket might help me remember it.”
“I have your knife in my pocket. It also might help you remember.”
He frowned. “We’re headed to a place called Belland. The Prozarians attacked Belland a month ago.”
“I know about that.”
“But what you don’t know is that just before returning to sea, the captain brought several things with her, all of it inside a green trunk that was so heavy, she almost couldn’t push it up the gangplank. The Prozarian with me rushed over to help her and about got himself run through with a sword for the favor.”
“Why should this trunk matter to me?”
“He saw her packing its contents into a closet behind her desk before she slammed her door shut and the room has been kept locked ever since, whether she’s in or out of it. No one is allowed to see what’s in that closet.” Teagut shrugged. “I figured anything she protects so carefully might be interesting to you.”
“It is. So how do I get into her office?”
He held out his hand. “That information was free. I’ll expect payment for anything more.”
“Fair enough. But I don’t have the coins yet.”
“Try to pay me before Belland,” he said. “Nobody believes you’ll make it to land.”
It probably wasn’t a joke, but it made me smile anyway. “I’ll do my best.”