“That’s not even close to obvious.”
“Put them up on the rail of the nest.”
Tobias finished buttoning his tunic, then slipped on his boots. “Why?”
“Just do it!”
“Fine.” Tobias did as I asked, then peered down at the deck far below. “You go first.”
“No, you go first. I need time for your formula to work.”
Tobias climbed out of the crow’s nest and after he was down, I followed. I was definitely tired from the long night, but that wouldn’t pass for illness.
I was halfway down the ladder when the captain said, “If you come down, you will immediately fall directly to your knees before me. If you won’t kneel, then climb back up there.”
I paused on the ladder, not because I was thinking over her offer, but because the first wave of a fever struck me. It hit my flesh like opening the curtains in a darkened room to full sun, and the sudden heat in my body was scalding.
That first wave settled in my gut, and I started back down again.
“So you agree to obey my orders?” Strick called to me.
“I need to go to the sick bay.” It was becoming harder to keep my grip on each rung as I descended. Not only was I weaker, but my vision was beginning to blur. It was inevitable that eventually I would reach for a rung that wasn’t really there.
Then I did.
And I fell.
I must’ve landed on or near some crewmen who broke my fall, though I ached so much, I truly didn’t know whether the fall made anything worse for me than it already was. I was sure things were much worse for the people trapped beneath me.
“Stand aside!” Tobias pushed his way forward and pressed a hand to my forehead. “He’s burning up with fever, and that fall did him no favors.” He called out, “I need two men to carry him down to the sick bay.”
“Wait!” Roden entered my field of vision and placed one hand on my head, then looked at Tobias in a panic. “He really is sick?”
I sat up, trying to make myself heard by as many crewmen as possible. “It’s this cursed ship. I wonder who this illness will strike next.”
At those few words, most of the nearby crewmen backed away, leaving Roden alone near me. He leaned in closer. “Is this real?”
“Make a different bargain with her. I will not kneel, not even for you.”
“How did you —” He cut himself off there, then added, “I think I’m getting closer to —”
“Take him to the sick bay,” Strick said. “Tobias, you will report to me within the hour. I want to know what’s wrong with him.”
Two crewmen lifted me and headed toward the lower deck. Tobias followed, but Roden stepped in front of him. “We’ve got to talk.”
Tobias glanced at me. “Not now.”
Roden began to reply, but Tobias quickly pushed past him. As they followed me down, Roden said, “Have you been telling us the truth all this time, Jaron? If you have any secrets that we should know about, there isn’t much time left to tell us.”
“Then don’t waste my time with questions that make no sense.” What time I had left. I felt awful.
Tobias had me placed on a table in the sick bay, then hung out his sign and locked the door. I curled up in a ball to take the edge off the pain, and Tobias began rummaging through his supplies.
“I’m the one who’s actually sick,” he muttered. “I’m the one you abandoned in that horrid crow’s nest, but somehow you’re the one in need of care.”