“I can fix this,” Roden whispered.
“You can’t —”
My words were cut off when Wilta screamed from inside the captain’s quarters.
“You can’t fix that,” I said.
Wilta rushed onto the deck, the sword still in her hands. “Captain, I beg you to forgive me for having to deliver this news, but everything is gone.”
“The Devil’s Scope?”
“And the first lens. Everything is gone, Captain.”
Roden and I locked eyes.
My options had narrowed until I’d had only one choice left. They had been warned.
Now I only had to hope my plan would work. Considering my history, it likely would not.
But I was still in a far better position than anyone else on this deck.
In the chaos that followed, Fink was able to get close to my side. I leaned over to him and whispered, “Where’s Tobias?”
“He’s in the lifeboat. Sorry, Jaron, I went back for something and got caught.”
I was sorry too. I’d had a plan in mind for myself, but it would have to do for Fink. I whispered, “First chance you get, take the mainsail rope and tie it around your arm. Make it tight. Understand?”
“I rarely understand you. But I’ll do it.”
“Where are the contents of that closet?” Strick asked. Or more accurately, she yelled the question, which was unnecessary. I was an arm’s length away and could hear her just fine. “I demand an answer!”
I eyed Fink, and he quietly began winding the rope around his arm.
Behind me, one of the Prozarians strode forward and belted me across the backs of my legs. I hadn’t expected that and fell to my hands and knees, letting the sting pass.
“I asked you a question, Jaron.”
“Touch me again and I’ll have those items destroyed.” I forced myself back to my feet. “Start telling me the truth and I’ll consider returning the items that are yours.”
“The Devil’s Scope is a valuable —”
“Valuable relic, yeah, I figured it must be, and I have it. So I want answers. Where did you get my brother’s sword?”
“From Darius — I’ve explained that! He sent me with something to convince you that he was alive.”
“Well, it didn’t work. I’m not convinced. If he’s been alive all this time, why hasn’t he returned to Carthya?”
“He’s ready to return now.”
“Darius is buried beside my parents. Whoever you are dealing with is a fraud.”
A false prince. The words echoed in my mind.
“I’ve answered every question as fully as I can. Now, where are my things?” the captain asked again.
“In my control, to save or to destroy. Turn this ship over to me, or I will prove just how cursed it is.”
My request was reasonable enough, but I assumed she would refuse it again. So I called out to the pirates who had already assembled on the deck, “I know what the captain carries in the cargo hold, and it’s enough to sink a half-dozen ships, so imagine what might happen here. But that is not the greatest threat. The Prozarians were crippled by the plague not long ago. If you want to know whether this is a cursed ship, ask yourself if you are not already feeling some of the symptoms of the plague?”