“He will live while he remains useful.” Her eyes fell to my leg. “He bought himself extra time when he gave you that wound.”
I shrugged it off. “This? I’ve had worse.”
“It sounds as though it is already getting worse. We retrieved Wilta about an hour ago. She told us there’s a problem with your leg.”
“It’s stronger than ever.”
“Wilta said it’s infected, that it’s beginning to affect your strength, even your mind. You’ll lose the leg if the infection is not treated. Tell me where the Devil’s Scope is, and I’ll give you the medicine to heal that infection.”
“Tobias left a jar of medicine in the sick bay, in an unmarked brown bottle. If you could bring that to me, with one gulp, I’ll be healed. Unless you want it.”
“That is not the purpose of that bottle, though I will force its full contents down your throat if you want its sort of healing.” She frowned and stepped forward again. “Do not take me for a fool.”
A grin widened across my face. “I wish you’d have warned me of that earlier. I’m afraid it’s too late now.”
She paused to look me over, or to study me, really. “You have an answer for everything, a joke in the most serious of moments. Is that how you deal with fear?”
“Don’t assume I’m afraid of you.” I shifted my weight. “You’re constantly trying to figure me out, like I’m an experiment for study. Why is that, Captain? Is this how you try to understand your own twisted mind?”
By now, the captain had edged me all the way to the side of the boat. The water here was too shallow for me to simply jump in. I angled my sword so that the sharper end faced away from me.
At that moment, Teagut’s head popped up from the stairs. “Thanks for keeping watch for me. I had to —” Then he saw the captain. “Oh no.”
She glanced down at him. “So you are the one stealing my coins?”
Teagut pointed to me. “He stole them. I just received a few here and there.”
I looked at him. “Remember when I didn’t break your wrist? You still owe me a favor for that.”
His eyes darted uncomfortably. “This isn’t a good time to discuss that.”
“There won’t be a better time. You know what I came here to find.”
Strick nodded to the Prozarians with her. “Arrest the pirate. Kill th
“King,” I sighed. “I’m a king.”
With that, I rolled over the ship’s railing and swung my legs toward the water, then pushed off from the wood to one of the mooring ropes leading down to the beach. I gripped my sword’s handle, wrapped my other hand around the blunter edge, and tried to remain balanced as I quickly scaled to land.
Tried, and failed.
I was halfway down when the sword slipped and I lost my grip and fell into the water. I was immediately hit by a wave that ripped my sword from my hand. I saw a glint of metal as it sank, carrying with it memories of my childhood, of the night I was crowned king, and of victory in war. In mere seconds, it was gone, never to be seen again. Much as I ached at having to keep swimming to shore without it, I had to keep going.
Because back on the ship, Strick was screaming out orders for the vigils on the beach to come for me. When I looked up, at least twenty-five were headed my way, with their weapons already out.
I still had Darius’s sword, but it didn’t feel right to use it. If it was true that I was no longer a king, then it seemed fitting to have lost my weapon, the sword that had defined me for nearly half my life.
If Strick had her way now, that half of my life was over. And there would be no second half.
By the time I reached the shore, it wasn’t only Prozarian vigils waiting for me. Thirty pirates stood to their left. Most of them were glaring at me, but I figured they were angrier with Captain Strick. I could’ve been wrong about that, however. These were harsh glares, even for pirates.
I first addressed the Prozarian vigils. “I have the Devil’s Scope. Lower your weapons now or I’ll melt it into a teacup.” They looked at one another, and one by one their weapons dropped to the sand.
A few of the pirates advanced toward me, and I raised my forearm with their branding upon it. “Does this still work to call for help?”
“Should it?” one of them asked. “You got Erick killed. And you abandoned all of us on that ship when you sabotaged it.”