“How do you feel?” Tobias asked me.
“Horrible.” I took a few more deep breaths, each one sending fresh pain to my lungs. “It’s not only the water; I’m sick.”
A few of the pirates around me chuckled, and when I looked back at Tobias, he held up the bottle of medicine he had created to fake an illness. “A heavy dose will cause nausea. I hoped it would be bad enough to make you spit out all that water.”
back on the ground, still shivering. “I don’t know whether to thank you first, or to curse you.”
“I saved your life, Jaron. So did they.”
For the first time, I realized it wasn’t just Teagut around me, but all the pirates who had been expelled by Roden after I lost the fight to him.
Teagut shrugged. “This is where Fink has been hiding. After he was caught, he told Roden about this place with a lava tube so far underground he couldn’t see the bottom of it.”
“Ever since last night in Trea’s hut, I knew the second lens would send you underground,” Tobias said. “I studied the geography of the land while I was in hiding, and Roden asked the Prozarians a lot of questions about their search of Belland, and —”
He sighed. “Roden and I figured you’d be the one chosen to go after the third lens, and that if you came back to the surface again, this was probably where you’d be. He claimed to have caught me trying to free Amarinda from the prison, giving me this reason to escape and wait for you here.”
I’d known very little of what Tobias was doing, but Roden’s part in this plan was no surprise. Back when he’d put me in the crow’s nest, Roden and I had agreed that he would make the Prozarians believe that he was giving them what they wanted. Even when he was crying in front of Wilta about having failed me, he was leading the Prozarians in the direction he knew I would want.
I said, “Roden claimed he injured you.”
“Oh, he did, and it might be serious.” Tobias turned his head to show a tiny cut mark on his cheek, barely more than a paper cut. “Don’t laugh. It really hurts.” He added, “Roden also banished the pirates here, so that they’d be waiting to pull you out if you appeared. Which you did.”
“With your face down in the water and unconscious and somehow still gripping that sword,” Teagut said. “It would have drowned you if the water wasn’t pushing you upward so fast.”
My attention fell to the sword. I hadn’t realized it was still in my hand. If I had to say goodbye to my old sword, I couldn’t imagine a finer replacement.
Suddenly, I sat up, patting wildly at my pockets. “Where is it?” I mumbled.
“Where is what?” Tobias asked.
“The lens? Did you lose the lens?” Teagut leaned over the water hole behind me and peered in. When he saw nothing, he rocked back on his heels to glare at me. “You cannot have been this foolish!”
I continued searching through my pockets until ending at the one in the right leg of my trousers. With my brows pressed low, I looked from Teagut to Tobias. “The lens should be here.”
“There?” Teagut snarled. “You should have known it would fall out!”
“Well, I didn’t exactly have time to plan my escape!” I gestured toward the water hole. “But if you want to swim back down and search for it, go ahead!”
One of the pirates behind Teagut lunged at me, swiping me across my jaw. “Search him!”
Three other pirates followed his lead, digging through my pockets until Teagut and Tobias pushed them off me. Tobias shouted, “You won’t harm your king!”
“Roden won the duel,” said the man who had hit me.
With Tobias’s help, I stood, massaging my jaw. “If you want treasure, then take it from the Prozarians who brought you here.” The grumbling stopped … or at least, quieted a bit. “Return with me now, and if you get me back to the cave before sunrise, I promise that you will be rewarded.”
The pirates continued moaning over a treasure that now would never be theirs, but several of them did hurry ahead. Tobias kept his arm around my shoulders to help me walk and Teagut joined him on the other side. But we had only taken a few steps before Teagut said, “Without the lens, you have nothing to bargain with after we return.”
My brow pressed low with sincere concern. “I know.”
Tobias frowned over at me. “Then let’s hope nothing else goes wrong.”
Teagut sighed. “We know you, Jaron. Something always goes wrong.”