In which we continue the adventures of a crew of wayward misfits. As always, this is the rough, unedited, first draft. It could all change when I start editing and revising, but for now, I’m glad that I’m getting an update done every two days. Thanks for reading.
“Did Janus just… get arrested?” Mellira moved to the railing to watch as the guards led the captain away from the air-port and to the palace.
“I believe he did indeed. Wonder what he did this time. Any ideas?” Ford spit in the direction of the departing guards. “Those were the sikh’s personal guards, not city watch. Something is up, and I don’t like it. Janus may not be the most law-abiding man out there, but as I recall he doesn’t usually get arrested by the likes of them. Looks like we won’t be leaving as planned after all.”
“We’ve got to get him out! What we can do?” Mellira moved to the tower, ready to head down to the palace herself.
“Pray to Allah that he makes it out alive,” said Ibben. “The Sikh does not often send out his own palace guards to do the city watch’s work. We should head to the palace, to try to find out more.”
“Gather the crew and make sure they’re all here, ready for take-off. We’ll be ready at a moment’s notice. In the meantime, go see what you can do at the palace!” said Ford. He barked orders at his own crew, and the ship jumped to life. Airmen checked rigging, secured cargo, and took care of the thousand other details that needed doing before an airship took off.
Ibben joined Mellira, and together they ran back to the inn. Their own crew was already packing, ready to make flight on the Twilight. Airmen’s packs were all over the place, bulging with personal items and clothing, and the innkeep looked like he was getting plenty of exercise running food and drink for everyone.
Mellira jumped onto the closest tabletop, and gave a couple of good stomps with her boots. The noise level dropped, and dozens of eyes looked in her direction.
“Ok boys, listen up. Here’s the deal on what’s been going on in our jolly old lives as of yesterday. Slyne is no longer first mate – it turns out that Ruther had other ideas, and has made himself captain. He’s also made off with our Sky Drake. Are we going to take that?”
“NO,” came twenty voices in unison.
“That’s what I thought. In addition to taking our dearly beloved airship, he’s also kidnapped our dearly beloved Ben. What do we think of that?”
“String him up!”, “Shark-bait!”, “Air drop him!” came from the crowd, with numerous hisses and boos added in for good measure.
“Exactly my line of thinking. Now, the last bit of news – Captain’s been arrested on unknown charges.” Another chorus of boos. “Ibben and me are going down to the palace to give the sikh a piece of our minds, and you lads will be on the Twilight, making ready to fly down Slyne’s filthy, lying throat when we give the word!”
Cheers erupted from the crowd, and someone with a sense of humor even threw a cactus rose. Mell took a bow, and stuck the flower in her hair. She leapt off the table, waved to the crew, and slipped out the door into the heat.
“That went better than I thought,” she said. Ibben nodded and checked his knives. “They love you, in their own ways. Probably follow you to Hell if you asked ‘em to.”
“Isn’t that what we’re doing,” she asked. The dark man grinned at her, and gave no reply. Together they made their way to the palace to plead for a life.
Captain Janus was waiting when the guards came for him the second time. He’d decided that dignity was the best option, no matter what the sikh had decided. The time had passed quickly – he judged only an hour or so had gone by. The walk through the palace was much faster this time, with fewer corridors to pass through. The audience in the ornate chamber had changed, but the sikh sat as before on his throne. Janus approached, surrounded by guards and steel, and bowed from the waist when he was told to halt.
“While the evidence seems to be in your favor, Captain, I cannot rule out that you are entirely innocent. Marrakesh is my city, and while in it you come under my rule. As such, I charge you with this task: find the man known as Ruther Slyne, wherever he may be, and bring him back for judgement. With him you shall bring the gold he has stolen. The criminals he associates with may be dealt with as you see fit. You have an airship?”
“Yes, your lordship. Jeremiah Ford of the Twilight has offered his services,” said Janus. His mind spun at the turnaround of events. He had just been set free to do what intended all along. The sikh’s next words brought him back to the present.
“Good. A contingent of my personal guard will accompany you, to ensure that my trust was not misplaced.”
“May I ask about travel expenses, your lordship? Refueling is not cheap, and my crew is already going to be imposing on Captain Ford’s business,” Janus said. The sikh stared at him, and was silent for several minutes. The captain shifted uncomfortably. Finally the sikh nodded and sighed.
“You are correct, of course. Expenses may be deducted from the gold aboard the Sky Drake, provided that I receive an intimately detailed and itemized list upon your return. Now, you may leave. My lieutenant of the guards will meet you at the palace doors with your guard. Your acquaintances are waiting there as well, I believe,” he said.
Janus wondered who the man was talking about. He knew no one in the palace, and surely the man couldn’t be talking about the soldiers that would be coming along. He shrugged and followed his guides, simply glad to be free and alive. The guards with him were silent, only gesturing to indicate direction when needed. He wondered if they were upset at his release. More pressing was the question of what had changed the sikh’s mind. He was sure that the man would have him executed, just for owning the airship that took off with his gold. The small group turned the corner, and Janus saw two familiar forms waiting.
“Mell, Ibben! Damn but it’s good to see you two,” he said. “What are you doing here, I thought you were back at the Twilight?”
“We came as soon as we could, the crew is at the airship and ready to take off. We had to wait a few hours, but finally we somehow got in to see the sikh. He asked us a lot of questions about where we were last night, if anyone could testify to that, what we planned to do, that sort of thing. I think we managed to convince him that you were with us a good part of the night and that you were innocent,” said Mellira, taking a deep breath.
“Let’s get out of here, we’ve been here long enough already,” chimed Ibben.
“Not yet – we’re taking on passengers. The sikh is letting me go on the condition that we hunt down Slyne, but he wants some of his hunting dogs with us. They should be here in a minute,” said Janus. “I wasn’t expecting to walk out of here, and I’m grateful for whatever you said to change his mind. Thank you both.”
“Aww, you can repay us later, captain,” said the redhead. Their heads turned down the corridor at the sound of approaching boots. The lieutenant of the guard, a grey haired man in his forties, was leading four others, all packed for travel. He nodded at the captain, and gave a quick salute.
“Ok, are we all here? Then let’s go, we’ve got a snake to hunt down.” Captain Janus led the way out of the palace’s doors, already thinking of the next steps in their journey.