Author’s note: The past few days have been without an update, and I apologize. Today was rough, because my wife was having car troubles. As always, this is the first unedited rough draft. Thanks for reading.
The walk back to the Twilight was spent discussing the best plan of action for the journey ahead. They would need to take on extra food supplies to feed everyone, and spaces to sleep would have to be found for Janus’ crew and the sikh’s guards.
“I’m still not certain where Slyne could have flown,” said Janus. “We don’t want to end up heading in the wrong direction on a wild goose chase. Are you sure that Spain is his best bet, Mellira?”
“Mostly. Slyne doesn’t speak Arabic, so he doesn’t have many options other than north. Spain also puts the Mediterranean between us, and with a good headwind he can gain some ground on us. If we can, we really need to look into why he went and stole all that gold.”
“Greed? Power? Lust? Seems pretty straightforward to me,” said Ibben.
“You don’t just empty a city’s bank vaults for greed, Ibben. I feel like there’s a reason behind his plan, and if we know what that is then we’re a step ahead of Slyne. Janus, maybe that kid can try to keep looking for information here in the city.”
“Makhi?” said Janus. “Yeah, that might work. I’ll try to talk to Fahn about it before we fly. And you’re right. Nobody makes himself a wanted man like that without good reason. He’s shut him himself out of the Islamic world and put a price on his head. Damn well better believe we’re not the only ones after his hide. We just get first crack because he’s got my damn airship.”
The air-port was bustling when the group go back – several airships were taking off, and enormous freight hauler was gliding in from the west, engines pouring black smoke as the crew tried to manhandle the giant beast to a mooring tower. The deck of the Twilight was packed with crew and crates, and Ford directed traffic with an air of long experience. There was a sense of urgency, but not panic.
“Janus, good to see you back. And you brought friends, excellent. Now we have even less space on the decks.” Ford frowned at the red-uniformed guards and raised an eyebrow. Janus shook his head and mouthed “later”.
“How are we on supplies, Ford?”
“Well, they wouldn’t let me take off without you, so I took a chance and had them load extra barrels of salted meat, lemons, and salt fish, as well as extra coal. We’re loaded to the gills, and it’s going to slow us down, I won’t lie to you. But I figured better prepared for anything is better than nothing. What did you get arrested for, forget to pay a port fee or something? Can’t have been big, you’re already out.”
“Stole the city treasury. Like you said, nothing big.” Janus gave Ford a clap on the shoulder and a grin as he walked past. “If you’re ready, let’s take off. We’ve got a lot of flying to do, and not enough time to do it in.”
He headed back to the captain’s cabin to look over the maps, and was surprised to see the shopkeeper’s assistant, Makhi, already sitting at the desk. The boy looked up and smiled.
“Captain! How are you doing? I have something you might wish to know,” he said.
“I’m good. Surprised to see you, but that’s alright. We meant to send a message to you before we left. What have you got?” He pulled out the maps, plotting the shortest route to Spain as the boy began to talk.
That morning, after returning with no useful information, Makhi had gone back to Fahn’s shop to open for the day. Fahn sold a variety of goods, and that morning had received a shipment of German chocolates. Makhi was sweeping when two white men entered, asking about the shipment. As Fahn filled their order and wrote the invoice, the men discussed the previous night’s burglary of the city vaults.
“Slyne should be well on his way by now. The airship was seen leaving the city several hours ago, and he should be in Berlin in less than a week,” said the shorter, portly man.
“Good, good. And the sikh, what are his plans? He will find it difficult to fly Marrakeshi airships into the Anglo-Prussian Empire.”
“He has been secluded all morning, there is no word yet on his plans. The Sky Drake’s captain was arrested this morning, however. Rumor has it that he will hang. Ambassador, do you really believe this will work?”
“Dear Helmut, what we have here is a clockwork, engineered to work until no longer required to. I have every confidence that things will go smoothly at every step. Ah, our chocolates are ready. Thank you, dear shopkeeper.”
Fahn had sent Makhi to the Twilight as soon as the men were outside. The information was too valuable to risk any delay.
“I think Fahn was right. If that really was the German ambassador, then this might be a lot more dangerous than just a stolen airship and some missing gold. We might be in deep shit, boy.” said Janus. The boy nodded in agreement. The ship rumbled, and suddenly lifted several feet. “Well, I think we just took off. I hope you don’t get airsick, boy.”
On deck, orders flew fast as the airship Twilight was loosed from his mooring tower, and began to gain altitude. Ford directed his crew with a skilled hand, and Janus’ crew stayed out of the way. The engines roared as they received more power, and the Twilight moved gracefully through the desert air on a northern tangent. The captain joined Ford on deck and watched as Marrakesh, domain of the desert kings, slowly faded into the haze on the horizon.
“We’ve got to have a meeting, Ford. I just got some news that you want to hear.”
“How bad is it, Janus? Do I want to be sitting down and drinking when you tell me? I have some excellent whisky saved up that should do nicely.”
“Bring it. Make sure everyone who needs to know is there. We have plans to make.”
Alright. Sounds good. I like plans. Plans are important. That guard captain has been looking for you. I think his name is Odhed,” said Ford.
“Lieutenant. Bring him, too. How’s your crew doing?” Janus scanned the horizon. They were the only airship in sight, quickly gaining altitude and speed. Soon it would get colder, and most airships had storage chests of extra jackets and blankets for the higher altitudes. Most airmen brought their own, but the sikh’s guards would need gear, as would Makhi.