Airships of Marrakesh, Part 2

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Author’s note:  I’m posting this unedited, unrevised, rough.  It’s a very, very rough draft, and things are likely to change when it’s all done.  That said, thanks for reading!  I’m going to try to publish a segment every two days.  

 

The tavern was loud, enough so that conversation was work, and Mellira was worried.  She tossed back the dregs of her beer, and immediately regretted it.  The beer was lukewarm to begin with, and the desert heat hadn’t improved anything since it had arrived at the table.  She raised a hand and signaled for a second round.

Janus had been due back hours ago, and the sun had gone down and the lights up with no word from him.  Soon it would cool down, but the heat would be back with the morning sun.

“Jackass isn’t usually late,” said the dark man next to her.  The big oaf is never late, she thought, but kept quiet.  Wiry and lean, Ibben looked like he could cut someone with his cheekbones.  He had the look of a weasel, a convict, dangerous and willing to bite.  “Maybe he finally found a girl to bed down with.”  Ibben’s grin showed small, crooked teeth.

“Not like him, when we have business.  You know that.”  The new beer arrived, and Mellira took a long drink.  It was better cold, but still an excellent brew.  “Did you arrange for loading with the porters?”

“I had Ben do it.  Give him some experience.  Has to learn sometime,” he said.  He was eating, and dipped another piece of bread into the stew in front of him.  Ibben was always eating.

“Ben?  You’re joking, the kid is fourteen! The porters will gouge us on labor costs just on principle!”

“Relax, Mell.  I was standing right behind him while he negotiated.  We got the usual rates.  They’ll start loading at dawn, and we can leave as soon as they’re done.  These spices are going to fetch good back home, I can feel it.”

“Bastard.”  She sighed and finished her drink.  He was good at what he did, and better at riling her up.  But he had a point – Ben, the youngest member of the airship’s crew, had to learn the ropes.

“So, where do you think he is?”  That Ibben was asking her opinion at all showed his worry.  He kept shoveling up stew, but Mellira couldn’t help noticing that his hand shook ever so slightly.

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it.  I’m worried.  If Janus isn’t here, it’s because something went wrong.  And the last thing I want right now is something going wrong.”  She picked at a callous on her thumb, thinking through the options.  Leaving without the captain was out.  But where could he be?  She ran a hand through her red hair.

“He was supposed to be finalizing the agreement with the spicers, right?  Maybe one of them took a dislike to him, and decided to argue for better terms,” she said.  The spicers were still getting used to the new routes, new deals.  Reaching new ports of call was now faster than ever, but airship transport was also more expensive.  The profits, though, were worth it…

“Find him.  They trust you more than the rest of us.  Don’t come back without him.  Deal with whoever gets in your way in whatever way you see fit.”

“As you wish, boss,” Ibben said.  He’d been part of the crew for close to a dozen years, but the desert culture was in his blood.  The son of a weaver, he’d left home before his apprenticeship started, eager to see the world.  He spoke four languages, and had traveled as far east as Japan, both by sea and by air.  Mellira trusted him.  He nodded at her, pushed the last of his bread and stew toward her.  “Eat,” he said.  She glanced down at the food, and when she looked up he was gone.

 

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