Note:  This is a rough, rough, rough unedited draft of something I’m working on.  You’re essentially getting the fiction feed directly from brain to the word document with no editing or filter in between.  This is a continuation of a work I’m calling Airships of Marrakesh, and Parts 1 and 2 can be found in this blog as well.  Enjoy!

 

“This is bad, very bad.  You have lost much blood.  I have sewn up the wound, but you must take care, and move the arm and shoulder as little as possible in the next few days.” Fahn translated the doctor’s instructions, Arabic to French.  He was pale under his desert tan, and could barely watch while the doctor had passed needle and thread through Janus’ skin.

The trip to Fahn’s shop had been difficult.  Janus was a big man, and the wound had bled more than he’d imagined it could.  Makhi supported him, helped him stumble along, and cursed him in several dialects and languages when he stopped and refused to move.  Janus had passed out soon after reaching the little shop where Fahn sold his goods, waking up only when the doctor had started sewing.  Now he listened, Fahn’s face coming in and out of focus as he blinked groggy eyes.

“Time? What time is it?” They were scheduled to leave just after dawn, and the crew would be worried.  Mellira was expecting him.

“Several hours after dark.  Makhi has gone to find information.  He was worried about you.  You were quite a difficulty to bring here.”  A wet cloth was swabbed over his forehead, and Fahn stepped to the side as the doctor continued working.  A balm was applied over the stitches, followed by several layers of cloth bandages and a tight wrapping.

“I have to make it back to the inn.  Crew needs to know what happened.  Have to make ready for morning.”  Janus tried to stand, and both doctor and shopkeeper pushed him back down at the same time.

“No no no no,” said the doctor, Fahn translating as fast as the words formed.  “The more you move, the longer you take to heal.  You must rest and do as little possible until the cut scabs and closes.  Eat plenty of food, read many books.  But do not move.”

“I captain a bloody airship!” he roared.  All three men paused in shock.  “I can’t afford not to move until this thing heals.  If I did, I would be out of a job faster than my crew downs their beer.”

“Then move everything but your arm,” said the doctor.  “The cut is deeper than you think.  You move the arm, and you will damage your ability to move the whole thing, shoulder included.”

Janus scratched at his chin.  “I might be able to do that.  But I still need to get to the inn and make sure my crew is safe.  Can I walk?  Can we hire a rickshaw?”

Plans were made to hire a discrete rickshaw driver, and Janus ate while they waited.  The shopkeeper had set out a small meal in his tiny kitchen, and the table took up most of the room.  Janus’ big frame left even less space, and everything felt crowded too closely together.  Makhi still had not returned, and Janus was starting to worry.

“He will be fine, I assure you,” said Fahn.  He smiled and plucked a fig from the bowl on the table.  “I hired him because he is good at what he does – finding information.  It is invaluable in this business to know more than your fellow business owners. I will leave him a note to direct him after us.”

“How far is it to the inn from here? It’s been too long since I saw you, I don’t remember the distances.”

“A little less than two miles, I believe.  Not far to travel at all, under cover of darkness.  The city quiets at nightfall, and we will move swiftly.”

“Good.  I’ve got a pistol on the ship, exactly where it will do me the least good.  Teach me to leave the firearms at home before going out in a strange city.”

“Guns draw attention, much more so than knives.  You know this, Janus.  The government frowns on such weapons.  We will have no problems.  Ah, I believe the driver is here,” he said, this last in response to a furtive knock at the door.  Fahn dimmed the lamp, and went to pull open the door.  The rickshaw driver was small, but had no problems helping the shopkeeper lift Janus into the light conveyance’s seat.  A quiet conversation in Arabic passed into the captain’s ear, and they were off.

Marrakesh at night was empty and silent, shuttered and dark.  The residents had all retired, taking advantage of the desert’s drop in temperature to sleep, and very few lights remained.  The one exception was near the air-port, where inns, taverns, and brothels did their business through the night, and the air-port itself where crews caroused on their ships.  The airships’ lights lent a festive air to that district of the city, and stayed a constant reminder that change was here.  The old ways were going, and the new were taking their places.

The inn was still brightly lit, though by now it was nearly midnight.  The main room would be filled with crews from all over the continent, drinking and spending their last coins before heading back into the open skies.  Fahn had the driver pull into the innyard, then sent one of the stable boys to fetch the innkeeper for a small private room.  Half asleep on his feet, the man barely noticed them.

A short time later the shopkeeper and the captain were sharing a plate of olives, and the rickshaw driver had been dismissed with extra coins in his pocket for his silence.  The tread of heavy boots sounded nearby, along with a muttered tirade of profanities, obscenities, and slang filthy enough to embarrass even the most hardened whore.

“That’ll be her,” said Janus, just as the door slammed open.

“What’s the bloody meaning of this…” Mellira trailed off as she took in the room’s occupants and their midnight snack.  Janus grinned and waved, while Fahn looked slightly embarrassed to have played part in her anger, which must have disturbed most, if not all, of the inn’s sleepers.

“You son of a whore,” she said, and let go of the stable boy’s ear. He took his chance and ran.  “That one comes up and starts knocking on my door, quiet but insistent, and won’t go away for nothing.  So I talk with him, but he won’t say why he needs me to go down to the third dining room, or who sent him, or anything useful at all.  You’re lucky I didn’t bring a gun with me and shoot first, question later.”

“Safe is better than sorry.  I apologize if we caused trouble, but your captain felt it better to not pass names around after what he went through earlier.”

Mellira closed the door behind her, and gasped as she noticed the bloodstained jacket.  “What the hell happened?”

“I got knifed.  What’s it look like? I got the guy, but I’ve been holed up at Fahn’s shop while I got stitched up.  Came as soon as I could, wanted to make sure things were good on your end.  Are they?”

“That depends on what you mean by ‘good’.  I sent Ibben out to look for you a couple hours ago, after you failed to show up.  He hasn’t come back yet, nor have I heard from him.  Who knifed you?”

“We don’t know.  Fahn’s assistant went out as well, and he’s not back either.  Maybe he and Ibben will meet in the middle after coming up with half an answer each.  All I know is that he knew what he was doing, it didn’t seem like a cutpurse.”  Janus shifted position in his chair and winced.  He reached up to touch his shoulder, then thought better of it and ate another olive instead.

“Thieves here are generally very good – the punishment for theft is loss of a hand, so the bad ones don’t make it very long,” said Fahn.

“So what’s the plan, then?  Say the word, captain.  Do we just wait?”  Mellira paced back and forth in front of the table, one hand busy with a knife.

“Best for now, yes.  I don’t want anyone getting into more trouble, and we’re already waiting on two people to come back.  The plan for tomorrow is still to fly out as soon as we’re loaded – that cargo is too valuable to leave sitting in Marrakesh for too long.  Once Ibben and Makhi come back, we’ll gather the crew and spend the rest of the night on the ship.  I’d much rather be somewhere I know, where I can see the knives coming.”

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