Alibaba didn’t need Jahan’s look to fade back into the shadows of casks that smelled of fresh blood. Dock-masters were the captain’s business, first. The man might decide he wanted to talk to passengers and merchants after, but this was Aden’s ship.
Not sure what I could do to help, anyway, Alibaba thought. This all feels so wrong-
Movement in the fog. For a moment he thought he saw thick dark hair, and angry eyes.
If it was, he was gone in the next curl of mist. But there were definitely people up there, creeping from the shadows to watch a ship come in.
No noise. Why are they so quiet?
He knew why he’d have been quiet, when he’d lived on the knife’s edge. But this was Balbadd’s port. There were always supposed to be ships sailing in, guards couldn’t possibly harass every citizen who pushed their way down to the water to try and find work….
Only they can, can’t they? There’s not enough ships. Not enough at all.
“Tell me you’re not fool enough to draw that,” Jahan murmured.
Alibaba started, and kept his hand away from his knife. “This is wrong. This is horrible.”
“It is.” And there was anger lurking in Jahan’s tone, quiet and deadly as a sand-viper. “The islands must be dodging most of it so far, but when whoever’s choking trade reaches there as well-” He cut himself off, falling silent as a shadow.
Then your family’s in danger too, Alibaba finished silently. We need to know what’s going on. And then… then we need a plan.
What kind of plan would fix this, he had no idea. But there had to be a way. People had done this, somehow – Abhmad had done this in three years, how could anyone hurt all of Balbadd this badly-
Stop. Stop thinking. You’re going to panic. And you can’t.
Stop thinking. Just watch. And listen.
The dock-master puffed his way up the gangplank, guards following with grim faces. “Captain-”
“Aden, of the Waves’ Shadow.” The captain marched forward to clasp his hand as if they were old friends. “Good to see you so quickly, Dock-Master… Shahidi, that’s the name I had, from the last ships I passed. But of course you’re here so swiftly, a man of your diligence could never fail to get the firsthand report of an island whale in Balbadd waters!”