Balbadd didn’t look any better the second time. Still the same few bedraggled fishing ships out in the harbor, one or two captains like Aden who’d decided to try their luck bringing in cargoes, Fan or no Fan-
And one ship Alibaba had never seen before, wood stained red-orange as lacquer, rails dark as ebony, and sails cut to a square that would founder in the wilder seas near Sindria.
Don’t think I have to guess where that one’s from.
Cassim slipped out of an alley like a shadow, fox eyes burning as he stared at the foreign sailors manning the rails. “Imperial merchant ship. Bringing in plenty of goods – if you’re a noble.”
“Is that what that ugly junk is.” Alibaba tapped one of the casks he’d offloaded, taking a whiff of the sweet raspberry scent. “So the court still has trade coming in while the rest of the city starves. That’s twisted.” He met that familiar gaze, hurting at the hate and pain lurking there. He’d just bet Cassim’s gang would try to torch that ship later tonight. Probably after robbing it down to the waterline. And damn it, he couldn’t blame them.
It’s wrong. But they’re hurting. They need anything they can get – legal or not.
If he could just give them a more legal option….“I brought some fruit off the islands,” Alibaba stated. “It doesn’t travel well, and it won’t last long. But it was cheap, and I figured if anyone knew where I could trade it fast for information….”
“Trade.” Yellow eyes narrowed.
“Trade,” Alibaba said firmly. Never mind how his gut twisted, or how much he wanted to say. He had to be strong, the way Cassim was. His brother would never listen if he wasn’t. “I know you’d rather steal than beg. I’m not offering either. You have information; I need it. I’ve got contacts with people willing to slip in here no matter what the laws say, and you need that.” He lowered his voice. “I don’t know if I can fix this, Cassim. But I’ve got an idea. And I know I can’t do it alone.”
“An idea.” Cassim was weighing him with a look, as if the gang-leader were utterly oblivious to Zainab’s dark scowl as she tapped fingers near her hidden knife.
“Kind of like when those thug bastards tried to move in on our alleys,” Alibaba nodded. “If it’s going to work, it’s got to be sneaky, nimble, and hit them from both sides.”