Cassim slung himself into a wide chair; leaning back against one arm, cigar already out and ready to light. “So you think you have an idea that can fix… this.”
“Maybe.” Keep calm, Alibaba told himself. “I’ve been talking to a lot of merchants to find out what they see happening here. Now I want to listen to what you know. I’ve got a plan that might work, but I need a lot more information to pull it off. And you might know something that means I’ve got to scrap the whole thing and start over. Though if it’s that bad…” His throat felt dry already. How was he going to get through this? “If it’s that bad, we get everyone we care about together, steal a ship, and head for Sindria. Because no matter how bad things are right now, if what I’ve found out about the Kou Empire is right… things could get much, much worse.”
Hassan had stalked out of yet another doorway, standing behind Zainab so she could lean back against his muscled chest, if she wanted. “Worse than everyone starving, noble boy?”
They know. Alibaba refused to flinch. Fine, they know. Keep going. “Worse, as in all of Balbadd wiped off the map. The Empire has a Djinn.” We think. Never mind, worst case is they do, and Cassim needs to think of that. “Did you ever hear the story about how Sinbad took out part of the mountain range around the kingdom of Sasan?”
That raised a hiss of whispers, even as Cassim’s eyes widened.
Good, I’ve got his attention.
…Great. I’ve got his attention. Panicking now. Argh.
“And you think you’ve got a plan that can fight them,” Cassim said quietly.
“Head on, not a chance,” Alibaba admitted. “But so far, they’re not fighting head on. And I think… I think I know why.” Reaching into his sleeve, he pulled out a map.