About 5 months later:
“You’ve been to Balbadd before, Mister Sin?”
“Oh, many times,” the barely-clad merchant said cheerfully, heading for a trail that melded into a road as if he knew exactly where he was going. “The capital city isn’t as big as Napolia in Reim, unless you include the islands. But there’s far more trade going through it. No one needs a license to trade here… well, they didn’t last year. Things have gotten a bit confused in Balbadd since King Rashid Saluja died three years ago, and trying to work it out with letters just made us all scratch our heads! So some of my company came to see what was going on for ourselves.”
“The king died?” Aladdin blinked. I wonder if Alibaba knew that. He talked like he’d been away from here a long time. “Who’s the king now?”
“Abhmad Saluja, Rashid’s oldest son.” Sin glanced at the fields set back from the road, frowning a little at young arrow-leaved plants Aladdin had never seen before. “The Saluja royal family has ruled here for generations. They’ve done a good job keeping their nation out of most wars; they’d rather trade than fight, any day. And most other nations are willing to let them. After all, it’s good to have someplace for people who don’t fit in to go.”
“Who don’t fit in?” Morgiana gave him a sidelong glance.
“If you don’t have anywhere else you can go, go to Balbadd. Or Sindria,” Sin smiled. “I have to say our king got the idea from King Rashid. It means we end up with a lot of troublemakers, sure – but they tend to wipe each other out in back alleys if they’re that bad. And the good people, the ones who are just a little strange, like the ladies who want to be blacksmiths or the young men who want to work silk… well, if where they come from doesn’t like that, we can certainly use them!”
“But if you go to Balbadd because you can’t fit in….” Aladdin frowned. “Then why did he leave?”