I never thought Balbadd would be this big.
Still chewing on a few soft eumera snapper bones, Morgiana looked over the canal by the hotel, trying to sort out the city’s dizzying mix of sights, sounds, and scents. The sea itself was a stronger scent than she ever could have imagined; fish and salt and dead plants and shellfish and who knew what else.
All that water you can’t even drink. It’s… strange.
The whole city was strange. Enormous, in a way oasis cities never could be, and so green; even bits of greenery in the poorest alleys, here and there. No dunes would march over unlucky villages in Balbadd’s reach.
Morgiana crunched a bone between her teeth as Aladdin made funny faces at Masrur, her tongue thoughtfully twirling shards to get any last marrow-flavor out before she swallowed. I thought that when we got here, I could walk the streets, like Qishan. I know Alibaba’s scent; in the desert, I could find him. Here? I’d have to have a fresh trail. And it’s so big!
So much bigger than Qishan. Yet despite all the chaotic differences, one thing hadn’t changed.
Fear, Morgiana thought, seeing again the worried glances in near-empty marketplaces. The people here are afraid, and helpless with it. Like Qishan.
But not all of them. It was curious; so strange she almost hadn’t recognized it, in the way one of the guards who’d accosted them had been casually hanging back, the careful looks of some of those in the strangely empty markets sizing up clothes and road dust to figure out where she’d come from, the odd pride of the maid who’d cleaned their rooms as she jangled bits of steel and copper in a hidden pouch. Aladdin hadn’t seen that, and he wouldn’t have been able to hear it. Morgiana had.
Many of the people here looked beaten; some of them were broken. But some… some were just acting.
I don’t have Alibaba’s scent here. Morgiana’s eyes narrowed. But I know who breaks invisible chains.