The pigeon keeper knocked on the door of the Captains’ sitcheashun hall and handed the tiny message to Captain Mae Eks. She scanned the few syllables and then climbed the stairs to the widder’swalk and lifted a set of far-lookers from the hook by the door. Aesh came hard on her heels, carrying her knee-desk locked down tight over her papers. She wrenched the door open and the rising wind howled past them, laden with wet grit.
“Where on the Earth are they all, Aesh?”
“Well, mum, don’ know rightly.”
“That was from Aymerkromy. He ‘n Kupepah ‘f seen no sign ‘o em. Not even their air-sails…”
“Cloud’s blowin’ in fast, mum.”
“Yas.” She raised the lookers, scanned the horizon. The widder’swalk had no glass in it the way it would have, at home so she braced against the wind that blew moisture in from the sea. The sun here was brutal on the roof of the walk and she could feel the pressure of the heat radiating down from above. “Have Cap’n Buonson’s hidden toys been set?”
“Yas’m, though we had t’ use some o’ the new-caught under Gilly-watch tah build ‘em.” Aesh snapped the legs of the desk down and set it behind the knee-wall. His ancient old face showed neither approval nor disapproval as he stepped back, squinting against a violent gust that nearly blew off his improvised head-cloth. His tunic was fine green foxcotton with dark brown trousers. The age of the garments was visible from the depth of colour. “We’m waitin’, mum.”
“Looks like we’re getting’ another storm, Aesh. If I were a religious woman I’d say something foolish. What is that? Four in the past week?”
“They’re standin’ offshore, that’s obvious but… where?”
“Mum…” the slave’s old voice was soft. “Did Sojer Barnes idear of giving up their slaves ‘n tryin’ tah bluff it out as trade—“
“—Shut UP!” She spun and would have slapped him except for his long-practiced duck. “Jess shut up, y’old fool! Buonson hanged him! Him a free Fehinnan. He’d draw yer guts out and tow you behind a ship with ‘em! Shut up.”
“No one at all s’ gonna hear us up here mum.” Aesh stood, stolid, hands crossed at the small of his back.
“When they come in, we’re set to fight, Aesh. The High Priest’s son invested most heavily in this ‘un. Not givin’ it up.”
“Of course, mum.” The first heavy drops plowed into the sandy beach with sounds like spit on a griddle, hissed up to the sandy garden and then hammered on the roof of the sitcheashun. Aesh had the desk folded up and she brushed past him to clatter down the stairs.
Aesh followed, quietly, palming the folding knife into his trouser pocket, picking up the ‘lookers Mae had discarded. I promised Omaymay not tah go cuttin’ the girly’s throat, he thought. Jeddi’ll do that ifn it comes tah it. I promised Jeddi I’d take care o’ the boy fer him. Ifn t’ time’s right.