Book One: The Cask of Cranglimmering
Somehow, The Flying Fist managed to be on the darkest and dingiest street in a generally clean Heliopolis. It was as though every bit of filth that was swept or washed from the city proper wound up here. Svetlana kept Indigo to her left, near enough that she could reach out and grab his shoulder at any moment, as they made their way down the street.
She repeated her litany of instructions to him as they walked, knowing that Annette had already been over the same ground but wanting to ensure the boy was well prepared. “Mouth closed, eyes and ears open. If I give an order, obey as though your life depends on it.” It just might, she thought to herself.
When they reached the entrance to The Flying Fist, Svetlana pushed Indigo ahead of her. “Open the door, go in, move to the left. If you end up in my blind spot, you’d best get to my good side as fast as you can.”
Indigo nodded, just barely. Svetlana found it odd to not see his normal vigorous nodding and bouncing blue hair. But blending in was essential here, as the stationer’s had been a dead end. She had learned all about second sheets, and that everyone in Heliopolis who bought their stationery from Swan’s had the exact same sort of paper in their homes or offices. And, to top it off, they had none of the journals that Annette had asked her to pick up in stock.
Indigo nudged the door open and leapt immediately to the left. Svetlana followed him in and slung an arm over his shoulders. Rum, sweat, and the coppery tang of blood all hung in the air. The Flying Fist was packed, and the crowd was raucous. She had to lean in close to make sure Indigo could hear her. “If you spot Mirage, let me know,” she told the boy.
At the bar, she ordered two grogs and paid with small coins, having left everything but those on the ship. As it was, she had to fight off the grubby hands of urchins that lingered near her purse even to pay for the drinks. When the bartender handed her two mugs, filled with the warm liquor, she handed one to Indigo and knocked the rims of their mugs together. “Cheers.”
“I thought I saw Mirage upstairs,” Indigo whispered. Svetlana glanced up, toward the balcony. There were voices singing somewhere above, but she couldn’t pick out any that sounded like a bassoon.
“Let’s try up, then. Better than down.”
Svetlana and Indigo made their way toward the rickety staircase that connected the balcony to the lower level, but Indigo stopped abruptly when a topless young woman, her ochre skin splotched with pink welts, moved into his path. She gave him a gap-toothed smile, hand on her hip and thrusting her chest forward. “Looking for something to do, sailor?”
“Not really,” Svetlana answered.
That earned her a scornful look from the woman. “Didn’t ask you, love!”
Her left hand on Indigo’s shoulder, Svetlana crossed her right hand to her left hip. She hadn’t brought a knife, but the woman couldn’t see that with Indigo between them.
“Alright, alright,” the woman said, backing away. She flipped her matted dark hair over her shoulder and went in search of another target.
Svetlana nudged Indigo forward, and they climbed the rest of the stairs unaccosted. When they reached the top, an older woman, skin the color of aged leather, blocked their way. “That one doesn’t want to spend time with my daughter?”
Pulling Indigo closer to her, Svetlana glowered at the woman. “That one is with me.”
The woman squinted at Svetlana, but her gaze fixed on Svetlana’s good eye, and she stepped back. “Oh, the golden-eyed princess of the Air Fleet.”
“What did you say?” Svetlana asked, moving Indigo behind her.
Backing farther away, the woman shook her head. “I didn’t mean nothin’ by it. I just heard of an Air Fleet lady officer with one golden eye. But I must be mistaken. No lady officer would grace us with her presence here.”
Svetlana looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to the old woman. There was enough going on in The Fist that she doubted anyone had heard the woman’s words unless they were paying close attention to her, or possibly if they were already watching Svetlana or Indigo. “That’s right. She wouldn’t deign to set foot in this cesspool. Now get out of my sight.”
Svetlana turned around to move Indigo back into her line of sight. Her heart leapt into her throat when she realized the boy was no longer behind her.
Rushing to the edge of the balcony, she scanned the crowd on the floor below, looking for Indigo’s wavy blue hair, but the boy looked like any of the other ruffians here in the hat she had made him wear. She started to move down the stairs, hoping to find him outside, when a deep bass voice called her name.
Still hoping to spot the boy, she paused for a moment before turning. Something that looked like Deliah’s bright pigtails bobbed in the crowd, and Svetlana sent a silent prayer that it was the urchin girl, come to rescue Indigo from The Flying Fist. Then she turned and smiled at Mirage. “We need to talk.”
In the windy skies of the Republic, it’s not always easy to chart your own course.
When Svetlana Tereshchenko, captain of the airship The Silent Monsoon, catches wind that a cask of mythical Cranglimmering whiskey has been stolen, she and her renegade crew of outcasts fly off in search of it. With the promise of a reward worthy of the cask’s legendary lineage from both the Heliopolis Port Authority and the head of the Kavisoli crime family, Svetlana and her crew embark on a breathless chase that takes The Silent Monsoon from one end of the Republic to the other.
What Svetlana assumes will be an easy search and recover mission quickly becomes more complicated as each step she takes uncovers secrets and lies about the cask and its contents. Now, with an ethereal Ghost Ship haunting their path, friends reveal themselves as enemies and alliances develop with the most unlikely associates. The lives of her crew hang in the balance as Svetlana makes the crucial choice of whom she can trust and whom she should fear.
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