I could hardly contain my excitement as I waited for Jericho to set the ship down in the Cairo bay. When I was a little girl my mother used to read me fantastic tales about all of the marvelous wonders found in the land of Egypt and swore that one day we would visit, just she and I. My heart ached for her presence, but I knew she would be so happy to know I made it here, whatever the circumstances.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Jacer holding my locket by its chain. “I think you need this back.” He gave me a tiny smile and put the locket around my neck.
“Jacer are you alright?”
“I’m perfectly functional, Edwina.” He gave me another odd smile and went to assist the crew in the landing.
There was something off about his actions and his reactions; I was beginning to wonder if Jacer hadn’t been permanently damaged in the earlier melee. Aster joined me, dressed almost identical to me in a dress that was both lovely and simple. She was chewing on her bottom lip in a way I hadn’t seen her do in years.
“Aster, does Jacer seem…strange to you?”
Aster jumped at the sound of my voice. “What? Oh I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about h-it, very much. I haven’t thought about it, Eddy.”
“Not you too! What’s wrong with everybody?” I put my hand on my hips and took a good hard look at Aster. Her cheeks turned red under my gaze and she began to get a little flustered. Luckily she was saved having to respond by the reappearance of our beloved Captain.
“Nothing is wrong with anybody, because we are in the beautiful land of golden opportunity!” he said dramatically, waving his arms like he was mid-stage at a grand theater. “I know people here, and you two will be well taken care of so please make the most of this unplanned stop. Who knows when next you’ll be in Cairo, right?”
Aster and I exchanged glances and couldn’t help but crack a smile. Jericho’s enthusiasm paired with the thrill of seeing a new land was almost too much for us.
There was an Egyptian Air Official waiting when we stepped foot off of the ship. He had a large mustache that hung down to his chin and a full head of salt and pepper hair under his uniform cap.
Without waiting for him to question us I strolled right up to him with my cheeriest I’m-just-an-innocent-tourist smile and brought out a handful of bills from the purse I always kept hidden on my person. “Do you take the Queen’s money here?”
The Official’s surly demeanor melted as soon as the money was in his hands. “Of course, miss. Can I get you anything? A coach perhaps? Do you need a guide?”
Jericho stepped between us, his expression hard. “We can manage on our own thank you. Is there anything else you need from us, or can we be on our way?”
“Sorry for the holdup, sir, my business here is finished.” The man sounded like he wanted to threaten Jericho but thought better of it with me still smiling at him sweetly, and then walked away.
“Nice one, Captain,” said Aster appreciatively, taking a good look at the surroundings. “Where do we go from here?”
“We’re all going to stay the evening in Cairo. A friend of mine lives in the heart of the city and he should be able to point me in the right direction of replacement parts for the ship. Chances are that we’ll have to travel to get them, though.”
A slow smile spread across my face and my imagination took flight. All I could see in my mind’s eye were crocodiles swimming lazily through the Nile, the temple at Karnak and its army of sphinx guardians, and of course the great pyramid at Giza in its entire splendor. I was dragged rudely out of my lovely daydream by the worried voice of Jacer.
“Edwina, are you okay? You’re not blinking—I don’t think that’s normal,” said Jacer, inches from my face, his brows etched with concern.
I scowled at Aster and Jericho who weren’t even trying to contain their laughter. “I’m just excited, Jacer. I want to soak up as much of the Egyptian culture as I can!”
“I understand.” Jacer’s little smile was back, only for a second and his face slid right back into that emotionless mask that was really beginning to make me nervous.
“Alright, we’re going to take one coach and the crew will divide themselves up into two more and meet us at the inn later tonight,” said Jericho, leading us to the entrance of the airship bay, beyond which lay the beautiful city itself.
“Wait, Jericho,” I pushed myself to catch up with him. “Before we go meet up with this friend of yours can you do me a favor?”
Jericho looked bemused but nodded. “Anything."
“I want to make the most of our time here…so Aster and I need dresses. Just like the ones the local women wear with plenty of beads to boot.”
“Blending in with the natives, I like it. Your wish is my command,” said Jericho laughing.