Waiting for word from Ayyam about her mistress’ plans to take down Yodfah. Check with Yakub for jobs; none. 3 days pass then Khalid approaches orphans to be porters for someone for some cash. Siblings arrive to see the deceased is Ayyam.
Which might not mean anything. There could be any number of reasons under Zakhara’s hot sun as to why Ayyam hasn’t gotten back to you since your midnight meeting in the garden three days ago.
You spent those days well. First, was the return to Huzuz. Fate was with you as the gate’s main inspectors weren’t there, so no one looked too closely at your wares. Of course, getting the materials, including two large treasure chests) into the house and not noticed by Aunty was much more difficult, but it happened without incident. Since Akeylah had not been home for a few days now (where had she gone, anyway?), you stored most of it in her room. You’d deal with her when she came home.
After midnight of that day, you spent most of the rest of the day resting, not moving far from your home, anticipating a messenger from Ayyam. Aunty asked several times if you all were unwell, or if you were in trouble and hiding out…it was great to be able to answer without lying. You hemmed and hawed, but there was no need to deceive. You spent the day puttering around, having whispered conversations about what was likely to happen, what the fallout would be. While your ideas covered the gamut of possibilities, you never heard anything.
The next day, you knew you couldn’t spend it all at home doing nothing again, so you came up with a rotation whereby there was always at least one of you at home to greet Ayyam’s inevitable messenger, while the rest of you did what you normally do, find odd jobs for money. Your barber friend, Yakub, had promised to keep an ear out for any possibilities, and while you made sure to check with him, he apologized, saying he had nothing to report but that he would be sure to let you know if he heard of anything that might lead to some money.
Some dock work, some messenger running…but no matter who was “on guard” back at the house, nothing.
Who knows? Maybe Ayyam’s mistress had to contemplate the ledger’s contents for a day or two? Maybe things were progressing and you just hadn’t heard about it? Not unlikely; after all, it’s not like people of your station would be on a tight need-to-know list.
Day three and still nothing. You all started to get worried about what was or wasn’t going on. Aunty was worried about Akeylah‘s continued absence, and it’s not that you weren’t, but you figured she could handle herself; what wasn’t clear was what in the Land of Fate was going on with Ayyam, that ledger and Yodfah. Was he still at large? If so, and he knew your identities (from the slaves that survived your attack on the Sakina Falls complex), were you safe? Was Aunty?
Paranoia, nervousness, fear…things were getting highly stressful in Aunty’s household. The lovely woman was sure your attitude had to do with your missing sister…you felt bad that you couldn’t tell her the real reason behind your concerns…but now you were wondering…who else knew about the Sakina Falls attack? And what were they planning??
Mid-afternoon, and Khalid has shown up at your house. Something is happening in the warehouse district. A young man needs porters for a funeral. It’s not a lot of money, but since he can’t do it all by himself he thought he’d see if you were interested.
You all exchanged glances. You all privately wondered how Fate was intervening in your lives this time. Something was gnawing deep within each of you, but none of you said it aloud, afraid that would make it true. Unable to resist, you agreed and followed Khalid, afraid of what you were going to see.
There was a large crowd around a young man, wailing in sorrow, but your eyes weren’t on him, not yet. No, they were fixed upon the body, already wrapped in linen. Your hearts felt heavy in your chests and pits opened up in your stomachs, threatening to swallow you up. Whomever had prepared the body had not shut the eyes. They stared up at the sky. Lifeless. But still beautiful. Still utterly unique.
Still the most surefire way of identifying Ayyam.