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Solo III
Demon World
Part 035

Eventually the boat gets close enough. The guy in the look out nest starts pointing. He looks like he his shouting but, as astral dragons you can't hear any sound. You just see his lips moving. The crew on deck can hear him fine. The cards are put away and everyone starts to drift over to the port side. The look out puts both hands to his mouth. The captain looks up then looks out toward the boat. He opens his mouth and waves at someone. The mate runs over and hands the captain a telescope. He raises it and looks. A moment later he must have said something because the bluderbuss come off the shoulders and the mates start pulling rope pegs out of the sides of the ship and holding them like clubs. The captain keeps looking through the telescope. Gail says something to Cookpot. "Your captain sees you." Cookpot stops rowing for a moment. Then looks over his right shoulder. The ship is small in the distance with two masts. He looks back at Gail and keeps rowing. Back on the ship four men carrying the gunpowder weapons run to the sides and drop their aiming forks in slots just emptied. The blunderbuss are mounted like oars in an oar lock. As astral dragons you can see them call over their shoulders. Other mates are already holding fuses to a lantern. This lantern is kept lit, even in the daylight. It hangs from a hook on the forward mast. They run the smouldering fuses to the gunners and hand them off. The men with the blunderbuss are ready.
    "Why would they want to shoot you in the back."  Gail says.
Cookpot reflexively ducks. But he keeps rowing. Then his eyebrows furrow, and he stops. He pulls the oars in, turns around, and ducks. "Cause of you." With just his head exposed he looks for a few moments. "I can't see that far." He looks over his right shoulder at Gail. "How can you?" He looks back. "Bah! Captain needs the gunpowder. He'll shoot you maybe. That'll be just fine." He starts rowing again. Back on the ship the astral dragons see the captain lower the telescope and say something. All the mates laugh. He raises the scope again. Cookpot continues talking. "Shovel all the dung alone. Do all the rowing. Take all the risk. Cook the stuff up. Not going to be shot today. Not yet. Maybe you will." He nods to Uncle. "Don't do nothing stupid." Cookpot isn't rowing any harder than before, but there is sweat on his brow. The fact that Uncle, Gail, and Ada are so calm just makes him more edgy. "You were shipwrecked. What else to do. Leave an old man and his neices on an island with nothing but dragons. Or take em with us. Can you pay a ransome old man. Would anyone pay to have ya'll back? You better be worth something. Too much risk. This isn't good. This is just no good." On the ship the captain hands the telescope back to the mate. He bellows out some words and gestures to get down. All the mates duck behind the rails, except the four with blunderbuss. The captain smiles and chuckles. "Relax." Gail says. "He's just having some fun with you. How could he possibly see us two girls and an old man as a threat." "We'll see about that. Expensive fun that is. Isn't funny at all. We're gonna have words. The captian is gonna get an ear full." The ship is looming large now and a few more strokes will bring the boat alongside. The Ships rail is only about four meters above the water line. The entire bottom of the ship is visible in the clear waters. Barnacle encrusted and trailing green plants. Cookpot pulls in the oars, stands up, and turns around. "What's the big idea. Under the gun. We got something good here Captain, we..." Upon hearing his title the captain interupts. "Shut up cookpot! They are your problem. You will cover em with your split." The captain turns to the Mate standing next to him. "Bring em up." He turns back to Cookpot. "And besides Cookpot. They couldn't hit you at that range. And you're not worth the shot. You know how much powder costs. You of all people." The captain places both hands on the rail and leans over. The better to yell at Cookpot. "Pickin up cast-aways is a bone head move. Specially for you. You should have left the geezer. Women are good luck. But you better tend em. Cause dead women are bad luck. Eh?" Cookpot grumbles under his breath the whole time. He rows the boat along side. The Mate unties a knot and lowers an arm. On the end are two block and tackles rigged with rope hook. He walks further down deck and lowers another arm. It too has a two blocks with hooks. In the middle he unpegs four ropes and lets out the loops in them. He passes them through a wooden eyehole with a cut in the top. Then he lets them slide through his hands to lower the hooks on each block, and the blocks lower down to the boat. Cookpot takes one and and hooks it to the front left side of the boat. Then the other to the front right. Uncle catches on and hooks the other pair on the back. He uses only his left hand, and makes it look easy. Better that than let the blocks swing around and maybe hit him.
    Cookpot calls up to the ship "Oy!  Heave away."
The dragons can see four of the men get up from hiding behind the rail and take the ends of the line. They pull together with a little chant. "Hup, hup, heave." You can hear it from the boat, as its starts to come up out of the water very slowly. "Hup, hup, heave." After quite a while the boat comes level with the rail. The blunderbuss cover you all. The dragons see all the hidden mates watching the captain. The captain raises his hand and holds it for a second. He waits for Cookpot to start running at the mouth. Then he drops his hand sharp and fast. All the mates stand up with a shout, and lean over the rail with glaring faces. Cookpot lurches backwards and falls down in the boat, causing it to swing on its ropes and bump the side of the ship. He is so startled that he almost fell out. Even though the three of you saw it coming, you couldn't help but tense a little. The four blunderbuss are calm and have cold looks in their eyes, still covering each of you with their weapons. Just waiting for you to twitch. The crew erupts in laughter. The older mate who first lowered the beams speaks over rukus. "Come on Cookpot. We're just having some fun with you. It was the captain's idea. He doesn't take to these thinkin any promises you made to them hold water." And he holds out a hand to Ada and says "Come aboard lassie." Ada takes his hand and steps up gracefully on the rail of the ship. She hops down on the deck landing on both feet, still holding his hand. Gail puts both hands on the rail and hops over without any help. Ada looks at Gail and snatches her hand away from the mate. Some of the crew chuckle at this. Cookpot starts handing over bulgy canvas bags of droppings to the crew. Uncle watches from the boat, with his arm behind his back. The first mate has noticed that Uncle is hiding one hand and just watches him. When the last bag is off the boat a couple of mates help Cookpot to the deck. Uncle stands up in the front of the boat alone, arm behind his back, and addresses the captain. "Captain. Permission to come aboard." There is a long uncomforatble silence. The captain sizes up what he considers an old man. "There's no room for fancy pants on my ship. What can you offer, or what can you do?"
    "I can see farther than any man on that ship."
The captain grunts and laughs at the same time. It comes out "Gufaw." He shakes his head, not impressed. "Prove it." He says. "I saw you looking at us with the telescope, order your men to the ready, and warned Cookpot that you were about to have him shot." Uncle tilts his head. "Didn't you see him duck down through your glass? I ask you. How many men can see that far." The captain looks to the mate with the glass. Then he rubs his chin thinking. He looks out at the ocean in the direction the boat came from. Then he looks back at Uncle. "What else did you see?" Uncle points with his visible hand. "I saw four mates light fuses on that lantern." He indicates the lantern hanging on the forward mast. "And bring them to these men." "That's bloody good." The captain says. "Let's just hope you aren't afraid of heights." He turns to the First mate. Let him on board." With that Uncles steps up on the seat of the boat with his right foot, onto the rail with his left, and grabs the rope ladder going to the aft mast. With one hand, and nimbly, he climbs up. He really is wiry for such an old man. In a dozen heart beats he is to the top and standing in the look out nest.

David Michael Grouchy II

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