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Solo III
Demon World
Part 040

The ship sails south for a week. Out of a sheer desire to keep busy, Gail and Ada have helped Cookpot make gunpowder. This has tripled his production and he is more than pleased. Also the smell of dragon dung has saturated their work clothes, so there are no more Mates trying to sneak into their room. The sea is calm the whole time, but the sky boils with lightning and thunder heads. There are spotty scattered showers. Very isolated, like a lone pillar of rain in the ocean. The electrical storm overhead never lets up. Lightning bolts, sheet lighting, green flashes, even pink flickers. It's mostly silent. Just a continual display of discharges and electric color. At night its positively beautiful. One night leaning over the rail with Cookpot he speaks on the matter. They day's alchemy is done and some of the dragon paste is curing down in the galley. Cookpot notices how facinated by the electrical storm Gail and Ada are. He has also heard that they don't know what ship stranded them there. So he's taken to offering unasked for explanations. "It started twelve years ago with the rivers of fire. Ever since that burning oil took over the oceans we've had this display day an night. But you only really see the colors at night." Green and red flashes play against each other in the sky.

The ship skirts along the coast of a continent then enters The Thousand Isles. Between two continents are islands scattered and packed in close. Like the continents used to be one, was ripped in half, and the islands are the crumbs left over from the tear. Island after island the ship sails on. They all look the same. Green cluster of jungle, surrounded by pure white sand, and briliant blue waters. At the end of the week the gunpowder is done. Thirty charges thanks to Gail and Ada's help. "This alone would have covered you and the old man." Cookpot says. And finaly the ship reaches it's destination. Twenty seven ships are anchored on the west side of an island. All along the beach are huts and verandas made of bamboo and palm leaves. The beaches are covered with people and barrels. Long boats are pulled up on shore. Commerce is happening, and no small amount of celebration. The captain has his boat untied and lowered to the water, before the ship drops anchor. He, Lisa, and the three remaining blunderbuss go ashore. Standing in the front of the boat while it's being lowered down he says to the first mate "Take the powder trades, but hold off on them." He points to Gail and Ada. "Till I'm here to verify the deal."
    "Aye Captain."  The Mate says.

After the boat sets off for shore the first mate Steers in closer to some other ships. There he drops anchor. Boats start comming from the beach and from other ships. Onboard each are some mates, barrels of goods, and the first mate of the other ships. Fierce negotiations commence. They have all kinds of goods, clothing, loot, cargo, weapons, food stuffs, and caged animals for trade. They all want gunpowder. Many of the poorer ones just try to trade for a bucket of raw dung. So they can make it themselves. Trading goes on till late in the afternoon. Once complete the deck of the ship is littered with goods. After the last boat rows away, all the mates come over too Cookpot. The first mate puts his hand on Cookpot's shoulder. "We made a killin." And the rest of the crew erupts with a cheer. "Three times the normal powder ready, and all of it traded at top barrel head." Cookpot is a little flustered and shy about all the attention, but all the mates have to pat him on the back or shake his hand.

The sun is getting low in the sky, setting on the far side of the island. The tree line on the beach is getting dark and large bonfires are springing up. Snatches of singing and carousing can be heard.

"Aboard there!" A voice calls out from the sea. It's a boat with two mates rowing, the first mate out front calling out, and three women in white leathers sitting in the back. "I'm here to trade for the look out!" The first mate of the Profit runs to the rail and answers him. "Turn about. No trade with out the Captain. No. No trade without the captain." Dejected the man sits down in the front of the boat and the mates rowing turn the boat around. The three young ladies just stare at Gail and Ada as the boat turns beneath them. Even as they return to their ship they keep watching.

Another boat comes along side. Two mates are rowing, a first mate is standing in the front, and in the back is one young lady in white leathers. "Aboard there!" Before he can even say more the first mate of the Profit calls back "No trade without the captain!" Undetered the lady in white leather pulls open the lid of a large chest at her feet. In the last of the fading light there is the glint of gold. "Ten thousand peices of gold, and the best look out we have!" The first mate of the profit pauses. He licks his lips. But he answers as before. "No trades without what the captain being here."

Later anther boat with six women, and three lookouts pulls up to trade. After the first mate says "no" a bunch of times, and they finally leave he says to Gail. "I think different ships are pulling together. No on can trade that much." He rubs his chin, steps closer, and speaks softer. "What doesn't float is that Uncle, your old man, refused to come down. Why he even made the Captain climb up there to talk to him one night. Stayed up there all night he did. Don't know what he told him, but in the morning he came down shaken and pale looking. I went over to him and asked if he was all right. You know what he said." The first mate pauses and looks hard into Gail's eyes. "Said to me 'he can see ships at the trading beach' then he went below deck. Didn't come out for a whole day. See that what doesn't float. No one can see that far. No one. But what really surprises me, is all these bucket heads seem to believe him. The captain I mean. Why else we gettin so many crazy offers for that old geezer." The first mate seems to have run out of steam. He turns back to the rail and just looks at the beach. "What are they saying on that beach?"

Two boats come rowing up in the darkness. Most of the goods on deck have been lowered into the hold. The first mate is sitting up on the rail, his feet dangling over. Like a tired man he says "No trades without the captain!" From one of the boats the Captain's voice calls out "Aboard there!" Some lanterns are unhooded in the boats and all the occupants are revealed. The Captain is rowing one boat, and in the other boat is another Captain and his own first mate at the oars. The captain of the Profit calls out "Bad news lads! You gotta haul up all that cargo again. Traded us a new ship. We crew the 'reef cutter' now, and a four master she be!" The crew is stunned. Simply stunned. Suddenly they all start dancing, doing jigs, locking arms, and skiping in circles. The captain continues. "The Profit belongs to Captain Nail now." The first mate unrolls a rope ladder and the Captain catches it. Looking up with a big grin he says "Pack your stuff boys, we're moving up!" Nimbly the Captain come up the rope ladder, swings over the rail, and land on deck. He and the first mate shake hands. They grip each other at the wrists and shake firm, leaning in close, like brothers. "Mate, get our three guests over to the Triangle. The captain there will be expecting them." They let go of each others arms and the Captain comes over to Gail and Ada. "They'll take good care of you on the Triangle. She's the luckiest ship in the world." Then the captain remembers something and turns back to The first mate. "Guzzler, you go ashore after you deliver them. We'll set up the new ship." The captain puts his hand on the first mates shoulder. "And you're gonna need to find us some new mates. That's a right big ship, the Reef Cutter is."

David Michael Grouchy II

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