- Have you heard the latest news? - Nick tried to enliven the slightly gloomy, still sleepy, morning atmosphere in the tavern "Under the lame gull". Another clear day was beginning and the intrusive sun, easily breaking through the dirty, gray window, mercilessly increased the already considerable headache of Captain Harper, leaning against the wall, with mug in his hand.
- As usual... as usual. - he thought, thinking about that déjà vu-like morning. After all, it was supposed to be different. So much different! When Rob Harper first set foot on a sailing ship (so many years ago, he cannot even count ...) in his imagination, which he never lacked, he saw himself as a great explorer, the terror of the seas, and at least the owner of a large green island, with white beaches surrounded by turquoise, tropical waters. It didn't work out. None of that.
- Just like the others - he consoled himself in thought. Years spent scrubbing the deck, painstakingly climbing up the winding paths of a seaman career. Study, study and even more study, all in order to finally become a captain on the lousy, old, decayed "Swan" after almost 14 years... Back then, "Swan" seemed to be like the pinnacle of dreams - his first ship!
- Apparently the Frenchie with his crew returned alive from the Misty Waters. They say, there are some islands there. - Nick did not give up just because no one showed interest in his "latest news".
After the "Swan" there was "Nixie", then "Siren" and a number of other old and small freighters, when the greatest adventures were visits to a bigger port, where large ships from distant continents landed. And at most. sometimes seen on the horizon, the black sails of extremely fast pirate ships for which Rob's small vessel was too small roach, to change their course.
The morning beer slowly eased the headache, but he suddenly felt a strange tingling sensation in his stomach. Like a kind of anxiety, but also some indefinable excitement! It's strange that such things start somewhere in the stomach, not in the head. But the brain was also starting to work, rapidly increasing pace, and within areas where it had not been active for a long time. The imagination came back to the game, muffling the senses.
- Beer in the morning tastes like a milk! - Said loudly, entering the tavern, bald as an egg, "Shaggy" Ted. - In Viramenco, sugarcane has become cheaper, and they whereas need a few dozens tons of rice to sow. Someone would come with me? There will be enough goods for three ships! One could earn some money folks! Someone asked some question, Ted answered something, someone coughed, someone else yawned, stretching his bones lazily. Harper saw it all, and heard it, but like through a fog - his brain was working at full capacity, absorbing all the attention.
- Islands in the Misty Waters?! - He threw hoarse voice, because suddenly his throat was strangely dry.
- Well, that's what they say ... - Nick gasped, a bit worried about his captain's sudden interest.
Two more seconds... one ... Yep! Rob already had a plan. Just a draft, but of what a plan! Plan of his life!
- With all we have left, buy the provisions for two weeks, six barrels of gunpowder and three hundred canon balls for nine pounders! Fill up all the barrels with fresh water! - Nick didn't quite understand what was happening yet. The others also looked like a bunch of morons staring at the barmaid's bust, after the month-long cruise.
- Come on! Gather the crew and throw overboard all that junk, that lies at the gun ports! Unlock them and grease the hinges to keep them moving lightly! We'll make the new tackles at sea. - Rob spoke faster than usually, though he tried not to show how much he was in a hurry.
- For the hell of opening that doors on the way to Viramenco? You will get the rice wet! - Ted still couldn't get it.
- Boss, but we have one cannon only and it is boarded up somewhere inside the forepeak. What for do we need all these doors, decently nailed a long time ago? - It seemed, it was too early for Nick as well ...
- They'll be quite useful soon - don't worry about that. Send me six men and a wagon to the old Miller's stable. I'm going to pick up the rest of our cannons, ramrods and wads. We're leaving with the afternoon tide!
- Wait a minute! - Ted yelled, suddenly starting to understand.
- You don't want to go to the Misty Waters?! Do you?! - Rob didn't have to answer. The glint in Robert Harper's eye showed it all.
- But Captain! People don't come back from there!, All those Black Ships, Flying Dutchman and the sea monsters! - Nick looked seriously terrified...
- Old Abercrombie said once, a storm drove him beyond the White Reefs. - Said Fat Pete from behind the bar. - Apparently the waves were as big as mountains there, and some unworldly howls were heard from the mist. His crew was so shattered that nothing would ever drag them there again. Not for love or money!
- And the Spaniards? After all, they sail that way! - Rob said, searching his pockets for a coin to pay for his beer.
- Diegos? It is obvious that they are crazy, and besides, has anyone seen them coming back from there? - Ted stepped closer, but he didn't look convinced yet, rather soundly scared.
- What else did the Frog-eater say? - Rob asked, not meeting Nick's huge eyes, as he was already busy, lifting his shoes off.
- Apparently, when the fog cleared a little, they saw some high mountains covered with jungle, and other island on the horizon, and some native canoes. But gray, torn sails appeared from behind the island. The Flying Dutchman - as they say. They immediately made a turn, and drifted into the mist. And that's it.
- That's it ... - Harper repeated. - And that's enough for me! What are you still doing here, Nick?! - He raised his voice and quickly finished the rest of his beer. Nick stood up, but still wasn't sure if it was a joke. Just like everyone else inside the "Under the lame gull" tavern. They were hoping that in a moment there would be a loud laugh and someone would scream: "But you managed to cheat us, man!!!"
- Nick. - The captain said, slightly lowering his voice, but so, that everyone could hear. - There are islands that are not on the maps. ISLANDS Nick! Undiscovered… belonging to nobody. NO-MAN's islands!!! Hurry up! Load up on all that stuff, and make room for the cannons! And ... make it quick!!!
As Captain Harper walked briskly up the hill to old Miler's armory, he could see as the gleam in the eyes starting to spread like a virus. Rice had been quickly unloading from Ted's schooner, and a movement can be seen in the port that no one had ever remembered here.
- Great! He thought, I wouldn't stand a chance only by myself. He smiled broadly. He knew that when he was going back to the vessel ... No! The ship!!! He won't have a problem with getting people to man the cannons!
Unexpectedly one more thought rattled on his mind: should long-range cannons be positioned forward as pursuers, or astern to slow down a chase. After a few steps, he decided that the stern-mounted ones will be most probably far more useful on Misty Waters.
And suddenly, he felt some cold thrill on his back...