The strident cry broke over the morning like a blast of the arctic air that had been at their heels since dawn.
"Where away?" The Captain raised his spyglass and swept the rolling vista before him.
"To the starboard, Cap'n. Thirty yards off the bow. She's lying dead in the water."
"Making repairs?" the First Mate asked as he joined his captain at the rail.
Catching sight of the unknown vessel lying off their weather beam, the captain shook his head. "Don't see anyone on her decks." He raised his eyes to the crow's nest. "What do you see, Haggerty?"
"Nary a soul moving on her, Sir. Looks deserted," was the boyish reply.
"Ghost ship," the First Mate mumbled, crossing himself.
"Stow that talk, Mister!" the Captain snarled, shoving his First Mate aside as he strode away. "Mister Tarnes!" he called out to the Second Mate, who was at the helm, "bring her about. Let's see what we've got over there!"
"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" the sailor replied and swung the brass-rimmed teak wheel in a lazy arc to starboard.
Genevieve Saur pushed away from the taffrail of her brother's brigantine, The Wind Lass, and strolled on legs well accustomed to the rolling dip of the seas, to the quarterdeck where her brother and his First Mate were arguing. A smile dimpled her small face and she thrust her hands into the pockets of the cords she wore when on board her brother's ship.
"You going to board her, ain't you?" Mr. Neevens, the First Mate, was growling.
"Aye, we're going to board her!" Genevieve's brother growled back.
Neevens shook his shaggy gray head. "Not this old tar! I ain't going aboard no ghost ship." He screwed up his weathered face and stuck out a pugnacious jaw to emphasize his point. "I ain't boarding no ghost ship!"
Genevieve grinned when her brother cast her a furious glance. She shrugged in answer to his silent plea for help. She watched his gray eyes harden with pique.
"We're going aboard her, Neevens, and that's the end of that!" Weir Saur shouted at his First Mate. He fixed his winter gray eyes on his sister.
"Naturally," Genevieve replied, eyeing Neevens with a pretend look of admonishment. "I don't believe in ghosts."
"And what about beasties?" Neevens snapped. "You afraid of them, missy?" The old man held her gaze, his whiskered chin thrust out, his watery eyes steady.
"There are no beasties on that ship!" Weir shouted. "Ghosts, either!"
"You'll see," the First Mate shot back. "You'll see!" He spat a thick stream of tobacco juice over the rail and squinted at his employer. "You come back without a head attached to them smug shoulders, Cap'n, we'll see who was right about beasties and such! You ever heard the tales of the NightWind?"
A vicious crosswind, aided by a troubled sea that was beginning to show signs of a coming blow, heeled the Wind Lass over on the starboard tack. Cold waves broke over the knightheads, shot high in the air, and dropped with a roar onto the forecastle as the brigantine made for the unknown vessel.
"See?" Neevens grumbled. "NightWinds don't like to be bothered!"
Looking windward, the Captain frowned and his voice was a curt bellow as he looked up into the shrouds. "I want those topsails close reefed." He turned his eyes down to his sister. "I don't like the looks of that sky."
Genevieve turned her head and saw what had her brother concerned. The sky was a mottled gray; darker streaks of yellow were shot through the lower section of sky, making the flesh of the horizon appear bruised and sickly.
Weir nodded, his mind on the nimble-footed sailors scurrying up the rigging. "Take in the topgallants while you're at it!"
The Wind Lass slipped effortlessly over the heaving waves, a steady hand at her helm. She slid in beside the unknown vessel and dropped anchor, riding the sea with a rolling pitch that left no doubt as to the turn of the weather.
"You going with us or not?" Weir asked his First Mate as the old man peered cautiously over the distance between the two ships as though something would lurch across the spans to take hold of his scrawny body.