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Frank Moco Author/Photographer
Frank Mosco Author/Photographer
~ Award winning author Frank Mosco again looks to his former home town and favorite old city of St. Augustine, Florida, for the inspiration to create another entertaining novel. This time mixing a bit of history with a lot of fantasy results in a fun read full of mystery, action, and adventure. An exceptional adventure story that transports the reader through time from the 17th century to the turn of the 21st.
~ SCENARIO: In old St. Augustine, Florida an ancient mystery is revealed when a young boy and his three friends (the Lighthouse Gang) find a magic medallion thousands of years old. The revelations of the mysterious relic promps their interest in a legendary pirate and the old St. Augustine lighthouse. Through forces unknown they find themselves lost in a subterranean world in which they encounter strange and dangerous creatures and a long lost Mayan city. Calling on the aid of a beach bum genius, a 17th century pirate, and the medallion's incredible ancient magic, they endeavor to overcome evil forces and events to save themselves, the city and its people from destruction.
~ Prologue ~
~ I have a tale to tell, unbelievable as it may seem. There are many who know it to be true and as many, if not more, who believe it to be just another sailor’s invention. And so I’ll leave it to you to decide after my telling. Just the same, let it be known this is a tale for which I, Daniel Vincent Cross, can personally testify and will swear until my dying day. This because it is my legacy, a legacy that will stay with my children and my children’s children… and a story that has not yet ended.
I’ve told this story many times over the years and it was taken or left in different ways by different folks, many of which thought me to be strange I’m sure. However, let me say this, in my travels about the world I have seen many strange things in many strange lands, but none will have influenced my life and my being as the experience I am about to relate.
So as I sit here now on the far side of the world, years and oceans away from my home, I finally put this tale to paper and pass it on all the while having no doubt it will present a challenge. The challenge however is not in the telling but more in the reading, for it’s not for me to convince you of its authenticity, but for you to convince yourself that there actually exist a world other than that we have come to know and accept. Read my story if you will but as you do please remember that the world you see is only as good as the eyes through which you see it, and the reality you believe is only as true as your own heart. To this I can truly testify.
Now where do I begin to give this accounting in such a way that I’ll not lose your sincere attention? I suppose I should begin at the beginning, as they say, and more specifically with my beginning, being that’s my best experience in the matter, and certainly it would be more convenient for your understanding. However, first there are serious points to bring to light. One being, this is actually a story that began far away and in a far off time, perhaps a thousand, or two, or even ten thousand years ago, depending on your concept of time. I have no way of knowing for sure. Another is for you to realize that where we are going as a people may possibly be where we have already been, and whether you determine that to be good or bad is up to you .
My incredible tale then begins when I was only ten years old, but even that can’t be told without stepping back just a few short centuries. Therefore, I’ll begin and visit briefly the year 1687, not long after Spain had once again gained control over the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida. It’s there we find the extraordinary Captain Thaddeus Hawthorne Cane.
St. Augustine, Florida, 1687
~ “I have sailed, sacked, and drawn blood with the likes of Sir Henry Morgan and others, from Portobello to Maracaibo. Yes, and Puerto Principe, Cuba, Santa Catalina, and as God is my witness never have I encountered such stubborn folk as these accursed Spanish rodents of Saint Augustine. They cower behind the walls of their Castillo like rats in a trap knowing not they have been defeated.”
Such were the grumbled words of the highly agitated and frustrated Captain Thaddeus Hawthorne Cane as he strutted about the aft castle deck of his ship the Jamaican Prince.
Three cannons on the deck below fired successively, spewing a heavy cloud of smoke that swept up, whirled past him, then rose and twisted into the shrouds. The tall robust Captain stood firm, not blinking an eye, savoring the smell of the spent powder as it mixed with the salty heat of late August. He impatiently glared at the fortress across the bay and wondered, would this be the volley that would break their will. He watched as one round fell short, striking just below the crest of the Castillo, lodging itself into the soft shell stone. The remaining two shots of the Jamaican Prince’s cannon however screamed over the top of the high thick coquina wall. From within the protective fortress castle, Captain Cane heard the screams of fear and desperation from the huddled population of the small Spanish town. Then another round of cannon shot exploded from the Alithea, the Jamaican Prince's sister ship anchored nearby in the bay. Again he watched and waited for a signal of surrender.
“Three long days. Day and night. Do these people have no sense? Are they so daft as to fail to hear and feel our guns?” complained Cane.
“Perhaps we should lay waste the town, Cap'n," suggested the Master Gunner from his station on the gun deck.
“I'll not destroy the thing we've come here for, Master Gunner Allen. It's the very town we want. A most strategic base from which to plunder all Spanish trade, a place from which English ships and English soldiers can control the trade routes east of Florida.”
“But have we not taken the town, sir.”
“Aye, we have indeed, thanks in part to the fair share of the cowardly Spanish garrison fleeing into the woodlands. And for sure, our men walk the streets this very hour. Yet I ask of you, what good be it then to have a town with no people? Would you have cannon with no shot and powder? If so, would you be no more valuable or useful than a crab without legs?” laughed Captain Cane.
“Why then the haste, Cap'n? The town's people are hold up in their Castillo, our prisoners for sure, and just as surely to give way to our demands in due time."
“Aye, in due time, and most likely sooner than later. Though it is not my haste, Master Gunner Allen, but more a matter of the wind,” said Cane as he turned and pointed to the southeast. “Yonder, Master Gunner. See yonder from the southeast comes a storm and in front of said storm comes a Spanish fleet up from Cuba. Their journey hastened by a swift wind I'm sure and just as surely to arrive ahead of schedule. We shall need this Castillo and need its guns as well as the guns of all our ships to fend them off, else we risk certain peril.”
As Captain Cane spoke a lone cannon fired from atop the Castillo. The ball whistled over their heads and splashed into the bay behind them becoming just another failed effort by the novice townspeople who were working the gun in the absence of their cowardly garrison. The men aboard the Jamaican Prince burst into laughter until they saw their Captain looking with concern to the south and the Sebastian River. They turned and looked to discover the third ship of their small fleet, the Tristram, sailing toward them. Commanded by Captain Hayward, the Tristram had been anchored near the inlet twelve miles downriver at the far end of the barrier island. She was guarding that southern most approach to the town via the intercostal waterway. Captain Hayward called desperately to Cane with unsavory news as the Tristram glided in beside them.
“Spaniards!” he hailed to Cane and the company of the Jamaican Prince. “Spaniards! Two ships approaching from the south, entering at the inlet! Three others, galleons, rounding the island to close off the bay and our escape! Galleons, sir! Galleons of many guns!”
Upon hearing the news, Captain Cane rushed to the rail shouted orders to Captain Hayward to join with the Alithea then make haste north up the coast to the St. Johns River, there to find safe harbor from the approaching storm and avoid the Spanish fleet.
“We will do the same and join you after we gather our men from the town,” cried Captain Cane. “Should we fail to arrive in due time, sail then for Port Royal. God speed and be with you, Captain Hayward.”
“And to you, Captain Cane,” cried Captain Hayward.
At that same moment the cannon atop the Castillos fired again and the round struck the water a mere few feet from the hull of the Jamaican Prince. The townspeople were quickly improving their command of the gun, Cane concluded.
“Master Gunner Allen!” he called without missing a beat of confidence.
“Aye Cap'n?” answered his gunner.
“Master Gunner, I want one round into the town to recall our shore party and a final round to end the misadventures of that accursed gun atop that damnable fortress,” ordered Cane.
“Aye, Cap'n,” replied a smiling Master Gunner Allen. “I'll take that bloody gun out with one shot or by me mum's own blessed heart I'll be bringin' me self down to no more than a powder monkey, sir.”
“Fair enough,” smiled Captain Cane in return, but it was a smile quickly lost when he again surveyed the distant sky to the southeast. He was not so much concerned about the approaching Spanish ships now as he was the weather. His Jamaican Prince was known throughout the Caribbean for its speed and could easily out run the bulky galleons. He was however concerned with what loomed on the horizon, growing and moving quickly, a monster ignorant and uncaring of all manner of ships and men or the source of their flag. Cane’s many years in this part of the world caused him to know this well and know full well what this storm could do. It was a hurricane, the deadly curse of the warm waters of this part of the hemisphere, and it was moving faster than any storm he had ever seen, its dark clouds reaching around the sea to the north like the huge monstrous tentacles of a hungry killer squid.
Allen's first shot landed dead center of the town and immediately Cane's men began heading for their boats. About that same time, a hardy breeze rushed over the barrier island and across the bay catching the rigging of the Jamaican Prince and causing the ship to sway. This in no way hindered the talents of Master Gunner Allen however, as he and his gun crew sighted their weapon. Gunner Allen's smile returned as he gauged the sway of the ship.
“Right then, on the up-roll we'll do 'er, men!” he yelled, and at the height of the ship's upward pitch he laid his fire to the gun.
All eyes were on the Castillo as Allen's sure shot blasted the gun and its haphazard crew to perdition.
Cane nodded approval then looked to the mouth of the bay where in the distance he could see the Tristram and the Alithea had safely cleared the inlet, entered into deeper open water and were turning north. He then looked to the town where he saw his ships company boarding their boats and hastily rowing for the Jamaican Prince but behind them he saw members of St. Augustine's Spanish garrison began filtering back into the town and rushing to the safety of the Castillo.
“Ready all guns, Mister Allen,” Cane called down to the deck.
Allen looked up with concern, knowing well that Cane only called him Mister Allen when there was serious business ahead.
“Ready all guns!” repeated the Master Gunner to his gun crews. He then leaned over the ship's rail and looked across the bay to see the returning Spanish garrison entering the Castillo. He realized they were sure to be far better gunners and far more accurate with the fort's remaining cannons than the townspeople before them. Serious business indeed, he thought.
Cane looked back to the south where he saw the two approaching Spanish ships. "Mister Englehart!" he called to his first mate.
“Get the men aloft and to all stations as quickly as they come aboard! I need sail, Mister Englehart, and I need it swiftly!”
“Aye, sir,” replied Englehart, locking eyes with his concerned Captain.
“The gates of hell are about to open Mister Englehart and may God help us,” stated Captain Cane as he looked toward the storm.
First Mate Englehart turned and looked at the distant storm then to the two Spanish ships approaching from down river. Turning to the ships crew as they climbed aboard he yelled, “Quickly there, men! Get your souls aloft, make sail and then make peace with your god whatever he be, for this day may yet be the devil's own and our very last.”
The first crewmember to climb and reach the top of the mainsail looked across the bay and over the island opposite the Castillo and town where he spied out at sea a monster storm rushing for the mainland. Riding before the storm, in full sail, raced three Spanish galleons soon to reach the inlet channel to the bay and St. Augustine, and sure to cut off and confront the Jamaican Prince. The trap would not only submit Captain Cane and his ship’s company to the merciless guns of the incoming fleet but the large cannons of the Castillo as well, now in the more capable hands of the returning garrison.
“Ships approaching the channel!” he cried down to the Captain.
“What are their number?” shouted Cane, looking up to the heights of the mainmast.
“Three, Cap'n!” replied the crewman. “Three big gunners, sir!”
“Mister Allen!” called Captain Cane.
“When we come about for the inlet channel,” he pointed, “I want a full starboard volley on those ships there approaching at the edge of the town from the south. Then after we come about let loose the entire port side guns on the fortress. Then reload quickly Mister Allen. We have company waiting at the far side of the channel and little time for pleasantries.”
“Aye, sir. Consider it done, sir,” replied the Master Gunner. Allen turned and addressed his gun crews to strike up their collective heartbeat. “You were born of a gun you salty bastards, drinkin' black powdered rum 'stead of mother's milk. Yer soul is a barnacled marvel of myst'ry and yer heart long lost to the witch of the sea. Fightin' men says I! Fightin' men are we!”
“Fightin' men! Aye!” rose the feverish echo of the men of his gun crews. “Fightin' men are we!”
“All starboard and port guns to the ready!” ordered Gunner Allen as his cannon crews hustled about preparing their guns.
The two Spanish ships filed up the river then spread and sailed abreast each other as they approached the town and entered the narrow bay. Their strategy was to attack the Jamaican Prince from both sides and blast her into the depths. At that same moment, the Jamaican Prince began her turn. Captain Cane would need the better part of the small bay to come about, all the while knowing the ship would not be out of the deadly range of the guns of the Castillo, and possibly even become trapped between the fortress and the fast approaching galleons yet to arrive. Allen's gunners were their only hope to get out of the bay and escape into broader safer water.
Bringing his ship about Cane gave his gunner the order. “When ready, Mister Allen!”
Allen gauged the distance to his targets and picked an angle that brought both the Spanish ships into the line of fire.
“From for'd to aft on my command, men. Hold. Hold. Now FIRE!” yelled Allen.
The forward most gun fired first followed successively by the others with most all shots finding their target. The two Spanish ships bore off, struck and wounded but not defeated. They began taking in sail, obviously anticipating trapping the Jamaican Prince in the bay where they expected their galleons would enter the channel around the north end of the island to close the trap.
As the Jamaican Prince continued her turn, Cane could see the busy garrison atop the fortress running up their four large guns. Anxious but steady, Captain Cane called down to the gun deck, “First to strike would do nicely, Mister Allen.”
“Aye, sir,” replied Allen.
As the Master Gunner plotted his assault, Captain Cane rushed to the wheel to help the struggling helmsman. The wind was beginning to gust and the water was getting rough. Cane was growing concerned that they would be unable to beat the exceptionally fast moving storm to the shelter of the broad river to the north. Studying the distant sky, he was beginning to think it unlikely they would even be able to reach the deeper sea before the galleons entered the inlet ahead of them.
“FIRE!” came the Master Gunner's order over the sound of the rising wind through the rigging.
Again the guns of the Jamaican Prince exploded in smoke filled fury. Atop the Castillo men screamed as they fell to the wrathful impact of Allen's accurate guns. He had done well. All the big guns of the fortress were hit but one, leaving a single functioning gun crew atop the Castillo. The surviving crew scurried to recover, set and fire.
“I count one gun coming on us, Cap'n!” warned Englehart as he studied the activity on the fort through a telescope.
“Aye, one too many,” replied Cane.
The sky clouded over becoming a dull gray and though they had the blessing of the tide, a whipping rain and robust wind had begun and was working against them. The Jamaican Prince had made its full turn and was heading for the channel and the freedom of the open sea beyond. Just the same, Cane was a well wary and seasoned Captain who took nothing for granted. He knew quite well the dangers and destructive power of the three galleons rounding the far side of the island, and of course the dangers of the storm, that untimely curse of a storm. To turn back and drop anchor in the safe harbor of the small bay might save the ship but most assuredly it would result in a death sentence for him and his crew at the hands of the merciless Spanish. An alternative neither he nor his crew would accept. Their only chance, he concluded, was to reach deep water and run before the storm, to use it to escape and let it push them north or at worst to beach the Jamaican Prince further up the coast and away from the enemy. There they could escape across land to the refuge of their other ships.
Just as Cane turned back for a last glance at his lost prize St. Augustine, there came a final cannon blast from the top of the Castillo. The black ball ripped through some of the ships sail, bringing down a yardarm and a portion of rigging on the starboard side. It crashed into the water, dragged along the side of the ship, and when cut free by the crew, some of the tangled line swirled under the water and caught on the Jamaican Prince's rudder. Though it was still possible to steer it was extremely difficult and became even more so as the fouled debris extended and dragged the bottom of the channel slowing them as if they were dragging an anchor.
Distant cannon fire drew his attention and Cane looked out to discover the three galleons fast approaching the north end of the island. The ships were far out of range and firing only a warning to demand his surrender. Captain Cane could only laugh as he looked up to his sails, hoping to soon sail clear of the inlet before the wind would do to them what he knew the Spanish could not. He could see they were too far distant and not a threat, but he could also see the rising rough white surf pounding the beach of the island. Further off shore an even rougher rising sea was following. In short order the galleons began having difficulty and started adjusting sail in an effort to fight the wind and avoid being beached or even sunk. Indeed, they were no longer a threat to Captain Cane and the Jamaican Prince at all, now they were only sailors in peril, struggling against a storm the likes of which he had never seen. A storm moving swiftly with increasing sustained winds and powerful gusts that played with the Spanish ships and crews as though they were mere floating toys.
The fast changing wind, the fouled rigging beneath the ship and the oncoming tidal surge suspended the Jamaican Prince in the channel of the inlet between the bay and the open sea. As she floundered, the crew began to look to the shore with the anticipation of running aground then seeking safety inland. Cane squinted through the driving rain and caught a glimpse of the largest of the three galleons. She was top heavy by design and made even more so by exceeding her limit of deck guns. The storm had come upon her so quickly that her crew had little or no time to compensate and take in enough sail. The ship surrendered to the merciless weather and the uncompromising wind forced her to lay aside until finally it rolled her over and pushed her toward the beach. Cane knew the grinding surf would break her up, tossing the crew and guns at will.
When he looked back to the other galleons he discovered there remained only one and assumed the other had already capsized and surrendered to the raging sea. He watched as the final galleon was thrown helplessly about, being drastically raised and lowered by the frenzied massive offshore waves rushing toward the mainland. It was at that moment he viewed a sampling of the truly awesome power of the storm when a spiraling gust of wind blew down across the Spanish ship and literally tore away her masts and full rigging, sending the debris careening wildly through the sky and over the island. The flailing sea then rolled the ship repeatedly until it ran aground with a broken back and breached hull. Though Cane could not hear the desperate cries of the Spanish seaman above the sound of the storm, he could certainly imagine them as they most assuredly met their death.
When the deadly storm overcame the Jamaican Prince the crew came to accept their fate. In the punishing rain and ripping wind some crewmembers simply held tight to various parts of the ship, hoping beyond hope they would somehow survive, while others knelt and prayed, surrendering to their fate. Master Gunner Allen held to one of his guns with one hand and looked up to his Captain on the aft castle offering a smile and a farewell salute with the other. He then suddenly disappeared when a huge wave crashed over the deck.
Captain Cane stood firm at the wheel as he watched his men and ship surrender to the storm. But for fate and want of a few more minutes, he thought, they might have cleared the inlet, reached deeper water and run before the storm. But then again no, he concluded, not this storm, not this devil sent hellish fury. As he resolved himself to losing both his ship and his life, Captain Thaddeus Hawthorne Cane looked to the sky where he thought for a brief moment he saw a broad bright flash of light and a large bird, a bird seemingly unaffected by the storm and oblivious to the wind.
Suddenly his ship lurched and twisted, its sails ripping and careening off into the darkening sky. Her lines snapped like bullwhips in the wind, and her rigging pulled apart and disappeared into the beating rain. A massive whirlwind engulfed the entire Jamaican Prince, spinning it counter clockwise, literally lifting it out of the water. The scene and the sensation were overwhelming as Cane's mind raced through ships, ports, and people he had long forgotten. How long this phenomenon took place he wasn't sure, for now he was beyond himself and not even sure if he was still of this world. Then, just as suddenly as it was torn from the water, the ship was slammed down and imbedded deeply into a sand bar, breaking and breaching its hull, its sails and mast torn away along with most of the crew. Cane was thrown to the deck, striking his head. Everything around him slowed to a surreal vision of destruction and death. He saw once again a great flash of light just before his mind went black, just before he was swept away by an angry, violent, unforgiving sea.