Prologue to Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

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What follows is the prologue to the novel I have been working on in bits and pieces since last fall. I’ve had a lot of good feedback from conversations with others concerning the plot, and thought I’d share the opening pages of it with you.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Feb. 15, 1717 – Somewhere Along the Carolina Coast

 

Gentle waves lapped against a seagull’s webbed feet as he stood on the shore. He was hungry, occasionally poking his beak into the sand to procure a small morsel.

The small waves came from three rivers coming together just a few hundred yards from where their freshwater met saltwater and the open Atlantic Ocean, forming a shallow basin. Offshore, pelicans sat on the waves without a care in the world. Dolphins frolicked nearby along the shore.

Life was easy for this little fella. Quiet. He spent his days around this small island, soaring through the salty breeze, floating in the surf and hunting for food with his friends.

This day was different. Pirates landed for the first, but not the last time in the area, and were hard at work.

A small tribe of Indians had inhabited the island by themselves for hundreds of years before Europeans came in the early 1600’s. The Indians traded some of their land to the white men for some cloth and other trinkets.¬†One of the Europeans had taken up residence along with his family and a few servants on the bank of one of the rivers on the other end of the island. He was the first foreigner to do so.

The pirates did not know about him . . . at this time.

The Spanish Navy was searching for this band of pirates. Two days earlier, these bandits attacked and boarded a galleon a few miles off the Georgia coast bound for Spain. Once aboard, their crew found treasure.

This was a quiet time betweenthe nations vying for land in the Americas. Inland, most of the fighting occurred between European settlers and those whose land they were trying to take away, the Indians. At sea, the two nations were instead fighting over treasure as the golden age of piracy neared its height.

Two years earlier in 1715, a Spanish Treasure Fleet, twelve ships in total, were on their way home from the Caribbean. The ships were loaded with Mexican silver, oriental spices, porcelain and space reserved for private cargoes comprised of silver ingots and gold bars. On the night of July 30, the fleet was struck by a tremendous hurricane in the Bahamas Channel. Crashing waves and howling winds from the east thrashed the fleet against the reefs along the Florida coast.

By morning, eleven of the twelve ships were gone. A French ship, the Grifon, survived, and limped back to Havana with the news. Immediately, the Spanish Navy made plans to salvage what they could of the fleet. When word of the tragedy traveled to the English, they also took up pursuit. Over the next two years, the two sides skirmished over the remains.

Gold and silver were in the water, and it was fair game.

A year and a half later, a galleon bearing gold and silver from the wreckage was on its way home to Spain from the Bahamas when it was attacked by a fierce group of pirates. The pirates took the treasure from the holds of the galleon and stowed it on their ship. As the sloop separated from the galleon with its treasure in board, another Spanish ship came over the horizon.

Many times when pirates attack at sea, they capture the target ship or scuttle it, sending it to the bottom of the ocean. In this instance, they did neither and set the ship adrift with smoke billowing from its decks. The pirate captain did not have enough crewmen aboard to take the ship captive as most of his fleet lay to the south, near Tybee Island.

This newcomer was a larger warship, sent along to protect the galleon. The two ships were spread apart a day earlier when an offshore storm struck. Now the protector ship was returning and pursued the pirates as they made their getaway. The pirates and their cunning new captain were one step ahead of the Spanish Navy. They knew they were out manned and outgunned with the rest of the fleet to the south.

With their faster sloop, the pirates sailed north a little ways into an unfamiliar area. As the crewmen hurriedly buried the treasure on the shore of this island, the captain noted the location on a manifest. As a child, he attended some very well thought of schools in Bristol, England. Not only was he literate — a rarity in those days among pirate crews — he was well read. The pirate wanted to unload the treasure in case they were boarded by the flotilla from Savannah. If he had no treasure aboard, they would have nothing to hold him for. To this point, the young captain had yet to assail any Spaniards. What he did to the English or French was of little concern to Spain.

When he was finished with the location description, he tore the page out of the manifest, folded it, and tucked into his frock coat near his breast.

The seagull watched as the strange men dug a hole in one of the many identical sand dunes. A shadow fell across the gull as it felt hoof prints approach in the sand. Startled, the seagull flew away in search of food in a less dangerous area.

Atop the horse, a man observed the pirates and their activity across the sound. He was alone and knew it would be dangerous to stay on the beach. Before he trotted away, he spotted a black flag fluttering off the back of the pirate’s ship. The flag depicted a white skeleton spearing a heart with his left hand and holding up a wineglass in the other, as if it were toasting the devil.

The ship had a single word painted near its stern: Revenge.

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