Authors: David Wood
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Women's Adventure, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Historical, #Thriller, #Travel, #Thrillers, #Pulp
By David Wood and Edward G. Talbot
A lost relic.
A pirate’s treasure.
A mystery from the time of America’s Founding Fathers.
A break-in at Mount Vernon sets Dane Maddock and Bones Bonebrake on an action-packed search for the lost treasure of the most notorious pirate in history, and once again hurls them into the path of the Sons of the Republic. From famous landmarks to secret passages, danger lurks around every corner as Maddock and Bones race to find JUSTICE!
Praise for David Wood and the Dane Maddock Adventures
“Dourado is a brisk read, reminiscent of early Cussler adventures, and perfect for an afternoon at the beach or a cross-country flight. You'll definitely want more of Maddock
.” Sean Ellis- Author of Into the Black
“A non-stop thrill ride triple threat- smart, funny and mysterious.”
Jeremy Robinson, author of Threshold
“David Wood has done it again. Quest takes you on an expedition that leads down a trail of adventure and thrills. David Wood has honed his craft and Quest is proof of his efforts!” David L. Golemon, Author of LEGACY, THE SUPERNATURALS, AND EVENT
“Ancient cave paintings? Cities of gold? Secret scrolls? Sign me up! Cibola is a twisty tale of adventure and intrigue that never lets up and never lets go!” -
Robert Masello, author of BESTIARY and BLOOD AND ICE
“Let there be no confusion: David Wood is the next Clive Cussler. From the accessible writing to the wide-ranging plot to the main characters who don't give up no matter how long the odds, Wood's latest book, Quest, is a tremendous classic adventure. Once you start reading, you won't be able to stop until the last mystery plays out in the final line
.” Edward G. Talbot, author of 2010: THE FIFTH WORLD
Published by Gryphonwood Press.
Copyright 2016 by David Wood
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. All events and characters depicted are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Mark Twain said, “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story” and who are we to argue. As usual, we’ve included many details, both contemporary and historical, that we hope will add to your enjoyment of the story, but we’ve also changed or created a few things for the sake of the story. Thanks for coming along on another adventure with Maddock and Bones. We hope you enjoy it!
David and Edward
May 30, 1431
Jehanne la Pucelle
felt the heat of the flames licking her feet. She stood bound to a pole on a wooden platform resting atop four feet of stacked logs. Beneath and around the logs lay a small amount of straw, just enough to kindle the slower burning wood. The Inquisitors claimed that this precaution contained the blaze inside the circling crowd. The real reason was to avoid having the fumes from a larger blaze render the victim unconscious well before death. Heretics deserved prolonged punishment. It was justice.
Jehanne knew she would suffer, but it would be short compared to the eternal reward that awaited her. She only wished it would end soon. As if in response to this thought, a voice spoke to her.
“Child, it does not please God for you to welcome death.”
Jehanne’s eyes opened at the welcome sound. St. Catherine had spoken to her nearly every day since Jehanne reached the age of twelve, a constant presence who had driven her to lead the armies of the French King Charles VII. St. Margaret appeared nearly as often. Many did not believe that Jehanne truly heard the words of the saints, but the voices had correctly predicted the outcome of numerous battles, including the conflict resulting in her own capture a year earlier.
She heard no reply. Her mind drifted, focusing on the one thing which had increasingly dominated her thoughts in the previous months. Jehanne was protecting a secret; one revealed by St. Michael himself shortly after she began hearing the voices.
On his instructions, she had journeyed for nearly three days. Barely a teenager, she had never previously traveled more than five miles outside her village. Finally, cold and hungry, she stumbled into the ruins of an old stave church. After banishing a group of rats by waving her torch, she collapsed onto a patch of earth in a corner which still retained enough of its ceiling to provide protection from the elements.
The next morning, St. Michael directed her to a hidden staircase of stone which descended to a room, empty save for a single wooden box, the contents of which had shaken her to the core. Could it possibly be what she thought it was?
That worry was not enough for her to disregard the command of St. Michael, so she returned home with her discoveries, brushing aside questions from her father about where she had been. As time passed with no further reference to the box by the voice of the saint, the mystery only served to strengthen her faith in an all-knowing God. She made sure her secret was well hidden, and she waited.
When she was forced to leave home to escape her father’s order to marry a local boy, she waited. When she convinced Robert de Baudricourt and then the King himself that God had charged her with leading the armies of France, she waited. After a glorious victory at Orleans, she waited. After ignoble defeat at Compiegne, she waited.
A lick of flame crackled next to her cheek, and her attention returned to her current predicament. She considered struggling against her restraints, but to what end? The Inquisitors were not in the habit of overlooking a detail such as securing their victim against escape. It seemed to Jehanne that she had spent almost the entire previous year bound to a stake or a wall.
Whenever she remembered her capture, the smell of death threatened to overwhelm her. The battle had left many men face down in the mud, and she had been thrown from her horse just before her army had retreated to the safety of the city. She had landed with her face buried in a putrid corpse. Jerking upright, she had heard a voice speaking the name the English Bishop had taken to calling her.
She hated the name, but that was soon the least of her worries. She had waited in vain for the King to rescue her. Eventually St. Catherine had told her that she should not expect salvation from that quarter. Desperate to escape, she had managed to get to a window sixty feet above a dry moat and throw herself out. She sustained too many injuries to crawl further.
Finally St. Michael had spoken again last month, telling her that a trusted ally would appear to her within a week’s time, and she should reveal her secret. Jehanne’s faith had never wavered as much as it had in that moment. She had spent five months shackled to the wall of her cell, freed only to attend the sham of a trial that had so concerned the Inquisitors. More than once a guard had displayed an unhealthy interest in her, but pursuing that avenue further required unlocking her leg irons. The two scoundrels who had tried it lasted less than a minute each before Jehanne incapacitated them.
The idea that an ally would now appear seemed laughable. Only a true miracle from God could conjure up help in this purgatory on earth.
A week later, the miracle occurred.
Jehanne’s evening meal failed to appear. She didn’t miss the cold broth laced with an anemic dose of rotting vegetables, but her captors had been diligent about meals until now. In addition, she couldn’t fail to notice the absence of the loud steps which usually accompanied a guard making hourly rounds. She did not know the reason for these deviations in routine, but she allowed her senses an extra level of focus on the sounds outside her door and single tiny casement.
The reason presented itself sometime near the apex of the darkness when her cell door slowly opened. So noiseless was the intruder that she almost missed it, but her eyes picked up a change in the shadow thrown by the half moon.
“Who is there?”
She made sure her challenge carried both volume and authority. A hooded figure made its way toward her, finger raised into the folds of the cowl. Jehanne gasped as two gnarled hands lowered the hood.
Jehanne’s tears did not prevent her from responding to a man she recognized as her fondest ally. “Your Eminence. I am your servant.”
A smile encompassed the entire face of Jacques Gelu, the Archbishop of Embrun. “You are wrong, young maid. I am yours.”
“How did you get in?”
Gelu sighed. “Direct as always, I see. I shall endeavor to do the same. For many months, I have sought the King’s ear regarding your fate. When I finally gained a real audience with him, I pointed out the disgrace of having the commander of great French victories languishing in an English gaol. Sadly, he would not be swayed.”
Gelu reached out his hand and caressed Jehanne’s face with a touch as gentle as an angel’s wing. “He fears you, child.” Wisps of gray hair trembled as Gelu shook his head. “You must allow an old man his secrets. It is enough to say that the hand of our almighty Father was involved.”
Jehanne’s gaze settled on his eyes, detecting nothing but affection. “As Your Eminence wishes. Why then have you come?”
“He will not say it aloud, but your power threatens him.”
Jehanne rotated her palms upward inside her shackles. “My power? Tell me what power do you see now? All that I have comes from the Lord.”
“It pains me to say it, but I think that is the point.” Gelu’s voice faded to a mere whisper. “There is even talk that the closing of the gate at Compiegne before you could get inside was done on his orders.”
Jehanne felt her insides become steel, the way they did as she rode into battle. The tears which had accompanied her first sight of Gelu evaporated. Men had told her of the strength they saw when they observed her fair skin and dark hair mounted on a warhorse and riding toward bloodshed.
They have no idea of the strength that is possible with faith.
Her voice remained level and unwavering. “So you came to tell me that I have been abandoned, and there is no hope.”
“There is always hope if one trusts in our Savior.”
“That is true, Your Eminence. Before you go, I have something to tell you.”
He moved his face closer to hers. For three minutes, she spoke in low tones about the existence and location of the wooden box. She told him what he must do with it. When she was done, Gelu’s face had begun to sag. He let out a slow breath.
“But if it is what you say, the faithful should…”
“No! My instructions come from St. Michael himself.”
Gelu hesitated, his lips forming a retort, but he relented under Jehanne’s stare. His eyes fell, his shoulders sagged, and he let out a slow breath.
“I cannot fathom the designs of our Lord. But it will be done.”
“Thank you, Your Eminence. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to be left alone.”
She could tell that her abruptness shocked him, but her decision was made. She knew what she had to do, and she knew how it would end.
She heard a gasp, and it took a second before she realized that it had escaped her own lips. The first real pain from the flames had shattered her remembrance. She cast her eyes over the crowd, full of faces more flush from the bloodlust than the heat. She closed them again quickly, knowing that she would never gaze on anything again in the earthly realm.
Jehanne prayed that the growing pain would end quickly. St. Michael came to her then, and she felt the pain lessen enough that she considered opening her eyes again to see if the fire had been doused. But a deeper part of her knew that she was now in the hands of the angels. She focused on one final prayer.
Please, Lord, protect the box. Whatever it holds is your creation. Let it be one day found by a man whose imperfection is not so great as to render him incapable of using it as you desire.
November 7, 1751
Washington knew the
signal tower was vulnerable the moment he saw it. The British commander sounded proud of the structure, boasting of its height and solid construction. Situated behind the walls of St. Ann’s Fort and within easy sight of the coast, the tower enabled communication with naval and land forces alike.
But it was still a weak point. At age nineteen, Washington had already taken a keen interest in military matters. He knew that heavy cannons could easily fire over the walls and destroy the signal tower. High ground like that was a wonderful thing in war, but only if it was defensible. A single light artillery weapon at the top would protect it about as effectively as a child’s wooden rifle.
Washington had arrived in Barbados with his brother, Lawrence, less than a week earlier. Lawrence was quite ill with tuberculosis, and the tropical climate of the island would restore his health more effectively than a damp Virginia winter. So far the humidity had served only to depress his brother’s energy levels, but Washington still held out hope. In the meantime, he had undertaken to learn as much as he could about the local military structures.
The British were delighted to indulge the young man. Everyone knew that war between Britain and France was coming, and North America promised to play a leading role. A colonial well-versed in proper British military theory would be valuable indeed. Washington approached his research with the same methodical care that he approached everything else in his life. He could see plenty of holes, but he didn’t see any point in offending his hosts.
“Quite an impressive structure. How many men are generally stationed there?”
The colonel twirled the handlebars of his mustache, a carefully manicured fixture of white facial hair which contrasted with jowls flush from some combination of alcohol and the Caribbean sun. “Two under normal circumstances. We rarely see much excitement, but additional runners would be made available if needed. I daresay a single man to manage a fire is sufficient.”
Washington only nodded, taking one final look as the colonel led the way toward the ocean-facing ramparts. The tower was made of gray stone, reaching several dozen feet into the cloudless sky. Stout rungs extended from one sheer wall. An ascent to the top would be easy in calm times, but a man not familiar with them could expect to risk a nasty fall if forced to climb at top speed. Possibly there was enough space at the top for three or four men, but firing even a single cannon in those tight quarters would create some of the same risks ships faced with sub-deck guns. If Washington ever needed to commission a tower such as this one, he’d make a lot of improvements.
The rest of the tour proceeded without any incident of note. Upon return to the house he had secured for his brother’s convalescence, he found his brother mentally alert but physically worsened. Washington steadied himself before speaking to the shell of a man who had once been a vigorous older sibling.
“You’re not looking well, Lawrence.”
A cough preceded the reply. “Never one to dance around the truth, are you Georgie? I know perfectly well that I’m closer to visiting our Lord than I was yesterday.”
“Technically the same is true of all of us.”
“I suppose it is. Tell me, are you still unable to call me anything but Lawrence? I must confess that the formality has worn thin as I ponder my mortality.”
Washington opened his mouth and then closed it. What was the point of a person’s given name if not to be used for address? He could handle analyzing military matters or farming methods, but he had not yet mastered dealing with those close to him. “Do you need anything? I have some matters to attend to after our evening meal.”
Lawrence Washington’s lids drooped. “No, brother, I need nothing you can give me. But I would have you stay with me for a time. Tell me of your doings in the larger world that I fear I shall never experience again.”