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Authors: Jacob Nelson

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The Legend of the Phantom

BOOK: The Legend of the Phantom
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The Legend of the Phantom

 

The Story of the Phantom

The Ghost Who Walks

 

 

By Jacob Nelson

 

Original Phantom Character by Lee Falk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pr
ologue

 

Straining against the wall, the masked man pushed against the heavy stone door. Set into the wall, it seemed a natural part of the cave, unrecognizable unless one knew it was there. The more he pressed the more the stone gave and slid. A crack appeared along one side. Slowly the crack widened until it was large enough that he was eventually able to get a finger hold in it. Exerting all of his strength, he slowly pulled it open enough to step inside.

The dust of centuries left a fine carpet across the floor, the fixtures and the artifacts inside.
Lighting a torch, he found himself inside a room filled to the brim with treasures of every kind.

He quickly scoured the
expanse and saw that it extended some distance out beneath the sandy floor of the desert above him.

S
lowly he circuited the room and finally returned to the center of the cavern. He had seen the covered podium placed in a position of importance in the middle of the cave and wondered what it contained under that cloth covering; but left it to the end of his examination of the area.

Carefully removing the dust covered linen that shrouded the item beneath, he discovered a large tome, b
ound in hard leather, with vellum pages. Lifting the book he read the first entry:

Friday, 21 September 1492

“My name is Christopher Columbus, named in part after my uncle and in part after Saint Christopher, the patron saint of sailors and travelers. But I go by Kit… a name which I have been called since I can remember… a name that honors my mother’s English heritage.

“Recently my uncle asked me to be cabin-boy on the ship Santa Maria. The purpose of the trip is to find gold
! …That and a new route west to the Spice Islands.

“Though I am nearly old enough to be enlisted as a sailor myself; he insisted that he have someone he could trust by his side. How could I refuse? But before I could accept, he told me that if I decided not to take the position he would give it to
Pedro do Terreros instead. However, I told him I was honored by the post (which pushed Pedro to the Pinta), and since then have worked hard to show that I am grateful for it...”

His
heart skipped a beat as he took in what he had read. ‘Could it be…?’ he wondered to himself.

Quickly he flipped to the end of the book.
His heart pounded as he found the final entry, clearly written in a different hand than the rest of the book.

“My life began anew on the 1
7
t
h
of February in the year 1535, the day my father was murdered…”

“…
The sea fog engulfed them…”


Despite his ever-growing concern for his son, Christopher (known as Kit in his youth) heeded to the safety of his crew and ordered the sails lowered to half mast as the ship slowly sank into the thickening mist around them. Shortly, even his own crew was difficult to spot. There they drifted along for half an hour while they waited for the fog to lift. With every second wasted, Christopher’s impatience grew.

The emergence of a stiff wind blew past and as the sails billowed, the fog thinned with it.

“Ships!” shouted someone from the main deck. Before they could even be identified, Christopher knew who they were…Singh Pirates… and they had his son!

Christopher realized he had no means to outrun them, and frankly he didn’t want to. Like a wild boar caught in a snare, he was going to give it his all; come what may.

The lifting of the veil of sea fog from before their eyes allowed the Singh to spot them as quickly as they were spotted. Ships were ordered to maneuver into position.

Then the flag dropped and the crack of
cannon fire sounded as the waves of sound bounced off of Christopher’s ship seconds before the blast hit.

Men flew like matchsticks. Railings shattered and those not caught in the cannonball’s path were pierced with shards and splinters of wood and metal.

The sudden surge in motion caused the few that were standing to drop to the deck. Those that were dead or supporting themselves unsteadily by the broken railing shortly found themselves without sure footing and slid off the broken side into the water.

Then as quickly as the sound had dissipated, their cries cut through the ensuing silence as it filled the air again.

A few were caught unaware during a game of chance, a sport that was expressly forbidden during working hours. A dozen of these men were brutally butchered during the opening salvo, like a bolt from the blue, dispatching their souls to their final rest.

The wind that pushed their back, died at that moment and they were
stuck to fight where they were.

“To battle!”

“Return fire!”

Two of the pirates hauled up young Kit to watch the destruction of his father’s ship.

It was at that moment that Christopher saw him. “Son!” he called across the waves. Yet Kit was too far away to hear his father’s voice.

O
ne of the two men that had dragged the young man to the deck allowed his attention to be momentarily diverted from the captive in his arms. Kit used that split second to step into the instep of the other, temporarily crippling him. As the diverted man turned back, Kit twisted and hit him hard on the nose with the palm of his open hand, giving him an upward blow. The blow forced a sliver of the nasal bone cavity into the man’s brain, killing him even before the man had time to drop to the deck. While the pirate’s body fell, Kit sprinted forward and dived overboard as another volley of cannon balls flew through the air.

The sea ran red. Shark fins
sliced through the water looking to feast on the dead and dying.

Kit swam strong, as a monster of a great white brushed passed him, pulled elsewhere by the overwhelming scent of spilt blood. Another smaller shark swam around him and decided to try a nibble
; however, a powerful hit to the nose sent it on its way. As Kit clambered up the side of his father’s ship, the sharks began their feeding frenzy.

 

As if the sharks were a similitude of the fight above, relentlessly the two factions tore at each other like beasts scratching and clawing for dominance.

Seeing his son ‘safe’ on his own deck, Christopher began to respond with more fury than before. For every hole the pirates carved into Christopher’s hull, they returned two that carved theirs. For every volley that came,
two were rained upon the other.

It wasn’t long before Christopher had destroyed the pirate
s’ rudder and burned their sail… yet these ‘brothers of the seven circles’ came on. Cannon fire rained down upon Christopher’s ship and soon his own sails were ablaze.

Despite the flames
, the pirates came on.

With a solid bump the ship he stood upon jolted as his and the pirate
s’ ships were connected and fastened tight. Like a tidal wave unchecked, an onslaught of men came pouring over the sides. They came on with inhuman horrors; brutal for the sake of savagery. Their scimitars cleaved swiftly and viciously.

Yet Christopher would have nothing of it.
He would not give up his ship. He saw his son take up the sword against the scimitar and smiled grimly to himself. Dropping his Captain’s coat to the deck to give his arms more maneuverability, he launched himself into the foray, working his practiced arm against those that stood in his way.

As he fought his way towards his son, one man stood aloof, watching him. The one man that was Christopher’s equal: Kabai Singh.

Laughing out loud Kabai exclaimed, “At last a worthy foe!”

Meanwhile, like an unwavering oak Christopher stood against the onslaught. His well practiced sword singing in his mighty arm as he parted those scurvy dogs like Moses did the sea.

Kabai stepped forward, his opponent elected. As he approached the captain, he scooped up the discarded coat and wore it on his smaller frame, showing his contempt for Christopher’s authority and as a means to infuriate and unnerve his opponent. Whether ‘friend’ or foe, all were threshed before his wrath as he approached the one man that he deemed worthy to fight him.

Kit moved forward to help his father but as Kabai locked swords with Christopher, the sails fell, veiling them in flame
s. The heat of the fire was too intense to move forward and other pirates continued to steal his attention as engagement after engagement wore on him.  

Yet
, through the flames and scorched sailcloth, he could make out the two engaged swords, parrying, striking, blocking.

The rest of Christopher’s crew had been dispatched or were in the process of the same, as more pirates went through the ship and stripped it of its
goods; tossing overboard anything they deemed unimportant so as to make certain nothing was gone through twice. Gone were Christopher’s riches, his personal chests tossed into the boiling sea.

Yet, the fight continued, each a master of his own weapon, each equaled in skill and strength, the one fighting for the destruction of evil, the other attempting to promote the opposite.

The deck itself began to burn as the two continued in their eternal quest, each knowing that the outcome of this fight would decide both their fates. Then, whether by fate or providence, Christopher’s foot fell through a burned portion of the deck, the wood splintering beneath; fire dropping onto the powder kegs below.

Kit looked up in time to see Kabai’s final thrust as
Kabai dropped his sword through Christopher’s neck. His father continued to thrust as life slipped from him. Yet both opponents knew his time had come.

As Kit’s father slumped down, eyes wide as death approached, the Singh released the weapon and turned his back from the man as if he were of lesser caliber
, not staying long enough even to see Christopher’s body hit the deck.

The flames continued to climb, but Kit didn’t care. Leaving his sword in the pirate he had
just dispatched he hurried forward, ignoring the flames that were steadily climbing around him.

Unknown to him, time itself was done with the fight, and like a pestilence
, the inferno raging on the main deck had swept through the remainder of the ship; infecting the hull, the boards and the powder-kegs.

As Kit ran and jumped through the flames, he snatched up his father’s sword, and with a wild cry of “Revenge!” he lunged himself at the retreating form of Kabai Singh
and buried the sword in his back.

At that moment the powder kegs exploded. The ship blew apart into a thousand pieces and Kit was thrown into the sea.

 

Chapter 1

 

...149
2...

 

“My name is Christopher Columbus, named in part after my uncle and in part after Saint Christopher, the patron saint of sailors and travelers. But I go by Kit… a name which I have been called since I can remember… a name that honors my mother’s English heritage.

“Recently my uncle asked me to be cabin-boy on the ship Santa Maria. The purpose of the trip is to find gold!
…That and a new route west to the Spice Islands.

“Though I am nearly old enough to be enlisted as a sailor myself; he insisted that he have someone he could trust by his side. How could I refuse? But before I could accept, he told me that if I decided not to take the position he would give it to
Pedro do Terreros instead. However, I told him I was honored by the post (which pushed Pedro to the Pinta), and since then have worked hard to show that I am grateful for it.”

 

When Kit arrived on the island of Cuba he was amazed by what he saw. The ship had entered on the southwest river and found it deep without any large boulders to impede the sailing. Flora reached right to the edge of the water, giving the appearance that the tide didn’t even exist. The whole of the river was lined with rich vegetation; trees of every shade of green overshadowed the banks and flocks of brightly colored parrots briefly overshadowed the skies. The greater surprise came by way of the people of Cuba. A handful of tribesmen came down to the water’s edge to visit the strangers. They were generally naked, with just a few of them wearing a loincloth. However, they were painted. Some of them were painted over their chest while others only had a few stripes around the eyes, or across the forehead.

One of them caught Kit’s attention immediately as he simply dived into the water and swam to the ship. There was no fear in his eyes, and having arrived at the outer hull of the ship, he simply surveyed the ‘impassable’ tower of wood in front of him and proceeded to climb it.

Kit was one of the two men that helped him over the gunwale onto the main deck. He communicated with them that he was friendly through spoken word and then through signs as he realized they did not speak his language. He was dressed only in a cotton loincloth, and like the others had paint on his face, but unlike the others, his single red paint line followed the tip of his hairline down his forehead, covering his nose and continued to the base of his neck. He was built magnificently and not nearly as dark as those people of the Canary Islands. Instead he was almost bronze.  He was obviously young, probably late teens or early twenties. He called himself Caribo.

Kit liked him immediately. Anyone who had the courage to swim out to such a vessel that was filled with strangers was either incredibly brave, reckless, or both. What wasn’t there to like?

Caribo became the official spokesman for the party, through hand signs mostly, and as the days passed both Kit and Caribo expanded their vocabulary of each other’s language, Caribo instructing Kit in his native tongue and Kit in return teaching the young man Spanish.

The Admiral had gifts laid out, from small trinkets such as glass beads to samples of European food including apples and hard sea biscuits. In return the Cubans laid out a variety of gifts for the ship, and although the native gifts included spices, fish, and some native volcanic ore… the one item the crown required was not among them
— gold.

True, a few of the natives wore ornaments and carried emblems made of the precious metal, but it came to light that the items were acquired through trade rather than mined on their island.

As the crew tarried among the Cuban people, Kit become bored with the ship and wanted to stay on the island. He took it up with his Uncle.

After a bit of weighing the pros and cons of such a venture,
Admiral Columbus agreed. “Keep in mind Kit, that my mission is to find gold and spices enough to make this trip worthwhile to the crown,” he admonished, referring to Ferdinand and Isabel. “So, be careful and learn what you can. We have a lot in the way of trade items, including these glass beads that the natives seem to like so much.” He paused for a moment as if deciding whether or not to let Kit in on a grave secret. “And… I’ve heard that there’s a golden city around here somewhere. The Cubans believe it may be southwest.” His eyes dropped for a moment. “It would be wonderful if you found out some clue that leads to it…” he trailed off.

So, Kit found himself guest in Caribo’s house. There he dropped his supplies and took in his living arrangements.

 

It was on the 1
st
of December, 1492, when Admiral Columbus told Kit of his plans to leave Cuba. Kit implored
his uncle to allow him to stay behind, that he may learn the locals’ language and later travel with Caribo to seek out the city of gold. His uncle deliberated long on it, and in the end gave his permission.

“The situation is a tricky one, Kit. I need to find the city, but
I want to find it for ourselves, not for the Crown. But…”

“But what?”

“But I fear for you. When I’m gone, you will be utterly alone.”

“I am a man now.  I can do this! I want to do this, uncle!”

“Yes,” admitted the admiral, “you are a man now.” He paused while he churned over the many thoughts that flitted through his mind.

With a mighty sigh, he gave his consent. “Fine. Go have an adventure… and Kit…”

“Yes?”

“Above all else find us that golden city!”

So Kit stayed behind while his uncle moved on to Hispanola, founded the outpost of La Navidad and eventually left via the Niña for Spain. As his ship departed, the admiral pondered aloud, “Now what will I tell his father…?”

 

That same night Kit planned to retire early to rest up for the upcoming trip. However, Caribo had other plans for him.

Caribo
steered him first back to the center of the village where a large banquet was displayed that contained a little of everything from the island. Kit was pressed onto a small stool that sat on a palm mat. Caribo sat on the palm mat near him. Kit looked around and realized that only one other person had a stool and that was the chief of the village. Obviously, he had been given a place of honor. He bowed to the people in respect and upon straightening the third time, the people let out a wild welcoming yell. Drums began to beat, creating a rhythmic atmosphere.

A carving of a pregnant woman dominated the center of the plaza and f
ires had been set on the four corners of the square. There they cast dancing shadows across the whole plaza, making the carving seem alive.

Kit sat in awe of it all, but sudden movement to his left pulled his attention from the
statue. Into his field of vision moved thirteen women, dressed only in long grass skirts that hung down from their waists. Their breasts were bare and painted in ceremonial colors and feathers adorned their hair. They wore leggings as well, that were made of strings of shells that fell from their calves and hung down to their ankles.

The
women began a hypnotic dance, their moves gyrating to the beat of the drums, with the spectators chanting together in chorus. The tinkling of the women’s shells gave a lighter edge to the whole experience while the painted chests of the dancing women captivated all of Kit’s attention. As if on cue, the drums stopped and just as quickly as it had begun, the dancing was instantly over.

As the dancers left the stage, a new figure entered.

Now the villagers took up a new chant. Only this time it started as a whisper.

The man was also naked aside from a decorated loincloth, feathers, and paint. The one difference that made him stand out was that he wore a strangely carved wooden
mask, which was in the shape of some sort of animal or demon. Caribo hurriedly explained that he was the zemi, a local shaman. He was there to ask their local deity for a blessing on the food.

Straightaway
the chanting stopped and the zemi presented the chief with a long stick that was about the width of a thumb. Then leaving the stick with the cacique, the zemi hurried away to collect the carving of the pregnant woman. “The figure of the Cemie”, explained Caribo, “The local deity”.

Kit
was in awe. ‘What next?’ he wondered to himself.

Caribo answered the unspoken thought with a point of his hand.
With the shaman holding the Cemie in front of him, the chanting stopped as the chief stood and brought the stick up in front of him. Then placing the stick into his mouth, he abruptly shoved it far inside and whipped it out again in time to avoid vomiting all over it. As he regurgitated his meal the whole place erupted in cheer!

Kit started to stand but Caribo pulled him down. “It is the purging of
impurities of the body and soul,” he made him understand, “to give place for the spirit of Cemie.”

‘Great
,’ thought Kit.

The swallowing stick was passed onto the next in line. One by one the village
rs took the stick and purged themselves.

As the purging took place, naked women s
erved bread, first to the zemi, then to the cacique, followed by the other people. “The sacred bread is a powerful protector,” said Caribo, obviously pleased with the whole ceremony.

Following the bread, fermented mango drink was given to ea
ch member of the tribe, all sipping from the same gourd.

Finally
, the swallowing stick was placed into Kit’s hand by Caribo on his left. Kit swallowed hard and then, dropped the stick down his throat.

He knew he didn’t need the stick. He needed only
to think about how many other mouths that stick had been in to cause him to regurgitate.

As he pulled out the stick
and vomited his last meal, or the lack thereof, the crowd quieted. A woman came and carefully wiped his mouth with the dyed and finely decorated cotton cloth from her sash; her bare chest leaning upon his shoulder. Then, taking a broken piece of the bread, she placed it gingerly into his mouth, caressing his lips with her fingers.

Kit took it all in stride, and slowly chewed as he felt hundreds of eyes upon him.
As the woman finished her part in the ceremony another took her place.

This new woman
brought the gourd to his lips, and tasting the fermented mango, he nearly spit it out, but forced himself to take a swallow. As he did so, she straightened up causing Kit to follow her with his eyes.

A
loud cheer echoed through the village.

Caribo, having finished the ritual
immediately before Kit, clapped his hand on Kit’s left shoulder. “You are now one of us!” he announced.

Then came the feast
. And what a feast it was!

The
Cuban diet centered on wild meat or fish, and there were lots of different fish; and much to Kit’s chagrin, they tended to eat their fish either raw or only partially cooked. However, he shortly found out that the fish wasn’t so bad… as they also ate snakes, various rodents, bats, worms, and birds. In general, any living thing they could find with the exception of humans. Ducks and turtles rounded out the protein side of the meal.

Aside from the meat,
Cassava bread which they made from grated yucca seemed to be the staple of the Cubans. Additionally, this coastal tribe used maize. They also presented squash, beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, yams and peanuts.

Then
there were the fruits and berries. So many different varieties; so many different flavors. Kit could barely stand by the end of it. He was stuffed.

He
needn’t have worried. There was no need to get up, as next came an oral history lesson: the singing of the village epic in honor of the cacique and his ancestors. As the tale was spun, sweet water was passed around to help down the various culinary works.

The tale continued and Kit found himself enthralled with the poem. He didn’t notice the rhythmic accompaniment until later, but then at one especially gripping moment the poet paused. It was then that the
maraca, a piece of hardwood, which was beaten with pebbles, really stood out as the rift in a musical sonata.

Finally
, the night was over, and Kit and Caribo were lying in their respective hammocks. The excitement of the next day was nearly too much for Kit. Though he was well fed and should have been sleeping with ease, he was wide awake.


Maybe I should go over any last minute preparations,’ he thought. ‘Let’s see,’ he continued to himself, ‘I have to get this hammock unstrung… I’ll need to bring the cassava juice with us in a gourd…’ This was a poisonous juice that was squeezed from the cassava root that the locals used to poison the tips of their arrows. ‘…then there’s my father’s gifts of the pistols, …and the espada roperas …’—yawn— ‘…and the…’

And that was the last conscious thought Kit entertained until the following morning.

 

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