Castle Hills Point, 1580
A tempest raged with violence, frothing the sea amidst angry waves. Upon those a ship swayed first port then starboard, tossing fore and aft. Its timbers barely held. The crew held on as well, seasoned and used to storms, but never one so close to rocks. The strongest-willed remained on deck, peering into the night and watching for anything upon which they could run aground.
“Hazard, three points starboard!” the lookout called.
The helmsman reacted, turning the wheel hard to port and compensating six points on the compass. His palms sweated—a miscalculation would kill them all. A gust of wind came; one he hadn’t anticipated. It pushed the sails too far to port, tipping the masts and causing the ship to list even farther. Luckily, the master sailor reacted with calmness and righted the vessel without taking on water.
“Steady on!” the captain ordered. “We’ll be free of this inlet and on to Newfoundland by morning!” But the storm had another destination in mind for the Drake, forcing it toward shallower waters. Jean Le Sage faltered, suddenly unsure of his route. The seas were too high to judge their breaks and, if miscalculated, the ship would lose its main mast.
Lightning flashed overhead, striking the crow’s nest and sending lookouts flying from their perch. Another strike hit the bowsprit, cracking the heavy timber in half and lighting it aflame.
During a third flash, Le Sage peered northward, spying a natural harbor offering protection from the heavier swells and crippling winds. He made up his mind and pointed the way for the helmsman. The man nodded, turning into a large wave and allowing it to push them along their way.
We’re saved, thought the captain, reaching into his pocket and drawing out two coins. Staring toward the inlet he held them up to his eyes, looking through the golden discs and out through the staring eyes of the skulls minted on the face. He abruptly pulled them away, terrified by the vision he had seen. He turned, screaming a new heading to his helmsman.
The sailor, now gripping the heavy wheel and bracing his legs against its desire to spin freely, stared back at his captain with a look of horror. Another flash from above revealed what the captain had seen. Instead of safe haven, only crippling rocks awaited Drake and her crew.
“Come about!” Le Sage commanded. His voice lost its strength to the storm. “Full to starboard!”
But the wheel would not turn the way he hoped, and the helmsman’s efforts to hold it steady proved in vain. The heavy oak ripped free from his grip and spun hard to port, one of its handles striking the back of his head with force.
Jean Le Sage briefly watched his helmsman bleed out on the deck then unlashed himself from the rail and made his way to gain control of the massive wheel. Another wave tossed Drake, splashing a heavy wave across her deck, cleansing it of both blood and captain. Without human hands to guide her, the galleon rushed into the bay, crashing its hull along a rocky shoal.
Castle Point, Rhode Island Colony, 1637
The storm had mercilessly pounded the peninsula most of the night, shaking the farmhouse and threatening to flood its interior. The family within had barely slept, only offered respite just before dawn. But the rooster crowed and the farmer awakened, ready to start his day despite his lack of rest. Determined, he made his way to Castle Point, named so for the rugged wall of rocks protecting the rich farmland just east.
As expected, the storm had stirred up the ocean floor, revealing new riches and thrust them onto the beach. An ancient shipwreck had been among this bounty, a hulking heap of lumber laying atop the shoal. Seamus Flannigan hurried down the slope, careful not to lose footing atop the slippery rocks. Heedless of the icy waters, he waded out to inspect this offering from God, a gift from providence, just like the name of the founding city of the colony.
As Seamus approached the wreckage, he found what had once been part of the forecastle, a charred hunk of timber floating past. He frowned at the name, reading it several times in his head. Drake.
God had delivered the legendary wreckage of Jean Le Sage to Rhode Island.
He hurried home to Molly eager to share a tale of riches waiting to pluck from the sea.
Together, they ventured down to claim the bounty provided by their lord. They prayed over the riches, a harvest unlike any other they had found. Then they prayed for a different reason, asking for their God to free them from a burden resting alone in an ancient chest. Unlike the others, this was made of lead, heavy and weighing down a portion of the ship itself against the rocks. Husband and wife knelt over it, lifting the lid and peering inside, only to gasp at the evil it contained.
Their prayers that night were a petition, pleading for protection against what would surely prove a plague against their family.