Inca Gold by Clive Cussler
Dr. Shannon Kelsey: A respected archaeologist, a woman of fierce independence and beauty, her passion for the great ancient mysteries has brought her to the mountains ofPeru, where she stands on the threshold of an astounding discovery-- and on the verge of death. . .
Joseph Zolar: Within a labyrinth of legitimate business enterprises, he has created a vast international empire built on illegal trade in antiquities. Now he has set his sights on the ultimate prize-golden antiquities worth almost a billion dollars-- and from his lavish headquarters he coolly signs the death warrant of anyone who dares to challenge him. . .
Cyrus Sarason: Zolar's brother and partner, he takes a more personal, up-close approach to the family business. And when fortunes are at stake, he prefers to get his hands dirty-- often putting them to lethal use. . .
Tupac Amaru: Feared as a revolutionary but driven by greed, he has cut a swath of destruction throughout the hill country of the Amazonas, his cruel black eyes as empty as his heart-- but after a savage encounter with DIRK PITT, Amaru dreams only of vengeance. . .
David Gaskill: An agent for U.S. Customs, he specializes in tracking down smugglers of art and artifacts.
Living only for hot jazz and a hot case, he loves the game and the intrigue-- and now has the opportunity of a lifetime-- a chance to penetrate and smash a powerful crime family. . .
Congresswoman Loren Smith: Stylish and seductive, with knockout violet eyes, she has happily succumbed to the mesmerizing charm of DIRK PITT. But she becomes hostage to Zolar's greedy scheme-- a pawn in a brutal game that threatens to turn deadly. . .
THE MYSTERIOUS INTRUDERS
A Forgotten Sea
They came from the south with the morning sun, shimmering like ghosts in a desert mirage as they slipped across the sun-sparkled water. The rectangular cotton sails on the flotilla of rafts sagged lifelessly under a placid azure sky. No commands were spoken as the crews dipped and pulled their paddles in eerie silence. Overhead, a hawk swooped and soared as if guiding the steersmen toward a barren island that rose from the center of the inland sea.
The rafts were constructed of reed bundles bound and turned up at both ends. Six of these bundles made up one hull, which was keeled and beamed with bamboo. The raised prow and stern were shaped like serpents with dog heads, their jaws tilted toward the sky as if baying at the moon.
The lord in command of the fleet sat on a thronelike chair perched on the pointed bow of the lead raft.
He wore a cotton tunic adorned with turquoise platelets and a wool mantle of multicolored embroidery.
His head was covered with a plumed helmet and a face mask of gold. Ear ornaments, a massive necklace, and arm bracelets also gleamed yellow under the sun. Even his shoes were fashioned from gold. What made the sight even more astonishing was that the crew members were adorned no less magnificently.
Along the shoreline of the fertile land surrounding the sea, the local native society watched in fear and wonder as the foreign fleet intruded into their waters. There were no attempts at defending their territory against invaders. They were simple hunters and foragers who trapped rabbits, caught fish, and harvested a few seeded plants and nuts. Theirs was an archaic culture, curiously unlike their neighbors to the east and south who built widespread empires. They lived and died without ever constructing massive temples to a race of gods and now watched in fascination at the display of wealth and power that moved across the water. As one mind they saw the fleet as a miraculous appearance of warrior gods from the spirit world.
The mysterious strangers took no notice of the people crowding the shore and continued paddling toward their destination. They were on a sanctified mission and ignored all distractions. They propelled their craft impassively, not one head turned to acknowledge their stunned audience.
They headed straight for the steep, rock-blanketed slopes of a small mountain making up an island that rose 200 meters (656 feet) from the surface of the sea. It was uninhabited and mostly barren of plant life.
To the local people who lived on the mainland it was known as the dead giant because the crest of the long, low mountain resembled the body of a woman lying in wakeless sleep. The sun added to the illusion by giving it a glow of unearthly radiance.
Soon the lustrously attired crewmen grounded their rafts on a small pebble-strewn beach that opened into a narrow canyon. They lowered their sails, woven with huge figures of supernatural animals, symbols that added to the hushed fear and reverence of the native onlookers, and began unloading large reed baskets and ceramic jars onto the beach.
Throughout the long day, the cargo was stacked in an immense but orderly pile. In the evening, as the sun fell to the west, all view of the island from the shore was cut off. Only the faint flicker of lights could be seen through the darkness. But in the dawn of the new day, the fleet was still snug on shore and the great mound of cargo was unmoved.
On top of the island mountain much labor was being expended by stone workers assaulting a huge rock. Over the next six days and nights, using bronze bars and chisels, they laboriously pecked and hammered the stone until it slowly took on the shape of a fierce, winged jaguar with the head of a serpent. When the final cutting and grinding were finished, the grotesque beast appeared to leap from the great rock it was carved upon. During the sculpting process the cargo of baskets and jars was slowly removed until there was no longer any trace.
Then one morning the inhabitants looked across the water at the island and found it empty of life. The enigmatic people from the south, along with their fleet of rafts, had disappeared, having sailed away under cover of darkness. Only the imposing stone jaguar/serpent, its teeth curved in a bed of bared fangs and with slitted eyes surveying the vast terrain of endless hills beyond the small sea, remained to mark their passage.
Curiosity quickly outweighed fear. The next afternoon, four men from the main village along the coast of the inland sea, their courage boosted by a potent native brew, pushed off in a dugout canoe and paddled across the water to the island to investigate. After landing on the little beach, they were observed entering the narrow canyon leading inside the mountain. All day and into the next their friends and relatives anxiously awaited their return. But the men were never seen again. Even their canoe vanished.
The primitive fear of the local people increased when a great storm suddenly swept the small sea and turned it into a raging tempest. The sun blinked out as the sky went blacker than anyone could ever remember. The frightening darkness was accompanied by a terrible wind that shrieked and churned the sea to froth and devastated the coastal villages. It was as though a war of the heavens had erupted. The violence lashed the shoreline with unbelievable fury. The natives were certain the gods of the sky and darkness were led by the jaguar/serpent to punish them for their intrusion. They whispered of a curse against those who dared trespass on the island.
Then as abruptly as it came, the storm passed over the horizon and the wind died to a baffling stillness.
The brilliance of the sun burst onto a sea as calm as before. Then gulls appeared and wheeled in a circle above an object that had been washed onto the sandy beach of the eastern seashore. When the people saw the unmoving form lying in the tide line, they approached warily and stopped, then cautiously moved forward and peered down to examine it. They gasped as they realized it was the dead body of one of the strangers from the south. He wore only an ornate, embroidered tunic. All trace of golden face mask, helmet, and bracelets was gone.
Those present at the macabre scene stared in shock at the appearance of the corpse. Unlike the dark-skinned natives with their jet black hair, the dead man had white skin and blond hair. His eyes were staring sightless and blue. If standing, he would have stood a good half-head taller than the astonished peo
Trembling with fear, they tenderly carried him to a canoe and gently lowered him inside. Then two of the bravest men were chosen to transport the body to the island. Upon reaching the beach they quickly laid him on the sand and paddled furiously back to shore. Years after those who witnessed the remarkable event had died, the bleached skeleton could still be observed partly embedded in the sand as a morbid warning to stay off the island.
It was whispered the golden warriors' guardian, the winged jaguar/serpent, had devoured the inquisitive men who trespassed its sanctuary, and no one ever again dared risk its wrath by setting foot on the island. There was an eerie quality, almost a ghostliness about the island. It became a sacred place that was only mentioned in hushed voices and never visited.
Who were the warriors in gold and where did they come from? Why had they sailed into the inland sea and what did they do there? The witnesses had to accept what they had seen, no explanation was possible. Without knowledge the myths were born. Legends were created and nurtured when the surrounding land was shaken by an immense earthquake that destroyed the shoreline villages. When, after five days, the tremors finally died away, the great inland sea had vanished, leaving only a thick ring of shells on what was once a shoreline.
The mysterious intruders soon wove their way into religious tradition and became gods. Through time, stories of their sudden manifestation and disappearance grew and then eventually faded until they were but a bit of vague supernatural folklore handed down from generation to generation, by a people who lived in a haunted land where unexplained phenomena hovered like smoke over a campfire.
March 1, 1578
West Coast of Peru
Captain Juan de Anton, a brooding man with castilian green eyes and a precisely trimmed black beard, peered through his spyglass at the strange ship following in his wake and raised his eyebrows in mild surprise. A chance encounter, he wondered, or a planned interception?
On the final lap of a voyage from Callao de Lima, de Anton had not expected to meet other treasure galleons bound for Panama, where the king's wealth would be packed aboard mules for a journey across the isthmus, and then shipped over the Atlantic to the coffers of Seville. He perceived a trace of French design in the hull and rigging of the stranger trailing his wake a league and a half astern. If he had been sailing the Caribbean trade routes to Spain, de Anton would have shunned contact with other ships, but his suspicions cooled slightly when he spied an enormous flag streaming from a tall staff on the stern. Like his own ensign, snapping tautly in the wind, it sported a white background with the rampant red cross of sixteenth-century Spain. Still, he felt a trifle uneasy.
De Anton turned to his second-in-command and chief pilot, Luis Tomes. "What do you make of her, Luis?"
Tomes, a tall, clean-shaven Galician, shrugged. "Too small for a bullion galleon. I judge her to be a wine merchantman out of Valparaiso heading for port in Panama the same as we."
"You do not think there is a possibility she might be an enemy of Spain?"
"Impossible. No enemy ships have ever dared attempt the passage through the treacherous labyrinth of the Magellan Strait around South America."
Reassured, de Anton nodded. "Since we have no fear of them being French or English, let us put about and greet them."
Torres gave the order to the steersman, who sighted his course across the gun deck from under a raised trunk on the deck above. He manhandled a vertical pole that pivoted on a long shaft that turned the rudder. The Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, the largest and most regal of the Pacific armada treasure galleons, leaned onto her port side and came around on a reverse course to the southwest. Her nine sails filled from a swift, easterly offshore breeze that pushed her 570-ton bulk through the rolling swells at a comfortable five knots.
Despite her majestic lines and the ornate carvings and colorful art designs painted on the sides of her high stern and forecastle, the galleon was a tough customer. Extremely rugged and seaworthy, she was the workhorse of the oceangoing vessels of her time. And if need be, she could slug it out with the best privateers a marauding sea nation could throw at her to defend the precious treasure in her cargo holds.
To the casual eye, the treasure galleon looked to be a threatening warship bristling with armament, but surveyed from the inside she could not conceal her true purpose as a merchant ship. Her gun decks held ports for nearly fifty four-pound cannon. But lulled by the Spanish belief that the South Seas were their private pond, and the knowledge that none of their ships had ever been attacked or captured by a foreign raider, the Concepcion was lightly armed with only two guns to reduce her tonnage so she could carry heavier cargo.
Now feeling that his ship was in no danger, Captain de Anton casually sat on a small stool and resumed peering through his spyglass at the rapidly approaching ship. It never occurred to him to alert his crew for battle just to be on the safe side.
He had no certain foreknowledge, not even a vague premonition that the ship he had turned to meet was the Golden Hind, captained by England's indefatigable seadog, Francis Drake, who stood on his quarterdeck and calmly stared back at de Anton through a telescope, with the cold eye of a shark following a trail of blood.
"Damned considerate of him to come about and meet us," muttered Drake, a beady-eyed gamecock of a man with dark red curly hair complemented by a light sandy beard that tapered to a sharp point under a long swooping moustache.
"The very least he could do after we've chased his wake for the past two weeks," replied Thomas Cuttill, sailing master of the Golden Hind.
"Aye, but she's a prize worth chasing."
Already laden with gold and silver bullion, a small chest of precious stones, and valuable linens and silks after capturing a score of Spanish ships since becoming the first English vessel to sail into the Pacific, the Golden Hind, formerly named the Pelican, pounded through the waves like a beagle after a fox. She was a stout and sturdy vessel with an overall length of about 31 meters (102 feet) and a displacement tonnage of 140. She was a good sailor and answered the helm well. Her hull and masts were far from new, but, after a lengthy refit at Plymouth, she had been made ready for a voyage that was to take her 55,000 kilometers (over 34,000 miles) around the world in thirty-five months, in one of the greatest sea epics of all time.
"Do you wish to cut across her bow and rake the Spanish jackals?" Cuttill inquired.
Drake dropped his long telescope, shook his head, and smiled broadly. "The better part of courtesy would be to trim sail and greet them like proper gentlemen."
Cuttill stared uncomprehending at his audacious commander. "But suppose they've put about to give battle?"
"Not damned likely her captain has a notion as to who we are."
"She's twice our size," Cuttill persisted.
"According to the sailors we captured at Callao de Lima, the Concepcion carries only two guns. The Hind boasts eighteen."
"Spaniards!" Cuttill spit. "They lie worse than the Irish."
Drake pointed at the unsuspecting ship approaching bow on. "Spanish ship captains run rather than fight," he reminded his feisty subordinate.
"Then why not stand off and blast her into submission?"
"Not wise to fire our guns and run the risk of sinking her with all her loot." Drake clapped a hand on Cuttill's shoulder. "Not to fear, Thomas. If I scheme a crafty plan, we'll save our powder and rely on stout Englishmen who are spoiling for a good fight."
Cuttill nodded in understanding. "You mean to grapple and board her then?"
Drake nodded. "We'll be on her decks before her crew can prime a musket. They don't know it yet, but they're sailing into a trap of their own making."
Slightly after three in the afternoon, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion came about on a parallel course to the northwest again and ranged toward the Golden Hind's port quarter. Torres climbed the ladder to his ship's forecastle and shouted across the water.
"What ship are you?"
Except for a few crew members who were dressed as Spanish sailors, Drake had hidden the mass of his men below decks and armed them with protective coats of mail and an arsenal of pikes, pistols, muskets, and cutlasses. Grappling hooks attached to stout ropes were stowed along the bulwarks on the top deck. Crossbowmen were secretly stationed in the fighting tops above the mainyards of the masts.
Drake forbade firearms in the fighting tops where musket fire could easily ignite the sails into sheets of flame. The mainsails were hauled up and furled to give the bowmen an unobscured line of vision. Only then did he relax and patiently wait for the moment to attack. The fact that his Englishmen numbered eighty-eight against the Spanish crew of nearly two hundred bothered him not at all. It was not the first time nor the last he would ignore superior odds. His renowned fight against the Spanish Armada in the English Channel was yet to come.
From his view, de Anton saw no unusual activity on the decks of the seemingly friendly and businesslike ship. The crew looked to be going about their duties without undue curiosity toward the Concepcion. The captain, he observed, leaned casually against the railing of the quarterdeck and saluted de Anton. The newcomer seemed deceptively innocent as it unobtrusively angled closer to the big treasure galleon.
When the gap between the two ships had narrowed to 30 meters (97 feet), Drake gave an almost imperceptible nod, and his ship's finest sharpshooter, who lay concealed on the gun deck, fired his musket and struck the Concepcion's steersman in the chest. In unison the crossbowmen in the fighting tops began picking off the Spaniards manning the sails. Then, with the galleon losing control of its steerageway, Drake ordered his helmsman to run the Hind alongside the bigger vessel's high sloping hull.