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Chapter One

The residence of the Portuguese Governor of Ormuz, Persian Gulf 1532

My Captain General has died ─ my liege and compass. No longer will I take his wine and hear him speak of our days on the deep blue, of the storms and gales, of sea birds and creatures of the deep, and of lands; lands of which I cannot speak, lands of which any knowledge of our visit would place my people and country in great peril.

Many voyages we took but there is one of which we always spoke until the dawn light touched the eastern sky ─ one which enabled his illness and suffering to fade as our words removed the chains of time ─ one which caused his bearing to straighten and his voice to once again ring with the timbre of command. I can still see him on the deck of his caravel, legs braced against the incessant roll and pitch. No man other than my Captain General possessed the wisdom and courage to take us beyond the far lands ─ beyond Jave O Grande, and back to our homes in Portugal.

I have a story to tell….

Early morning 27th April 1521: Mactan Island, East Cebu

CastilliansOn me! On me!’ The Captain General’s armour mirrored the orange rays of the rising sun. Flickering tongues of fire engulfed the houses, and glowing embers drifted across the beach. A gentle breeze churned the choking black smoke around the enraged ranks of Lapulapu’s warriors. My senses filled with their screams of wild vengeance, and the stink of burning bamboo. The threshold of Hades gate must be such as this.

Poisoned arrows struck my Lord’s armour from three sides but deflected harmlessly off the burnished metal. Our legs were partially protected from the missiles by the flooding tide which now reached to the knees. The tide came too late ─ just an hour too late; for the boats were too far. It was still too shallow for the boats to row in-shore, and so they stayed where we had left them before the dawn. Out of reach, and at least a full crossbow flight further on.

The warm water splashed everywhere as we desperately ran for the boats, drenching us all. We stumbled on the rocks underfoot, and then scrambled to our feet to face the hordes, or flee to the boats. Each man made his own choice and so lived or died. The ordered retreat disintegrated, but still the Captain General held his ground though most men fell back in panic.

CastilliansOn me! On me!’ Our Captain General rallied us. ‘Lock shields ─ Face them down ─ Face them down!’ Another missile struck my helmet. Whether arrow or bamboo lance I knew not, for so many deadly darts fell among us.