Forever Caspia


Michelle Hoppe


Chapter 1

Shadows and darkness distorted the ghostly mast that jutted from the wooden deck, a lone sentinel standing guard over the broken ship. The Spanish galleon had come to rest on soft, white sand near a coral reef. A gaping hole in her side from cannon-shot was a testament to a long ago battle. The ragged edges of her broken timbers were worn smooth by the soft caress of warm Caribbean waters.

Barnacles covered much of her exposed surface, and schools of small, colorful fish swam in and around her shattered frame. Unseen in darker water, sharks waited just out of sight, swimming in circles. The sleek predators built their ravenous hunger into an overwhelming need before they darted in to capture careless denizens of the deep in their razor sharp jaws.

Just one month to go, Tiro thought. Damn this curse. He swam closer to the wreck—hiding behind wooden crates, a part of the old ship’s cargo—which had been carelessly tossed from the hold during a final plunge deep below aqua waters. With a javelin at his side, he watched the sharks circle the reef. Waiting for an opening, he flexed his fingers against the spear’s metal shaft, ready to launch the moment a sleek gray body glided close to his hiding place.

His gaze was momentarily drawn to a school of bright yellow Coney flying from the cargo hold, fleeing a large white-tip riding their wake from the bowels of the ship. Hundreds of small fish were devoured in a single sweep of the shark’s mouth before any were aware they were doomed.

Tiro’s hand clenched in anticipation, his body rigid and his muscles coiled to spring, when the seven-foot monster swam closer. Unaware death waited, the shark cut through the water with grace. Raising the spear to his shoulder, he waited, breath held. He drew his arm back, and then shot the javelin forward with great force. Slicing through water with deadly silence, the six-inch metal point cut into the shark’s thick scales and imbedded into its soft flesh. Blood poured from the wound, tainting the sea red. Swimming faster, the stricken shark tried to dislodge the painful intruder. A trail of red followed his path, closely pursued by his brethren waiting for death’s throes to take him before they devoured his flesh.

As the sharks moved from sight, his way clear, Tiro cautiously swam toward the ship. Skirting its side, he turned his head, scanning the open sea, checking for danger before he approached a fissure leading inside. With a kick of his fins, he cleaved through the water, moving from a world of color and light to dim, foreboding semi-darkness. Unable to see, he paused a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the diffused interior light. Many small creatures darted in and out of the crates and urns flung haphazardly about the cargo hold. Sea urchins filled every inch of the wooden core, their colorful appendages extended in hope of snaring small plankton floating past.

Moving toward an opening above his head, he passed from the cargo hold and into the heart of the old wreck. Stairs climbed skyward, leading to an upper deck. He opened the only door and swam into what could only have been the captain’s cabin. A large bed frame sat under curved windows. The glass was no longer there, but wooden mullions still stood strong. Ornate carvings covered the four-poster bed, and slips of gauzy material still trailed like spider webs where a canopy once draped for privacy.

A large table and six chairs waited in silence as if eager for the ghostly figures of long dead sailors to enter and pull them from their resting place. Inspecting the room, he realized it was perfect for his purposes. Smiling behind his mask, he departed the eerie wreck. Swimming with ease, he reached the surface and the boat waiting to take him back to Tortuga.