A Tale of the Popham Colony


The First Aleyn James Novella

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England seethed with discontent and unrest. Sir Francis Drake just sailed around the world, opening new horizons that beckoned many trapped by poverty and status. Spain dominated the Christian world and the Church of England stood defiant against the Pope in Rome. The Dutch revolted against their Spanish overlords and the war raged on with no end in sight. The Irish rebelled against English domination and the plague ran unchecked through the streets of London. Queen Elizabeth, dependent on her conspiratorial counselors, signed the death warrant for her half-sister, Mary, Queen of Scots. The long war with Spain had begun as ships of the Armada gathering for invasion. Against this grievous background, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Walter Raleigh's half-brother, led an expedition—with the blessing and letters patent of the crown—to take possession of Newfoundland and all lands to the north and south.

       Sir Humphrey awoke with a start. Something had pulled him from pleasant dreams back into the reality of shipboard life. He yawned and his ears popped. He listened intently, but the sound didn't reoccur. He stretched in his bunk, lulled by Squirrel's pitch and roll. Half-awake, he reminisced the recent past. 1583 had been a good year. Commissioned to fulfill a Royal Prerogative, he visited Newfoundland and claimed it in the name of Queen Elizabeth. After securing St. John's, he detached a group of volunteers, who settled there and became the first English colony. The native Mi'kmaq welcomed them, the occasional French trapper posed no threat, and the fishermen who came to trade preferred the port in friendly hands. The seeds of Christianity he planted would likely flourish. Not the least of his successes, an exotic Indian named Tobiga had taken to his bed, a bright light in the otherwise dim cave of duty. Recalling those most intimate of moments, the watchman's cry jolted his reverie. 

       He strained his ears for anything but the deafening drumbeat of bow cutting wave. Through the bulkhead came a shout, "Squirrel ahoy!" A few minutes later, a knock on his door brought him fully awake. He called, “Enter” and the door swung open. It was Captain Andrews with a message from the Golden Hind. "Captain Haies is concerned for your safety, sir, advising that you transfer to the larger vessel. Need I remind you, sir, Squirrel is rated only ten tons. The transfer must be done before nightfall, so what shall I report?" Humphrey hesitated only a moment. 
       "My compliments for his concern. Tell him we're as near heaven by sea as by land. I'm comfortable here on Squirrel, content to remain where I am. My regards to the good captain." Andrew turned and closed the door. After pulling on his oilskins and boots, Humphrey went to the beak-head while Andrews relayed the message to the Golden Hind. Ignoring Haies' advice, once back in his cabin, he dozed, slipping slowly into slumber and recurring dreams of Tobiga and his promise to return. The weather worsened and a heightening wind began to whistle and moan around the main and shrouds. Squirrel's helmsman struggled with the tiller and spray began spitting over the bow. Both ships reduced sail and changed course to ease the pounding. The wind picked, daylight died, and the two ships sailed into a black and starless night. 
       Just after midnight, the watch on Golden Hind alerted Haies. "Captain's pardon, sir. The weather's worsened with high wind abaft the beam. Squirrel's lights just winked out. Can't be sure, but I think she might 'ave broached and gone down." Haies hurried on deck, but his keen eyes saw nothing but darkness. He listened but caught no sound but the storm. Returning to his cabin, growing apprehension denied him sleep. With dawn, the watchman's suspicion proved tragically correct. The top-heavy Squirrel had capsized in the dark of night, taking Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Captain Andrews, Master Cade, and Squirrel's entire crew to an unscheduled appointment with Davy Jones from which none would return. 
       Three years later, Aleyn James was born to a poor fishing family in the English village of Brean on Bristol Bay. Despite his lowly beginnings, Aleyn was fated to a life of high adventure, one in which he both witnessed and played a role in the very founding of America. The James Saga begins with ThunderSnow when young Aleyn learns his trade under his father's watchful eye. It continues as Aleyn is caught up in a natural disaster that sweeps away all comfort of home and family, leading him to a strange and faraway land, a wilderness known as Mawooshen.