We are less than a month away from the release of my new novel, THE SEARCH FOR THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, and I thought I would give you a little peek at some of my research and let you read the first chapter!
I came up with the idea for this novel while reading about the shipwreck of the Patriot off the coast of Nags Head, NC sometime around New Year’s of 1813. On board was Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr. She was married to the South Carolina governor’s son as well. The ship was never found, and several theories to its disappearance prevail. (I go into more detail about Alston in this blog post and in the book)
In the novel, I draw on ties between her, her father, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence to the Fountain of Youth. The why and how you’ll have to read in the book itself.
At the time, all I knew about the Fountain of Youth is what is popularized in the story of Ponce De Leon and his exploration of St. Augustine and Florida. When I began my research, I quickly found out that the origins of the mythical Fountain date back thousands of years.
The Greek historian Herodotus was the first to write about the Fountain in the fifth century BC. He mentions a people called the Macrobians who have a special fountain in their land which gives them exceptional longevity.
The Ichthyophagid then in their turn questioned the king concerning the term of life, and diet of his people, and were told that most of them lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, while some even went beyond that age—they ate boiled flesh, and had for their drink nothing but milk. When the Ichthyophagi showed wonder at the number of the years, he led them to a fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil- and a scent came from the spring like that of violets. The water was so weak, they said, that nothing would float in it, neither wood, nor any lighter substance, but all went to the bottom. If the account of this fountain be true, it would be their constant use of the water from it which makes them so long-lived.
More tales appear down through the ages, such as ones involving Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness to find a restorative spring. The servant in that story is in turn derived from Middle Eastern legends of Al-Khidr, a sage who appears also in the Qur’an. Arabic and Aljamiado versions of the Alexander Romance were very popular in Spain during and after the period of Moorish rule and would have been known to the explorers who journeyed to America. These earlier accounts inspired the popular medieval fantasy The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, which also mentions the Fountain of Youth as located at the foot of a mountain outside Polombe in India. Due to the influence of these tales, the Fountain of Youth legend remained popular through the European Age of Exploration.
With that in mind, here is the opening chapter to THE SEARCH FOR THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. You can pre-order the Kindle version now at the special price of $.99. Paperback pre-orders are coming soon.
5,451 Years Ago
A razor-sharp spear whirled through the air slicing a generous chunk of flesh and cartilage from A’ktun’s left ear as he fled for his life. The projectile landed in a stand of bushes while he ran as fast as he could through the dense undergrowth of the forest. Bloodied and in pain, he pressed forward.
He counted six chasing him. While his ear screamed in agony from where the spear clipped his flesh, their shouts were even louder. As he ran through the forest, dozens of birds and unseen animals on the forest floor scattered amid a cacophony of shrieks, growls, and howls.
A’ktun possessed one stone-tipped spear and an old dagger he honed from the bones of a giant bear he killed many years ago during his travels in the northwest. Despite his great skill with these weapons, he didn’t stand a chance against the half dozen armed pursuers.
He didn’t know why they were angry and hunting him.
At the point where the spear pierced his ear, the strange, perfect people had been hunting him for five minutes. He was thankful that he was in excellent shape.
Another spear whizzed past his head, missing by mere inches. They were aiming high, perhaps unaware of their own strength. It wouldn’t be long before they adjusted and targeted the easier to hit area of his torso.
He needed to lose these guys soon. They did not tire or slow. A’ktun knew a river flowed to his left. He angled in that direction with his pursuers close on his tail.
A’ktun crashed through another row of bushes, arriving at the edge of a swiftly moving river. Before he could consider the danger inherent in jumping into a body of water containing huge lizards with snapping jaws, he leaped off the bank and into the rushing torrent.
The natives emerged from the jungle as A’ktun’s head bobbed to the surface downstream. The two who still possessed spears flung them at A’ktun but missed their mark.
Before they began chasing him, he was searching for shelter from a pounding rainstorm, A’ktun had stepped into a grotto deep within a cave where a bizarre ritual had been in progress.
Orange and red embers from torches on the cave walls illuminated the grotto. A narrow walkway decorated with a yellowish metal rimmed a glassy pool of water reflecting the torchlight. Strong young men carried in their arms people who looked old, sick, and decrepit along the left side of the pool. They paused before entering the water and stripped off their garments, leaving them naked. The men lifted the older individuals into the waist deep water.
A’ktun stayed silent as he watched one aged man being carried into the pool. He didn’t want to alert them to his presence
Then a strange thing happened which defied explanation.
The carrier set the older man free. A’ktun watched as the elderly man dunked his head under the black waters and stayed there for several seconds before breaking the surface. After the water finished cascading off his head and shoulders, A’ktun saw that he had changed!
Before, the man looked close to death. Now he appeared more youthful and vibrant. The young-looking individuals looked upon their transformed bodies with awe and jubilation etched on their unlined faces. Their skin appeared smooth and flawless.
The young/old man climbed out of the pool. A woman wearing an intricate headdress made of multi-colored jewels and a shiny yellow material greeted him bearing garments dyed a deep shade of blue.
A’ktun yelped and interrupted the otherwise silent ceremony. Everyone turned in his direction. The woman pointed a finger at A’ktun and shouted something in a tongue he did not understand, but he took the command’s meaning: Get him!
That began the chase for his life ending with a jump in the river. As he floated to safety, A’ktun looked back and saw the inhabitants shouting curses in his direction. He took a deep breath and was relieved that he escaped death with only an injured ear.
He could disregard this one region as a place of future habitation for his people.
That didn’t mean he wouldn’t return someday himself to investigate further the miracles he saw in that cave.