Cave of Secrets

Cave of Secrets by Morgan Llywelyn

Book: Cave of Secrets by Morgan Llywelyn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Morgan Llywelyn
a number of Irish territories. Because they shared our faith, many of them adopted our language and customs. In time we learned to accommodate one another. We call them the Old English now, though in truth they have become almost as Irish as ourselves.
    ‘As the years passed, a king of England turned his back on Rome and took up a new religion. When his daughter Elizabeth became queen she sent fresh armies to try to conquer Ireland. Soon the Sasanach were swarming over this country like a plague of rats. Seizing, looting, killing. Slaughtering women and children, turning rich land into scorched earth. They had an enormous appetite for destruction. We learned to hate these New English with all our hearts and we fought them with all our strength. We still fight them, Tomás. We will always fight them,’ Muiris added in a low, sinister voice.
    His tone sent a chill up Tom’s spine. Suddenly the boy was interested.
    ‘During those years Fineen Ó Driscoll had become themost feared pirate in Ireland,’ Muiris continued. ‘Fineen the Rover, they called him. From his stronghold in Roaringwater Bay he and his followers boarded Spanish galleons and Dutch merchantmen and every English ship that sailed along the southern coast. The treasure they took came back to the Gael.’
    Tom wondered if Fineen’s followers were still out there. They might have boarded the ship his father was on! They might even have …
    Muiris interrupted his wild imaginings. ‘Fineen was a cunning man, Tomás. When the English began fitting out larger warships to hunt him down, he took off his coat and turned it to the other side. He made friends with the Sasanach .’
    Tom was shocked. ‘That’s awful!’
    ‘Fineen would say it was just a matter of survival,’ Muiris countered. ‘He was good at survival. He convinced the English that he was their friend, whilst making the Irish believe he was still one of their own. They only began to have doubts when he went to London to meet Queen Elizabeth. She was known to have a grá for pirates.
    ‘To everyone’s surprise, in London Fineen traded his Gaelic title for an English knighthood. He also surrendered the territory remaining to his clan – which was not his personal property to give away. As reward for this treachery a portion of the land was re-granted to him. So was a new title. He returned to Roaringwater Bay as Sir Fineen Ó Driscoll.
    ‘A man cannot take two sides and be true to them both, Tomás. In the end Ó Driscoll turned everyone against him. His clan splintered, with different factions going different ways. And the English, knowing what he was, never trusted him.
    ‘After the battle of Kinsale English troops occupied Cape Clear and installed English settlers in the village of Baltimore. They mounted cannons on the high ground and blasted Dún an Óir to ruins. What remains is only a shell. Local people believe it is haunted. They never go there.’
    The two boats rowed on together like a pair of horses in harness. Approaching the dark bulk of Cape Clear island, they began to follow its shoreline. The wind was rising. A heavy bank of cloud obscured the helpful stars. Try as he might, Tom could make out few details of the island. The boats rowed along its length for some three miles, until they came to a rugged headland.
    At that moment the wind shifted. Briefly, the clouds lifted, as if swept aside by magic.
    ‘Look up, Tomás!’ Muiris commanded.
    Tom looked up. Up a stark wall of rock, rising sheer from the roiling waves. Higher still, at the very top and eerily lit by starlight, he saw the tumbled towers and broken battlements of the Castle of Gold.
    Tom’s mouth went dry. ‘Is it … I mean, can it be …’ He licked his lips and tried again. ‘Is it really haunted?’
    No one answered. They rowed on.
    Still spellbound by the ruined castle, at first Tom did not notice the increasing violence of the sea. As the waves mounted, a powerful current seized the two boats and tried to

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