Book 3

Lord of the Red Fire

Autumn 2018

The last book of the trilogy takes place in the Caribbean and the Southern States of USA, with the narrative returning to the land and the people that CHARLES MACLEAN, aka JACKABO, left behind after Shaka’s murder in 1828.

Still only 13, he returns to Fraserburgh with NED CAMERON, his Jamaican friend, along with them the mysterious carved box left for him during his final days in Zululand.

Will he tell his family what happened to him in Africa?

The last book of the trilogy takes place in the Caribbean and the Southern States of USA, with the narrative returning to the land and the people that CHARLES MACLEAN, aka JACKABO, left behind after Shaka’s murder in 1828.

Still only 13, he returns to Fraserburgh with NED CAMERON, his Jamaican friend, along with them the mysterious carved box left for him during his final days in Zululand.

He resumes his sea-going career in the Caribbean with Ned Cameron. The young officer visits Nova Scotia, and meets the family of JAMES SAUNDERS KING his former captain who died in Zululand. He meets MARGARET ELPHINSTONE the girl who becomes his wife. They settle in St. Lucia. Soon, he realises that not only has the island inherited the rhythms and vibrancy of Africa, but also its darker side; obeah, the worship of the occult

Known to his crew of freed African slaves as Nkosi umLilwane, Lord of the Red Fire, Captain Charles Maclean has every reason to be happy – until a series of events shake him to the core and remind him forcibly of his African past and that he is still iQawu, Shaka’s hero.

Maclean’s fiery commitment to those of African descent is quickly put to the test. His intervention in Wilmington creates an international incident between the United States and Great Britain.

And what of those he left behind in Zululand? How are they faring under Dingane, Shaka’s successor?

Return to Africa to find out what happens when Zulu turns against Boer and vice versa and when opposing white men fight each other for wealth and supremacy. Discover what happened to those he left behind…Henry Fynn, Francis Farewell, John Cane, Jakot – his boyhood friends, and the son that was said to be Shaka’s.

Can the magic of LANGANI, the powerful isangoma still reach out and touch Maclean?

From the tumultuous Victorian Age and his defiant stance against injustice and slavery…to the last bitter days of the Anglo-Zulu war and his final resting place in the English port from where he’d set out fifty years earlier on that fateful first voyage to Africa.

Excerpt from ‘Lord of the Red Fire’

‘ Shortly after midnight, Maclean had been jolted awake by a strange rumbling noise. Calling out to the crew on watch to investigate, he was surprised when the report came back that they’d found nothing untoward. He’d lain awake for an hour or more, staring into the darkness. Finally, he’d given up all thoughts of sleep and returned to the Master’s cabin to work on the journal he’d been keeping.

        Without warning, the candle flame began to flicker. A shadow moved in the corner of the cabin, making his scalp prickle. When the sweet, aromatic smell of beeswax, redolent of another time, another place began to fill the air, Maclean closed his eyes briefly, nostalgia overwhelming him.

        The Natal days were a long time ago now, marooned islands in the stream of his life. Only now, it seemed the ribbon of time was unravelling, revealing the invisible fingerprints they had marked on his soul.

        Maclean dragged away the old blanket covering his sea-chests. Brushing away a layer of cobwebs, he stared down at the battered old tin trunk that was half the size of the others. He’d been just six months short of his tenth birthday when his father had bought it from the ships’ chandlers in Aberdeen.

        The dark blue paintwork was chipped and rusted in patches. No wonder, he thought, considering its history. Still fairly watertight after being half-buried in a mangrove swamp for almost two years said a lot about the people who had made it.

        Printed on the lid in his father’s neat hand was his name, the lettering cracked and yellowed by salt water and tropical sun, but still legible: 

C.R. MACLEAN

FRASERBURGH, SCOTLAND. 

         A rush of emotion hit him. The hand that had wielded the paint brush was now stilled forever. His father, Captain Francis Maclean, had died the year before, mortally stricken by the loss of his youngest son, Francis, a month or so earlier.

        For a brief moment, Maclean saw again the twinkle in his father’s eye as he’d stood back to survey his handiwork, wiping his hands on a turpentine-smelling rag.

        ‘Just in case you mislay it, Charlie,’ he’d said, teasing him. ‘One war or other, it’ll find its way back to the Broch, whether you’re with it or no’.’ 

        The lid was stiff from disuse. He prised it open in a creak of rusty metal. A faint aroma of herbs, dried grass and the acrid fragrance of wood smoke drifted out of it.

        Maclean’s fingers came in contact with the hard edge of a wooden box. Carefully, he lifted it out, then carried it through to the main cabin and laid it on his oak desk. Stepping back, he stared long and hard at it.

        About two feet long by a foot wide, the box had been carved from solid ebony, the dark wood glowing with the warmth of rich soil, summer suns and the long seasons of rain that had nurtured and fed the living tree.Though the delicate brass hinges, lock and key intimated the Arab influence of Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar, the ebony held the earthy essence of Africa itself, age-old and mysterious.

        Maclean’s forefinger traced the smooth curves created by the skilful fingers of the unknown carver. The man had been no follower of the Prophet, for the rounded bellies, full breasts and voluptuous curves of the human figures scorned the restrictions of Islam.

        No need for him to wonder how long it had been since he’d last opened the box. He wasn’t likely to forget finding it on his bunk the day before he’d sailed out of Zululand for the last time.

        Memories flooded back, disturbing images, as clear as if it were yesterday. Oh, God,’ he muttered. ‘And here’s me thinking it’d all been stowed away for good.’

        Ten years ago, the thirteen-year-old that he had been then, had banged the lid shut in a blind panic, and locked it. Thrusting the box and its secrets deep into his sea-chest, he had hoped beyond hope what lay inside would never see the light of day again.