By Historian

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Thanks to Lady Jane for inspiring the story.      



   “What do you make of this?” Doctor Denise Stuart asked.

    Ashley Ferrel, her friend and colleague, took the object and said: “It’s a button, obviously, and very old. Where was it found?”

   “It’s an English button from the late sixteenth century. It was found in North Carolina.”

   To an archeologist or historian, the combination “late sixteenth century” and “North Carolina” meant only one thing: the lost Colony of Roanoke. “Where was it found?” Ashley wondered. “Somewhere along the shore of Pamlico Sound or Albamarle Sound most likely.”

  Denise shook her head. “At a campsite some twenty-five miles west of Asheville.”

   Ashley pondered that information for a bit. In 1585, An English party of ninety men, seventeen women, and nine children arrived at the island of Roanoke. The governor, John White soon left with the ships and promised to return. Unfortunately, war with Spain and the need to fight against the Armada meant that years went by before White could return. When he did, the colony was gone, the only trace being the word “CROATAN” carved onto a tree. The idea that some –if not all-- of the colonists had survived and moved inland intrigued Ashley. She urged Denise to go on.

   “Do you remember Doug Beauchamp?” Denise asked.

  “Sure,” Ashley said. “He earned his Ph.D right before we went did that Scrolls of Ramses thing.”

    “A few weeks ago he sent me an e-mail telling me he found this button and he was sending it and a disposable camera to me. The camera had pictures of the area where he found the button. He hinted that there may be descendants of the Roanoke colony living today as they did over four hundred years ago.”

   “What did he say when you told him of your thoughts.”

   “I haven’t heard from him since then.” 

   Ashley leaned back in her chair. The two women were in Denise’s study. She owned a farmhouse just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a hot, sultry day in July and the two tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops. “The idea that the lost colony may have survived until today is fantastic,” Ashley said.

  “Is it?” Denise said. She stood and walked to a bookshelf, where she pulled out an old atlas. She opened it and set it down on her desk. Ashley saw the two-page generic map of the United States, and that showed cities and boundaries, and little else.

   Denise took a pen and placed it where Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia met. She started to draw a curved line in a southeasterly direction, through Kentucky and Tennessee and into Georgia. Just north of Atlanta, she drew another line, a near mirror image of the other. “Almost all the land in this area is a national park or forest,” Denise said, pointing to it with the pen, “the most likely place to look.”

  “So you think it’s worth looking into,” Ashley said.

   “Yes. Are you interested?”

   “You’d have to tie me to this chair to keep me from going.”

   A few days later, the two were hiking in the North Carolina back country in hiking boots, camp shorts, and open blouses that revealed t-shirts. They carried knapsacks on their backs. As they came to a clearing, Denise pulled the photos from her pocket.” This looks like the place,” Denise said.

   “Good,” Ashley said. “I’m starting to swelter in this.” 

 After they removed their knapsacks and pitched their tent, the two shed their blouses and t- shirts. Underneath, Denise had worn a sports bra and Ashley a pink bikini top. With that out of the way they prepared for a camp fire. While Ashley cleared a circle twenty feet in diameter for the fire, Denise gathered the wood. As any true camper would, she gathered dried wood lying on the ground.

   Ashley cleared the circle of twigs, dead leaves, and any other debris that could catch fire. During this task, she heard a brief commotion and looked around. She saw nothing, and the sound dies down. Ashley shrugged and went back to her work. What’s keeping Denise? She thought then heard another commotion. She saw two men approaching her. The shock was enough for her not to react until the two seized her and pushed her to ground. One bound her wrists with a rawhide strap while the other gagged her with another. She was pulled to her feet. The man who had gagged her ran a finger along the strings and cups of her bikini top. “’Tis a strange garment,” he said. “And what creature produces such a hide?”

   “She is an Outlander,” the other said.

  Ashley couldn’t believe what had happened. She finally got a good look at the two. They wore breech clouts and moccasins and looked vaguely Hispanic but spoke English with an Elizabethan inflection. After a shove to indicate where they wanted her to go, Ashley walked along a trail. After a short while, they came upon a clearing that made their campsite spacious by comparison. Denise was there, gagged and bound in the same manner as Ashley. Denise was flanked by a man dressed the same as the other two and a woman in a hide dress. The captors proceeded to move the two archeologists along the trail.

   With not much else to do, Ashley had a lot of time to think and observe. The woman’s hair was more brown than black. The people we think of as “Hispanic” are mostly of mixed European and Native American ancestry, she thought. Maybe the colonists married into one of the local tribes.

   That fit in with one of the Lost Colony theories. According to the theory, the Roanoke colonist hooked up with Chesapeake tribe and both were wiped out by the chief Powathan shortly before the Jamestown colony was founded. But what if only men had been slaughtered and it had happened closer to 1585? With one group with a surplus of males and another with a surplus of females, it would be the most logical means of survival for the two groups to become one. 

    After a period of time that seemed longer that it actually was, they came across a clearing where men, women, and children clad in skins were tending to crops in a field. A little further on, they came across a settlement with lodgings, some of which had signs describing their function. The two were taken into a structure without a sign and made to sit on the dirt floor.

   A short time later, the woman who had taken the two there came in with another woman, the latter carried two large gourds. The first woman undid Denise’s gag, then did the same with Ashley.

   “Who are you?” Denise asked.

  “I am called Mary Dare and she is called Sarah Greene.”

   Denise introduced herself and Ashley. “What is today called? The date and year?”

   “We were told to expect you, Mistress Stuart,” Mary said as she took one of the gourds from Sarah. “It is the thirteenth of July in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and four.”

   Mary brought the gourd to Denise’s lips and Sarah did the same for Ashley. Both captives drank and once the gourds were drained, Mary and Sarah left. “The name Dare clinches it,” Denise said. “These people are descendants of the Roanoke colonists.”

  Ashley concurred and gave her theory. “They’re still using the Julian Calendar,” she observed.

   “You noticed that, too.”

   “There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of inbreeding.”

  “Hunters, trappers, surveyors, other tribes, war deserters, escaped slaves; there were plenty of ways to revitalize the gene pool.”

  As she said that, a man came into the dwelling. He had blonde hair and the beginnings of a beard and wore only denim cutoffs and Birkenstocks. “Hello, Doctor Stuart,” he said. With a nod he added “Ashley.”

   “Looks like you were right, Doug.” Denise said.

  “Could you let us loose?” Ashley said.

  “That would present a problem,” Doug Beauchamp said. “Not long after I sent you those pictures and that message, I began to have second thoughts.

   “This is a unique culture, this and the four other settlements like it. I began to have reservations about bringing this place to the attention of the outside world.”

  “People don’t have any more sideshows,” Denise objected.

  “No, but tourists would come up here and gawk at these people, like in Amish country. What would modern life do to people who haven’t changed much in four hundred years?” 

   Beauchamp paused a bit. “You leave me with an awkward situation,” he said. “I’m not sure if keep silent, and I don’t like the alternative if you don’t stay of your own accord.”

   There were no illusions as to what the alternative was if they didn’t stay of their own accord as far as Denise was concerned. “Whether we stay or you kill us, Ashley and I will be missed.”

   “Yes, that’s the problem,” Beauchamp said, then turned and left.

   “I have a knife in my right boot, inside part of the leg,” Ashley said.

   “Good idea,” Denise said. “But we’ll probably be spotted once we get outside.”

  “So our only hope is that Doug doesn’t make his decision until morning.”

  “Pretty much. That means we still have some time.”

   Sometime later, Beauchamp returned with Mary and Sarah. Ashley was untied and removed from the dwelling. Sarah stayed behind to watch. “Where are you taking me?” Ashley demanded.

   “The latrine, for a lack of a better word,” Beauchamp said.

   As she was brought out through the village, Ashley took note of the activity and the layout. The dwellings were spaced out carefully. At the edge of the village was a modern camping tent, no doubt Beauchamp’s. A good distance away, the came to a trench that had been dug into the ground. “We’ll keep our backs turn if you’re overly modest,” he said.

  Ashley tended to her “business” and was returned to dwelling. Her wrists were bound. Beauchamp ordered Sarah to bind Ashley’s ankles while he and Mary took Denise to the latrine. Once Denise was returned, she too had her wrists bound. While that was going on, Beauchamp pulled a bandanna from his pocket and fashioned it into a gag. “We can’t keep a constant guard on you during daylight, hours” he explained as he secured it about Denise’s mouth. “At least this will keep you from plotting an escape.” When that was done, he took a second bandanna and used it to gag Ashley.

   More hours passed. Beauchamp came in once again with Mary and Sarah. The two women carried earthenware bowls of something. Denise and Ashley were released. “Don’t worry,” Beauchamp said. “It isn’t poisoned.”

   The two bowls contained some kind of stew. Ashley tried a mouthful. “This stuff tastes like lamb,” she whispered to Denise.

   “Probably venison,” Denise said in normal conversational tones. “I’ve had it and that’s what this reminds me of.”

   After the meal, the two archeologists were taken to relieve themselves. As before, they were bound and gagged on their return. Around sunset, Beauchamp untied the duo. “A guard will be posted,” he explained. “I suggest you get as much sleep as possible.”

   Once Beauchamp was gone, Denise whispered to Ashley, “My watch has an alarm. It’s a little bit before nine I’ll set it for midnight.”

   “There isn’t enough light,” Ashley objected.

  “Enough natural light, you mean.” Denise pulled a small flashlight from the pocket of her shorts.

   Once the alarm was set, the two settled underneath hide blankets and tried to get some sleep. The got some, though once the alarm sounded, Denise quickly shut it off and roused Ashley. “Okay,” Ashley said drowsily, “now what?”

  Denise scanned the dirt floor with her light. The hide strips and bandannas had been abandoned and carelessly left around. She switched off her light. There was some but of moonlight getting into the dwelling so the two waited for their eyes adjusted to the dark before they went into their act: “I’m going to cut that creep’s throat!” Ashley said.

   “Don’t be a fool Ashley,” Denise said. “You’ll never get away with it!”

   “It’s not like they’ll call the cops!”

   A head came into the entrance. “Be silent!” Mary Dare said. “Or I shall—“

  The two pulled Mary into the dwelling before she could say anything else. Denise stuffed a bandanna into Mary’s mouth and held it in place with one of the hide straps, while Ashley bound Mary’s wrists. With another strap, Ashley bound Mary’s ankles. To her surprise, Ashley saw Denise undoing the laces of her boots.       “I don’t want to make any noise,” Denise explained.

   Ashley did likewise and also copied Denise’s next move: Tying the boots together and carrying them over her shoulder, one in front, the other in back. “Right turn,” Denise whispered.

   Once the two reached the edge of the village, Denise turned on her flashlight. They followed the tiny beam of light back to their camp site. Once there, the pair stopped long enough to put their boots and collect their knapsacks. That was as long as they dared stay on. They didn’t know how long it would take for their absence to be discovered and if abandoning their tent and sleeping bags was the price for making a clean getaway, they were willing to pay it. A couple hours after leaving the campsite, they came across Denise’s car. “Doug is right about one thing,” Ashley said. “People will start flocking around here once word gets out.”

   “They’ll never hear it from me,” Denise said.

  “Or me.”

   “Let’s see if we can find an all-night diner.”

   Denise started the engine and pulled onto the road.


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