At twelve years old, junior archaeologist River Ruins has already completed several successful expeditions. Yet the one that he and his family are about to embark on will be particularly exciting as it checks off a ton of awesome boxes. On this expedition, the Ruin Hunters will be challenged to:
– Crack codes and solve riddles
– Surf and sail the waves of the Caribbean
– Scuba dive through sunken ruins
– Fight for their lives in pirate battles
– Complete a ninja mission through an enemy fortress
– Blow a few things up along the way
The Ruin Hunters will cross the Caribbean in search of a mysterious glowing statue called the Glowing Idol of the Mixtec. But standing in their way is a crew of cutthroat pirates who have somehow sailed the seas for over three hundred years! Even worse than these seasoned sailors, though, are the Helions; an ancient order of powerful warriors hellbent on claiming the Glowing Idol for themselves.
Facing immeasurable odds, the Ruin Hunters find themselves with only two options; succeed or die trying.
Heroes will be born. Legends will be lost. Treasures will be found!
This family series is perfect for fans of the classic adventures, such as Indiana Jones and The Goonies, but with a modern twist!
Targeted Age Group:: 9 – 13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up as a massive fans of adventurous movies such as Indiana Jones and The Goonies, and was an avid reader of the Young Indiana Jones series, and I am excited to share the same types of adventures with a new generation of adventure seekers.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I began writing the series while in the hospital with my daughter. She was born extremely premature, weighing just one pound. I would often tell her of the adventures we would go on when she grew big and strong, and in doing so I came up with the story and the characters, and even based one of the main characters on a nine year old version of her. She is now 5 years old and a spitfire just like the Tru character in the stories. Both of the girls in the series are actually based off of my daughters, and the character River, is based off of the little guy that I was when I was twelve. In many ways this is my opportunity to go on wild journeys with my little ones.
The Ruin Hunters dropped anchor in Kingston harbor, with the sunken ruins of Port Royal in the depths beneath their boat. Jamaica’s nightlife was fully alive with twinkling lights and laughter echoing across the bay. The calypso music blasting from a beach bar brought River’s mind back to the vacation his family took there just a year prior. On this trip, he learned a little surf move called the “Calypso Twist” during a perfect day of riding the waves. Tonight, though, he didn’t have time venture ashore or even reflect on that trip. Even after a few days sailing the open seas to get here, River wasn’t tempted to go ashore because he had some exciting work to do.
While gearing themselves up in their state of the art diving equipment, Faith took point on a briefing. “To find the Pirate King, we’re going to mix a little old school archaeology with a little new school technology. Let’s start with the new school…” she patted a microwave-sized device. It was a black metal box with a computer monitor on its top. And the entire device was encased in a transparent plastic shell. Attached to the sides of the casing were underwater scooter jets. “This here is a ground-penetrating sonar radar. These normally can’t be used underwater, but I rigged this baby up with an airtight housing kit. If we can spot rows of stones on the radar, spread just a few feet apart, we’ll know that we’ve found the graveyard.”
Faith then held up a list of names, all written in calligraphy. It was a copy of an old piece of paper, so aged that time had turned it yellow and brown. “And now for the old school: this is an official manifest of everyone buried at the Palisadoes cemetery. The oldest graves run from North to South, then West to East.” Faith pointed out Captain Henry Morgan’s name on the list. “As you can see, only twenty-eight people were buried there after Sir Henry Morgan, the Pirate King. Once we map the graveyard, we should be able to work our way backward to pinpoint his grave.”
“It’s like a pirate skeleton Easter egg hunt,” River joked.
“Exactly!” Faith said while sealing the manifest into a plastic sleeve.
They each put on their full-face masks. There were lights attached to the sides of the masks and radios built into them. These masks were next-level neat and made the kids look more like Martians than scuba divers.
“Okay, guys, radio check,” Riddick said.
“Testing, testing,” Tru’s radio crackled in.
“Check one, check two,” Faith said.
“Houston, we have contact,” River joked.
It was strange; they were all sitting within a few feet of each other, but speaking through the radios made it sound like they were miles apart.
“Do you remember the five most important rules of diving?” Riddick asked.
Tru said, “One. Stick together.”
River added, “Two. Don’t descend or ascend too quickly.”
Faith chimed in, “Three. Don’t hold your breath while ascending or descending.”
River said, “Four. On the way back up, we need to do a safety stop to decompress for three minutes at fifteen feet below.”
“And last but certainly not least?” Riddick asked.
In unison, they all said, “Don’t run out of air!” and laughed.
“Great! Now let’s go find the Pirate King!” Riddick said.
River folded his arms across his chest and said, “Game on like megalodon!” before dropping backwards off the edge of the boat and splashing into the sea. The spectacular sensation of weightlessness filled River with elation. Every time he dove, he thought that it must be the closest that people on earth can come to recreating the experience of zero gravity in space.
While playfully flipping and twisting like an underwater acrobat, River heard three more splashes break the surface as his family also entered the ocean. But he could barely see them in the dark water, lit only by the moonlight.
“Alright, fire up your torches and grab your scooters,” Riddick instructed.
Everyone switched on the lights attached to their masks, and the world around them burst into life. Fish scattered, sea anemones reached their tentacles out, and three hammerhead sharks circled below.
Riddick’s heart nearly stopped in his chest. “Oh jeez,” he whispered to himself, as sharks tended to frequent his nightmares. The only sharks he liked were his favorite hockey team, the San Jose Sharks.
Faith tried to calm him. “It’s all good Dad, even though they grow as long as twenty feet and weigh up to a thousand pounds, hammerheads don’t normally attack.”
Rapid, fragmented words escaped Riddick’s lips, “Y-y-yeah, yep. I’m good. It’s all good. We’re good. Wait… did you say normally?”
“No, no, I meant hardly ever. Those wide heads have specialized sensory organs to detect the electric fields of the fish hiding in the sand. Those are the snacks that these guys go looking for. Not scuba divers.”
Riddick took a deep breath and calmed himself… a little. “No, it’s alright. I’m alright. Let’s do this.”
“River, here’s your scooter,” Faith zipped over, being propelled by a little buzzer of her own.
River took hold of his scooter. It was about the size of a skateboard, with a fan in its middle. River gripped the handles on the side, tapped the throttle, and smiled as it surged him forward.
“Remember, be careful not to crank the throttle. These things got some serious kick—” Faith was cut off by Tru blazing past, dangling behind her scooter as she pressed the throttle to the max.
“Woo!” Tru laughed so hard that she nearly cried. Just like Cleo’s bum wigglies were contagious, so too was Tru’s hearty full-bellied laugh, and everyone found themselves laughing as well. This was exactly what Riddick needed to distract him from the sharks.
Loving the horsepower, Faith cranked her throttle as well and sped after Tru. Schools of fish parted before her.
River weaved side-to-side with his scooter and then darted upward, skimming the surface like a dolphin.
“Alright, alright. Play time’s over. Let’s get down to business,” Riddick rallied his troops.
As they descended, the sunken city of Port Royal revealed itself in the dark water. Broken brick buildings and cobblestone streets came into view. River gasped at the sight. He was looking at a real-life pirate city. His dad was right; much like Pompeii, this city’s ruins were also frozen in time by a natural disaster.
“What landmark are we looking for?” asked River, trying to remain focused.
Riddick responded, “Four of the five forts sank. We’re looking for the centermost of the four: Fort Morgan of all things. We’re then going to follow the ruins east until we find a church. The graveyard will be right beside it.”
They scooted between buildings and under finely carved archways. They followed a cobblestoned street east. As they rounded a corner, Fort Morgan appeared, silhouetted by the moon rippling behind it. The structure was dilapidated and partially buried, but the castle-like ramparts lined with cannons remained clear as day. Circling above the fort were five hammerhead sharks. The original three seemed to have found a few friends.
“There’s Fort Morgan!” At that moment, River truly understood his dad’s fascination with Atlantis; according to the legends, this sunken pirate city, which had River’s heart racing, would pale in comparison to the once glorious kingdom of Atlantis.
“Not much further, and we should spot the church,” Riddick said, while trying not to pay attention to the shiver of sharks above.
They passed over sunken docks, littered with shipwrecks, and taverns with their scattered mugs. As they arrived at a flat patch of land, Riddick said, “The cemetery should be somewhere right around here.”
River looked around. “I don’t see a church, though.”
“Some of the buildings crumbled in the earthquake. It might’ve been reduced to rubble.”
Tru noticed a large crooked cross poking out of the ground. “There! Over there! That’s where the church was!”
“Okay, great, that means that the Palisadoes cemetery is below this silt here.”
“Let’s get this puppy fired up,” Faith turned on the Ground Penetrating Radar, and the monitor screen lit up. "Oh, boy," Faith sighed.
"What is it?" Riddick asked.
Faith gestured to the screen, which revealed a jumbled pile of solid objects just below the silt. “Pinpointing a single tombstone in this mess is gonna be tough.”
“Don’t worry, if we carefully follow the layout in the manifest, we will find it,” their dad’s confidence was always encouraging.
As they scanned the ground further away from the fort, the solid objects below became fewer and farther between. Then, sure enough, just like Riddick had predicted, an order came into view, with tombstones lined up in rows.
“There we go!” Faith’s eyes widened.
Carefully River mapped the graveyard onto an underwater drawing board, while Tru poked tiny poles into the ground. Atop every pole was a flag marking each grave.
After charting the entire cemetery, River counted backward, the twenty-eight graves until he arrived at the one he presumed to be the Pirate King’s. “This is the grave, this one here!” River said.
“Alright. Tru, it’s time to excavate,” Riddick said.
“Yes!” Excited yet nervous, Tru fumbled to pull the brush from her bag.
River joined Tru, and together they began moving aside the silt. Tru was so excited, though, that she brushed too quickly, disturbing the sediment and creating a murky cloud.
“Tru, I know you’re stoked, but you’ve gotta slow down,” River said. “I can’t see a thing.”
“I know, I know. Sorry,” Tru took a deep breath and gave herself a pep talk: You can do this. Show the team that you belong, that you’re the best Ruin Hunter in the history of ruin hunting… okay, okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but at least better than them when they were my age.
As the cloud settled, the five hammerhead sharks appeared circling, just ten feet above. Riddick gulped. “Okay, kids, back at it.”
River and Tru continued carefully brushing the silt aside. As they dug deeper, Tru could barely contain her excitement and struggled to keep a calm pace.
River couldn’t believe that they might be on the verge of discovering the Pirate King’s grave. That alone was cool enough to make him tremble, but the possibility that it might contain a hidden clue to the Glowing Idol of the Mixtec, well, that was just icing on the cake.
Tru felt her brush stroke something firm. She ran her hand across the flat smooth surface. “And Bingo was his name-o!”
River cleared the last of the silt from the tombstone, and to his delight, it read, Here lies Sir Henry Morgan.
“The Pirate King, we found him!” River uttered in disbelief.
“Great job!” Riddick said.
“You’re officially a Ruin Hunter now, Tru!” Faith said with a big smile that filled Tru’s heart with pride. “Now swim aside. We have got a grave to dig.”
Tru’s smile turned upside down. “What are you talking about, swim aside?”
“We’re about to dig up a skeleton. Mom would kill us if you ended up having nightmares because of it.”
“But I’m a Ruin Hunter now! Skeletons don’t bother me.”
“Listen to your sister, Tru. She knows what she’s talking about,” Riddick said. “In fact, Faith cried herself to sleep the first time she saw a real skeleton.”
“No, I didn’t! It was allergies!”
“That’s a very shallow grave,” River noted.
“Back when this cemetery was on land, they could only dig a few feet down before arriving at the water level. That’s another reason why this earthquake was so destructive, because the foundations of the buildings were all so shallow,” Riddick noted.
After clearing the rest of the silt, they feasted their eyes on the coffin. Carved into its middle was a large nautical compass, also known as a Compass Rose.
“Wow, that’s awesome!” River exclaimed.
“River, hand me Digger, will ya?” Faith wedged Digger’s ax into the lid and pulled as hard as she could until it popped open.
Together Faith and Riddick lifted the heavy lid to find the skeleton of Captain Henry Morgan with his arms crossed. He wore a long black leather jacket that floated with slow ghostly movements in the water that had leaked in throughout the centuries.
Riddick smiled. “And there he is!”
“I can’t believe we’re looking at the Pirate King himself!” River shook his head.
“Cool!” Tru said while peeking between their shoulders.
“Tru!” Riddick, Faith, and River all scolded.
“Don’t worry; I won’t cry myself to sleep. It’s not scary at all, see…” Tru patted the skeleton’s shoulder as though they were old friends, but touching it caused its head to tilt, and Tru shrieked. Everyone burst out laughing while Tru blushed.
Riddick looked up at the sharks, still circling above. “Alright guys, enough kidding around. We’re on a clicking tock here.”
Faith searched the captain’s jacket and discovered a bottle tucked into his inside pocket, but nothing else. The glass was too dark to peer through, but it felt empty. They searched the rest of the coffin, but they didn’t find anything else of interest.
“It looks like it was just a figure of speech. All I found was this empty bottle,” Faith said while holding up the bottle.
“Wait a minute. If it’s empty, why would it be corked?” River asked. He took the bottle, turned it upside down, and felt something softly clunk inside. “There’s something in there!”
The circling sharks moved closer in their orbit above the Ruin Hunters, now only a few feet away.
“I think we’ve overstayed our welcome,” Riddick said with a cough. He was literally unable to choke back his fear. He corralled his kids and led the way back towards their boat, but as they swam back, a sixth and seventh shark arrived.
Tru began to ascend quickly, eager to get away from the predators as well.
“Tru, hold up! We have to do a safety stop, remember?” Even though Riddick was terrified of the sharks, he knew that if they didn’t decompress to allow the nitrogen in their blood to bubble away, they could become fatally sick with the bends.
To decompress, they had to hover at a depth of fifteen feet for three minutes. However, it would require steady nerves to not rush back to the boat as the sharks began to swarm.
Faith set the timer on her watch, Genie.
Three more sharks joined the shiver, and together they began circling, closing in on the Ruin Hunters.
“Can we go up now?” Tru trembled.
Faith stared intensely at her watch, “Just one more minute.”
Riddick drew a dagger from its sheath attached to his belt.
The largest shark bumped River’s arm with his giant hammer of a head.
“Ahh!” River yelled, more startled than hurt.
“Are you alright?!” Riddick asked while gripping his dagger.
“Yeah, it just surprised me,” River was shocked by the power of the shark. River had always felt at home in the ocean, but at that moment, he realized who the true kings of the deep were. It was humbling and terrifying. To make matters worse, the sharks were becoming more brazen by the second.
Genie made a chime and said, “Three minutes is complete.”
“Okay, go time!” Faith said.
Riddick was the first to breach the surface, and as much as he would’ve loved to have escaped the water, one-by-one, he helped his kids back onto the boat before climbing out himself.
They were safe at last and eager to investigate the contents of the bottle. They were only the pop of a cork away from discovering what the Pirate King had brought with him to his grave.
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