The lantern


The cold, damp air hung heavily as Captain Troy made his way over the rocks towards the shoreline. The fog, and the moonless night combined to hide him from the windows of the houses on the clifftop, his task tonight weighing heavily on his mind. His thoughts returned to the apparently chance encounter a week ago now, knowing he had drunk one or two to many measures of rum, sitting alone in the dark bar, head down, overwhelmed by feelings of regret, remorse. The shadow falling across the table as the stranger approached, drawing up a chair and sitting down. The voice, at once soft, but menacing, seeming to know every detail of the Captains career, ever indiscretion, every poor decision, every wrong choice, cataloguing the failures that had led a promising young captain to a back street bar at the rough end of the port. Then it came, the offer of redemption, a simple task, a chance to recover the fortune he had lost, a chance to drag himself out of the dark pit of despair he had fallen into. Such an easy route to salvation, one night, one mission, it sounded so easy, but he knew in his heart that the cost would be far more than it appeared.

The ship that was due to arrive was returning from the West Indies, a merchant schooner originally, now repurposed as part of Captain Morgans privateer fleet. Captured from the Spanish ten years earlier this would be it’s first return to European waters, and, if the plan that Captain Troy had become ensnared in was successful, it’s last voyage. The stranger had detailed reports of the ships compliment, cargo and route, along with expected arrival time, and the more he spoke the more sense the plan seemed to make. The ships crew were amongst the most feared and vicious privateers, a battle hardened and brutal company led by Captain Morgans eldest son. Their loss would be a saving in hangmans rope rather than any kind of tragedy, and the rewards of salvage would be merely a compensation for the risks involved. The strangers voice was almost hypnotic as he wove tales of horror around Troys rum soaked mind. The plan made perfect sense. A vrime against criminals is no crime, truly there can be no honour amongst thieves.

So it was that on that dark, moonless, foggy night, as the witching hour approached and the tide was at it’s peak, that Captain Troy unshuttered his oil lamp, holding it at arms length above his head, shining the light out through the fog across the water. He waited, not long, minutes at most, until he heard the creak of rope, the splash of waves against hull planking, the hushed voices of mariners preparing to make port.He swung the lamp as he had seen countless harbour masters do to when he had been in command of a vessel coming into port. He knew this shoreline well, the rocks hidden below the high tide, the eddies and currents that would draw a ship further in to it’s doom, and draw the sailors back out to sea, sealing their fate. He shuddered inside as he waved his lamp, a fake signal to a company of rogues, a once honourable mariner, his heart heavy as he lured the schooner to it’s awful end….

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