Friday, 25 November 2011

The death of Luke Baphomet

The wind is ahowl and the waves are breaking on the shore with deafening noise.  A man out here on a night like this is soaked through in under a minute and freezing cold, so no wonder the three men are pressed as close to the wall under the overhang as they can get.  It's barely shelter, but it's better than none.
Except for Luke Baphomet, who is stood on the rock, Mother's Tongue, clutching a hat to his head and peering out into the impenetrable darkness.  He's like to call it Stygian, but he doesn't know what that means.  Somewhere out there is a ship with a cargo, and Baphomet is desperate to see the cargo brought ashore.
"Why do you call it Mother's Tongue?"  Jathanial is new to the group and tonight is partly a test.  If he brings the ship in and the cargo ashore he'll have earned a measure of trust, and if he's dumb enough to working for anyone else, accidents happen on nights like these.  He came up from the South around the same time as Baphomet came over from the East, and though there's those that don't like coincidence, it seems as though that's what it was.
"It's a comfort when you see it, 'cos you knows you're coming home," says Batrachian, a man who doesn't know what his surname means.  He says you're like it's ewer.  "But it's got sharp edges, and if you run afoul of it you know about it."  His eyes bulge out of his face a little and his cheeks puff up in the cold.
"When you hear it you're coming home," says Griffen.  "The wind turns around that rock something twisted.  If you can hear it at night when the sheep are birthing, that means you'll be barren for a year."
"Sounds like a mean rock," says Jathanial at last, realising he has to finish the talk he's started.  He falls silent, and no-one adds anything more.  The crash of the waves and the idiot ferocity of the wind make ti too hard to talk anyway.
A light appears, then disappears again, but Luke Baphomet sees it.  He uncovers a lantern he's holding and hoists it above his head on a long pole.  The lantern sways violent, caught by the wind, but the light is pure and doesn't go out.  The light out at sea reappears, disappears again, and then reappears once more.  This time it stays.  Luke is quietly ecstatic, hiding his glee that his ruse is working.
It takes thirty minutes for the boat to come in and Baphomet stays on the rock the whole time, keeping the lantern up and lit.  The three men hide in the shadows, wishing they were dead, because the dead don't feel the wet and cold.  Then, at last, there's a crunching, grinding noise and Luke Baphomet is leaping and dancing on the rock, delighted at the wrecking of another ship.  The three men move out towards him, ready to bring the cargo in.
A shot rings out, an impossible shot because there's no way to keep powder dry on a night like this, no way to fire a pistol. Only Luke doesn't flinch; only Luke is hit.  He falls, trying to catch himself as he goes, his leg supporting him, his arms going out.  Somehow he bounces when he falls, and then he's off the rocks and into the water, and though Jathanial shouts once, neither Griffen nor Batrachian even slow their pace.  A man in the maelstrom is dead, and they know it.
There's no living man at the ship, and no gun to be seen anywhere.  The three men exchange looks, and Jathanial is sent back to look for a man behind them while Batrachian and Griffen start unloading the cargo.  Baphomet has warned them that it's a strange one, but when they find that every box is a coffin they stop again, and wonder if what they're doing is right.
"Coast's clear," reports Jathanial, though he's stopped by the sight of all those little corpse-holders too.  "What's Baphomet want them for?"
"Baphomet's dead," says Griffen.  "Who cares?  We deliver to the warehouse, we get paid, then we tell them not to expect the boss any more."
There's agreement over that, even though the boxes are too heavy by far.

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