The church bell had just struck midnight when the sound of silence whispered at the wind’s departure. Sitting down on the hard bench adjacent to his stone cottage, Skerry watched the stars. Like pin pricks in the curtain of night they gazed down on a weathered face.
Old before his time the middle aged Norseman remembered.
The boat had run aground on a sandbank, not five hundred paces from the shore. With such a valuable cargo, the three man crew would not leave the boat unattended. Ropes had been lowered for one man to swim ashore and raise the village from slumber. Foul words stung insensitive ears as the crew of three argued. Raised fists led to knives being hastily drawn from leather belts as Skerry remembered his intervention. Lots had been drawn and the luckless man lowered into the hissing waves of fury. Within seconds he had struggled in the undercurrents. His tenuous hold on the slippery rope gave way to panic as the cold seeped into his hands. As his plea for help failed to sway his shipmates he succumbed to the inevitable. One final insult, a release of his hands and Ralf disappeared to meet his maker in a watery grave.
Cam and Skerry had looked hard at the worsening weather. Grey waters threw white flecked waves high into the air, offering a deadly embrace. As the wind increased, both men had struggled to remain upright as the fear of drowning sped into their minds along with the fear of suspicion. Any concept of trust was being swept away as quickly as the storm, so both men had stayed on board watching each other.
After the storm had passed, they had barely spoken as the gold had been carried to the village hall. Since then only the briefest of words had passed between them, the mistrust growing day by day. And with each new morn the day of reckoning grew ever closer.
Skerry knew that he would be forced to share the gold with Cam after one year had passed. It was the law of the village elders. Rubbing gnarled hands through his fuzzy grey beard and wind-blown hair, he looked once more to the heavens. The patience of time encompassed him for Skerry knew that a few more months mattered little.
He had thought long and hard about the future and had made careful plans to ensure his old age would be prosperous.
The wet stone lay in his left hand as he slowly moved the knife back and forward with his right, honing the edge until it could cut through bone.
He had made a vow.
Cam would never live long enough to collect his share.