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By Sarah Hapgood

“You’re going to have to do better at relaxing”, said Hillyard, who was massaging Bardin in his cabin “Your back and shoulders are all knotty”.

“I can’t!” said Bardin “It keeps bothering me, where do we go next?”

“Can’t you forget that for a little while?” said Hillyard “The monks have said we can stay here for as long as we like. So at least forget it until the New Year”.

“And then what happens?” said Bardin.

“We could go anywhere”, said Hillyard “I had an idea about heading back to Nuit for a while, where Fabulous comes from. It’s been so long since we were there that they might have forgotten him”.

“Do you realise what a journey that would involve?” said Bardin “Either down round the Horn of Wonder, or up round the top? Either way we’d have to get to Krindei, let alone the long journey into the hinterland”.

“Well we’ve got plenty of time haven’t we!” said Hillyard “After all, we never solved the mystery of the gorgon race there”.

“We never solved the mystery of The Big House either”, said Bardin.

This one got a less enthusiastic response from Hillyard.

“Or that strange building in the forest beyond the Bay”, Bardin went on “Where we saw the green-faced man in the wheelchair”.

“See”, said Hillyard “We’ve got plenty to keep us busy”.

“And some day we might even find an island”, said Bardin “There must be one somewhere, one that’s suitable for us I mean”.

“Why don’t we have a sort of round table discussion about it after dinner tonight”, said Hillyard “We could even put it to a vote”.

“We could”, said Bardin, cautiously “Let’s see if anyone’s prepared to come up with anything sensible first”.

Adam came into the room, bearing tea for them both.

“How is the massage going?” he asked.

“A waste of time”, said Hillyard, bluntly “I sometimes think the only thing that would relax him would be a big stick whacking him round the head!”

“Oh Bardin really!” said Adam “You are a naughty boy. You won’t stop being captain for a moment”.

“It does happen to be what I am!” Bardin protested.

“But we’re no ordinary ship’s crew”, said Hillyard.

“No”, said Adam “We are a family. So you don’t have to keep running around telling us what to do all the time. Anyway, one thing I came in to tell you is that Bengo’s preparing a little surprise for you at supper tonight”.

“What?” said Bardin, warily.

“He’s making a whisky syllabub”, said Adam “It does sound interesting. He got the recipe from one of the kitchen monks. Oatmeal, whisky, lashings of cream …”

“It sounds disgusting”, said Bardin.

“Bardin, I warn you”, said Adam, sternly “If you take that attitude when he serves it up I’ll put you across my knee and give you a right leathering!”

“Did he like the sound of it, Adam?” Bengo asked, enthusiastically, when Adam returned to the galley.

“I won’t lie to you, old love”, said Adam “You know how difficult Bardin can be, and he seems determined to be extra difficult at the moment”.

“Oh he got in a grot back in town”, said Bengo “When he saw that ’The Cabaret Of Horrors’ had changed its name to ’The Cabaret Unique’, not The Unique Cabaret, but The Cabaret Unique! Pretentious or what!”

“Well anyway I’ve told him he’s gong to enjoy your pudding”, said Adam “Or he’ll get a spanking”.

“Just give the little bugger one anyway”, said Joby.

“If Bardin had his way this ship would be run like something out of the US Marines”, said Adam.

“He always gets too much into his roles”, said Bengo “He loves being Captain though. We’ve just got to humour him”.

“No we haven’t”, said Joby “If he complains to me about the supper tonight, then I’LL smack his arse as well!”

“Bloody hell, Bengo”, he said, when he had taken a taste of Bengo’s dessert creation “How much whisky have you put in this? The recipe said 4 tablespoons you know, not 4 bottles!”

“Yes, but that was if you were making it for 6 people”, said Bengo “We’re making it for over 3 times that, so I thought I’d better put a lot more in. Do you think Bardy will like it?”

“I doubt he’ll be conscious long enough to know!” said Joby “I doubt any of us will!”

“Ooh”, said Bengo, in despair “Oh it’s always a disaster when I try too hard”.

“It’ll be alright”, said Joby “None of our lot have ever complained about there being too much alcohol in summat, not even Bardin!”

“I hope he isn’t going to be too stern tonight”, said Bengo “If Hillyard’s suggested a round table discussion then Bardy will take it very seriously”.

“Look, I’ve already told you that me and Adam won’t take no nonsense from him”, said Joby “Whilst we’re at anchor like this we’re gonna be a bit more domestic than we’ve had a chance to be lately!”

Hillyard’s suggestion of sailing round to Krindei and then on up to Nuit met with almost unanimous approval after supper, whereas Bardin’s idea of The Big House … er … didn’t.

“OK”, he said, conceding defeat “But which route do you want to take to get to Krindei?”

“Up round the top”, said Hooie, who was perched sideways on Julian’s knees.

“That would mean going past Henang and the Loud House and all that”, said Bardin “Won’t that bring back bad memories for some?”

“That was all rather a long time ago, old love”, said Adam.

“Can I make a suggestion too?” said Rumble “That we sit out the rest of the Christmas and New Year holidays? I can’t think of a better place to try and find out information”.

“That’s true”, said Adam “The monks’ library is absolutely superb. Jules and I had a good look round it earlier”.

“Yeah”, said Rumble to Bardin “Get your head out of your arse and go and have a look”.

“Alright!” said Bardin, defensively.

“It’s the best place I can think of to try and find out about Lebicca, and probably trying to find an island to live on as well”, said Rumble.

“OK OK!” said Bardin “God, you hardly say a word all year, and then we can’t shut you up!”

The short Winter’s day, the afternoon after the whisky syllabub fiesta, was already closing in when Bengo and Bardin made their way up through the cliff tunnel to the monastery. The entrance to the monastery library was situated very near the mouth of the tunnel. They stood nervously in the main doorway, taking in the sight of the rows and rows of books, as well as the tall arched windows which looked out over the sea.

“Where do we start?” Bengo whispered.

“Maps”, said Bardin “Let’s see if they’ve got any maps”.

“Oh Bardy, we’ve got maps galore down on the galleon”, said Bengo.

“Yes, and most of them pretty useless to us”, said Bardin “Let’s see if the monks can do any better”.

The elderly librarian (a whiskery old gent) was only too pleased to help them, and he dug out boxes of maps for their perusal. It quickly became clear though that most of the maps had been kept for their artistic value, and not for any practical reason. One ancient relic even showed the South Pole as a sheer volcanic rock.

“They’re wonderfully imaginative”, said Bardin, trying to be tactful “But I’m afraid they’re not going to be much use to us”.

“Keep looking around the shelves”, said the librarian, as though conferring some nugget of great ancient wisdom on them “You never know what you may find”.

The clowns had a short attention span at the best of times though, and when it became clear that it would probably take several months (if not years) of painstaking research to find anything in this place, they were glad to be distracted by Joby and Kieran, who had been enjoying a drink (or several) with the Arch-Pater in his study.

“Haven’t you relaxed yet?” said Joby, looking at Bardin’s somewhat military bearing.

“Oh he will”, said Bengo “Bardy, we’re all going in to Evensong. It should be quite magical”.

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