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By Sarah Hapgood

It was a dark, humid evening, with a Before The Storm feel about it. Matthew and Limal came to the galleon for supper, and proved themselves to be affable, undemanding guests. Both though seemed to get nervous when Bardin ordered the lamps to be lit at sunset. Bardin reassured them that the night-watch were up on deck, as usual, but it was clear they were still nervous.

“Anyway, safety in numbers”, said Bardin “They’d have to take us all on, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had to see anyone off. I refuse to act like a fugitive anymore. Fear is what they feed upon”.

“That is very true”, said Kieran.

“They’ve got the whole world in a state of fear”, said Matthew.

“I suspect we’ll be staying here for a little while”, said Bardin, trying to steer the conversation away from the gloomy turn it was taking “It’ll be a useful spot for us to explore the forest”.

“And Mieps says the lake is very good for fishing”, said Adam, who was desperate for something new to cook.

This Limal onto some amusing anecdotes of his time working on the catering team at the Ministry.

“Our boss used to get out a tape-measure and measure up the little cakes”, he recalled “To make sure they were all exactly the same size”.

“Huh”, said Bardin “I can just imagine Toppy doing that”.

“What happened if they weren’t the right size?” said Hillyard. “They got binned”, said Limal.

“What an appalling waste”, said Adam.

“I once suggested taking them out for the homeless”, said Limal “I got looked at as if I was mad. We were ordered to come up with more and more extravagant ideas, and they would end up just nibbling at them, or not eating the at all”.

There was an undercurrent of feeling that they should ask him about the darker side of things he had seen, but the evening was too mellow for that, and no one felt so inclined.

When they went topside to see their guests off, they could hear a strange music coming over the lake from the far distance. The music sounded ugly, discordant, aggressive, and without any real tune.

“Oh yes, perhaps we should have said”, said Matthew “We can hear that through the trees sometimes”.

“Is that them?” said Joby “The ones up at the castle?”

“I suspect so”, said Matthew “It happens every few weeks. Fortunately it’s far enough away to be only a mild irritation”.

Kieran watched some moths fluttering around one of the lamps on deck, but said nothing.

The next couple of days passed pleasantly enough, although even within the charmed beauty of their surroundings, they were constantly aware of the forces of darkness which lurked on the periphery.

“They’re there all the bleedin’ time, that’s the trouble”, said Joby.

“Well even if they weren’t”, said Kieran “We’d be on edge for them to reappear”.

The Indigo-ites took the animals ashore for some exercise, but were careful to go only to the South and East of Matthew and Limal’s settlements.

“At some point we’ll investigate further North”, said Bardin “But we need to be well-prepared for that”.

Kieran spent some time alone with Matthew, talking and mediating in the ruins of the church. The sunlight was pouring through one of the orchard windows, washing over all the fallen masonry inside.

“As I see it”, said Kieran “We have only two choices. We either let that lot carry on, and finish off what’s left of the world. Or we fight them. We’ve sat on our hands for quite long enough”.

“But isn’t that just giving way to more destruction?” sadi Matthew “Aren’t we then descending to their level”

“At what point do these high-minded ideas of pacifism give way to callousness?” said Kieran, trying to control his anger “It’s damn hard to view all this destruction and misery, and know damned well we let it happen”.

“You want this fight?” said Matthew, in a shocked voice.

“I want to finish what we started at the Big House”, said Kieran “Because they aren’t going to stop. They’ll just keep coming back. They are vermin”.

“But even vermin are God’s creatures. I feel I can’t help, Kieran. I can’t participate in propagating yet more negative energy”.

Kieran felt a momentary irritation that they could even need his help. It had honestly never occurred to him to ask for it!

“All I ask is that you be alert and keep yourself to yourself”, he said, after taking a deep breath “Protect yourself spiritually as much as possible”.

“I don’t understand how anyone could have believed in them”, said Matthew “Some did. And continued to believe in them even when everything began to fall apart. Some were just gullible I suppose”.

“Some were”, said Kieran “And some are simply attracted to the dark side. It’s hard not to get angry with them for being fools. Evil never triumphs absolutely, and the Devil always betrays them in the end. I simply don’t understand how they never see that. They follow him in some insane belief they’re on his team, that he will always take care of them. They always fail to see that he has no allegiance to anyone. He is completely devoid of Love. They never seem to understand that”.

“And yet you have worked with him sometimes”, said Matthew.

“The only way one can make a deal with the Devil is to persuade him if it’s absolutely in his best interests to do so. That’s not easy. Most of the time he doesn’t care about anything, but occasionally an opportunity comes along. Most of the time, when that’s happened, I virtually have to persuade him he’ll find it entertaining!”

Matthew seemed to go pale with shock. Kieran found himself getting irritated with his righteousness, and fought to remain patient. He suddenly found the whole atmosphere of apathy and decay unbearable, and made polite excuses to to go back to the ship.

Once on-board he headed straight to his cabin, and poured himself a large tumbler of whisky.

“Bit early innit”, said Joby, from the doorway.

“I need this”, said Kieran.

“You drink all that and you’ll be out like a light for the rest of the afternoon”, said Joby, extracting the glas from his hand, and carefully tipping some of the firewater back into the bottle.

“Joby, you’re a cruel man”, said Kieran “I need to steady me nerves”.

“You don’t need a whole fucking bottle to do that!” said Joby “Here, take a small measure, that’ll keep you going for a bit”.

“And since when did you sign the Pledge?”

“Look, just behave yourself, Kieran, and tell me what all this is about”.

“Ach, it’s just Matthew. Sometimes I think he’s mad”.

“Well as he’s one of your priests, that’s probably very likely!”

“Thanks Joby. He sits in that ruined church, surrounded by fallen masonry, and harps on about the need for peace and positivity”.

“Some people are like that aren’t they! And anyway, he’s probably felt he’s had to take passive view, seeing as he’s all on his own in the world. He knows he can’t fight them all on his own”.

“But he made me feel like a monster for saying we need to fight them!”

“Oh dear, the great prophet has been revealed as a human being”.

“Yes I guess I am being a wee bit of an egomaniac”, Kieran sighed “But I tried to be passive about this whole situation for a long time, tried not to interfere, and all the while I could see the world falling into a cauldron of fire around me”.

“Hey hey hey, calm down. You carry on like this and you’ll start self-flagellating again! You are not responsible for everything that goes wrong, and to be honest they could’ve tried standing up to the dark forces at some point along the line”.

“It wasn’t that easy”, said Kieran “He also looked at me as if I had two heads because I’ve sometimes done deals with Angel”.

“Yeah well, it’s probably hard for the likes of him to accept that you two are two sides of the same coin”.

“Not just the likes of him, I remember Crowley couldn’t hack it either”.

“The likes of Matthew and Crowley have one thing in common. They see everything in black and white. Good or bad. No in-between. None of it is as simple as that. Perhaps even some of that lot at the top of the lake might be more complex than we think, and some are just gonna be bloody demons and vampires”.

“Boring aren’t they?” said Kieran “The banality of Evil”.

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