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By Sarah Hapgood


“Who could do such a thing?” Matthew gasped.

“You know exactly who”, said Kieran.

They were standing in a small clearing near the ruined church. A naked body lay in the long grass. A young girl. There was a bullet wound neatly between the eyes.

“But why?” Matthew exclaimed.

“It was either a warning or a challenge”, said Kieran “I can’t work out which at the moment”.

“You mean they killed a girl just as a warning to us?” Matthew bleated.

“Don’t you get it yet, Matthew?” Kieran sighed “They put no value whatsoever in human life. Incomprehensible though it may be to us, that is the simple fact of the matter. Now, our immediate concern is to give this poor girl a decent burial. We can do that much for her at least”.

Kieran officiated over the internment of the unknown girl. She was buried in a plot in the forest. Adam stood under one of the trees, along with Matthew, who had watched the process in sorrow, confusion and despair.

“Kieran has said I should leave here”, said Matthew, in a flat monotone “That it isn’t safe. That they may come for me next”.

“That is a very real concern, old love”, said Adam “You would be safer on the galleon”.

“But what about Limal?”

“Well there’s two things. One is we can see him very well from the shipi. He’s nearby. The other is … we we think that because you’re a priest, you are in more danger. It would be more kudos for them to terrorise you”.

“But I can’t leave here”, Matthew stammered “I won’t let them drive me away from my sanctuary”.

“Matthew, I completely understand how you feel”, said Adam “But you have to think of your own safety. You are very vulnerable out here alone. And Ransey tells me you won’t even take a gun for protection”.

“I-I can’t”, said Matthew “I am a man of peace”.

“But just for self-defence”, Adam urged “You know what we’re up against”.

“In a kill or be killed situation I would rather be killed”, said Matthew “I will NOT go down that route. That would be giving into them”.

“There’s nothing you can do with his sort, stop trying”, said Julian, as he walked with Adam back to the ship “He’s not a child. We can’t just pick him up and carry him here for his own good. He’s a grown man, and he’s made his decision”.

“Yes, and we’ll have to feel immensely guilty if anything now happens to him” said Adam.

“Well you might”, said Julian “Kieran definitely will. I won’t give a toss. There’s talking reason to the ardent pacifists of this world. They don’t seem to have any concept of danger. I suppose they think hugs and kisses will work on extreme psychopaths and demons”.

In the middle of the night Kieran jumped out of ed, and then impatiently nudged Joby.

“Joby come on, we have to get to Matthew”, he said.

“Why, what’s happened?” said Joby.

“I don’t know, but something’s up”, said Kieran, pulling on his trousers “I can feel it in my bones”.

Joby knew better than to question this, and resigned himself to a nocturnal trek through the forest. Kieran hurried down to Bengo and Bardin’s cabin to rouse them.

“You know I wouldn’t do this unless it was an emergency”, said Kieran “Come on, I haven’t time to get everyone together. It’ll just be us. Time is of the essence”.

“Do we have to go right now?” said Bengo, sleepily.

“What part of this is an emergency do you not understand?” said Bardin “Come on, let’s go. Stupid, fat clown!”

Bengo pushed him out of bed.

They walked hurriedly in single file through the dense blackness of the forest. As they approached the ruined church they could hear disturbing strangulated noises coming from the old vestry at the back. Kieran signalled for them to approach stealthily.

The vestry door was hanging open, and in the gloomy interior Kieran could just make out Matthew standing by the desk, which was pushed up against the wall on the right-hand side. His head was pulled right back, and a weird-looking creature was holding what appeared to be a scalpel next to his neck, and teasing at him by making small nicks in his flesh.

The creature was like a hairless goblin. An elongated tongue flickered from its mouth. It was naked, but didn’t appear to possess any genitalia. Its hands were like claws.

“Drop it now!” Kieran yelled, pointing a gun at the Thing.

The creature glanced briefly in his direction, but then turned back to what it was doing, as if his presence was of no relevance to it whatsoever. Kieran blasted a huge hole in its head, sending it sprawling back against the floor. Released from its grip, Matthew slumped against the desk, feeling his throat.

Kieran walked over to the creature, and checked that it had expired.

“Did you see where it came from, Matthew?” he asked.

“From one of the tombs in the main part of the church”, Matthew croaked “I was praying in there, when the side fell open”.

“OK, don’t try to say too much at the moment”, said Kieran “Bengo will look after you”.

Bengo helped Matthew onto a chair, whilst the others went into the main body of the church. As Matthew had said, the side had given way from a stone tomb near the altar. Kieran crouched down and peered inside.

“Yeah, there’s a tunnel at the bottom of these steps”, he said.

“Where’s the most likely place it’ll go to?” said Bardin.

“The castle at the end of the lake I guess”, said Kieran “That’s useful. It means we might be able to use it to get there instead of going through the forest. We’ll have to think about that. Come on, let’s get Matthew to the galleon”.

“I’m not sure he can walk that far, Kieran”, said Bengo “He’s in a real bad state of shock”.

“Then we’ll have to support him between us”, said Kieran “Because there’s no way we can leave him here”.

Once they had got him back to the galleon, Adam sat Matthew next to the stove in the galley and wrapped a blanket round his shoulders. Matthew was shaking. His teeth were chattering.

“You’re in shock”, said Adam “It will pass. I’ll pour you some cooking brandy. It’s a well-known cure for all ills”.

Adam passed him the tumbler of fire-water and coiled Matthew’s hands around it.

“When you’re a bit calmer”, he said “I’ll get Finia to look at your wounds. Luckily the others got to you before too much damage was done. You might just have some minor duelling-scars”.

“It s-seemed to be t-trying to slice off my skin”, said Matthew.

“Don’t try to analyse it now”, said Adam “There’ll be plenty of time for that later”.

“I heard someone calling me outside”, said Matthew “A soft voice calling my name. I wondered if it was one of you at first. I went outside and there was this girl, standing there in the moonlight amongst the trees, calling to me. But there was something about her which scared me. I’m not afraid to admit it. I felt she had been sent deliberately to traumatise me”.

“Did you speak to her?” said Adam.

“No. I bolted back inside. And that was when I heard the sounds of movement from the main part of the church. I saw that Thing pushing away the side of the tomb and emerging”.

“OK, don’t try to talk anymore”, said Adam.

“I could smell it first”, said Matthew “A revolting smell”.

“Like sulphur?” said Adam.

Matthew nodded.

“Matthew, you do realise it’s not safe for you to go back to that church”, said Adam “If they’ve come once they may very well come again”.

“But I was safe there before”, Matthew protested “Until you lot came. I was safe before then!”

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