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It took them several days to progress, at a frustratingly slow pace, through the fog-bank. It was the most dismal, depressing weather imaginable. “Hell weather”, as Kieran called it. It blanketed everything in an intense atmosphere of gloom.
They began to spend each night all together in the saloon, for mutual comfort. “Because we’re so Rock N Roll”, said Joby. Adam nicknamed the region “Mirkwood” from The Lord Of The Rings. Ransey, who had regularly checked the wireless for any news from the outside world, temporarily gave up, on the grounds that absolutely no signal or transmission whatsoever would get through this mess.
Because of the intense silence generated by the fog, every single noise was magnified out of all proportion. This had an effect on the Indigo-ites, who began conversations in muted whispers, or being painfully aware of every footfall on the stairs or in the corridors of the ship.
It was all intensely depressing.
When the sun reappeared it was like a shot of heroin in the arm. Suddenly the world went from a strange, eerie limbo to a real place once more. Joby was supposed to be peeling vegetables, and he took the bucket and a chair to the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, so that he could see the sunlight through the open hatch at the top.
“You can go up on deck and do that”, said Adam “You look like a prisoner, staring wistfully up at the sky through iron bars”.
“Nah, I’ve got my own space down here”, said Joby “Everyone’s going berserk in the sun up there”.
“Well as long as you’re sure you’re alright”.
“Course I am. I’ll go up at tea-break time”.
The galleon sailed in a tranquil fashion along the now-sunlit river. The trees on either side felt impossibly green and verdant after the murky wastes they had known of late.
“This is lovely isn’t it, Joby?” said Lonts, who was standing up on the poop-deck.
Joby smiled and nodded, walking over to join him at the prow.
“I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed strolling along the river”, he said, eventually.
“Are we out of the worst part of the forest?” Lonts asked.
“Dunno”, said Joby “I hope so, but I spose we’re gonna have to wait and see”.
He went into a reverie, leaning on the bulwark, staring into the waters of the river below. Suddenly he heard Bengo give a shout from down on the main deck.
“Joby!” he shouted “The trees are falling away!”
“Eh?” Joby looked up.
“I mean, we’re coming out of the forest!” said “The trees are thinning out!”
“They sky can breathe again”, said Adam, who was wandering around on deck with his hands in his pockets “I feel like we’ve been underwater for so long”.
The air was dizzyingly fresh. A few clouds rolled along, but the sky seemed as though it had been swept clean, purged of the everlasting stain of the dark forest. Around them the dense trees had melted away, to be replaced by a bare rolling green hills and valleys. The odd sprig or bush was all that remained of the forest.
“I can smell the sea”, said Bengo, sniffing the air like a dog.
“We’ll take the horses ashore”, said Bardin “Give them a good gallop”.
Two of the ponies were taken ashore to be saddled up for Bengo and Bardin. Julian and Hoowie were to follow on, on two of the larger horses, at a more stately pace, so that they could alert the galleon if anything untoward turned up. The galleon would continue wending its way along the river.
When they were finally kitted out the clowns galloped across the rolling stark landscape. They had barely gone over the brow of a breast-shaped hill when they saw a glimmer of the sea in the distance. They glanced briefly at each other, exchanging a look of triumph, before kicking the ponies onwards.
The ocean spread out in front of them, sparkling in the sunlight, sprawling away smoothly to the far horizon.
“Wow”, said Bengo “I’ve really missed it”.
They had brought the ponies to a standstill on the brow of a small headland. To their right a narrow, disused path wound down the hillside to a slither of grey sandy beach.
“But I wonder where we are”, sadi Bengo.
“On the East Coast”, said Bardin.
“Well I know that!” said Bengo “Even I could work that one out!”
“I can’t tell if we’re above or below Snow Lake”, said Bardin “The landscape is so sparse that we must be quite some way North”.
“It could be the Demon Lands”, said Bengo.
“Everywhere’s the Demon Lands these days. We must have completely missed the Cyanide Sisters after all”.
“Well that’s something anyway”.
“We’ve almost come back full-circle”, said Bardin “Back to where we first set out all those years ago, when the shit really started kicking off. Somewhere down there”, he pointed in a south-easterly direction “Is Fire Island, where we collected Lord Robert and the ladies”.
“How far away Glynis and the others are”.
“We’ll try and contact them. I’ll have to think of a way to give them clues as to where we are, without alerting anyone who might be listening in. Although I guess we can’t do that until we find out ourselves where we are!”
Behind them Julian and Hoowie trotted towards them on the horses.
“Hey up!” Hoowie shouted “Is that the sea?”
“Yes it is”, Bengo shouted back.
In the near distance could be heard the soft chugging of the galleon.
“We’ll have more freedom with the ocean”, said Bardin “More choice as to where we go”.
“Well as long as we don’t end up on that blasted river again”, said Bengo “The one that took us to Somba and all that shit”.
“We won’t”, said Bardin “I’ve got other plans”.
Bengo looked at him suspiciously.
When Julian got close enough he clamped a hand on Bardin’s shoulder.
“Congratulations old chap”, he said “You got us out of that infernal forest”.
“Don’t be too quick to congratulate him”, said Bengo “He’s got other plans doncha know”.
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