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By Sarah Hapgood

The grand exodus from their moorings outside the Inn was quite an emotional affair. The brothers had taken as much as they could from their garden and orchard, and divided the goods equally between Lord Robert’s yacht and the galleon. The brothers themselves were to live on the yacht.

At the moment of departure Lord Robert stood on the poop of his yacht, and Bardin on the main deck of the galleon. Lord Robert waved a large scarlet handkerchief. Bardin blew his whistle. This was the signal for everybody’s departure.

“It’s all very portentous isn’t it?” said Adam “I feel I should be wiping away a tear”.

“I think I’d see portents in a bag of peas at the moment”, said Joby, grimly “C’mon, let’s go below and make some tea”.

After such a dramatic start to the voyage, it then proceeded at a stately, calm pace for the rest of the day. At lunchtime Bardin got some bizarre idea that they should all put themselves on a war-footing.

“What?” said Joby “You mean blackouts, rationing and enforced sing-songs round the piano?”

“No I didn’t mean anything like that”, snapped Bardin “I just meant, perhaps we should regard ourselves as being At War”.

“With whom?” said Adam.

“Well … whoever’s causing all this”, said Bardin.

“I sort of took that as read”, said Ransey “That we are at war with them I mean”.

“Yes, this is all very well”, said Julian, from the other end of the table “But I hope Bardin doesn’t have any plans to build an armoured tank”.

“That’d be Hillyard’s job surely?” said Joby.

“We are all getting rather ahead of ourselves”, said Adam “I thought the idea at the moment was to simply find a safe haven”.

“Yes it is”, said Bengo, crossly “Shut up, Bardin. You suddenly going all warmongering on me isn’t going to help anything”.

“I wasn’t going all war …” Bardin spluttered.

“Sounded like it”, said Bengo.

“Let’ just eat shall we”, said Bardin, sitting down with a forlorn finality.

An intensely quiet night followed, and the next morning they set off again.

“It will be strange to leave this river after so long”, said Adam “But not exactly unwelcome”.

He served up tinned sausages and bread for breakfast, accompanied by the customary mugs of strong tea.

“We need to come up with a strategy”, said Bardin, chewing on a sausage.

“Yesterday we were on a war-footing”, said Hillyard “Today we have to come up with a strategy. Do you come up with these whims in your sleep?”

“He just likes to make dramatic speeches”, said Bengo, with a cheekful of bread.

“What I’m trying to say is we need to try and decide who we’re going to be for when we encounter civilisation”, said Bardin.

“Who is to say there is going to be any civilisation?” said Julian “There might not be any left”.

“I’d rather consider that there is … at some point going to be civilisation”, said Bardin “So who shall we say we are?”

“Don’t we usually put on our cassocks and pretend we’re monks?” said Hillyard.

Bengo giggled as he chomped on his bread and jam.

“I thought we’d try a different tack”, said Bardin “One that would be more suitable, considering we’ve got Lord Robert’s yacht with us. That we’d be travelling players”.

“Are you feeling homesick for the stage, Bardin?” asked Adam.

“No, I just thought it might make a change”, Bardin replied “And the monks’ habits aren’t very practical on board ship”.

“He has a point there”, said Hillyard.

“I wish we were back in Snow Lake”, Adam suddenly announced.

“Snow Lake?” Joby exclaimed “What for??”

“We were happy there”, said Adam “Until it all went wrong. Remember that marvellous holiday we had? When we took off round the side rivers?”

“Oh that was great”, said Bengo “We spent all our time spanking Bardin! Best holiday EVER!”

“Can I just point out though that we fled from that area in mortal peril”, said Julian.

“Yes, but that was a little while ago, old love”, said Adam.

“I’m going up on deck”, said Julian, pushing his chair back impatiently “What a pity I don’t still smoke!”

“Indeed it is”, said Adam, once Julian had gone “Very tetchy. I was only saying how I missed Snow Lake that was all”.

“He must miss it too”, said Hillyard “To react like that”.

“We can slowly head back there”, said Bardin “And I DO mean it will be slowly”.

He tipped a pot of sugar onto the table, much to Adam’s consternation, and began to draw in it with his finger.

“We go up the West Coast”, he said “And see if we can reconnect with the river we went on before. It’s a good idea actually. It’ll take a while though”.

“The longer the better really”, said Hillyard.

“In the meantime”, said Ransey “Could somebody move that basket of apples from outside the wireless room? That’s the real health and safety issue around here at the moment!”

When they finally reached the head of the river, they paused before heading back out onto the ocean. They moored for a while, to let everyone from the two ships mingle on the riverbank.

Malachi - the old man - came over to Bengo and Joby, who were lying sprawled on the scorched yellow grass. Malachi was looking somewhat agitated.

“I have heard a rumour that you’re thinking of heading to Snow Lake”, he said.

“Well eventually”, said Joby, squinting up at him “But that’s gonna be some time off yet”.

“The longer the better in some ways”, said Bengo “Give everything a chance to calm down. It was in a perilous situation when we left it”.

“But what about the island?” said Malachi, practically wringing his hands in anguish.

“The isla …?” said Joby “Oh you mean the island off the West Coast?”

“Where your sort of sister soul Watcher is?” said Bengo.

“Yes!” said Malachi “We have to go there. It is very important”.

“Well I’m sure we’ll be calling in on the way”, said Bengo.

Malachi slapped his arms in despair.

“I suggest you do so”, he said, wandering off.

“Who’s he to tell us where we should be going?” said Joby “Bloody cheek!”

“Don’t worry, Bardy will sort it out”, said Bengo “I can’t imagine he’ll take too kindly to anyone telling us where we can go”.

“Basically we’re being told we have to go and pay a social-call on some mad old bint wailing all by herself on an island”, said Joby “She’ll probably turn out to be just like Cat Woman!”

“Oh God, I hope not”, said Bengo.

“And who are these bloody Watchers anyway?” said Joby, now well-launched “What use are they to man or beast sitting on their haunches WATCHING things? At least Kieran gets out there in the world sometimes. Well … when we’re not lost anyway”. “You hate it when he goes out in the world, Joby”, said Lonts, who was sitting further up the bank.

“Not always!” said Joby “Anyway, what I’m saying is he puts himself out to actually DO something. Not hide himself away in the desert or on an island, contemplating”.

He spat out the word “contemplating” as if it was on a par with excessive masturbation.

“Well I’m getting quite sad at the thought of leaving the river anyway”, Lonts opined.

“Why?” Joby barked “We’ve been on it forever! I’ll be glad to see the back of it”.

“But it’s been our home for a long time now”, said Lonts.

“No Lonts”, said Joby, pointing at the ship “THAT is our home, and thank God, it travels everywhere! Let’s not get any of this sentimental twaddle”.

Joby clambered to his feet with difficulty, and dusted his pinny off as he headed back to the ship.

“He really gets just like Bardy sometimes”, Bengo sighed to Lonts.

“That’s because I feel just like Bardy!” Joby shouted back.

When Joby got back to the galley he found Adam wearily nursing a cup of tea. The galley table was piled high with dirty plates and cups.

“Where’s Toppy?” said Joby, standing arms akimbo, glaring at the mess.

“Ransey wants to give him extra gun practice”, said Adam.

“What for?” said Joby “He’s already a crack-shot”.

“That’s what I said”, said Adam “But I had to let him do it. He enjoys it so much”.

“He enjoys ironing so much as well”, said Joby “Why can’t he concentrate on that?”

“It’s alright, Bardin’s going to send one of the other clowns in”, said Adam.

“Well I hope it’s Mutton Broth”, said Joby “He’s such a little squirt he doesn’t take up much room. Scared of his own shadow though, he jumps out of his skin every time we speak to him”.

“That’s down to Bardin”, said Adam “He spooks them so much. But it’s not up to us to interfere. He must know how to handle them after all this time”.

“Are you alright?” said Joby “You seem sorta pensive”.

“I had a very atmospheric dream last night”, said Adam “We were all in a house, living there. It was a big house, full of dark and murky secrets, but we seemed to be happy. We had made a home there. It must be symbolic of some deep yearning I suppose. To find somewhere substantial we can hole up. Like Wolf Castle”.

“Or Midnight Castle”, said Joby.

“And the odd thing was that in the dream we were clearly living over some Evil deep underground”, said Adam “And yet we weren’t bothered by that”.

“Well, sounds much like we were back at the Inn”, said Joby “After all, we never did find out what was in those tunnels underground. Could’ve been anything”.

“True”, said Adam “i’d be intrigued to believe it was a portent of some place we were going to, but I expect it was just a dream”.

There was a squabble of voices outside the door. Bengo was ushering Mutton Broth into the galley for his new duties.

“Meanwhile”, said Joby “Back to reality”.

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