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Kieran woke up to find himself being hauled roughly out of his bunk. He hit the bare wooden floor of his cabin with a hard smack.
“Fucking hell!” Joby leaned over the side of the bunk “What happened there? Did you fall out?”
“No I was asleep”, said Kieran, struggling to sit up “Something hauled me out”.
Joby scrambled out of the bunk and got down to the floor to help him up.
“This is what happens when I sleep next to the porthole and not you”, said Joby, setting him on his feet.
“Here”, he added “What’s this?”
He pulled up the t-shirt Kieran had been wearing in bed. Kieran’s skinny torso was covered in angry red scratch-marks.
“They must have done it when they threw me out of bed”, said Kieran.
Joby didn’t need to ask who They were. It was enough to know it was something demonic in origin.
“Better get Finia to look at them”, said Joby “Put some antiseptic on them. Jeez, the shitty bastards”.
“It’s not good news if they’ve got onto the ship”, said Kieran “I’ll have to do a full Blessing and a cleansing later. All over”.
Finia was fetched into the cabin, carrying one of the First Aid bags. As he got to work, dabbing TCP onto Kieran’s scratches, several of the other Indigo-ites clustered around the doorway.
“But what actually happened?” Said Bardin.
“I don’t know exactly”, replied an exhausted-looking Kieran “I was mostly unconscious. I just have some vague recollection of being hauled bodily out of bed. It was the pain of hitting the floor that fully woke me up”.
“But you didn’t feel anything scratching you?” Said Bardin.
“Bardy, shut up!” Said Bengo, nudging his partner in the ribs “Can’t you see Kieran’s exhausted?”
“I was just trying to find out what happened that’s all!” Said Bardin.
“It can wait til daylight”, said Bengo “Kieran needs to rest”.
“I suggest you sleep in the saloon for the rest of the night”, said Julian to Kieran “We’ll discuss it better at breakfast-time”.
In the cold, grey light of dawn Ransey was sitting alone at the dining-table, studying a glass of beer in front of him, as if it was a sacred religious artefact.
“Are you having a contemplative moment and wish to be left alone?” Said Julian, coming into the room.
“No, there’s some more in the jug if you want it”, said Ransey.
Julian poured himself a glassful and sat down near him.
“He’ll be alright you know”, said Julian “Kieran I mean. If there’s one thing I’m pretty certain of it’s that he won’t exactly be cowed by a few scratch-marks. Not when you consider all the shit that’s been thrown at him over the years. Literally in some cases”.
“Back at the Yellow Palace, I remember”, said Ransey “Kieran is completely fearless. I’ve often thought it’s a damn good job he’s on the side of the good guys. Because when he’s in pursuit of Evil he is completely ruthless. He’s not exactly going to falter and how compassion to them in a moment of weakness. And that’s why those bastards are so afraid of him, because They know he’s not afraid of Them. They can’t feel much, but They can feel fear”.
“I take it we have arrived at the conclusion that what we are up against is definitely Satanic?” Said Julian.
“It all fits in it’s own dark way”, he sighed “Kieran told Hillyard, whilst they were grooming the horses recently, that he believes They are busy opening up all the portals to Hell”.
“But what for?” Julian exclaimed “They’ve got to live on this damn planet to! It’s not much use to them either if it’s completely fucked!”
“My suspicion is they don’t think deeply enough about things to contemplate those sort of questions. Power is all they’re interested in. Power and destruction. I lived and worked through the dark days when the vampires were in charge of the Ministry. They didn’t think much beyond how to hold onto power, and where their next feed was coming from”.
“And it would seem those days are back”, said Julian “And yet why did they bomb the southern lands where the vampires are?”
“There are all sorts of things we need to find out”, said Ransey “And that is why, with the greatest reluctance, I have to suggest we go to the mainland. I don’t believe the islands are safe. Somehow They’ve found a way of travelling over water. We’ve seen the evidence with our own eyes”.
“You mean the woman in the cage”, said Julian.
“My gut feeling is they want to drastically reduce the population”, said Ransey “It’s what happened when the Sweating Sickness was released on the New Continent”.
“RELEASED there?” Said Julian “As in DELIBERATELY released there?”
“Been talking it over with Umbert on night-watch duty lately”, said Ransey “It makes sense. He said no one ever knew how the disease developed. It seemed to just come out of nowhere”.
“Come on”, said Julian, getting wearily to his feet “Let’s get some sleep. Bardin can get his maps out later. He’ll love that. Any old excuse”.
Julian was sitting at breakfast about three hours later when Kieran came in and nailed a large crucifix to the wall behind him.
“Now I really do feel like a Father fucking Superior!” Said Julian.
“Get used to it, Julian. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on”, said Kieran.
“Oh you’re loving this aren’t you”, said Julian “Now put down that hammer, you’re making me nervous”.
Kieran put the hammer down on the top of the piano.
In the galley Joby was shovelling tinned sausages from the big frying-pan onto a serving-dish.
“Look at these”, he said, crossly “Bleedin’ pathetic. I’m sick of the sight of ‘em”.
“Well that is something about going back to the mainland”, said Adam “We might be able to get some fresh stuff”.
“Huh, that’s if there’s anything left”, said Joby “And it hasn’t all been destroyed”.
“Still, look on the bright side eh, old love”, said Adam.
“If you’re just gonna stand there”, said Adam “You can take this dish through”.
“You cheeky little muppet”, said Adam “I should put you over my knee”.
“Wouldn’t be the first time!” Said Joby.
Adam carried the dish of puny sausages into the dining-room and placed it on the table, where it was immediately set upon by several of the Indigo-ites.
“Hey!” Bardin rapped on the table “Don’t be so greedy, let’s have some decorum here”.
“Decorum, Bard?” Said Mutton Broth, chewing laboriously.
“Yes, a long word you wouldn’t understand”, said Bardin, unfolding one of the maps.
“So where are we headed to then?” Said Hoowie.
“According to this there’s a small cove not far north from here”, said Bardin “It appears to be in the middle of nowhere, but that’s not a problem. Might give us a breathing-space”.
“As long as it’s got visibility”, said Hillyard “So we can see any machete-wielding nutters coming a mile off”.
“We should be able to get a good idea of that before we land”, said Bardin.
The coldness was that kind that seems to slap and stretch the skin on your face when you first step out into it. The two boats slowly neared the rocky shore which surrounded the cove Bardin had found on the map. There was no sign of any human habitation, as far as the eye could see anyway. The landscape spread flat and featureless to a forbiddingly dull horizon.
“I don’t think we’re gonna be stopping here long somehow”, said Joby, standing at the stern of the ship, chatting to Jane, who was perched on the yacht.
“Just enough to exercise the horses, eh?” Said Jane.
“Summat like that”, said Joby.
He couldn’t help feeling that Jane didn’t seem anything like her usual bubbly self.
“How is everything your side?” He asked.
“Not good”, she sighed “Certain people aren’t coping well with the situation”.
“No”, Jane looked behind her furtively “Kitty and Beatrix”.
“I might’ve known”, said Joby “Nothing but an almighty drag those two”.
“They’re even affecting Lord Robert”, said Jane “He’s not his usual self at all. Mealtimes are almost conducted in total silence. Do you get that on the galleon?”
“Chance’d be a fine thing”, said Joby “Particularly with Kieran nailing up crucifixes everywhere at the moment”. “Perhaps we could do with some over here”, Jane sighed “But I doubt they would have much effect on our problems”.
“You do sound down in the dumps”, said Joby.
“I like the way you’re always so direct, Joby”, Jane laughed.
“I wasn’t when I was young”, said Joby “I used to have terrible trouble saying what I felt. I guess life sorts us all out, in one way or another”.
“I didn’t even think I’d said anything that blunt”, said Joby, when he got back down to the galley.
“Well as a woman I suppose she has a different level of bluntness to us”, said Adam.
“You once told me there was no difference between men and women”, said Joby “Mentally I mean”.
“What would Adam know about women?” Said Bardin, coming into the room.
“Did you want something, Bardin dear?” Said Adam “Or have you come to get in the way?”
“I’ve come to get in the way”, said Bardin “And to get a cup of tea”.
“I bet Adam would treat women better than you did, Bardy”, said Bengo “You were a right bastard to them”.
“Oh just his usual charming self I’m sure”, said Adam.
“Are that hysterical bunch on the next ship playing up again?” Said Bardin.
“I think they’re in the glumps”, said Joby “Can’t be easy being on there at the moment. In fact, it must be bloody horrible. Kitty, Beatrix, Malachi in meltdown”.
“Yes well let’s not harp on about it, old love”, said Adam “We have quite enough to face at the moment as it is, without worrying about the neighbours as well”.
The Indigo-ites spent the rest of the day exercising the animals on land. There was nothing notable about the area at all, apart from it’s profound silence. At one point they saw a crow chasing a seagull across the sky, but otherwise even the bird-life was sparse.
It was with relief that they greeted the end of the day, as they had decided to move on first thing in the morning.
Kieran and Joby moved into Bengo and Bardin’s cabin for the time being, and took up residence again on the sofa.
Bardin woke up in the night with the feeling of something creeping up his body under the bedclothes. It felt like an enormous insect. One with many feet, crawling over his naked skin. Half asleep, he gave a yell and tossed the covers back. The other three in the room were alerted almost instantly.
“My God, it was vile!” Said Bardin “Felt like some massive furry spider”.
“Then you shouldn’t have jumped, Bardy” said Bengo “It might’ve been poisonous”.
“Well I’m so sorry I didn’t have the presence of mind to stay completely calm when there’s some fucking big arachnid crawling up me in the night!” exclaimed Bardin.
“Alright, calm down”, said Joby, shining a torch over their bunk “There’s nothing there now”.
“This is worrying”, said Kieran “I Blessed this room earlier”.
“Yeah thanks, Kiel”, said Joby “That’ll do a great job of calming everyone down!”
“Where are you going?” said Kieran, as Joby went to leave the room.
“To get the cooking-brandy!” said Joby “Desperate times call for desperate measures”.
“I understand, Joby, but did you have to use the cooking-brandy?” said Adam, the next morning.
“Yes!” said Joby “I had semi-hysterical clowns to deal with, I needed the strong stuff, and Kieran didn’t help matters, thinking aloud like that. I could’ve wrung his neck”.
“Yes OK”, said Adam “And how’s Bardin this morning?”
“He seems alright”, said Joby “We’ll keep an eye on him tonight. He’s threatening to wear his pink nightie, if that doesn’t scare the demons off I don’t know what will”.
“I take it the spider wasn’t actually real?” said Adam “Not in the flesh and blood sense I mean”.
“Kieran thinks it was a Black Magic thing”, said Joby “Like the snakes in the cage back on the island. He says we’d better be prepared for more shit like this”.
“Perhaps we should deduce from that that we may be getting close to Them”, said Adam.
“Well They’ve obviously been to the island”, said Joby “Because of what happened to that poor woman. For all we know, we may even be following Them”.
“That’s a cheery little thought isn’t it”, said Adam.
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