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By Sarah Hapgood

Toppy had been sent over to the yacht to advise them that the galleon was planning to move on that day. He came back with disturbing news.

“Lord Robert’s taken to his bed”, he informed Bardin in the dining-room.

“What’s wrong with him?” said Bardin, who had been perusing maps at the table.

“Jane says his mind’s gone into almost total collapse”, said Toppy “Some kind of mental collapse”.

“That’s all we need”, said Joby.

“Well that’s just dandy isn’t it”, said Bardin, chucking a large unfolded map onto the table “Talk about bloody selfish! We are being terrorised by demons over here, and he decides to have a nervous breakdown! You haven’t caught me or Kieran taking to our beds with a mental collapse have you!”

“No, but you did squeal like a big girl, Bardy”, said Bengo.

“Take all that”, said Bardin, scraping up the maps and shoving them into Bengo’s arms “And put them in our cabin”.

Unable to see, because of the huge mass of crumpled paper in his arms, Bengo nearly walked into the door. Adam steered him in the right direction.

“Someone needs to go over there and talk some sense into him”, said Bardin, ominously “Someone with some diplomatic skills”.

“That rules you out then”, said Hillyard.

There was a loud crash from the passageway.

“Benge has fallen over!” said Howie, appearing in the doorway.

“Well pick him up then!” Bardin replied “Do I have to do everything round here?”

“I’ll go over there”, said Kieran “To the yacht I mean”.

“Oh no you won’t”, said Julian “The very last thing he’s going to need is you nailing up crucifixes all over the place!”

“No, let him go, as long as he’s not too long”, said Bardin “Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we might as well go for religious counselling as anything else”.

“I’ll fetch me jacket”, said Kieran “Before I give Bardin some religious counselling of me own!”

Joby accompanied Kieran over to the yacht, and they were shown into Lord Robert’s rather plush cabin. The man himself was in a bad way. Dark circles ringed his eyes, and he looked a mere shadow of the robust strapping man they had known.

“Robert, this isn’t good y’know”, said Kieran, perching on the side of this bunk “What’s happened to you? You look in none too good a way”.

“I’ve lost all belief in going on, Kieran”, said Robert, plucking at his blanket in an agitated way “What’s the point? It’s winning. There’s nothing we can do. What is the point? They’ve opened up all the portals …”

“Now we don’t know that, Robert”, said Kieran.

“Well they must be well on their way to it”, said Robert “It’s all such a God-awful mess, it can never be put right”.

“So do you suggest we just give up then?” said Kieran.

“No no no”, Robert shook his head “I know what you’re trying to do. Shame me into snapping out of it”.

“Yes I am”, said Kieran “You’re a leader. You are responsible for the people on this boat. It is your role to lead them to a safe haven”.

“And what if there isn’t one?” said Robert, fiercely.

“Of course there is!” said Joby, with uncharacteristic optimism “There’s always been one before. Just gotta find it that’s all”.

“Joby’s right, it’s a big world”, said Kieran “We keep going, that’s the main thing. Or do you plan to take to your bed forever and leave this boat to run itself? Leave your people in a state of confusion and despair? Because I’m telling you, the Evil really will have triumphed then”.

“How can I believe what you say?” Robert groaned “You’re some supernatural creature, like Angel. You’re in league together”.

“No we are not!” Kieran riposted “I have no idea where Angel is, or whether he is responsible for any of this. I’ve tried reaching him telepathically, and had no luck at all. I am as in the dark about all this as you are. The only one I can think of who may be aiding and abetting whoever it is doing all this is Aleister Crowley, and that’s just guesswork on my part”.

“And he’s probably just making it all up out of spite”, said Joby.

“Quite, Crowley’s a mischief-maker”, said Kieran.

There was the sound of the brass hunting-horn coming from the deck of the galleon.

“That’ll be Bardin calling us back”, said Kieran “He wants to move on. Now, if you don’t feel up to Captaining this vessel, then I strongly suggest you put Cloris in charge. She knows what’s what”.

“And you can’t stay here”, said Joby “There’s nothing here”.

“I’ll have a word with Cloris on my way out”, said Kieran, leaving the room “Come along Joby”.

“See you at the next pit-stop”, said Joby to Lord Robert.

“But there is no point to anything!” Robert cried after him.

“Yeah yeah”, said Joby.

Bardin cursed the waste of a day that running around after Lord Robert had caused. It made him restless and fidgety, and come nightfall he couldn’t sleep. Matters weren’t helped by him seeing the apparition of a leering demonic clown in his cabin. Fortunately, it vanished when he threw his empty coffee-mug at it.

Kieran and Joby moved the sofa they were currently sleeping on over the room, so that it was next to the clowns’ bunk.

“I think you should move into the saloon for the time being”, said Adam, the next morning.

“I’m giving it another night”, said Bardin “I am not being driven out of my own cabin by that fat, pervy old sleazeball, Crowley”.

“You think it was Aleister?” said Adam.

“Thinking of it, yes”, said Bardin “I don’t know what he was doing dressed up as a clown though. Probably some way to get at me”.

“Clowns can also have a Satanic significance”, said Kieran.

“Oh not that again!” said Bengo.

“Ssh”, said Bardin “Is he drawing off my energy then? Because I was a clown? Boy, am I really guessing here!”

“No, I think he’s after you, Bardin”, said Kieran “He always has been. But in some ways this must mean we’re getting close to them. I’ll try again to reach Angel. It might be useful if we can find him. I can’t believe he’s smitten with Crowley somehow. As you say, Crowley’s an old perve. Angel won’t exactly be fond of his sort”.

“In the meantime”, said Bardin “We’re moving on Northwards. Toppy can go over to the yacht and tell them. It’s entirely up to them whether they come with us or not”.

Bardin instructed Toppy that if he wasn’t back on the galleon within twenty minutes then they would be going without him. Toppy was back within fifteen. He gleefully informed Adam in the galley that Cloris had completely taken charge of the yacht in a highly efficient manner, and that Jane was very much her diligent deputy.

“Oh women are marvellous”, Adam laughed.

“Women are marvellous?” Joby exclaimed “There’s Lord Muck lying there at death’s door, and they’re wresting the power from his hands! Mind you, serves him right though. He should pull himself together. If he’s not careful, he won’t get it back, power I mean. They’ll get used to having him laid up and out of the way”.

“I wonder if we could persuade Julian to have a nervous breakdown”, said Adam.

“Fat chance!” said Joby “He just gives everyone else one instead”.

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