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“We’re moving”, said Kieran, laying groggily on his bunk “Are we going back to Hannah’s?”
“Not just yet”, said Joby “Bardin thought, as we’re in the area, we should go on and have a look at Toondor Lanpin. See how it is these days”.
“That’s a good idea”, said Kieran “How is everybody?”
“Tamaz is sleeping”, said Joby “We’re keeping an eye on him. Old Starchy-Pants has got his knickers in a twist because he thinks we should’ve stayed and destroyed the lot of them”.
“That would’ve been no good for everybody”, said Kieran “We took out the ringleaders, that was the important thing. It would have severely damaged everybody to go round that place and try and track down every demon and tormented soul in it. They’ve been severely weakened, that’s the main thing. Evil doesn’t have our powers of regeneration. I wish more people would realise that. It would solve a lot of problems”.
“Oh don’t worry about Bardin”, said Joby “If he keeps that up, Adam’ll sort him out. If Bengo doesn’t get to him first”.
“If you’re gonna sulk that all day, I’m not talking to you”, said Bengo.
“So I’m imagining your voice constantly bleating on at me then?” said Bardin, who was seated by the galley table.
“I’m just saying accept Kieran’s decision”, said Bengo, bustling around making tea “I can see what he’s on about. I’m surprised you can’t. Considering you’re supposed to be the intelligent one out of us two. Though I have grave doubts about that at times. Very grave doubts”.
“For someone who’s not talking to me, it’s odd that all I can hear is you!” said Bardin “I am just concerned that there will be problems in the far future”.
“There are always problems in the far future!” said Bengo, in exasperation “Why do people always think there’s gonna be a time when everything’s gonna be perfect? It never happens, and yet still they keep thinking it!”
“Quite the little clown philosopher today aren’t we!” said Bardin.
“Better than being a moaning old twat”, Bengo retorted.
“Hey! You two!” Hoowie galloped down the quarterdeck steps “Stop bloody squabbling for once, and come topside”.
“What’s happening?” said Bardin, getting to his feet.
“Massive explosion up by the Big House”, Hoowie gabbled “Never seen anything like it. A big fiery ball fell out of the sky”.
“It wasn’t me”, said Kieran, from his bunk “Not my doing”.
“Well everyone thinks it is”, said Joby.
“Then I’m afraid they’re wrong”, said Kieran “Has it never occurred to them that it might be a natural phenomenon? A meteor perhaps?”
“Yeah right”, said Joby, unconvinced “Timing was pretty bloody convenient wasn’t it?”
“Sometimes it happens that way”, said Kieran “Anyway, as I said, it wasn’t me. At all. It might’ve been the other guy though”.
“Angel?” said Joby “Sometimes I wonder who’s side he’s on”.
“He’s on nobody’s side”, said Kieran “That’s what the likes of Crowley get confused by. Thinking they’re in league with Angel. The truth is Angel’s a lone wolf. He has no allegiance to anyone”.
“Where’s he gone now?” said Joby “Last sight of him was when he vanished in the rush to get from the house”.
“I don’t know”, said Kieran “I haven’t sighted him around here, if it’s any comfort”.
“Could he have done it though?” asked Joby.
Kieran nodded in reply.
It was a gloomy sail down the river towards Toondor Lanpin. The weather was chilly, and the sky leaden. Occasionally they saw lone figures in the surrounding barren landscape. Either standing motionless, or walking very slowly along the side of the river. They were like zombies. Oblivious to their surroundings, to the galleon passing by, oblivious to everything. They were the very definition of lost souls.
At first light, Toondor Lanpin didn’t seem to have changed much in all the years since they had last seen it. It had always looked cheerfully run-down, with plenty of broken buildings scattered by the riverside. But at the same time it had also been a place of bustle and life.
Bustle was notably absent on this occasion. The place had a deserted, ghost town feel. The only life form that there seemed to be was an abundance of over-sized rats scuttling about the quayside. The omens were not good.
“There’s Persephone’s old bar”, said Joby, standing up on the main deck “‘Cept I doubt it’s Persephone’s these days”.
Such a thought was almost unbearable in it’s sadness.
“We’ve had some right old times here haven’t we”, said Hillyard, standing nearby with his hands in his pockets.
“Don’t look like anyone’s had any right old times here lately”, said Joby “I’m not sure we should have come back here”.
“Yeah, we might as well see if Glynis is still around”, said Hillyard.
He and Ransey disembarked and strolled up the main street. They were heading towards the Town House, where they had lived for many years.
“It hasn’t changed much”, said Hillyard, when they stood outside it.
“Just needs a bit of TLC that’s all”, said Ransey, looking at the cracked paintwork around the windows, and some slates hanging precariously off the roof.
“Here, there’s a note on the door”, said Hillyard.
He bounded up the steps, and unpinned the slip of paper.
‘TO ANYONE LOOKING FOR ME’, it read ‘I’M HELPING OVER AT THE CHAPEL HOSPITAL. GLYNIS’.
“Let’s get over to the old chapel”, said Ransey.
As they approached it, the main door opened, and a woman came out, staggering under a large bowl of soapy water, which she proceeded to chuck over the pavement.
“Missed!” said Hillyard.
Her mouth dropped open in a perfect ‘o’ shape when she saw him. She dropped the bowl and ran over. Swathed in a voluminous starched apron, her hair plaited back in a bun, and wire-rimmed spectacles on her nose, this was still Glynis. She embraced both of them vigorously.
“I can’t believe it!” she gasped “After all these years! Where are the rest of you?”
“Back on the galleon, or poking around on the quayside”, said Hillyard.
“You are all still together?” she asked.
“Yeah, no worries about that one”, said Hillyard “Are the children OK?”
“Well they haven’t been children for a long time now”, said Glynis “But yes, they went to the City some time back”.
“The City?” Ransey queried.
“It’s alright, they’re fine”, said Glynis “There are still some left there. They’ve been working in the resistance movement, against the Demon Government”.
“Well hopefully the worst of that lot have been wiped out now”, said Ransey.
“We saw the explosion in the sky”, said Glynis “Was that Kieran’s doing?”
“He’s denying it”, said Hillyard “I dunnno what to believe”.
“This might be a silly question”, said Ransey “But why is the town hospital operating out of the old chapel?”
“The hospital was closed down by the Government many years ago”, said Glynis “Since then just about every disease known to man has ravaged the town. TB, cholera, flu pandemics. The population’s been ravaged, and we just have to do what we can here”.
The sun was setting. Ransey and Hillyard insisted that Glynis join them for a drink in Persephone’s old bar. HIllyard ran over to the ship and fetched Joby.
“I had to stop everyone else from descending on you too”, said Hillyard, when he returned “There’ll be plenty of time for all that”. Inside the bar the landlord had pinned a simple strip of red tinsel along the counter.
“Oh yes”, said Glynis “It’s Christmas Eve by the way”.
“Blimey, we had no idea”, said Joby “We’ve lost all track of time”.
The four of them crammed into the little snug side bar. There were no other customers in the place, but they wanted to talk as privately as possible.
“Does no one around here marvel at your constant youthful looks?” Joby asked Glynis.
“I don’t feel very youthful-looking at the moment”, Glynis replied, loosening the neck of her dress “I think in recent years they’ve had too many other things to occupy themselves with, and I try not to draw too much attention to it. I don’t want to be hanged as a witch! I hope you’re not going to be moving on just yet. Some of you should come and spend Christmas at my place. It did use to be your home after all”.
“You don’t want us clogging up the house”, said Hillyard.
“I do”, Glynis insisted “You’d be doing me an enormous favour. I will be working part of tomorrow evening, and coming home to an empty house in the middle of the night can feel awfully freaky at times. That house desperately needs some life in it again”.
“GLYNIS!” a roar went up from the other side of the room.
Bengo, bundled into a duffel-coat, was beaming across at her.
“I thought I told you to stay at home”, said Joby.
“I can’t stay over there and ignore Glynis!” said Bengo, bounding over to them, posing a potential threat to any sticks of furniture that lay in his path.
“So much for you trying to keep a low profile”, said Joby to Glynis.
“Lonts wanted to come too, but he’s looking after Tamaz”, said Bengo, who had been all but scooped up by Glynis “Don’t worry, I’ve left Bardin at home. He’s asleep. We don’t need to wake him up”.
“Oh but I’d love to see Bardin again”, said Glynis.
“REALLY?!” Bengo exclaimed, in astonishment “Oh well I’m sure you’ll hear him at some point”.
“And then you’ll wish he was asleep again”, said Joby.
“But why is Lonts looking after Tamaz?” said Glynis “What’s happened to him? I’m a nurse now, I may be able to help”.
“It’s nothing that rest won’t cure”, said Joby “Same with Kieran. They’re both completely exhausted after what happened up at the Big House. It took a lot out of ‘em. We couldn’t have done that without Tamaz”.
“He’s certainly a good person to have around in a crisis”, said Glynis.
“I’ll tell him you said that”, said Bengo “He’s being a bit snarly at the moment”.
“Oh that’s just the tiredness”, said Glynis “Nothing induces snarliness more. Which is one very good reason why you should stay at my place. A proper bed to sleep in will do wonders for him”.
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