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By Sarah Hapgood

They were holed up at the Governor's House for the next few days. Even in such an obscure place as the Village of Stairs the sense of unease over Gorth's death was palpable. At all times there was a small crowd gathered outside the Governor's House, some even carried banners urging Kieran to stop Tamaz's ascendancy.

Kieran in turn lived on his nerves more than ever before. He hardly ate, smoked endlessly and never slept. The Governor was too old and frail to give him any constructive advice, other than that he was welcome to stay under his roof for as long as he needed and offered an escape route out the back if he needed it.

Etyn was despatched to the Indigo to pick up clean clothes and a supply of nappies for Lonts, as he was the only one of Kieran's party who wasn't instantly recognisable and therefore likely to be mobbed. He returned carrying two large bags of their belongings, and wearing one of Julian's shirts. Finia managed to persuade him to remove it before Julian saw him in it and civilisation came to an abrupt end.

The Governor's House began to weigh on all their nerves. It was too large, too gloomy and too silent. The fact that the crowd pressed in on the gates added intensely to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It was exactly like being in prison, with the added discomfort of knowing they would get no peace at all from the public if they were released.

On the day of Gorth's funeral Lonts had a tantrum. He lay down on the marble floor of the huge hallway and screamed hysterically. Joby tried desperately to calm him, whilst thinking that this was possibly the most noise the house had experienced in a long time.

"I don't like it here!" Lonts screamed "I want to go back to the Indigo! I want to go back to the Indigo!"

"We all do!" said Joby, managing to haul Lonts to his feet "But we have to stay here a little bit longer, until that lot out there give us a break".

"They'll never leave us alone Joby and you know it!" Lonts exclaimed, tearfully "They're always going to be after us. They'll never let us go. And you know why. Because Kieran's the Vanquisher of Evil, and you, Adam and Julian are time-crossers, and I'm the Kiskev Survivor. They're even after Ransey because he used to work for Gabriel. Do you know what I'm saying?"

"Yes", said Joby, ruefully "We're all to legendary for our own good".

"Exactly", Lonts sniffed "So they'll never let us go. A-And Kieran will get bullied into overthrowing Tamaz, and then we will all have to go back to the Ministry because Kieran will be President again. And it's not fair. It's not fair! We all deserve some peace, particularly when we nearly lost Adam too".

"I couldn't have put it better myself", said Kieran, walking into the hall with Julian "I'm not going to be President again Lonts, so you can stop worrying".

"That boy needs spanking", said Julian.

"No, I can't blame him being worked up", said Kieran "Why don't you come up to my room and I'll explain it to you, Lonts?"

"So there you have it", said Kieran, opening the window a bit further to let his cigarette smoke waft out "I'm never going to be President again, Lonts. You have my word on that, and I won't go back on it".

"You promise?" said Lonts, aggressively.

"Yes I do", said Kieran, as much for Joby's benefit as Lonts's "I've paid my dues to society. When we crossed over into this time the last thought on my mind was that I might end up running the place! Well I had a go, and that's that. If they don't want Tamaz in charge then they have to do something about it, not me".

"Then what are we going to do?" Lonts wailed "We're stuck in this awful house".

"Only for one more night", said Kieran "Ransey has a plan. In the early hours of tomorrow morning we're going to slip out the back way and get down to the Indigo. He's studied the form. Not many are keeping watch on us at that hour".

"But that's no good", said Lonts, unexpectedly "Once we're back on the high seas some will follow us".

"We're not going back on the high seas", said Kieran "The Governor has come up with a plan for us which I think is sound. He's given me some old maps of his. We're going to take the Indigo up the Beyond River. It runs up into the hinterland behind here for about a thousand miles, until it eventually joins up with the Long River. It'll take us right out of things for quite some time".

"We won't know a thing about Tamaz, or the Ministry or any of it, for aeons", said Joby.

"I hope so", said Lonts "I really hope so, because I'm frightened for you, Kieran. I think Tamaz might want to have you killed".

"That's why we're doing it", said Kieran, as calmly as he could "But we survived Gabriel, so I'm sure we can survive that little creep!"

A fly in the ointment occurred at teatime when a contingent of priests turned up to see Kieran, having flown down from the City, including Brother Monene and the novice Ketts. Kieran had to go down to the hallway to greet them, but first he watched them surreptitiously from the top of the stairs.

"Who's the crumpet?" said Julian, peering over the bannisters at a tall, thin figure with raven-dark hair and a creamy complexion.

"Father Dalman", said Kieran, contemptuously "One of the brightest stars in the New Church. And about as trustworthy as the Reverend Jim Jones!"

"Is there anyone in your Church that you do like?"

"Most of them, apart from Monene and him".

"I can't remember seeing him at Gorth's wedding".

"He refused to attend", said Kieran "Didn't approve of the match. It was all played down, so as not to cause any embarrassment to the happy couple. I suppose I'd better go down and show me face".

"I'll leave you to receive the ring-kissing", said Julian "Enjoy yourself!"

Kieran snarled and went down the stairs. Monene seemed to be group spokesman and was affability itself. He said they had all chartered an air-buggy in order to come and see him as speedily as possible.

"Who's officiating at Gorth's funeral?" said Kieran, sharply.

"He didn't want any priests present", said Monene "He'd lived most of his life without religion I suppose, so he didn't see any need to change at the end".

"He should have had some representation from the Church", said Kieran, sounding appalled.

"Gorth knew no better", Dalman chipped in, pushing a lock of his dark hair away with one well-manicured hand "That is why we are here Your Grace, to save us all from being ruled by that demonic entity you brought back for us".

All the time he spoke Dalman's broad smile never left his face. Kieran had never trusted men who smiled constantly, and this time was no exception.

"Take that grin off your face!" he hissed "You're talking about the death of the President, and if you so dislike the ascendancy of the new one, then stop smiling and do some serious hard work about it!"

Lonts wandered the upstairs portion of the house in the gathering tropical darkness of early evening. There was a storm rumbling out to sea and it promised to be overhead within a short time. The others were all closeted together in small groups, planning the Great Escape, and trying to avoid the religious contingent. For once no amount of pleading on Lonts's part had been enough for them to give him something to do as well. And for once he didn't raise a scene about it. He understood how anxious they all were to escape to the Indigo. It was exactly how he felt himself.

He had been told to go to his room, but he knew the sticky heat and distant rumblings of thunder would stop him resting, so he paced the upstairs corridors restlessly. He was shaken when he saw a slim shape come running towards him out of the gloom at the far end. It was Ketts. He had picked up his cassock in one hand and was holding it clear of his bare legs as he ran.

"Lonts, you've got to help me", he said, breathlessly "He's after me".

"Who is?" said Lonts, in bewilderment.

"Father Dalman. If he catches me he'll destroy me".

"Destroy you? I don't understand".

"He just will. Listen to me!"

"I'll take you to see Kieran".

"There's no time for any of that", Ketts pushed open a nearby door which led into one of the bathrooms. He went inside and pulled Lonts in after him. He bolted the door and then leaned against it, panting violently.

"I don't understand", Lonts said again.

"Shut up!" Ketts hissed.

He pressed his ear up against the door, but it was plainly obvious their was someone on the other side of it.

"Come on out, Ketts", came Dalman's voice, teasingly. He was drunk, very drunk.

"Please, no", Ketts whimpered "I'm not alone, Father. I've got Lonts in here with me".

"Our little prophet", said Dalman "We want to make you an icon, Lonts. What do you say to that? A life of luxury is all yours for the asking. You can sit around all day and do nothing, nothing but nod and smile in the right places when you visitors. You do everything I say and I'll see you're looked after".

"I'll tell Kieran about you!" said Lonts, angrily "He doesn't like you anyway. He's said so".

"And what makes you think he's going to last much longer?" said Dalman "Do you want to see an example of my power? Well there's a demon in that bathroom with you".

Lonts looked round the darkened room nervously. Nothing appeared to be out of place, but a harsh sheet of lightning lit up the mirror and tiles in eerie detail. Ketts was now crying quite openly, out of sheer terror.

"The demon's by the mirror", he sobbed.

"No it isn't", Lonts hissed "I know about demons. You feel sick when a demon's present, Kieran told us, and I don't feel sick. He's just trying to frighten us. Let's get out of here".

"How?" said Ketts helplessly, as Dalman continued to coo teasingly from the other side of the door.

"The window", Lonts whispered "The fire escape's right nearby. We can get down that. Follow me".

He unhooked the catch and gently pushed the window open. He climbed out onto the fire-escape and beckoned Ketts to follow him. When they got to the bottom they were dismayed to find the tall wooden door into the walled garden was locked and bolted from the other side. Just as welcoming was the fact that all the windows in this part of the house were darkened, as these rooms were rarely used.

Lonts led Ketts round to the front of the house, and they ran the gauntlet of the assembled crowd on the other side of the iron fence. By now it was raining heavily too, and Lonts felt his shorts and t-shirt sticking to his body. Ignoring the yelling of his name from the men on the other side of the fence, he dragged Ketts up to the main doors and hammered on the iron-banded glass.

"What on earth were you doing outside, Lonts?" said Adam, standing in the hallway "You could jeopardise all our plans by this foolhardy act. I'm going to have to punish you, I hope you realise that".

"But Adam, that's not fair", Lonts protested.

"First of all though you'll go upstairs and change out of those wet things".

"Adam!" Lonts stamped his foot in exasperation "I had to rescue Ketts. Father Dalman had trapped us in the bathroom, so we had to climb out of the window. Ketts was really terrified of him. He sounded so strange".

"I don't know what you're talking about, Lonts", said Ketts, who was standing in a small pool of water from where his cassock had dripped onto the floor "You dragged me into the bathroom and then out of the window. I went along with you because I thought you'd had a brainstorm".

"That's not true", Lonts shrieked "Adam, he's lying! Ketts, why are you lying? I was trying to help you".

"Lonts has a lot of love to give, don't you Lonts?"

Dalman walked down the stairs towards them. He was neat and composed, and his voice bore no relation to the drunken fiend who had pursued them into the bathroom.

"I don't understand", Lonts began to cry.

"It's perfectly o.k, Lonts", said Dalman, soothingly "You have missionary zeal to help people. It is very commendable. Very commendable indeed".

Lonts shrank away from him, and Adam put his arms round him protectively. He hadn't failed to noticed the terrified look that had come into Ketts's eyes when Dalman had appeared.

"I think it's time we went upstairs", said Adam, firmly.

He steered a sobbing Lonts up the main staircase, followed close behind by Dalman, who seemed to be quietly amused by it all. Adam longed to wipe that self-satisfied smirk off his face, but he didn't want to risk causing any trouble that might hamper their early morning departure.

"You found him then?" said Julian, meeting them on the landing "I think it's time that boy was in bed, Adam".

"I quite agree", said Adam.

He led Lonts into the bedroom. Julian followed them in, and paused to look at Dalman before shutting the door. Dalman gave him such an unnerving smile that Julian half-expected his head to swivel round.

"I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was Damien the Anti-Christ", he said, shutting the door on him.

"Ketts was lying", said Lonts, as Adam helped him remove his sodden clothes "He was begging me to help him. You've got to believe me!"

"I do Lo-Lo, and so does Julian", said Adam, soothingly.

"What is it about you and priests, Lonts?" said Julian, picking an apple out of the bowl "Dalman isn't another reincarnation of Isaac is he?"

"Jules!" Adam snapped.

"You're being silly, Julian", said Lonts "I don't think Father Dalman is a proper priest. I think he's a charlatan".

"Whoever he is he had no right to frighten you like that", said Adam.

"I'm alright now", Lonts sighed "Ketts upset me more. I don't think Father Dalman's as frightening as thinks he is. Going on about demons like that, it was so stupid! And I've been more frightened of Julian than him".

"Quite right too", said Julian, polishing the apple vigorously on his handkerchief before biting into it "I don't need demons to assist me".

"No, you manage quite well without them", said Adam.

"Four a.m at the top of the back stairs, Ada", said Julian, pointing at him severely "That's when and where I've told everyone to be ready".

"We've been over all this a dozen times already this evening, Julian", Adam sighed.

"Well I don't want the entire operation jeopardising because you're still folding Lonts's nappies, or some such nonsense! So make sure you're there", Julian kissed Adam and left the room.

"I hope it works, Adam", said Lonts, nervously "I want to be back on the Indigo more than anything".

"No worries", said Adam "We'll be back there well in time for breakfast".

"Father Dalman said something strange. He said he wasn't going to have to worry about Kieran for much longer".

"Oh he did, did he?" said Adam, angrily "It would not surprise me in the slightest to discover Father Dalman was really in league with Tamaz. There's a certain Satanic similarity! Well as from tomorrow if he wants to cause any further trouble, he's going to have find us first!"

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