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"The whole day has been an unmitigated disaster", said Julian, standing in the saloon on the Indigo. Everyone was present apart from Kieran and Joby. He proceeded to criticise each of them in turn.
"It has been a prime example of neglect of duty", he snapped at Adam "Treachery (Finia), brainlessness (Bengo), disobedience (Lonts), and sheer downright bungling incompetence (Ransey and Hillyard)".
"I don't know what you're getting so worked up about", said Hillyard "We rescued Joby, surely that was all that mattered?"
"But Tamaz is still out there!" said Julian "Still alive and free to get us again, whenever he damn well feels like it".
"You never said anything about killing Tamaz", Lonts protested "We thought we only had to get Joby back, and we've done that".
"Shut up", Julian snapped "After the worry you've caused me today, you and ballast-brained Bengo are lucky I don't take a strap to the pair of you!"
Lonts began to cry and Adam rushed to comfort him, scowling at Julian as he did so.
"I'm not going to waste any further words on any of you", said Julian "Suffice it to say we have to get after Tamaz, and we're going to start tonight. Hillyard, get down in the hold and make preparations to leave. The rest of you know your duties".
"But it's night-time", said Lonts.
"I don't care! We are still leaving. Adam, go and start preparing the dinner. We haven't eaten yet".
"But if we're leaving, Jules, I'd like to have a farewell word with the neighbours", said Adam.
"You had more than enough to say to them earlier", said Julian "That's how your little darling managed to risk his life so foolishly".
Adam could only agree that he was right and miserably went into the galley. For the next hour Julian paced the Indigo snapping at everyone and making their lives a misery. He was annoyed beyond measure that an unarmed semi-female creature wearing only silk underwear, had managed to get away from all of them so easily. It rankled bitterly, as did the fact that everyone had decided to take the law into their own hands and rescue Joby entirely on their own terms without consulting him. Adam understood how he was feeling, it had worried and annoyed him too, but he felt now that all had ended well. He didn't care that the loathsome Tamaz had got away, it was enough that Joby had been rescued and that Lonts was back safely. That to him was a good day's work. Their sudden departure from Toondor Lanpin was upsetting, as it meant he couldn't bid farewell to the Tearfuls. He daren't risk popping out to see them, as the mood Julian was in he might deliberately pull anchor without him.
"Oh dear", said Julian, walking into the galley "Sobbing into the sprouts are we? You know it makes sense, dear heart. Tamaz has to be destroyed, and we're already several hours behind him as it is".
"But why do WE have to destroy him?" said Adam, wearily.
"Because who the hell else is going to do it! Don't be so unreasonable".
"Unreasonable!" Adam slammed down the knife he was using to peel the sprouts "Of course I'm being unreasonable. Because you're a selfish pig, Jules, and I won't have you threatening Lo-Lo with the strap".
"After the worry he's caused us today it would only be what he deserved", said Julian "I can only put this fit of petulance on your part down to tiredness".
"Of course I'm tired! It's late, and I'm having to prepare dinner for ten!"
"Well you can go to bed straight afterwards", said Julian "Leave the dishes until the morning, or better still get Joby to do them. He should be feeling better by then".
"Julian, you are unspeakable! Even after all these years your arrogance still shocks me. Now get out of my galley before I stick this knife into your eye and twist it round!"
Julian sighed, and went out into the gangway. The hatch to the hold was open, and from below could be heard the sound of Hillyard chopping up kindling for the furnace.
"Aren't you any further on?" Julian yelled through the hole.
Hillyard stuck his fingers up in reply.
"Cocoa?" said Joby, taking the mug Lonts was offering "I must be feeling under the weather if I'm reduced to drinking cocoa!"
"I've put some brandy in it for you", said Lonts, conspiratorially "It'll help you to sleep".
"Aren't the rest of you going to bed?" said Joby, sitting up in his bunk "It must be very late".
"Half-past one in the morning".
"Why's the engine going at this hour? Why couldn't we leave setting off until the morning?"
"Julian's determined to get Tamaz".
"I bet the others are ecstatic about doing night-time manoeuvres!"
"Nobody wants to leave Toondor Lanpin", said Lonts "But Adam says we can probably come back here once Tamaz has been defeated, and live here for good. I expect you'd like to see him defeated, wouldn't you Joby?"
"I don't care if I never set eyes on him again", said Joby, sipping his cocoa "But Julian's got a point. If Tamaz hates Kieran enough to go to all the trouble of taking me hostage, then we knows what else he's capable of. He has to be destroyed, or none of us'll be safe".
"Will you be alright, Joby?" said Lonts, with concern.
"Yeah, the old dog's not defeated yet", Joby smiled "I hope Julian hasn't been too hard on you".
"He said he was going to beat me and Bengo with a strap".
"You tell me if he tries any such thing. I won't have it. I was pleased as punch to see your face".
"Adam says Julian's being an arrogant pig", Lonts sighed.
"Everything's pretty much as normal then!"
"We all wanted to save you, Joby. Everybody was in on it".
"You just forgot to tell Julian?"
"We didn't mean to. It's just that Bengo wanted to get you back for Kieran's sake, and I was worried about you, and we knew Julian wouldn't let us do it".
The door opened and Finia walked in, looking beautiful in his spotless white nightgown and matching bandanna.
"I just wanted to wish you goodnight", he said to Joby.
"I take it you were in on the conspiracy too?" said Joby.
"He distracted Julian", said Lonts, proudly "And gave us his revolver".
"So you're getting a hard time too are you?" said Joby.
"Not too bad so far", Finia sighed "He just grinds his teeth a lot and calls me treacherous. Goes on a bit too about all the money he's wasted on me over the years, and this is all the thanks he gets. Nothing too serious. Did threaten to pull my skirts up and give me a hiding, but he won't. I'd go on strike for a month if he did!"
"He'd be helpless if you did that", said Joby.
"Quite", said Finia, with excusable smugness.
Adam came in soon after, looking extremely tired. Finia bid them all goodnight and left the room.
"I think I'll even be able to sleep through the noise of the engine", said Adam, sitting down his bunk and removing his shoes "Patsy'll be in shortly, Jobe. He's having a last cigarette up on deck".
"I wish he wouldn't", Joby muttered "Are we going to be moving all night?"
"That's the plan", said Adam "To make up for lost time. Julian's reasoning is that Tamaz is alone in a motorised dinghy, so he can't keep going all the time".
"Ransey and Hillyard are gonna be knackered come daylight", said Joby "I'd better take over at the wheel then".
"Only if you're up to it", said Adam "If not I'm sure we can sort something out".
"Get Toppy to do it", said Lonts.
"He's never driven a boat before, Lo-Lo", said Adam.
"He can't do anything", Lonts sneered "He's the most useless person I've ever met. He didn't help us rescue Joby, and he doesn't do anything around here but creep after you".
"That's quite enough, Lo-Lo", said Adam "Although I agree with you about the creeping. There's something about him that always makes me want to call him the school sneak. The sort that would eavesdrop on you in the showers and then tell the older boys all the awful things you'd been saying about them".
"We had one like that in Kiskev", said Lonts "Some of the others got so fed up with him they took him out onto the tundra and staked him out on the snow. I think he's still there".
"And you thought your schooldays were hard, Adam!" Joby laughed.
"Fortunately wilful murder was the one thing that was frowned upon!" said Adam "I'm very glad they never tried that with you, Lonts".
"They suggested it once", said Lonts "But I started screaming so they left me alone".
"I can understand that", said Joby "Enough to deter anyone".
By daybreak Julian was sufficiently tired to relax his zeal and he ordered the brakes to be put on the Indigo. Both Ransey and Hillyard were almost dropping with exhaustion by this time.
"Come to your senses have you?" said Ransey "There's no point us trying to catch up with Tamaz as though we were in a race, Julian. He's even more desperate to get rid of us than we are to get rid of him, so we just have to sit tight and let him come to us".
"I suppose you're going to say we needn't have left Toondor Lanpin?" Julian sighed.
"No I'm glad we have", said Ransey "We don't know what Tamaz is capable of, and the women and children there are too precious to risk getting caught in his cross-fire. It's a good thing we are back out in the middle of nowhere".
"Exactly! I'm glad someone can see my point of view", said Julian "Go below and get some rest until lunch-time".
Julian also retired to his cabin, but he was too keyed up to sleep. Instead he brought the logbook up to date, and was relieved when Finia and Toppy got up and left the cabin, leaving him alone. He ate breakfast by himself, and then Adam came in to collect the tray.
"I understand we're stopping here for a while?" said Adam, stony-faced.
"A mere few hours", said Julian "And I don't know why you persist in this nonsense of giving me a hard time. We're here to fight the forces of darkness, or avenge what happened to Joby, call it what you like. Either way I would've thought that was far more important than the fact that you didn't say your goodbyes to the neighbours!"
"It's not just that, it's your whole arrogant demeanour", said Adam.
"Captains aren't meant to be shy and retiring", Julian snapped "Stop being such a silly, sentimental old queen, and get back to the galley. It's obviously the most suitable place for you".
Adam gave a cry of rage and flew at him, intending to slap him round the head. Julian caught him by the wrists, pulled him over his knee and spanked him hard on the buttocks several times.
"I will put your unprofessional behaviour down to the strain of the past few days", said Julian, when Adam had calmed down "It's either that or I have to draw the unwelcome conclusion that you place the neighbours' sensitivities over the welfare of your own people".
"No, I'm sorry", Adam stammered, emotionally "I've been stupid".
"You're tired", said Julian, simply "And as angry that Tamaz got away as I am".
"It would have solved a lot of problems if we'd got him at the Wharf", said Adam "But please don't blame Lo-Lo for that. He was so worried about Joby".
"There's no point crying over spilt milk as the old saying goes", said Julian "But you and I have to support each other. We're in charge here. I know you didn't want to leave the waterfront..."
"Life did seem so much simpler there than anywhere else", said Adam "I could move at my own pace. Back on the move again all I ever seem to do is cook meals and wash nappies. I feel like some downtrodden old housewife".
"But that's all you did in Toondor Lanpin!"
"Yes, but as I said it was at my own pace. When we're moving everyone expects feeding every five minutes, and it's hard work cooking for ten. If I'm becoming a silly old queen it's because I don't exactly live a macho lifestyle!"
"Take no notice, I shouldn't have said that", said Julian "You work very hard, and I'm afraid someone has to be den-mother, and it has to be you because ... well I suppose you're the least selfish one of us".
"You know how to turn on the charm when you want", Adam sniffed.
"It's all true. We'll go back to Toondor Lanpin as soon as Tamaz is defeated, you have my word on that. I can't see the others objecting. And then you can live out your days discussing the perils of nappy rash with Mrs Tearful. Does Lonts ever get nappy rash at all, purely as an aside?"
"It has been known", Adam smiled "Not often thank goodness, as it does make him very bad-tempered".
"At least we don't have to put up with him teething!" Julian exclaimed "I'm going to be the soul of generosity and donate a few bottles from my secret store of wine to go with lunch. I think morale needs a bit of a leg-up. I know that's not much help to you though".
"It doesn't matter. I can always take some hashish if I start feeling too left out".
Lunch was a very enjoyable affair, particularly given the worry of the situation. They all crammed into the galley, with Adam and Julian sitting at opposite ends of the table. For some time the noise-level was remarkably low as everyone ate their fill, with just the sound of knives scraping across the plates.
"When we get back to Toondor Lanpin", said Ransey, as he finished his meal "You should think about opening your own waterfront restaurant, Adam".
"Not a bad idea", said Hillyard "We could make it a bit exotic. Have Finia and Lonts entertaining the customers by dancing, and if anyone gives us trouble Julian could discipline them".
"Sounds like an S&M restaurant that I went to once in New York", said Julian.
"I can imagine", said Joby, pulling a face.
"It's the sort of thing that we could do rather well", said Julian "One of the punishments as I recall was to sit customers in a cage in the middle of the room and feed them slops".
"Hillyard could cook those", said Joby "His cooking would be enough punishment for anyone. Trouble is, they'd probably never come back!"
"What else did they do?" said Ransey.
"Oh the usual old thing", said Julian "Anything to do with public humiliation and shame. Hanging customers from a hook in the ceiling and whipping them. Tinkerbell would be rather good at that. He'd look very fetching in a leather cap and corset. He could make them confess their sins beforehand. Should give everyone else a laugh if nothing else. Another was to have a dominatrix there who'd spank men who didn't clear their plates".
"Adam's job!" Joby exclaimed.
"Perfect casting", said Kieran "Particularly if he used a hairbrush".
This caused much hilarity, and actually succeeded in making Julian blush.
"How did anyone decide what happened?" said Kieran "Did you just come out and ask for it at the door, like saying what size table you wanted?"
"It was on the menu", said Julian "You ordered it with the meal. Whipping, spanking, bondage, the cage, whatever. And then you'd get called out at some point during the evening".
"Bit like a Butlins cabaret really", said Joby.
"We should arrange something like that for Joby's birthday", said Hillyard "He'd be a nervous wreck all evening".
He stopped short when he recalled some of the humiliation Joby had undergone at Tamaz's hands.
"Shit, sorry mate. I forgot", said Hillyard "Stupid of me".
"Forget it", said Joby, amiably "I still don't know what people see in bondage! It was just bloody uncomfortable for me, and I hated feeling helpless. I used to worry what might happen to me if there was a fire or something. You know what I'm like! And the worst part was having to ask him everytime I wanted the bucket. I felt like a dog who has to stand at the door when he wants to be let out. But worse than that, worse even than ... than the assault w-was ..."
"Go on, Joby", said Adam, softly.
"Would you rather there weren't so many of us here?" said Ransey.
"No you might as well all know", said Joby, tearfully "In case he tries anything like it again, or tries to do the same to any of you. He gets at your weaknesses you see. He knows things about you that you don't always know about yourself. It's frightening. Really frightening. He knew I've ... I've got a fetish".
Pin silence followed this remark. Julian looked as though he was bursting to make some quip, but Adam was glaring at him ferociously.
"I've got a thing about stockings, women's stockings", said Joby "God knows how he knew that, but he did. He used to put them on and flaunt himself. Made me touch him and suck his toes, and I couldn't fucking resist! I'm sorry, Kiel".
"Don't be daft", said Kieran, putting his arm round him "You're hardly the first man to have a thing about women's stockings".
"But I kissed his toes!"
"Well perhaps you could get a job as his financial advisor", said Adam, and he winked at Joby.
"Adam!" Joby began to laugh, helplessly.
"It don't bear thinking about what he could have used against any of the rest of us", said Hillyard.
"My Father had a fetish for women in gloves", said Julian, reflectively "Preferably spotless white kid gloves. He used to keep a photograph of my Mother wearing a pair on his desk. For all I know he probably made her wear them in bed!"
"Hard to imagine your mother having sex, Jules", said Adam "Almost like sacrilege. I wonder if she kept her cardigan on?"
"I don't know", said Julian "But I expect my Father needed to take an ice-pick in with him! I sometimes think our parents should have swapped partners, Adam. My Father and your mother would have had a riotous time together, and your father would undoubtedly have richly deserved my Mother!"
"Horrible to think about Tamaz getting into our minds like that", said Ransey, soberly "The bastard. You're a strong man, Joby. I'm not sure if I'd have survived".
"I think we need to chill out a little", said Kieran, standing up and tapping Joby on the arm "Come on Jobe, let's go and roll in the hay".
"What a very good idea", said Adam "I hope you don't mind if Lo-Lo and I go on the other side of the curtain?"
"They won't mind", said Lonts, grabbing Adam's hand excitedly "Us four could have an orgy!"
"I think we'll stay two in a bed for today", said Adam, steering him out of the galley "We'd never fit four of us into one of those bunks anyway".
Ransey made his excuses too and said he was going for a nap. Bengo and Finia took pity on a bewildered-looking Toppy, and took him up on deck for a game of quoits.
"I guess that leaves us two", said Julian, to a morose-looking Hillyard "Try not to look too excited at the prospect".
"I wouldn't have been your first choice", Hillyard growled.
"And I wouldn't have been yours", said Julian "So we make a perfect couple!"
"It's all gone quiet over there", Kieran sang softly, some time later.
"I think they've both fallen asleep", said Joby, glancing at the dividing curtain in their cabin "We've never done it at the same time as them before".
"Quite exciting wasn't it?" said Kieran, mischievously.
"Yeah, when I could hear meself think. They're like a couple of stags rutting!"
"Are you going to be alright, Joby? It was brave of you to confess in public like that".
"Oh I just wanted to get it out of me system", said Joby "Trouble is, I'll probably have Finia donating all his old stockings to me now!"
"Well I'd offer to model them for you, but me legs aren't up to much", said Kieran "They'd probably end up looking downright revolting on me in fact. They'll sort of cascade into spirals around me twiggy legs".
"Seriously though, I think it's bugged Ransey", said Joby "Almost makes me glad it was me Tamaz got. I dread to think how he'd have persecuted him".
"And he wouldn't have let it out so easily afterwards".
"Like group therapy wasn't it? God, it makes me squirm though when I think how I kissed his toes. I should've sank me teeth into them! There are all sorts of things I should've done, which've only occurred to me now".
"You're here with me in one piece", said Kieran "And that's all that matters to me".
A sudden cacophony broke out above. Raised voices and heavy footsteps approached the topside doors.
"What's going on?" said Joby, looking alarmed "It's not Tamaz is it?"
Kieran looked around him frantically for a weapon, and found Adam's cut-throat razor lying on the wash-stand. He picked it up and flicked it open.
"We'll be ready for the bastard if it is", he said.
"Patsy? What's going on?" said Adam, sitting up blearily.
Kieran didn't answer. Instead he pulled open the cabin door ... and confronted Brother Monene.
"Y-Your Grace", Monene stammered, looking rather startled to see the Vanquisher standing there naked and brandishing a razor in an aggressive manner.
"Have you followed us out here?" Kieran barked, folding up the razor nonetheless.
"We've only just caught you, but then we've only got a small motorised raft", said Monene "I have to talk to you. It's Father Dalman. He's thrown in his lot with Tamaz. It's dreadful news".
"Surprising I grant you", said Kieran, putting on Joby's t-shirt "Considering he's done nothing lately but blame me for bringing Tamaz into the public eye. Is there a reason for what he's done?"
"None as far as I can see", said Monene "Although I'm certain there must be. He just suddenly took off last night, left a note saying that he was going to assist the President".
"He must've gone overland then", said Joby "Or we'd have noticed him".
"I take it you've no idea where Tamaz is now?" said Kieran.
"No more than you, Your Grace", said Monene.
"I want you to tell me all you know about Dalman", said Kieran, leading the way into the saloon "All I know about him is he has the gift of the gab and he's ambitious".
"There's not much more I can add I'm afraid", said Monene "He's always been inscrutable. He doesn't trust anyone. When he first got promoted to bishop he was accused by the Church Council of acting like a dictator to those under him. He said in his defence that he was only trying to instil order and unity, to stop the Church flaking off into fragments. He was very plausible and impressive. The Council have largely left him alone ever since. They have a horror of dis-unity. Quite rightly, they believe we have to present a strong, close-knit front to the public. We've rather taken your family as a role model there".
"Why has Dalman suddenly developed the hots for Tamaz then? You must have some clue".
"All I can guess, and it's a wild guess, is that Tamaz must have offered him something. Something he couldn't resist".
"Bribery and corruption, eh?" said Kieran, grimly "We can do without his sort in the Church".
"It's within your power to sack him", said Monene "You're still Defender of the Faith, not Tamaz".
"This is bizarre", said Kieran "It wasn't that long ago that Dalman was refusing to acknowledge Gorth's marriage, and now he's running after Tamaz like a faithful hound", he sighed "So, what are your plans now, Monene?"
"We wish to stay with you", said Monene "Ketts and I. Until the fight is over".
"You'll have to take that up with Julian, he's in charge around here", said Kieran "And I can't imagine he's going to be too happy about it somehow!"
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