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By Sarah Hapgood

Leaves From Brother Monene's Diary

"It is absurd. Absurd and downright disgraceful. Had a meeting with Captain Julian this evening, and set out my plan to get help him track down Tamaz and that traitor Father Dalman (how it grieves me to think that he is a respected member of our beloved Church!). Admittedly I do not have the information to tell them much more than I already have, but even so I hadn't expected quite such insulting treatment.

Brother Ketts and I only have the motorised raft. It affords us no protection at night against the elements or any of the unnamed horrors that may be lurking in this neighbourhood. I put this to the Captain, as much as I could in words of one syllable so that he might fully understand our situation, but he flatly refused to let us stay on the Indigo. He said it was a nine-berth vessel and there were already ten of them aboard, and he couldn't play "fast and loose" with their supplies, as they didn't know how far it was to the next settlement. Ridiculous. None of them look as though they're living under any great hardship to me. As if that wasn't bad enough he then went on to add the most ridiculous excuse of all. Lonts wouldn't' like it, as he and Brother Ketts don't get on!!! Now I've heard that the legendary Baby Lonts is a mite spoiled, but I wasn't expecting it to quite this degree. Captain Julian is prepared to leave us out here, just to keep that pampered Kiskevian from being inconvenienced in any way!

He absolutely refused to listen to reason. Captain Julian is a very difficult man to deal with, and enough to try the patience of a saint".

"Morning. Brother Ketts and I spent an uncomfortable night on the raft. Earlier today His Grace the Vanquisher appeared with spare blankets for us. We could have done with them last night, but I valiantly forbore to comment. He said they were moving on today. Whether they like it or not we will be following them. I desperately want to see Father Dalman brought to book for betraying us the way he did. That any man of the New Church could throw in his lot with a dual-sexed creature of demonic descent is simply incomprehensible to me".

"Early evening. We have endured a day's travelling through some very nondescript landscape. There are high banks on either side of the river which allow us very little in the way of view. The only good thing about it is that Tamaz can still only be a little way ahead of us up the river. Unless of course he has abandoned the dingy and run overland, in which case we should find the vessel, and still have some rough idea of where he may be. I fully expect this to happen, as I assume at some point he must want to meet up with Father Dalman, who I know for certain did go overland.

We were invited onto the Indigo for dinner, on condition Brother Ketts "behaved himself". Brother Ketts was, as I fully expected him to be, a model of decorum. I can see that none of them like him, but I have tried to reassure him that one must frequently expect this kind of off-hand treatment when one is a priest. It is to be encouraged in fact, as it is character-building and makes one more determined to fulfil one's destiny on Earth.

I got the impression Lonts has been ordered to be civil to him, and to his credit he did try to be. He can be a very pleasant boy. He has the guilelessness of a child, and a stream-of-consciousness way of talking to match. It can make it a mite difficult to keep up with his conversation, as he is apt to change track suddenly and without warning. I would dearly love to ask him more about his dealings with Father Isaac, but I do appreciate this is a very difficult subject for him.

I spoke to Mr Adam alone for a little while, and he said I must try and make allowances for "Lo-Lo". Unlike a child (which he resembles in so many other ways) he finds it hard to trust people, and he can react with a great deal of hurt and confusion when someone responds to him in a negative way. Mr Adam admitted that outsiders might find this hard to understand, but they did have to make allowances for Lonts's feelings. For instance, he claims that since I and Brother Ketts reappeared on the scene Lonts has been messing his nappy at night. Something he hasn't done for quite some time apparently. I wish I could convince them Brother Ketts means no harm. All this thoughts have to go into preparing himself mentally for his final initiation into the priesthood at the end of the year. He has no time to entertain petty and malicious thoughts".

"Morning. Brother Ketts behaving in a most extraordinary way. He is normally such a placid well-balanced person, highly equipped mentally for the rigours of the priesthood. But as soon as we woke up he suddenly rounded on me and accused me of "going gooey" over Lonts, like everyone else seemed to do. I have never in my life Gone Gooey over anyone and I don't intend to start now! It was quite a shock to me to suddenly find my trusty sidekick acting like a petulant lover, and I told him we had better forget this conversation ever took place. I said I would excuse it on the grounds that we were living in exhausting, stressful times, but we must concentrate our efforts on tracking Father Dalman. Brother Ketts then said I was becoming obsessed. Obsessed! What on earth is obsessive about wanting to see a rotten apple cast out of the higher echelons of our beloved Church? I really don't understand his attitude at the moment".

"Mid-afternoon. God be praised. We have found Tamaz's dinghy. It was lying abandoned on the bank to the right of us. The person called Bengo shouted down from an over-hanging tree-top that there was a small settlement just over the ridge with another river running alongside it. As you can appreciate we were all tremendously excited about this. Although none of us expected Tamaz to still be in the locality, we were pretty certain we could pick up information on him, as well as replenish our water-supply. I have to just add here that the crew of the Indigo have been very generous with their supplies after all, even if I get the impression Captain Julian isn't always aware of their little donations!

The settlement turned out to be a truly extraordinary place. It calls itself No-Name Village, and yet it was full of bustle and activity. Rather like a prettier and much smaller version of Toondor Lanpin. And yes, IT DOES HAVE WOMEN! His Grace the Vanquisher was understandably nervous about whether we could be trusted with this information. When I say understandably it is because, regrettably, there are some in our Church who wouldn't hesitate to pass this information onto the Ministry, and then the lives of these good people would never be their own again. As far as I'm concerned though, their secret is quite safe with me, although sadly I don't feel I can trust Brother Ketts as much as I once did. After his astonishing outburst this morning I really feel I hardly know him these days. And he was once very thick with Father Dalman. Brother Ketts always seemed rather in awe of him. But as this was the case with so many of the novices I never placed much importance on it until now".

"Evening. I have truly enjoyed these past few hours. His Grace is such good company, and I withdraw some of the reservations I have, I am ashamed to admit, entertained about him in the past. It is true that his lifestyle takes a little accepting at first, but I am certain the Good Lord would not condemn anyone for having such a loving heart. He is also honest. And that is a virtue that cannot be praised too highly. Particularly after the loathsome hypocrisy and deceit of Father Dalman.

Kieran (he insisted I call him that) is very up-front. His charm and plain-speaking are legendary, but he also has a genuine kindness and a deep belief in Our Lord. He told me this morning that creating a New Church had been a tremendous headache. There had been so many different faiths in his time, and he said it worried him greatly that he hadn't been able to accommodate them all in the new religion. He said the best he had hoped for a was genuine belief in a force for good in the Universe (under which ever name anyone wanted to call it), and a desire to help others, and if the New Church achieved those then he was sure anyone worth their salt from his time would try and understand. He said he was saddened by Father Dalman. That authoritarianism and corruption had riddled many religions in his time, including his own, and he had hoped we might be able to avoid it. He was sad to see it rearing its ugly head once more, but he supposed it was only human nature. Even so, he said, the Church had no place for men with such massive ego's as Father Dalman's, and it was only right that he should be cast out before he did too much damage.

We had all gone for dinner in No-Name, at the house of the Governor. SHE was perfectly charming, if a trifle unorthodox (I have a feeling some of her habits may be a trifle immoral, but anyone who knows the Vanquisher learns not to judge people too soon). She has a tumbling mane of red hair, from which she gets the nickname Lady Red, by which she is known to everyone. She also has creamy skin, and the most amazing pair of breasts. Full, like melons, they completely dominate any room she is in. I was concerned at one point that they seemed to be on the verge of spilling out of her dress. She has a pet tiger-cub which she keeps on a silver leash and feeds from a bowl of milk at the dinner-table. When Captain Julian asked her at one point what she would do with the animal when it got older, she snorted with laughter and said "make a fur coat out of it!" I THINK she was joking.

Altogether I found her witty and vibrant in her conversation, but a trifle terrifying. Her assistant, who goes by the delightful name of Dolores, is more my sort of person. She is very practical and intelligent, slim and bespectacled. She also has a charmingly wry sense of humour. I will be honest and say that I hope we see more of her. I find her utterly fascinating. She tells me that Lady Red got the job of Governor (essentially Village Leader, as the rest of the world isn't supposed to know about them) on sheer force of personality alone. She inspires strong passions in her people, not always it must be said of a positive kind, but she does make the people of No-Name feel important, and that matters a great deal to them, being hidden away as they are out here".

"Morning. Breakfasted on the Indigo. Was very intrigued to hear everyone's conclusions on the previous evening's activities. We have been without women for well over a hundred years, and yet everyone accepts them as though they've never been away. Kieran is delighted. He says that's how it should be. He says he hopes in time (I think he means when Tamaz is destroyed) that places like No-Name can go public. Then the women can visit the City if they wish, and Lady Red can take her rightful place on the Council of Governors. Kieran says we have to ward against the Ministry taking over and trying to tell everyone what to do though. He says there is a real danger they might put the women in breeding farms otherwise. I didn't like to say this, as I know how violently he is opposed to the idea, but he can only safeguard the women's immediate future if he himself reassumes the Presidency.

I was talking to Mr Joby afterwards, and I asked him what he thought of the women of No-Name. He said, rather coarsely I'm sad to say, that there was something there for everyone. "Fat, thin, brunette, blondes, redheads, black, white..." Kieran laughed when he heard this and said it was hardly surprising Joby had never had much success with women back in their time, considering that was his attitude!"

"Afternoon. A great fun time we've had here. Dolores turned up after lunch, and as soon as I saw her on the gangplank of the Indigo I made for it. When I got there I found Captain Julian in a filthy temper because Dolores had come to inspect his boat! She said Lady Red wanted to pay them a visit at home that afternoon, and she (Dolores, that is) wanted to make sure that "all was in order". Captain Julian was incandescent with rage on hearing this, and said that Lady Red would "damn well have to take us as she finds us". ("That should put her off!" said Mr Joby). Captain Julian went on to say snidely that he looked forward to welcoming Lady Red aboard the Indigo, "every single kilo of her!"

"Later. I really believe these days have been the happiest of my life. The ladies of No-Name (I've barely noticed the men!) are such fun, that I cannot believe how anyone could have ordered the massacre of the entire female race all those years ago, much less carried it out.

Lady Red came to see us this evening, amidst great pomp. She was shown over the Indigo, and expressed great concern that everyone was having to live in such cramped quarters. We all dined on deck under the stars. Lady Red has this disconcerting habit of stroking her cleavage whilst she's talking ... but I digress.

As the visiting party was leaving I said to Dolores that I had never before known such a carefree time. She said that when Tamaz was deposed, I must come back to No-Name and be their village priest. She said she was sure Kieran had imposed no hard-and-fast rules about celibacy on his priesthood. It is true, he hasn't, it's all entirely up to our own discretion. I confess I was initially a trifle disconcerted by her frankness, but the more I think about it the more bowled over I am about the whole idea".

"Today, I mean this morning ... oh help! To believe that such happiness is possible on God's Earth is truly an indication of His greatness. Every morning now I wake up on this old raft and look ahead with happy anticipation, wondering what delights the day will bring. I usually endeavour to go into the village as soon as I can to pick up some supplies. Sometimes His Grace does me the honour of coming with me. He always gets a lot of attention in the village, with everyone donating presents to him. These often turn out to be for other members of his family, particularly Baby Lonts, who seems to be popular with everyone. I overheard Lonts last night asking if the women would like if he wore his white outfit. Joby said rather dryly that it was a foregone conclusion they would. In spite of the attention he gets in the village, Lonts always rushes home and smothers Mr Adam in kisses. It's rather touching to see. When I remarked on this to Kieran, he said there was as little chance of Adam and Lonts splitting up, as there was of him and Joby doing the same. It does me good to hear about such long-lasting and enduring relationships. It gives me daring hopes that one day I might expect the same.

There is one rather tiresome niggle in all this fun, and that is Brother Ketts's increasingly morose behaviour. He is really annoying everyone at the moment, and I find it more and more difficult to defend him. I plaintively ask him why he can't just be happy and live for the moment, and all I get are sulky looks in return. He is in my charge and I feel very responsible for him, but at the same time, God forgive me, I can't help resenting him or intruding on my happiness. I know this is entirely selfish of me. I must ask Kieran for his advice tomorrow".

"Evening. Evening falls, a beautiful way to describe this time of day. Much hilarity this afternoon! A message arrived for Kieran. It was from Lady Red, and in it she said, quite casually, that she wished to mate with him!!! She said between them they could create a child that would one day rule the world, and be the greatest leader the human race has ever seen ("We've heard that before a few times", said Captain Julian).

Kieran said he was very flattered and it was a very tempting offer, but his sperm was no longer in the public domain! Mr Joby remarked, after the messenger had gone, that Lady Red in all her voluptuous glory would probably "smother an emaciated wimp like you".

An hour went past and Lady Red came round in person! Kieran looked rather worried by this, particularly so when she began to berate his attitude as selfish. Kieran got rather angry and said he wasn't going to be used as a communal tart. He'd had enough of that when he was President, he said. Lady Red went away again, but I don't think we've heard the last of this, somehow".

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