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By Sarah Hapgood

"But I thought the Gorgon wasn't a living creature", said Joby, as they walked back into the village "Not a living flesh and blood one I mean".

"That doesn't mean she can't reproduce I suppose", said Kieran.

"Who the hell was the father then?" Joby exclaimed "Or is he now reduced to being some abstract sculpture in a town centre somewhere?"

"I'm coming round to the idea that the Gorgon may be able to switch her power on and off like a torch", said Kieran "After all, when she was sighted at our neighbour's house back in the City she was just like an ordinary woman, and when Adam saw her in hospital too".

"But going by Tamaz's age, she must have had him when she was still patrolling the woods at Marlsblad", said Joby "You don't think his father was one of the vampires do you?"

"No I'm convinced his father was a Ghoomer, but don't ask me all the ins and outs at the moment", said Kieran "It takes some getting your head round".

"You can say that again".

By the time they got back to the main square of the village the place was bustling again. They found Adam and Lonts buying fresh fruit from one of the traders, using some spare tins of vegetables as cash. The villagers of No-Name traded on a bartering system. Being so out of the way, and not officially existing, they had no use for money, as they had nowhere to spend it. Everything was traded for goods or skills, or whatever.

"Patsy, how are you my baby?" said Adam, wrapping him in a hug "Where have you been?"

"Me and Joby went for a walk", said Kieran "And we've been talking to one of the gypsies".

"So you haven't been with Messalina all this time?" said Adam "I'm very glad to hear it. Let's have some water and you can tell me all about it".

They sat at the communal pump, and Kieran informed them that his night of passion with Lady Red had been little short of a disaster. The woman was a monster, devoid of any natural affection or compassion, who treated everyone as a commodity to be used.

"She must have been bad!" said Adam "I've never heard you be so ungallant about one of the fairer sex before, apart from your poor wife".

"I would never lump Amy in the same category as her", said Kieran, indignantly.

"Julian's in a filthy mood this morning by the way", said Adam "Whilst you've been out he's started ranting about how we're all being used by Lady Red, and before we know it she'll start using the Indigo as her own personal knocking-shop".

"But he was the one who told me to go!" said Kieran.

"I know, but it still hasn't stopped him ranting", said Adam "He's not a Gemini for nothing. He's quite capable of holding two entirely different perspectives at one time. He'll be even less happy when he hears I've ordered a hand-carved cedarwood cabinet from the village carpenter".

"How are you paying for it?" said Joby.

"The little clock in the saloon", said Adam "We hardly ever use it, and so the little man was quite thrilled at the idea. He can't tell the time, he just wants to watch the hands moving round, says he wants to be able to watch time passing. And as it is we've got the galley clock, and the one in Julian's cabin, plus your fob-watch and Ransey's wrist-watch, so we really don't need it".

"But what do we need a cedarwood cabinet for?" said Kieran.

"I thought it would add a bit of much-needed class to the saloon", said Adam "And God knows it needs it".

"Julian won't like it", said Joby.

"Oh I know that!" Adam cried, in exasperation "It's a foregone conclusion that Julian won't like it! He's never liked anything I've chosen for anywhere. Unless he can inflict his own abominable bad taste on us, he doesn't want to know".

"Speak of the Devil", Joby muttered.

Julian was marching across the village square, pursued by a tall, fair-haired man with an incurably gormless expression on his face. They recognised Gormless as one of the stewards at Lady Red's house. At her dinner-party Lady Red had boasted that if her male staff needed a severe punishment, she would make them standing wearing masks in her private quarters, so that they would be tortured by not being able to see get a tantalising glimpse of her body. Julian had remarked afterwards that this would be a punishment he'd willingly undergo!

"Off somewhere, Jules?" asked Adam, brightly.

"I have been summoned", he said, through gritted teeth.

"By whom?"

"What do you mean, by whom? Who do you think! Catherine the bloody Great that's who", he snapped "Lady Fat Arse has sent for me".

Gormless blushed on hearing his fearsome employer referred to in such an irreverent way.

"All I can assume is she wasn't satisfied by your performance last night", Julian said to Kieran "What did you do to her?"

"As little as possible", said Kieran "And it would take motorised drainpipe to satisfy that woman".

"Yes, and you're certainly not built like that are you?" said Julian, caustically.

"You are though", said Joby.

"Better not keep Her Ladyship waiting, Jules", Adam smirked.

Lady Red was in her bathroom when he called, and fully intending to conduct the meeting there. She greeted him starkers, and he noticed that she had a small black rose tattooed on her large, flabby bottom. He wondered if this was significant of anything, and decided to file it away mentally for future reference.

"That so-called Vanquisher of Evil you sent me last night", she bellowed, aggressively "Bit of a damp squib. Not up to much at all".

"Well I'm very sorry, Madam", said Julian, tongue decidedly in cheek "But his other lovers have all spoken very highly of him. Are you expecting a refund?"

"Now don't you get smart with me", she said, pulling on a silk bath-robe.

"I can't help it. You seem to think we are here solely to provide a rent-boy service for you".

"Weren't you brought up not to talk to a lady in such an abrasive way?"

"Forgive me Madam, I wasn't aware I was addressing a lady", said Julian "I would have thought that if a lady had had her sexual favours rebuffed, she would have laughed it off and ordered another cocktail, not forced the man in question to endure her attentions whether he liked it or not. You have threatened to make life difficult for us if we don't adhere to your wishes, and what you did last night was little short of rape. I don't call that the actions of a lady. How is a man meant to perform to your satisfaction if you emasculate him first?"

"Oh dear oh dear", she laughed "The great Vanquisher of Evil can't stomach a strong woman, is that it? Feels cowed does he?"

"Like any man worth his salt Madam, he finds strong women highly stimulating. What he doesn't like are overbearing bullies. You abuse your position here, and he doesn't like that. Neither do I. I want someone I can do a deal with. Help in tracking Tamaz through that wilderness out there, and I will offer what I can in return. We are even prepared to prostitute ourselves for your sake".

"Now hang on", she exclaimed "If I was a man and you lot were a ship-load of women, and I asked for sexual favours ..."

"I would expect the women to dismiss you as an over-sexed creep, so there's not much difference really is there? Anyway, as I said, I want someone I can do a deal with, not engage in a long and rather pointless debate about the battle of the sexes", said Julian "What I will say is this, if a man had called me here to discuss business, and he greeted me in his bathroom naked, I would assume he was either after a good rogering, or he was showing me that he didn't hold me in very much respect. I sincerely hope either of those are not the case with you".

"Are you threatening me?"

"I wouldn't waste my time. It would be a singularly fruitless exercise for both of us".

"You obviously see me as a threat though", she said, triumphantly "What's the matter, Captain Julian? All those months at sea with all your men at your beck and call, and now we have real women here and you feel your supremacy is being eroded, is that it?"

"Rather strange that I didn't feel like that in Toondor Lanpin isn't it?" said Julian "And I wouldn't here in No-Name, if it weren't for you. I think we'd better put the brakes on this conversation, Your Ladyship. Give me a deadline when you want us to be out of here and we'll oblige".

"I'll let you know", she said, huffily.

Julian excused himself and departed.

He stormed back to the Indigo, where he was infuriated to find the gangway on the quarterdeck blocked by a carved cedarwood cabinet, which Joby and Hillyard were attempting to manoeuvre into the saloon.

"It didn't look as big as this in the workshop", said Adam, apologetically.

"You're a complete and utter fool, Adam", said Julian "You get pottier with each day that passes. Sometimes I don't know who you're beginning to resemble most, your silly mother or your deranged Eskimo".

Julian managed to squeeze past the cabinet and get into his cabin, where he shut the door on the mayhem and thankfully poured himself a drink.

"There's something we need to discuss, Jules", said Adam, following him in a few minutes later "Something Patsy's told me".

"And what would that be?" said Julian, wearily.

"A gypsy girl told him that Tamaz's mother is the Gorgon, isn't that extraordinary?"

"Nothing surprises me anymore Adam, I have become immune to it", Julian sat down at his desk and looked around him "I'm handing you the captaincy of this vessel".

"Oh not that one again!" said Adam, impatiently "It's almost becoming a weekly occurrence, your resignation. What's brought it on this time?"

"What I made Kieran do last night", said Julian, sombrely "I shouldn't have. It's achieved nothing, and if anything it might have made matters worse. It went entirely against the grain. It was wrong".

"Lady Red didn't leave you with much choice", said Adam "The villagers have turned her into this monster, and we've got caught up in her maelstrom".

"How are the others going to feel about leaving here?" said Julian "I realise no one wanted to leave Toondor Lanpin".

"This isn't Toondor Lanpin", said Adam "It's a small, isolated village and it suffers from all the drawbacks one equates with such places. I can't see any of us wanting to settle here, with or without Lady Red in-situ. It's certainly not like Toondor Lanpin, and I think it's going to start getting on everyone's nerves before long".

"How do they feel about leaving the women behind though?"

"Jules, this isn't the Bounty, and No-Name isn't Tahiti!" Adam exclaimed "It's not going to bother them in the slightest. They have two concerns at the moment. Getting rid of Tamaz, and then getting back to Toondor Lanpin. No one's going to raise a mutiny because they can't stay here".

"Good", Julian sighed "I propose that we leave here at sunset tomorrow. It's a forlorn hope that our departure won't go unnoticed by a certain person, but darkness gives me more confidence, and it'll give us a further day to collect more supplies. Make sure the water's all topped up for one thing".

"And the fuel".

"Don't worry too much about that, if push comes to shove we can always chop up that monstrosity you've acquired".

"You're feeling more your old self obviously", said Adam, stiffly "I take it tomorrow we just follow this river further into the hinterland?"

"It's the direction Tamaz took, and one useful piece of information I've gleaned since we've been here is that it doesn't connect anywhere else. It eventually peters out in the middle of nowhere, so Tamaz is lurking up there somewhere".

"That doesn't mean anything, Jules. Tamaz might have met up with Dalman and gone overland".

"No, he's still up there, like a monkey on a rope", said Julian "I feel certain of it".

"I wonder who's acting as President at the moment?"

"Not our concern", said Julian, shortly.

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