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By Sarah Hapgood

“According to Toppy’s calculations on the chalkboard we have just 3 days left of the Spiritual Retreat”, said Bardin, talking to Hillyard in the dining-room the following morning.

“Yeah well perhaps he’s got his calculations wrong”, said Hillyard “I mean, it’s very easy to lose track of time at the moment, particularly in this fog. It might be 13 days really”.

“No it’s 3”.

“Seems to have gone bloody quickly!”

“I hope you’re not doubting my calculations, Hillyard”, said Toppy, who was clearing away the breakfast dishes “I can assure you I have been very scrupulous in keeping it exact. And I am in no hurry for it to come to an end either, so there is nothing to be gained by me fiddling it. I have got a lot of essential work done in the past couple of weeks …”

“Alright calm down, mate”, said Hillyard “No one’s accusing you of anything. I was just hoping you’d got it wrong that’s all”.

“Hmm”, said Toppy, taking a loaded tray through to the galley.

“Of course a lot will depend on how long this fog lingers”, said Bardin “But Rumble tells me it’s showing signs of clearing this morning. On the plus side we’ve not heard a repeat of that buzzing noise over the past couple of nights. And Glynis is coming over later, so we can try and find out a bit more about the third island”.

“She says it’s probably all just stories”.

“Maybe, but even the most outlandish stories can have a kernel of truth in them, and there IS something very odd about that island. In the meantime, we’d better make the most of our last few days of Retreat, particularly as we don’t know when we may get another one”.

“Hopefully that means you keeping your trousers off”.

“Well I’ll put them on whilst Glynis is here”, said Bardin “Seems the polite thing to do when we have a guest”.

He walked out of the dining-room, and found Kieran loitering in the corridor, pulling some horse hairs out of a dandy brush. Bardin took advantage of his preoccupation to kick him in the pants again.

“I promised myself that one”, said Bardin.

“Hah!” said Kieran “At least you managed to keep your balance this time! Adam! Come and sort him out!”

“You little sneak!” said Bardin.

“Oh you mean to say you didn’t do it just to get punished?” said Kieran.

Adam came out and seized Bardin around the waist.

“I’m not having my backside tanned whilst he’s standing there!” said Bardin, as Adam put him across the chair nearby.

“Behave yourself, you don’t get a say in any of this”, said Adam “I thought that was abundantly clear”.

He smacked Bardin’s starched behind. Kieran managed to roughly squeeze Bardin’s buttocks in between smacks.

“Bengo”, Adam paused and called out “Could you check what time it is for me, please”.

“It’s twenty-past-ten”, said Bengo.

“Right, remember that”, said Adam “We shall do it this way at twenty-past-ten every morning”.

“What about if we’ve got visitors?” said Kieran.

“We shall have to make sure we don’t”, said Adam, resuming the spanking “No visitors before 11 AM, unless there’s an emergency of course. Bardin, you’ve been very naughty, talking back to me this morning and trying to dictate things, you’re damn lucky you’re not getting the paddle”.

Bardin groaned.

“I can go and fetch it for you if you like”, said Kieran.

“We’ll save that for after dark”, said Adam “Give him a little chance to recover first”.

“HE won’t be watching I hope”, said Bardin, meaning Kieran.

Adam smacked him very hard. Bardin groaned in ecstacy. It was over all too soon, and Adam tossed him to the floor.

“I’ll send Bengo to give you a little rub-down”, said Adam “He so enjoyed the last one”.

“Tell Toppy this floor needs sweeping”, said Bardin “It’s dusty!”

Bengo came out of the galley and helped him to his feet, gently leading him into their cabin.

“Damnit, he was just standing there, looking all smug!” said Bardin, once they were alone.

“Stop fibbing, you loved it”, said Bengo “You loved all the humiliation”.

“Starting to remind me of some old Cabaret gimmick”, said Bardin “‘Guess How Many Times Our Clowns Have Been On The Receiving End Of Pies This Week’, that sort of thing”.

“Yeah, particularly me!” said Bengo.

“You weren’t the only one, you little liar”, said Bardin “I remember getting covered from head-to-foot in the stuff. It took me ages to wipe enough off to be able to see!”

“I know, as I said yesterday, damn sexy”.

“Except this time it’s Guess How Many Times Bardin Has Been Spanked This Week”.

“We’ll have to go for a record over the next couple of days”, said Bengo “Although I hope it’s not going to stop just because that comes to an end”.

“Of course it’s not”, said Bardin “No reason why any of it should come to an end, we’ll just be sailing that’s all, instead of in one place. Anyway, get all your clothes off, if we’re going to do the rub-down properly”.

“Can you see it?” asked Ransey.

“Oh yes”, said Glynis, catching her breath “It’s beautiful!”

They were standing at the top of the island. The fog had cleared now to just a few wisps. Glynis was peering through some binoculars at the pink mountains they previously seen in the far distance.

“Is it the New Continent?” she said.

“It must be, I can’t see that it’s anywhere else, unless a huge slab of land mass has suddenly appeared in the ocean”.

“I hope it’s real and not some cruel mirage”.

“I must admit I did wonder that too, the first time I saw it”, said Ransey “As though we were all having some kind of collective hallucination, but the fact that you’ve seen it too reassures me”.

“And then there’s that place”, said Glynis, shivering in her coat.

She was looking in the direction of the third island, which floated, a densely wooded hump in the middle of the ocean.

“You’ve got bad vibes about that place?” said Ransey.

“I don’t like it, Ransey. I haven’t any solid reason why, it’s just a bad feeling I have. I’ve had it ever since we first arrived in this area. When we were on Hy Brasil I didn’t like going round to the side of the island which faced it. I would much rather not be able to see it”.

“Now that’s interesting”, said Ransey “Come back to the ship and have some hot chocolate, you can tell us anything else you feel about the place”.

When they got to the bottom of the quarterdeck stairs, Ransey was helping Glynis off with her coat, when Bengo suddenly came out of his cabin, his dressing-gown flapping open over his naked body. He stopped up short when he saw they had a visitor.

“Ah Glynis”, he said.

“Well Bengo”, said Glynis, looking him up and down admiringly.

“Go and put some proper clothes on”, said Ransey, sternly, to Bengo “We have a lady present”.

“Oh I don’t mind”, said Glynis “Bengo always was as cute as button. Bardin is a very lucky man”.

“I’ll tell him that”, said Bengo, smirking.

“Bengo!” Ransey ordered “Put it away!”

“We did find that book of old ghost stories in the cottage”, Glynis was explaining, a few minutes later “I found them a bit heavy-going, written in very flowery, archaic language, but they were interesting”.

“Something about a cannibal island wasn’t it?” said Julian.

“Yes, the story was about a horde of cannibal demons hanging out on the island”, said Glynis “A very lurid little tale. The usual thing. Woe betide any traveller who washed up on its shores, that sort of thing. I think the story must have centuries old, but it was clearly referring to the third island”.

“What was the name of the island in the story?” said Hillyard.

“That’s the curious thing”, said Glynis, as Toppy poured out some cocoa for her “It was actually called the Third Island”.

“Well I suppose there’s an obvious logic to it”, said Julian “And we just picked up on it”.

“That was the name of the story as well actually, The Third Island”, said Glynis.

“You say it was death to anyone who landed on the island”, said Kieran “But did any of the demons themselves ever actually leave it, or did they just lie in wait for hapless travellers?”

“No they couldn’t leave, the whole crossing water thing”, said Glynis “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about that one”.

“Same as The Cursed Isle”, said Kieran.

“So we’re safe as long as we don’t go to it, Kieran?” said Lonts.

“I would like to think that”, said Kieran “But I’m not entirely convinced. I believe there’s a whole warren of subterranean caverns and tunnels which run deep under the ocean hereabouts, and they may be able to take advantage of that. We can’t be too careful there. I think it’s a good thing you left Hy Brasil when you did. I knew there were strange energies on that island, but I thought they wouldn’t be anything too concerning. I think I may have been wrong”.

“It seems young Christmas was right to warn us about it on the mainland that time”, said Adam. *

Glynis stayed for a very pleasant lunch, and then played cards with Julian afterwards. At sunset she returned to the yacht, after saying it was one of the most relaxing afternoons she’d had in a long while.

“Whatever you are doing on this ship”, she said “It is working. I can sense what a nice atmosphere it is the moment I come aboard”.

When Bardin returned down the main steps after seeing her off, he met Kieran at the bottom.

“Can I have a wee word with you?” said Kieran “I have an idea”.

“If it involves more humiliations for me, then I’m sure you’ll get your chance”, said Bardin.

“Well that’s part of it”.

“I am surprised!”

“Now come on, you heard what Glynis said”, said Kieran “And you know what this past couple of weeks have been like. It’s all helped us a heck of a lot”.

“It was meant to be a Spiritual Retreat, and it’s worked”, said Bardin, lounging against the wall in the shadowy corridor.

“And we are going to need to keep that psychic protection going, that is very important”.

“You don’t have to come up with excuses to have me spanked, I’m sure it’ll happen anyway! I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t!”

“That will be a big part of it I’m sure”, Kieran laughed “But I would like to give some spiritual advice over supper tonight. Nothing too heavy I promise you, just how everyone can protect themselves psychically”.

“Go ahead”, said Bardin “Oh and here’s another thing”.

He suddenly lunged at Kieran, catching him in his arms, and kissing him violently on the mouth.

“Well done”, said Julian, on his way to the heads “That’s often the most effective way of shutting him up”.

“You don’t have to get to your feet to tell us, mate”, said Hillyard, when everyone was assembled around the table later “It’s starting to feel like a proper speech”.

“Yeah, where are your notes then?” said Joby.

“Let me get it over with”, said Kieran “And then we can get on with the evening. I’m sure none of you will be surprised to hear that I will be carrying out some protection rituals around the ship over the next few days”.

“Can I suggest you go easy on my cooking salt?” said Adam.

“I’ll be as sparing as possible”, said Kieran “But I want you all to do some psychic protection too. All it involves is you imaging the ship wrapped in a sort of cocoon. I’ll be asking the Yacht Club to do the same over there as well. Another one you can do is picture yourself in a darkened room, with many doors leading off it, and envisage each door closing one at a time”.

“What does that do then?” said Hillyard.

“It’s a way to shut out the Evil”, said Kieran “You’re shutting it out. I’ve been thinking a lot in recent days about the Evil that’s still at large. Now I know we destroyed the hub of the Evil empire in the City …”

“”Well YOU destroyed it”, said Tamaz.

“OK I destroyed it”, said Kieran “But the downside to that is that it was impossible to get all of it. Much of it may have splintered off. Now if it’s just the odd demon roaming here and there, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and it should be down to the relevant communities to sort it out, but there may be larger groups, who have more resources at their disposal”.

“Such as the air-buggy the other night?” said Hillyard.

“Precisely”, said Kieran “And though it chills me to say it, Glynis may well be right to be very worried that they’re looking for us, but I do believe that the further we move away from the old mainland the harder it will be for them to reach us. Air-buggies have a limited range, and I don’t believe They can travel by ship. I also believe their power is weakening, far too slowly it is true, but it is weakening. They feed off Fear, and the problem is I suspect there’s still a lot of that on the mainland to nourish them, particularly after everything that’s happened in recent years, but the further anyone gets away the better it will be. If we can try and dissipate the Fear in the world over the next few years, then it may well eventually starve them into oblivion”.

“How can we help the ones on the mainland to be strong though?” said Bardin.

“We find a safe haven ourselves”, said Kieran “A sustainable safe haven, which sadly rules out Peat Bog Island, as there’s really nothing here. We get ourselves back to full strength, and then we find a way. I suggest, if everybody’s amenable, that in the meantime we have a daily group meditation session …”

Julian groaned.

“Sorry”, he said “It’s just the words Daily Group Meditation Session, makes me feel as if I’m in a commune”.

“Well you are in a way, Julian”, said Kieran “Although I prefer monastic order meself. Will it really be so hard for you to stand around the table here once a day, holding hands, and thinking nice thoughts?”

“Particularly the nice thoughts that’ll probably be in his mind!” said Hillyard.

“You can talk, Hillyard, you can talk”, said Julian.

“They can be any nice thoughts you want them to be”, said Kieran “As long as they’re positive, and not focussed on Evil in any way”.

“Why the fuck would we wanna think about that?!” said Joby.

“That’s exactly what I want to hear, Joby”, said Kieran, sitting down.

“Shall I bring the big jar of pickled onions in now?” said Lonts.

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