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Both ships set sail the following morning on the dot of 10 AM, as Bardin had decreed. They had only gone a short distance when they hit serious trouble. Seemingly, out of nowhere, a strange, greenish light descended on the area. It looked similar to an aurora borealis, but saturating the area, and possessed of a faint, buzzing, electrical feel.
“At a rough guess I would say this is emanating from the Third Island”, said Bardin, standing up on the main deck “Kieran, what do you think?”
“It’s the most likely explanation”, said Kieran “The really worrying thing is I think they’re using it to lure us in, like a magnet”.
“OK, well we have ways round that”, said Bardin “We’ll change direction slightly, and move further to the South. I’m hoping that its range will be weaker the further down we go. Rumble, as you’re the tallest, go up to the stern and use a lamp to signal to the yacht what we’re doing”.
“Right”, said Rumble.
“That buzzing noise its making might be what you heard that night”, said Joby to Bardin.
“Could well be”, said Bardin “But whatever this is, it isn’t natural and it isn’t healthy. We need to get out of its range pronto”.
Mieps carefully steered the ship into a new, southerly direction.
“If it did cause that buzzing we heard”, said Bardin “Then its range didn’t actually reach that well to Peat Bog Island, as no one on watch that night saw anything out of place. Anyway, we need to concentrate on getting out of here before it gets too dense to see properly”.
He stopped and cried out in shock.
“What the hell is she doing?!” he yelled.
The yacht, instead of following them south as he had hoped, was going in the opposite direction! It too had changed course, but was now heading directly towards The Third Island.
“I can’t believe it!” Bardin tore off his cap and flung it on the deck in exasperation “What is she playing at?? For fuck’s sake!”
“I was signalling like mad, Bard”, Rumble called over “But I couldn’t get any response from their end”.
“Do we go after them, Bardin?” asked Lonts, in concern.
“No we don’t, not yet anyway”, said Bardin “We get out of this stagnant fish-tank atmosphere first, and then we all have a council-of-war in the dining-room”.
It didn’t take them long to escape from the range of the Green Mire, and before long they had reached relatively calmer waters. By now the Mire had receded too, and had gone back to the immediate area of the island. To the dismay of every on board the Indigo, the yacht could be seen calmly sailing towards it, as if it didn’t have a care in the world.
“I just do not understand”, Bardin paced backwards and forwards at one end of the dining-room “What on earth possessed her to do such a thing?”
“Bardin, I do wish you’d stop pacing about like a mad thing, old love”, said Adam “All that will achieve is wearing a hole in the floor”.
Bardin did at least pause.
“But I never would have thought she would be so insane as to do something like that”, said Bardin.
“Just a thought”, said Julian “It might not have been her doing”.
“Well I can’t believe it was Jane or Glynis who would have come up with such a daft plan”, said Bardin.
“No, I was thinking more along the lines of Lord Robert”, said Julian.
“What, HIM?!” Bardin exclaimed “That useless great vegetable in a chair!”
“That might be how he appears to us”, said Julian “But we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes on that vessel. It’s either that or Cloris has been bluffing us all along”.
“Some sort of double agent you mean?” said Bardin “No I can’t believe that, not after all this time. One thing I will always say for Cloris is that she’s honest”.
“I think she’s confused”, said Kieran.
“She’s not the only one!” said Bardin.
“Now don’t start pacing again”, said Adam.
“Cloris has been suffering from acute exhaustion ever since she arrived on Hy Brasil”, said Kieran “And she’s not had much of a chance to get over it. She’s worn herself to a frazzle. Now partly that’s her own fault, she should delegate more”.
“Well what d’you expect of such an annoying great control-freak!” said Bardin.
“Something in that murk must have played with her mind”, said Kieran.
“Why didn’t it affect us then?” said Hillyard.
“It’s simply that we’re not exhausted like she is”, said Kieran “Particularly after our little Retreat these past few weeks. Whatever was there, she wasn’t mentally strong enough to resist it. Plus, we’re used to wandering about all over the place. Cloris doesn’t like it though. You heard what Glynis said the other day, Cloris wants structure. Something in that murk must’ve convinced her that was what the island was offering her, a safe place where she could finally stop wandering around like a lost soul”.
“Even so, couldn’t any of the others have stopped her?” said Bengo.
“This is the Ministry we’re talking about, Bengo”, said Kieran “When the Great Overlord - or Overlady in this case - decrees something, then they all follow along, no matter what grave misgivings they might have. It’s frustrating, but I suspect it’s true”.
“But Glynis isn’t one of them”, said Hillyard.
“No, but she’s vastly out-numbered”, said Kieran “We may even have to face the fact that it worked on her too. Glynis was exhausted when we met up with her again at Toondor Lanpin, and she’s been homeless ever since. And the truth is, she doesn’t really fit in with them …”
“Now don’t start trying to make us feel guilty because we didn’t offer her a home on here”, said Julian.
“I wasn’t going to”, said Kieran “It would never have worked. We know that, she knows that”.
“We haven’t got room anyway”, said Bardin “Unless she kips on our sofa or yours, which wouldn’t be practical at all. And anyway, I’m not having our whole way of life turned upside down for the sake of one person, and I don’t care if that is selfish”.
“It’s not”, said Ransey “But what do we now?”
“I guess we’re going to have to go after them”, said Bardin, causing a loud groan to go up across the room “Look, what else can we do? We can’t leave them to whatever the hell is on that island, we’d never be able to live with ourselves afterwards. Trust me, I’m no more fucking pleased about this than you lot are!”
“Alright, calm down, mate”, said Hillyard “No one’s having a go at you”.
Bardin gave a grunt in reply, and then said “Ransey, go down and get some more weaponry out of the hold. We’re probably going to need everything we can get. Take Toppy along to help you”. He then paced out of the room, muttering “Something is not right about all this”.
They were prepared for anything when they approached the island, even a whole host of spear-wielding cannibals ready to greet them. Instead they found themselves in the vicinity of a truly dismal place. Bardin took Bengo, Kieran, Joby, Hillyard and Ransey over in the skiff. The noise they made as they dragged the skiff onto the beach seemed deafening in the silence. The island was dark, but it was dark in a miserable way, not a threatening one.
“What a place”, said Bardin “If there are cannibals here then they’re welcome to it”.
It was hard to imagine it sustaining any kind of lifeform though.
“The yacht’s moored round the side here”, said Hillyard, standing on a nearby rock.
“Well that’s something”, said Bardin “I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had vanished into a parallel universe!”
He ordered Joby and Bengo to stay behind and mind the skiff.
“Why?” said Bengo “We’ve got a spare on the galleon”.
“Don’t start arguing, Bengo”, said Bardin.
“Scarcely any point me coming over”, Bengo grumbled.
“I think we’ll rename this place Morbid Island”, said Ransey “It has an overwhelming feel of it”.
They clambered over the rocks in the direction of the yacht. On the other side they found the yacht crew standing around on the beach and in the shallows, like a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. Simply standing there, as though painfully undecided as to what to do next.
“What the hell are you lot playing at?” Bardin exclaimed, clambering down to them “What are you doing??”
“We’re staying here, Bardin”, said Cloris, sounding zombified.
“Well that green mist really worked on you didn’t it!” said Bardin.
“That was only the encouragement we required”, said Cloris “There is no point in us going any further. We shall stay here”.
“And how are you going to survive here?” said Bardin “This place isn’t much better than Peat Bog Island for sustainability”.
“We shall find a way”, said Cloris.
“And what about the stories of cannibals and all that jazz?” said Hillyard.
“Just stories”, Cloris shrugged “Everywhere we go is dangerous, this place feels less dangerous than most in fact”.
“Yes, because there’s nothing bloody here!” said Bardin.
“Please stop shouting at me, Bardin”, said Cloris “We are very tired”.
“I’m only shouting because I don’t understand any of this”, said Bardin, having to resist a strong urge to shake her by the shoulders.
“Glynis”, said Hillyard “You don’t want to stay here surely?”
“You told me you hated the sight of this island”, said Ransey.
“I know”, said Glynis, coming over to them “But these are the only family I have now. I can’t live with you …”
“You can at least travel with us until we find somewhere else”, said Bardin “Somewhere better than this!”
“And then what will happen to me?” said Glynis.
“You can start a new life”, said Ransey.
“I don’t want to start a new life”, said Glynis “I’m tired of starting over, that’s all it’s been for a long while now. I want to stop now. Julian was right. We’re a new community, we will grow together in time”.
“I’m sure you will”, said Bardin “But this isn’t the place to do it”.
“We can decide for ourselves, Bardin”, said Cloris “No one told you lot you couldn’t stay at Peat Bog Island did they”.
“Damnit!” said Bardin, in frustration, turning round to look out at the sea, which was remarkably placid.
“Our journey ends here, guys”, said Jane “Yours doesn’t, yours continues, and we wish you well on it”.
“One thing”, said Bardin, coming back to them “Just one thing. It was bloody rude to suddenly sail off like that without making any effort to tell us! Didn’t we deserve any better than that?”
“I suppose the green mist made up our minds for us”, said Cloris “We didn’t think”.
Bardin let out a “pah!” and clambered back up over the rocks.
“I’m sorry we upset him”, said Jane.
“I’m sure he’ll survive”, said Hillyard “Look, if this is what you want, then there’s nothing more we can do. All I’ll say is keep the yacht in good order. It’s a comfy home, and one day you might need it again. Don’t go doing anything daft like scuttling it”.
Jane just gave him a pained smile in return.
“OK”, said Hillyard “I guess it’s the end of the line … for now”.
He kissed Glynis on the cheek, but felt her physically resisting him, so he didn’t pursue it.
“I’m sorry”, he said, quietly “That you feel it has to be this way. I still think you should give the New Continent a go, or maybe we might find that tropical island”.
“And what then?” said Glynis “Set myself up as a little one-woman smallholding?”
“Would that be so bad?” said Hillyard.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore, Hillyard”, she replied.
There was nothing further to say to that. Hillyard turned from her with tears in his eyes.
“Hilly”, said Glynis “Please give my regards to the others. I have enjoyed our little sessions on the galleon lately”.
Hillyard didn’t trust himself to reply.
Bardin returned to Bengo and Joby, and told them what had happened.
“So that’s that then”, said Joby.
“Good job I told you to stay here”, said Bardin “I was not in the mood for any emotional recriminations from Glynis about how you were the only man for her, blah blah blah”.
“I hope Adam uses the paddle on you when we get back!” said Joby.
“Bengo, if you want to go and say goodbye, now is probably the time to do it”, said Bardin.
“I’ll pop over and say goodbye to Jane”, said Bengo “She was always the fun one”.
“I can’t imagine this is the last we’ll see of them”, said Joby, as Bengo went over the rocks.
“No, neither do I”, said Bardin “But goddamnit, what can you do when you’re dealing with people who seem to have sticks up their arses all the time! None of this makes sense! What if this island IS demon-infested after all?”
“Bard”, said Joby “To put it bluntly, this isn’t our problem, mate”.
Bardin ordered that the galleon was to anchor at sea for the night, keeping the island in sight in the far distance. Come the morning, if nothing further happened, they would continue on their way to the New Continent.
“It gives them a chance to signal to us if there are any problems”, he said, when he got back onto the main deck of the galleon. He pulled off his gloves and slapped them together “Bloody nutters, the lot of them”.
He went down the main stairs, and found Kieran, who had gone onto the ship ahead of him, waiting at the bottom.
“I can’t imagine this is the last we’ll see of them”, said Kieran, helping him off with his coat “At some point we’ll come back and see how they are”.
“Mm”, said Bardin “We may even find those tunnels you’ve mentioned before”.
“The answer to those might well lie at the New Continent too”.
“I just don’t understand people when they get like that. It’s irrational”.
“They’re tired and afraid”, said Kieran “But the Lord helps those who help themselves, and He can’t do much if they refuse to progress. I’m glad you didn’t suggest going back to Hy Brasil”.
“I did very briefly think about it”, said Bardin “But I don’t see the point. We’d just end up vegetating on that island, fretting about that bloody lot! And we would still be too close to the mainland. Nope. The answer lies in front of us, and that’s the way we’re heading”.
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