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“I’ve repaired the wireless set to tell you what we’re doing”, Ransey shouted into the mouthpiece “And to advise you to avoid the New Continent at all costs. It’s over-ridden with demons”.
“Did Kieran not try and stay to negotiate with them?” asked Cloris, after Ransey had explained everything that had happened.
“NEGOTIATE WITH THEM??” Ransey exploded “Negotiate with them? Did you not hear what I’ve just told you?”
“Well I thought he was supposed to be the Vanquisher of Evil”, said Cloris, her voice sounding hard and almost automated over the airwaves “You mean you all just turned and fled?”
“What the hell is the matter with you?” said Ransey “Can you not understand what these creatures are?”
“Ransey, what’s up?” said Adam, appearing in the doorway to the wireless room with a damp tea-towel over his shoulder.
“I can’t deal with her anymore”, said Ransey, gesturing at the wireless set “I’m through. I’m through!”
He disconnected the line and stormed out into the corridor.
“Now calm down”, said Adam, gently grabbing his arms “Deep breaths now. You did the right thing by telling them what had happened, and now your duty to them is discharged”.
“I met her sort too many times at the Ministry”, said Ransey “Ice runs through their veins. They are bureaucrats to their core. Inhuman. Cold. Stubborn. Unimaginative”.
“You did your best”, said Adam “You can’t do anymore. Cloris can think what she likes about us, but she wasn’t there”.
“She is ice-cold”, said Ransey “For God’s sake, don’t tell Kieran what she said”.
“He has a habit of finding things out”, said Adam “But he won’t hear it from me, I promise you that”.
“Why are you letting it bother you so much?” said Bardin, pouring out brandy in his cabin a short while later “It doesn’t matter to us what she says, it doesn’t matter one bit”.
“I know”, said Ransey, sitting by the small fire “But I just got so damn irritated. As I said to Adam, that sort have ice running through their veins. Stern, uncompromising, stubborn, narrow-minded, icy, unimaginative …”
“Sounds like a theatre critic!” said Bardin.
“Anyway”, said Bardin, sitting down in the armchair opposite him “Why should Kieran have to sort them out? Surely by now it must be someone else’s turn to be the Vanquisher of Evil? He must have been due for a long-deserved retirement years ago!”
Ransey suddenly sat up straight in his chair.
“What have I said?” said Bardin.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head!” said Ransey “You are absolutely right!”
“I wish Bengo was in here to hear this”, said Bardin.
“No you are”, said Ransey “Why damnit should Kieran be expected to have the answer to everything? He’s done his best over the years. I can’t think of many people in his position who wouldn’t have ended up being corrupted by power or completely losing their minds! I once knew someone who suddenly started acting like Dictator For Life just because he’d got a bit of promotion!”
“Show business is rife with that sort”, said Bardin “From affable, well-meaning clown to total diva overnight the minute their name moves up the billing”.
“Exactly”, said Ransey “And there’s Kieran … Oh I know he can be stubborn sometimes, but he never chucks his weight around …”
“There’s not much to chuck!”
“He’s never once abused his power, and certainly never with us. He’s never insisted on being Captain …”
“He’d hate it!” said Bardin “He’s always said that, gets in the way of valuable prayer time”.
“For God’s sake the world’s in a state of total chaos”, said Ransey “He can’t be expected to be everywhere, doing everything, and we were totally right to put the ship first”.
“Of course we were”, said Bardin “I wasn’t going to let her fall into the hands of a horde of braying demons for fuck’s sake! Cloris can go and boil her head, rot away on that dank island of hers, that’s what she wanted. If you carry on getting upset over what she said, then you’re giving her too much credence. Let it go!”
“So I take it I have been forcibly retired”, said Kieran, sitting up on the main deck the following afternoon.
They had stayed stationary out at sea for the past couple of days, mainly because the weather had turned intoxicatingly sunny, and with no land in sight in any direction, Bardin thought it would be a good chance for them to catch their collective breath.
“We would quite like you to be, but knowing you, I suspect it won’t happen”, said Bardin, who was sitting next to him.
“Somehow I don’t think my pension is going to be forthcoming anyway”, said Kieran “But it has to be said I’m tired of destruction, and I have no inclination to go fighting devils and demons hand-to-hand anymore. We might have to try love-bombing instead”.
“And what will that involve?” said Bardin, suspiciously.
“I’m not sure yet”, said Kieran “But it won’t be anything horrible I can guarantee you that”.
“Will it work?” said Bardin.
“Well if it doesn’t”, Kieran sighed “Then we will have tried our best, and it will mean people simply don’t want to be helped”.
“Sometimes it really is buggering hard to accept how stupid or tunnel-visioned some people are in this world”, Bardin sighed.
“I know”, said Kieran, sadly “And just because it’s always been like that doesn’t make it any easier”.
“Still waters”, said Bardin, now standing stark-naked in front of the porthole in his cabin, and brushing his skin with a soft brush “Bright sunlight, not another ship or island in sight. This feels perfect, shame we can’t stay here very long”.
“Why not?” piped up Bengo, who was munching his way through a doorstep of toast on the sofa.
“Because we need fresh supplies”, said Bardin “God knows where we’re going to get them from, but we have to try. Adam tells me the situation isn’t dangerously serious yet, but if we’re not careful we might have to end up tearing open those emergency packs in the hold”.
“They’ve been down there for years!” said Bengo “Probably not fit to eat now”.
“They probably never were”, said Bardin “I think we got them back in Snow Lake, just before the ice-storm came on, and God knows how long ago that was now. So sadly we have to head back to the mainland, the old one I mean, not the one we’ve just fled from. Try and find a store somewhere, even a little one like Christmas’s shack that time. Do a quick smash and grab, preferably BEFORE we sail round the Horn of Wonder”.
“Ooh”, said Bengo, looking at him round-eyed “We’re going that route are we?”
“Well I cannot bear the thought of going north again”, said Bardin “Or going the middle route down that interminable river we were stuck on for an absolute age, so the Horn seems our best bet. We can just about do it without fresh supplies, and then hopefully we might be able to find something in Zilligot Bay, but it would be nice to get supplied up first”.
“Zilligot Bay”, Bengo breathed “Now that IS a blast from the past. I wonder who’s running our old bar there these days”.
“We might find out”.
“Will we go all the way back up the west coast?”
“Either that”, said Bardin “OR if we hear any hint of a tropical island somewhere on our travels, then we’ll head there instead. My God, we have a viable plan at last. I’m almost orgasaming! We seem to have been stuck out here on this grey ocean, this no-mans-water … Oh God, I’m repeating myself”.
“It hasn’t all been bad”, said Bengo “We had that lovely little spiritual retreat at Peat Bog Island, and Hy Brasil was quite nice … until the others showed up. Remember that magical evening when the wireless played us that lovely tune?”
“Yes, that was quite something, but it wouldn’t have worked to stay there for too long. There was something a bit TOO magical about that place”.
They stayed on the sunlit calm seas for another 48 hours, and then Bardin gave the order to move on. As they neared the southern coast of the old mainland they had left many months before, they saw a strange figure roaming a headland. It was very tall and very gaunt, dressed entirely in black robes reaching down to its feet. Its head seemed bulbous, vastly out of proportion with the rest of its body. The large head was constantly lowered, meaning its face was mostly obscured. The figure moved in a vaguely fluttering fashion, like a large scrap of burnt paper blowing in the breeze.
“Is it a demon?” asked Bengo, standing with all the others at the front of the main deck.
“It’s a defeated one”, said Kieran, quietly “Oh it can happen. Sometimes they aren’t completely destroyed, they just roam like this one. That’s not to say it’s entirely harmless, and I think we should carry on moving further down the coast”.
“Do we take that as a good sign?” said Ransey.
“Well we can’t count our chickens just yet”, said Kieran “But it’s not a discouraging one”.
They found a small hamlet towards the toe of the mainland. It was sufficiently remote that it had mostly stayed out of the eye of the Evil which had engulfed the mainland in recent years. The people were weatherbeaten and elderly on the whole, but calm, and accepted the Indigo-ites in their midst as peaceful visitors, which was what Kieran and the others had hoped for.
What was left of the Starhanger jewels would have been pointless to trade with somewhere this remote, and the galleon was too low on supplies to go offering any, apart from some rounds of goats cheese. Instead the Indigo-ites offered to do some jobs around the community which were proving difficult for the aged locals. Repairs to cottages and fishing-boats and so forth. In return they were generously gifted things like bags of sugar and tinned vegetables.
“We do have peddlers come our way sometimes”, an elderly blind lady told them “So we are not completely cut off here”.
“Bog roll!” said Hillyard, cheerfully, back on the galleon again “It was worth stopping here just for that!”
“Yes well don’t go raving mad with it”, said Adam “We don’t know how long it’s going to have to last us”.
“It’s not going to take us that long to get round the Horn”, said Hillyard.
“We dunno what’s waiting for us on the other side”, said Joby, lugubriously.
“Good old Jobe”, said Hillyard, slapping his shoulder “Always merry and bright”.
“No, I’m looking forward to it”, said Joby, albeit still sounding gloomy.
“Right, that’s it”, said Ransey, bustling into the galley “I’ve disconnected the wireless set”.
“What, AGAIN?” said Adam.
“What now?” said Joby.
“Cloris on the line again”, said Ransey.
“What is she harping on about now?” Adam sighed.
“Wants to come and meet up with us on Hy Brasil”, said Ransey “I’ve pointed out we’re back at the mainland, but all she said was in that case Hy Brasil would be a convenient place for us all to meet”.
“What on earth for?” said Adam.
“She said we needed a plan for re-organising the world”, said Ransey “I said we’re about to go round the Horn, but she didn’t bloody listen to me! I’m so fucking angry!”
“Calm down, old love”, Adam patted his arm “I’ll make us some tea”.
“She just went on and on about the need for an important meeting”, said Ransey “So I RIPPED THE FUCKING WIRES OUT AGAIN!”
“Goodo”, said Adam.
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