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They emerged from the forest in the moonlight, and found, facing them in the distance, a house that looked like a very large and ramshackle cake. It was the sort of house that had been added on to many times. It appeared to be situated along the edge of some kind of precipice, which bordered a large tract of water. The full moon shone down on the inland sea. A carriage was pulled up outside the main doors of the house, and a well-built woman was fussing round an elderly man in a wheelchair, who had just been lifted out of the vehicle. What was astonishing about the man in the wheelchair was that he had a green face, an almost luminous green face.
“Can they see us, Bardy?” said Bengo, in a whisper.
“I hope not”, Joby replied.
“Look over there!” Kieran shrieked as best he could in a whisper. He was pointing to the extreme right of the scene in front of them.
Thetis was standing there, observing the man in the wheelchair.
“It can’t be!” said Bardin “Kieran, what are we looking at?!”
“Her ghost”, said Kieran, simply.
“But we’ve never actually SEEN her before”, said Bengo.
“Well we’re seeing her now”, said Kieran.
Thetis was gone before he had barely spoken. They then watched as the man with the green face was wheeled awkwardly into the house by the nurse.
“I wonder what’s wrong with him to get a face like that!” said Hillyard.
“Dunno”, said Joby “But I hope that whatever the hell it is it ent catching!”
“Do we just go into the house now, Bardy?” said Bengo.
“Of course we don’t just go into it!” said Bardin “Of all the idiotic …”
Fortunately his rant was cut short by a distant clap of thunder, from out over the sea.
“That’s all we need!” said Joby.
“I suggest we get some sort of a camp set up”, said Bardin “We’ll set off for home when daybreak comes. It’ll be better that way”.
“We’ll move back into the forest a little way”, said Ransey “So that we can’t be seen from the house”.
They busied themselves setting up the tepee. Bengo was so annoyed by Bardin’s constant sarcastic remarks that he accidentally-on-purpose jabbed him in the backside with a tent hook.
“Sorry, Bardy”, said Bengo, blithely “I didn’t see you there!”
Joby and Hillyard went inside the tepee and laughed as quietly as they could.
“How could you find that funny?” said Bardin, crossly, coming into the tepee “That was perfectly bog-standard clowning!”
“Still funny though”, said Hillyard, and then thought that he’d better get on with helping Kieran and Ransey sort the horses out.
They decided it wasn’t worth doing a camp-fire, and anyway, the glow of it might be seen through the trees. Instead, they emptied some canned food into their billy-cans and ate it cold, whilst the rain pattered down outside. Hillyard said it all reminded him of that time they had travelled down through the forest from Wolf Castle, what was proved to be eventually the way to Nuit.
“Yeah”, said Joby “And the sea appeared then when we didn’t expect it as well!”
“Some more detail for your maps, Bardin”, said Ransey.
Strains of violin music wafted over to them faintly through the noise of the rain.
“It all gets even more curious”, said Ransey.
“I hope they don’t keep that up all night!” said Joby “Or we’ll never get any sleep!”
“What is that place?” said Hillyard “It’s not another hospital is it?”
“Where do the patients come from then?” said Joby “We’re right out in the middle of nowhere!”
“We should have explored up this way long ago”, said Ransey “Then we might have saved ourselves a whole heap of trouble”.
“There’s no point saying that now is there!” said Hillyard.
“We’ll paint Bengo’s face green and get him admitted”, said Bardin “As he’s so keen to get in there”.
“Oh very funny!” said Bengo.
After they had eaten Hillyard, Bardin, Joby and Kieran went out to see to the horses for the last time, and then to spend a penny in the bushes. Meanwhile, Bengo put the billy-cans outside the tent door, to rinse clean in the rain, and Ransey sorted out the bed-rolls.
“I wish you two wouldn’t bicker so much”, said Ransey to Bengo “I find it a bit upsetting sometimes”.
“Oh you shouldn’t, Ransey”, said Bengo “It’s just a form of communication with us, it always has been”.
“I know there’s a lot of affection between you two”, said Ransey “Only you don’t show it”.
“Clowns don’t as a rule, not in front of others anyway”, said Bengo “Don’t worry about Bardy being abrasive. I usually get my revenge eventually”.
“Like jabbing a tent-hook in his backside?” said Ransey.
“The old ones are the best!” Bengo laughed “It would have been even better if we’d had somebody standing in the wings with a bicycle horn to let off at the appropriate moment!”
“Oh dear Jules, are you not well?” said Adam, who had been called up to the main bedroom the following morning, to find Julian lying in the double bed with a hot-water bottle on his stomach, and Finia standing nearby like a dutiful nurse.
“I’ve got fucking indigestion!” said Julian.
“Is that different to normal indigestion?” said Adam.
“Don’t give me any of your smart talk!” said Julian “It’s all your fault. Some of that rich muck you’ve been serving up lately would be enough to give a Roman emperor indigestion!”
“Vincent keeps sending us food hampers over”, said Adam “It would be criminal to waste the food, and very ungrateful to send it back”.
“I don’t care!” said Julian “From now on I want good plain cooking, if you can still remember how to do it!”
“By all means”, said Adam, turning to leave.
“How are Shag and Mutton Broth getting on?” said Finia, trying in a subtle way to remind Julian that Adam was having to adapt to not having his usual kitchen staff around.
“Very well”, said Adam “They are both very quick to learn, and I don’t get any back-talk from them, nor do they keep threatening to go on strike, unlike somebody else I could mention! If the others don’t hurry back soon I may get used to them helping me!”
Nevertheless Adam went into euphoric overdrive when the others all returned safely later that afternoon. They said they would have been home sooner but they had overslept by several hours. In fact, it was nearly 10 o’clock before Ransey had woken up and roused them all. Bengo was annoyed to see Shag and Mutton Broth so firmly ensconced in the kitchen, and Kieran set about himself putting the kettle on the stove, as nobody else seemed in a hurry to do it. Toppy scurried off to fetch clean, dry clothes for the travellers, who had got very hot and sticky travelling back through the forest.
“It is extremely hot”, said Adam “The thermometer by the back door has been measuring 40. I take it that it wasn’t any cooler in the forest?”
“Nope”, said Joby “Hotter if anything. The trees trap the heat in, it makes it all very oppressive. What’s been happening here?”
“Oh we’ve had a bit of a time of it”, said Adam “Julian’s had indigestion”.
“Is that all?” said Joby “I thought you was gonna say summat important then!”
“Well I’m afraid it does tend to have rather a significant impact on the household”, said Adam “Julian is rather awkward when he’s ill”.
“He’s rather awkward when he’s well too!” said Joby.
“Some of the monks claim to have seen rather a strange creature on the beach at night”, said Adam “I think it sounds like a trick of the moonlight myself”.
“We should go and investigate”, said Bardin.
“Not right now, Bardy”, said Bengo, tiredly “We’ve only just got back!”
“At night-time, you fool!” said Bardin.
“You haven’t told us your latest adventures yet”, said Adam.
“Nothing much to report”, said Bardin.
He gave everybody a quick summary of their trip through the forest, whilst Shag and Mutton Broth made bacon sandwiches and black coffee. “And make fried bread and baby tomatoes for Patsy”, he said to Shag. At which Bengo looked very boot-faced at Shag’s trespassing of his territory. This feeling persisted for the next couple of days, as Adam didn’t seem to be in any hurry to have Joby and Bengo back in the kitchen. The real truth of the matter was that he knew Bardin would want them both to go off on his next night-time patrol (to the beach) and so he thought they should rest. Bengo, with full clown’s paranoia, could not accept this.
One morning, just before lunch, Julian had him in the library and gave him a talking-to. The monks had had a supply drop from a passing air-buggy the day before, complete with a round-up of some recent newspapers (so that they would know who in the world was supposed to need their prayers the most), and there was a selection of them scattered around the room.
“Did you know there is a phobia of clowns going the round?” said Julian, picking up one of the newspapers and waving it at him “Somebody’s is trying to organise a festival in Aspiriola, but people have been barred from dressing up as clowns, because too many are finding them frightening!”
“But that’s crazy!” said Bengo “How can we be frightening?”
“Very easily I would have thought!” said Julian.
“Bardy will be quite cross when he hears about that”, said Bengo “He feels clowns are persecuted too much as it is”.
“In my opinion, clowns aren’t persecuted anywhere near as much as they should be!!!” said Julian “The thought of any of you lot at large in the world, complete with full motley and slap, is too terrifying to even contemplate! Now get along to the kitchen, Adam says you can help with the lunch”.
Bengo looked pathetically happy at this news.
“But don’t get too carried away”, Julian warned “Bardin wants you to go to the beach tonight”.
Bardin was quite happy to keep his old gang of himself, Bengo, Ransey, Hillyard, Joby and Kieran. They set off at dusk in the hay-cart, and were planning to spend the night camping on the beach. By the time they got there the sun had set, and the sky was ablaze with stars. The water was still warm from the sun, and they had a quick skinny-deep before getting down to lighting the fire.
“Although this is hardly undercover is it?” said Bengo, who was still stark-bollock naked “I mean, sitting here like this, lighting a fire on the beach. Whatever is around here is gonna see us a mile off and not come anywhere near u!”
“Not if it’s got any sense anyway!” said Joby.
Bardin had put back on a pair of his tight-fitting brightly-coloured trousers, and was doing ballet-style routines at the edge of the surf. With his acrobat’s slim body he looked like some magical harlequin character dancing in the moonlight. Suddenly he paused in his prancing, and looked intently at the edge of the forest which was immediately behind Joby. At first he thought that all he had caught was the movement of Joby’s head, as he was at that moment talking animatedly to Bengo and Kieran.
“What is it?” said Joby, noticing that Bardin was staring in his direction.
“There’s something behind you”, Bardin whispered.
Joby stood up and turned round. There was a flicker of movement and whatever-it-is hightailed it back into the forest.
“What did it look like, Bardy?” said Bengo.
“Something very short”, said Bardin “About 3 ft tall I would’ve said, seemed to have some sort of hairless head”.
“A child perhaps?” said Joby.
“A wild boar?” said Bengo, brightly “We’ve seen those in the forest before, Mieps has often tried to shoot them”.
“Why would a wild boar be standing upright on two legs?” said Bardin “Talk sense for once!”
“An evolutionary-advanced wild boar”, Joby chuckled, he was feeling flighty after two neat shots of gin.
“Look, is it only me who’s taking this seriously?” said Bardin.
“Here, let’s go after it”, said Kieran, light-heartedly.
“Now it’s you who’s not being serious!” said Joby “We’ll never find it in the depths of the forest at this time of night!”
“I suppose next you’ll be telling us it looked like some sort of hobgoblin!” said Ransey, sitting down by the camp-fire again.
“Oh no, clearly I’m nuts”, said Bardin, sarcastically “I’m seeing things!”
“Don’t be silly, Bardy”, said Bengo “Anyway, everybody knows you’ve been nuts for donkey’s years!”
“I wonder if it was the same creature the monks have been seeing”, said Hillyard “Not that we’ll know now, as we missed our chance through arguing, as usual!”
“I suggest”, said Ransey “We go and cadge breakfast off the monks first thing in the morning. Bardin, you can tell them what you saw, and see if the description matches theirs”.
“I still think …” Kieran began.
“NO!” said Joby “Here we are on a nice beach, with a nice moon, and a nice fire, and you wanna go running off through the forest chasing hobgoblins, bloody typical of you that is!”
“Don’t you start on at me!” said Kieran.
“Just behave yourself, Kieran!” said Joby, giving him a slap on the backside. He noticed Bengo hovering near the edge of the forest and yelled “oi!” at him.
“I’d better not push him any further”, Kieran whispered to Hillyard “In case he gets real mean”.
“In case he gets real mean?” Hillyard echoed, in disbelief “Getting beaten up by Joby must be like being savaged by a tea-cosy!”
“Don’t you believe it!” Kieran laughed “You’ve seen the state he’s left me in sometimes!”
“Well fortunately he can’t try it with me”, said Hillyard “He’s too bloody weedy!”
They slept in a tight row by the glowing embers of the camp-fire, Ransey topping them at one end and Bardin (closest to the surf) tailing them at the other. Bardin was woken up in the night by the horse sneezing nearby, and instantly he felt a scaly hand touching his cheek. He sat up in a half-dream and vigorously brushed it away. His movements woken the others.
“Something was touching me!” he cried.
“Bengo, can’t you keep your hands to yourself just for one night?” said Joby.
“It wasn’t me”, said Bengo “I had both my arms down inside my sleeping-bag”.
“Bengo hasn’t got scaly hands”, said Bardin.
Ransey got up and flashed his torch around the area, even though the full moon was keeping the place well-lit.
“No odd footprints”, he said, shining the torch along the sand.
“Well something touched me!” Bardin protested.
“Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?” said Hillyard.
“No I wasn’t”, said Bardin “Or at least I don’t think I was. Well at least the horse is looking out for me, it was her sneezing that woke me up!”
“Do you want to swap places with Hillyard?” said Ransey “Have him go on the outside?”
“No thank you”, said Bardin, stiffly, getting back into his sleeping-bag.
At daybreak Bengo set to work making some breakfast over the camp-fire. The original idea had been to go the monastery, but they decided they would rather have breakfast on the beach instead.
“It’d be a shame to break up our little gang just to go and see them”, said Bengo, who was putting a disturbing amount of oatmeal into the cooking-pot.
“I’m glad you feel like that”, said Bardin “Because I suggest we keep this gang of six going for a little while longer. I think we should move over to The Old Lighthouse for a few days, and keep a watch on the beach”.
“We’ll have to take the horse home first”, said Hillyard “She’ll never be able to get over there”.
“And tell Adam what’s going on”, said Ransey, to whom that was the most important part.
“Here, go steady on that oatmeal!” said Joby to Bengo “The last thing we need at the moment is an attack of the trots!”
“Really?” said Bengo “I was gonna put some prunes in with it as well!”
“Well if you’re sure that’s what you want to do”, said Adam, meeting up with Bardin, Hillyard, Ransey and Julian at the library back at the Castle “We’re all going to miss you around here very much”.
“For God’s sake, Adam, it’s only for a few days!” said Julian, who was disappointed at the news as well.
“Anyway, you can pop over and see us”, said Bardin, who was pacing up and down with his dancer’s waddle.
“We’ll need enough supplies for about 3 days say”, said Ransey “We’ll take them all in backpacks, we won’t be taking any of the animals with us”.
“I’ll see to that”, said Adam “I’ll get Shag and Mutton Broth onto it”.
“Oh that’s another thing”, said Bardin, pausing in his pacing “Do you think you could reassure Bengo that he isn’t likely to lose his job? He’s paranoid that you won’t have him back in the kitchen”.
“Nonsense”, said Adam “Of course I will. I can’t deny Shag and Mutton aren’t first-class assistants, but …”
“I find it absolutely gob smacking that Shag and Mutton are first-class at ANYTHING!” said Bardin.
“Ah well you see it only took the right boss to bring out the best in them”, Adam purred, before leaving the room. When he got outside the library door he gave a whoop of triumph.
“You alright?” said Joby, who was just coming down the Vestry steps.
“I’ve just got a verbal one over on Bardin”, said Adam.
“Always a good one”, said Joby.
“Whilst you are all over at The Old Lighthouse”, said Adam, in a low voice “Will you sort of keep an eye on everyone, be den-mother as it were?”
“Why me?” said Joby “I haven’t got tits!”
“Well neither have I if it comes to that”, said Adam “But it doesn’t stop me being put in that role! You’re the one with the best mentality for it, and Bardin does need to be kept in order, or there’s no knowing what tangent he might fly off on”.
“I thought that was Bengo’s job”, Joby grumbled.
“He’s not always very good at getting the upper hand where Bardin’s concerned”, said Adam “I’d like you to do it, please”.
Adam, Lonts and Tamaz drove the party of six up to the edge of the forest in the hay-cart, and the group then set off over to The Old Lighthouse, dodging the jelly-fish, at low tide. The lighthouse was more decrepit than ever, and they moved their back-packs up into the room above the ground floor, which just about had a roof covering it.
Down on the ground floor Joby was instructing Bengo that he was to be in charge of all the meals, an idea that nearly made Bengo have hysterics. Upstairs, Hillyard picked up Kieran so that he could see out of the bedroom window over the sea.
“It’s alright”, Kieran laughed “You can put me down now, Hillyard”.
“Do I have to?” said Hillyard.
He heard Joby still dishing out instructions down below.
“I swear he gets more like Julian everyday”, said Hillyard.
“He’s nothing like Julian”, said Kieran “Julian would have breezed in here like the King of Siam and expected everything to be perfect, and then when he found it wasn’t shouted out ’this place is a bloody shambles!’ What are you looking at me like that for?”
“I just like looking at you”, Hillyard shrugged “I had coffee with the monks yesterday morning, when Adam sent me over there to pick up some vegetables. And they were talking about one of your more radical bishops …”
“I wish people would stop saying MY bishops”, said Kieran “I distanced meself from the mainstream Church a long time ago”.
“You know what I mean”, said Hillyard “Anyway, he sounds like another nutter, one of the many we’ve had to put up with over the years. All humility and obedience and all that lark, and I thought thank God Kieran isn’t like that”.
“Ah but I am”, Kieran laughed “I love the old humility and obedience, particularly when it’s at Joby’s hands! It does me no end of good. But I wouldn’t go forcing it on others”.
“Kieran!” Joby shouted up the stairs “Have you started sorting out the bed-rolls yet?”
“Told you”, said Hillyard “Getting just like bloody Julian he is!”
Bardin instigated a rota of watch-duty. One person to sit outside the main door for two hours and keep an eye on the beach and the forest, and then to be replaced by someone else, and so on. To show how democrat he was, Bardin took the first watch. A show of generosity which didn’t impress Bengo.
“He’s only doing that to get it out of the way”, he grumbled “So that he can spend the next few hours going ’I’ve done my bit you know’”.
The none-Bardin Indigo-ites settled down to play a game of cards, liberally refreshed by shots of neat gin.
“Why have you got your hat on indoors?” Joby asked Kieran.
“It helps me to concentrate”, said Kieran.
“Bit of alright all this isn’t it”, said Hillyard “All we need is some music and it’d be perfect. Shame we can’t get the piano up here”.
“I’m bloody relieved we can’t get the piano up here!” said Joby “That’s about the only thing this place has got going for it! Who’s on watch-duty next?”
“You are”, said Hillyard.
“Terrific”, said Joby, unenthusiastically “Everyone’ll be drunk and knackered by then, and go up to bed, and leave me sitting out there on me own”.
“Aagh”, said Hillyard “Little Joby isn’t scared is he?”
“I want some more gin!” Bardin shouted from outside the door “Bengo!”
Bengo stepped outside the main door of the lighthouse and found Bardin watching the storm approaching across the forest. In the meantime a strong wind had whipped up over the sea. Bengo insisted he came inside.
“But that misses the whole point of this trip”, Bardin complained, now inside the lighthouse “To keep watch”.
“The whole point of this trip”, Ransey tirelessly explained “Was to look out and listen out for anything unusual in the area. Not to examine the beach and the forest under a microscope!”
“Do you want to be counted into the next round, Bardin?” said Hillyard.
“Bardy’s rubbish at cards”, said Bengo “Did I tell you about that time he gambled away all our pocket money …?”
“I should think everybody’s heard about that one by now!” Bardin snapped.
They all played another couple of rounds, and then decided that they were drunk enough for bed. The rain was hammering down by this time, and even Bardin could see that sitting outside the door doing night-watches was a pretty silly idea.
“Have you got your gun with you, Ransey?” asked Hillyard, upstairs in the lighthouse.
“It’s under my pillow”, said Ransey.
“He never leaves the house without it!” said Joby “Gawd, I’d hate to be here on my own, dead spooky”.
Bardin was standing silently, whilst Bengo removed his (Bardin’s) clothes with ruthless efficiency.
“Tomorrow, as well as keeping an eye on the beach”, said Bardin, with great purposefulness “We are going to explore every inch of this lighthouse”.
“There are only 3 rooms in it left”, said Joby “What can there be to see that we haven’t already seen?”
“I don’t know”, said Bardin “It’s just a feeling I have”.
Joby didn’t go much on Feelings I Have, he had had too many of them from Kieran over the years. After a ridiculously early breakfast the next morning, Bardin rounded everybody up and went into the damp, gloomy room where the old iron bedstead was situated.
“It’s like having a hyper-active kid around”, Joby mumbled to Kieran, as Hillyard and Ransey set to work shutting the rusty bedstead over against the wall.
“We’ll have to get him drunk again”, said Kieran.
“It’ll still be like having a hyper-active kid around”, said Joby.
“I knew it!” said Bardin, triumphantly “I had a feeling in my gut!”
“Ugh!” said Hillyard.
“Tell me that that isn’t a significant find”, said Bardin, pointing down at a dust-covered trapdoor in the floor.
“What’s significant about it?” said Hillyard, unimpressed “It probably leads to the cellar! We had a cellar in the lighthouse on the lake, remember?”
“Yeah, you used to keep opening it and annoying Adam ’cos it was in the middle of the kitchen floor”, said Joby.
“Never mind all that now”, said Bardin “Let’s get it open”.
The rest of the Indigo-ites groaned at having to do such strenuous work in a tropical heat, and suffering with hangovers to boot. It took a long time, and a lot of exertion, to get the trapdoor open. But Bardin’s incurable optimism that this was Significant wouldn’t accept any giving up on it. When they did finally get it open, a set of steep, mildewed steps, hewn out of the rock on which the lighthouse stood, led downwards.
“Does that look like a bloody cellar to you?” said Bardin, triumphantly (again).
“Cellar steps”, said Hillyard, unrepentant.
Bardin muttered something under his breath.
“Did you speak, dear?” said Joby, imitating Adam’s voice.
Bardin snatched a torch and made to descend.
“Bardy, for heaven’s sake, be careful”, said Bengo.
“I am as agile as a mountain goat”, said Bardin.
“This is the cue for him to break his neck”, said Joby.
Hillyard gave a sound which indicated that he didn’t think this would be a bad idea at all. Ransey suggested that Bardin rope himself to the others, like in a mountaineering team. A suggestion that Bardin treated with derision, until Bengo gave him what-for and ordered him to rope up.
“There could be anything down there, Bardy”, he said “You could end up falling down an abyss”.
“If anybody says ‘we should be so lucky’ I’ll hit the roof!” said Bardin.
The steps weren’t in fact very long. They only had to creep down them for a little way. The steps ended abruptly at a massive door which appeared to be firmly sealed shut.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that’s just a normal cellar door!” said Bardin to Hillyard.
“Are there any locks and bolts on it?” said Ransey, shining a lamp closely over the surface of the door.
“Why have we never noticed it before?” said Bengo.
“’Cos we’ve never looked under the beds before!” said Joby.
Kieran suddenly jerked his head backwards as though listening for something.
“Quick, back upstairs!” he shouted.
The six of them scrambled awkwardly back up into the room with the iron bedstead.
“There was somebody up here”, he said, when they had all regained their breath.
He pointedly looked at the trap-door.
“They were gonna shut us in?” said Bengo.
“There’s nobody outside”, said Bardin, returning from the main door “I’ll try upstairs”.
There was nobody up there either.
“Thank God you had that feeling though, Kieran”, he said.
“I’ve always said he would make a good tracker-dog!” said Joby.
“Was it Angel, do you think?” said Raney to Kieran.
“Put it this way”, said Kieran “We can’t rule out that possibility!”
“It’s easily sorted out”, said Bardin “Whenever we go down there again, two will stay behind up here to make sure everything is safe. I should of thought of that before! My enthusiasm got the better of me!”
Hoowie unexpectedly turned up in the kitchen.
“What are you doing here?” Bardin sighed.
“Probably looking for sex”, said Bengo.
“That’s where you’re wrong, Fatty!” said Hoowie “I’ve been sent over here, all the way over here on my own”.
“For gawd’s sake”, said Bardin “Nobody in their right mind is going to want to attack you are they!”
“What’s up?” said Hillyard.
“Can’t I have a drink now I’m here?” said Hoowie, looking longingly at the tall sapphire blue bottle of gin on the kitchen table.
“I’ll put the kettle on”, said Bengo.
“If you insist”, said Hoowie.
“So what are you doing over here?” Bardin repeated.
“News has come in from the outside world”, said Hoowie, plonking himself down on the remains of a kitchen chair “Over the monk’s telegraph machine. There have been sightings of a gorgon in Aspiriola”.
“What?!” Joby exclaimed.
“Blimey”, said Bengo “How many of them are there still left in the world?”
“Remember that woman we came across years ago”, said Ransey “Who had sort of adopted a gorgon girl, and kept her hidden at her house?”
“I can’t even remember where that was now”, said Joby “It was when we were still doing the little travelling show”.
“Must have been when we were travelling up past No Name”, said Hillyard “After Lady Red had died”.
“Do you wanna hear about this one or not?” Hoowie snapped.
“Don’t be impertinent”, said Ransey “And spit it out”.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do!” said Hoowie “Anyway, people in Aspiriola claim to have seen a gorgon in the city streets there. Terrible looking creature”.
“Are people being killed?” said Bardin.
“Yeah”, said Hoowie “She’s lethal if you look straight into her eyes apparently, you can survive though if you only see her from the side”.
“Well I wasn’t expecting this latest development!” said Kieran “She must have come in from the surrounding countryside. There were always some strange creatures out there”.
“It’s all a bit scary isn’t it!” said Bengo.
They returned with Hoowie to Midnight Castle, and once back in the kitchen Bardin threw a tantrum about the sheer impossibility of getting anything constructive done.
“We’re supposed to be investigating below The Old Lighthouse”, he said, pacing up and down with his hands on the small of his back “We’re supposed to be returning to find out what is what with that weird place up the forest, and NOW, now we’ve got to go to friggin’ Aspiriola!”
“I’m sorry, old love”, said Adam, who was trying not to laugh “But you’re always so funny when you’re in a temper”.
“I’d take that as a compliment if I was you”, said Joby, somewhat dourly, to Bardin “You are sposed to be a clown when all’s said and done”.
“Yes, stop acting like a dickhead, Bardy!” said Bengo.
“I must point out that you haven’t heard all of it about the gorgon in Aspiriola”, said Adam “The tale has it that she invites men to suck on her breasts”.
“Oh yeah?” said Joby, sceptically “And how do they do that without turning to stone?!”
“None of it makes sense!” said Bardin “If you ask me I think the whole damn thing is a mass hallucination!”
“Don’t be silly, Bardy”, said Bengo.
“No I must admit that thought did cross my mind as well”, said Adam.
Nothing could appease Bardin though, who was grossly annoyed by the whole thing. It disrupted his sense of order. In a fit of annoyance he tried to flounce out of the room, but mistook the larder door for the dining-room door, and had to come out again somewhat sheepishly.
A couple of minutes later Adam found him sitting alone at the end of the dining-room table, with his head in his hands.
“I would leave the big door at the lighthouse alone for the time being if I was you”, said Adam, sitting down next to him and stroking his hair “It’s not going to go anywhere in a hurry is it!”
“You’re just worried because of that nasty trick we think Angel tried to pull on us”, said Bardin.
“Well I suppose it’s useful to know that Angel is around”, said Adam “He must be bored. He only comes and hangs around us when he is. What I suggest is that you go up through the forest and find out what’s what in that strange house first and foremost, and then we’ll take ship for Aspiriola”.
There was a couple of thuds against the window. Bardin looked up and cried out “It’s fish! It’s raining fish!”
Adam dashed round him to look out.
“We’d better round up the others, Bardin”, he said “There’s a twister coming. It must be approaching from the ocean”.
“Bardy, have you seen …?” Bengo called out from the doorway.
“Yes I have”, Bardin got to his feet and blew on his whistle. He marched out into the hallway, still blowing on it.
“Bardy is magnificent in a crisis!” Bengo enthused.
There was the sound of the tolling of the bell in the bell-tower over at the monastery, which around here now counted as the official warning of a major storm approaching. Even an approaching tornado though couldn’t persuade the Indigo-ites to go down to the cellar, and Joby asserted that the place was “probably a bleedin’ death-trap anyway”. So instead they put the shutters up in the library and sought refuge in there.
“It must be wonderful to have a talent like that”, said Bengo, sitting next to Adam on the sofa. Adam was occupying himself putting some finishing touches to a sketch of the Castle he had been working on for some time now.
“You’ve got a talent as well though”, said Adam.
“I think he means a talent that will get preserved for posterity”, said Bardin “You’ll always have your pictures to look back on. That’s the trouble with having worked in the theatre for most of the time. Nothing gets preserved, apart from a few crumby old publicity stills”.
Hillyard was mooching around the side passage, fretting about the safety of the animals, until Julian called him into the library and told him off for straying too near the windows.
“You should know better than that”, Julian rebuked him.
“Yeah, don’t be a chump, Hillyard”, said Joby, who was sitting on the library floor.
“I don’t know why the fuck I put up with him”, said Hillyard, as he and Julian retreated to the area by the laundry room door, to talk in private “You’re nuts about him, I’m nuts about him, WHY?!”
“A question I have asked myself for many a long year, dear boy”, said Julian “I can only put it down to his great capacity for love. But without the possessiveness that used to scare me so much in Adam”.
“I suppose with Adam it’s a case of ’let me love you or die!’” Hillyard chuckled.
“Quite”, said Julian “One gets more adept at dealing with it as time goes on though”.
Joby came round to find he had been sleeping at one end of the sofa. The horrendous noise outside had gone, so he assumed the storm had passed. Tamaz was sitting on the arm of the sofa, gently stroking his (Joby’s ) face.
“Is it over?” said Joby.
“The others are checking for damage”, Tamaz nodded “But we don’t think there’s been too much”.
Joby grabbed Tamaz’s arm and kissed it from wrist to shoulder.
“I like it when you do that”, said Tamaz “The clowns just prat about when they do it”.
“They can’t help it”, said Joby “They’re institutionalised!”
“Now the storm’s passed”, said Tamaz “Bardin’s already started harping on about going up to the house on the other side of the forest again. I wish he’d give it a rest for a moment. Can’t we put him under restraint or something?!”
Joby had an image of Bardin lying trussed and gagged on one of the beds upstairs, and admitted that it did have a certain appeal.
Attempts to calm Bardin down, and to get him to take things more slowly, didn’t get anywhere. Over a supper that evening of hare soup (bread and cheese for Kieran) he announced that he was taking his party of six up through the forest the very following day. The only concession he would make was that this time they would go on foot, as the tornado was bound to have wrecked considerable damage and it would be too dangerous to take the horses over such unsure ground.
They set off at the following day at mid-morning, and found that the tornado seemed to have swept a clear path through the forest, it had even knocked down the little one-storey building where they had discovered the human remains on their first trip. At mid-day they paused to rest and build a camp-fire for victuals. The drowsy, muzzy heat of the day caused them to linger longer than they had intended, and night had fallen when they reached the edge of the forest where the mysterious house overlooked the large lake.
Free of the animals on this trip, they felt confident enough to approach the house without anymore ado. As they got nearer they realised that the house was empty, it had been abandoned. They wandered in via a back courtyard, the walls of which were overgrown with creeper. In the centre of the courtyard was an old birdcage, rusted up and empty of any birds.
“This place looks as if it’s been abandoned for years!” said Bengo, standing in the moonlight and looking around him.
Bardin wrenched open a set of double doors nearby. These led into a large hallway. Progress was impeded by large amounts of debris lying around. The tornado had seriously damaged the roof directly overhead. Ransey hooked Bardin’s arm and cautioned him against going any further.
“Where’s everybody gone?” said Bardin, waving his arms in confusion.
“Legged it when they realised the storm was coming in?” said Joby.
“They were bloody well-prepared then!” said Bardin.
“Better than we would be I expect!” said Hillyard.
“No that doesn’t make sense”, said Bardin “Bengo’s right, this place looks as if it’s been abandoned for a long time”.
“Did we image it then?” said Bengo “All that we saw last time? Was it some kind of hallucination? We did see Thetis, that would make sense if it was some kind of hallucination”.
“Perhaps we experienced a time-slip”, said Joby “Just a little one. I’ve heard of that sort of thing before. People get brief glimpses of another time. What do you make of it, Kiel?”
“I don’t know”, said Kieran, sounding vague.
He picked his way nimbly over some fallen masonry and large man-sized candle-holders.
“This whole area has always been a bit this way”, he said “We’ve seen ghosts, had glimpses now and again of things that were there before. We so wanted to see something last time, that we assumed what we saw was in the here and now”.
“Perhaps this place was a hospital at some time?” said Hillyard, looking around him.
“Had enough of bleedin’ abandoned hospitals lately!” said Joby.
Kieran had reached the bottom of the stairs, and stood staring up at them in a dream.
“There’s Something here”, he whispered “I can sense it”.
“Kieran, come away from there”, Ransey ordered “It’s not safe in here”.
Bardin decreed that they should go into the forest and pitch camp for the night. A decision that met with great relief from everyone, as no one wanted to spend the night within the confines of the house.
When they returned to Midnight Castle, they heard from the monks that Althea was proclaiming that her baby was to be the next Messiah of Mankind, and that she would be going into labour very shortly. Bardin took this as a Portentous Sign that they should all leave for Aspiriola forthwith.
“It’s wonderful to be back on here again isn’t it, Bardy?” said Bengo, whose joy at being back on the galleon again wasn’t dampened by the ferocity of the choppy waves one bit.
“Home sweet home”, said Bardin, as they dumped their bags on the floor.
“What are we gonna do when we get to Aspiriola though?” said Bengo “Just sort of mooch around the marketplace and wait for Her to appear?”
“I suggest we go incognito”, said Bardin “Find lodgings somewhere big enough for all of us”.
“Find lodgings? Go incognito?” said Bengo, incredulously “How? Wherever we go we stick out like a sore thumb!”
“Leave it to me”, said Bardin, turning to leave the room “I know what I’m doing”.
“That’ll be a first”, Bengo muttered under his breath.
“I heard that!” said Bardin.
Bardin seemed to be everywhere for the rest of the evening. He ordered Hoowie to swab down the deck, and then kept appearing to make sure that it was underway. When Adam was trying to serve supper up, Bardin stood in the doorway of the galley, eating a cold potato speared on a fork, until Adam ordered him into the dining-room without much further ado.
“We’ve anchored for the evening”, said Julian, from his place at the head of the table “So you can stop being Captain for a few hours”.
“Why should I?” said Bardin “You never did!”
“Bardy!” said Bengo, bringing over a large glass jar of pickled onions to the table “Don’t speak to Julian like that!”
“Not if you value your hide no!” said Julian.
“I’d listen if I was you, Bardin”, Kieran whispered, who was sitting next to Bardin “He’s got a lot of vigour today”.
He had been pulled out of his bunk and spanked by Julian earlier, for going to bed as soon as they had set sail. One would think that Kieran would be pretty immune to hidings by now, but this one had been particularly severe.
“I’m consoling meself with the weather outside”, said Kieran, alluding to the wind and rain outside “There’s nothing like a storm at sea for creating Atmosphere!”
Joby came out of the heads and went into his cabin, where he found Bengo, wearing his nightshirt, standing in the middle of what limited floor space there was.
“Can I stay with you, Joby?” he asked, plaintively “Only Kieran’s bedded down with Bardy!”
“Has he, the cheeky little bastard!” said Joby “Yeah, go on then, stop looking like some little orphan that’s been dumped at the railway station!”
Bengo kissed him exuberantly and then clambered roughly up onto the bunk.
“Like some weird version of wife-swapping this is!” said Joby, extinguishing the candle, and climbing up next to him.
“I hope Bardy doesn’t wake up in the night and go shouting his gob off all over the boat, wondering where I am”, said Bengo.
“He’ll get a nasty reception if he does!” said Joby.
They lay quietly for a while, listening to the boat creaking in the choppy waters.
“I have bad vibes about this trip, Joby”, said Bengo “Something doesn’t feel right about this”.
“That’s just Bardin unsettling you with his crazy ideas of us living in Aspiriola incognito”, said Joby “As if that’s gonna bloody work!”
“I know”, said Bengo “He does have some stupid ideas sometimes, this one was the worst I’ve ever heard!”
If it was, it was surpassed the next morning by Mutton Broth’s theories about Sex Magic. He imparted these to Bengo whilst Bengo was peeling potatoes on the forward deck.
“He says he ‘s intrigued by Aleister Crowley’s notion about holding an orgasm for half-an-hour”, said Bengo, taking the bucket of peeled spuds down to the galley afterwards.
“He’s not becoming a disciple of Aleister’s is he?” said Adam.
“Remind him what happened to Victor sometime”, said Joby, darkly.
“Anyway, it’s absolutely impossible to hold that acute sensation for so long”, said Adam.
“Don’t try and explain anything about sex to Mutton Broth, Adam, it’s a waste of time”, Bengo sighed, rolling his eyes “He doesn’t know the first thing about it”.
“So who is he going to practice all this on?” said Adam.
“Himself probably”, said Bengo “Though I can’t imagine how he’s gonna get much of an erection with the pathetic equipment he’s got!”
“Now don’t be cruel”, said Adam “Size doesn’t matter”.
“Perhaps not”, said Bengo “But it does help if you can actually SEE if there’s anything there to start with!”
Adam was spared from having to deliver a lecture by delighted shouts from above them. It turned out that some dolphins were leaping through the sunlit choppy waters of the ocean.
This idyllic sunlit scene was to be the last they would have for a while. From then on, the closer they got to Aspiriola, the darker, foggier and murkier it became.
“It’s like that strange area we found ourselves in after we left Wooded Hill”, Bardin was heard remarking in the dining-room “As if we’ve slipped into some cheerless other dimension”.
To add to the general strangeness of their situation, odd, weird things began to happen around the ship. The animals were continually restless in the hold, the glass in one of the barometers inexplicably broke, the heads flooded (very unpleasant), some of the gang complained about suffering from mild nausea, even though most of them by now were pretty immune to sea-sickness, and, far too disturbing for comfort, Mutton Broth and Shag, whilst walking along the main corridor directly underneath the forward deck, claimed they saw a ghost walking through one of the walls.
Bardin was unimpressed by this ghostly sighting, even though the two clowns were clearly very upset by it. In despair they sought out Bengo in the galley.
“Here, don’t interrupt him when he’s working!” said Joby.
“We can’t help it, Joby”, said Shag (both he and Mutton Broth were sounding like a pair of twittery Victorian spinsters) “Bardin’s impossible. He said we had imagined the whole thing, even though he’s said himself that this is a weird area”.
“I think, to be fair”, said Adam “That Bardin’s simply trying to keep a tight lid on things. Out at sea like this he can’t afford for people to start being overly-hysterical”.
“He’s become so imperious and arrogant since he became Captain”, Mutton Broth sulked.
“He’s always been like that!” Bengo protested “It’s got nothing to do with being Captain! The very first time we ever me he looked at me with total contempt!”
“Oh I’m sure he didn’t, old love”, said Adam.
“Oh yes he did”, said Bengo, panto-style “As far as he was concerned I was too revolting for the human eye to look upon!”
“You must go and speak to him for us, Bengo”, said Shag.
“Why?” said Bengo.
“Because you know how to handle him”, said Mutton Broth “We don’t. He scares the shit out of us, he always has done!”
“Good heavens!” said Adam, in amusement “The Great Terror That Is Known As Bardin!”
“It’s no good me talking to him”, said Bengo “I’ll just get told not to be stupid, you know what he’s like”.
“I think you’re all being very unfair to Bardin”, said Adam “Sometimes he can be a total sweetie”.
“And sometimes he can be a total bastard!” said Bengo.
“Now listen”, said Bardin, when he and Bengo were alone in their cabin a short while later “I’m not unsympathetic, but I’ve got to keep a firm grip on things round here”.
“That’s more or less what Adam said”, said Bengo.
Bardin checked that there was nobody listening outside their door, and then said “Kieran wonders if we may have fallen into some kind of vortex, I’m not quite sure what he means by that, and I’m not sure he does either, but we can’t afford to get panicky”.
“Thank God we’re all together!” said Bengo.
“That’s how I feel”, said Bardin “I knew I could rely on you when we’re up against it”.
“Ooh”, said Bengo, emotionally.
“We’ve always had to carry Mutton and Shag, you and me”, said Bardin “They’ve always been bloody useless and feeble”.
“Be fair, Bardy”, said Bengo “It’s Hal’s fault really. He always stifled their development”.
Bardin was called up on deck by Rumble to observe that a storm of immense ferocity was forming. It turned out to be a complete stinker. Massive waves lashed the deck, and the ship lurched violently from side to side.
Come morning though it had passed, and all that remained of it was a brisk, squally wind. The sun was shining, and the gulls were back, whirling overhead. Hillyard informed Bardin that they were back on course.
Bardin went to seek out Kieran, who he found, wearing only a t-shirt and pants, trying to unclog the heads again.
“This is starting to remind me of one of Sade’s focking novels!” said Kieran.
“Come of there. I’ll get one of the other clowns to do it”, said Bardin “Toppy’ll have a fit if he sees you doing it”.
“Toppy’ll get the plunger rammed up his jacksey if he gives me any trouble!” said Kieran.
He washed his hands vigorously at the cracked wash-basin, and took Bardin into his cabin.
“You got us through that last night didn’t you?” said Bardin “I know you did”.
“I don’t know“, said Kieran, pulling a blanket off the bunk and wrapping it round himself “All I know is I was focking scared throughout most of it, ask Joby”.
“You have such odd powers”, said Bardin “I don’t understand a lot of them”.
“Neither do I”, said Kieran, blithely “It’s getting colder isn’t it? Strange, I never think of the Aspiriola region as being cold. I hope it’s not a bad sign”.
As they sailed further into the cold and the murk they occupied themselves with planning the perfect island where they could live, and the perfect house. It was becoming uncomfortably clear that Midnight Castle and the whole Bay area had lost its sparkle for them. It had started with finding the obscene picture of Kieran nailed to the front door, and had been unsettling ever since.
Kieran and Joby began talking about finding another lighthouse, like the one they had sought sanctuary in on the lake.
“Kitchen on the ground floor”, said Kieran.
“It’d better be!” said Joby “Bathroom on the next, with a big white roll-top bath, like we had at Wolf Castle”.
“Bedroom at the top”, said Kieran “With a big brass bed”.
“I’d like a palace”, said Tamaz.
“One thing we can say about you, Freaky”, said Adam “Your ideas never lack ambition!”
“It doesn’t have to be a very big palace”, said Tamaz, sulkily.
“Bloody good job innit!” said Joby.
Aspiriola, when they finally reached it, was a dismal sight. As murky, rundown and neglected as Krindei had been.
“What’s happening everywhere?” said Adam, prowling the forward deck.
A beggar, with open sores on his face, greeted some of them when they disembarked on the quay. He had a rabbit attached to him by a long piece of string. The rabbit looked distinctly more well-fed and healthy.
“Beware the spine-cracker, gentlemen”, said the beggar, holding out a tin-mug for donations.
“Who’s the spine-cracker?” said Lonts, who had accompanied Joby out onto the quayside.
“Lonts!” said Joby, in a distinctly ’don’t humour him’ voice. He gave some cash to the beggar, then took Lonts’ arm and steered him away.
“He tears arms off too , gentlemen”, the beggar called after them.
“Yeah right”, said Joby.
“He could be telling the truth, Joby”, said Lonts.
“Knowing our luck he probably is!” said Joby.
When he got back to his cabin Joby was greeted by Kieran clutching his Bible and looking dangerously wild-eyed.
“It’s the End Times, Joby”, he said.
“Bullshit”, said Joby “It just sounds to me like some kind of global recession’s going on”.
“The End Times!” said Kieran, insistently “The destructive star Wormwood falls into the sea and poisons all the water. The sun scorches people, and then the darkness comes, and burns them even more severely”.
“Look, this is what you get when you go reading all this cobblers!” said Joby, snatching the Bible from him.
“Joby, for once in your life, stop being a heathen Englishman”, said Kieran.
“Why?” said Joby “Being all God-fearing didn’t do your lot any good did it!”
“Where are you going with that?” said Kieran, as Joby went to leave the room with the Bible tucked under his arm “You’re not going to destroy it are you?”
“No, I’m going to hide it”, said Joby “Somewhere where you won’t be able to find it. And you’re not having it back until you start talking some bleedin’ commonsense again!”
“I didn’t like doing it”, said Joby, meeting up with Julian on the murky quayside. It was twilight,, but felt very different to the rest of the day “But he frightens me when he gets like that”.
“Is he going potty again?” said Julian, smoking a cheroot.
“Not if I can help it!” said Joby “Fuck, we’ve been through weird times before. We even had a comet plough into us! I dunno why this one’s being singled out for special attention. I think the strain of the trip up here has taken it out of him”.
“Turned his head a bit you mean?” said Julian.
“Poor old Kiel”, Joby sighed “We’re gonna have to give him special attention for a while”.
Hillyard had been left to give Kieran a massage. To Hillyard’s annoyance though he hadn’t been told where Joby had hidden the Bible. As Adam put it “you’re a frightfully nice bloke in so many ways, Hilly, but you don’t have a tendency to be terribly discreet do you?” Joby put it rather more bluntly “You’re a bleedin’ blabbermouth”.
“That’s what he called me”, said Hillyard, indignantly “Bleedin’ blabbermouth! That little bastard’s getting too big for his boots if you ask me. Must be Julian’s influence”.
“He’s stressed out with me”, said Kieran “Anyway, you wouldn’t want to keep secrets from me, would you?”
“No”, said Hillyard, now sprinkling him with talcum powder “But I can tell he’s worried about you, Kiery. I don’t know what gets into you sometimes when you start on the old religion kick”.
“Joby didn’t let me explain it”, said Kieran “I know the evil tossers in Krindei ran the city into the ground, and we might yet find out that the same thing has happened here, but I don’t just think it’s an economic thing, I really don’t”.
“Well we’ll have to wait and see about that”, said Hillyard, with his usual good pragmatism.
“Something’s draining the life-force out of this town”, said Kieran “I don’t know if it’s coming from this gorgon, or whatever it is that’s lurking around the place, but that’s what we have to discover”.
Kieran became convinced that there was a force at large in the town which was causing the whole place to rot and decay. This feeling was reinforced when the quayside and the galleon became plagued by revolting smells, far worse than the usual brine-y, fishy smells you get. An overpowering odour of excrement and rotten eggs. Bardin sent the other clowns out to the market to buy flowers, with the idea of hanging bunches of them around the ship to try and combat the smells somehow. They came back empty-handed, saying there were no flowers to buy.
Bardin raged that he would go off his head if he didn’t get some proper exercise. He said he would take Bengo and all the other clowns on horseback outside the town limits. The exercise would be good for the horses as well, and he had fond memories of an erotic interlude he and Bengo had enjoyed in a forest clearing there once.
The coldness of this area was taking some effort for them to adapt to though, and beyond the town limits, the countryside was swathed in freezing fog. It blanketed the deep gorge outside the town, making the forest on the other side of it completely invisible to them.
They gloomily stopped for a short lunch in this morbid spot, cheered at least by the little loaves of homemade bread Adam had packed for them, wrapped up in napkins. They didn’t know it, but Lonts had insisted on kissing the napkins as they were folded round the bread, an old Kiskevian superstition to guard travellers against evil spirits.
After they had eaten Bengo went behind a boulder, to answer the call of nature, and almost immediately shouted for Bardin to come over. He had found the steep bank of the gorge - for as far as he could see anyway - strewn with dead gulls.
“We’re being watched as well”, Bardin whispered to him “There’s somebody in the forest watching us. I can feel it. Don’t mention it to the other clowns though. I can do without them getting all over-excited about it”.
He took out a torch from the pocket of his fleece jacket, and shone it towards the dark woods. There was a brief glimpse of a white face in the distance, before whoever it was turned and ran further away into the forest.
Back at the galleon Bengo removed his outdoor clothing with an uneasy air. When somebody knocked at his cabin door he snapped at them to come in.
“Sorry Adam, I didn’t realise it was you”, he said “I thought you might be Shag or Mutton Broth come to have hysterics at me again. God, I feel so damn manky!”
“I’ll ask Hillyard to sort the bath-tub out for you in here”, said Adam, who was carrying a large, squashy brown parcel under his arm “He’s acquired a new truck. Well ’new’ might not be the most accurate way of describing it, and he wants to take some of us out in it for a little drive tomorrow”.
“Oh, that sounds alright”, said Bengo, brightening up “What’s in the parcel?”
“A little present for you”, said Adam “Lo-Lo and I saw it in the shops, and Lo-Lo said, as soon as we saw it, that would suit Bengo”.
It was a brown leather fur-lined jacket. Very like an old flying jacket. Bengo delightedly tried it on.
“Do I look hunky?” he asked.
“You always look hunky, old love”, said Adam “But that jacket comes at a price I’m afraid”.
“Anything you like”, said Bengo, saucily.
“Hillyard is very sensitive about the truck”, said Adam “You know what he’s like, and he’s going to get quite enough cranky comments from Joby. Could you, sort of, try and rein Bardin in a bit?”
“I’d love to!” said Bengo.
“You can be quite masterful when you have a mind to it“, said Adam.
“I wish I’d always been like that with Bardin”, said Bengo “When we were kids, and he used to give me contemptuous looks, I should have said ’pack it in, you scrawny little bastard’. Oh if only I’d had the nerve!”
Bengo, Bardin, Adam, Lonts, Tamaz, Finia, Kieran and Joby were to accompany Hillyard on the test-drive of the truck the next morning. Kieran had suggested he stay at home on the galleon, but Joby knew this was to tear the boat apart, looking for his Bible, and he refused to let him.
Bengo, meanwhile, was causing a stir in his new flying-jacket. He had borrowed a gauzy scarf from Finia, and this only enhanced the dashing image.
“He thinks he’s the male lead in that get-up”, grumbled Hal.
“Are you gonna wear your duffel-coat, Bardy?” Bengo trilled.
“No I’m not”, Bardin snapped “I’m going to wear my fleece”.
“Poor man’s substitute for a leather jacket”, said Bengo, haughtily.
“Got your flannel bloomers on underneath have you?” said Bardin.
“Yes, and a lot more practical than your starchy ones!” said Bengo, who was determined that today he would always have the last say.
Bardin took it out on the other clowns, giving them a horrifying list of duties that had to be done before he got back. Shag twittered that they would do their very best. “I shall expect considerably better than that!” was Bardin’s reply.
Tamaz said the truck was an embarrassment, which wasn’t a good start to the trip. Then, when they were all loaded up, the gears made a disturbing amount of noise as Hillyard tried to crank everything forward. Bardin sat in the middle of the front seat, with his arms folded imperiously. He made no comment at all as they drove noisily around the west side of the town and up past the old Governor’s House. Hillyard turned off onto a narrow cobbled street, which wound steeply up out of the town on the north side. The truck only just fitted the street, and Joby made several remarks along the lines of hoping they didn’t meet somebody else coming the other way. Bardin still refused to comment, but Bengo could see, the way this trip was going, that he would gloomily have to resign himself to (what would feel like anyway) a lifetime of “If only you’d listened to me” style comments.
The road eventually took them to a cliff-top. A vast, open green space under a grey sky, overlooking a grey sea. Hillyard stopped the truck, and they all got out in the midst of this nothingness, to stretch their legs.
“Not a bad place to build a house”, said Adam.
“It’d fall into the sea”, said Joby “Sea erosion. Was always happening back in our time”.
“Then I suggest that we build it not too close to the edge!” Adam retorted “How dismal it is everywhere though. It reminds me of Krindei. Everywhere contaminated by Evil”.
Kieran’s blue eyes widened in hopefulness. Joby grew alarmed. It didn’t take much to push Kieran dangerously into fanaticism at the moment. The potential for him having one of his “bad times” was too great for comfort.
“Look, for the last time”, said Joby, impatiently “It’s a combination of bad weather and global recession. That’s enough on its own for people to start wittering on about evil times!”
“Not as evil as the time I grew up in”, said Hillyard.
“There you are”, said Joby, triumphantly “A voice of sanity and reason for once!”
“Well I’m glad it’s united you two anyway”, said Adam, caustically “Some good has come out of it then!”
“What a shame we didn’t bring a picnic”, said Bengo.
“Yeah it’s such a nice, warm, sunny day to have one!” said Joby.
“Can we please leave this place”, said Finia, pulling his fur coat tightly around him.
Hillyard herded them all back into the truck, and set off back again down the steep, cobbled hill. They emerged out onto the back street, which at one end had the gates to the old Governor’s House. Everybody was slightly disconcerted to find how rusted up and overgrown these padlocked gates were. The house clearly hadn’t been inhabited for many years now.
They drove on into the central marketplace, where the lights were coming on as the dark evening gradually moved in. The stall-holders were all shutting up shop. Very few were taking any notice of Hoowie, who was standing on an old soap-box preaching about the need to fight Evil at every turn.
“What on earth does he think he’s doing?” said Adam.
“He’s copying Kieran I’d say”, said Hillyard, pulling the truck to a halt.
“I’ll kill him for this!” said Bardin, climbing over Bengo to get out.
“Now don’t you start”, said Hoowie, when he saw Bardin coming towards him “I’m performing a vital public service here”.
“This place has enough problems already without you deciding to take up open-air performing!” said Bardin, seething.
“Julian is going to be very annoyed about this, Hoowie”, said Adam “Now get in the truck, and stop this nonsense at once”.
A scream went up from the far side of the market-place, and a man came running towards them, wild-eyed, yelling “it’s her, get to cover, it’s her!”
“Everybody, get back into the truck”, said Kieran “I’m going to go and see what’s what”.
Everything happened so quickly that nobody had a chance to argue with him. Kieran ran down one of the side streets, and the other Indigo-ites returned to the galleon. Kieran came home a short while later.
“What I found out was useful”, said Kieran, disconcerted by the way Julian was tapping his riding-crop against his leg “She really does have the Power you know. They had every right to be afraid, the towns-people I mean”.
“Did you see her full on?” said Tamaz.
“No, only from the side”, said Kieran “I felt it was best to err on the side of caution for the time being”.
“What did she look like then?” said Hillyard.
“Well I don’t think it’s very gentlemanly to criticize a lady’s appearance”, said Kieran “But not at her best let’s say. Her skin had a wizened, dried-up look, like fruit gone rotten. But what struck me most was the area around her eyes, the bit that I could see anyway. Thick black circles around them, like when somebody draws joke spectacles in black marker pen on their face. It was all a wee bit unnerving I can tell you!”
Julian continued to tap his riding-crop against his leg.
“And do you think you found out anything useful?” he asked.
“Yes I think I did”, said Kieran “I think she is dangerous, but only to people who are weak and impressionable. Somebody of a strong disposition could, I feel, stare into her face and survive. I can’t explain how I come to this conclusion. It’s just that is my gut instinct on the matter”.
“This is what you get for being helpful”, said Kieran, a short while later, now lying face-down on his bunk.
“Oh come off it”, said Joby, who was rubbing cream into his (Kieran’s) posterior “You must have known he’d still thrash you. Any old excuse!”
“Joby, you don’t sound very sympathetic”, said Kieran.
“I am”, said Joby, a smile puckering round his lips “But I also know you too well, my love”.
“And he still wouldn’t let me have me Bible back”, said Kieran, sorrowfully.
“I’ll see what I can do for you later”, said Joby.
“You will?” Kieran brightened up.
Hillyard exuberantly burst into the little room, clutching a large bunch of keys.
“Look what I’ve got, fellers”, he said.
“Looks like a bunch of keys to me”, said Joby, unimpressed, now washing his hands in the bowl.
“Not just any old bunch of keys”, said Hillyard “It’s the keys to the Governor’s House”.
“What do we want those for?” said Joby.
“Me and Ransey had an idea after Kieran had been speaking earlier”, said Hillyard “There was something weird, I felt, about the way the house appeared all empty and neglected when we saw it earlier. So we made a few enquiries. It turns out that there is no governor around here, hasn’t been for many years”.
“That’d make a lot of sense”, said Joby “The way this town’s become so gloomy and rundown, I thought there’s either a complete bastard in charge, like at Krindei, or nobody at all”.
“Anyway”, said Hillyard “We went around all the estate agents. Found out eventually that the town council owns the Governor’s House, and they’d be very happy to rent it out, seeing as it hasn’t been touched for years … and we’re now renting it”.
“What do you wanna live there for?” Joby exclaimed, indignantly “And what happens to this place?”
“Nothing, it stays as it is”, said Hillyard “You don’t understand do you? We rent it for a short period only, and a handful of us live there to suss it out”.
“Suss out what?” said Joby.
“We think a lot might be explained about this town”, said Ransey, coming over from the heads “If we could find out what’s happened in that house”.
“That might make sense”, said Kieran “It was always a strange place, weird things have happened to us there before”.
“And who are the few who get to live there?” said Joby, warily.
“The usual six”, said Hillyard “Us four, Bengo and Bardin”.
“Tamaz won’t like that”, said Joby “He says he’s starting to feel left out of things”.
“Strewth!” said Hillyard, in exasperation “One minute he says he doesn’t want to be involved, the next he’s complaining he’s left out!”
“I know”, said Joby “Must be his female side coming out!”
“He can visit us sometimes”, said Ransey “But I want this investigation to be as low-key and un-sensational as possible”.
“With Bengo and Bardin around?” said Joby, with understandable scepticism.
Hillyard said he would pay to have the house cleaned and any necessary repairs done before they moved in. This didn’t prove to be easy at first, as many of the local people had developed a superstitious fear of the old, empty house. Hillyard found himself having to pay over the odds to exorcise their fears.
Buried amongst the foliage, just inside the main gates, was a two-up two-down lodge house, which had been used briefly by a gatekeeper. When Lonts saw it he decided enthusiastically that he and Adam should stay in nit, with Tamaz, so that Tamaz could be a part of it all, but would not have to put up with being teased and bullied by Bardin all the time. Adam said that he wasn’t sure about leaving the galleon without any cooks on board, but Bardin decreed that Shag and Mutton Broth should man the galley, as a bit of responsibility would “do them good and stop them twittering all the time”. Toppy then chipped in that he would move into the Lodge Cottage as well, so that he could be nearby for the Captain, even though, he said, he knew Bengo would do his level best to keep him barred from the Governor’s House. Which was exactly was Bengo intended to do.
All the Indigo-ites were excited about these new plans. They were even more so when Bardin recalled the secret cove some of them had once found, which had been reached by a long underground tunnel beneath the house. The general consensus was that if they could find it again, they could move the galleon round to there.
There had been some structural alterations to the house since the last time they had been there, many years before. Previously, much of the ground floor had been open-plan, with large reception rooms leading off the central hallway. Since then though, somebody had put in walls around the dining-room and library, making it all more self-contained. Some of these alterations appeared to have damaged the fabric of the house, causing large cracks to appear in the outside stonework. Adam said that the cracks, combined with the fog which seemed to permanently envelop the garden, reminded him of The House Of Usher!
On their first night in the house, Bengo, Bardin, Ransey, Hillyard, Joby and Kieran chose to eat in the cramped back kitchen, considering it to be more cosy than the dining-room, which had a slightly forbidding air, not helped by some black candles they had found on the table and the sideboard there.
They retired for the night, and Bengo and Bardin slept in the main bedroom. The big bed, draped in a faded red velvet bedspread, had a mirrored ceiling over it, which led Bengo to remark that one of the governors had clearly been “a bit of a go-er” in his time.
He was woken roughly early the next morning by an excitable Bardin, who exclaimed that there appeared to be something strange in the fog outside. Bardin then pulled open the window and stepped out, stark butt naked, onto the stone balcony outside.
“Bardy, you’ll catch your death!” said Bengo, pulling the bedspread around him and then dragging it awkwardly through the window with him.
“What am I supposed to be looking for?” he said, crossly.
“Look at it”, said Bardin, pointing all around at the thick fog blanketing the garden. Some of it had a strange green-ish tinge to it.
“That’s really freaky”, said Bengo.
They stood watching it for a while. Bardin more absorbed than Bengo. The reason for this soon became clear.
“Bardy”, he said, faintly “I’ve got the most enormous boner on me!”
They had an enjoyable session in bed, and then Bardin decided that they should take two of the horses out for a short ride. The Indigo-ites had decided to stable the horses at The Governor’s House, as the stables there were less cramped than the stalls on the galleon. It was with great excitement that Bengo saddled up his favourite, a little piebald, and he rode proudly out behind Bardin.
The Indigo-ites’ decision to revitalise The Old Governor’s House had had a beneficial effect on the town as a whole. There seemed to be a more positive buzz around, and now, for the first time since they had returned here, they could hear laughter coming some of the pubs and shops. They briefly rode out to look at the gorge again, but they found this so depressing that Bardin suggested they stop in at the nearest pub for lunch.
’The Forest Edge’ was an old coaching-inn, from the days long ago when people travelled through the surrounding countryside far more than they did now. It still advertised itself as ’The Last Pub Before Nothing’. Bengo and Bardin rode into the cobbled courtyard, and secured the horses to a rail, arranging for water to be brought to them. As they walked over to the main bar-room, a very hunched little old lady came towards them, carrying a basket of vegetables destined for the kitchen. Bardin greeted her, and she raised her little wrinkled face to greet him back. She had no nose, only scarring where it had once been.
“That woman had no nose”, said the Bardin to the landlord, when they got inside.
“What happened to her?” said Bengo.
“She lost it when she were young”, said the landlord, coming over from where he had been lighting the fire “Some horrible retribution. She comes from one of the nomad tribes here around, and some of ’em have always had some pretty primitive attitudes, if you ask me”.
“Retribution?” said Bengo “What had she done?”
“Nothing much”, said the landlord “Not as far as you or I would be concerned anyway. Apparently in those days she was a bit of a flighty young piece. Liked being around the boys too much. Anyway, she went and got herself pregnant, and so ruined her marriage prospects”.
“So they cut off her nose?” Bardin exclaimed.
“Standard procedure amongst that lot”, said the landlord “She always claims she got off lightly. She’s heard of some women who’ve had their eyes gouged out!”
“I need a drink”, said Bardin, and Bengo nodded vigorously in agreement.
They lunched off pork pie and glasses of cider. Bengo thought that the pie was so good that even Adam would have approved of it.
“It’s nice for just the two of us to go out together like this isn’t it, Bardy?” he said.
Bardin though was deep in thought, and merely grunted in reply.
“Particularly the sparkling conversation!” said Bengo.
“Oh sorry Bengo”, Bardin roused himself “I’m a bit preoccupied with things”.
Where they were sitting overlooked the side passage leading into the courtyard. There was the sound of cantering hooves and a woman, sitting dashingly side-saddle, burst down the side passage and into the cobbled area. She was wearing a very elegant pale blue riding-habit, and a black hat on her abundant fair hair. She leapt off the horse, tossed the reins to an ostler, and then pelted up an outside staircase two steps at a time, to the room above the stables.
“That was certainly making an entrance!” said Bardin, with a stage director’s eye.
“Wow, pretty cool!” said Bengo.
“Oh she’s turned up already has she?” said the landlord, who had bought a joint of beef to the bar-counter and began to carve it up.
“Who is she?” said Bardin.
“The Lady Arabella”, said the landlord, carving the meat aggressively “Comes from over the other side of the gorge”.
“But that’s amazing!” said Bardin.
“We’ve never heard of anyone coming from over there before”, said Bengo “All we’ve heard from over there are monsters and strange folklore”.
“That’s about the size of it”, said the landlord, cryptically.
The clowns rode back to The Governor’s House, absorbed in what they had just learnt. Lonts, Tamaz and Toppy ran out to operate the main gates for them, but Bengo and Bardin were so wrapped up in what had happened at the inn that they barely noticed them.
“Well they needn’t think I’m doing that for them again!” said Tamaz, indignantly.
Bardin was thoroughly preoccupied with what they had learnt. But then again, the news was truly astounding. They had always been led to believe that the area on the other side of the gorge was a place of mysterious savagery. That it could produce a classy creature like the Lady Arabella was a total revelation.
“Can we ride over there and explore it for ourselves?” said Bengo, who was turning down the bed and lighting the candles in their room.
“Not a good time of year to go”, said Bardin “The Winter is beginning to close in”.
“You mean to say we that we have to sit on our arses until next Spring!” Bengo exclaimed.
“Don’t be such a silly clot!” said Bardin “There are plenty of other things we can do in the meantime”.
Julian invited himself over for the night. This put The Governor’s House into a state of high alert, as though a royal visitor was expected. Something was guaranteed to annoy Joby, who said he didn’t see why they had to practically get the red carpet out just for Julian. After all, when Adam came to see them (which he usually did a couple of times a day) he simply popped in through the kitchen door. Matters weren’t helped by Julian turning into his mother virtually the instant he put his foot over the threshold, and haughtily finding fault with everything. He found long ropes of dust hanging from the hall ceiling, and was irritated that they hadn’t relocated the tunnel to the secret cove yet.
“Just what have you been doing with yourselves since you got here?” he demanded to know.
“We’ve been busy”, said Hillyard.
“Yes, rogering probably!” said Julian, waspishly “I certainly don’t see much sign of any other activity! Bardin is being very lax”.
Hillyard escorted him into the living-room, and said he was going to fetch some port. Julian was absently twirling a large globe around on its stand when Ransey came in.
“Do you ever worry about the world going back to the state it was in when you were young?” said Julian.
“Yes”, said Ransey, bluntly “Me and Hillyard have been talking about this a lot since we’ve been back in this house. A return to the dark ages”.
“Not a good prospect is it”, said Julian “How has Kieran been since you’ve been back here?”
“Totally unconcerned with everything!” said Ransey “I was expecting a revival of the old ’End Of The World Is Nigh’ stuff, when you gave him his Bible back, but he’s been a complete flibbertigibit. I came down earlier and found him dancing a jig in the hallway!”
“Which probably means he’s up to something”, said Julian “He usually is!”
Bardin came into the room.
“Oh”, said Julian, unimpressed “I thought you were Hillyard with the port”.
“Julian, leave the boy alone”, said Ransey, who thought that Julian was trying his best to cut Bardin, in his status not just as Captain but now master of The Governor’s House as well, down to size. Bardin though wasn’t happy at being referred to as The Boy, and said so.
It was a strained atmosphere at dinner. Julian had the feeling that the others were taking a stance of “humour the old idiot, it’s only for one night, and he’ll be back on the galleon tomorrow”, which annoyed him. Afterwards, Hillyard showed him up to his own little room, the one that Joby and Kieran had stayed in on a previous visit to the house many years ago, and which Joby had always regarded as a converted broom-cupboard.
“You’re in here with me”, said Hillyard, setting the candle he was carrying down on a tin trunk by the window.
“How cosy”, said Julian, looking pointedly at the one narrow single bed “Which of us gets to sleep in that? There certainly isn’t room for the pair of us!”
“You can have that”, said Hillyard, pulling out a camp-bed “I’ll sleep on this”.
“Very gallant”, said Julian.
“My middle name”, said Hillyard “Right, now I’m going to help Ransey to check everything and lock up”.
He left the room, and Kieran watched him from the shadows in the corridor. When Hillyard was out of sight, he slipped into the little room.
“You’ve come to mither me now I suppose?” said Julian.
“Ach, you’re always at your crochetiest when you’re worried about us”, said Kieran, hugging him “Don’t try and deny it”.
“Is that why you kept staring at me all through dinner?” said Julian.
“I just came in to ask you to ease up on Bardin though”, said Kieran “You don’t have to keep kicking his arse all the time, metaphorically speaking I mean”.
“It keeps him up to scratch”, said Julian “Stops him getting soft”.
“I don’t think there’s ever any danger of Bardin getting soft!” said Kieran “Bengo’ll tell you that!”
“Oh yes he’s fine with Bengo”, said Julian “Can keep him in line well enough, but he’s too much in awe of the rest of you”.
“He has a quiet dignity, Julian”, said Kieran “We don’t mess him around”.
“Well that’s interesting”, said Julian “Because you’ve always messed me around!”
Kieran laughed. He watched as Julian pulled a fur-trimmed robe out of his bag.
“Is that new?” he asked.
“Bought it in town today”, said Julian “It’s fake fur, so you can feel it if you like”.
“I have no problem with real fur”, said Kieran “I’ve worn it enough times meself over the years!”
“Feels good doesn’t it?” said Julian “Imagine your penis rubbing against that when I’m walloping you!”
Kieran felt his scalp prickle with pleasure.
“I don’t like this house, Kieran”, said Julian “There’s something about this. These doors that keep opening and closing, seemingly of their own accord …”
“You’ve noticed that too?” said Kieran, excitedly “I thought it was just me”.
“No I’ve noticed it too”, said Julian “It always seems as though there’s somebody just ahead of me in the corridors or on the stairs. Horrid place”.
The next morning, to Joby’s great annoyance, Kieran had an invitation to go and visit two monks who had supposedly come to Aspiriola some time before to give the people spiritual succour. Joby’s comment was that it didn’t look as though they had exactly been knocking themselves out about it. Kieran asked him to go with him, and Joby’s reservations were confirmed when he saw the squalid apartment block in which the monks lived. He said to Adam afterwards that it looked the kind of place where you’d expect to see an assassin hiding in every twist on the stairs.
The monks’ apartment was filthy, and everything had that black, sticky look that only comes with severe neglect. The monks invited Kieran to indulge in some “spiritual cleansing”. This involved sniffing at various sweet or minty-smelling odours, which did have the effect of clearing the head wonderfully, like sniffing a balm for a cold. Brandy was then poured out, and an unappetising meal of sponge cakes soaked in a sticky liquid, which reminded Joby of stale bread soaked in cold tea.
Kieran and the monks then lay around on the floor, pontificating on the meaning of the Evil that seemed to hang around the town. Joby got bored and exasperated with all this. He could be looking around the market -place, having a drink in a pub, or back home in the kitchen, giving Bengo orders. Finally, he hauled Kieran away, and took him to a waterfront café to dose him with tall glasses of thoroughly cheap and nasty black coffee.
“No wonder this town’s in a state if that’s the best you lot can do!” said Joby, giving Kieran a serious telling-off “Lying around in some seedy flat like a bunch of spaced-out hippies! Angel’d have a field day if he turned up here now! He‘d think it was his birthday!”
“Oh don’t be too hard on us, Joby”, said Kieran “The monks are demoralised. They’ve been sent here and forgotten by the Church …”
“What fucking excuse is that!” said Joby, and then looked around to make sure they weren’t being over-heard. He didn’t like telling Kieran off in public.
“You should have gone in there and kicked arse”, he continued, in a lower voice “Not encouraged ’em!”
“I’m tired, Joby”, said Kieran, and he sounded so pathetic that Joby feared he was going to burst into tears.
“Now you make me feel a right bastard”, said Joby, squeezing Kieran’s hand under the table.
“I feel so tired that it frightens me”, said Kieran “I don’t think I’m up to sorting this place out”.
“You’ll be alright”, said Joby “Just you being here has done wonders for this place already. I’ve always said that sometimes you simply don’t have to do anything, your presence only can work wonders”.
“Do you think so?” Kieran sniffed.
“Of course I do!” said Joby “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t!”
He took Kieran home and packed him off to bed. He then went into the kitchen to fix him up a hot-water bottle. He found Bengo alone in the kitchen, whipping up eggs in a bowl. Even though it was only the middle of the day, the kitchen was so dark that Bengo had had to light the lamps above the stove.
“I thought I’d do omelettes for lunch, Joby”, said Bengo, and then looked to The Great One for approval “Is that alright?”
“Yeah it’s fine”, said Joby, putting a pan of hot water to boil on the stove “Where is everybody?”
“Bardy’s gone over to the Lodge cottage to see Adam”, said Bengo “I think he wants to let off steam about Julian, and Hillyard, Ransey and Julian are poking around in the cellar, trying to re-locate the entrance to the tunnel. You’d think it’d be easy to find it again wouldn’t you? But Julian thinks they might have cemented it up”.
“Is he still here?” said Joby.
“He’s planning on staying another night”, said Bengo “That’s what’s made Bardy so cross”.
“He treats me as if I’m some incompetent 5-year-old!” said Bardin, in the kitchen at the Lodge, which was even darker than the kitchen at the main house, due to masses of foliage that had crept over the downstairs windows “You don’t know what it’s like”.
“But I do, old love”, said Adam, who was dipping chunks of raw meat in flour, preparatory to making a pie “Julian, Hillyard and Ransey are like that with me sometimes. They treat me as if I’m some batty old nursemaid, it makes me so angry! Sometimes I’ve wondered if it’s enough to put me right off men!”
“I don’t believe that!” Bardin laughed, and slipped off the draining-board where he had been sitting “How do you like it over here?”
“Very snug”, said Adam “The only problem is the bath-tub”.
He opened the lid on the bath-tub, which was concealed within a dark wood chest in the corner of the kitchen.
“It’s horrible”, said Adam “Like sitting in a coffin. Lo-Lo can’t get in it at all. Toppy has to wash him with the bowl”.
“That must be a sight to see!” said Bardin “Has Julian been over to see you yet?”
“Not exactly”, said Adam “I was outside earlier and he shouted over from the front door of the main house, ’how are you liking your little pepper pot cottage?’ He made me sound like the Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe!”
“I’m surprised”, said Bardin “I thought he might have called on you by now”.
“I’m not in any hurry for that little treat!” said Adam “He’ll thoroughly enjoy himself sneering at everything. I can wait very patiently for that pleasure”.
Bardin strolled to the front door and peered through the window at the side of it. He gave an exclamation, and ran outside. A woman in a hooded cloak was standing at the main gates. Bardin yelled at her, and she raised her head to look at him. At first he had the horrible feeling that she was a skeleton, that all there was on her face was fleshless bone. But then it became clear that she was wearing a mask. A white mask.
“Show your face!” he yelled, fully aware that he wasn’t making any sense.
She looked at him briefly, and then turned and walked away. By the time he had opened the gate, and followed her into the road, she had disappeared.
“Do you ever feel as though your brain can’t take any more information?” Kieran asked, lying in bed at The Governor’s House.
“Often”, said Joby, who had come up to put more logs on the fire.
He then came and sat on the bed with Kieran. There was a commotion in the corridor outside, and Bengo could be heard shouting at Bardin.
“Oh those little bastards”, said Joby, and he got up to see what was going on.
“Oi!” he yelled at them “Keep the fucking noise down! And Bengo if you don’t get back down to the kitchen you’ll feel the strap across your backside!”
“You’ll have to go over to the galleon and fetch it first!” Kieran laughed.
“He did a really stupid thing, Joby”, said Bengo.
Bardin burst into Kieran’s room, his duffel-coat flapping open around him, as though he’d been caught in a gale. He gabbled out the story of the woman he had seen at the gates.
“And he only ordered her to take her mask off!” said Bengo, indignantly “Imagine if she’d been the Gorgon, the stupid twit!”
“Now hang on a minute!” said Bardin “Kieran you said we had to be strong and face her, well that’s what I was doing!”
“Yes, but you also have to use your judgement”, said Kieran.
“Judgement?!” Bengo squawked “HIM?!”
“If you don’t leave this room this instant”, Bardin said to him “I’ll throw you down the stairs, just see if I don’t!”
Bengo looked him up and down imperiously, and left the room with immense dignity.
“This is ridiculous”, said Bardin, throwing himself onto the armchair.
“Not at all”, Kieran got out of bed and went over to him “You always show courage, of that I’ve never had any doubt, but you do also have to show caution”.
“What’s done’s done”, said Joby.
“Well what do I do next time she appears then?” said Bardin “Snivel into a corner somewhere shouting ‘don’t hurt me!’”
“Come and find me”, said Kieran, simply.
Dinner that evening was a much jollier affair than it had been the previous night, in spite of the fact that Julian was still there. Bengo and Bardin’s dust-up seemed to have cleared the air, and there was plenty of boozing and joking going on. They were still sat round the table at 11 o’clock, cracking walnuts and quaffing port, when they heard a noise coming from upstairs. Somebody seemed to be stamping through the rooms in heavy boots.
“What’s going on?” said Joby, rising to his feet and looking up at the ceiling.
“It sounds like somebody’s looking for us”, said Bardin.
The heavy footsteps were going from room to room overhead, opening doors and then slamming them shut again. The footsteps then reached the main staircase, and could be heard thumping steadily down them.
“Alright”, said Ransey, reaching for his pistol which he had left by his plate whilst they ate “When it reaches this door, I’ll fling it open. Bardin, you stand by with something to throw at it … provided it’s not friendly of course”.
Bardin picked a log out of the basket on the hearth and lit it in the fire. The footsteps came across the hall and paused outside the dining-room door. Somebody pressed on the wood of the door causing it to crack around the handle. Ransey nodded at Bardin and then pulled the door open, dramatically. Something dark and shapeless faced them, and the stench coming from it was appalling, the stench of a thousand sewers and maggot-ridden old graves. Bardin thrust the burning log towards the creature, and the whole room seemed to become suffused with the blackness. It took some while for it to disperse, but when it had the creature … Thing … whatever it was, had gone.
“Bengo, open a window”, said Ransey, returning to the table “Let some of this stench out”.
Bengo did so, and a great billow of fog wafted in from the garden.
“Is there something to be said for me doing an exorcism?” said Kieran, brightly.
“NO!!!” said Joby “We’ve had enough bleedin’ excitement for one evening!”
“There’s enough of a stench around at the moment already”, said Julian “Without you burning creosote all over the bloody house!”
“I suggest everybody sleeps in our room tonight”, said Bardin “Just to be on the safe side”.
The following morning Julian called over at the Lodge cottage to visit (torment) Adam, and Kieran, Joby, Ransey, Hillyard, Bengo and Bardin set out for a stroll into town. They had barely got to the top of the narrow little street which led from the gates of The Governor’s House, when they were stopped by a funeral procession turning out of a side street and heading up towards the town square. A makeshift coffin was being conveyed on a rough wooden cart, with a priest leading the way in front, and a straggle of poorly-dressed mourners walking lethargically alongside it. The Indigo-ites took off their caps until the procession had disappeared out of range. They then turned in at ’The Shepherd’s Inn’ (the nearest hostelry to The Governor’s House) for a mid-morning drink.
Once they were served and seated, they could talk under the covering noise of some musicians who were having an impromptu practice on some tom-tom drums, a zither, and blaring horns in an opposite corner. The Indigo-ites agreed that it didn’t seem very practical to carry on living at the house, and yet it would get increasingly difficult to go exploring round the countryside in the coming weeks.
“Beware the Lady Arabella, gentlemen”, said the filthy beggar, who had greeted them on their arrival in Aspiriola. This time he was trawling round the pubs with his tin mug out for donations.
“Oh not you again!” said Joby “Last time it was the spine-cracker!”
“He obviously entertains on a This Week’s Monster basis”, Bengo laughed.
“There should be a law against begging in pubs!” said Joby.
“There probably is, I can’t remember”, said Kieran.
“She is a witch”, said the beggar “She comes from a family of vampires and ghouls”.
“She certainly didn’t look like a member of the Undead when we saw her!” said Bardin.
“Positively blooming with life if anything”, said Bengo.
“Beauty can be deceptive, gentlemen”, said the beggar “Do not be taken in by the fine clothes, the luxuriant hair and the creamy skin. Beauty can be poisonous you know”.
“You don’t say!” said Joby.
“She seems to get over here alright”, said Hillyard “How does she cross the gorge in this foul weather?”
The beggar shook his mug imperiously, and Hillyard stuffed it with some loot.
“There is a stone bridge further up in the forest”, said the beggar “She crosses over that”.
Ransey took a notebook and a pen out of his pocket and asked if the beggar could draw directions to the bridge. The beggar rattled his mug significantly, and more money was stuffed into it, before he set to work. When he had finished he got up to leave, but he couldn’t resist a parting warning.
“Beware the Lady Arabella, gentlemen”, he said. “Yeah, you’ve already told us that one!” said Joby.
“If you should by chance meet her”, the beggar went on “Don’t, whatever you do, step on her shadow!”
The thought of spending much more time in the gloomy and sinister Governor’s House spurred Bardin on to finding the old opening to the tunnel which led down to the secret cove, then the Indigo-ites could all move back to the galleon, and use the cove as their own harbour. Lonts was miffed by all this. He had just got himself settled into the Lodge cottage, and was annoyed by Bardin’s constant restlessness. He had even found himself a favourite window-sill for his pipe and tobacco. Nevertheless he agreed to come over that afternoon, when Bardin said that he would need his considerable muscle power to help smash the concrete on the cellar floor. Lonts and Hillyard would both use huge mallets to try and break it up. The noise was horrendous, but Bardin said that it would all be worthwhile in the end. The others weren’t quite so confident that the dilapidated old house groaned under the onslaught and fresh cracks appeared in the masonry.
When they finally unearthed the entrance to the tunnel they found it much as they had last seen it. Damp, filthy and stinking of seaweed, but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. The Indigo-ites couldn’t figure out why it had been sealed out. Joby and Julian were alone in the cellar discussing it one day.
“Unless it was for security”, said Julian “Perhaps they had trouble with people creeping up through it to steal things”.
“Why not just put something really heavy over the door then?” said Joby.
“Hello-o-o!” called out a male voice from above.
“Oh who the bleedin’ hell is that?” said Joby.
“You go and see him off at the pass”, said Julian “I’ll lock up here. We don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry seeing what we’re up to”.
Joby went up into the hall, where a small, insignificant-looking man in a badly-fitting suit was looking around himself nervously.
“Mr Joby”, he said, extending a hand “I’m from the house-agents, come to see how you’re settling in”.
“Is that usual?” said Joby “Does everybody get this treatment?”
“Well not everybody is in Mr Kieran’s household”, said the man.
“Bloody well feels like it sometimes!” said Joby.
“Is everything to your satisfaction?” said the man.
“Now you come to mention it the kitchen’s pretty rank”, said Joby “It’s so dark in there that we have to have the lamps lit even in the middle of the day”.
“That’s often the case with these big old houses I’m afraid”, said the agent “The ruling classes would have regarded the kitchens as an insignificant after-thought”.
“I know”, said Joby, aware that Julian was nearby, locking the cellar door “Ignorant bunch of gits aren’t they!”
Bengo and Bardin tumbled in through the front door, with Bardin shouting at Bengo to fetch their coats. He stopped short when he saw the house-agent.
“Who’s this?” he said, imperiously.
“Just somebody come to see how we’re settling in”, said Joby.
Bardin looked at the little man as though the visitor was completely insane. He then drew himself up and said: “We can’t stop to deal with all this. One of the horses needs re-shoeing, we’re taking her to the forge. Bengo, I told you to fetch the coats”.
“I am!” said Bengo.
That night they decided to sleep in their own rooms, but to keep the fires lit, in case another burning log was needed to ward off a demon. Joby stirred his bedroom fire into life, whilst Kieran watched him from the bed.
“Julian wants you to go and see him at the end of the corridor”, said Kieran.
“Yeah I know”, said Joby “I won’t be long though. Hillyard’ll keep you company in here until I get back”.
“He’ll probably end up keeping you there all night”, said Kieran.
“No he won’t”, said Joby “He just wants to thump me for one of my remarks earlier!”
“I wonder what all that was really about earlier”, said Joby, finally taking his pinny off for the day “With the house-agent I mean. It just didn’t seem to ring true somehow”.
“Oh I expect it was”, said Kieran “I got used to all that when I was President. People do some bizarre things sometimes. I wouldn’t read too much into it”.
“Spose not”, said Joby, unconvinced.
Hillyard came in, and Joby ran down the corridor to the little bedroom at the end. It was the first time he had ever seen the fire lit in there, and it made the room seem very warm and fuggy. Julian greeted him, wearing his fur-trimmed robe. His cock could be glimpsed through an opening in it, and he looked incredibly satanic and sexy.
“Is it warm enough in here for you, Joby?” Julian drawled.
“Oh Christ!” said Joby, gulping.
Julian poured out two goblets of port for them, and handed one to Joby. Julian untied the front of his robe, and let it hang open. The firelight was glinting on his massive tool.
“Courage my dear”, said Julian “You know I will always look after my little peasant”.
“I thought Hillyard was your little peasant”, said Joby.
“Hillyard is a lusty farm-hand, full of vim and vigour”, said Julian “But he isn’t as flexible as you in his tastes”.
“I told Kieran you wanted to beat me up again!” said Joby.
“Come and sit on my lap”, said Julian, and Joby did so. They kissed long and hard.
“I’ve missed you”, said Julian “I always do. You still seem to avoid me so many times”.
“No I don’t mean to”, said Joby, awkwardly.
“But you still don’t entirely trust me, is that it?” said Julian.
“It’s purely an old, ancient instinct thing”, said Joby “It’s not really me as I really feel. I do trust you. I love you”.
“As I just said, I will always look after you”, said Julian “I sometimes think that that time we were both taken prisoner at the old castle at Wooded Hill was one of my favourite fantasies come true I had you all to myself, to do as I liked with. I keep looking for an opportunity for that to happen again”.
“Oh it probably will, sometime”, said Joby “We’ve got all eternity before us, something’s bound to come up”.
Julian deftly turned Joby over, and took his time stroking Joby’s behind.
“Your backside is perfect”, said Julian, running his teeth over his bottom lip “If that bloody demon appears now, I’ll kick the bastard down the stairs!”
“You almost do as good a blow-job as Kieran”, said Joby, as they lay entwined on the narrow bed by the door.
“Praise indeed!” said Julian “You sound surprised, why on earth shouldn’t I?”
“Oh I don’t know”, said Joby “Receiving ‘em, yeah, that’s right up your street , but actually getting your head down and sucking off might perhaps be beneath your regal dignity!”
“Like giving enema’s you mean”, Julian laughed “Is that beneath my regal dignity as well?”
Joby reflected on the blow-job he had given Julian in turn, diving his head beneath the silk and fur material of the robe, and burrowing into that extraordinary warm, hard, sticky place.
“Too much teasing of this old fart will only mean I’ll have to whack you again”, said Julian.
“You need a dose of your own medicine”, said Joby “I’ll have to ask Adam if he can sort you out . He’s done it before. I wish I’d been there that time on the tug-boat when he spanked you with the hairbrush”.
“With my nightie all pulled up!” said Julian “You would get no satisfaction out of it my dear, I take my punishments like a man!”
Joby laughed and struggled to sit up in bed, and swung his legs over the side.
“You’re not going?” said Julian “Those two will be asleep now, they won’t want to be disturbed”.
“No Kieran’ll want me back”, said Joby “I can’t let him down”.
Joby walked over to the fireplace, the glow from the fire reflecting on his tanned backside. He took down an unfinished glass of port from the mantelpiece and drank it.
“I’m being a right cowardy-custard”, he said “I keep hoping Hillyard will come along and fetch me. I don’t fancy going out into that cold, dark corridor alone”.
“No problem”, said Julian, getting out of bed “I’ll walk you home. I hope I’m always a gentleman”.
When they both got to Joby’s room they found it in chaos, with Hillyard prising up a couple of the floorboards, and Kieran standing nearby, in his purple silk robe, holding a candlelabra.
“What the fuck are you two up to?” said Joby.
“We saw a sort of black gunge coming up through the panels”, said Hillyard “And decided to have a look”.
“What black gunge?” said Julian, examining the ripped up floorboards.
“There isn’t any there now”, said Joby.
“Look here”, Kieran put the candlelabra down on the floorboards, and reached into a gap which they had uncovered. He pulled out a tiny doll in a pale blue dress. It had flaxen hair, and a large pin stuck into its chest.
“Witchcraft”, said Kieran, holding it up.
Julian snatched the doll from him, and threw it into the fire. He then ordered them to go to bed, calling Kieran a “demented goblin” in the process, and marched Hillyard from the room.
“I don’t see how that was meant to be helpful”, said Kieran, looking at the burning remains of the doll in the fireplace.
“Better than sharing a room with it!” said Joby.
On a dark, storm-laden day Bardin ordered the galleon to be brought round to the secret cove. It was the kind of day where it didn’t seem to get fully light at all, and the clouds hung threateningly over the ocean. Towards evening a storm began to gather out at sea, and thunder rumbled. Kieran seemed to be in even more of a doom-laden mood than ever, seeing portents in everything. He sat by the fire in the dining-room and said that his presence back on board ship had clearly reactivated some of the paranormal phenomena they had experienced on their journey up to Aspiriola. He said he was a jinx.
“Are you crazy?” said Joby, who was helping Adam to set up the table for supper “You’re our mascot, not a bloody jinx!”
“I’ve got warning pains in my gut”, said Kieran.
“That’s because you’ve been drinking too much lately”, said Adam, putting a bowl of potatoes on the table “It’s all the alcohol sloshing around your insides”.
Out in the passageway Farnol was telling Bengo how pleased he was to have him back.
“I’ve really missed you man”, he said.
“Why didn’t you come over to the house and see me?” said Bengo.
“I thought Bardin might get annoyed if I did”, said Farnol.
“So what?” said Bengo “He’s always getting in a tizzy about something!”
He noticed that Farnol kept glancing nervously towards the long corridor that ran underneath the main deck.
“Has that ghost been seen again?” said Bengo.
“No, but we keep expecting to see it, if you know what I mean”, said Farnol.
A flash of lighting lit up the dark below-deck area eerily. Farnol shrugged his shoulders as though pulling himself together.
“Joby seems to be having a right go at Kieran in there”, he said.
“I think he’s trying to get Kieran to be more rational”, said Bengo, dubiously.
“I should think that’s like trying to get Bardin to be less tetchy!” said Farnol.
Joby got so exasperated with Kieran’s doom-mongering through supper, that afterwards he took him back to their cabin and whacked him hard with the hairbrush. Kieran had wept at the beating, and promised that he wouldn’t step out of line again.
“Get into bed now”, said Joby, sounding softer of voice “And I’ll bring you a hot drink”.
He stepped outside the cabin door, and found Julian standing opposite, leaning against the wall near the heads.
“Have you been listening in?” said Joby.
“Not at all”, said Julian, drawing on his cigarillo “I was passing and I heard you say you were going to the galley, so I thought I’d accompany you … I know you have a bit of a phobia about dark corridors at the moment”.
Joby glanced down the long, shadowy corridor where Shag and Mutton Broth had fleetingly seen a ghost, and didn’t feel like arguing the point. When they reached the galley door, Joby produced the ash-tray which Adam kept just inside the door, for the exact purpose of stubbing out Julian’s cigars in.
“He’s got you well trained hasn’t he!” said Julian.
“Unhygienic”, Joby grunted.
The galley was empty when they went inside it, but a lamp had been left lit, and a brightly-coloured moth was batting against the glass shade. Joby put a pan of hot milk on the stove. A flash of lightning briefly lit up the room.
“Always unnerving aren’t they?” said Julian, glancing towards the window “A storm at sea”.
“At least it’s not exactly far to the shore if we need to abandon ship”, said Joby “Don’t go saying anything like this near Kieran, he’d see a portent in the way the water goes down the plug-hole at the moment!”
A heated exchange of voices came from out in the corridor, and Bengo and Bardin bustled into the room, both soaked in their oilskins.
“I don’t know what you think you were trying to prove by hanging around up on deck in this bloody weather, Bardy”, said Bengo “That rain feels like being showered in pebbles!”
“Alright”, said Bardin, grumpily “Stop carrying on like a bloody old woman!”
Bengo tore off his oilskin coat and threw it at Bardin, telling him to take it to the outdoor clothing cupboard. Bardin turned to leave so quickly that Joby got caught in the spray from the sodden coat.
“Oi!” he cried “If you two keep this argy-bargy up for much longer, you’ll have to be separated for the night!”
“Seconded”, said Julian.
“So much for us being the great forces for good”, said Bengo “When we have a Captain who carries on like a tizzy old bag all the time”.
“And a Vanquisher of Evil who cries when he’s spanked with a hairbrush!” said Joby “A right bunch of old fairies we are!”
The storm passed through in the night, and the following morning dawned calm and clear. The old truck had been left in the grounds of The Governor’s House, for convenience, and Bardin said that he, Bengo, Joby and Kieran would take it out of the town and see if they could find the stone bridge the beggar had told them about. Hillyard wasn’t pleased about having to loan his truck out, and wasn’t reassured by Bengo’s comment that “it’ll be alright, Ransey taught Bardy to drive at the Bay”. Hillyard gloomily remarked that driving through a town was a much more dangerous and complex affair. Fortunately (for Bardin that is) Julian had been invited to a private gambling party at one of the town houses, and he took Hillyard with him.
Bardin and the three others crammed into the front seat of the truck, and Bardin drove nervously through the chaotic melee of the market-place. It was like negotiating your way through a mine-field. When they got to the other side, a luxurious-looking horse-drawn coach, all done out in black with gold trimmings, and swaying violently on its suspension, cut right across their path.
“Look where you’re fucking going!” Bardin yelled out of the driver’s window “You think you own the fucking road or something?!”
They caught a brief glimpse in the leather-seated interior of a woman completely swathed in furs and black veils. No part of her face was visible at all.
“Oh just forget about it, Bardy”, said Bengo, when Bardin was still tutting about it when they reached the outskirts of the town.
“Well some people when they’ve got a bit of money think they can get away with anything!” said Bardin, testily.
“Don’t worry about it”, said Joby “If we’d had a smash-up she’d have come off worse, with that dodgy suspension of hers she’d have probably over-turned! I‘m surprised she‘s not permanently seasick riding about in that thing!”
The stone bridge was easier to find than they expected. They took the road that ran alongside the edge of the gorge and further into the forest. The bridge spanned the gorge and led into more forest on the other side. Through the densely-packed trees they could glimpse the white brick of a very substantial dwelling place. Bardin turned the truck round and parked it under a tree, sheltered from any view from the bridge, whilst they ate some bread and cheese they had brought with them.
Suddenly there was the sound of horses’ hooves coming towards them along the road, and a straggle of about half-a-dozen people on horseback cantered into view. One of them sounded a hunting-horn, to alert the house on the other side of the bridge that they were approaching. The curious thing about this horseback party was that none of them looked too well, they all had a sickly, yellow-ish tinge to their flesh.
“Strange lot”, said Bardin.
Once they had vanished across the stone bridge, Bardin cranked the truck into life, and the Indigo-ites returned along the road to the town. On the way they passed a man shuffling along the roadside, going in the direction of the stone bridge. He also looked ill, in fact he looked like somebody had dug him out of his grave and reactivated him, like a zombie.
On their way home Joby said they had to call in at a bakers to pick up some sacks of flour, which Adam had requested they get on their travels. It was an unsettling thing that even the woman who served them in there looked sickly and yellow-ish as well. Her whole unhealthy complexion not exactly enhanced by the faded red gown she was wearing.
“I tell you, we were that close to winning”, Julian was telling Adam in the galley.
“I wonder how many gamblers have said that over the centuries!” said Adam.
“Do you know, next time we go I think you should come with us”, said Julian “It’d do you good to let your hair down, you’re turning into a bloody old puritan, it must be your father’s Calvinistic side coming out”.
“What absolute nonsense”, said Adam “Just because I’m justifiably dubious about these private gambling dens doesn’t make me a replica of my father! As I once heard a man say ’you never see a bookie driving a crap car’, and it’s the same with these gambling dens. They had absolutely no intention of letting you win, and even if by some remotest chance you had, there would have been some hired thug waiting for you round the corner to relieve you of your winnings! Really Jules, I would have thought you’d have had more sense!”
Bengo and Bardin came into the room.
“We got the flour, Adam”, said Bengo “Joby’s just taking it down to the hold. Hello Julian, how did you get on at the gambling den, did you win?”
“No”, said Adam, dryly “But he came very close”.
“Would you like to come next time, little fellow?” said Julian, ignoring Adam’s barbed remark.
“I’d love to”, said Bengo “Better keep Bardy away from the tables though. He and gambling don’t mix. Did I tell you about that time he gambled away ALL our pocket-money when we were kids?”
“I should think they’ve heard that one time without number!” Bardin snapped.
He thumped across the corridor to his cabin, where he found Finia sitting on the windowseat, repairing one of the curtains.
“What’s happened now?” said Finia.
“If Bengo tells that bloody story about me gambling our pocket-money one more time I swear I’ll push him over the fucking side!” said Bardin.
“He’s a Sagittarian like you”, said Finia “He doesn’t know the meaning of the word tact”.
“I’m more bloody tactful than he is any day!” said Bardin.
“No you’re not, Bardy”, said Bengo, coming into the room “Your foot’s permanently in your gob!”
Bardin went to the door and yelled for Toppy to fetch the hip-bath.
“Are you going to have a wash, Bardy?” said Bengo, sarcastically “It’s not like you to be so civilised!”
“Just put a sock in it!” said Bardin.
Total panic and consternation was caused the following Sunday by Kieran announcing that he was going to go to church. The Indigo-ites always took this as a bad omen, of trouble ahead, and in this instance they were right to be fearful. Kieran went to the cathedral in the town, and found the inside of it in a state of total decay and neglect. The marble altar had even been smashed into two large pieces, and left as it was. Kieran wandered round the main body of the building, whilst Joby, Bengo and Bardin watched him apprehensively from one of the pews. Suddenly Kieran was slapped hard across the face by an invisible entity. The slap was so hard that it sent him flying off his feet, and he landed with a crash on the steps leading up to the destroyed altar. The others ran to help him.
“What the hell was that?” said Bengo.
A lurid red mark had appeared on Kieran’s left cheek from where he had been struck. There was a deep, guttural sound, as of something half-human half-animal laughing in a very unpleasant way.
“Let’s get out of here”, said Joby, helping Kieran to his feet. Kieran protested, but he was out-numbered by the others, who all insisted on getting him out of the building.
They emerged out of the main entrance of the cathedral, and stopped to sit down at the top of the broad stone steps which led up to it. Even this area was decayed, with grass and moss growing on the stonework. The four of them sat for a few minutes on the top step in the tinny early Winter sunshine.
“I wondered why I never saw anybody going in or coming out of this building”, said Kieran “And now I know. Some from of Evil has taken up residence here”.
“You can’t seem to stay out of trouble at the moment”, said Joby.
“Well I wasn’t expecting to get slapped around by a demon just for going into a church!” said Kieran, angrily.
“I was just teasing you, you daft bugger”, said Joby.
Kieran smiled weakly and squeezed his hand.
“I suppose we should simply be glad that it didn’t do anything worse!” said Bardin.
“Look over there!” Bengo exclaimed.
He pointed below, to a spot at the back of the market-place. A woman on a white horse was watching them.
“The Lady Arabella”, said Bardin “What a beautiful horse”.
“Come with me”, said Kieran, suddenly leaping to his feet and charging down the steps. The others followed him closely, as he charged through the market crowds to where the woman had been sitting side-saddle on her horse.
Lady Arabella dug her heels into the side of the horse and turned it to face in the opposite direction. When she realised that Kieran was making progress, as the crowd opened up before him to let him through, she broke the horse into a brisk trot and eventually galloped out of the market place, taking little heed of anyone in her path. Eventually she disappeared out of their view.
The Indigo-ites soon had other things to occupy themselves than Kieran’s demon-infested cathedral though. The galleon sprang a substantial leak, and water began to trickle slowly but surely into the hold. They had no choice but to put her back into harbour, and find somewhere else to live in the meantime. For a group of their size (plus animals) this was far from easy. It wasn’t helped that everybody had a complete aversion to going back to The Governor’s House. Ransey and Adam went to look at various other properties to let around the town, and found them all way too small.
“At this rate we’ll have to split up for the duration”, Ransey sighed.
“That would be a dreadful shame”, said Adam “Particularly as we’ve only just had a spell of all that”.
“And the thought of the clowns living in some nice little town house all by themselves fills me with horror!” said Ransey “I wonder how long it would be before the place burnt down!”
In the end the solution they found wasn’t very satisfactory, but it was the best they could do. An old chapel-cum-school on the outskirts of the town, not far from the pub where Bengo and Bardin had first seen the Lady Arabella. It was a cold, draughty, cheerless place.
“Oh I don’t like this at all”, said Adam, inspecting the makeshift little kitchen at the back of the main part of the chapel “And with Winter just coming on as well. The only one who’s going to enjoy this miserable experience is Patsy, it’ll be right up his street!”
“It’ll be alright”, said Joby, with surprising optimism “Just because the building’s crap don’t mean we have to live in a crap way. We’ll get Hillyard to flash some dosh around, get us some real fur covers for the beds, and some decent plates and glassware. Light masses of candles around the place and we’ll be fine”.
They all slept in the main part of the chapel, taking out one complete row of benches and putting in several beds instead. By the time they had finished Julian said they looked like a refugee camp. Bengo woke up on their first morning in the chapel, to find that Adam and Joby had gone along to the kitchen area to start breakfast without him. Hoowie had slipped in the bed beside him, and was doing some pawing.
“Will you leave off!” said Bengo, crossly.
“Oh c’mon, you keep giving me the brush-off, it’s not fair”, said Hoowie “I’ve lost count of the amount of times you’ve kicked me out of bed now”.
“Well anybody might think you might get the message then!” said Bengo.
“We’ve done it before”, said Hoowie, tugging at Bengo’s nightshirt “What have you got this old thing on for?”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, dickhead”, said Bengo “But it was very cold last night!”
“Hoowie”, said Ransey, standing there and shining a torch onto the bed “Put some clothes on, it’s too cold to be lying around like that. Do it now, or I’ll call Julian over”.
“I know you want me really”, was Hoowie’s parting-shot to Bengo as he reluctantly slid back out of the bed again.
Bengo tutted and put his duffel-coat on over his nightshirt. Kieran was wandering around the main part of the chapel, lighting as many candles as he could find with a long taper. He had just dipped his head into a bucket of cold water as part of his morning washing, and with his long hair slicked back, the red mark left by the demon on his cheek was painfully apparent. In the kitchen section Adam and Joby were in the process of cooking up eggs and bacon.
“Poor Kieran”, said Bengo “It’s such a shame, that mark doesn’t seem to be going down at all. It must be awful for him”.
“Not a bit”, said Joby “He loves all that kind of thing, having marks on his body”.
“Joby, that’s dreadfully cynical, old love”, said Adam.
“True though”, said Joby.
There was a very aggressive hammering on the main door.
“Freaky, go and see who that is”, said Adam, much to Tamaz’s annoyance “And try and do it without flouncing if you can!”
Tamaz grumpily opened the door. Standing in the porch, damp from the early morning fog, was a little squat toad-like man.
“I need to see Lord Kieran”, he said, breathlessly.
“LORD Kieran?!” Tamaz exclaimed.
“Who is it?” Bardin grabbed the front door and pulled it open wider.
“I have to see …” the visitor espied Kieran through the doorway and roughly pushed his way in “You need to come with me now”.
“Why?” said Kieran, who thought he was being arrested.
“My lady has been brought to bed in childbirth”, said the little man “It’s going badly. She has sent for you”.
“I’m very sorry to hear that”, said Kieran “But I’m neither a doctor nor a midwife, I have no experience of childbirth at all, I don’t see how I can help”.
“She needs you for spiritual comfort”, said the visitor.
“Is it that bad then?” Bengo blurted out, and was immediately shushed by Adam.
“I take it you have got medical help as well”, said Kieran, hastily rubbing his hair as dry as possible with a towel.
“Yes yes a midwife”, said the man, hurriedly “But she desperately wants to see you”.
“Well if you think I can do any good”, said Kieran “Where do you live?”
“The castle over the stone bridge”, said the visitor.
A ripple of excitement ran round the room, which Kieran found quite amusing.
“I’ll saddle up a horse for you”, said Hillyard.
“Joby’ll be coming with me”, said Kieran “But we can ride together”.
“It’s not the Lady Arabella is it?” said Bengo.
“Oh don’t be daft!” said Bardin “She didn’t look pregnant did she!”
“Some women don’t get very big”, said Bengo, stubbornly.
“Bengo, you know absolutely nothing about pregnancy and childbirth!” said Bardin, in exasperation.
“That makes two of us then!” said Kieran, who wasn’t at all sure that he was going to be of any use at all.
It was still barely getting light when he and Joby set out, accompanied by the little toad-like man. In the town the market-traders were in the process of setting up their stalls for the day, and in the countryside the early morning mist was still rising from the bottom of the gorge. They eventually clattered over the stone bridge and into the courtyard of the castle. The toad-like man tied his horse to a hitching-post and Joby and Kieran did the same with theirs. They were greeted at the main entrance doors by a tall, gaunt-looking man wearing a pair of spectacles perched on the end of his nose. He had a very frosty feel about him. He looked Kieran up and down and remarked under his breath, but still deliberately loud enough for them to hear: “Not an appearance to inspire confidence!”
“We’ve got one at home like you”, said Joby “Called Toppy!”
Kieran stifled a laugh, and they followed the gaunt being into the entrance hall. This was a bleak-looking place. A broad marble staircase swept up one side of the room to a gallery above. A dining-table filled the centre part of the room, and two hard-backed chairs, upholstered in red velvet, stood on either side of the cavernous fireplace. It was a chilly, un-homely sort of place, built more for security and grandeur than comfort.
“You will wait here”, said the gaunt being, pointing a long bony finger at Joby “Whilst I take your … colleague upstairs”.
“That’ll be nice for him”, muttered Joby, drifting over to the fireplace.
Kieran followed the gaunt being up the marble staircase and along the gallery, giving a wave to Joby from between the marble pillars as he did so. At the end of the gallery they turned down a passageway that cut deep into the interior of the castle. One doorway they passed was standing slightly ajar, and Kieran caught a glimpse of rows and rows of leather-bound books. He paused to get a closer look, and a strange creature startled him by suddenly appearing in the doorway. This was another cadaverous-looking individual, with big, wide eyes, rather like a startled bush-baby. Kieran thought it could be male, but he wouldn’t like to swear to it, particularly as it looked more like a corpse than a living human being!
“This way, please!” said the gaunt being, impatiently.
Halfway down the corridor Kieran was shown through a pair of wrought-iron gates into a chilly bedchamber. There was no door to the bedroom, only the iron gates, and Kieran thought this was hardly the most private birthing chamber they could have found. The poor woman would be exposed to every Tom, Dick and Harry passing by along the corridor.
A large bed covered in a heavy purple bedspread was against the opposite wall, and the mother-to-be was lying on it, in some considerable distress. Her stomach was huge. Kieran thought she looked as though she was about to give birth to sextuplets.
“Kieran!” she cried “I’m so glad you could come!” “Hush my lady”, he said, rushing to her and taking her hand.
She was in a terrible state. Sweat was pouring off her, and her long dark hair clung to her forehead. Kieran looked around the room, but there was nobody else in there. Even the gaunt being had disappeared, and the toad man had clearly not followed them upstairs.
“This baby”, she gasped “I don’t believe it exists. I can’t feel it moving, I’ve never felt it moving, it’s as if I am filled with dough. Just this big lump of nothing sitting inside me!”
Kieran made calming noises, and damped a cloth in the wash-basin, then placing it on her forehead.
“Is there nobody attending you?” he said.
“We have a midwife in the castle”, she said “She attends to all the women’s problems”.
“Well where is she then?” said Kieran.
“She must be around somewhere”, the woman seemed to calm herself a bit “What happened to your face?”
“I sat too close to the fire”, said Kieran.
“Oh you should be careful with that”, said the woman, whose breathing had now at least dropped to a more normal level “We have fire screens here to guard against that”.
“I know very little about babies”, said Kieran “You need somebody with medical knowledge here”.
“No I need you”, said the woman, squeezing his hand “Because I know I’m going to die!”
“Now that’s nonsense”, said Kieran “You’ll give birth to a fine, healthy child, and soon you’ll be on your feet again”.
“Does this child look normal to you?” she squawked, indicating her monstrously extended stomach.
“Perhaps you’ve got more than one in there”, said Kieran “I’m going to call for the midwife”.
He looked around him for a bell-pull, a hand-bell, anything he could use, but there was nothing.
“There should be a servant nearby, out in the corridor”, said the woman.
Kieran went back out into the passage-way, which was completely empty. So much for the nearby servants! He gave a sharp, piercing whistle on his fingers, and the startled bush-baby came out of the room further along. In his most authoritative voice Kieran ordered him to fetch the midwife, and Joby. He knew Joby wouldn’t be much use in a birthing-chamber either (“get a grip love, you’ll be alright“), but he could at least run errands for them, and provide a calming influence.
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours”, he said, returning to the bedside.
“Edith”, she said “Lady Edith”.
“And was that man who came for us your husband?” said Kieran.
“He wants to be rid of me”, she said “We’ve been married for many years, and this is my first pregnancy, and it’s been so difficult. I’m not a natural brood-mare, I thought I was barren. Now I wish I had been! They didn’t tell me it would be like this!”
Kieran was fast coming to the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with this pregnancy at all, it was just that the mother-to-be was particularly nervous, and possibly the kind of person prone to neurotic fancies. He thought he’d better try and keep her distracted until the others got here. He went to the window, and saw the rooftops of another large building in the near distance.
“I didn’t realise you had neighbours so close”, he said.
“We haven’t”, said Edith “Not really. That house has been sealed up for years”.
A terrifying-looking woman came into the room. As tall and gaunt as the man who had shown him up, with a face like a vinegar bottle, and a birch cane hanging from the leather belt round her waist. She looked at Kieran as though she’d like to strangle him with her bare hands.
“This is Goodwife Blanche”, said Edith “She’s our resident midwife and nurse”.
(Good grief, thought Kieran).
“Also in charge of staff discipline”, said Goodwife Blanche, in a voice that could strip paint off the walls.
“You’d get on well with our Julian”, said Kieran, looking at the birch cane “We need some hot water up here, some towels, and clean linen for our lady”.
Goodwife Blanche gave him a look of utter viciousness and left the room.
“Does she use that thing a lot?” said Kieran “The cane I mean”.
“I-I don’t know”, said Edith “I leave all that to her. Does it matter?”
“Just she looks the sort who’d enjoy it too much!” said Kieran.
“Does she frighten you?” said Edith, in concern.
“Oh no”, said Kieran “When you’ve had a punch-up with Angel, and been strapped by Julian, physical pain doesn’t hold many fears anymore!”
“He beats you?” said Edith. “He beats everybody”, said Kieran, matter-of-factly “But then we need it, we’re an unruly lot at the best of times”.
“B-but I thought Bardin was your Captain”, said Edith.
“He is”, said Kieran, pleased that all this was taking her mind off things “But Julian’s our sort of Father Superior”.
She asked more questions about the Indigo-ites and Kieran happily told her, until Joby came into the room, warily. Kieran introduced them both, and Joby looked embarrassed at being introduced to a woman on her birthing-bed.
“That’s a pretty piss-poor fire you’ve got there”, said Joby, turning away “I’ll get you some more logs”.
He picked up the empty log-basket and went into the corridor, where he could be heard yelling orders at the bush-baby.
“You mustn’t mind our Joby”, said Kieran “He can be a cantankerous old devil, but he’s got a good heart, and he’s very reliable”.
“I bet that’s the most bleedin’ work he’s done in years!” said Joby, coming back into the room “The shock’ll probably kill him!”
“There won’t be any need for you to be in here all the time”, said Goodwife Blanche, coming into the room ahead of a posse of maids bearing towels, linen and water “There’ll be hours of this yet. You can rest in the room across the corridor”.
Joby was frustrated and annoyed that they would have to be holed up in this grim place for much longer. He had heard of some childbirths that went on for days. “I can’t stand the thought of that”, he muttered to himself. But it seemed as though he wasn’t going to be having much choice in the matter. Edith had begged Kieran to stay nearby, and Joby could at least see Kieran’s point that he didn’t want to leave her at the mercy of Grimwife Blanche.
There was a small bathroom attached to the room they had been allocated, and whilst Kieran was still trying to soothe the hysterical Edith, Joby ran himself a bath. He locked the bathroom door, as he didn’t trust anybody in this fun house. He was still soaking when Kieran tried to get in.
“No you can wait a minute!” said Joby “It’s your fault we’re here! You and your bleedin’ do-gooding all over the place!”
“Joby, if you don’t let me in”, said Kieran, sternly “I’ll use our gun to shoot the lock off!”
“Oh that’d be marvellous that would wouldn’t it!” said Joby “Have everybody come running ’cos you’ve blasted a hole in their bathroom door!”
He hauled himself up out of the bath and wrapped himself in a large towel. Reluctantly he unlocked the door, and pushed past Kieran to the fireplace, where he dried himself in front of the flames.
“She’s resting for a while”, said Kieran “So I thought we could get some rest as well”.
Joby grunted but didn’t say anything.
“Don’t worry”, said Kieran “Ransey will probably come after us if we spend too much time here. They can’t keep us here forever”.
“I bloody hope not!” said Joby “God, what a depressing place this is. It’s cold, it’s dark, and you can’t hear anything, it’s like being entombed!”
Kieran suggested they get into bed and try to sleep. He drew the curtains round the bed on two sides, but left the side nearest the fire open so that they could lie and watch the flames. Joby put the gun under his pillow, Kieran kissed his rosary beads and put them under his.
They slept for quite some time. Kieran had a very strange and intense dream, in which a demon had got into the bed with him, and was pawing and biting him. They were woken by somebody knocking on their bedroom door. Joby got up and put his coat on, and went to answer it. It was the gaunt being who had let them in earlier. He had a trolley with him, which had covered dishes on it.
“It was thought that you’d like some supper”, he said, loftily.
“Supper?!” said Joby “What time is it?”
“Just gone 8 o’clock”, said the gaunt being.
He wheeled the trolley into the room and placed it near the fireplace. He then stood there, with a napkin folded over his arm, like a waiter.
(“What’s he waiting for?” thought Joby “A tip?!”)
“S’alright”, he said aloud “We can manage thanks”.
The gaunt being shuffled out. Joby locked the door after him.
“I wonder how Edith is”, said Kieran.
“I can’t hear anything”, said Joby “I expect they would have come over and fetched you if anything was happening”.
He lifted the covers off the main dishes, and wrinkled his nose with distaste at the congealing soup that was in the silver bowls. To add insult to injury it was also cold. The kitchens were clearly a long way away in the castle.
“Beef broth”, said Kieran, disgustedly.
He dug out a half-eaten bar of chocolate from his coat pocket and nibbled on that instead, giving a couple of squares to Joby.
“They do ’emselves proud round here don’t they!” said Joby, sarcastically.
“It’s a grim place isn’t it”, said Kieran “But then, what do you expect, with a bunch of demons!”
“Is that what they are?” Joby exclaimed.
“It’s what I suspect”, said Kieran.
“Well why have they sent for you then?” said Joby.
“I don’t know”, said Kieran “It’s all very strange”.
He pulled up his shirt and t-shirt and found light bruising on his stomach.
“So it wasn’t a dream”, he said, softly.
“Fucking hell, Kiel!” Joby leapt to his feet “We get out of here right now. I don’t care if she’s expecting quads, we get out of here right now!”
Another knocking on the door. The gaunt being again, this time carrying a taper to light the candles in the corridor.
“The Lady Edith sends her apologies for any interruption”, he said, with grave formality “But if Lord Kieran could come and assist her now”.
Kieran squeezed Joby’s hand, and then got his rosary beads out from under the pillow. He put them on before going across the corridor, closely followed by Joby.
The birthing-chamber was even grimmer at night than it was during the day. Nobody had attended to the fire since they had last been in there, and with the cold draughts whistling down the corridor outside, and with no proper door to the room, it was icy in there. Edith though was sweating profusely. She also seemed delirious, and told Kieran that he was very blurry.
Goodwife Blanche suddenly reached across and ripped the rosary beads from Kieran’s neck, sending the beads scattering across the stone floor.
“You old bitch!” said Joby, getting down to try and capture the beads before they rolled out of sight.
“Joby, don’t bother about that now”, said Kieran “Just get her out of the room”.
Joby manhandled her out into the corridor, and then flung her away from him so roughly that she slammed against the opposite wall. When she had recovered herself, Goodwife Blanche gave a sickly leer and then reached for the birch cane hanging around her waist. Fortunately, Joby had been birched plenty of times in the kitchen by Adam, so it held no fears for him.
“You use that on me”, he said “And I’ll shove it down your throat, now clear out of my sight, we’ll do better without you!”
Lady Edith gave a scream, and he ran back into the birthing chamber. Joby noticed a thin, scared-looking girl cowering in the corner by the fireplace.
“Have you helped at births before?” he asked.
The girl nodded.
“Good”, said Joby “We’re gonna need you”.
The girl came over to the bed, and gently pulled back the covers. A monstrous head was trying to get out of Edith.
“Oh God, it’s nearly there!” cried the girl “You’re going to have to start pushing, my lady!”
“Where is it?” said Edith, in a croaky voice.
“Kieran and Evie have taken it into the next room”, said Joby “There’s a cradle all set up in there apparently”.
“They would do better to kill it!” Edith hissed.
“Now come on, don’t be like that”, said Joby, pouring her a glass of brandy “It’s still a baby, when all’s said and done”.
“You saw it, Joby!” Edith cried, her eyes blazing “It’s not human, it’s a freak, a monster! You can’t tell me that that … Thing should live! And to think I gave birth to it, how do you think that makes me feel?!” Joby could think of nothing to say to soothe her. She was right. The “baby” was a monster. It looked like a massive, blobby, hardboiled egg with all the shell removed. What few features it seemed to possess were not clearly defined at all.
In the next room, which Kieran guessed was Edith’s during normal times, he was standing over the crib next to Evie.
“We should let it die”, said Evie “Or kill it”.
“Kill it?!” Kieran exclaimed “I can’t do that, can you?”
“No”, said Evie “But it would be by far the best thing that could happen to it. What kind of life is it going to have?”
Even the noise the baby was making didn’t sound human. It sounded more like an old smoker rasping for breath, than a new-born infant.
“It will live a shadow existence”, said Evie “They’ll seal it up in some remote part of the castle, I know they will”.
“Like the Monster of Glamis”, said Kieran, grimly.
“I’ll throw it in the gorge!” Edith screamed, from the birthing-chamber “The first opportunity I get, I’ll drown it in the gorge!”
“Poor lady”, said Evie “We can’t let it live, Kieran”.
“B-but to deny somebody life”, said Kieran, tearfully “That’s a sin, we can’t do it, Evie”.
Evie picked up a pillow from the big bed nearby. She walked over to the crib, clutching it nervously. When she reached the crib though, her courage failed her. She couldn’t do it.
Kieran said afterwards that he had rarely felt as low as he had at that point. Fortunately, Ransey, Bardin and Hillyard had turned up at the castle soon afterwards, demanding to know where they were. Evie said that she would take the baby up to her room in the attic, and try and look after it whilst everybody tried to decide what to do. It was clear the baby had to be kept away from Edith, who was quite determined that she would destroy it if she got her hands on it.
Back at the old chapel once more, Kieran had a lot to occupy his mind. He had the bed he shared with Joby moved into the little side room, and he took to it for several hours at a time. The others knew that he was wrestling with huge matters on his conscience. Evie was right. The baby would have virtually no quality of a life, but Kieran, with his deep-rooted Catholicism, baulked at “doing the kindest thing in the long term”.
“Was the poor little thing so bad, Joby?” Adam asked “Surely a bit of corrective surgery would do the trick, even in this primitive day and age. And anyway, people have lived quite full lives with deformities before. Look at Bardin’s mouth …”
“Ad”, Joby sighed “This baby looks like the one in ’Eraserhead’, only not so cute!”
“Good lord!” said Adam.
“And it’s a massive bloody size now”, said Joby “What the fuck’s it gonna be like when it’s older!”
He went into the side room, where Kieran was lying on the bed, surrounded by candles, examining the bite marks on his flat stomach.
“Aha!” Joby exclaimed, pointing at him “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!”
Kieran laughed and pulled the bedclothes back over his stomach. He then reached under the bedclothes and pulled out a wad of papers.
“Ransey came in to see me earlier”, he said “He’s found us another place to live”.
“We’re getting through ’em at a rate of knots”, said Joby “Where’s this one, and is it demon-infested?” “No as far as we know”, said Kieran “It’s got a clean bill of health”.
Joby looked at a picture of a small castle with perfectly rounded turret towers, all done in yellow brick.
“Yeah, it looks alright”, he said “Where is it?”
“In the forest”, said Kieran “And we haven’t been able to find any sinister history to it at all. We just thought you’d all prefer to live there, than spend the Winter here”.
“You can say that again!” said Joby.
“I want to get out of this town as well”, said Kieran “It’s getting on me nerves, all this fog, and dismal atmosphere”.
“And you’ve been in the wars lately”, said Joby, sympathetically “I’m gonna buy a surprise for you tomorrow …if I can”.
He went out shopping with Julian the next day, to a jewellers in the town, to buy Kieran a set of rosary beads to replace the ones that had been torn from him. Joby wasn’t entirely satisfied with the set that was offered to him, he felt they were too big and clunky, but Julian talked him round.
“He’s a Catholic”, he said “A Papist, they like everything that’s camp and over-blown, and I’d like to see old Snotnose Blanche tear these apart with her bare hands!”
“Poor little bastard”, said Joby, as they walked away from the jewellers with the beads secured in a blue velvet box under his arm “He’s been slapped, bitten, and had his beads torn off him, I can’t help but feel sorry for him”.
“And you nearly got beaten up by an old witch!” said Julian.
“Oh she was nothing”, said Joby “She held no fears for me after what you and Adam have done to me over the years. Been beaten up experts!”
“That’s it you see”, said Julian, pausing to light a cheroot for himself, and then another for Joby “You have us to thank you for it. Toughened you up”.
“Yeah alright”, said Joby “Don’t go all self-congratulatory”.
“He’ll like them”, said Julian, indicating the box with the beads in “He’s an extraordinary creature. There have been very few men throughout history who, blessed with his looks, charisma and influence, wouldn’t have over-reached themselves and come a cropper by now”.
“It helps he’s a masochist I spose”, said Joby.
“It’s not just that and you know it”, said Julian “Plenty of powerful men have been masochists at playtime, and it’s only added to their corruption. Certainly not a redeeming feature in the way that Kieran’s has been”.
“I think it’s because he’s completely un-ambitious deep down”, said Joby “He’s genuinely not interested in power, certainly not for its own sake”.
“He’s never ever let you down has he?” said Julian.
“Not anything significant that I can think of”, said Joby.
They paused as yet another funeral procession wound its way round the edge of the market place. This time the coffin wasn’t carried on a cart though, but on the shoulders of four men. They carried it towards a low, single-storey stone building, and took it inside. Julian and Joby walked over to the entrance and peered in. It was a storing-place for funeral caskets, before they were taken to the cemetery on the edge of the town for burial.
“No religious service held in this town”, said Julian, pulling Joby gently into a corner nearby so that they could talk in peace “The cathedral’s been desecrated by a demon, and WE’RE living in the old chapel …”
“So what are you saying?” said Joby.
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Julian “Whatever evil is ruling here has driven out all the religious aspects to the town. Even the monks are nothing but layabout dope-heads now. Joby, I’m going to ask something of you. Don’t tell Kieran what we’ve seen today”.
“Oh I’m rubbish at keeping secrets from Kieran, Julian”, said Joby, wearily “I swear he gets inside my head!”
“You’re going to have to try!” said Julian “It’s important that we get to the Yellow Castle for the Winter. If Kieran hears about this, he’ll probably insist on staying here. I’m not concerned about staying in the old chapel for the Winter, we’ve stayed in worse places, but that he’ll insist on trying to bring religion back to this place. You know what he’s like”.
“So he preaches a few open-air sermons”, Joby shrugged “It’s a bit of a drag, particularly when he goes on a bit, but would it be so bad?”
“The time’s not right”, said Julian “We need to stay in the forest for the Winter, find out more about this place, keep a close eye on the castle over the stone bridge. This isn’t the time to go barnstorming in, preaching hellfire and damnation, we need to get him out of here!”
Back at the old chapel, the others were celebrating with champagne, as the galleon was repaired, and could be put into dock in the harbour for the Winter. Joby went into the side room, and found Kieran in bed, absorbed in a copy of one of the local newspapers.
“There you are!” he said, when he saw Joby “It went dark ages ago, where have you been?”
“Shopping”, said Joby “Got a present for you”.
Kieran took the box and opened it. He looked startled when he saw the rosary beads.
“You bought these for me?” he said.
“Yeah I know”, said Joby, sitting on the bed “Present from a heathen and all that”.
Kieran hugged him round the neck, and then put the beads on.
“Where did you get them from?” he asked.
“A jewellers”, said Joby “Next door to the tobacconists where Julian buys his cigars, so it was all very convenient really, we could kill two birds with one stone”.
“I’m amazed there was somewhere in this Godless town where you could buy anything religious!” said Kieran.
This was uncomfortably close to what Julian and Joby had previously been talking about.
“Are you OK, Joby?” said Kieran “Is there something on your mind?”
“No”, Joby smiled “Just be glad to get out of this old chapel that’s all. Not the most comfortable of places”.
“You wait till you see the Yellow Castle”, said Kieran “Hillyard’s been telling me about all the work he’s had done on it”.
“Yeah, like the Governor’s House!” said Joby.
“I keep telling you”, said Kieran “This one’s got a clean bill of health, and it’s comfortable. You’re all going to be very pleasantly surprised!”
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