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By Sarah Hapgood

“I’ve worked out that it should take us precisely eleven minutes to drive to the clearing, turn round immediately, and drive back again”, said Ransey, unclasping his fob-watch and dangling it in front of them.

He was in the passenger seat of the truck. Bardin was in the driver’s seat. Bengo was seated in the middle of them, looking bewildered.

“B-but why do we need to know that?” he said “When are we ever going to just drive up to the clearing, turn round without stopping and come straight back again, and have to do it all in a hurry too!”

“It’s to improve his off-the-road driving skills”, said Ransey.

“Why?” said Bengo “When his on-the-road ones are no good either!”

“Bengo!” Bardin snapped “Just cool it, asking these daft questions all the time. If you can’t shut up you can get out now!”

Bengo shut up. But he still darted the occasional mystified look at Ransey, who was taking the whole thing as seriously as a driving-school examiner. In the event Bengo enjoyed the pointless, madcap drive up through the forest and back down again. Bardin handled the asthmatic old vehicle well through the rough terrain, and they got back to the Castle in high spirits, particularly so when Ransey said they had beaten his rough estimate by a couple of minutes.

They were brought back down to earth by Hillyard, who took grave offence at them using his pride and joy in such a cavalier fashion. He was left standing by the truck, picking at the rust on it as though he was removing hairs from a fine piece of parchment. He heard the tap of a walking-stick on the path, and looked round to see Kieran limping towards him.

“Would you like some cotton-wool to wrap it up in?” said Kieran.

“Don’t you start!” said Hillyard “I get enough of that from the others”.

“Well I expect these kind of unreasonable sulks from Joby, but not from you”, said Kieran.

“I can’t get the Big House out of my head”, said Hillyard “That stupid shout I did when we left, you know ‘it’s all yours’”.

“Come on now”, said Kieran, squeezing his arm “You leave the irrational guilt to me, that’s I’m here for”.

“I thought it’d be easier when we got here”, said Hillyard “But the happiness is only making it worse”.

“You feel guilty for being back home where everything is content”, said Kieran “It’s a perfectly natural feeling The guilt of the survivor. But you’re a healthy-minded, robust fella, it’ll wear off in time”.

“I own the place though, there must’ve been something I could’ve done”, said Hillyard.

“I don’t think so, or we’d have done it”, said Kieran “Sometimes these things just happen. It seems to be a kind of purging process that places have to experience at some point in their history. For the survivors it will probably turn out to be a good thing. The kids will have a better, more normal childhood in Toondor Lanpin. Glynis won’t be isolated and lonely. Codlik will get better care with the monks over the way here. The ones who died … well you can’t do anything but be pragmatic. One day though we might have to return there. We can’t afford to ignore whatever evil has been unleashed there, just in case it spills over into the outside world. And if I do go back …”

“I’ll go as well”, said Hillyard.

“And then you see you’ll be able to play the remorseful hero as much as you like”, said Kieran “But don’t go rushing to play that role too soon. Because we don’t know what we’re up against. And Angel doesn’t seem to be talking to me at the moment, so I can’t ask him if he knows anything, not that I expect he does for one minute!”

They ambled slowly back in the direction of the house. From over the river they could hear the sound of building work, including the ubiquitous hammering, which at the moment seemed to go on for most of the day and half the evening. There was a yodelling sound closer by, as Rumble hauled Tamaz across the back lawn by his armpits and into the stables.

“Was Tamaz enjoying that?” said Hillyard.

“If he wasn’t believe me he’d have put up a much better fight!” said Kieran.

Rumble had tossed Tamaz into the heaps of cut wild grass inside the stables, unbuttoned the crotch on his (Tamaz’s) drawers and screwed him without further ado. Tamaz did his little growls, and kept his small hands gripped within Rumble’s long hair, half tugging it out of his pony-tail. Rumble had the same part-gentle part-masterful way with lovemaking that Joby had. It was the best combination to employ where Tamaz was concerned. At the end Tamaz raised himself up and gave a gentle tug with his mouth on Rumble’s lip-ring.

“Am I better than Mieps?” asked Tamaz.

“You’re different”, said Rumble “He wouldn’t ask me that for one thing”.

“No, you’d be too busy sucking his tits!” said Tamaz.

Rumble laughed uncontrollably and rolled Tamaz on top of him.

Joby was playing dominoes in the kitchen with Lonts and Hoowie, when Hillyard and Kieran walked in.

“What have you been saying to Bardin?” Joby barked at Hillyard “He came in here in a right strop. Chucked his cap on the table and knocked all our dominoes over!”

“Where did he go?” said Hillyard.

“To the library, in that general direction anyway”, said Joby.

Hillyard proceeded that way. Kieran sat down a the table.

“That ankle of yours is never gonna get well if you keep marching about on it”, said Joby.

“I was needed outside, to console Hillyard”, said Kieran.

“If you keep consoling him he’ll keep doing it for attention”, said Joby.

“Ach Joby, you can be a heartless fiend”, said Kieran “If only I’d had you with me at Sade’s chateau, he would have given up immediately and begged to go back to the Bastille!”

“Course he would, he was only a poxy little Frenchman!” said Joby “And if we’d had these two with us he’d have given up even sooner!”

“You can’t have any sooner than immediately”, said Hoowie.

“Good point”, said Kieran.

“Don’t encourage him”, said Joby “It’s that headscarf he’s wearing, must be overheating his brain!”

“It’s a bandana, not a headscarf”, said Hoowie.

“Looks like a headscarf to me”, said Joby.

“It thought it was one of the tea-towels!” said Kieran, which made Lonts hoot with laughter.

“Are you alright?” said Hillyard, strolling cautiously into the library, where Bardin was standing by Adam’s easel, watching the transformation of the charcoal sketch of himself, Tamaz and Bengo into an oil portrait.

“He’s fine”, Julian answered for him, intending to sabotage any sulking by Bardin before it progressed any further. He was sitting on the sofa, him and Mieps flanking Bengo, who was once again squashed in the middle.

“Coming along ent it”, said Hillyard, looking appreciatively at Adam’s work of art.

“We’re going to hang it in here when it’s finished”, said Julian “Over the fireplace. Brighten the place up a bit. This room can look a bit dingy after sundown. We’ll need you to knock up a frame for it. That should stop you brooding for a while”.

“Oh Jules, you’re so unsympathetic!” said Adam, bending down to put his palette carefully on the windowseat, and exposing a fair amount of arse as his tight shorts rode up.

Everyone, including Mieps, craned forward to get a better look.

“Haven’t you lot got anything better to do?” said Adam, when he straightened up and looked round “Bengo, I know we need some more soap in the kitchen. Go into the laundry-room and hack us off a bit”.

Bengo levered himself off the sofa. Mieps kicked him in the pants as he moved away, but then again Mieps could never resist such an opportunity. He was still paying back Bengo for having done it to him the Christmas before last.

Bengo was still sawing away at the big block of carbolic in the laundry-room a few minutes later. This soap did all the domestic cleaning needs, and occasionally bodily needs as well, all they did was cut bits off when required. Mieps crept noiselessly into the room and tickled Bengo’s behind. Bengo was wearing his notorious “bum-fucker dungarees”, as the others referred to this lust-inducing garment, so he was almost completely accessible in that department.

“You startled me”, he said, nearly dropping the knife “I don’t know why Julian doesn’t give you a couple of licks of the strap, it might stop you going mad again!”

Mieps yanked open his own shirt, exposing his breasts. Bengo gave an “ooh!” of appreciation. Mieps unclipped the buckles on Bengo’s dungarees and slid them to his knees, until Bengo was all but entirely naked.

“Turn round”, said Mieps “Do exactly as I say or I’ll put your hair through the mangle!”

Bengo was an old-hand at this sort of thing. He shuffled around and leaned forward over the draining-board, firmly gripping the edges of it as Mieps buggered him most thoroughly. Mieps climaxed and drew away. He looked round and nearly jumped out of his skin when he found Bardin standing close by.

“How long have you been standing there?” Mieps hissed.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!” said Bardin “Put your dick away and clear off!”

Bengo fumbled with his dungarees, yanking them up awkwardly.

“I think it makes him feel good to do that”, said Bengo.

“I’m sure it does!” said Bardin “I’ve been discussing the next supply-run with Julian”.

“Surely that’s ages off yet?” said Bengo.

“Next month”, said Bardin “We’re going to do it a bit differently. Hillyard thinks all this travelling about is bad for the animals, having them cooped up on the sloop for days on end. So for the next one the oldies are gonna stay here and mind the shop, and us lot, clowns, Toppy, Hoowie, Tamaz and Mieps will take the sloop to Aspiriola. We’ll only be gone a week in total”.

“Mieps wants to come with us lot?” said Bengo, in astonishment.

“He doesn’t know yet”, said Bardin “It was Julian’s idea”.

“Oh I see”, said Bengo “To make sure he stays out of Codlik’s way”.

“No I think he feels it’ll do him good to just have a laugh with us”, said Bardin “Mieps is still carrying too much of the Big House around with him. We’ll take him out on the ocean wave and blow the cobwebs out of him that way. He’ll have Tamaz around, and Rumble’s good with him”, then he added rather caustically “And he can always bugger you for a bit of light relief!”

“Oh Bardy!” said Bengo “I had to, he threatened to put my hair through the mangle!”

“You weren’t putting up much of a struggle as far as I could see, and I should know, I watched most of it!” said Bardin “Anyway, Mieps might come in useful in Aspiriola. He knows about animals and how to spot good livestock”.

“Are we buying some more then?” said Bengo.’

“Pigs”, said Bardin.

“B-but we’ll always have to kill those eventually”, said Bengo “Like they always did in November every year up at the Big House”.

“Julian and Ransey want real bacon and sausages”, said Bardin “Don’t worry, I expect Hillyard and Mieps will do any slaughtering required”.

“We’re gonna have quite a zoo here”, said Bengo.

“Even more reason why someone’s gonna have to stay here all the time”, said Bardin “We’ll all rotate at that, take it in turns”.

They found Farnol eavesdropping outside the door.

“No punishment, Bengo?” he said, cracking the horsewhip which he’d picked up from the windowseat in the Great Hall.

Bardin took it off him and handed it to Rumble, ordering them both to be more responsible. (Forlorn hope). Rumble cracked it at Farnol all the way back across the hall towards the dining-room.

“Are you planning on cutting much more off?” said Joby, as Finia cut Hoowie’s hair in the kitchen “Only if you go on at this rate we’ll be able to see his face!”

“It needs to be more manageable”, said Finia.

Joby grunted and went back to sorting vegetables at the draining-board with Adam. A monk came to the back door, and Adam went to see what he wanted. The monk, Brother Samuel, embraced Adam vigorously and announced that it was a beautiful day in a beautiful world.

“I guess it is rather pleasant”, said Adam.

Brother Samuel went on to embrace Joby, even Joby was doing his best to dodge round the table. Brother Samuel baulked at embracing Finia, who was wielding the big kitchen scissors, and Hoowie, who was a bit inaccessible. Brother Samuel then went on to ask if they could use the laundry-room sometime, as they were having trouble getting things clean on the boat, and this wasn’t really fair on their patients, i.e Codlik and Jonner. Adam agreed hastily before he got anymore sob stories.

“That’s the thin end of the wedge”, said Joby, after Brother Samuel had departed in a whirl of good wishes “We won’t get rid of ‘em once they’re in”.

“I dread to think what Julian’s going to say about it”, said Adam.

Bengo finally appeared with the soap.

“Where have you been?” said Joby “I was beginning to think you’d gone to the bleedin’ shops for it!”

“Mieps got me in the laundry-room”, said Bengo.

“He’s gonna have to cut that out from now on”, said Joby “There might be monks in there in future”.

“I thought they weren’t supposed to come over the river”, said Bengo.

“That was the original idea”, Adam sighed “Joby, pop into the other room and see if Lo-Lo’s come round from his nap”.

“If he has shall I get him out of his pram?!” said Joby.

He found Lonts drowsily coming round from his nap in the room behind the pantry.

“I had the really funniest dream, Joby”, he said “I dreamt I had a really huge dick”.

“That must’ve been quite a shame to wake up from that one!” said Joby.

“What would you do if you had the biggest dick in the world?” said Lonts.

“Pray I didn’t get an erection I expect!” said Joby, sitting in the window and looking across the river at the building-work “Oh God, what have we done? Inviting all that lot to live on our doorsteps, it was asking for trouble!”

To Lonts’s alarm Joby began to sob helplessly, brushing away his tears in embarrassment as he did so.

“Joby”, Lonts pulled himself off the bed and went over to him “Don’t panic, Joby, I’ll go and fetch Adam”.

Joby motioned to stop him, but Lonts left the room. He returned again a couple of minutes later, alone.

“Adam’s not around”, he said “Julian called him upstairs”.

“Julian’s obviously heard about the monks wanting to use our laundry-room”, said Joby.

“Is that why you’re upset?” said Lonts, sitting down next to him on the windowseat.

“I’m just being stupid, take no notice of me”, said Joby, rubbing his nose dry with the back of his hand.

“Bengo’s panicking a bit”, said Lonts “With you and Adam disappearing he thinks he’s going to have to cook the dinner all by himself”.

“I’ve only been out of the kitchen for five minutes, the crazy little wotsit!” said Joby.

“He’s very excitable”, said Lonts, with a sigh of regret.

They went back to the kitchen, where Bengo was looking bewildered, all by himself.

“You could at least have swept Hoowie’s hair up!” said Joby, handing him the broom “Come on, get on with it”.

“But what do I do with the hair?” said Bengo “I mean, it’s not as if we can put it out for the animals”.

“Put it on the stove”, said Joby “Put. It. On. The. Stove. God, what did I ever do to end up with a dim-witted assistant like you!”

Bengo swept up the hair and was carrying it over to the stove when Adam suddenly came out from behind it. Bengo gave a yelp and dropped the hair.

“You startled me”, he said.

“I thought I made plenty of noise coming down the steps”, said Adam “Oh do get rid of that hair Bengo, it’s making me feel quite queasy”.

Bengo put Hoowie’s hair onto the stove, causing flames to come roaring out of the hole in the hotplate. Joby ran to sort it out, clamping the iron lid back down again.

“Strewth!” he said “I’m amazed you’ve got any eyebrows left! I didn’t know Hoowie’s hair was so combustible!”

“Do try to be more careful using the stove, Bengo”, said Adam, putting his apron back on.

“Has Julian give you a hard time, Adam?” said Lonts.

“The milk of human kindness doesn’t exactly run through Julian’s veins”, said Adam “I’m not entire sure what does!”

“Liquid nitrogen I think”, said Joby.

“To be fair it’s not just the monks wanting to use the laundry-room that’s upset him”, said Adam “He’s heard from Patsy that Codlik’s been saying that we’re a ‘depraved menagerie’”.

“That’s nice”, said Joby.

“He’s jealous”, said Bengo.

“Well he’d certainly like to be shagging the arse off Mieps”, said Joby “He’s peeved ‘cos we keep Mieps on this side of the river all the time”.

“Very possibly”, said Adam, and he gave a heartfelt sigh “Oh what a pain in the butt neighbours can be!”

“Oh for goodness sake Jules, you’re becoming obsessed, old love”, said Adam.

Roaming the house after dinner he had come across Julian standing once again at the window of the four-poster room, looking out across the river at their new neighbours.

“They won’t give us too much trouble”, Adam continued “They know how private we are”.

“I blame you for all this, you and that evil, demented Irish goblin”, said Julian.

“It was actually Bardin’s idea”, said Adam “Which is as it should be, he’s Captain”.

“It’s your fault that everything is so wishy-washy around here”, said Julian “It’s your influence that makes Bardin and Kieran believe they can get away with such do-gooding nonsense. You’ve always been a feeble left-wing do-gooder”.

Adam gave Julian a rabbit-punch in the stomach.

“What did you do that for, you little tart?” Julian wheezed.

“Mainly to cut short the string of insults”, said Adam.

“Go down to the kitchen and make some cocoa”, Julian barked.

“Certainly your lordship”, Adam dropped a mock-curtsey “I know my place, your lordship”.

“Your place is over my knee”, said Julian, bending him over and giving him several whacks, stinging Adam’s buttocks.

Adam enjoyed this experience (needless to say), but he still felt very emotional about it. When he went back down to the Great Hall afterwards he found Hillyard standing at the main doors, also looking out across the river.

“Has he been at you again?” said Hillyard, raising his eyes to the ceiling as though referring to the Almighty.

“Oh I know”, Adam sighed “You must think of me as a terribly wimpish fag sometimes”.

“Nah, never”, said Hillyard “Anyway, you’ve heard him at bath-time when he’s ordering me about. ‘Hillyard, fetch me a dry towel’, ‘Hillyard, give me a massage’, ‘Hillyard, give me a blow-job’”.

“We really shouldn’t let him get away with it you know”, said Adam.

“Sometimes it’s easier that way”, said Hillyard “Gives us more peace and quiet in the long-term”.

“What the …?” Bardin struggled into consciousness very early the next morning. There was a loud banging noise coming from the floor below.

Bengo continued to remain fast asleep next to him in the double bed. Ransey got out of the communal bed on the other side of the room and grabbed a rifle. He went out onto the external staircase and leaned over to get a look at the front of the house.

“It’s the monks”, he said, coming back into the room “They must want to come in to do their blasted washing”.

“But it’s six o’clock in the morning”, Bardin groaned, consulting his fob-watch “Why the fuck do they want to do it in the middle of the night?!”

“Somebody had beter go down and keep an eye on them”, said Adam.

“Oh yeah, they might run off with the silver!” said Joby “As if we’ve got anything worth nicking!”

“I’l go down but I want a cup of tea”, said Ransey, getting dressed.

“Perhaps you’d like to make us all one”, said Adam.

“I will, but I’m not bringing it upstairs”, said Ransey “You can come down and get it”.

Joby yawned as he fried eggs, bread and tomatoes in three large frying-pans on the stove. “Do try and pay more attention, old love”, said Adam “You know how they all complain if anything gets burnt”.

“What can they expect?” said Joby “When I’m having to do this when I’m half-asleep!”

“We’ve cooked breakfasts much earlier than this before”, said Adam.

“Yeah, but that was when we woke up naturally”, said Joby “And didn’t get woken up by idiots banging on the front door!”

“You are very spoilt”, said Adam “Some people get woken up by alarm clocks everyday”.

“Poor sods”, said Joby.

As he was serving up the food a few minutes later in the dining-room, Julian and Ransey were discussing the prospect of keeping pigs.

“Think of having our own bacon and sausages on these plates”, said Ransey.

“It would certainly spice things up a bit”, said Julian.

“And what’s wrong with it as it is?” said Joby.

“Nothing”, said Julian “Don’t be so temperamental. You cooks are always so hysterical!”

“Git”, said Joby, reclining in the hammock in the back garden with Kieran after breakfast “I’d like to see him working in the kitchen, I really would”.

“It’s not that bad”, said Kieran “Adam gave you time of to come and lounge around with me here”.

“I should hope so!” said Joby “Seeing as Bengo got a lie-in. I was owed time off”.

“The monks barging in this morning disturbed you didn’t they?” said Kieran.

“Hearing that hammering on the door gave me a jolt”, said Joby “It reminded me of being at the Big House. That’s where I thought I was again for a minute”.

“It’ll pass, it’ll pass”, said Kieran.

“I know”, said Joby.

They lay for a few minutes longer, listening to the tropical birds in the trees nearby. Then Joby helped Kieran to limp back to the kitchen, where Bengo was at the sink, scraping away at the frying-pans.

“I’m gonna be inspecting those when you’ve finished”, said Joby “So they’d better be spotless”.

“Ach, put the kettle on, you old slave-driver”, said Kieran, sitting down.

He noticed Bengo was doing ballet-style leg exercises whilst he worked.

“Did you do ballet classes when you was a kid?” asked Kieran.

“Dancing classes”, said Bengo “We had to learn how to keep time with music, it was very important for some comedy routines”.

“I went to a few dancing-classes too”, said Kieran “Not many. I got bored and stopped going. It was all me Mam’s idea. She wanted me to be another Michael Flatley”.

“What sort of dancing did you do?” said Bengo.

“Traditional Irish dancing”, said Kieran “I’ll show you when me foot’s better. Lots of rapid fancy footwork, with our arms kept clamped to our sides”.

“Why did you dance with your arms like that?” said Bengo.

“To keep the priests happy”, said Kieran “They thought dancing encouraged licentious behaviour, so traditionally we had to keep them still so that if they by chance looked through the window they’d see we weren’t fiddling with each other!”

“It must have been really strict where you come from”, said Bengo.

“Not as strict as it had been in the old days”, said Kieran.

“Were the priests that strict in your land, Joby?” said Bengo.

“No”, Joby guffawed.

“More’s the pity!” said Kieran.

It was because of the way the Church had often oppressed the people of his own country, that Kieran had tried to be as liberal as possible with the one he had formed. By doing so he had made the understandable mistake of thinking that his religious followers were all as liberal-minded as he was. On the surface that was how the monks could appear to be, full of hippy-ish remarks of love and peace, hugging and kissing people at every turn. And yet Kieran lived in a blissful state of ignorance about how censorious they could be.

Bengo walked into the laundry-room later to fetch some clean towels and almost got drawn into a discussion about the evils of nudity. This was because the monks had seen Tamaz flouncing past the window, wearing only a garland of wild flowers. Bengo was totally confused by the whole conversation. Nudity had never exactly been a big deal with him.

Bardin had borrowed Julian’s hip-bath to have an all-over wash in the kitchen after lunch, and Bengo was now waiting on him. Normally he liked attending to Bardin, but today he was preoccupied. He tried to remember when he had first seen Bardin in the nude. Obviously when they were children, but he couldn’t remember what feelings they’d had about it.

He remembered the first night they had shared a room. Although Bardin was only a year older than him, being seven, Bengo (aged six) had been awed by his air of maturity. He had been more concerned with making sure he didn’t irritate Bardin in any way than being embarrassed about “showing his willy”. He remembered Bardin pointing to the right-hand side of the bed and saying brusquely “you sleep there”. Bengo had hastened to assure him of his blind obedience.

“You’d better not kick in your sleep”, Bardin had added.

“N-no”, said Bengo, and had spent the night clinging to the edge of the bed to make sure he didn’t disturb him.

He had dared to kiss Bardin on the cheek before rolling over. For Bardin, this had been the first sign of physical affection he had ever been given, and it meant more to him than he had ever let on.

“Bengo, BENGO!” Bardin shouted across the kitchen “Dry towel!”

“Oh yes”, Bengo jumped into action to help Bardin out of the bath.

“What are you day-dreaming about?” said Bardin.

“Can you remember when we first saw each other in the nude?” said Bengo “Was it the first night we spent together? Or did we undress under our nightshirts?”

“How am I supposed to remember that?” said Bardin “And what’s brought this on?”

“The monks were talking about nudity when I went into the linen-room”, said Bengo “They’d seen Tamaz in the buff you see. And they started going on about the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge, and how they saw themselves naked and felt ashamed, and well … I didn’t get it. Why should they feel ashamed just for being naked, particularly if they were meant to be close friends?”

“That’s it, I’m putting a stop to this now, they had no right to go talking to you like that, filling your head with such rubbish”, said Bardin, pulling on his clothes “They use our facilities and the next thing I know they’re trying to indoctrinate you”.

Bengo tried to stop him, but Bardin was determined to halt any further religious in-roads.

“If you want to talk abut the Bible, talk to Kieran”, said Bardin “You don’t get him carrying on like this. He doesn’t have any hang-ups about nudity does he? The temperatures have to practically hit freezing before he puts much on!”

Bardin pulled open the dining-room door and Toppy nearly fell in on him from where he’d been eavesdropping.

“Help Bengo to clear up”, Bardin ordered.

His anger increased as he crossed the Great Hall to the laundry-room, where he let rip at the assembled monks, accusing them of taking too long to do a simple job of work, and concluding “grown men like you shouldn’t still believe in fairy-tales!”

Kieran had been reading on the sofa in the library next door, and had overheard all this. He pursued Bardin awkwardly back across the Great Hall, tapping his walking-stick against the floor. Bardin calmed down and agreed to talk to him on the bench in the front porch.

“Not all religious people are like you, Kieran”, said Bardin “I trust you, I don’t trust them. You care about people above doctrine. They do it the other way round. Bengo’s like Lonts, he’s easily confused. If anyone fills he head with all that stuff he’ll just brood on it, and get disturbed. Oh I know it’s probably my fault. I’ve always been over-protective of him”.

“You had to be”, said Kieran “He’s very attractive, and very trusting, and there are a lot of unscrupulous bastards out there”.

“Sometimes I must’ve overdone it though”, said Bardin “I didn’t encourage him to reason things out for himself. I got too used to thinking for him. I over-reacted just now. I’d better go in there and apologise”.

“No don’t”, said Kieran, laying a restraining hand on his arm “You’re in charge round here, and it won’t do them any harm to be reminded of that fact. They were only supposed to come here to do their washing, not start a prayer-meeting! This is our space, and they have to learn to respect that. You’re not to apologise for having a fierce love for Bengo”.

“Before I met you and the others he was the only family I’d ever had”, said Bardin “I had to protect him. I had to”.

Kieran found Joby waking up slowly from his afternoon nap in the room behind the pantry.

“I’ve just had the shittiest dream”, said Joby “I dreamt Tamaz was in prison or hospital or a loony-bin, I dunno, somewhere where they lock you up anyway. And I went to see him. Only it wasn’t really him, it was the bloody Gorgon, with snakes in her hair and penetrating eyes and everything. And she looked at me and I started turning to stone. Felt like the sort of dream I’d have had up at the Big House”.

“There seems to be a lot of hangover from that place”, said Kieran.

“Don’t tell Tamaz about it”, said Joby “He’d only get upset”.

“Don’t tell Tamaz about what?” said Tamaz, coming into the room, now dressed, or rather sort of, in a skimpy camisole and drawers.

“God, you don’t miss a trick do you!” said Joby, dragging his espadrilles towards him and putting them on.

“You two shouldn’t keep secrets from me, it’s not right”, said Tamaz “If you don’t tell me what you’ve been saying I shall go to Mieps about you”.

“Oh that’s real scary that is!” said Joby “If you do go and see him, tell him I’d like a game of Snakes and Ladders this evening”.

Kieran laughed and fell back onto the bed, still clutching his walking-stick.

“What are you trying to keep from me?” said Tamaz.

“I had a bad dream about you that’s all”, said Joby “I thought you might get upset by it”.

“Obviously you dreamt of me as being like Her”, said Tamaz “Seeing as you’re making such a fuss about it”.

“I’m not making …” Joby exclaimed, and then threw his hands in the air “I give up! What did I ever do to deserve falling in with a demonic hermaphrodite!”

“Half-demonic actually”, said Tamaz.

“Half is enough!” said Joby.

“And the other half’s Ransey”, said Kieran.

“Yeah, what a comforting thought that is!” said Joby.

“It goes dark all of a sudden doesn’t it?” said Finia.

“I know, and it happens every evening too!” said Adam, lighting one of the lamps in the library.

Farnol, Lonts, Mieps, Bengo and Joby were sprawled on the floor playing Snakes and Ladders with grim concentration.

“Do you know where Freaky is, Joby?” said Adam, stepping over them on his way back to the sofa.

“Upstairs, probably sorting out his knicker collection”, said Joby “Don’t worry about him, he’s alright, you know how he just likes to go off and play by himself sometimes”.

“Jules is threatening to go across the river and have words with the Arch-Pater”, said Adam “I do hope he doesn’t. We don’t want to fall out with the neighbours when they’ve barely settled in”.

“I dunno why not”, said Joby “If it’d stop ‘em coming over here and wanting to borrow things. They was hours in the laundry-room today. What a bloody great song and dance to make about doing a bit of washing! I thought they was never gonna be finished!”

“They’d have got on quicker if they hadn’t kept stopping to have prayer-meetings and trying to brainwash Bengo!” said Farnol.

“They’re all crazy”, said Bengo “At least we don’t make a fuss about nudity. We don’t all start lecturing each other when we take our clothes off”.

“Especially not where you’re concerned, old love!” said Adam “Quite the opposite actually, we actively encourage it”.

“Ad”, said Hillyard, looking round the door “I’m gonna lock the house up for the night”.

“By all means”, said Adam “Make sure everybody is in first though”.

“Make sure all the monks have gone first more like!” said Joby.

Julian, Kieran and Bardin had been talking in the upstairs room known as Kieran’s Vestry, when they heard the heavy thumps from the front of the house as Hillyard shut the main doors. At first the sound had jolted them.

“Are we ever going to be free of the influence of that other bloody place?” said Julian “Every sudden thump and crash I hear makes me think we’re back up there”.

“It’s time for a night-cap I think”, said Kieran.

They went down to the library. Mieps was lying on the floor, belly-up. Julian stood over him and massaged Mieps’s private parts with his foot. Mieps responded by yanking down Julian’s pyjama bottoms and exposing his dick.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Julian barked, noticing Adam crossing the room.

“To draw the curtains”, said Adam.

“Why?” said Julian “We only draw the curtains during Storm Season”.

“I thought … um … just in case any of the monks are in the garden”, said Adam “They might not want to see your dick”.

“If they were to have the temerity to hang around our garden they would have to get used to it!” said Julian.

“If they’re poncing round our back garden we can throw ‘em out for trespassing”, said Joby.

“We are not modifying our behaviour for the sake of them”, said Julian “Is that clearly understood?”

“Yes Jules”, said Adam.

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