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By Sarah Hapgood

Bengo and Bardin had burst into the cabin on the sloop, babbling about the sea-monster. Ransey had ordered them to shoot the bolt across on the cabin door, and Adam had coaxed a whimpering Bengo into bed. Joby had groped for the torch which rolled around the communal bed, and switched it on. He immediately encountered Hoowie’s bleary-eyed unshaven face, blinking at him in bewilderment at the sudden glare.

“It’s here!” said Joby “The sea-monster’s in here!”

At daybreak Julian, Ransey, Hillyard, Kieran and Mieps set off for the old lighthouse, to have a “look round”, and to collect the rest of the clowns’ belongings. Bardin intended to follow them over, but first he took Bengo into the hold and told him off so severely for disobeying him at the crucial moment the night before, that Bengo burst into tears. To make sure that he had really got his point across, Bardin then beat him with the paddle. Bengo normally enjoyed being spanked, but this beating was so ferocious that he felt quite breathless and shaken afterwards.

After Bardin had left the sloop, Bengo shuffled, sniffing, through the food hold and into the galley, where Adam, Joby and Lonts were congregated. Lonts was smoking his pipe at the table.

“He shouldn’t be in here with that thing”, Joby was saying “If it was anyone else you’d be ordering ‘em out and saying it was unhygienic”.

Adam decided to ignore him and concentrated on Bengo.

“You look very done in, old love”, said Adam “I think you’d better sit down”.

“Probably not a good idea”, Joby grunted.

“Some fresh air would make you feel better”, said Adam “Joby, take him topside”.

“What, and chuck him off?” said Joby.

“Just do it!” said Adam.

Joby steered Bengo up the galley steps, as though he was an hospital orderly directing an awkward patient back into bed. When they reached the bright glare of topside, even Joby’s stony old heart was melted though, as Bengo looked so absolutely wretched and sorry for himself. He cradled Bengo against his shoulder whilst Bengo sobbed out that “I was just so angry that the Evil had to appear and wreck everything like it did. I didn’t stop to think, I just wanted to run at it, like you did when you ran into it with Kieran that time at Father Gabriel’s palace”.

“Don’t take that as a good example to follow!” said Joby. “Bardy’s so cross with me, Joby”, Bengo sniffed.

“Oh he never stays angry with you for long”, said Joby “When he comes back home he’ll be all practical and matter-of-fact, you’ll see”. Kieran and Bardin were seen returning across the clearing a short while later. Kieran waved at them, Bardin was too busy talking to do so.

“Bardy didn’t wave at us”, said Bengo, as though this was some grave portent of doom.

“He never does!” said Joby.

“Hot work hunting for sea-monsters”, said Kieran, as he and Bardin arrived on the poop-deck, both carrying the remains of Bengo and Bardin’s belongings.

“So have you worked out what it was yet?” said Joby “And I spose we’ve gotta go looking for it?!”

“I think it was a giant sea-worm”, said Kieran “Like the ones we saw at Gurran Island and at the Winter Palace. It had climbed up onto the lighthouse rock. Slithered up there I suppose is the right way to say it. Whatever, it’s not very reassuring to have such a symbol of evil swimming about around here”.

“I’m going down below for a brandy”, said Bardin, turning to leave the deck “Come along, Bengo”.

Bengo trotted along behind him, as though he was about to start licking his hand.

“I don’t know why we don’t just build him a dog-kennel and have done with it!” said Joby.

“With any luck last night’s shock might make Bengo listen to Bardin more in a crisis”, said Kieran.

“Teach him a lesson you mean?” said Joby “That’d be a bleedin’ miracle!”

Bardin poured out brandy for himself and Bengo, and they both downed it in one. For a while Bardin sat, rather shaken, on the edge of the desk. Bengo bemoaned the fact that he didn’t consider himself bright enough to think of anything to say to comfort his partner.

“You don’t have to say anything”, said Bardin “It’s enough that you’re here”.

He massaged some cream into Bengo’s very sore behind, and then went along to the galley.

“Mind if I make some tea?” he said to Adam.

“No go ahead, old love”, said Adam.

“Make enough for all of us whilst you’re about it”, said Julian, coming down the galley steps.

Bardin felt a bit annoyed at being temporarily demoted from Captain to general tea-boy, which Julian gleefully picked up on and related to Bengo when he moved straight on to the cabin.

“I thought that you might like Bardin to endure a spot of humiliation”, he said “Particularly looking at the state of your rather picturesque behind there!”

Bengo giggled as Julian lifted up the back of his singlet to look at it in all its crimson glory. Julian found just about everything about Bengo intoxicating, his beauty, his air of innocence, the total lack of any sophisticated malice about him.

“Bengo, you are absolutely adorable”, he said, just as Bardin came in carrying three cups of tea on a tray.

“Tea”, said Bardin, curtly putting the tray down on the desk.

“Thank you my good man”, said Julian, as though talking to a faithful old retainer.

“You really shouldn’t talk to Bardin like that”, said Adam, a short while later as he and Julian reclined on the poop-deck “I know what you’re about, you’re trying to belittle his status as Captain”.

“I was the one who put him into the job!” said Julian.

“Yes, and ever since you’ve been trying to get him out of it!” said Adam.

“Rubbish”, said Julian “Bardin needs keeping in line, you know that. If he wasn’t disciplined regularly he’d let everything get on top of him”.

Adam gave an exasperated remark and tried to go back to concentrating on his book. Kieran and Joby were talking a few feet away on the other side of the poop-deck.

“Has Joby gone senile?” said Julian “Only I heard him address Kieran as ‘Joby’. Most bizarre”.

“It’s some silly game they’re playing”, said Adam “Take no notice. They’re talking to each other using their own names. All very tedious”.

“Why?” said Julian.

“It’s an experiment”, said Kieran, getting out of his chair and coming over to them “The spiritual significance of names, and the power attached to them”.

“Oh Patsy!” Adam sighed.

“You obviously haven’t got enough to do”, said Julian to Kieran “Your brain is atrophying in this heat”.

“Our names were given us at birth”, said Adam “Purely on a whim of our parents. That shouldn’t count as anything very character-defining”.

“Well how would you feel at being called Julian?” said Kieran.

“Pretty ghastly I would imagine!” said Adam.

“Ha bloody ha!” said Julian.

“Take nicknames …” said Kieran.

“Go away”, said Julian.

“You call Tamaz ‘Freaky’”, said Kieran “But you don’t call Mieps that”.

“Mieps is too dignified that’s why”, said Adam.

“That’s the best joke I’ve heard all day! Oh God, who’s this?” Julian picked up the binoculars which were sitting under his chair and scanned three figures who were approaching across the clearing “It looks like three of your monks, Tinkerbell. No doubt coming over to see what deeply profound, spiritual things their beloved St Kieran is currently engaged in! Hillyard!”

“No it’s too late to pull up the gang-plank”, said Hillyard, from the forward deck “They know we’re here”.

“Why don’t we just lift anchor and sail out onto the ocean?” said Bengo.

“That would be wonderful”, said Lonts “Except we’d have to leave all the animals behind, which would be awful wouldn’t it?”

The monks greeted Kieran with much effusiveness, which involved a great deal of hand-kissing. The reason for their visit was that they had seen a programme on their clockwork television set which said that Kieran’s ex-Church were still determined to have him done for heresy, and were still busy compiling evidence against him. To the Indigo-ites it was like hearing that a particularly persistent and tiresome stalker was still at large.

After the monks had left, Bardin announced to a horrified audience that he would fly to Krindei from Aspiriola and confront the leading men of the Church himself. When this announcement didn’t produce the awed, respectful response that he had hoped for, he went below and tried to find something to do to absorb his nervous energy. He decided against wrecking the cabin, and instead stripped down to his shorts and scrubbed himself at the wash-stand. He was attacking his hands with the nail-brush when Bengo came in.

“You are having some really stupid ideas at the moment, Bardy”, he said, as though Bardin had simply come up with a duff comedy routine.

“Something has to be done!” said Bardin, his voice coming out as more of a high-pitched shriek than he’d have liked.

“You should hear what Julian’s just been saying”, said Bengo “He said he’d rather deal with the vampires than Kieran’s Church, he said at least the vampires were straightforward and rational! The others won’t let you go to Krindei you know”.

“I’m Captain”, said Bardin “I say where I go, or anyone else round here for that matter”.

“Rubbish”, said Bengo “This all goes beyond your being Captain. You thrashed me earlier for running out to an Evil, and now you’re threatening to do the same yourself! And the Church are evil, as evil as the vampires in many ways”.

“Exactly!” said Bardin “Which is why they’ll never give up, they’ll just keep hounding Kieran. Somebody has to try and divert them somehow”.

“They won’t listen to you, Bardy”, said Bengo “They’re not nice people, they won’t listen to you. You’re a clown, and that’s how they’ll see you. They’ll just laugh at you”.

“As if I’d let that bother me!” said Bardin.

“If you insist I’ll come too”, said Bengo “They might as well laugh at both of us”.

“You can’t come”, said Bardin “Julian would go mad with worry”.

“He will if you go too!” Bengo cried.

Consumed with anger and exasperation, he got Bardin in an armlock and beat him more severely than Bardin would have previously believed possible. He then walked out without another word. Feeling rather shocked and chastened, Bardin slowly got dressed. He walked to the bottom of the quarterdeck steps and stood there for a moment, holding onto the handrail.

“Are you o.k?” said Ransey, having just rounded the corner from the corridor.

“Yeah, fine”, said Bardin “It just feels at the moment as though everyone’s getting at me”.

“It’s tough at the top of the greasy pole isn’t it?” said Ransey “That’s why I was never interested in it. Never mind, it’s almost dinnertime. That should cheer you up”.

Ransey went into the heads. Bardin moved stiffly up the steps to the forward deck, where the long trestle table was being set up for supper.

“Feeling alright, old love?” said Adam, and then exclaimed when Bardin walked past him without saying a word “It’s very bad manners to do that you know, even if you are Captain!”

“Oh Bardy’s a man with a mission, he doesn’t have time for good manners”, Bengo chirruped.

His partner gave him a fierce look, but said nothing.

“We’re well aware you’re Captain”, said Adam to Bardin “But you’re also our little boy, and Julian is not at all happy about your suggestion to go to Krindei, I can assure you. And you haven’t a hope in hell of being allowed to go there, so get it right out of your head”.

Bardin sulked as the meal got underway, but no one took any notice of him, not even Bengo, who was sitting right next to him. Suddenly Bardin banged the handle of his knife against the table in order to get everyone’s attention.

“We’re going to take the sloop up to the sand-dunes for a couple of days”, he said.

“Can we take the animals, Bardin?” said Lonts.

“Not all of them, no, they won’t fit”, said Bardin “The monks can look after the ones we have to leave behind”.

“You don’t mind going up the coast with sea-monsters at large then?” said Hillyard.

“Oh he’s probably trying to prove he’s not really bothered by it”, said Bengo, in a bored voice.

“I thought a change would be nice”, said Bardin.

“In the dunes?” said Tamaz “There’s nothing up there but sand and sea”.

“Too bad”, said Bardin “We’re going there”.

“You’re crazy”, said Tamaz, returning his full attention to his meal, from which he had been very briefly diverted.

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