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... taken from The Ancient Mariner

By Sarah Hapgood

“Blimey, a customer”, said Joby, when he, Mieps and Kieran walked over to the tavern a short while later “Business must be looking up!”

Rumble came down from the lavatory upstairs, where he had been smoking one of Julian’s cigars and reading a book of poems.

“Quick Rumble!” said Joby “Serve him before he gets away again!”

Kieran noticed Bardin pacing about restlessly with his hands in the small of his back. He enticed him into a corner and told him about his Sawney Beane fears. Bardin refused to believe that an incestuous family of Scottish cannibals was responsible, and said it was more likely to be sharks.

“Such as what happened to that stoker of yours on the old Indigo”, he said.

“Uddle?” said Kieran “That’s a possibility of course”.

“A distinct one I would have said!” Bardin snapped.

“You’re anxious to be off down to the Horn aren’t you?” said Kieran “I understand. Bengo isn’t safe here”.

“It is actually him they’re after then?” said Bardin “Whoever They are”.

“Possibly Sade, and whoever’s in cahoots with him”, said Kieran.

“But why Bengo?” Bardin exclaimed “There are plenty of cute people in the world, why single him out in particular?”

“He’s innocent”, said Kieran “Oh I don’t mean physically innocent, chaste and virginal”.

“He hasn’t been that since he was 13!” said Bardin.

“He has an innocence of spirit”, said Kieran “Whatever happens to Bengo he will always be Bengo. It would take something extraordinarily depraved and vile to make a dent in him, and that’s what they want to do. The sadist’s ultimate kick: to corrupt innocence, debauch it”.

A rather unenthusiastic journey was made up to the fruit and veg suppliers that afternoon to see what had happened to them. Kieran had predicted that they would probably have disappeared completely, and he was proven to be right. The whole area of the farm had simply been abandoned, and bore a distinct resemblance to the ‘Marie Celeste’. The handful of Indigo-ites who had gone up there had filled a box with decaying produce and returned home.

“We can’t possibly use any of this”, said Adam, picking over the bits and pieces back in the kitchen of the tavern “It’s not even fit to be fed to the goats!”

“Men, they have no idea do they!” said Joby.

“Alright Mr Sarcasm Silly-Arse”, said Adam “Put it in the corner out of the way. Bengo, put the kettles on and make tea for everyone”.

Whilst Bengo cranked up the pump over the sink, Adam went across to Joby. He expressed concern about Kieran’s Sawney Beane theory, and hoped they weren’t intending to go pot-holing anywhere in the nearby vicinity.

“Even Kieran’s not that daft!” said Joby.

“I’m not so sure”, said Adam “I can’t trust either of you two little louses”.

“That’s not nice innit!” said Joby “That’s a real friendly attitude that is!”

“Joby, I went through enough last time”, said Adam.

“So did we!” said Joby “Adam, I promise you, if Kieran so much as raises the suggestion, I’ll kick his arse for all its worth!”

He noticed Bengo standing nearby, with a kettle in each hand.

“Get on with it”, said Joby “We haven’t got all night!”

“You’ve got your fur-stole on”, said Rumble to Tamaz in the main bar “You must be worried about it all”.

“As if I’m allowed to say!” said Tamaz “All I get is shut up Freaky”.

“Not necessarily, not at the moment”, said Rumble “You could talk to Bardin. You two have got on well the past couple of years”.

“I understand him now”, said Tamaz “I know all his strengths and weaknesses”.

Rumble privately thought it was more likely to be due to the fact that Bardin had bested him in the last physical set-to they had had, but he was astute enough not to mention this to Tamaz!

Bardin meanwhile was pacing around the bar with the wood-chopper in his hand. He was almost pathologically paranoid about their one and only customer, and distrusted everything about him, from his size (fat), to his age (60), to his grin (far too smug for Bardin’s liking).

Joby and Bengo came through from the kitchen carrying large trays covered in mugs of tea. They circulated amongst the Indigo-ites with these.

“Put that down!” Bardin snatched a tray off Bengo and dumped it on the counter, slopping most of the tea onto the tray.

“What’s the matter with you?” said Bengo “I suppose you wanted coffee instead. Well I’m not boiling up another kettle of water just for that!”

“What are you doing out here in the public area?” Bardin hissed.

“What are you doing with the wood-chopper is more to the point!” said Bengo.

Rumble gently but firmly took the chopper from Bardin.

“I think you need brandy more than tea”, said Rumble, and he poured Bardin a generous measure into a glass.

“There you are, here’s your medicine”, Rumble continued “Get that down you before you completely lose your marbles! Nothing’s gonna happen to the little fella in here with all of us around him”.

“He could still get abducted”, Bardin growled “That moron over there might be armed for all we know”.

“Like us you mean?” Rumble picked up the twin-barrelled shotgun which was kept under the bar-counter.

“Alright alright, put it away”, said Bardin.

Hoowie burst into the bar wearing his overcoat over a set of rather dingy-looking underwear.

“What are you doing in here like that?” Bardin squawked.

“Someone’s nicked all my clothes!” said Hoowie.

“Who the fuck would wanna do that?” said Bardin.

“Toppy’s probably taken them to be washed, Hoowie”, said Lonts.

“No I haven’t”, said Toppy “I was going to, I sorted them out and everything, but I’ve been too busy in the kitchen to get started”.

Bardin marched Hoowie back over to the sloop, and together they inspected all the Indigo-ites linen, both clean and otherwise.

“See what I mean?” said Hoowie “There’s nothing here that belongs to me, apart from the undies I had on in bed, and my coat. It’s all gone”.

Bardin toured the boat. The only other occupant on board at this time was Finia, who was sorting out the first-aid chest in the galley. Finia, somewhat understandably, vehemently denied taking Hoowie’s clothes.

“Where’s Brother Iggy?” said Bardin “He’s not over at the tavern, and he doesn’t seem to be here”.

“Perhaps he ran off with my clothes?” said Hoowie.

“Hoowie, just shut up a minute”, said Bardin “I’m thinking”.

“They wouldn’t fit him anyway”, said Finia “He’s a lot shorter than you”.

“Yeah, but he’s a bit weird that one aint he?” said Hoowie.

“That’s the pot calling the kettle black if ever I heard one!” said Bardin.

“He’s never really fitted in with the rest of us”, said Hoowie “You should know, you’ve pointed that out to him enough!”

“No I haven’t!” said Bardin “All I did was say he didn’t have the makings of a natural clown that’s all. I never said he couldn’t stay with us. All we’ve tried to do is to leave the door open and make him feel he didn’t have to stay here. He’s not our prisoner, like Tamaz, and unlike you he can take care of himself!”

“Perhaps we were a bit too offhand with our commitment to him”, suggested Finia.

“Then we can’t win can we!” said Bardin “If we’d got too firm he’d have thought he was trapped in closed order. Jeez, that’s the trouble with getting lumbered with outsiders!”

“We were all outsiders once”, said Finia.

“And why’s he taken my clothes?” said Hoowie.

“I don’t know!” Bardin roared “Stay here with Finia whilst I go over the road and tell the others what’s happened. Bugger it! I can see now we’re gonna have to go and look for him. As if we haven’t got enough problems at the moment without this!”

Plans were made to go up into the hills in pursuit of Brother Iggy. They bought up some old disused wagons and intended to travel in them. The sloop was to be left in the harbour. One of their most faithful customers, the bearded old man, was to take on their chickens. The rest of the animals, such as the horses and the goats, would travel with them.

Perversely, once they had made the decision to leave, the foul weather, which had plagued the town for what seemed like an infinite age, stopped and the sun shone. Some of their customers drifted back and expressed deep regret at their leaving.

“We’re not selling this place”, said Julian to the bearded old man “We do intend to come back here, and sooner rather than later. We hope”.

“We’re going to take the evil up into the hills with us”, said Kieran, who had been standing nearby.

“Go and do something useful elsewhere”, Julian ordered.

“Why?” said Kieran.

“Just do as I say or I’ll give you a thick ear!” said Julian “The last thing we need at the moment is you spouting medieval nonsense!”

Kieran went into the kitchen, where he found Adam, Joby and Bengo packing up cooking utensils, watched by Lonts and Tamaz. Joby was grumbling about how much they were taking.

“Saucepans and frying-pans and kettles, yeah”, he said “We’ll need them cooking in the wilds, but a roasting-tin?! A pressure-cooker?! What are we gonna do, knock up a couple of Christmas puddings over a camp-fire?!”

“Yes I see what you mean”, said Adam “We’ll have to put those into storage on the sloop for the duration”.

Bardin came in through the back door, Bnego gave a sigh and rolled his eyes.

“I haven’t been anywhere this morning, Bardy”, he said “Stop checking up on me. I haven’t even left this room, not once, not even to go to the loo”.

“Which is amazing considering all the tea you’ve drunk!” said Joby.

“You must’ve developed a really strong bladder lately, Bengo”, said Lonts.

“Makes a change!” said Joby.

“A case of having to”, said Bengo “Considering that everytime I want to go I have to practically apply in writing three weeks in advance!”

“That was a little harsh, Bengo”, said Adam “Bardin’s bound to be anxious at the moment”.

“I think we should all just only say nice things to each other from now on”, said Lonts.

“Well it’ll certainly make things a lot quieter round here!” said Joby “No one’ll be able to communicate!”

“I hope Julian’s included in all this”, said Kieran “He ordered me out of the bar and accused me of spouting medieval nonsense”.

“So what’s new!” said Joby.

“Any tea going in here?” said Hillyard, whose turn it was to come through the back door.

“You look a little tense, Hilly”, said Adam.

“Oh just getting a bit homesick already”, said Hillyard “I’ve been grooming the horses in the hold and I got to thinking how much I’d miss the sloop. It got me a bit melancholy like”.

“Never mind”, said Bengo, plonking himself down on Hillyard’s knee “I can cheer you up”.

Bardin’s little round brown eyes went very round indeed, and he slammed out of the back door.

“Bengo, stand up”, said Adam “That was extraordinarily thoughtless of you, very thoughtless indeed”.

Bengo tried to stammer a reply, but couldn’t get the words out.

“Go and see Julian and tell him exactly what you’ve done”, said Adam.

Bengo whimpered, and left the room looking very sorry for himself.

“Bit harsh that weren’t it?” said Hillyard “He meant no harm”.

“I’m not so sure about that at the moment”, said Adam “He seems pretty determined to rile Bardin, and Bardin’s got enough worries as it is. We need to get all these undercurrents out of the way before we leave”.

Julian had marched Bengo over to the sloop. Bardin, who had been getting more and more worked up, in the salubrious setting of the outside loo, heard about all this from Toppy. Bardin ran over to the sloop, where he found Bengo in the cabin being soundly thrashed with the cane. Bengo was whimpering most pathetically.

Bardin stood by feeling helpless until Julian had finished. Julian gave him a searching look and left the sloop. Bengo ran over to the communal bed and threw himself on it face-down.

“What are you doing?” he sniffed, when Bardin began to undo his shorts.

“Going to put some cream on you”, said Bardin “Oh look, it’s little stripey arse!”

“You over-reacted, Bardy”, said Bengo “All I did was to sit on his knee. If I’d done that to anyone else you would have laughed”.

“You seemed to be deliberately winding me up that’s why”, said Bardin.

“Because you’re worrying too much about me”, said Bengo “I can see that if you have your way I’ll have to hid in one of the wagons all the time on this trip, and that would be really impractical”.

“Yes it would”, said Bardin “Considering Adam’ll want you to help with cookhouse duties! Look, I wasn’t expecting you to get walloped, and particularly not with that thing! I thought at most Adam’d just tell you off. He must be on edge as well. Some of the problems I have with you reminds him of some of the problems he had with Lonts years ago, there’s always someone wanting to get their hands on you”.

“I know you’re upset by what happened the other day, Bardy”, said Bengo “But I can take care of myself. It’s only old Sade anyway. All he’ll want to do is bugger me, or get me to bugger him. There’s nothing to be afraid of there”.

“There you go again!” said Bardin “Not taking it seriously enough! We don’t know that it’s just Sade. He could be operating with anybody, Angel even. You think you know everything and you know nothing!”

Bengo gave another “ooh!” and a tearful whimper.

“Have you ever had a proper thought in your entire life?” said Bardin “You can’t seem to process a thought from A-B at all! It’s frightening! You think everybody’s a daft and harmless as you are!”

“Oh Bardy, I’m sorry!” Bengo cried.

“O.K”, said Bardin “Now let’s wash your face, get your pinny back on and take back over the road”.

It was an emotionally-charged departure from the tavern the next morning. Some of their most loyal customers turned up early to see them off, and when Julian and Ransey padlocked the front door it had a distinctly ceremonial air about it.

Six of them, Julian, Adam, Ransey, Finia, Hillyard and Mieps set off in the three wagons. The others followed behind on foot.

“This is where my whistle will come in handy”, said Bardin to Joby “After all your complaining about it lately! If we need any help I only have to blow on it and it’ll alert the others”.

“You hope!” said Joby.

They reached the sun-baked hinterland way above Zilligot Bay at around noon, and decided to put up camp there for a few hours, whilst the worst heat of the day was on. This area had become savagely depopulated in recent years, and although there were lone buildings dotted around in the far distance, they had encountered no one on the roads. Joby remembered that there had been mile upon mile of this when he and Kieran had gone off on their magical mystery tour in the region a few weeks earlier.

The heat was intense after the dark early morning chill of the town, and clothes and oilskins were shed and dumped on the ground, and lighter, more tropical clothing dragged out of the wagons. Toppy ran around collecting it all in despair. Mieps meanwhile was desperate to be got down from the front wagon. Hillyard, who had been driving that one, had abandoned him so that he could water the horses. Julian also made him stew so that he could put on some silk pyjamas. “Jules, he gets dreadfully frustrated, old love”, said Adam “Being not so mobile as he’s used”.

“Tough!” said Julian “I’m happy for him to stay like that. At least this way I can keep an eye on him!”

Adam asked Lonts to help Mieps down from the box instead. Once on his feet, Mieps hobbled over to Julian and swiped him across the behind with his walking-stick.

“It’s not too late for us to turn back, you know”, Hillyard whispered to Joby, as they dozed in the tepee during the worst of the scorching afternoon sun “We could be back in town by nightfall if we left now”.

“We can’t”, said Joby “We’ve gotta go chasing evil”.

“Can’t we just ignore it?” said Hillyard.

“How can we?” said Joby “It was making every day unbearable. We’d have all ended up basketcases, constantly having to be on the lookout for it like we were. Anyway, we’ve gotta find Brother Iggy”.

“Was Hillyard getting cold feet earlier?” said Kieran, as he helped Joby rinse out and stow away the tea-cups later that afternoon.

“I knew you was listening!” said Joby “You have an annoying habit of doing that, lying there eavesdropping, and quietly judging people”.

“Like hell I do!” said Kieran “Nobody ever tells me anything, so eavesdropping is the only way for me to find out what people are really feeling!”

“Take no notice of Hillyard”, said Joby “You know what a daft, sentimental old fool he can be. He’s probably missing the chickens!”

“K-Kieran”, said Lonts “I think it’s probably my fault Brother Iggy ran away”.

“Now what?” Joby barked.

“I had a go at him about Tamaz”, said Lonts “I don’t want to tell you what he said about Tamaz, it was horrible. About his children. I said none of it was Tamaz’s fault, that Tamaz has always been like a little child. And I-I said if he made any more remarks like that I’d break his neck. I think I may have frightened him!”

“We’re always having trouble with your bloody monks ent we!” said Joby to Kieran.

Joby went over to Tamaz, who was sitting by the side of the road, batting at the insects in the air. Joby sat with him and nuzzled him.

“He shouldn’t have spoken to you like that, Kieran”, said Lonts “It’s not your fault if the monks can’t be like you”.

“He wasn’t getting at me really”, said Kieran “He’s angry at Brother Iggy, not me”.

“Brother Iggy’s fallen under some kind of evil”, said Lonts “Just like that other young monk did, the one that went blind just before he died. Don’t look so worried for me, Kieran. I’m not a baby. I know all about evil. I saw it get a grip on everyone in Kiskev. The old sledgemaker tried to hide me from it as much as possible, he could be as kind as your or Adam sometimes. But I still know what beasts the men became during those last few weeks. Brother Isaac had told them that the fire would cleanse all their sins, and so they said well they should have some big sins to cleanse in that case, so they went loopy. I’m glad you didn’t turn up then, Kieran. They would have tortured you and killed you. You were lucky it was all over by the time you got there”.

“At least Lonts does know about evil”, said Bardin, walking with Kieran that afternoon.

Kieran looked at the back of the wagon directly ahead of them. Bengo was sitting on the edge of it, next to Rumble, who was twanging the strings on his banjo.

“Bengo hasn’t got a clue about it”, Bardin continued “You’d think after the life he’s had, particularly living with you, that he’d have some idea”.

“Thanks!” said Kieran.

“You know what I mean!” said Bardin “If he suddenly found himself in front of all the forces of darkness at once he’d probably start performing for them! I don’t know whether he’s too trusting or just plain daft! Who do you think is causing it all?”

“I think there’s a network of them”, said Kieran “A network of evil. Sade will be an offshoot, but I don’t think he’s a major player”.

“And Angel, is he involved?” said Bardin.

“They’ve probably summoned him, they wouldn’t be able to resist it”, said Kieran “The eejits! But I can’t believe Angel’s closely involved with them. Angel doesn’t like contact with living things. Even when he’s satisfying his ghoulish lusts, he tends to get it over with as quickly as possible. The fools probably think they’ve got him in their control”.

“They are definitely Satanists then?” said Bardin.

“Oh yes”, said Kieran “They’re the real thing alright!”

Bardin awoke in the tepee just before dawn to hear someone creeping about stealthily outside. This was followed by the sound of one of the goats bleating.

“They’re nicking the goats!” he hissed.

He reached for the pistol under his pillow and then inexplicably clamped his cap on his head before creeping out of the tent. He fired the pistol into the air and someone dashed past him in the gloom. Tamaz caught the baby goat which had been dropped in the panic. Adam tried to peer through the binoculars at the figure running, with great loping strides, along the road ahead. But it was difficult to make out anything in the dense gloomy light.

“Why is it always a goat they sacrifice?” said Joby, as he and Kieran shaved by the side of the road a couple of hours later.

“The symbol of the Devil”, said Kieran.

“Yeah, but why sacrifice it then if they’re Satanists?” said Joby “You’d think they’d go for sheep, you know the Lamb of God and all that”.

“I don’t think at the end of the day they’re particularly choosy about what they go for”, said Kieran “It’s all to make ‘em feel big. At least we know we’re on the right track. Whoever it was last night ran away straight ahead, and this seems to be the only road hereabouts. We’ll come to ‘em eventually”.

“Great”, Joby grunted.

“What about our Captain last night, eh?” said Hillyard, coming over to them “Running out like that, all gung-ho”.

“Stop creeping, Hillyard”, said Joby “He still won’t trust you with Bengo, no matter how much you fawn over him! What I wanna know is why he had to put his hat on first!”

“Perhaps he thought the sun might be a bit fierce at that time of night!” said Kieran.

“Funniest thing I’ve seen in ages!” Hillyard chuckled.

“Here, watch out”, said Joby, as Bardin advanced on them.

“Shaving water”, he said, taking the bowl from them and marching to the back of a wagon, where he proceeded to shave himself very purposefully.

By now the countryside was very sparsely furnished indeed. There were mountains in the far distance, with a vague promise that some of them might be wooded. But otherwise it was a rambling, open, desolate plain. There were no buildings for some miles, so when late that morning they found a single-storey deserted cottage set back from the road it was quite an event.

Ever on the lookout for places where Brother Iggy might be lurking, Bardin, Kieran, Ransey and Joby armed themselves and went off to investigate it. The cottage had been derelict for quite some time. Someone had nailed boards across the doorway, but these were so rotted they were easily prised away.

“Fuck me!” Joby gasped, when they got inside.

“I’d rather pick somewhere a wee bit more salubrious than this if you don’t’ mind!” said Kieran, after he had genuflected.

They shone their torches around the dingy walls, which were decorated with portraits of demons. Big black ones with mad eyes and bloodstained teeth, reptilian ones with horns on their foreheads and long tongues, pink ones with piercing slanting eyes, like extraterrestrials.

“There’s some writing here”, said Bardin.

He ran his torch along some letters which ran across the centre of the back wall like a frieze.

“’SOAK ME IN COGNAC, CUNT AND COCAINE’”, he read “Someone must have once used this place for their rave-ups. It’s nice and remote I suppose, you could do what you liked up here and no one would know about it”.

“Some rave-up!” said Joby “This looks like great patches of dried blood on this wall!”

“You’d better get outside”, said Ransey, noticing that Kieran was getting hot and breathless.

“This place is cursed”, Kieran gasped “No wonder it was boarded-up! I’m not leaving you three in here”.

They all decided they had seen enough and emerged back out into the scorching sunshine.

“There’s more writing here”, said Bardin, pulling away the remaining strips of wood from the door.

“What does it say?” said Kieran, fanning himself with his hat.

“’DO WHAT THOU WILT’”, said Bardin.

He and Ransey shrugged, nonplussed. The two time-crossers didn’t. Things were starting to make sense at last.

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