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By Sarah Hapgood

The sun was strong, and the sea was so warm.

(“This can’t be a dream”, thought Bardin “It’s too real”).

He was lying in a little shallow lagoon, the entrance to a cave at the edge of the ocean. He was in the shade, looking out over the sun-dappled water which stretched to a horizon at the limits of infinity, if there could possibly be such a thing.

He was lying there on his back, his face partially submerged in the gentle caressing water. Bengo was perched on the rocks nearby, naked and smiling at him. Bardin ran a hand lazily over his own naked body. He had breasts, small, perfectly-formed breasts, like Tamaz’s.

(“But this still can’t be a dream”, Bardin insisted “it’s too real”).

“Does that feel better, Bardy?” said Bengo, dabbing his friend’s face with a damp cloth.

Bardin found himself lying on the communal bed in the cabin.

“Have I been asleep?” he asked.

“Yes, for hours”, said Bengo “Adam said not to wake you, it’d do you good”.

“No, that wasn’t a dream”, said Bardin, shaking his head “It didn’t feel like a dream, I could FEEL everything”.

“It must have been a good one then!” Bengo smiled.

“Tamaz and Kieran!” Bardin sat bolt upright.

“Kieran’s still asleep in the skiff”, said Bengo “And Tamaz is in the galley having breakfast. You should know by now nothing gets between him and a meal!”

“Hey, I can’t hear the engines”, said Bardin “What’s going on?”

“We’ve had to switch them off”, said Bengo “We’ve got to such a narrow bit of the tunnel that some of the others are having to steer it through with poles, like the old canal-boats. The engines had to be switched off to stop asphyxiating people”.

“You should have woken me up”, said Bardin, crossly getting out of bed and looking for his clothes.

“But you wouldn’t have had your nice dream then”, said Bengo.

“It wasn’t a dream I tell you!” Bardin thundered.

“What was it then?” said Bengo.

“I don’t know!” said Bardin “Go back to the galley and make hot drinks for everyone”.

Up on deck they had decided to pause for a few minutes. The manual steering was backbreaking work.

“Game girl you’ve got there”, said Julian to Crowley, praising Thetis “You should value her a bit more”.

“I worship her”, said Crowley.

“Worship, psh!” said Julian, as they both rubbed more barrier-cream into their hands “You don’t worship a human being, she’s flesh-and-blood, and certainly merits more than being put on a pedestal!”

“And how does your exotic friend Mieps feel about your championing Thetis’s cause so gallantly?” said Crowley, to Julian’s annoyance.

“What’s going on here?” said Bardin, coming up on deck.

“Absolutely nothing”, said Julian “Just Aleister chuntering on about nothing, as per usual”.

If they had been alone Bardin would have pointed out that Julian seemed rather cross about something that was supposed to be nothing, but for the sake of familiel unity he didn’t comment.

“I’ll take over here from Finia”, he said instead “His hands look raw”.

“What would you do if Bardin did really get boobs?” said Joby, as he and Bengo stirred pots of porridge in the galley.

“Nothing”, said Bengo “I’m used to all that with Mieps and Tamaz, and anyway he’d still be Bardin. I doubt they’d make him any less bossy somehow! Just Rumble might want to start licking them! He often did used to play the girly sort of roles in our stage stuff”.

“How do you mean?” said Joby.

“Well if somebody had to be rescued, you know damsel in distress, that sort of thing”, said Bengo.

“I thought that’d be more likely to be you”, said Joby “Looking cute and helpless”.

“I did it too”, said Bengo “But I thought it worked better with Bardy. And it made a nice contrast for the audience, if they were more used to seeing him as the bossy, authoritative one. We should have done more with his sexy side really. He’d have made a brilliant serious actor too. He did play a villain once in a thriller, a sort of psychopath like Angel, and he was terrific. He made him scary but vulnerable at the same time”.

“Perhaps that’s what Crowley means when he says Bardin reminds him of himself”, said Joby “Sometimes you must wonder why you ever jacked in the Cabaret of Horrors to join us lot”.

“No”, said Bengo “Bardy and me have never regretted that, not ever. We haven’t any doubts at all about how we want to live”.

“Hey!” Hillyard appeared on the galley steps “Come on up, there’s daylight up ahead!”

“And about time too!” said Joby.

“Come and see where we are, Patsy”, said Adam, unearthing Kieran in the skiff.

“Have I been asleep long?” said Kieran, looking groggy.

“Yes”, said Adam “Several hours. But that’s hardly surprising, there must have been more brandy than coffee in that flask you prepared!”

Kieran climbed stiffly out of the skiff and onto the forward deck. The twilight glow at the end of the tunnel felt glaring after the gloom of the caves. They were emerging gradually into the half-light of the Horn of Wonder at around the Spring Equinox. The aurora was strong in the sky, making the floating blocks of ice in the distance seem blue and purple, not white.

“This is so beautiful”, said Thetis, and everybody thought the same.

“It’s a lot to ask of you I know”, said Kieran.

“It’s a lot to ask of all of us!” said Bardin, who was talking alone with Kieran in the galley “To turn and go in the opposite direction! Everyone’s set their heart on going to Zilligot Bay. I swear it’s all that’s kept us all going lately. And we’re that close to it too! And instead you want us to do the long haul back up to Magnolia Cove?”

“I wouldn’t even suggest this if I didn’t believe it was so vitally important”, said Kieran “It’s imperative we don’t stop now. We’ve got the dark forces on the run, and we need to destroy the rest of them that is at Temple Street”.

“That old chestnut again!” Baridn exclaimed, going round the room with his hands on his head “We heard it at Starhanger, we heard it at the house on the rock, each time it was ‘oh this is it, this is their main base, get this one out of the way and that’ll be it’. And each time somewhere else goes and crops up!”

“I hadn’t realised how extensive they were”, said Kieran “You’re right to blame me for misleading you”.

“No you haven’t misled me”, said Bardin, dropping to his knees and putting his head in Kieran’s lap “I love you so much, I’ll do whatever you ask. We all will. But it’s only human nature that we shall be disappointed”.

“I know”, said Kieran, stroking his hair “I’m not looking forward to telling Joby. He told me only very recently that he’s got an idea for a banner announcing the re-opening of the Indigo Tavern!”

Adam could be heard shouting as he approached down the corridor, at one point yelling that he was not a “fucking guinea-pig”.

“What’s happened now?” said Bardin, when Adam slammed into the room.

“Codlik being a politician as ever”, said Adam “He said, meaning oh-so-well, that he believed more research should be made into homosexuality, to define exactly what causes it”.

“You’ve just said yourself that he’s a politician”, said Kieran “So why are you taking him seriously? He’ll be quoting statistics at you next! No politician can communicate for long without quoting statistics!”

“How the hell does he cope with me and Bengo being married?” said Bardin.

“He’s probably still trying to get his head round which one of you is the wife!” said Adam, pouring whisky for himself.

“Bengo is the wife”, said Bardin.

“Ah but what about when you’re being girly?” Kieran teased.

“Well who’s the wife out of you and Joby?” said Bardin.

“Joby”, said Kieran “He can cook”.

“Oh for goodness sake don’t tell him that”, said Adam “He’ll complain even more!”

“What’s everybody doing in the cabin right now?” said Bardin.

“Talking mainly”, said Adam “Farnol’s playing a little tune on the spoons though, and Thetis is dancing to it. It’s a sort of little celebration at being out of the caves. Oh, and Aleister is annoying Julian”.

“What’s new about that?” exclaimed Bardin.

“Well Aleister seemed to be making some pathetic attempt at hypnotising him”, said Adam “But the poor old bugger’s not up to it at the moment, he’s all sort of bleary-eyed and tired-looking”.

“So Julian might be quite pleased at me interrupting?” said Bardin “That’s something anyway!”

“I think I should come with you”, said Kieran “It was my idea, my responsibility. I shouldn’t leave you to face them alone”.

“Thanks”, said Bardin “But it wouldn’t exactly be the first time I’ve had to try and win round a hostile audience! I can manage”.

“What’s all this about, Patsy?” said Adam, when Bardin had left the room.

“We’re going back to Magnolia Cove”, said Kieran “It’s hard I know, but we have to make sure we finish the job properly. Only then can we go back to Zilligot Bay with a clear conscience, and who knows, perhaps then even Midnight Castle might become an option again one day”.

“That’s looking rather a long way ahead”, Adam sighed.

“We have to play a long game”, said Kieran “It’s what will make everything we’ve gone through these past few months …”

“Years”, Adam gently corrected him.

“Worthwhile”, said Kieran.

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