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Lanterns had been hung from some of the trees that lined the woodland track. In many ways they were more of a hindrance than a help, as they bounced a silvery glow off the bark and the underside of the leaves, which could appear all too easily like the ghastly sheen on the Gorgon's face.
"We're alright for a while", said Rooly "They have to unload up by the Winter Palace first. We need to worry when the carts start returning, as then it's only a short matter of time until she's turned loose again".
No one liked to consider the obvious problem awaiting them next, which was what did they do when they reached the Winter Palace? After all, they might not even get a respite from the Gorgon there. She might stalk its corridors and grounds, with the vampires immune to her hideous gaze.
"There's a full moon", Joby whispered to Kieran "Look at it with its black patches on. At least that hasn't changed in 2000 years".
Kieran shot him a warning glance. Two of their party still had no idea that they were time-crossers. He wanted it to stay that way.
"Oh what does it matter if they find out!" said Joby "They can't put us in anymore danger than we are already".
"We still have to think about when all this is over", said Kieran "Do you really want to go back to Henang? Spend the rest of your life in a prison cell? I wouldn't trust either Rooly or Artuul. Both are opportunist jerks. Stop being so reckless".
"Reckless?" Joby almost laughed "I'd call this pretty bloody reckless enough wouldn't you!"
The clearing in the woods was lit, somewhat incongruously, by a wrought-iron streetlamp. The extremely old-fashioned kind that still operated on gas lit by a long taper. It threw a large pool of light onto the forest floor. Opposite was a one-roomed building with a roof made up of branches and straw. The black caskets were being unloaded and stacked in an irreverent haphazard fashion, as though they were merely boxes of tinned soup. The work was done with dazzling quickness and efficiency by a group of anonymous-looking men.
When the last casket had been unloaded all the men, except one, returned to their carts, turned the horses round and thundered back the way they had come, the empty carts swinging violently under another fresh onslaught of speed. The man that had remained behind prowled around the boxes in a disinterested fashion, before walking back into the little hut.
"You don't seem too surprised to see us", said Adam, disconcerted by the man's muted reaction to finding six complete strangers standing on his doorstep, in a part of the world that was generally accepted as forbidden territory.
"Was there something you wanted?"
The man sounded bored, with the merest trace of weary belligerence in his voice. His head was shaved, and his eyes were like tiny pin-pricks of light in a dead face.
"We were looking for the Winter Palace", said Adam, feeling faintly absurd.
"It's two miles down the lane there", the man pointed his finger vaguely towards a gap in the trees beyond the hut "You don't seem like vampires to me though, so I'd advise you leave off visiting there until the morning. Until after I've made me deliveries at least".
"Are you used to getting visitors out here?"
"None of this makes sense", said Hillyard "Here we are, in the middle of the Gorgon zone ..."
"She doesn't come within sight of my hut", said the man "She can't".
"Who are you?" asked Adam.
"You'd better come in", the man stood back to allow them to pass through his doorway "It's freezing out here. Too cold to stand around talking".
The interior of the hut was basic. The floor was bare earth, there were a few simple sticks of furniture, and a pile of bedding up a ladder in what had once been a hay-loft.
"Don't you want to know why we're looking for the Winter Palace?" said Adam "Aren't you at all curious about us?"
"I can't feel curiosity", the man replied, stoking a fire laid in the middle of the floor, the smoke disappearing through a hole in the roof "They took that away from me. I'm Resz, by the way".
"You can't be!" Hillyard exclaimed, after an incredulous pause, and then elucidated for the benefit of the three time-crossers "Resz was a notorious gangland leader in the City. The worst this century".
"I was a drug dealer mainly. Did a bit of black marketeering on the side ... until I was caught. I was known as the carpet-layer, because I liked nailing people to the floor".
"The news was all over the place when you were caught", said Hillyard "No one could get tickets for your trial for love nor money. You were sentenced to spend the rest of your life in Isolation".
"At the Henang penal colony?" said Joby.
"That was what they put about", said Resz, sounding as detached as ever "I was offered that ... or this".
"And what is 'this' exactly?" asked Adam.
"Well I'm sort of odd-job man for the Winter Palace. I take care of the deliveries. No one'll go right up to the Palace, they can't get the horses to approach the place. So, when daylight comes tomorrow, I'll load 'em up onto the trailer on the back of me buggy".
"You work for these ... people, and yet you don't seem too bothered to see us here?" said Adam, in disbelief "And you don't care what we want?"
"Makes no odds to me who you are or what your business is. I'm not their door-keeper. I told you anyway, I can't feel curiosity, or anger, or outrage, or worry, or passion, or much else come to that. Part of the deal was you see, that if I came here I was to be lobotomised".
"And you agreed to that?" Joby exclaimed.
"At least here I can feel the rain on me face. I can sit outside at night and look up at the Moon. I can hear the wind in the trees, feel the grass under me feet. It may not be much of a life, but at least it isn't a living death like Isolation would be".
"And you're safe from the Gorgon here?" said Adam.
"I told you, she can't be seen from the hut, and I only go to the Palace in daytime. She doesn't walk then, not unless they say so, and they always warn me if she does. If you're up to no good you'd better stay here tonight. She'll be about by now. Then after that I'd suggest you leave it a day or two before going to the Palace, after I've made me deliveries. They'll glut 'emselves into a stupor then, they always do. You should be safe for a little while when that's going on".
"How do we know to trust you?" said Adam.
"Because I don't lie", said Resz "I can't. Not anymore. And I don't care about 'em to go protecting them".
Resz began to collect bundles of food from various earthenware jars arrayed around the floor.
"You can join me if you life", he said, unwrapping a substantial wheel of cheese from a cloth "I've got enough to go round, they keep me well supplied".
"And you're telling us they make do with one delivery every six weeks?" said Kieran "I find that hard to believe. What do they live on in the meantime?"
"They eat stray travellers. People do occasionally slip through here. They get lost in the Forest of Deception and the Uncharted Area, which is only a couple of miles to the north of here. Even at night the Gorgon isn't infallible, she can't be in every part of the forest at once, and it suits 'em to have the occasional one get through. But I never see these visitors here at the hut. Very occasionally I catch glimpses of figures through the trees, but I keep me head down. If they was to come up to me I'd warn 'em away from the Palace, but they never do. Me appearance puts 'em off I suppose. I still look like a thug. But the Palace always notices 'em, you can be sure of that. They never fail to follow up a scent. I've known 'em spend hours hunting down prey through the forest".
"What's in this?" asked Joby, looking dubiously at a sausage which Resz had skewered onto the end of a toasting-fork.
"Pig meat. It's alright, you're safe here, I don't share their habits".
The Moon was dashing furtively behind the clouds, as though it too was afraid it might look upon the Gorgon. When it did appear the forest was lit up like daytime. Joby stood outside the hut door, looking uneasily at the pile of caskets heaped before him. All around the trees rustled and creaked so alarmingly that he was starting to imagine a million Gorgons, all converging on him at once.
"Who are these poor bastards?" he said to no one in particular, although Hillyard was peeing on the ground near him.
"May be time-crossers", Hillyard replied.
"You mean ... they could be women?"
"Calm down Joby", said Adam, appearing behind him "I can't believe even this life has driven you into necrophilia. And no, don't suggest opening one to have a look, it'll only upset you".
Rooly and Artuul were, in Kieran's opinion, lazy bastards, of neither use nor ornament. Since arriving at Resz's hut they had both done nothing but sit sullenly on the floor staring into the fire. Both were seething with resentment. Artuul, because no one was taking any notice of him at all, and Rooly, because he stood no chance of being alone with Adam.
Kieran couldn't bear their presence. Normally the gentlest of men, he nevertheless felt a disturbing impulse to want to kick both of them very hard. To escape such thoughts he went outside, but found little peace of mind out there as the others were all staring silently at the caskets like Victorian mutes at a funeral. He walked around the back of the hut where he found Resz fetching rainwater from a barrel fixed to the side of the building. Resz straightened up when he saw him, and for the briefest of moments an expression nearly crossed his blank features.
"I know who you are", he said, abruptly.
"You do?" Kieran felt a clutch of fear in his stomach.
"Don't panic, I'm not going to grass on you. Just take care that's all".
"How did you know who I was? How does anyone know, come to that? I mean, I haven't got it stamped across me forehead".
"I just know", Resz went to walk past him, but then stopped and, to Kieran's alarm, reached out and touched his face with surprising gentleness "You look like Myeka".
"Was he someone close to you?"
"Where is he now?"
"What happened to him?"
"Killed himself. Couldn't stand my lifestyle, the old one that is. That was one favour they did me with the operation. It's deadened the pain. Still, sometimes things remind me, and then it's as if they never slammed a sharp stick into me brain".
Kieran watched him carry the bucket of water round to the front of the hut. From what he had heard of Resz's previous life he had been a nasty piece of work, fully entitled to severe retribution of some sort, and yet he couldn't help feeling sorry for him in his current existence.
He heard a footfall behind him, and something about its soft approach made him gasp in terror. Convinced it was the Gorgon (although afterwards he couldn't understand why he had thought this), he flung his arm across his eyes and stumbled away.
"So you're the Vanquisher of Evil?" came a sneering voice.
Kieran turned to face him, and tried to calm his thumping heart at the same time.
"What are you doing, sneaking up on me like that?" he said, angrily.
"You're nothing special", said Artuul, petulantly "Even scared of your own shadow. All rather absurd".
"Perhaps I'm not then. Perhaps it is really you after all".
Artuul chewed his lip thoughtfully, as though brooding on what he could now do for the worst.
"There's bits of ice in the water-butt isn't there?" he said, eventually "If I was to pick you up and hold your head under the water, you wouldn't live for very long. Matter of seconds. Your lungs would fill with ice-cold water, and you'd drown. I could tell the others that Resz had done it. That you'd provoked him into it".
"I seriously doubt that Resz is capable anymore. You and whose army anyway!"
Artuul, displaying a strength that wasn't that evident from his slender model-boy physique, suddenly seized Kieran around the waist and lifted him up bodily. It seemed to require no exertion at all.
"I can turn you upside down", he said, in a steady voice "And plunge you into it head-first. Then hold you there until you'd stopped kicking".
"Put me down Artuul", said Kieran, feeling the other man's arms around him like a steel vice "You won't gain anything from killing me".
"I would gain A LOT!"
"What the fuck's going on?" Joby bellowed.
To him it looked as though Kieran and Artuul were engaged in a passionate clinch. For a moment all his anger was directed at Kieran, until he saw the fear on his face. Artuul dropped Kieran and let him fall roughly to the ground. He then ran away, back round to the front of the hut.
"You arrived just in the nick of time", said Kieran, as Joby helped him to his feet "He was going to drown me in the water-butt. I've heard drowning's a pleasant experience, but I can't say I was keen to find out. He's a lot stronger than he looks as well".
"Well you're not exactly a ton-weight", said Joby "Why though?"
"Doesn't like my face obviously", Kieran brushed himself down "Can't say I'm that keen on his. I think he must resent you all calling me the Vanquisher of Evil".
"And he was going to drown you? The man's a psychopath!"
"I don't know what he is. I only know he scared the shit out of me".
"Wait 'til I tell Adam. You'll see Artuul being scared then".
"No, you don't tell Adam".
"Because I don't want him worried", Kieran jabbed Joby in the chest.
"Have you gone mental Flannery?"
"Very possibly. But he needs to keep his head clear, because neither you nor me has a clue about planning our next step, so we're going to need his powers of strategy. He's not going to be able to work anything out if he's harbouring murderous thoughts about Artuul. I'll just have to make sure that I'm not alone with the loony centrefold again".
"Adam'll be furious if he finds out we kept it from him".
"I'm hoping that by the time he finds out it won't be relevant anymore".
Rooly was standing alone in the doorway of the hut, gazing hypnotically towards the trees beyond the caskets.
"I keep seeing a light in the far distance", he said "Like a star twinkling".
"It probably is a star twinkling you smackhead", said Joby.
"Oh Lord love us", Kieran exclaimed, under his breath "I don't relish the thought of trying to sleep with a great heap of coffins outside the door".
"Pretend they're empty", said Joby "That's what I'm having to do".
Resz retreated to the hayloft, leaving the others to have the use of the ground floor to sleep on. Before retiring he had put a plank of wood across the inside of the door which, strangely, seemed to increase the feeling of vulnerability shared by everyone.
Joby had trouble sleeping. He had managed to position himself next to Kieran, like a human shield against any nocturnal attacks by Artuul. Regardless of what the others might think, he held onto Kieran's hand throughout the night. He was though growing steadily more irritated at Kieran's insistence that Adam shouldn't be told anything about Artuul's attack, and resolved to inform him personally in the morning. Adam had every right to know there was a rotten apple in their midst, and that Artuul wasn't merely the pin-up with insane delusions of grandeur that he appeared to be.
He dozed briefly, and then woke up with a start. There was a scrabbling noise directly overhead, distinctly reminiscent of the one he had heard at Buskin's house. Joby rolled onto his back and stared intently up at the roof. A shadow could be discerned through the interweaving branches. Somebody was creeping across the roof, carefully avoiding the makeshift chimney. Joby had an impression of eyes peering through the branches at him. He lay gazing up at them, almost in wonder. He felt no fear, only a rather pleasant sensation, as if someone was gently lifting him skywards by tugging on an invisible thread fastened to his belly-button. A pleasantly fuzzy and warm sensation swamped his whole body. He relaxed and allowed himself to be borne along with it. It wa such a gentle feeling that he almost successfully convinced himself he was dreaming, even though part of him knew he wasn't.
Joby awoke at dawn to hear Resz unbarring the door and going outside. Kieran had slipped his moorings during the last part of the night, but was now safely coiled around Adam, who nowadays didn't seem to object to the close proximity of another human being during his sleeping hours. Trying not to feel jealous Joby decided to follow Resz outside.
There had been a fresh fall of snow during the night, but Joby could find no strange footprints to account for the nocturnal visitor. Resz had latched a trailer onto his buggy, and was now loading it with the caskets. He handled the heavy boxes with ridiculous ease. Joby watched him, feeling a morbid desire to unbolt one of the caskets, and check the sex of the victim in the shroud.
Adam meanwhile had woken in the best possible way he could imagine, to feel Kieran's cock pressing warmly into his back. A desire for sex hit him so strong that he almost felt sick. It was instantly tempered by the recumbent snoring bodies of the others, and the sight through the open doorway of Joby standing like a patient vulture near the caskets. Adam gently disentangled himself from Kieran, and went outside.
"Forget it Jobe", he said "These poor wretches are going to have enough indignities heaped on them soon, without us grave-robbing as well".
"I don't think I can handle this Adam", Joby watched pensively as Resz loaded the last casket "It's all too sick-making".
"Like I said yesterday", said Resz, sliding the casket into place "If you really want to go to the Palace give 'em a day or so to get glutted. They're less dangerous then, and they can't move as quickly. You can stay here in the meantime if you want. It's the safest place".
"I want out !" said Joby, as Resz steered the buggy noiselessly out of the clearing "I don't care if Flannery's the Archangel Gabriel, I want us out of it all!"
"It's really not up to us", Adam pushed Joby over to the edge of the trees so that they could talk privately "Patsy won't rest until all this is over, and who are we to blame him for that?"
"There's something you must know", said Joby, leaning wearily against a tree "Last night, Artuul tried to kill Flannery. If I hadn't come along when I did he would've drowned him in the water-barrel".
"Artuul?" Adam exclaimed "Why wasn't I told this at the time?"
"You'd only have lost your temper".
"Am I supposed to keep calm about it! You two defy belief sometimes. I don't know what on earth you think you can achieve by keeping things from me".
"It was for your own peace of mind".
"I'll be the best judge of what's for my own peace of mind! Sometimes I could knock your heads together".
Kieran watched the conversation from the hut door, and guessed that Joby had told Adam about the previous evening's events.
"I can't even trust you now Joby!" he shouted, rushing over to them.
"He was right to tell me", said Adam, firmly "Something as important as that. How dare you keep it quiet?"
"That's all the thanks I get for trying to spare your feelings", Kieran protested.
"If you try sparing them again, all the thanks you'll get is a sore butt!"
"What do we do about Artuul?" Joby raised his voice above the din.
"No retribution", said Kieran "Find some way of using him that'll benefit us instead. He might be more useful than Rooly".
"Rooly's out of his head most of the time anyway", said Joby.
"We need to protect you though Patsy".
"As I said to Joby last night I'll be alright as long as I'm never alone with him. It shouldn't be that hard with all of us here in a small place".
"I'd feel more comfortable with dumping him", said Adam.
"No! Look, if he wants to be the Vanquisher of Evil so badly then let him be, or at least let him think he is. It might be useful to us to have a decoy".
"A lot of people seem to know who you are on sight though", Joby pointed out.
"Then I'll keep meself covered up as much as possible when we're near the Palace, and at the same time encourage Artuul to be as ostentatious as possible", said Kieran "Do you see what I'm getting at? Let's see if we can trick those bastards somehow".
Joby did a complete circuit of the edge of the forest that broadly encircled the hut. As he tramped through the snow he told Kieran about the strange visitor he thought he had heard on the roof the night before.
"Do you think it was Angel?" said Kieran "Sounds like it probably was him from what you've said".
"Yea, but it was different this time", said Joby "I'm not sure how to explain it but ... well I wasn't scared and angry, like I normally am when he's around".
"What did you feel?"
"It's a bit embarrassing really".
Kieran raised an eyebrow in a quizzical fashion.
"I-I was turned on".
"I don't know!" Joby exclaimed "It's all so daft. I didn't feel that way about him at all when he was alive. Quite the opposite, he used to make my skin crawl".
"Don't torment yourself", said Kieran "It's the oldest trick in the book for a vampire to try and seduce its prey. I thought you'd know that, you've watched enough old film!"
"Yea, but why me? As if I haven't got enough problems in that department", Joby kicked a tree-stump viciously.
"Because he seems to want to reach you. He's been trying for some time now, so he probably thought he'd try this tack for a change. It's interesting, because it means Angel's capable of more subtlety than we thought. I wish you'd stop reading all this as proof that you've got a dark side to your soul or something".
"Are you going to tell Adam about this?"
"I think he should know about Angel's latest visitation don't you? Particularly after I ballsed it up by not telling him about Artuul".
"He'll laugh at me though. He always does. Goes on about me being frigid. I'm not though Kiel, it's just I can't bring meself to make love to another man".
"Joby, I can accept all that. There's no need to explain it to me".
"Yea, but I feel as though I'm stringing you along. Kissing you and things. I want to be close to you, but not a-all the way. If I was a woman I'd be asking for trouble".
"I have never wanted anyone to do anything they didn't want to do, or felt uncomfortable with", Kieran opened his fur coat and drew near. Joby slid his arms around the other man's slender body.
"I understand you better than you think", Kieran continued "Don't torture yourself so. Anyone would think you'd committed sins like Tomce's the way you carry on".
"Do you know what the fucking time is?" came an enraged cry from a few feet away.
"Of course we don't", said Kieran, wearily "And neither do you".
"You can see can't you!" said Adam "It's dusk. She'll be walking soon, and you two decide to go for a cuddle in the woods!"
"Joby had something important to tell me".
"I bet he did!"
"He saw Angel last night".
"No. I THOUGHT I saw Angel last night", said Joby, as they walked slowly back to the hut.
Nevertheless Kieran told Adam about the visitation. And he did laugh. Joby, his face burning with embarrassment, ran into the hut.
"You can be very irritating sometimes Addy", Kieran snapped.
"We-e-ll he's so tight-arsed all the time", said Adam "And then he gets turned on by a dead juvenile schizophrenic! You've got to see the funny side to it".
"No, I haven't got a malicious sense of humour like you".
"Oh Patsy, what a terrible thing to say!"
"Joby can't help being mixed-up. He's gradually getting himself sorted out. I remember a time, not so long ago in fact, when a certain person near here was also all twisted inside, and didn't know what he wanted".
"I've always accepted my own sexuality though".
"And so is he, now!"
"Yea. He's straight Adam".
"He fancies you!"
"He wants to be close to me, there's a subtle difference which I don't expect you to understand".
"Like brothers?" said Adam, sarcastically.
"Yes. P-perhaps. I don't know! He needs me close, but he doesn't want to make love to me. Love without sex".
"Bullshit. He lights up when he's near you".
"He needs love and affection, like most human beings do. I don't expect you to understand that either, 'cos you always tie it up with sex".
"And you don't?"
"Point taken, you and me are two of a kind".
"Which is why we're so good together".
"But at least I can accept that some people are different. I wish sometimes you were more bloody understanding that's all!"
Adam found Joby sitting on a pile of chopped wood near the hut door. Joby said nothing as the older man sat down beside him, but continued staring morosely at the trees, which seemed to get darker and stiller in the gathering gloom.
"I've come to apologise", said Adam "Patsy gave me a right scolding just now".
"He told you to say sorry then", Joby mumbled.
"Yes. But he also made me feel thoroughly ashamed of myself. So if you want me to grovel at your feet I will do so".
"Go on then", Joby said bluntly, and then let out a flicker of a laugh "Don't know why you have such trouble accepting me Adam. After all, I'm no threat to what you've got with him am I? It's more the other way round, because you can give him what I can't".
"But he can be comfortable with you. No sex to get in the way".
"I'm the boring one you mean? Like an old sock".
"Don't knock it", said Adam "Some people spend the greater part of their lives searching for a missing sock. Patsy's right, I don't know much about love without sex. In fact I've never known it".
"You've never had a close relationship that didn't involve bed? You must've done! What about family for a start?"
"Hated me. I was an embarrassment to them. Dropped all ties with me when I went to prison - the first time that is. My father was a New Puritan".
"Exactly. Not much Christian tolerance to be found there. I seem to have inherited it at times. I've certainly got his bullying streak. The way I jeer at you is exactly what he would do. But I don't think any of us ever completely escapes our upbringing. Not even after 2000 years!"
Resz returned home as the sky was going from dark blue to inky-black. His trailer was empty. The human cargo had been delivered. His customers were now well on their way to becoming satisfied. It was claustrophobic inside the hut that evening. Flakes of snow whirled down through the gaps in the twig roof, the fire smoked, and the scent of onions from Hillyard's stew added to the eye-watering atmosphere.
It was only Rooly that was sobbing for real though. He had gone over twenty-four hours without his morphine, and was now blubbing like an old woman after a long session with a gin bottle. With the emotional recklessness that had characterised his entire adult life he had left his supply of the narcotic behind in the cottage. When Adam had rescued him from his pit of despair (which was how Rooly saw it anyway), he had followed him into the forest, feeling light-headed and exhilarated at the thought of leaving all his artificial stimulants behind. That feeling was now gone.
Things were now dark, very dark indeed. Adam barely noticed him. Rooly had dreamt about the Gorgon again. Nobody wanted him here ... and there was no morphine to shut out the mental pain. Nothing to fall back on at all. He could only cry.
"Can't we do something about him?" said Artuul, waspishly "He's giving me the creeps".
"Blame Adam", said Joby "He brought him along".
Adam had been engaged in an absorbing conversation with Hillyard on the merits of body-piercing. He was fascinated to hear that Hillyard had once met a man in the City who had had his penis studded with small jewels. Joby had found the conversation disgusting and horrific, but Adam was excited by the idea and, although he couldn't see himself submitting his tender organ to such pain, he rather liked the idea of a nipple ring or two. He was annoyed to be dragged away from such an interesting topic to attend to Rooly.
"You brought him here", said Joby, accusingly "You can't say you didn't know he was a liability".
"Rooly", Adam sighed, standing in front of the sobbing man "You promised me you'd be no trouble didn't you? Why didn't you bring your stuff with you?"
"I thought you'd be my salvation", Rooly wrapped his arms round Adam's legs and buried his face in his knees.
"That's not fair on me Rooly", said Adam "You shouldn't expect that from people".
"Sit with me. Here", Rooly patted the earth floor next to him.
"You poor bastard", Adam muttered.
He sat down next to Rooly, which seemed to curb the man's sobbing extravaganza for a while. Adam's feelings ranged from compassion to irritation. Unlike Hillyard he had no time for lame ducks. As he astutely realised, they brought out the bully in him all too soon. He wanted people like Kieran, who made him feel stimulated and alive, not bogged down in life's doldrums.
To while away the relentlessly long hours of the evening Artuul announced that he would give them "a turn". This wasn't as threatening as it sounded. At one point in his chequered career he had worked as a cafe-singer, and had a fund of romantic and comic songs to his repertoire. He put on some Tintally-style lip-coating and then recited, in a taunting voice, a comic song about the aphrodisiac qualities of a beef casserole, of all things. All the while he kept his hands behind his back and swayed his hips provocatively. Hillyard enjoyed it. Resz shovelled in his stew and watched Artuul intently, but with no outward sign of enjoyment, or anything else for that matter. Kieran marvelled that this was the same man who had tried to drown him in the water-butt.
And Rooly thought he heard a different singing entirely.
"She's out there!" he cried, barging around the hut like a terrified elephant "I can hear her. She's very near. Can't you hear her?"
"I can't hear a thing", said Joby.
"Does he mean the Gorgon?" asked Kieran.
"He's obsessed with her", said Adam.
As Rooly ran around the room the smoke from the fire whipped itself up into a frenzy, until everyone felt as though they were choking on a pea-souper fog. Rooly blindly located the door and tore down the bar. As he pulled the door open a shaft of cold air made them feel as though they were being skinned alive. Rooly pelted forth into the snow, followed frantically by the rest of the party. Even Artuul braved the icy wastes to see where The Madman had gone.
"The light!" Rooly screamed, indicating a small pinprick of light shining from deep within the forest.
"Rooly, don't look at it", Kieran implored.
But Rooly could no longer hear him. Like a rabbit caught in the glare of a vehicle's headlights he ran headlong into the forest.
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