By Sarah Hapgood

“Do you have to have all this rubbish on the table?” said Bardin, standing awkwardly with a map in his hands and nowhere to spread it out.

“It’s called cutlery, Bardin”, said Adam “And unless you want us to eat like savages, then yes we do need it on the table. If it comes to that, is it absolutely necessary for you to look at that map now?”

“Yes it is”, Bardin squawked “Unless you want us to just carry on sailing out into the ocean with no direction at all!”

“I don’t see what’s wrong with that idea”, said Joby “It’s not as if we’re likely to run into anything is it! Hardly a busy shipping-lane. I like the idea of just going”.

“Well I don’t!” said Bardin, emphatically.

“Can’t we do summat about him?” Joby whispered to Adam in the doorway “Lock him up or summat?”

“I’m afraid not, old love”, said Adam “He’s the Captain you see”.

Bengo bustled into the room, snatched the map out of Bardin’s hands, and proceeded to bustle out again.

“Don’t put it on the stove, Bengo”, Adam called after him “We might need it later”.

“I’ll put it in our cabin for now”, Bengo called back.

“Where’s the grub?” said Hillyard, banging a knife on the table “Come on, come on, I’m a hungry man”.

“Blame our dear captain”, said Adam “He’s holding us up putting it on the table”.

Kieran breezed into the room, shedding his oilskins along the way.

“We’re really heading into the squall”, he said, gleefully “It’s getting so dark out there”.

“We’re now too far out deep in the ocean to drop anchor tonight”, said Bardin “So we’ll just have to let drift. Which means …”

“A night-watch”, said Hillyard “Nothing new then”.

An impromptu jam session involving Umbert on the piano, Rumble on his banjo, Bardin singing, and Digby jumping about like a mad thing, all helped to add a festive feel to the first night out at sea.

By the time everyone turned in though the storm had got much worse, and the galleon bucked like a bronco on the high seas. In the middle of the night, Joby was woken up by one of the dogs barking outside his cabin door.

“Shaddup, stupid dog!” he yelled, and then noticed that water was dripping onto his pillow. With some effort he managed to wake up Kieran.

“The roof’s leaking”, said Joby.

“Well there was no need to wake me up just to tell me that!” said Kieran.

“For fuck’s sake Kieran, even you can’t sleep with rain dripping on you!” said Joby.

“I was managing alright until you woke me up!” said Kieran.

Joby swung out of the bunk, and rescued his pillow before it got any more wet.

“Come on”, he said to Kieran “We’ll go and sleep in the big cabin”.

Some of the others in there were already awake when he went in, and he had no trouble in securing a space in the communal bed. Kieran drifted in nonchalantly, and Joby moaned at him for taking his time.

“I stopped to put a bowl under the drips”, said Kieran, with pardonable smugness “Something you didn’t stop to do!”

“Hey, what’s this?” said Joby, getting a frisson of shock when he felt something hairy under the bedclothes. For a moment he thought the other dog had clambered into the bed. In the gloomy light Hoowie peered up at him through his customary mass of hair.

“What are you doing in here?” said Joby.

“Our roof’s leaking as well”, said Hoowie, blearily.

“I ent sleeping next to you!” said Joby.

“Would you rather sleep next to me?” came Julian’s suave tones from the other side of Hoowie.

“Kieran?” said Joby “Swap places with me?”

“No!” came Kieran’s emphatic response “You wanted to come in here, you can stay where you are”.

“Look, let’s just get some sleep shall we!” said Hillyard “I’m going to get enough flak tomorrow with Bardin moaning about the ship leaking!”

But Bardin was to have far more important matters on his mind come the morrow. At daybreak Rumble, who had done the second half of the night-watch, crept into his cabin, and woke him up by shining a torch in his face.

“It’s dawn”, said Rumble.

“And you woke me up to tell me that?” snapped Bardin.

“I woke you up to tell you that land’s appeared on the horizon”, said Rumble.

“That’s not possible”, said Bardin “There is no land out here, not unless we’ve got wildly blown off course in the night”.

“Come and have a look for yourself”, said Rumble.

Bardin pulled on his duffel-coat over his shorts and left the room. Bengo, who had been listening to all this with drowsy bewilderment, shouted “Wait for me!” and shot out of bed in pursuit.

“That’s not possible”, said Bardin, for the umpteenth time.

They were steadily nearing the unexpected coastline, which had first appeared as a distant slither on the horizon. Bardin had paced the deck in consternation all this time, occasionally breaking off to fiddle with maps, a ruler and pencil, and muttering about longitudes and latitudes.

“There is not meant to be anything here”, he said.

“You should know by now that it doesn’t always work out that way”, said Joby, lugubriously, as though the unexpected events in life were always sent first and foremost to try his patience.

When they got closer to the land they discovered that the forefront of it was shaped like a crab’s pincers, thus creating a sort of lagoon-like area inside. The land itself (as far as they could see from their vantage point) was comprised of sand dunes and rocks. There was very little in the way of vegetation and foliage.

Bardin ordered that steady depth measurements were to be taken, so that they could see how far they could take the galleon beyond the “crab’s” pincers.

“I don’t think we should go any further”, said Rumble “I’ve got bad vibes about this place”.

“We’ve only just got here!” said Bardin, as though Rumble was complaining about a holiday that hadn’t turned out to be quite what he had expected.

Bengo, hovering nearby, visibly swelled with satisfaction, which was understandable when you consider that he had spent most of his life being branded as a hysterical prima donna by Rumble.

“Alright”, Bardin was now saying “Don’t let anyone say that I don’t listen to anyone. I’ve got an idea”.

He suddenly grabbed Kieran’s elbow and yanked him forward to the side of the deck.

“Now”, Bardin barked “Can you sense anything about this place?”

“I haven’t had a chance to sense anything yet!” Kieran snapped, annoyed at being hauled about as though he was a stage prop.

“We’ll take you ashore and then see what happens”, said Bardin.

“Oh will we!” said Kieran.

“Here, take it steady”, said Hillyard, going down into the hold a short while later “You’ll frighten the horses!”

Kieran had been despatched below to get the horses bridled up for a trip ashore, and had been jangling the harnesses in a fit of pique.

“Sorry, but Bardin’s really got on my nerves”, said Kieran.

“I can see that“, said Hillyard, taking the harness from him “You should just ignore him when he gets into his great director mode”.

“Great dictator more like!” said Kieran “And its easy for you to say, Hillyard …”

“No it’s not”, said Hillyard “That’s nothing compared to what he gets like with me when he catches me talking alone with Bengo!”

“Are we making any progress?2 Bardin shouted impatiently from the steps.

“We are”, said Hillyard “Dunno about you!”

Bardin had decreed that he, Bengo, Kieran and Hillyard should take the horses ashore to exercise them on the beach. Kieran was still fuming about Bardin’s high-handedness, and matters weren’t much improved by Bardin making it quite clear that he expected some kind of “psychic results” from Kieran once they were ashore.

“Try not to take any notice of Bardy”, said Bengo, when they were preparing to take the horses onto the gangway “All clowns have a cruel, callous streak at times”.

“You haven’t”, said Kieran, amazed by the very idea.

“Oh I have”, said Bengo “Once we had to do a sketch where I had to whip a rug out from under his feet, and he fell with a hard smack on his bum. I insisted we rehearsed it many times, over and over again”.

“Didn’t he complain?” said Kieran.

“No, I used his own weapons on him“, said Bengo “I said we had to be professional about it. When we get back to the ship, I’ll point out to him how much we owe you”.

“You don’t have to do that!” said Kieran, aghast at the very idea “It’s me who owes you if anything. If I didn’t have you lot I’d have to roam this planet on me own, like Angel, with nobody to have a proper conversation with”.

“Oh you’d find someone to latch onto”, said Joby.

Kieran forgot his disgruntlement when they got to the shore, and galloped the horses along the beach, the hooves making a very pleasant plashing noise through the sparkling surf. When they got to the other end of the beach, Bardin called a halt for a little while, so that they could all get their breath back.

“Listen”, he said.

“To what?” said Bengo “I can’t hear anything”.

“That’s just it”, said Bardin “I can’t hear any noise of a community nearby. Tomorrow we’ll sail round and navigate the coast, see how big this place is, and if there are any people here”.

“If there are”, said Bengo “I hope they realise we’re harmless, and not pirate raiders or something”.

“Us? Pirate raiders?!” said Hillyard.

“Bardin, you’ll have to look a little less fierce”, said Kieran.

Bardin wasn’t listening though. He was too busy staring up at the sand dunes. Eventually he spoke.

“Right, Bengo and Hillyard hold the horses. Kieran, come with me to the top of the dunes”.

Kieran knew that this was Bardin determined to get his money’s worth somehow out of Kieran’s psychic abilities, and he wearily climbed down from the saddle.

They left Bengo and Hillyard holding the bridles, and they clambered up through the dunes to the top. Once there, they stood with their backs to the sea, and looked out over the hinterland at the back of the island. It was a bleak scene, being comprised mainly of short, stunted trees standing around disconsolately. They had little chance of growth or sprouting foliage, due to the very strong winds which frequently buffeted the island. Some were even bent down double from the effects of past onslaughts.

“What a sorry sight”, said Kieran.

Bardin gave a harrumph of impatience.

“Sorry Bardin”, said Kieran “But you can’t expect great profound thoughts to fall from my lips every time I open my mouth!”

“Do you feel nothing about this place at all?” said Bardin.

“Not a thing to be honest”, Kieran shrugged “If it’s any reassurance it’s not another Cursed Isle, in case that’s what you’ve been thinking”.

“That’s something at any rate”, said Bardin “Trouble is, neither does it look like the desert isle we were after”.

“It’s not exactly Abbus Isle”, said Kieran, sadly.

“We’ll circumnavigate it anyway”, said Bardin “Just in case”.

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