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By Sarah Hapgood

“So who’s going on this camping-trip then?” said Hoowie, who was sitting at the galley table, combing out his newly-washed hair. It was the day after the pub visit.

“It’s only as far as the beach, and it’s only for one night”, said Bengo, who thought Hoowie was getting his hopes raised unnecessarily.

“Yeah, so you’ve already said”, said Hoowie “So who’s going then?”

“I don’t know”, said Bengo “As I keep telling you. Bardy hasn’t told me yet”.

“If you ask me”, said Hoowie “You don’t take advantage enough of your privileges as Captain’s Mate”.

“What privileges?!” said Bengo.

Adam and Joby came into the room before Hoowie could answer this thorny question.

“Hey!” Joby barked at Hoowie “Don’t do that in here, it’s unhygienic. We don’t want your nits everywhere!”

“I haven’t got nits”, said Hoowie “How dare you!”

“What are you doing in here anyway, Hoowie?” said Adam.

“Stopping Bengo working”, said Joby “As usual”.

“Julian sent me to fetch him a cup of tea”, said Hoowie.

“I’m waiting for the water to boil”, said Bengo.

“Why can’t you use the samovar in your cabin?” said Adam.

“I think Julian wanted me to fetch it”, said Hoowie “Gives him a kick”.

“Do you know”, said Adam, in exasperation “Sometimes I think we’re all nothing but bit-players in Julian’s elaborate sexual fantasies!”

“Go and wait outside the door”, Joby ordered Hoowie “You’re making the place look untidy”.

Hoowie flounced out into the passage-way, where Bardin found him when he came down the quarterdeck steps.

“What are you doing here?” he barked.

“Oh God, is there nowhere on this ship that I’m allowed to be?” said Hoowie.

“Yes”, said Bardin “Preferably somewhere that I’m not!”

Hoowie followed him into his cabin.

“Bardin”, he said “You know this camping-trip that you’re proposing …”

“Yes”, said Bardin “You’re not coming”.

“I don’t see why it has to be down to that”, said Hoowie “Why can’t we ALL go?”

“Now why didn’t I think of that?” said Bardin, sarcastically “Because there’d be no one to mind the ship, dimwit! And the reason you’re not going on this one is because there are some amongst us who are in more urgent need of shore-leave than you”.

“Do you mean Kieran?” said Hoowie, brightening immediately “Kieran’s going? He’s gonna be thrilled, I’m gonna have to tell him”.

“Hoowie!” Bardin shouted, but Hoowie had sped out of the room like an electric hare.

“Where’s he going?” said Bengo “I’ve got the tea here”.

“Sometimes I don’t think he could possibly try my patience any further!” said Bardin.

Hoowie located Kieran at the other end of the corridor, where he was swobbing down the steps to the deck.

“You’re going on the camping-trip to the beach”, said Hoowie “Bardin’s just told me, well he sort of blurted it out really”.

“What’s melted Bardin’s thorny old heart then?” said Kieran.

“Probably guilt”, said Hoowie “For giving you all these shitty jobs o do, particularly washing the floor of the heads. It’s normally me he gives that one to!”

“Would Bardin feel guilty about that?” said Kieran, doubtfully.

“Yeah, course he would”, said Hoowie “After all, it’s no way to treat a Vanquisher of Evil is it!”

“She’s a beautiful sight”, said Kieran, eyeing the galleon from his vantage spot on the beach.

“She accommodates us well”, said Ransey, who was helping him to set up the camp-fire.

“I don’t think we’d all fit into the old tug-boat these days”, said Kieran. “It’s a shame it’s unlikely we’ll ever find a house that suits us so well”, said Ransey.

“There is one I can think of”, said Kieran “It’s called Midnight Castle. I don’t think anywhere has ever fitted us so well as The Bay did”.

“There’s just the little matter of a field full of your monks there!” said Ransey.

“Ach, they’d soon get used to us again”, said Kieran “We’d be a 9-day wonder, if that”.

“The rest of us might be”, said Ransey “But not you. Before we know it there would be monks descending on us from all over the world, all wanting to kiss your hand. Look what happened in The Village Of Stairs!”

“We got out of there when I was rumbled”, said Kieran “And if needs be we can do it again. Let’s at least give it a go”.

“Kieran, stop trying to manipulate me”, said Ransey, who could feel his resistance weakening.

He was glad when Bengo and Hillyard came over, from where they had been unpacking the food and cooking utensils from their rucksacks.

“Ooh”, said Bengo “We’d better get the water on quick, before Bardy starts complaining”.

“Relax”, said Hillyard “We are supposed to be on holiday you know”.

“And we’ll tame Bardin whilst we’re here”, said Kieran.

“I seem to have heard that one before!” said Ransey.

“Well”, said Kieran “At least continue it as our ongoing mission anyway”.

Joby was currently doing his bit in this department. He and Bardin had erected the tepee, and then gone inside to sort out the bedding. Joby was now vigorously engaged in rogering Bardin, who was on all fours underneath him. When he had climaxed Joby rolled Bardin over onto his back and then collapsed on him.

“I’ve never noticed how long your eyelashes are before”, said Joby, stroking Bardin’s face “After all these years as well. Or perhaps I have and it’s never struck me as much as it does now”.

“Bengo’s the one with all the cute bits”, said Bardin “Not me”.

“Have you been putting summat on ’em then?” said Joby.

“No”, Bardin laughed “I’ve never worn make-up off stage. I think you just notice these things in me more when Bengo’s not in the room”.

“You’re both very attractive”, said Joby, sitting up to reach for his clothes “You always were, no matter what you’ve always said”.

“Even when my mouth was wonky?”

“I liked it. Anyway, I can hardly comment, bloody great scar on me face!”

“I don’t notice it these days”, said Bardin “Not unless you point it out. Scars don’t detract. Even if Bengo or Kieran got a scar they’d still be beautiful“.

“They’ve both got so much hair they could hide it anyway”, said Joby.

“I don’t hear much sign of activity outside”, said Bardin “I’d better see how the supper’s getting on”.

The supper was getting on just fine. Bengo was boiling rice over the fire, and Ransey was peeling hard-boiled eggs. Bardin looked annoyingly surprised at all this.

“I dunno why you think things only happen when you’re stood there barking orders, Bardy”, said Bengo.

“Because that tends to be the case”, said Bardin.

“Bardin”, Ransey sighed “I think you’re a marvellous person - most of the time - but sometimes you open your mouth and it’s as if a mini-Julian pops out”.

“Chill Bardin, chill, old mate”, said Hillyard, going over to him and massaging Bardin’s shoulders “We’re on holiday, so relax”.

“And if you don’t I’ll take your trousers down and put you over my knee after supper”, said Bengo.

“Sort of after-dinner entertainment I spose”, said Joby.

“I’d pay to watch that”, said Kieran.

“We shouldn’t tease him so much”, Joby chuckled, as he and Kieran rinsed the plates in the sea after they had eaten.

“It’s hard to resist“, said Kieran “He’s beguilingly feisty, and the more uptight he gets the sexier he gets”.

They paused for a moment to listen to some strains of gramophone music wafting over from the galleon.

“What did you think of my idea to move back to the Bay?” said Kieran.

“I thought it was pants”, said Joby “About the worst idea you’ve ever had!”

“Don’t hold back, Joby, say what you mean!” said Kieran “What’s wrong with it? I thought you loved the Bay”.

“I do love it”, said Joby “Bu I don’t love that field full of monks that are there!”

“Oh jayz, I do wish everyone’s stop harping on about the monks!” said Kieran.

“It’s a bit hard to ignore ’em, Kiel”, said Joby “I would love to go back to the Bay, but not now. It’s too soon. I just feel it in me bones. I dunno why we have to keep moving anyway. Sometimes it’s as if we’re locked in some cycle of perpetual motion! What’s wrong with staying here for a while? It’s got everything. The sea, the forest, a half-decent pub within riding distance, and the locals - such as they are - are too wrapped up in doing their own thing to care too much who we are and what we’re up to”.

“I must admit”, Kieran conceded “I would like to see the place in high Summer”.

“Let’s consider it a done deal then”, said Joby, holding out his hand to shake on it “Now we’ll go and tell Bardin, and God help him if he disagrees!”

“Right, that’s the fire damped down, and our stuff put near the tent door”, said Hillyard, talking to Bardin inside the tepee “Now is there anything else, Your Eminence?” “No that should be fine”, said Bardin “We haven’t got any animals to worry about on this trip”.

“There might be in the future”, said Bengo, who was excited about the thought of a whole Summer stretching ahead of them in this atmospheric place.

“Yes, quite possibly”, said Bardin “Including that fool Hoowie if he has his way. Now don’t start getting all over-excitable, or you’ll bring the tent down!”

“Yeah, be all sensible and grown-up and manly instead”, said Joby.

“Oh bollocks to that”, said Bengo, and he yanked down Bardin’s trousers.

He got Bardin well tucked under his arm and spanked his behind severely. Joby rooted around in his rucksack and passed a hairbrush to Bengo for added effect.

“You’re a brilliant spanko, Bardin”, said Kieran.

“Let’s all go to bed now shall we?” said Ransey, when the unofficial chastisement was finally over.

“I’m all for that”, said Bengo, and he turned down the hanging lantern which was suspended from the central tent-pole.

Kieran woke up at daybreak to hear a rustling sound outside the tent. At first he thought it was a wild animal, a mall boar perhaps, foraging. But then the tent opening was pulled apart by a tiny, furry hand, and a little, upright creature appeared in the gap. It was about the size of a 3-year-old child, and was completely naked apart from a fine,, downy coating of fur all over its body. Its eyes were yellow and almond-shaped. Its hands were disproportionately large, compared to the rest of its body that is, and had only 3 fingers on each hand. The lack of any outward genitalia suggested it was female.

The little creature stood looking at him with mild curiosity. Kieran smiled, in order to try and look as non-threatening as possible. The creature turned and scampered away with tiny footsteps. Kieran clumsily tried to fight his way out of his sleeping-bag, but by the time he got to the entrance of the tent there was no sign of the little creature.

Bardin woke up a couple of hours later to find Bengo leaning over him with a mug of strong tea in his hand. The others were all outside the tent.

“Have they got the fire going again?” was Bardin’s first remark.

“Yes Bardy“, said Bengo, with a mild exasperation that his old sparring-partner was clearly still showing no sign of relaxing, in spite of the spanking had received a few hours previously “Here’s your tea. Some of us have been up for quite a while”.

“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” Bardin grumbled.

“Because you looked very peaceful asleep”, said Bengo, nearly adding ’and it was very peaceful for us you being asleep’.

“Kieran’s seen a strange little creature”, he added instead, and he told Bardin all about the peculiar sighting earlier.

“He should have woken us all up”, said Bardin.

“And scared the living daylights out of the poor little thing?” said Bengo “Do you want a hand sitting up? You look awkward there”.

“Well it’s hardly surprising is it!” said Bardin “After that gross public humiliation you put me through last night!”

“Oh stop blithering, Bardy”, said Bengo “You loved every second of it! I should know, I was holding you closely in my arms at the time! You had been hoping to have your botty smacked all evening. You wouldn’t have kept playing up if you didn’t. After all, I did warn you earlier in the evening that I would put you across my knee if you didn’t calm down, and yet you deliberately didn’t take any notice. Anyway, everyone enjoyed it. Even Ransey. They all ha a good view, front row!”

By now, to Bengo’s great delight, Bardin was seething all over the place.

“Don’t you think you should go and get started on the breakfast?” he spat, his little round brown eyes even rounder.

“Of course”, said Bengo “Do you want a hand putting your trousers on?”

“I think I can manage that!” said Bardin.

“Okey doke”, said Bengo, and he practically skipped out of the tent.

“How is our lovely lord and master this morning?” said Hillyard, who was with the others at the camp-fire.

“On top-form”, said Bengo “A bit scratchy, but that’s nothing unusual”.

“I’m not surprised he’s scratchy”, said Joby “All that starch he has put in his shorts! Tell him if he doesn’t wanna be spanked, he shouldn’t wear such provocative underwear!”

“Oh he wants to be spanked alright”, said Bengo “He’d be really disappointed if he wasn’t. Sometimes I think he goes around needling us on purpose so that we’ll wallop him”.

“There’s someone else around here like that“, said Joby.

“Oh yes, who’s that?” said Kieran.

Bardin emerged from the tent. He had been steeling himself for his grand entrance, as he knew the others would be watching him closely, and he was very aware that he was walking awkwardly.

“It’s a criminal offence to cover those legs up, Bardin”, said Hillyard.

“I have been thinking”, said Bardin, briskly “In view of what Kieran saw earlier this morning I think we should stay here another night”.

“Oh Bardy!” Bengo whooped, and ran to hug him.

“Don’t start all that again!” said Bardin.

“Yeah Bengo, behave”, said Joby “Bardin’s feeling fragile this morning”.

“I can’t help it”, said Bengo “it’s so magical here, idyllic”.

“Calm down!” said Bardin “We’ll move the camp up to the edge of the forest, and that should give us a nice little base”.

“There’s only one problem”, said Joby “We’re running out of milk. Particularly the amount of tea we get through, tons of it”.

“OK”, said Bardin “If you need it urgently you and Hillyard can take the skiff back to the galleon, and fetch some, and any other supplies you think you might need. I don’t see any point in waiting for the causeway to reappear. Whilst you’re gone, the rest of us will move the camp”.

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