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By Sarah Hapgood

And nobody believed a word of it. For a start, Bardin seemed to have a built-in inability to sit still for more than 5 minutes, and for another, he was far too nosey to play if safe all the time. Adam remarked that Bardin would have made a good detective, as he had an insatiable thirst to go around probing things and investigating them. He didn’t seem to have been deterred either by the 60-year time-slip, or being throttled by a demon.

“Nothing stops him!” said Joby.

But Bardin was a lot smarter than he sometimes appeared. A long career in the theatre had given him an almost 6th sense about people. He could sense atmospheres and undercurrents even when nothing was being said. And he knew that many of the others were spooked by recent events far more than they were necessarily letting on.

So he decided to do some more exploring of the local countryside, but this time avoiding the old inn, as it was upsetting Adam too much. Lonts voiced reservations about them splitting up into groups, particularly after what Julian had said in the dining-room.

“Now look”, said Bardin, impatiently “We cannot spend the rest of eternity welded to each other, it’s just not practical! And somebody’s got to stay here to mind the ship. I cannot believe I am having this conversation!”

Lonts was so traumatised by this that Adam boxed Bardin’s ears. In spite of this little altercation though the field-trip party set off in reasonably high spirits. With two of the horses attached to the cart they set off across the causeway, and up into the part of the forest where Bardin and Kieran had once seen the mysterious women walking in the distance.

“I can’t get my head round that that really happened 60 years ago, I just can’t”, said Bengo.

“Then don’t try”, said Bardin “Just copy me”.

When they got comfortably into the large clearing where Bardin had previously had his mystical experience with Kieran, he turned the horses loose so that they could have some freedom from their confinement.

He issued strict orders to Kieran and Lonts to mind them, and then frogmarched Bengo off for a walk.

“Do you really think it’s wise to move away from the others, Bardy?” said Bengo, anxiously twisting his hat in his hands.

“Stop that”, said Bardin, snatching the hat out of his hands and clamping it on Bengo’s head “It’s like falling off a bike. You have to get straight back on again. As I said to Lonts, you can’t spend the rest of eternity terrified to be alone, or out of sight of the others. Now come along“.

They walked out of the clearing and up a steep path, which led eventually to the opening of an old mine-shaft. To Bengo‘s horror, Bardin showed every sign of wanting to explore it.

“No Bardin, no!” said Bengo, crossly “I‘m drawing the line. We’re not going in there. I don’t like the look of it”.

“It’s only an old mine-shaft”, Bardin protested, gesturing at the rotten wooden bars that supported the opening.

“We are not going in”, said Bengo, now sounding even firmer “Don’t you ever learn anything? We’re gong back to the others, if I have to carry you there!”

There was suddenly the sound of women shrieking amongst the trees from quite some distance away. It all added to the spooky unreality of the moment, but at least it snapped Bardin out of his nonsense.

“OK”, he said “We’ll come back here again though”.

“No we won’t”, Bengo muttered behind his back as he walked away.

They walked in silence for a little while. Bengo was fuming, and busily plotting all sorts of revenge for when they got back to their cabin on the galleon. He was distracted from even this absorbing past-time though when he saw a large shape moving through the bushes on one side of the track a little way ahead.

“What is it?” Bardin whispered, as they both came to a halt “A wild boar?”

They stood stock still as the creature emerged from the bushes and lumbered (it had a clumsy, cumbersome way of moving) across the path, and into the bushes on the other side of the track, taking absolutely no notice of them at all. It was a greyish colour with a leathery, wrinkled skin. It moved on all fours, and had a long neck supporting a small dog-like head, balanced by a long tail which dragged on the ground beside it. Although it had made no threatening moves towards them, Bengo described it afterwards as the most revolting thing he had ever seen, and added that he didn’t know why he felt so strongly against it. It was just a sensation he had that the creature was evil.

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