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By Sarah Hapgood

"Oh God, it's here", Joby groaned, as he awoke in the icy darkness.

"What is?" said Kieran, propping himself up on his elbow, on the other side of Tamaz.

"Christmas Eve", said Joby.

"Is that all?" Kieran exclaimed, lying down again "I thought something else had happened! Anyway, what's wrong with Christmas Eve? It's one of the most enjoyable days of the year".

"Yeah it is, if you don't work in a bloody kitchen!" said Joby "It's gonna be a nightmare. Adam'll make Genghis Khan look like Noddy! I'm dreading every minute of it".

"Then escape for a wee while", said Kieran "I'm planning on going down to the village later this morning to see the blacksmith about getting the iron box made up. Why don't you come down with me? It'll do you good, a bit of fresh air".

"Are you crazy?!" said Joby "There is no way Adam is gonna give me time off to come out with you! If I so much as suggest it he'll put me in leg irons like Freddy!"

"Then don't tell him", said Kieran "I'll meet you at one of the side doors at 10 o'clock. I'll take your outdoor things and your boots and have them waiting for you. You just have to tell Adam you're going to the karsey or something".

"I can't", Joby wailed "He'll make my life hell when I get back!"

"There won't be anything he can do about it by then, the deed'll be done", said Kieran "The worst he can do is shout a bit, and we're used to that".

"He won't just shout", said Joby, miserably "He'll use sarcasm as well".

"Sarcasm? Oh well, I can understand your fear then", said Kieran, sarcastically "I mean, look at the amount of people throughout history that have been killed by sarcasm!"

"I wish all I had to put up with from you lot was sarcasm!" said Tamaz.

He rolled over to face Kieran, and they both began to kiss passionately. Joby could hear Kieran fumbling under the bedclothes to remove Tamaz's bloomers. Irritably, Joby fought his way out of the bedclothes on his side.

"Can't you stay around for a few minutes more?" said Tamaz.

"Ach no, Joby doesn't have time for pleasure these days", said Kieran "Too busy obeying the Protestant Work Ethic!"

Joby didn't trust himself to answer this. He finally got out of bed and poked the fire back into life. When he noticed Mieps sleeping serenely on the sofa, he rattled the poker along the fender and bashed it over the hearth tiles. Mieps remained maddeningly undisturbed.

Tamaz, wearing Adam's dressing-gown which swamped his much shorter body, climbed up on the windowseat in Lonts's room, and managed to scrape away a small viewing-hole on the frost-encrusted glass.

"The drop from here is incredible", he said.

"I know", said Lonts "Adam says with a drop like that we could be on the edge of a cliff".

Lonts brought over two mugs of tea he had made on the samovar in their room. He passed one to Tamaz, and then sat down next to him on the windowseat, pulling a brightly-covered blanket over their knees.

"How do you like having Drippy-Topps in your room all the time?" said Tamaz, noticing one of Toppy's jackets lying brushed and smoothed over the back of a chair.

"He's alright", said Lonts "Once you get used to his peculiar little ways. He keeps the room nice and tidy, which Adam says is a big help because neither of us likes doing it! I don't see the point of that if it's just going to get untidy again".

"I just wish he'd loosen up a bit", said Tamaz "He always seems so tense to me".

"Adam says it's because Toppy likes things to be perfect", said Lonts "And of course nothing ever is".

"Julian wanted to see us before breakfast this morning", said Tamaz.

"I know", said Lonts "He said he wanted to see the 4 youngest ones. What was all that about?"

"Said he wanted to make sure we knew exactly what we were doing by following the rest of you out onto the high seas next year", said Tamaz "Said we could end up like a closed order of monks, and he hoped we'd all be prepared for that. Actually he said he didn't know why he'd asked me in as I'm still officially your prisoner and have to do as I'm told! He made a big fuss of Toppy, went on about how Toppy had never had a life of his own, never had independence. He went straight from Pendor to the Indigo. I said Toppy wouldn't know what to do with independence if he was given it on a plate, and Julian said I should be birched every evening after dinner, as a bit of light entertainment!"

"But what you said was right", said Lonts "Toppy would hate a life of his own. Adam and Julian were going to send him to the City last year as a steward. If they'd done that Toppy would have been killed in the earthquake! Sometimes they just don't think things through properly!"

"Well anyway you should have seen the carry-on", said Tamaz "Toppy started bawling like a big kid, and pleading 'don't send me away!' That's what you get for being considerate with the likes of him! It just confuses them!"

"Bengo and Bardin are still coming with us aren't they?" said Lonts.

"Yeah, Bengo nearly had as much hysterics as Toppy!" said Tamaz.

"What about Mieps?" said Lonts.

"He wasn't with us", said Tamaz "He hardly counts as one of the 4 youngest, he's older than you!"

"No, I meant is he coming with us?" said Lonts.

"I expect so", said Tamaz, shrugging indifferently "He won't give up the good life he's got now. He's put on weight since living here, his tits have got bigger!"

"He moves so quietly", said Lonts "I never know when he's about".

"That's no big deal", said Tamaz "All Ghoomers know how to move quietly, we need to know how to stalk. He only does it round here because he's a nosey old git, he likes eavesdropping on people. He was as annoyed as hell that I sensed Glynis's pregnancy before he did!"

"Does he still frighten you at all, Tamaz?" said Lonts, with concern.

"I don't know", said Tamaz "Not whilst I'm with you lot. If I was given to him and left with him, then I would be. Because he could treat me exactly as he wanted, with no one to stop him. I said to him the other day that I suspected, if we lived alone together, that he'd kill me if he got bored with me, and he said I'd just have to make sure that didn't happen!"

"It won't, because I will always look after you", said Lonts, firmly.

"Are you only just getting round to clearing the breakfast things away?" said Julian, standing in the doorway of the dining-room "It'll soon be dinnertime at this rate!"

"Damnit Jules!" Adam snapped, slamming crockery onto the trolley "I am extremely short-staffed. Joby's disappeared, I'll probably murder him when I next see him, I sent Bengo to the dairy to get some cream and I haven't seen him since, and there isn't a maid in sight! It's intolerable, absolutely intolerable!"

"Oh stop wetting your knickers", said Julian "Cinders, you shall go to the ball, your fairy godmother is here!"

"What are you on about, Jules?" Adam sighed "I'm far too busy for games".

"And that attitude's got to stop too", said Julian, grabbing Adam's hand "Come with me".

He led him into the hall whre three monks were standing placidly.

"Brother Jerome, Brother Ignatius, and Brother Boniface", said Julian, introducing them all "The new kitchen staff! I wanted to get the cook back, now that the haunting's gone down, but she's laid up with a chill and won't be back until after Christmas. The monks have time on their hands now that Kieran hasn't got them performing blessings and exorcisms all over the house. Right fellas, you can start right away. Two to the kitchen, and one to the dining-room to finish clearing away".

The monks obliged.

"Well?" said Julian "Do I get any thanks? Do I get tears of gratitude and you claiming that I am one of the most thoughtful and caring men you've ever met? Do I hell!"

"I am grateful, Jules", Adam began.

"What have I got wrong this time?" Julian sighed.

"Absolutely nothing", Adam smiled "If I'm silent it's because I'm so relieved that's all. I wasn't looking forward to today or tomorrow at all".

"Good", said Julian "You can go upstairs now then. Take your pinny off first though".

Kieran was taking an age to give the blacksmith the exact specifications he required for the iron box. Joby stood in the doorway of the forge, getting more and more impatient. Largely because he was being blatantly ogled by the blacksmith's assistant, a sub-human creature who seemed as though he still hadn't progressed far enough along the evolutionary scale to walk fully upright!

"About bloody time!" said Joby, when Kieran finally joined him outside.

"I see you've got an admirer who thinks you're hot stuff", said Kieran.

"Terrific", said Joby "He looks like a bloody Morlock! How could anyone look at him and think 'phwoah!' Could you ever fancy him? Be honest now".

"No", Kieran giggled.

They engaged in a little snowball fight before heading back to the horse-drawn sleigh.

"Amazing this time isn't it?" said Kieran, as he sat down and took up the reins.

"Certainly different to ours", said Joby, climbing in next to him.

"At the beginning of time people believed emphatically in demons and elementals, and creatures from an underworld", said Kieran "And do you know what finally killed those beliefs?"

"Is this gonna be an advert for the Church?" said Joby.

"No, it was an increase in the world population", said Kieran "When people started living together in crowded towns and cities there was literally no space for the old beliefs. In our time demons, elementals and creatures from an underworld wouldn't have stood a chance amongst all the hustle and bustle of mass communication. Perhaps that's why we Celts are blessed with second sight? We come traditionally from areas more remote and sparsely populated than you hobbits".

"This reminds me of that conversation I had with Mieps", said Joby "He tried to convince me that we were back at the dawn of time".

"I don't agree with that one", said Kieran "Time can only go forwards, not backwards. It's the nature of the beast. But perhaps the Earth has been reborn in the past few years, as though it went as far as it could, died with the Massacre of the Women, and then the comet blast, and has since come back to life. Perhaps a whole new civilisation is going to come out of this".

"You made me shudder when you mentioned the Massacre of the Women", said Joby "Thinking back to as it was before. In only the past few years we've got so used to having them back, it's easy to forget what it was like. It was terrible then".

"Yes it was", said Kieran "And that's why nothing like that must ever be allowed to happen again".

"Trouble is", said Joby "I expect that was said after every massacre and holocaust in history!"

"But this has to be a golden era", said Kieran, insistently.

When Kieran spoke so zealously Joby sometimes feared for his friend's sanity. Such idealism was often too fragile a spirit when faced with the ongoing everlasting crud of life.

"Kiel", he said, gently "We don't know what could happen after our deaths, over the next few thousand years. How could we? It's out of our hands".

"I know, but this is an instinct of mine", said Kieran "After all that's happened, the reappearance of the women, the destruction of the City, it all means that people will learn from these things".

"I think I'd better get you to this remote island before you get too disillusioned", said Joby.

"You're an old cynic", Kieran laughed.

"Perhaps", said Joby "But even in previous so-called golden era's there was still greed, corruption and poverty. It's the likes of you, idealists, and Julian, the ones born on the top of the heap, who called it a golden era. But under all that there was still the likes of me, condemned to grubbing along on the surface".

"You don't do so badly for someone condemned to grubbing along on the surface!" said Kieran.

"That's because I've got you", said Joby.

"You could have refused to take me", said Kieran "For a long time I thought you always would".

"No", said Joby "Deep down I always knew I didn't want to spend my life being unhappy. I'm like so many ordinary men. I wanted to find someone to dedicate my life to. Only I didn't think I'd get it quite so big time!"

Kieran laughed and shook the reins, causing the little bells on the harness to jangle. They drove back to the house, which loomed up impressively ahead of them. They took the sleigh back to the stables and then went in through one of the side doors, where they found Toppy, clad in a green apron, sitting in the lobby polishing various pairs of boots and shoes.

"Go on then", said Joby "Tell me the worst. What's Adam said?"

"No, you're safe", said Toppy "Julian's put some monks in charge of the kitchen. He's taken Adam out of it. In fact he's taken him upstairs".

"Oh good", said Joby "Hopefully that means he's being walloped as we speak!"

"You lot should be permanently ashamed", said Zeph, passing through with a duster hanging out of her pocket.

"A bit of shame's good for the soul", said Kieran, sitting down on the wooden bench, whilst Toppy removed his boots for him "It helps us, amongst other things, to realise that we are all equal under the skin. None of us is without sin of some sort".

"Well I've never done anything to be ashamed of", said Zeph.

"What, never?!" said Kieran "Good grief, you must be divine! The first person I've ever met to be entirely free of sin!"

Zeph had a feeling she was being made fun of, and she didn't like it.

"At least Father Levka never makes fun of people", she pouted.

"You're right", said Kieran "I'm sorry if I've offended you, and I must go and speak to Levka alone sometime. I don't want to leave any unfinished business behind here".

"What do you think?" said Finia, standing beside the long mirror in his bedroom "Dolores thought you might like it, so I've altered it a bit for you. I think it suits you".

Tamaz stood looking at his reflection. He was wearing an elegant black evening dress with a red satin shawl.

"How do you think it makes me look?" he asked, quietly.

"Disturbing", said Finia "Unearthly".

Tamaz put out his hand and touched the glass.

"I know", he said "I look like Her".

"Do you mean your mother?" said Finia.

Tamaz nodded and went over to the sofa. He sat down and slumped back, stretching out his feet.

"You shouldn't brood on it", said Finia, coming over to join him "At least you're not starting to look old".

"Neither are you", said Tamaz "Not really. You're one of those people who'll always be timeless. I'm going to look disgusting when I start to age. Ghoomers always do. It'll suddenly happen, and one day I'll wake up looking 20 years older than anyone else my age. Grotesque and ugly. A withered old snake with a long tongue and evil eyes".

"Tamaz", said Finia "That's crazy, child".

"That's why I grab everything now", said Tamaz "Because one day Joby'll look at me and despise me, and the rest of you will just put up with me, or pity me, you won't want to spoil me anymore. Beauty has no past tense".

"Haven't you learnt yet?" said Finia "It's not just a cliche , it's true. Love goes beyond looks. If people fall out of love with one another it's usually because they've begun to hate or get bored with that person's character, not their looks. And Joby doesn't give up on people. If he's stuck with Kieran all these years, you should be a doddle by comparison!"

"I've never spoken alone with you like this before", said Tamaz.

"Perhaps it's time", said Finia "After all, I'm your stepmother! Now are you going to wear this dress tomorrow? We've got church parade, and then the Christmas show for the staff in the evening, you could show it off there".

"I can't", said Tamaz "I look so much like Her everyone'll stare and get disturbed. I'll wear my stage clothes at the show, and I'll go to church as a boy. I won't upset anyone then".

"Don't smother your female side just to spare everyone's feelings", said Finia "I'd love to have your womanly side. All I can do is pretend at it. What are you laughing at?"

"There have been so many times I've wished I was a complete boy", said Tamaz "My female side just seemed more trouble than it was worth. I've only only used it to get things out of people. And here's you, wishing you had it!"

"Somehow honey", Finia smiled "I don't think it's going to matter where we're going. Once there, we'll all just have each other".

"You needn't think for one moment that I've forgiven you", said Adam, lifting up the lid of the coffee-pot in the dining-room "I am extremely cross with you. I thought I could count on you in a dire emergency".

"Oh don't go on, Ad", said Joby "It all turned out alright in the end. The monks are in charge of refreshments, and we'll even get afternoon coffee now. No one got that when we were running the kitchen!"

Adam grabbed Joby by his sweater and pulled him towards him.

"Sometime next year" he said "We are going to be back on the Indigo, and you will be my galley assistant, entirely at my mercy. You might like to dwell on that thought when you start feeling too bumptious around me".

"Would you like me to fetch you a cushion?" said Joby "I expect you'll need it if you want to sit down!"

Before Adam could speak Lonts came rushing in, flustered and breathless.

"Adam!" he cried "Bengo's been drinking cider with the stable-boys, and now he's stuck at the top of a pillar in the hall!"

Adam stared at him blankly.

"I suppose this will make sense one day", he said, eventually.

"You've got to come and get him down!" said Lonts, urgently "He could fall and break his neck!"

Adam followed him into the hall, where Bengo had managed to climb onto the top of one of the marble pillars, via the upper gallery. He was now clinging to the pillar like a monkey on a stick.

"He's drunk, Adam", said Lonts "He'll never be able to keep his grip for long. You must do something!"

"I've sent a couple of the stewards to fetch a long ladder", said Julian, coming towards them "And I've sent for Bardin to try and talk him into coming down, that's if he doesn't fall down in the meantime!"

"But why couldn't he come down of his own accord?" said Adam "Bengo's got a good head for heights, and he knows how to shin up and down things".

"He's afraid", Lonts wailed "He knows you'll be angry with him for not coming back with the cream, and he thinks Julian's going to beat him for getting drunk!"

"What an excellent idea!" said Julian.

"Ssh Jules, or we'll never get him down", said Adam "Just hold on a little while longer Bengo, and we'll get you down!"

"I'm not coming down!" Bengo whimpered.

"Well I suppose he could stay up there", said Julian "Like the man who spent 30 years on top of a pillar. It'd make an interesting feature of the house! Ornamental clowns!"

The stewards appeared, carrying a long ladder, closely followed by Bardin.

"Are all clowns neurotic?" said Julian.

"No", said Bardin, defensively "Bengo's always done things like this. When we were kids he used to hide up in the flies above the stage if he thought he was in trouble. I used to get sent to coax him down in those days too!"

The ladder was set up, and Bardin went up it. He managed to get Bengo onto the rungs.

"Sometimes I think I should have been a fucking fireman not a clown!" said Bardin "What came over you this time?"

"I don't know", said Bengo, miserably "It was the cider. It clouds my brain".

"Your brain's always clouded!" said Bardin "I wouldn't have climbed onto there without a safety-net! You're completely crazy!"

"Can we get down again, Bardy?" Bengo asked, solemnly.

"Well I'm not planning on staying up here!" said Bardin.

He managed to get them both down safely, and at the bottom Bengo was relieved to find that for once Julian didn't have the cane on him. Even if he had he would have soon been distracted, because Tamaz and Finia hurtled round the gallery and then down the huge stone staircase, the whole area echoing to their descent.

"Where's Kieran?" Tamaz screamed, frantically "Where's Kieran?"

"He went into the East Wing to see Levka", said Joby.

"He's always in the fucking East Wing!" Tamaz stamped his foot.

"Well what is it?" said Joby "What's wrong?"

"He needs to come out here and vanquish some evil", said Tamaz.

"Freaky, you're not making sense", said Julian "What exactly has happened?"

"We were walking past Thierry's door", said Finia "It was open slightly and Tamaz looked in. Thierry had a fit. He threw his boots at him".

"And called me a fucking gorgon", said Tamaz.

"Is that all?" said Julian "It's not like you to get upset about a bit of name-calling".

"It wasn't just name-calling!" Tamaz squawked, indignantly "He had that dopey sister of his in there, Helene. She was trying to get away from him, but he had his hands up the skirt of her dress!"

"He was as drunk as a skunk", said Finia.

It was as if all the pieces in a particularly cryptic puzzle had suddenly fallen into place. Thierry's irrational intensity, Helene's spaced-out trances, Dolores's reluctance to delve too deeply into her family's problems. Incest.

"I'll go and find Kieran", said Joby.

"And one of you find Dolores and tell her to present herself to me in the library", said Julian "The rest of you go and calm down in the Yellow Salon".

"We should have guessed really", he said, once he and Adam were alone in the library. The room was full of shadows, with only the fire and the lamp above the billiard table creating light "After all, it's not uncommon in remote areas like theirs. A closed community, that for years has had little contact with the outside world. In a place like No-Name it must be hard to find someone you're NOT related to!"

"Yes I know, but brother and sister", said Adam, in dismay "I wonder if Dolores really knows".

"Of course she does", said Julian "This sort of thing doesn't go on under your own roof without you knowing. She decided to take the option our own families would have done though. Ignore him. Hope it'll go away. Don't rock the boat for heaven's sake, or we might have to actually DO something! Like your mother, when she conveniently chose to ignore your father thrashing you all those years".

"She had no choice", said Adam, emotionally "My Father was a brute, she couldn't have stood up to him, and there was no one she could turn to".

"She had money of her own, she could've taken you away!" said Julian "Taken out a court injunction against him, to stop him coming near you both. But she wouldn't have wanted the hassle, the scandal, she didn't have the guts! It was easier to take the well-trodden path of sending you away to school instead".

He stopped when he realised Adam was crying quite openly.

"I'm sorry", Julian fumbled in his pockets "I've got a handkerchief somewhere. Here".

Adam took it and blew his nose.

"Not this time though, Jules", he said, eventually "We can't do anything about our own backgrounds anymore, but we can stop this".

"It's not going to be ignored any longer", said Julian.

"You think it's that easy?" said Dolores.

She appeared as a black outline in the room, eventually stepping out of the gloom and into the glow of the firelight.

"Just answer me this", said Julian "Have you known?"

"I suspected, but I wasn't sure", said Dolores "I've been the head of my family since our parents were killed when I was 11-years-old. If it hadn't been for Lady Red's generosity I don't know what would have happened to us. Thierry and Helene have always been close. Helene was a very shy, bashful child, she would only come to life in Thierry's company, and Thierry only ever seemed happy in hers. He's always been wild, highly-strung. And it was easier to indulge his wildness than to do something to curb it. Since I became Governor it's got worse. At the Governor's residence the staff would simply blank out his excesses, they expect people in high places to have eccentricities".

"Eccentricities?!" said Adam "Dolly, we're talking about incest here!"

"I don't think in the beginning Helene was ... unwilling shall we say", said Dolores "She's very childlike, and I just wanted to see her happy. Thierry was the only person who could make her laugh. I hadn't realised quite how much she had begun to turn in on herself. That it had got so horribly out of hand. What's going to happen now?"

"Heaven knows!" said Adam.

Thierry had intended to spend the evening in his room getting smashed up on brandy. Helene had got away after Tamaz's appearance in the doorway, and he didn't think he could cope with her sudden departure. He found he needed the bathroom urgently, but was so drunk that he couldn't get his trousers back up again after using the lavatory. He staggered out into the corridor, and encountered Drusica and Lilli walking towards him.

They were both robust country-girls, who would normally have laughed themselves silly at the sight of a drunk man with his dick on display. But there was something very unfunny about Thierry, mainly because he looked so grim and threatening.

"Want it, bitches?" he cried, his trousers swirling round his ankles.

Drusica began to cry.

"You're sick!" Lilli said to him.

"Sick am I?" Thierry exclaimed "I'd be the only classy shag you little peasent slags would get".

Kieran heard all this from around the corner of the corridor. He bolted into Julian's room and began to ransack his wardrobe. When Joby walked in, he had just managed to retrieve the horse-whip.

"You keep out of the way when I'm using this", said Kieran "I've never handled one before and I might go and get you by mistake".

"You'll probably hit yourself", said Joby.

Thierry had managed to get his trousers up, which was something short of a miracle, and now met Kieran coming round the corner.

"It's the little faggot", he said "The blonde wimp!"

"I'm sick of hearing your focking voice", said Kieran "And I'm so sick of men like you!"

"I needed a woman!" Thierry shrieked "But I don't expect you to understand that. Aftera all, when you couldn't get a woman, you just turned to men. So who's more sick, you or me?!"

"YOU! YOU! YOU!" Kieran exploded "For abusing Love!"

"I wanted to love that's all", said Thierry "I wanted to be in love, I wanted to know what it's like. But it's all gone, it's all been ruined, and it'll never happen to me! Have you any idea what that feels like? To go your whole life without falling in love! It won't happen now, I've gone too far down the other way".

He began to sob helplessly, and slid to the floor, resting his head on his knees. Kieran knew he'd find it next to impossible to flog a man who was sobbing like a child, no matter what he'd done.

"Joby", he said, quietly "Would you help him into his room and put him into bed? He's about to pass out anyway".

"Yeah. Terrific", said Joby, unenthusiastically.

He did as Kieran had asked, and Bertha came up and offered to sit with Thierry, and keep an eye on him. Joby went to look for Kieran, and eventually found him in the East Wing, in a little whitewashed room that the monks had fixed up as a private prayer room. Kieran was alone, lying on the cold flagstoned floor, crying.

"Bertha's with him", said Joby, crouching down next to him "I think she sees him as a substitute for Freddy! So perhaps he might get some love of some sort after all, even if it's not quite what he had in mind! Still, it might be better for him. He needs to stop thinking about his dick for a while, which is easier said than done I know".

"I stood there staring at him", said Kieran "And I didn't know what to do! I tried to keep angry, but I couldn't, because it was all such a pathetic mess".

"They need to be separated", said Joby "Dolores'll take Helene back to No-Name with her. I don't know what's going to happen to Thierry, but at least if they're apart no more damage can be done. I feel bloody sorry for Dolores".

"So do I", said Kieran "I feel sorry for all of them, even Thierry. He's been off the rails for years, and all people ever did was ignore it, pretend everything was fine. The worst thing they could have done! Nobody wanted the trouble of sorting it out".

"You can't lie here", said Joby.

He picked Kieran up in his arms and carried him into the next room, which was a complete contrast to the whitewashed chapel, being dark, with heavy curtains and wallpaper, and cluttered with old furniture. Joby sat Kieran down at the table, and then returned to the chapel for the candle on a floor-stand.

"This part of the house reminds me of that sequence of little rooms in 'The Masque Of The Red Death'", he said.

"Each in a different colour", Kieran rubbed his face dry "Yellow, white, purple and black".

"We've just got the white and black", said Joby "Or more a sort of yucky bottle-green colour really. Hey", he squeezed Kieran's hand "At least it's all out in the open now. Much the best way. How did you get on with Levka?"

"Not too good at all", said Kieran "But then I wasn't expecting it to be easy. I know I've lost all credibility where he's concerned, and it's only what I deserve".

"I can't wait to get you away from here", said Joby "I feel if I don't soon, you're gonna end up getting crushed by life. You care too much to survive in this greenhouse for much longer. I'm gonna get you away before they use you up and spit you out. I'm gonna take you somewhere where you don't have to worry about every word you say and every word you do, where your every nuance doesn't have such weight attached to it".

"I agree with you", said Kieran "I just can't cope anymore with living up to this impossible ideal everyone's got of me. I gave it my best shot, and now I just want to enjoy the rest of my life".

"It's cold in here", said Joby "Let's go and see if supper's ready. I feel like this day has gone on for about 3 weeks!"

They went out into a back lobby which connected them to the Great Hall. Thierry came hurtling at breakneck speed down a winding stone staircase which had no barrier of any kind on one side. Bertha was pursuing him, imploring him to be more careful.

"You bastard!" Thierry cried, when he saw Kieran "How can you keep that fiend in this house? Is it just to torment me, is it?"

"What are you talking about?" said Joby.

"Calm down, Thierry", said Kieran, sternly "What's the matter?"

"That thing you call Tamaz, he's been in my room", said Thierry "He came in just now".

"I never saw him", said Bertha, softly "But I may have dozed off for a little while".

"Tamaz wouldn't have come into your room", said Joby "He's either in the Yellow Salon with the others, or he's gone into supper".

"He came into my room", said Thierry "He had on a transparent nightgown".

"Tamaz hasn't got a nightgown", said Joby "He sleeps in his shirt, like we do".

"He came into my bed", Thierry continued "And played with me. Against my will he got me aroused, and then he turned into an old hag, a gorgon, with a terrible face and snakes coming out of his hair!"

"This sounds like the d.t's to me", said Kieran.

"Adam might be able to help there", said Joby.

"Thierry, the Gorgon is dead", said Kieran "I should know, I killed her myself! Come with me. I'll take you to Tamaz, and you'll see he's not a threat to you".

"He's a bit mischevious sometimes", said Joby "But he doesn't mean any harm, not these days".

Kieran coaxed Thierry into the Great Hall, where the others were crossing the vast expanse of floor to the dining-room. He called Tamaz over.

"Why should I want to go into his room?" said Tamaz, indignant at being questioned thus "He hasn't got anything I want!"

"We know", said Kieran "We're not suspecting you of anything. We're just trying to convince Thierry that you're harmless".

"Hah!" said Mieps, who was sitting some way up the main staircase.

"I bet it was you, you vile old snake!" said Tamaz, pointing at him accusingly through the marble bannisters.

"I can't imagine Mieps poncing around in a transparent nightie!" said Joby.

"Thierry, it's the booze", said Kieran "It's making you hallucinate. You need to sleep and completely sober up".

"I mustn't sleep", said Thierry "Or she'll come again".

He was so exhausted though that Bertha led him away as easily as though he was a docile child.

Over supper Codlik went on at great length about the complete and utter stupidity of them going off into retreat. Apparently such an idea simply wasn't fashionable anymore, anyone who was anyone just didn't do such a thing, they stayed in the public eye and allowed their virtues to be displayed to all and sundry.

"That's just the way it is", said Julian "It's not healthy for anyone to be subjected to public scrutiny over a long period of time the way Kieran has, or the rest of us come to that, and we want to try and have a normal family life".

Codlik then turned his sage advice on Hillyard.

"I'm proposing a New Year trip for us all to Toondor Lanpin", Hillyard replied "To see the New Year in there, and then I'm resigning as Governor".

"You can't!" said Codlik "You have the makings of a very good governor, if you'd only just stick at it".

"For the past few months you've been telling me how awful I've been!" said Hillyard "And I agree with you! I've hardly been there for a start, and if we're intending to disapper it'll be even worse. No one'll know when or if I'm coming back! It's only fair to everyone".

"But why can't you stay here and have the best of both worlds?" said Glynis "Keep this place going, particularly as a summer retreat say, and keep the Indigo in Toondor Lanpin as a base there. It sounds so perfect to me".

"Glynis is right", said Codlik "We've all been through a lot these past few years, we're owed a few years of peace and prosperity".

"A golden era", said Kieran.

"Exactly", said Codlik "So why shouldn't you stay around to enjoy it too?"

"We'll have our own", said Joby.

"Well I don't understand", said Glynis "You could all have a comfortable middle-age here and in Toondor Lanpin. Hillyard has all the makings of a sound politician. I don't understand this wilful need you all have to chuck it away and simply disappear".

"Life can't stay stagnant, old love", said Adam.

"But it wouldn't be!" said Glynis "I think you're all simply running away because it's a habit you've got into. Constantly running all the time".

"And we'll stop when we find our place", said Kieran.

"I think you're making a terrible mistake", said Codlik, twirling his dessert bowl restlessly "This can't be right. To shut yourselves away from the world. There are some facts that have to be faced. Such as what happens when members of you fall ill, get old, die".

"We have faced those", said Julian "And do remember, the world isn't as large as we think. There will still be the Indigo and the skiff. Anyone who has had enough can leave at anytime they wish. We don't intend to hold people prisoner!"

"Oh why did things have to change?" said Glynis, unhappily "Why couldn't we all stay on the waterfront as neighbours?"

"Because time moves forward", said Kieran "It's only in Heaven that it stays on a nice balance, and this life is about moving towards that ideal, finding the one that suits us".

"I still believe you're wrong", said Codlik, who looked as unhappy as Glynis "You're throwing away stability and peaceful prosperity for a very risky unknown. I really do hope you will change your minds".

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