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Joby put it down to the high altitude, for the fact that they had such an exhilerating stay up at the monastery. "It makes you lightheaded", he said. He was blissfully unaware that it was he himself that the "high altitude" had had the most profound effect upon. Quite what had happened to him he didn't know, but it was as if something had gone click in his brain. Going up into the mountains, to this place with the crystal clear air and the incredible views, had scoured out his mind.
He had always secretly hoped that one day he would be able to stop fighting the world, to relax his grip on his misguided sense of his own futility. To shake off his abominable upbringing once and for all, which (apart from his loving Gran) had been almost entirely devoid of affection. Neither his lazy father or his brutal mother had ever given him any indication that he was even tolerated by them, let alone loved. They had left him with the shitty belief that he was neither use nor ornament to the world or anyone in it.
This visit to the monastery was very different to the last. It was early summer for one thing, not the depths of winter. And they had the place to themselves, which made a huge difference. Last time Kieran had been practically encircled by the monks at every moment of the day, and the naughty Tamaz had had to be watched constantly. Now he could relax his customary tight vigil on them both. For the first time in his life he felt YOUNG, in the best sense of the word, i.e carefree. A youthfulness that was entirely of the mind and had nothing to do with physical age. No one was getting at him, no one was putting anything on him. And, most importantly, he wasn't putting anything on himself.
He had come close to feeling like this when they had lived in the hut in the grounds of Wolf Castle, but Kieran's mental troubles at the time had worried him so much he could never entirely relax. He didn't understand why so many people scorned those who wanted to hide from the world occasionally. The world could wear you out so much, and some people, with their endless scrutiny and critical judgement, sapped your spiritual strength as effectively as any vampire.
"It's something we were particularly bad at understanding in the Western world", said Adam, when Joby was discussing this with him in the kitchen garden one afternoon "Yet people like the Aborigines understood the need to go away and lick our wounds occasionally".
"Going walkabout", said Joby.
"Exactly", said Adam "I think the sneering critics of the world have always feared our need to be by ourselves, and get emotional balance. God forbid, that could give us mental clarity, and then we might start seeing through them! See them for the little tinpot gods they really are".
"Mum was like that", said Joby "She bitched about everyone who was different to her".
"That was simply cowardice", said Adam "My Father was the same. Anyone different to them they saw as a threat. That's why both of them were such brutes, why you and I were both beaten as children. To be blunt, I'm sure that if your mother had had the means to send you away to boarding-school at the age of 7, she would have done, just as my Father did with me. To get me out of his sight, because he hated me so much he didn't want me near him".
"Why?" Joby's voice cracked with tears "Why were we hated by them, Adam?"
"Who knows?" said Adam, and then he smiled mischievously "And who cares?!"
"You're right", said Joby, blowing his nose noisily.
"Those awful people", said Adam "Your blood family, not your real one, have made you quite unhappy enough, don't you think? They may never have wanted you around, like mine didn't want me, but you're wanted with us. Patsy once said to me that you lot probably loved me for all the same reasons my family hated me, and the same applies to you".
"Tamaz has the shittiest inheritance of the lot", said Joby "He hates any slightest indication that he might come from his mother. Poor kid".
"I saw you both up on the viewpoint yesterday", said Adam "He was standing in front of you with his back to you, and you had your arms round him. It was so sweet".
"I took him up there to calm him down", said Joby "He startled me by suddenly appearing in the dormitory when I was alone in there. Nothing sinister, anyone coming in at that moment would've made me jump, 'cos I was so deep in thought. But he got it into his head I'd mistaken him for his mother!"
"Oh bless him", said Adam "I'm glad things are fine between you. I would hate it if anything went wrong".
"I couldn't dump Tamaz", said Joby "I'd miss looking at him for one thing. Sometimes it's enough just to be able to do that".
"He's a little baggage though isn't it?" said Adam.
"But he's life!" said Joby "He's got emotion and energy, and he's not afraid to use either of 'em. I remember with my parents, they used to sit slumped in their own misery, t.v on full blast to drown out ..."
"Their own pain?" said Adam.
"Mum used to walk around all hunched up", said Joby "With her shoulders all stooped, and a big scowl on her face, like bloody Quasimodo! I know things were difficult, but it didn't have to be like that! They could still have been loving, shown affection, that costs naff all! We could have got through it all then, but no, there was too much bitterness there for that. Anyway", he sighed "That's the last time that I'm gonna mention them. If I stop mentioning them then there's nothing to keep their memory alive. Nothing at all".
For two months things were perfect, and there is little else to say about peaceful happiness. Twice a week Hillyard would take a horse and cart down the town to pick up supplies from the market, but other than that they stayed behind the big wooden yard-doors at the mountain monastery.
Julian took over the Arch-Pater's office, and although it did little to exorcise the fond memories of his old cabin on the Indigo, it did give him a central base, a place which as the eldest he could call his own. He read some of the old religious books the Arch-Pater had left behind, which usually put him in an argumentative mood, and led to some volcanic discussions with Kieran. The Arch-Pater's window looked down over the central courtyard, which gave Julian an easy way to keep an eye on everyone. On warm summer evenings he liked to sit on the windowseat, drinking brandy and yelling down at anyone who crossed his line of vision.
Kieran interred the iron casket containing the demon under an altar in the chapel. He felt taht this would be as effective as dumping it in the ocean.
"This chapel is sacred ground", he said to Joby, as they hauled the floor bricks back into place "It's unsullied, undesecrated in any way, as far as I know. Apart from your swearing, that is!"
"What do you expect?" said Joby "Working like this on a hot afternoon!"
"Once it's done it's done", said Kieran.
"I hope so", said Joby "As long as no one gets the idea of digging it back up".
"Once these bricks are back in place", said Kieran "No one but us is going to know its here. There's the problem that in centuries to come some wise guy might get the idea of excavating up here ..."
"Yeah well there's nothing we can do about centuries to come", said Joby "In years to come someone could also find it on the ocean bed too. Nowhere in the world is gonna be completely safe. But it'll be nice to have it out of sight for a change".
The following morning Julian decided to accompany Hillyard down to the town, as an urgent trip to the tobacconists was called for. He ordered Adam to come with them (as "a nice treat for the poor old cow"), and then kept them both waiting because he dawdled in the communal bath-house. When he got out to the stables he found Hillyard supposedly tacking up, but seemingly more intent on ogling Adam, who was helping him.
Annoyed and jealous, Julian made Adam sit in the back of the cart on the journey down the mountain, fully aware that this would make things hard, bumpy and uncomfortable for him. When they got to the large open-air market in Toondor Lanpin, they parked the cart in the special area set aside for this purpose. Hillyard jumped out and went round the back to help Adam down. This he did as lingeringly as possible.
"Go and get started on the provisions, Hillyard", said Julian "And meet us in a little while in Persephone's bar".
"You're really annoying me this morning", said Hillyard.
"I'm annoying HIM?!" Julian exclaimed, as Hillyard stamped off "Well I like that!"
"You shouldn't order him about like that, Jules", Adam sighed "I wouldn't be surprised if he left us to walk home, because of you".
"It's not my fault", said Julian "It's you. Swanning around in those shorts, flashing your thighs. You're even more of a little trollop than Freaky!"
"I am not!" said Adam "And even if I were you still shouldn't order him about like that. You remind me of your mother when you're like that, it's horrible. The way she used to bellow at staff was embarrassing. I'll never forget that poor little chef she dismissed, after he'd only been in the job one whole day! I felt so sorry for him".
"She could see he wouldn't be happy there and didn't want him to get too settled", said Julian.
"Oh rubbish!" said Adam "There was nothing wrong with him. But she was as irrational and terrifying as you can be. I remember your cleaning ladies wouldn't dare say a word about her in case she overheard, even when she wasn't in the building! She was completely thoughtless when it came to other people's feelings, and you're just the same".
"Hey!" Hillyard reappeared.
"I thought you'd gone", Julian growled, sulkily.
"I just wanted to say I think you treat Adam badly", said Hillyard "He's more of a gent than you'll ever be. And on the way back YOU'RE sitting in the back!"
Hillyard stamped off again.
"Bloody cheek!" said Julian.
"I think you've upset him, Jules", said Adam "You have behaved rather badly, old love. You kept him waiting for hours and then did nothing but bitch and order him about".
"I told you, it's not me at all", said Julian "It's you in those shorts, you're getting him far too excited. Now come along".
Persephone was gratifyingly pleased to see them when Adam and Julian walked into the bar, after having picked up Julian's cigars first. Her bar was occupied by a posse of rowdy businessmen from Krindei, who grudgingly let them through to a sofa by the window.
"I hope we're out of here before they get too drunk", said Adam, taking off his sun-hat and placing it on the table "They look like a bunch of neo-Nazi's to me. It's depressing how that sort never seem to die out".
"Typical Krindei-ites", said Julian, dismissively "You always get that sort from places where the living's been too easy for too long. I don't know what the hell they're doing in Toondor Lanpin".
"There's been a lot of talk about outsiders investing in the town for some time now", said Adam.
"There you are!" said Hillyard, bustling towards them like a nurse collecting two disobedient patients on a geriatrics' day out "Come on, we're not staying in here. I've heard about this lot, they're trouble".
"Well we'll just stay out of their way that's all", said Adam.
"You don't understand", Hillyard dropped his voice "They're not just businessmen, they belong to some new political group, a real lunatic fringe effort".
"Don't tell me", said Julian "Right-wing anti-pansy brigade!"
"Something like that", said Hillyard "They call themselves the Family First Foundation. They've really come down here to get women".
"Are there still not any in Krindei then?" said Adam.
"Not as many as down here", said Hillyard "They want women to be married off and used solely for procreating, repopulating the world, sitting by the fireside peeling sprouts, you know the kind of thing".
"No wonder Persephone's a bit surly with them!" said Adam.
"And needless to say they don't like us!" said Julian, tartly.
"We're public enemy no.1", said Hillyard.
"We can't ALL be public enemy no.1, old love", said Adam "Public enemies 1 to 13 perhaps! Little Toppy could be public enemy no.13. What a sweet thought!"
"It never ends does it?" Julian sighed "Probably find they regard the Barlazzi Town Constable as a saint!"
"Don't joke, I think they do", said Hillyard "Now c'mon, let's get out of here. We'll go to that cafe-bar up the road instead".
They got up to leave.
"I wish we'd brought Ransey with us now", said Hillyard, guiding them out of the room.
Suddenly Adam gave a cry of "I've forgotten my hat!" and scooted back to get it. Almost with great predictability, one of the loutish businessmen detached himself from his crowd to stand in front of the table on which the hat rested.
"Want something, scum queen?" the man whispered.
"What did you call me?" said Adam, in an icy voice.
"Scum queen", said the ginger-haired lout "Scum queen".
"That's enough", said Hillyard, although from the way he grabbed Adam's hand it was hard to tell who he was talking to.
"ADAM!" Julian roared from the doorway. When at full throttle his voice was so loud that no one could ignore him.
Hillyard picked up Adam's hat and left him outside.
"That's the last time I'm taking you out, ANYWHERE!" said Julian, as they paced along the street afterwards.
"Well that suits me just fine", said Adam "Although I don't see how I can be blamed for anything. I won't be spoken to like that by a complete stranger!"
"Surely you're too old to rise to a bit of pathetic name-calling?" said Julian "Some of us grow out of that by the time we leave school!"
Adam was upset, mainly because he knew Julian was right. Hillyard got them into the cafe-bar and sat them down.
"Coffee for you, and iced beer for you", he said, briskly "I'll go and get 'em".
"Oh cheer up for God's sake", said Julian, seeing how wretched Adam looked "Don't let the morons ruin our whole day".
"I-I'm sorry, Jules", Adam stroked Julian's long, slender fingers "I don't know what comes over me at times".
"Your filthy little temper, that's what comes over you!" said Julian "You wait til I get you home!"
"O.K, but play it down to Lo-Lo, please", said Adam "He'll only get angry and brood on it, and I don't want that. He worries about me so much".
"You two are a nightmare to take out", said Hillyard, returning with a tray of drinks "I'd rather mind half-a-dozen Tamaz's than you two!"
"No you wouldn't", said Adam "Even we're not that bad!"
"It's a close-run thing though!" Hillyard retorted.
"Exactly what happened with those awful men, Adam?" Lonts asked, when they got back to the monastery.
"Nothing serious at all", said Adam, placatingly "Just a rather childish bit of name-calling".
Lonts looked dangerously unconvinced.
"Anyway, that's enough about my morning", said Adam, brightly "Tell me about yours instead".
"I had a game of tennis with Ransey", said Lonts, in a tone of voice that would have been more appropriate for beheading baby rabbits.
"Oh, who won?" said Adam.
"I did", Lonts growled "But I think he let me, so it doesn't count".
"I'll give you a game later", said Adam "Although I'm so rusty you'll probably have no trouble at all beating me".
"O.K", said Lonts, and then he suddenly exclaimed "I'm not a baby you know, I can be told things!"
"But I promise you that's all that happened!" said Adam.
"Then why did Julian say just now he was going to thrash the hide off you?!" said Lonts.
"You know what we're like", said Adam, awkwardly "Any excuse to give me a wallop!"
"Hm", Lonts stood up and fiddled with Snowy in the way he did when he was displeased "If I find out you've been keeping anything from me, Adam, I shall be very cross with you".
"Well that would make it all worthwhile!" said Adam, wryly.
Joby spent the afternoon working on the strawberry beds in the kitchen garden. He was helped by Bardin, who made a most striking-looking gardener, dressed as he was in a leather cap and a pair of semi-transparent black pantaloons, of the kind worn by male ballet-dancers when rehearsing.
At about 4 o'clock Joby went into the dormitory to have a wash-down in cold water. He found Adam in there, lying on the communal raised wooden pallets that were used as beds, dreamily picking at the edge of his mattress.
"You look dreadfully hot and tired, old love", he said.
"Yeah, it can hit you when you first come in from outside", Joby sat down beside him. Adam began to massage his shoulders and Joby groaned with pleasure.
"It seems to me you've done too much", said Adam.
"It's trying to keep up with Bardin that's the problem", said Joby "God, he's a hard worker! He's one of those people that once they get started there's no stopping 'em".
"I hope he's not missing the stage too much", said Adam.
"No, we were talking about that in fact", said Joby "He says he misses the Indigo Players a bit. He enjoyed directing, he says. Although I think he misses having Tamaz as an ingenue more than anything else!"
"Oh dear, he hasn't fallen for him has he?" said Adam.
"Don't everyone?!" Joby groaned "I think he has actually, but he wouldn't say as much to me. Probably thought I was gonna get jealous and tear his head off or summat".
"Well I hope he's sensible about it, and doesn't lead poor little Bengo a merry dance", said Adam.
"We're alright there", said Joby "He's got a lot more sense than I had at his age. He made me laugh. He said if he was a great director, Tamaz would be his muse!"
"Good lord", Adam laughed "Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly all over again! Perhaps he'll get his wish, and we'll revive the Indigo Players now and again, if only in memory of the dear old Indigo".
"That was great", said Joby, when Adam had finished kneading his shoulders "You'd make a brilliant masseur".
"You can return the favour now", said Adam.
"Eh?" said Joby.
"I need some cream rubbing into my butt", said Adam "It's sore".
"Oh you and Julian haven't been at it again!" said Joby.
"You'll find some cream in the bag where I keep Lo-Lo's talcum powder", said Adam, unbuttoning his shorts "Ideally I would have you as my hand-maiden all the time. You have such wonderfully capable hands, and I do love your delicious disapproval of me!"
"Strewth!" said Joby, when Adam had taken off his shorts "Does he have to go at it quite as heavy-handed as that?! I always thought the whole point of it was that it had to be done lightly!"
"Not with Jules", said Adam, lying face-down on the mattress "It's a good job the Arch-Pater can't see some of the things we get up to in his office sometimes!"
"It's not his office anymore is it?" said Joby, gently rubbing cream into Adam's behind "I should think they'll be staying up at Woll's place for good now".
"Yes I think so", said Adam "There's plenty of room, and I think Glynis will find it quite reassuring to have them there. It'll be quite a Medieval little community, and Glynis will make a wonderful chatelaine. It's what she was born for. I can just see her with her own herb garden. I've been thinking about our own future lately. We won't be able to stay up here come the winter, it'll be much too grim".
"Yeah I know", said Joby "I've only been living day-to-day though, I haven't given much thought to months ahead. I've been enjoying the present too much. I spose we'll just go back to the Town House for a while".
"I was thinking, as long as Glynis didn't mind, that we could divide our time between there and Woll's place", said Adam.
"You know she won't mind!" said Joby "But I don't wanna go back there. We'd go back to having separate bedrooms, and I've enjoyed the dorm here. And there's no privacy up there, the staff keep staring all the time".
"No it won't be like that", said Adam "That place is so huge we could easily have our own portion of it, with a dorm not bedrooms, and if we were self-contained, well the servants wouldn't need to bother us. I've thought of everything. Even if we can't stand the thought of another snow-bound winter there, then we can go back to Toondor Lanpin during that spell. What do you say, Joby?"
Joby burst into tears.
"It'll be wonderful", he cried.
"Oh come home", Adam pulled him down beside him "My melancholy boy!"
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