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The Family First Foundation (the 41st century's answer to the Klu Klux Klan) didn't go away as soon as everyone in Toondor Lanpin hoped. They were forcibly prevented by the Town Constable from having a march through the streets, which led to bitter outpourings by them in the local press that this was a restriction of free speech. No one paid any attention to such blitherings. Their leader, a 30-ish individual by the name of Noah, often tried to get Myrtle (whose hotel they were staying in) engaged in conversation, but she was too busy to play ball.
"I understand you once got up a campaign to run Kieran and his mob out of town", said Noah "You must have felt strongly against them to do that".
"It was all a long time ago", said Myrtle, crisply.
"Only 2 years, by all accounts", said Noah.
"A lot can happen in 2 years", said Myrtle, and promptly walked away from him to go and have a saner conversation with her chief steward.
The Festival was scheduled this year to span the summer solstice. Hawkefish, who was in charge of production, was determined that it would be a 100 times better than the previous year's rather flat effort. He was disturbed (as were many others) by the FFF's decision to stay for it though. This could only mean trouble.
"Why do we allow such people to cast such a shadow over us?" he raged at the Town Constable "Why don't we stand up to such evil from the outset?"
"Because so far they haven't actually done anything we can stand up against", said the Constable "Nothing open anyway. Sooner or later though these sort always reveal their true colours for everyone to see. Then we'll get 'em".
"I sincerely hope so", said Hawkefish "Some of my women performers are already saying they won't appear if any of them are in the audience. They feel very strongly about it. And it will be a disaster if there are no women in the show".
"I know", said the Constable "But at the moment we can't run them out of town just because we don't like them. That would make us no better than them".
Meanwhile the young men of the FFF were getting bored in Toondor Lanpin. Deprived of their customary luxurious lifestyle, they squealed about having to put up with "unnecessary squalor", which didn't exactly fit in with the tough outlaw men image they liked to cultivate. They had been barred from Lady Lucasta's establishment after getting drunk and disorderly once too often, and now that they had been deprived of the town's chief attraction there was little to keep them occupied. Noah still went on about looking for suitable premises for their new HQ, but even he could see there was now remarkably little enthusiasm for this plan. Noah's favourite phrase when anyone tried to give him advice or to offer an alternative viewpoint was to say waspishly "I don't give a shit!" He was saying this rather a lot these days.
He was sitting on his balcony overlooking the main street one hot June morning when he saw the hay-cart belonging to the Indigo-ites rumble past below. Hillyard was driving it, and Joby was sitting next to him on the box. As they passed Joby glanced up from under his billed cap. The look from his grey eyes was distinctly hostile.
He and Hillyard finished collecting their provisions, and were returning along the causeway across the marshes when Joby glanced behind him and noticed they were being followed.
"It's that bunch of fascist jerks!" he cried, in dismay "All of 'em! Oh shit!"
"Don't panic", said Hillyard "I doubt they can catch us up, and if they do we can always take the horsewhip to 'em".
"Why the fuck can't people just leave us alone?" Joby groaned.
"You worry too much", said Hillyard.
"A bunch of neo-Nazi thugs are on our tails, of course I'm worried!" said Joby.
Hillyard gave an amused chuckle.
"What's so fucking funny?" Joby squawked.
"They're nothing", said Hillyard "I doubt they're going to want to get into a fight with us, they might get their smart clothes dirty. Can't have that!"
"You're a dork, Hillyard!" said Joby, in angry exasperation "A complete dork!"
"You carry on calling me names like that and I'll put you in the back with the lettuces", said Hillyard, amiably.
They got back up to the monastery. Ransey and Lonts were waiting at the yard-doors to unload the cart, and saw the pursuers at once.
"Bolt the doors", said Hillyard, jumping down from the box "That lot are trouble".
Lonts hurriedly helped Ransey to push the huge doors shut and then barred them.
"We'll be o.k now", said Hillyard, when Julian came down from his office to see what the fuss was about "They'd need a battering-ram to get through them, and there's no other way in".
"But what if they've got one?" said Lonts, saucer-eyed.
"I think we'd see it if they had one!" Joby snapped.
"I don't think they're going to attack", said Ransey, looking through the iron view-grille in the door "They've stopped a short way down. I think they mean to intimidate us by sitting across our path down there".
"Oh I see", said Julian "A siege situation. Well they'll get bored with it before we do! Right, no one open's those doors until further notice. Anyone who does will incur my gravest wrath".
"Little things amuse little minds", said Ransey, giving the FFF's one final dismissive glance. He then looked up at the high stone walls which surrounded them, as though to make sure they hadn't shrunk at all "We're fine here. This place makes a magnificent fortress".
"Told you we'd be o.k didn't I?" said Hillyard, patting Joby's bottom.
The afternoon passed in a surprisingly pleasent fashion. The FFF increased their numbers, but only to a total of a couple of dozen at a time. It really did seem as though they were trying to intimidate by squatting a short way down from the monastery walls and simply watching. Unfortunately their tacts backfired because unless the occupants of the monastery actually went up onto the old battlement viewpoints at the top of the walls, they couldn't see what was going on outside. The "out of sight out of mind" theory had never rung more true.
Inside the monastery life was positively tranquil in its midsummer serenity. The Indigo-ites had their main meal of the day late afternoon, and Adam took his time preparing it, assisted by Lonts, as Joby had disappeared up into the hay-loft in the stables with Kieran. Adam jokingly raged that Joby (his "galley-slave") obviously needed more discipline, but he enjoyed working with Lonts and this enabled him to stop worrying about the "barbarians at the gate", as he called the FFF.
Mieps walked into the dormitory just before dinner, to find Tamaz sorting out his underwear collection. He was counting his knickers like a mother-cat counting her kittens, to make sure all were still there.
"I've just been up on the battlements", said Mieps.
"Are they still out there?" said Tamaz, in a distracted fashion.
"Hopeless", said Mieps "They are, I mean. Fancy starting a siege just AFTER we've got fresh supplies in! Julian was right, chances are they'll get bored long before we will".
"We've got tons of tins and things anyway", said Tamaz, folding his drawers methodically "So don't worry about it".
"You have such beautiful eyes", said Mieps, raising Tamaz's face up to meet his "It's hard to think of anything else when I'm with you".
Tamaz stuck out his long tongue, and they playfully engaged in flicking their tongues at each other, which was the closest Ghoomers ever came to foreplay.
"I want you to play the woman today", Tamaz whispered "Please".
"I've never done it that way before", said Mieps, nervously "It never seemed very exciting".
"You just don't know how much you can feel that way", said Tamaz "You'll discover parts of yourself you never knew existed. I'll show you".
Everyone erupted into the refrectory like a pack of hounds being released from captivity. Bengo and Bardin came in via the window which looked out onto the kitchen-garden at the back. The other windows overlooked the sheer drop down the north side of the mountain, so it was perfectly safe to have the casements open without fear of being invaded by the men of the FFF.
"Where are the freaks?" said Julian, sitting in the carved Arch-Pater's chair at the head of the table "Everyone else is here but them".
Mieps and Tamaz came in about a minute later.
"We hadn't gone anywhere", said Tamaz, when Julian admonished them for being laggardly in appearing.
"Apparently not", said Julian "But I didn't trust you not to have sneaked out and taken on those vultures yourselves".
"We wouldn't dare upset you", said Mieps, with the mildly tipsy air of one who had just been sexually satisfied.
"Hm", said Julian "Freaky, come and sit near me, where I can keep an eye on you".
"We've made honey-cakes for afters", said Lonts.
"Anything for befores?" said Julian.
"Seafood salad with quails eggs", said Adam.
"Quails eggs!" said Julian "I haven't had those in years!"
"We had to be very careful when making them", said Lonts "Exactly 30 seconds to be soft-boiled. Adam said you couldn't stand them hard-boiled".
"This is all very well", said Ransey, forking a substantial quantity of red-leafed lettuce onto his plate "But we need a plan to deal with that lot out there".
"I have a plan", said Julian, importantly "We do absolutely nothing".
"That's it is it? That's your plan?!" said Ransey, sarcastically "Well that must have taken you hours of concentrated thought to come up with that one!"
"Now listen to me, Four-Eyes", said Julian "The biggest weapon we have on our side is boredom. We won't get bored in here, but they will sure as hell get bored out there, and very quickly too. These are the type of young guys who need constant new thrills and excitements, and the buzz of intimidating us, when they get no response at all, is going to wear off very quickly indeed".
"It is precisely because they are like they are that we need to be careful", said Ransey, insistently "We have to be prepared for the fact that they may try to get in here somehow".
"Using a battering-ram probably", said Lonts.
"I wish you'd stop going on about battering-rams", said Joby.
"If they come in we'll turn the goats on them", said Adam.
Ransey gave a moan of frustration.
"If they get in here", said Julian, with forced patience "We will sort them out. They think we're a bunch of ineffectual old pansies, well they'll get a nasty surprise won't they?! We are not without resourcefulness. What I'm saying is if they want a showdown then they have to come to us, not the other way round".
"Mieps said they must be stupid for starting a siege AFTER we've got fresh supplies in", said Tamaz.
"Because they decided to come up here on the spur of the moment that's why", said Julian "They saw Hillyard and Joby in town this morning, and they thought here's something to do, we'll go up to the monastery and annoy the faggots! They haven't thought any of this through at all".
"I bet they're out there thinking it through now", said Ransey, in a doom-laden voice.
"I think the heat's making you tired, old love", said Adam.
"Probably", said Ransey, glumly.
"I reiterate", said Julian "For the time being, we do nothing. We ignore them. So no going up onto the battlements and taunting the bastards, it'll only give them something to pass the time, and that's the last thing we want! We want them so wretched with boredom they'll go slinking back to Krindei in a haze of despondency, vowing never to come here again. Tinker Belle, you've been remarkably silent all through this conversation. What is your considered opinion?"
"I agree with you on everything", said Kieran, serenely.
Julian looked at him with acute distrust.
"Good grief", he said, eventually "Joby, what have you done to him this afternoon?!"
"That'd be telling", Joby smiled.
Later that evening they all went to the monks' communal bath-house for a relaxing bathe. This part of the monastery managed to avoid any kind of institutional feel, which was quite remarkable. Decorated throughout with white tiles, and with a broad sweep of steps leading down into the pool-sized bath, it was more irresistably reminiscent of a Roman bath, than any kind of religious wash-house.
"I do feel just like a Roman senator sitting here", said Adam, dangling his feet in the water, whilst playing backgammon with Julian "Like Laurence Olivier in 'Spartacus'".
Julian was preoccupied though, watching Kieran swimming languidly up and down the pool.
"That demented Irishman is up to something", he said, suspiciously.
"Nonsense", said Adam "I don't get that feeling at all. He's just contented. He and Joby had a good time in the hay this afternoon".
"It's never left him this quiet before!" Julian exclaimed.
"Really I honestly think that's all it is, Jules", said Adam "Patsy doesn't seem preoccupied to me, just very relaxed".
"Even so, keep an eye on him", said Julian "Just in case he has any ideas of going out there and confronting them on his own".
"He won't", said Joby, as he walked past them.
"You seem very sure of that", said Julian, accusingly.
"I've told him not to even consider the idea", said Joby, sitting down on the side of the bath just prior to sliding in "So he'll do as he's told".
"Well!" said Adam, delightedly, after Joby had got into the water "Joby seems to have got the knack of controlling Patsy at long last! All my years of careful instruction have finally paid off!"
"I find it hard to believe anyone can truly control that evil leprechaun!" said Julian, shaking the dice in an aggressive manner "He merely humours us for a while and lulls us into a false sense of security".
Mieps woke up at around 2:00 AM to hear sounds of raucous, drunken laughter coming from the encampment outside. Quietly, he drew out the dagger he kept under his pillow and kept it in his hand for the rest of the night. Just over an hour later Ransey suddenly sat up and buckled on his revolver holster. It was fully daylight by now, and the drunken noises outside had been replaced by the birdsong of the dawn-chorus.
"What are you up to?" said Julian, sitting up in his space, the head of which abutted onto Mieps's.
"I thought now was a good time to go up onto the battlements and have a look at what they're doing out there", said Ransey "How well they're prepared, that sort of thing".
"I'll come with you", said Hillyard, getting off the bench "Julian, you stay here. We can't afford anything to happen to you".
"That is the most outrageous bit of flattery I've ever heard!" said Julian.
"Alright, I'll make it an order from one old friend to the other", said Hillyard "You stay here until we get back!"
He and Ransey left the room. Julian noticed Mieps was watching him with abject curiosity.
"What do you think you're staring at?" he snapped "Go back to sleep!"
"They've got a small fucking armoury out there!" said Hillyard, peering over the battlements.
Some way below them the FFF's had set up camp, complete with tents and all the other essentials of bivouacking. Arranged in neat tripods were rifles and sten guns, in the manner of storage normally favoured by big-game hunters on safari.
"Shit, they don't mean to shoot us all, surely?!" Hillyard continued, in disbelief "How can they think they're going to get away with it for one thing? I don't know what you think you've got to smile about, I really don't!"
"Hillyard", said Ransey, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder "It's all part of the intimidation, don't you see? I bet they don't even know how to fire those guns! Do you remember those sad jerks who used to go on Machen's safari's? Fat businessmen pursuing doped lions? These are just like them. They are playing at being outlaws, he-men. They are the archetypal bullies".
"Maybe", said Hillyard "But I'd like a bit more proof of that before we confront them".
"Oh we can wait, for a few more days anyway", said Ransey "And then, if they're still here, we'll start a little intimidation programme of our own".
"A sabotage campaign!" said Hillyard, brightly "The freaks'd be good at that".
"No, Tamaz stays in here, behind these walls", said Ransey, firmly.
"But he'd be perfect at it", Hillyard protested.
"I don't care", said Ransey, and then he added awkwardly "Finia would never forgive me if anything happened to him. He's got very fond of him lately".
"O.K O.K", said Hillyard, placatingly "We'll think of something else".
"Toppy, for God's sake concentrate", Julian barked, as Toppy tried to shave him a few hours later. A feat made almost impossible by his nervousness.
"I can't help it", Toppy wailed "I keep thinking of those men outside and I get so afraid!"
"Alright, I'll finish off myself", said Julian, pushing the razor away "The state you're in I'd feel more safe with Freaky doing it! Go over to the cook-house and give Adam a hand instead".
Toppy left the bath-house and ran across the sun-baked courtyard to the kitchen, where Joby and Adam were in the process of frying omelettes for breakfast.
"Well perhaps you could go and help Lo-Lo lay the table in the dining-room", said Adam, when Toppy explained his predicament to him.
Toppy balked at this idea. In his current state of nervousness he knew he was bound to drop things, and he felt he couldn't bear Lonts's impatient bellowing at him.
"Then make some coffee", Adam sighed.
"Ransey was saying we've got nothing to be afraid of from them jerks", said Joby "They only wanna play at being he-men or summat. A bit like your old frontiersman fantasies, Ad".
"Yes, not that they ever came to anything", said Adam "I always wanted to be a macho man, and instead I practically end up wearing a frilly pinny and rubber gloves! It's all entirely Julian's fault".
"Nah, you'd have hated it any other way", said Joby "You never enjoyed being in charge very much, whereas he does".
"Oh I know, it's infuriating", said Adam "He knows me too damn well that's the trouble. But sometimes I would like to be not quite so much of the dominated wimp".
"You, a wimp?!" Joby exclaimed "That's certainly not how I've ever looked at you! You've always scared me too much for that!"
"And I'm very glad I have", said Adam, gently patting Joby's bottom with the spatula.
"Hey!" Tamaz shouted from the doorway "There's someone at the yard-doors, wants to come in!"
"Well I hope you haven't let them", said Adam.
"What do you take me for?!" Tamaz cried, with indignation "Anyway there's no reason to get worried even if I had. It's only that weird git, Jonner".
"Jonner!" said Joby, in astonishment "What's he doing up here? How did he get up here?"
"He said he cycled", Tamaz shrugged.
"I mean, how did he get past the fascist jerks?" said Joby.
"Why don't you come out and ask him?" said Tamaz, impatiently "I don't know why I'm supposed to know everything all of a sudden!"
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