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That night there was a storm out to sea, and they heard the distant rumbles from the Bay. It also rained quite heavily, which was good news for filling the water-butts, but it meant it became stifling in the cabin with the windows shut. It was difficult to sleep, so they lit the lamps and played cards or talked.
Hillyard went to the stalls to check the horses weren't disturbed by the rumbles, and Joby went with him.
"I don't think anything would disturb these dozy nags", said Joby, leaning on the wooden partition.
"No, not even your dressing-gown!" said Hillyard "Hey, did you notice Bardin gets nervous during storms? You wouldn't think it of someone as level-headed as him would you?"
"Storms make me nervous in this area too", said Joby "Particularly as it's a full moon tonight as well".
"So?" said Hillyard "You're not a werewolf are you?"
"It was a storm and a full moon that affected us at Green Ways that time", said Joby "When we time-slipped, and Angel became possessed by the Devil".
"I thought that was a lunar eclipse actually", said Hillyard.
"Well it's all to do with the moon innit!" said Joby, impatiently "Everything's to do with the moon in this time. The Gorgon had full power at the time of the full moon, we can time-slip during full moons and lunar eclipses. It's all to do with the moon".
"And people go mad at the time of the full moon too", said Hillyard, facetiously "Like you for instance!"
"Finia says it's because I'm a Cancerian", said Joby, dourly "We have an affinity with the moon, 'cos we're ruled by it".
"You are a werewolf then!" said Hillyard.
"I'm being serious!" said Joby "I don't wanna go anywhere near that house on a night like this".
"No one's asking you too!" said Hillyard "I wouldn't want to be sleeping out in the forest in this either! Come on, let's go and find some drink".
The following morning dawned as calm and sunlit as all the others. As soon as he awoke Joby went across to the desk in the corner of the cabin and unearthed an almanack, which detailed phases of the moon down to exact dates and times. It was as he expected, there was to be another full moon tonight. The house in the forest would have to be avoided at all costs.
He got off the sloop and went along the wooden jetty to the clearing, where Ransey was frying eggs and slices of bread over the fire, and Julian was sitting in the hip-bath, smoking a cigar, whilst Finia trimmed his hair with his tapestry scissors. Joby was relieved to see that Kieran was reclining in one of the deckchairs nearby, but Tamaz though was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is he?" Joby barked.
"Good morning, Joby", said Adam.
"Our little ray of sunshine!" said Hillyard.
"Where's Tamaz?" said Joby, excitedly.
"He's with Mieps", said Adam "You made it known that you wanted Mieps to keep an eye on him today, so he is".
"Well where's Mieps then?" said Joby, in exasperation.
"They're both in the cottage", said Adam.
Joby ran into the stone building. At first he couldn't see anyone, but then he heard a pathetic whimper and a cry of "Somebody rescue me! Please!"
Tamaz was tied to one of the table-legs with a length of sheet, which had been so thickly twisted into a long sausage shape that Tamaz's arms stuck out at the sides of him like that of a doll.
"What happened?" said Joby, trying not to laugh.
"You don't need to ask that!" said Tamaz, sobbing with indignation "That vile old snake did this to me. It's one humiliation too many. I shall run away".
"That's probably why he tied you up", said Joby, kneeling on the hard floor next to him.
"Of course it was", said Mieps, coming in through the back door "You wanted him watched, so drastic measures were called for".
"I didn't expect you to tie him up!" said Joby.
"As we don't have a cage to keep him in anymore, this was the next best thing", said Mieps "I had to go into the bushes for a pee, and I didn't want him doing a runner whilst I was gone. I thought you might be thanking me. You were so anxious that he shouldn't go near that house!"
"I told you I wasn't going to go near it", Tamaz whimpered.
"Let's get him loose before Adam sees him", said Joby "Only he gets funny about this sort of thing".
This proved to be easier said than done. Mieps had knotted the sheet too well, and they were both still struggling to undo it when Adam, of all people, walked in.
"What are you, a Victorian governess?!" he cried "You'll be locking him in the cupboard next!"
"That's right, go giving him ideas!" Tamaz cried.
"Don't come asking me for help next time he's troublesome!" said Mieps.
The knot resisted all attempts to undo it, so Adam had to go and borrow Ransey's penknife and saw Tamaz loose. Once he was free Tamaz announced he was hungry, and ran outside to grab a slice of bread, which he crammed into his mouth as though Mieps had kept him starved for several days as well.
"Freaky doesn't seem too traumatised by it all anyway", said Julian, who was towelling himself dry.
"I'm not going to stay around here to be treated like this", said Tamaz, stuffing the remains of the bread into his mouth.
"You're leaving us are you?" said Julian "Well it's been interesting knowing you, Freaky. Hillyard, you'd better pack his drawers for him!"
"You can't send me away!" Tamaz protested "I'm in your lifelong custody. You can never get rid of me!"
"Don't we know it, Pixie-Face!" said Julian.
Joby came over to Tamaz and gently nibbled the end of his nose. Tamaz responded by throwing his arms round him and kissing him energetically.
"Normal service has been resumed!" said Julian.
There is little to say about the next few weeks at the Bay At The Edge Of The World. It was a continuous blur of happiness, in which it was all too easy to lose track of time, something that signifies more than any other a state of supreme contentment.
They did the requisite amount of work that was needed to make survival pleasent, such as cooking, lighting fires, filling lamps, tending the animals, and washing. Other than that they loafed. Occasionally they had spasms of great activity when they went hunting in the forest or fishing in the sea, or played ball-games on the beach, or danced to the gramophone, otherwise long stretches would go past with nothing happening at all.
To any cynics who think this way of life would jar in the end, well they couldn't be more wrong, and are obviously people who have become institutionalised by the world, brainwashed into thinking that perpetual motion, an endless cycle of work, is the only possible recipe for happiness. The human brain needs a considerable amount of stimulation, this is true, that is what makes us the most successful species on Earth, but they certainly got plenty of that, so a possibility of mental atrophy was never on the cards.
When the June full moon rolled around Joby got nervous again. Julian and Adam conferred, and both agreed they couldn't face him fretting and worrying about the dratted house in the forest for days on end, so they decided go to on a little trip. This was to take the sloop out beyond the lighthouse, and trundle up the coastline for a while, or at least until the moon had changed phase again, and it was safe to come back.
Back in Toondor Lanpin, Codlik and Glynis had arrived for a visit. They had offered to come and stay at the Town House every so often, just to keep the place ticking over. They arrived with 4 servants, who all tutted endlessly over the worn carpets, and the cigar-burns on the sofa. Codlik was quietly relieved they hadn't found Julian's extensive collection of pornographic novels as well, but as Julian had taken all these with him this wasn't very likely!
Codlik was a kind man at heart, and as such he felt only sympathy for the way his wife missed them all so much.
"Oh I expect we have to get used to this", said Glynis, one evening "It seems to be settling into a pattern. Every summer they disappear off somewhere".
"I expect they'll get it all out of their system one day", said Codlik "This mania for retreat and isolation".
"Yes", said Glynis "I just hope nothing happens to them. There are so many unexpected dangers in this world".
"It seems to me it all comes from the fact that they want to be alone", said Codlik "One day it might occur to them that they can be alone here too. That if all families ran to the ends of the Earth to be alone together, then the ends of the Earth would be even busier than here! You are like their mother, Glynis".
"Thank you, but I'm a good few years younger than some of them!" said Glynis.
"No, I mean in the way you worry about them", said Codlik.
"They looked after me quite a bit during the waterfront days", said Glynis.
"Did life seem simpler then?" said Codlik.
"I suppose so, in a way", said Glynis.
She could hardly tell him, not without hurting his feelings anyway, that there had been an edge to life in those days, which made waking up in the morning an exciting event.
But, in a moment of rare uncomfortable clarity, she now saw what the downside to all that edge had been. Not just the poverty, but the loneliness. That winter when she had taken rooms in town and would go for days on end without seeing a soul. And that, much as she loved the Indigo-ites, she had never been one of them. She knew she would probably have hated some of their experiences.
The best times had been before Tamaz had been let out of the cage, because in those days she had seen a lot more of Joby. But it was only now that she realised her happiness in those days had come at the cost of his. Whilst Tamaz was still in the cage, Joby had been haunted by him and his unresolved feelings for him. It was only after Tamaz had been let out, that Joby could accept the way he felt. Tamaz would always have been a spectre between them.
"The present suits me just fine", Glynis smiled at Codlik.
"You don't know who happy you've made me feel to hear you say that", said Codlik, emotionally.
The stretch of coastline to the north of the Bay was one of the most beautiful in the world. The pine forests had disappeared, and a flat, virginal landscape was fringed by a wide expanse of unsullied sugar-white sand, lapped by the startlingly blue ocean. It was the kind of place that could easily make you believe that no one had ever set foot there before.
They took the skiff ashore, and spent several hours just pottering among the sand dunes and swimming in the sea. Everyone was butt-naked, apart from Tamaz, who wore a baggy sky-blue teddy.
"Of course this is all very well", said Ransey, sitting with Adam and Julian on the beach "But you'd hardly like to get marooned here. No fresh water supply, no food, and no shade".
"Trust you to come out with that", Julian snapped "Ever the beaurocrat!"
"I don't mean anything by it", said Ransey "That's just the way my mind works".
"We could figure all that out for ourselves, Ransey", said Adam "Without spoiling the moment to do so".
"I know his sort", said Bardin, sitting on the sand just above them "A real Ministry man to his fingertips. We had one once come to visit the Cabaret of Horrors, and lecture us on proper safety precautions. you know, like the acrobats and trapeze artists had to use a safety net at all times, so that no one could ever break an arm or a leg".
"You mean he was trying to stop people hurting themselves?" Ransey exclaimed, sarcastically "Wha a thoughtless old meddler he must have been!"
"But that's showbusiness", Bardin shrugged "We promised the audience thrills and danger, and we could hardly do that if we used safety nets all the time! Anyway, all circus and vaudeville performers get injuries at some point. That's all part of it".
"Like the old saying that you can only call yourself an experienced horseman after you've fallen off 3 times", said Adam.
"Or you've only been accepted at school after you've been debagged and walloped with a slipper", said Julian.
"I might have expected that from you!" said Ransey "I was never debagged at school".
"No one would have dared", said Julian "You'd have probably shot them!"
"Who starts these crazy rituals?" said Finia "Why didn't anyone just say this is stupid and stop it?"
"Mob rule, old love", said Adam "The bullies like Jules enjoyed it all too much to allow it to be stopped".
"Figures", said Joby, shuffling over to them.
"Every community has its 'blooding' ceremonies", said Julian "And that was just ours, that's all. Even Ransey must have come across initiation rites in his time".
"No", said Ransey, stubbornly.
"We didn't have any either", said Bardin "But I expect that was because we already got enough humiliation on stage!"
"Adam", said Lonts "What are we having for dinner?"
"I don't know, I haven't thought if out yet", said Adam "I dread to think how much of my life has been taken up with planning meals, getting food in, preparing it, eating it. Quite frightening really".
"Stop complaining, Ada", said Julian, lying back against the sand as though it was a feather-bed "If that's all we have to concern ourselves with at the moment we're very lucky".
"But I wasn't complaining", said Adam, sleepily "Merely remarking that's all, merely remarking".
This trip had served a couple of useful purposes. One was to show them that they were in as beautiful an area as they could possibly get, and the other was to finally convince them that they were alone in the area. They returned to the Bay with the quiet, elated feeling that all this unspoilt beauty really was their's.
When the July full moon came round they planned another trip. By now though the house in the forest and its possible time-cusp dangers had become merely an excuse to find more beautiful locations to add to their rich store. This time they decided to explore in-land. They left the sloop anchored in the bay, and got out the hay-cart, which had been languishing in the hold, and harnessed the horses toit. They travelled down through the forest in an easterly direction, until they came to another in-land river. On the banks of this river, surrounded by shoulder-high flowers and plants, were the ruins of a large building which, according to an abandoned sign-post, had once rejoiced in the name of Midnight Castle.
Midnight Castle was like a beautiful relic of ancient times. Unlike the house in the forest, it had no sinister overtones. Whoever had once lived there had loved it deeply. Just about every small detail of the castle and its grounds was as enchanting as the location for a fairy-tale. From the toads the lined the stone steps which led down to the river, to the strawberries which could still be found in the old kitchen-garden.
"Whoever had this place must have found it very hard to leave it", said Adam, plucking a red berry off a nearby bush and popping it into his mouth "You can't sense anything evil here can you, Patsy?"
"No", said Kieran "But then I didn't sense anything about the house in the forest at first either. S'alright, don't look alarmed! I think this place is exactly what it looks like, a beautiful old home that hasn't been lived in for a while".
Adam smiled and kissed the top of Kieran's hair. They slipped their arms round each other's waists and strolled around the overgrown garden.
"Where are the young ones?" said Adam "They seem to have disappeared".
"I thought they'd get too excited", said Lonts, forbiddingly "So I told them to stay in the cart for a while".
"Oh Lo-Lo, you're far too strict with them", said Adam.
He and Kieran walked over to the broken-down gateway. The hay-cart was parked in the old driveway, which led out into the forest. Bardin, Bengo, Tamaz and Toppy were all sitting in the back of it, staring glumly at the castle.
"Come on now, you can get out", said Adam "I don't think Lo-Lo realises quite how fierce he sounds at times!"
"Nobody dares argue with Lonts", said Toppy, plaintively.
"I do", said Adam "Frequently!"
"I don't know what you're afraid of Lonts for", said Hillyard "He'd never hurt you".
"Well I spose he could sit on 'em", said Joby "That'd be pretty terrifying, like those old tortures where they used to crush people to death under a pile of rocks!"
Adam clipped Joby's ear and then went towards the castle. He found Mieps standing in the central hallway, which was completely circular with a staircase that wound up over and over again to the top in a giddying fashion.
"Awesome place", said Mieps, looking up the stairwell.
"Yes, but no good if you have vertigo", said Adam "Imagine trying to come down those stairs every morning if one had. It would be horribly easy for someone to fall to their death over the bannisters and crash on the stone floor here".
"I think someone did", said Mieps, bluntly "It may even have been a small child".
"Oh lor, how terrible", said Adam "No wonder they moved out. It would be impossible to stay here after that".
As often happens after being told a horrible fact about a place, its whole aspect changed, like an optical illusion. Whereas before, Adam had only seen the stark, elegant beauty of the staircase, the black and white marble floor, and the long, narrow tortoiseshell doors. Now he saw the coldness of it, the complete austerity of its beauty, the total lack of warmth.
He indicated for Mieps to follow him out of the building and they shut the main doors again. They found the others assembled in the back garden, with Hillyard forcing Julian into a deckchair.
"If we lived here, you could go back to being Lord Julian again", said Joby.
"I never was entitled to be called Lord Julian", said Julian "That would have been entirely Piers's privilege".
"Oh don't set him off on that one!" said Adam "Anyway, if we all lived here, we could all be lords".
"That should appeal to Joby and his Fred Kite mentality", said Julian.
"We could be Lord Adam, Lord Joby", said Adam "And Lord Hillyard has a very grand ring to it".
"Lady Tamaz", said Tamaz.
"No, that doesn't sound right at all!" said Julian.
"We'd sound like the Knights of the Round Table", said Joby "Sir Hillyard Screw-A-Lot!"
"Of Bedside Manor", Adam giggled.
"This is all very well", said Ransey "But where are we sleeping tonight?"
"Jules?" said Adam, questioningly.
"Well normally you'd all be badgering me to stay here", said Julian "But there seems to be a strange reluctance to do so".
"I think it'd be a bit too eerie after dark", said Joby "Some gardens give you the creeps during moonlight hours".
"Then I suggest we go back into the forest", said Julian "And set the teepee up in an appropriate spot".
This they did, picking a clearing by the river. Whilst Adam supervised the setting-up of the teepee, Julian walked around, eventually coming across Lonts, who had been assigned the task of cooling the bottled beer in the river. He was deep in thought as he did this, and Julian watched him from a discreet distance.
Lonts was a person who could never fail to fascinate. It wasn't just that his mind had such complex, hidden depths, but that his whole being and personality could have been so horrendously different. If he had never fallen in with Adam and Kieran and all the others, he might well have become the ill, perhaps potentially dangerous individual, that Angel had once predicted he would be. At one time Lonts could have so easily been a victim of schizophrenia, a condition that would have been exacerbated by his lone status in the world, condemned to be known by everyone as the Kiskev Survivor.
Angel hadn't reckoned on love and kindness though. Something which sounds horribly trite to say, but I'll damned if I make apologies for that. Everyone needs to belong somewhere, to someone, that is the basic human condition, but some need it even more. If Lonts had never had Adam or any of the others to love him, his life would have been an appalling, intolerable, lonely mess. Without them he would never have known kindness. He would have wondered the world, confused and isolated.
"Julian!" Lonts looked at him, startled "You're crying! What's wrong? I'll fetch Adam".
"No don't, he's busy", said Julian, sniffing "I'm just a silly old fool. I don't know how to say this, Lonts, but if anything happens to me or Adam, I mean we're not exactly young anymore, you will take care of yourself won't you? You will stay with the others".
"Yes", said Lonts "Where else would I go? I'd always want to be with my friends. I'd become ill again if I wasn't with any of you lot".
This was so close to what Julian had been thinking himself, that he felt spooked.
"You must never do that", said Julian, feeling horribly inadequate and awkward as he spoke "I-I don't know what I'm saying, but you should always be with one of us, or any of us. There's no reason why you shouldn't be. After all, we're not all going to ... to ..."
Julian stopped, appalled by what he was about to say. We're not all going to die on you. Kiskev still cast a long shadow.
"It's o.k, Julian", Lonts smiled "We're all together, whatever happens. When you're happy nothing can hurt you. People on the outside try, like the FFF. Adam said it was because they were jealous, and some people, like them, don't trust others who are happy, but that doesn't matter, not really".
"The likes of them have never mattered", said Julian.
The gramophone started up a short distance away, and it blended in perfectly with the evening.
"Those awful people couldn't take any of this away", said Lonts.
"Those awful people try to make it wrong for us to care for one another", said Julian, emotionally.
"Well they're wrong", said Lonts, emphatically "They couldn't be more wrong!"
He and Julian collected the beer bottles and went back to the clearing, where the teepee was still only half-erected.
"It'll be dark soon", said Ransey, portentously.
"Yes thank you, but I had worked that out for myself", Adam snapped "Stop fooling around you loathsome brats, and finish off the teepe or I shall get very cross indeed".
Bardin grabbed one of the shorter tent-poles and whacked Bengo across the backside with it. Bengo yelped, but Bardin grabbed his singlet and pulled him towards him to kiss him.
"The dinner will go over the fire if the tent isn't finished in exactly 10 minutes!" said Adam, and this had the desired effect.
"Kiel", said Joby, after dinner and after it had gone dark "I need to go to the karsey. Will you come with me?"
"We haven't got a karsey", said Kieran.
"Oh you know what I mean!" said Joby "I'd do the same for you!"
"I'll remind you of that about 3 in the morning", said Kieran.
They went into the bushes, and were both splashing away when Joby gave a start.
"I can hear a strange noise!" he gasped.
"Yeah, I wonder what it could be!" said Kieran, sarcastically.
"No listen", said Joby "Voices".
"Our lot", said Kieran, re-buttoning his flies.
"No it ent", said Joby, in exasperation "You're not even trying are yer? You've blocked yourself off".
"Of course I have", said Kieran "Do you think it's any fun being psychic? Sometimes I get brassed to bits with being able to pick up and sense everything that's going! Ignorance is bliss. I'm not like Mieps. I can't be all blunt and matter-of-fact about it".
Joby began to walk towards the grounds of Midnight Castle, from where he was convinced he could hear the soft murmuring of voices. Kieran gave a cry of alarm and chased after him. The garden was coated in that eerie shade of deep twilight, as though it was a picture tinted with indigo ink. There was no one and nothing there, just that strange, abandoned building, and the garden choked with shoulder-high flowers and weeds. But it was as if someone or something had bolted out of sight at their approach.
"What are you doing?" said Lonts, appearing suddenly behind them.
"I wish to God you'd stop doing that!" Joby yelled.
"Adam was worried about you, you've been gone for ages", said Lonts.
"Only a few minutes", said Joby.
"I'm sure it's longer than that really", said Lonts.
"That wouldn't surprise me", Kieran sighed "This whole area's a wee bit 'faery-haunted'. I expect time plays tricks here".
They left the inky garden and went back to the clearing, where Adam was holding a kerosene lamp, waiting for them anxiously.
"I do wish you wouldn't do that", he said "You didn't need to be gone that long just to answer the call of nature".
"Must be your cooking!" said Joby.
"Get in the tent", Adam ordered.
He stood back as the 3 of them bent low and filed into the teepee. He cast a suspicious look at the night before going in himself.
Everyone inside the tent groaned at the late-comers causing hassle as they got in. It wasn't long though before everyone settled down to sleep. As Joby was dropping off the action of falling asleep itself caused him to wake up again. Immediately he became aware that something was out of place, that someone was in the area who shouldn't be. He could hear someone stamping around the teepee outside, using loud, purposeful steps.
"Can you hear that, Joby?" Lonts whispered, lying next to him. He was clutching his little wooden crucifix in one hand.
"I'm not imagining it then?" said Joby, in a low voice.
"It reminds me of that time in Xuste", said Lonts "When that strange thing that Gabriel sent walked around our wagon".
"It's moving away", said Joby "Into the forest".
"Are we alright in here?" said Lonts.
"Seem to be", said Joby "It's left us alone ... for the time being anyway".
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