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Aspiriola, the town by the sea, was a marked improvement on the gloomy village in the forest, with its doom-laden inhabitants. The town was a bee-hive of activity, a bit like Pepuaah, only on the coast and with a mixed-gender population.
Like a lot of large towns, wealth and style rubbed shoulders with squalor. White-painted walls towered above filthy streets. The men of the town out-numbered the women considerably, and the women were so dowdy and lacking in spirit that they struggled to make any visual impact at all. For decades they had lived out of sight, or only went out into the streets disguised as men and boys, like the women of Toondor Lanpin, but unlike them, the women of Aspiriola seemed strangely reluctant to grasp their new-found freedom and make use of it. In spite of their presence the town still had an old-fashioned male-only air about it.
The Indigo-ites sttered their cart through the rabble, with Ransey riding alongisde on the largest donkey, with the little, dopey one tethered to the back of the cart by his bridle, to keep him going in the right direction. They had to find somewhere to pitch for the night, and Bardin asked an old woman who was carrying firewood if there was anywhere suitable. She looked terrified out of her wits at being spoken to, and directed them in a whisper to the waterfront.
This was one of the most attractive parts of the town. A long, broad sweep of white steps swept down to the sea, where several fishing-boats were coming in. Young boys carried baskets of fish on their backs up the steps.
The pitching-place was situated along the harbour road, just outside an archway which led into the Pleasure Gardens. The town's bath-house was nearby, and a communal brick-stove in the centre of the road was for the use of all those camping there.
At the sight of it Adam lost patience completely. The bustle and din in the centre of the town had got throroughly on his nerves, he simply wasn't used to it anymore. And now he was expected to cook a meal for everyone, whilst jostling for space with a bunch of complete strangers at an outdoor stove. He dragged Kieran round the back of the hay-cart and tore him off a strip.
"Why are we here?" he said "You've led us here with some mythical promise of great wonders, which we don't want!"
"Leave him alone", said Joby, pushing Adam aside "It's not Kieran's fault".
"Yes it is", said Adam "It's his fault we're here in this Godforsaken town, when we would be back home at the Bay".
"Stop carrying on like such an old fairy!" said Joby "You're just having a tantrum 'cos you've seen the stove, that's all!"
Adam looked mutinous, and stormed off in the direction of the Pleasure Gardens. Julian shouted and went after him.
"Are you alright?" said Joby "At least he doesn't go giving you black eyes these days!"
"We'd better go after him", said Kieran.
"Yeah", Joby sighed "By the time we've caught up with him he'll be all penitent".
Tamaz cornered them as they were about to leave. He was still sulky with Joby and spoke to him in a very surly fashion.
"I'm going to a bar with the clowns and Toppy", he said.
"Well don't go too far", said Joby "And be careful".
Tamaz was wearing a baggy shirt and trousers, an outfit which effectively hid his feminine bits. The only trouble was he now looked like a very pretty young boy, which was a cause for even more worry!
"Be back within the hour", said Joby.
"We'll see", said Tamaz.
"Tamaz!" Joby exclaimed.
"Alright", said Tamaz, reluctantly.
"ADAM!" Julian bellowed, in a desperate attempt to halt his friend in his tracks.
Adam collapsed onto a park-bench and began a noisy attack of self-recrimination, intersperced with words of self-justification. At times like these he bore a striking personal resemblance to Lonts.
"Have you finished yet?" said Julian, eventually.
"I shouldn't have taken it out on Patsy", said Adam, miserably "That was rotten of me".
"Oh I expect he thoroughly enjoyed it", said Julian "Anyway, it is all his fault we're here. This trip seems to have done nothing more than show me how old and decrepit I'm getting. Bardin keeps looking at me as though he's wondering how much longer the old crock can continue, and the others treat me like their ailing grandfather!"
Adam laughed. They sat surveying the scene for a while. The Pleasure Gardens were really very nice, but startlingly only seemed to be frequented by men. Which was all the more surprising as the whole area was innocuous enough, with coloured lights, beer-stalls, and soft music floating through the trees. Then Adam noticed that some of the men were gravitating towards a large gap in the hedge.
He and Julian followed them, and found out the real reason why the Pleasure Gardens were so-called. An area of orchard had been set aside for more boisterous male enjoyments. Silk carpets were spread out on the grass, and naked men were wrestling each other, or even openly buggering one another.
"It's all quite stylish really", said Adam, breathlessly "Almost enough to take my mind off that ghastly stove!"
"Adam, don't look now", said Julian "But here's something that'll raise their temperature levels even more".
Lonts had followed them into the orchard, and was striding towards them with Snowy under his arm. Several men had turned to look at him.
"There are a few jaws dropping to the floor", said Julian, crossly "He couldn't look more pornagraphic if he wore a sign saying 'bugger me'!"
Kieran and Joby were with him. Kieran had hidden his distinctive yellow locks under a floppy-brimmed hat, but all 3 of them were causing ripples of disturbance all around.
"What are you 3 doing here?" said Adam "Can't you see what kind of a place this is?!"
"You shouldn't have brought the boy here", said Julian.
"Leave it out!" said Joby "No one's gonna mess with him are they! He's not a little kid anymore".
"He insisted on coming with us to look for Adam", said Kieran "We didn't know you were in a ... in a ..."
"Pervert's paradise", said Joby.
"Come along Lo-Lo", said Adam, grabbing his hand and scowling at a nearby lecher "I'm taking you back to the camp".
"Where the stove is waiting for you!" Joby sniggered.
"You really are asking for a good spanking, Joby!" said Adam.
"Not here of all places, please!" said Joby, which made Kieran roar with laughter.
"They're wrestling", said Lonts, looking at the clearing ahead "We should have brought Hillyard with us. He likes wrestling".
"Hillyard would think he'd died and gone to Heaven!" said Kieran.
"I hope this isn't it", Joby said to him "What we've come all this way for! This isn't our prize is it?"
"I wouldn't drag you all this way just to look at men's naked arses!" said Kieran "Not when we've got more attractive ones closer to home".
"Yes", said Julian "Good job Bengo's not here".
"We'd better keep an eye on the younger ones whilst we're in this town", said Adam.
"Ah", said Joby, guiltily "They've ... um .. they've all gone out boozing".
"Oh dear", said Adam, solemnly.
The notice outside the noisy bar read "NO WOMEN ALLOWED".
"Why?" said Bengo.
"More importantly, does Tamaz count as a woman?" said Bardin "If so, we can't go in".
"Now listen, I've just about had it with you lot!" said Tamaz, stamping his foot "I'm sick of you lot trying to make me into a woman. I had to put up with it last night, well I'm not tonight!"
With that he pushed open the door and marched into the rowdy mixture within. Bardin was beside himself with fury. He stamped after him, fully intending to haul Tamaz out by the scruff of his neck if necessary. When he had fought his way through the beery throng, he found Tamaz sitting at one of the few free tables.
"We're in now", he whispered, insistently "And no one's got funny with me. You'll cause more of a scene if you drag me out again, particularly if I kick and scream!"
"You haven't heard the last of this, you little sod!" said Bardin.
"Perhaps you should get us some drinks, Bardy", said Bengo.
"Tamaz is right, we're here now", said Toppy, who was scared shitless by the sight of some of the customers, but he was anxious to earn Brownie points from his goddess by siding with him.
Bardin could see this and was even more furious. Nonetheless he went to the bar and ordered 4 whiskies. He was astounded to be served by a naked woman who crouched on all fours on the bar-top. Evidently bar-maids didn't fit into the 'No Women Allowed' rule! In the corner of the room a boisterous group were performing a beer-stained honky-tonk piece, which called for a lot of raucous punishment of the guitar, drums and piano.
Bardin took the drinks back to his group, and the glasses were drained immediately. This meant he had to make another trip to the bar very shortly, and this added to his air of grievance. He got doubles this time, and ordered them to drink at a more measured pace.
"You have to be drunk in a place like this", said Bengo, simply.
(This naturally begged the question as to whether anyone would want to come into it if they were stone-cold sober, and thus in their right mind!).
Triples followed the doubles, and Bardin was persuaded to get up by Bengo and perform a singing spot with the band. This he did very well, and with an accomplished foot-jig during the instrumental bits. This seemed to get the audience even more excited. Indeed, one member got so much so that he noticed Tamaz's small breasts poking against the front of his shirt.
A Neanderthal cry went up of "WOO-MUN! WOO-MUN!" Several hands reached out to grab Tamaz at once. They attempted to lift him into the air amidst cries of "Strip her! Strip her!" The clowns battled for Tamaz's honour, with Toppy looking panic-stricken. Somehow Bengo and Bardin managed to get Tamaz out of everyone's grasp, and the 4 of them ran straight for the door, only to be met by the Town Guards coming in.
Adam and the others got back to the Beggar's Pitch, as they nicknamed their new home, to be faced with the dismaying sight of Hillyard manning the stove. He had successfully scared away all the other pitch-holders by asking Mieps to sit on the brick-surround. Mieps's daunting expression was enough the cow even the most belligerent of campers.
"Why didn't I think of that?" said Adam.
"You see", said Hillyard, indicating the food cooking and the newly-erected teepee "This is what happens when you leave everything to the brains of the family! Where have you lot been anyway?"
"The Pleasure Gardens", said Julian, dryly.
"Oh yeah?" said Hillyard "Any good?"
"You wouldn't like it at all", said Adam.
"Dead boring", said Joby "What are you cooking? Is it food?"
"Yeah", said Hillyard, defensively.
They were all trying to think of a way of getting out of eating it, when two men from the Town Guards turned up to inform them that the BBTTs had been involved in a "frak-arse" in one of the local hostelries.
"I might've known", said Julian, angrily "Adam, fetch my punishment kit".
"The young lady really shouldn't have been in there", said one of the Guards.
"Tamaz is not and never could be a young lady!" said Julian "A little savage more like!"
"We have to rescue them", said Lonts, firmly "We can't leave Tamaz in prison, and Toppy'll be terrified!"
"There's no need for long-term detention", said one of the men "We just need two of you to come along and swear to their good character".
"Why don't we just leave them in overnight?" said Ransey "It'd be easier!"
Adam decided to go along, and ordered Hillyard to come with him. He said this was because Hillyard was the one least likely to lose his temper with them. In reality it was so that Joby could finish cooking the dinner!
The Criminals' Compound was like a holding-pen for stray dogs. The BBTTs had had their own clothes removed before being put in it, for de-lousing purposes. In the meantime they had been given sackcloth tunics to wear. When Hillyard walked in to identify them they were huddled in a far corner of the Compound, with the clowns and Toppy standing round as a barricade to Tamaz.
"Look what they gave us to wear!" said Tamaz, indignantly, when they were let out.
"Shut up, Freaky", said Adam, who was waiting for them in the Town Constable's office "What do we have to do now, Officer?"
"There are forms to sign", said the Officer, with grim satisfaction.
"I had a feeling there might be", Adam sighed.
"There's enough of 'em!" said Hillyard, turning over several pages "They've only been in here a couple of hours!"
"When do we get our clothes back?" said Tamaz.
"When they've been de-loused", said the Constable.
"We'll collect those in the morning", said Adam "We'll take them home as they are. If there's a problem with that, we'll pay for the cost of their ... um ... sack outfits. Unless you'd rahter we took them there naked?"
"I'm only doing my job", said the Officer, miffed at Adam's tone "But the hermaphrodite shouldn't have been in the bar. It said specifically 'no women', and that applies to 'her' as much as anyone".
"Well I think it's a bloody silly rule", said Adam "And completely unacceptable in this day and age. You would never get away with it in Toondor Lanpin. Hilly, have you finished there?"
"Yeah", said Hillyard, signing the last page.
"O.K, you'd better take Tamaz and Toppy", said Adam "I'll follow on with the clowns".
Hillyard led the two youngest ones of the police station. Adam went to collect the clowns and found them mooning at the captives still left in the Compound on the other side of the wire. Adam slapped both their arses very firmly, and took them away.
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