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By Sarah Hapgood

Ransey had taken Codlik up on deck for coffee, where they passed the time making general conversation about the sloop, distracted all the while by Mieps, who was having a bath nearby. Codlik was increasingly tormented by the sight of Mieps soaping his breasts.

Farnol and Rumble had lingered in the background, fairly awed (even though they would never have admitted it) by the presence of a former President in their midst. They had heard an awful lot about Codlik, and from the Indigo-ites very little of it had been complimentary. All they knew themselves was that Codlik had turned up inconveniently. In only a very short time they had become assimilated into the group, and they wanted to live with the others on a normal day-to-day level, not to have to put up with complete strangers arriving and disrupting things.

Loud voices from the harbourside meant that the others were approaching. The skirt of Tamaz's white petticoat gleamed in the morning sunshine.

"If we go back out to sea", he was saying "And the weather gets really rough, I'll have to wear that stupid oilskin coat. I hate it. It makes me look like a halfwit, as though I've just been let out of somewhere".

"Sometimes I wonder why I let you out of the cage", said Joby, as they ascended the gangplank.

"Don't be silly, Joby", said Lonts "You had to. We couldn't still have Tamaz in the cage. We'd have to tow it everywhere with us, and that would be really inconvenient".

Once aboard Tamaz danced around Farnol, who batted him away good-naturedly. Mieps barked at Tamaz to behave, drying himself off with a towel and visibly wincing from back pain.

"He's been at it in the hold again", said Tamaz "He never learns. That always brings his backache on".

"If you go and lie down in the cabin, Mieps", said Farnol "I'll come down and rub some engine oil into you!"

"Washing-up liquid?" Joby suggested.

"You snored last night", said Mieps, pointing at Farnol.

"He snores every night", said Rumble.

"Don't worry, Mieps", said Kieran "Tonight you won't be able to hear him above Joby!"

Adam ordered Joby into the galley to peel some potatoes.

"What, now?" said Joby "I was hoping to catch up on me sleep".

"You had enough sleep last night", said Adam "I heard it directly in my ear! Farnol, you can pop along and help him".

"Me?" said Farnol, in disbelief.

"Oh yes", said Adam "I'm afraid if you want to stay with us ..."

"No it's not that", said Farnol "You see, I'm no good at kitchen-work at all. That's always been Rumble's department".

"Well for today it's going to be yours", said Adam.

His private logic for this order was that Codlik's unexpected presence was bound to put Julian in the foulest of tempers, and when he was like that he usually singled out someone to vent it on. Adam had the uncomfortable feeling that Farnol's amiable loquacity would be bound to fit the bill, and so it was best if he was hidden away out of sight.

He was right to be cautious. Codlik went down to the cabin to talk to Adam and Julian, and within a few minutes he and Julian were at daggers drawn, chucking insults at each other like a couple of fishwives. Codlik had been following some of the more bizarre events in the Village for a while now, and the tales of people mysteriously disappearing, plus the phantom drink-spiker had worried him greatly. In his own genuine desire to help he had flown down to try and persuade the Indigo-ites to return to the safety of Woll's once and for all.

"You've made your point ..." he said.

"What point?" Julian snapped "We're not making any points, except perhaps the point that we want to live as we choose".

"You don't have to come to Godforsaken places to make that one", said Codlik, sounding like a nanny addressing a troublesome charge.

"We are only here because the hurricane season is in progress back home at the Bay", said Adam.

"Oh yes, the Bay", said Codlik, pursing his lips "That Place".

"What do you mean, THAT place?" said Julian, crossly "If progress and civilisation had been left to the likes of you, Codlik, we would all still be living in trees!"

"The Bay is the epitome of progress and civilisation is it?" said Codlik "From what I've heard it doesn't sound like it. Now I will say this, whether you like it or not, it's high time you all grew up. There comes a time when everyone has to face that fact, and you are well overdue for it!"

There was a very real fear that Julian would have swun for him, but fortunately he was stalled by a rough scraping sound on the door. Adam opened it to find the billy-goat trying to get an invite inside by scraping his horns against the woodwork. Adam shooed him away.

"That was a case in point", Codlik continued "You all live in a way that would be completely unacceptable to most civilised human beings".

"Well as you told us once before", said Julian, gravely "We're all a bunch of freaks aren't we!"

"Your home is on the estate with us", said Codlik, after a disconcerted pause "That is what Woll would have wanted".

"Codders, old love", said Adam "Why are you so anxious for us to go back there? I find it hard to understand. All we ever do is upset you. I would have thought you'd be only too glad for us to stay away. And sweet of you though it is to be so concerned about us, I fail to see why it merits you coming all this way. You've gone to a great deal of trouble".

"He's always going to a great deal of trouble to come and nag us", said Julian, acidly.

"Shut up, Jules", said Adam "I want to get to the bottom of this".

"I need to go and arrange some accommodation for myself in town", said Codlik, evasively "Can you recommend anywhere?"

"Yes, the place we used last night is very good", said Adam, still confused "The Golden Compass. If you're quick you might get the room we had".

"Let's hope they've changed the sheets!" said Julian.

"Julian!" said Adam.

"I am not going to be nice to him!" said Julian, wilfully "He ponces in here and lectures us ... I'm too old to be lectured on correct behaviour!"

Adam ushered Codlik out. He invited him to join them for dinner later on the sloop, not expecting that Codlik would accept, and was amazed when he did.

"Jules, I know it's asking a lot", said Adam, once they were alone "But I think we've got to try a little to understand him. That man is deeply unhappy, I can tell".

"Serves him right", Julian growled "And I don't see as how inviting him on here, to have dinner with the real father of his son is going to help!"

"But don't you see, that's what makes it all the more intriguing", said Adam "Codlik should be avoiding us like the plague! He should be delighted that we stay off his patch, but no, he comes down here to smoke us out. Now why?"

"Because he's a prize twit, that's why!" said Julian "Because he can't bear the thought of anyone being happy who is not living to his exact specifications. He's a bloody missionary! He won't leave us alone until he's got us all satisfactorily lobotomised!"

"I admit that's partly the case", said Adam "But I think there's more to it than that, much more. He's such an intense person".

"If he ends up as our 16th member, I'll never forgive you!" said Julian.

Joby and Farnol were sitting in the galley, peeling potatoes, and occasionally fortifying themselves with slugs of red wine from a bottle on the dresser. Farnol was regaling Joby with anecdotes from various stints he and Rumble had had as street entertainers, including one hair-raising tale where Rumble had accidentally set fire to Farnol's trousers.

"I was literally standing there with my flies on fire!" said Farnol "Fortunately, as luck would have it, there was a fella nearby washing his windows, and he chucked his bucket of water over me. Otherwise that could have been very nasty indeed!"

"I bet you didn't half give Rumble what-for!" Joby chuckled.

"No I've never lost me rag with Rumble", said Farnol "He's too laid-back to get narked with. He's an incredibly calm person at all times, but not in any stone-like way. He just is so wonderfully easy-going. You won't have any trouble with us throwing wobblies at each other, we never do".

"That'll make a nice change round here!" said Joby "I was beginning to think all clowns ever did with each other was throw wobblies. Bengo and Bardin are always squabbling".

"Clash of personalities you see", said Farnol "Bengo is a free spirit, he doesn't like to be told what to do, whereas Bardin's a control-freak. Bound to be ructions really, although I've noticed they're a lot better now they've become an item. I suppose it always helps if you can work some of it off in the bedroom".

"Are you and Rumble really an item yourselves?" said Joby "You seem more like brothers to me".

"We have our moments!" said Farnol "As I'm sure you'll notice as time goes on. Everything we've done has always felt so right".

Joby recalled the endless angst he had gone through in his younger days, forever trying to fight the idea of becoming lovers with Kieran. He envied Farnol and Rumble their calm acceptance of it all, and then realised it could have been the same for him, if only he had let Kieran lead him right from the beginning!

Codlik paced his room at 'The Golden Compass'. He was tired from the journey down, and yet he couldn't rest. Too many feelings were bottled up inside him. His emotional life was in turmoil and he couldn't handle it. The hard fact was that he was bored and frustrated. In the space of a few years he had gone from being World President to the glorified caretaker of a country estate.

During his Presidenting days he had thrived on ritual and routine, because it had meant something, and it had symbolised the central pivot around which most people's lives had revolved. But now his life was nothing but ritual and routine. He was like the Earl of Groan in the Gormenghast books, spending his life performing rituals which made no sense and which were mind-boggling in their triviality. Joby had once likened Woll's estate to a super-deluxe mental institution, and that's what it was. Codlik had his bedlinen changed regularly, his clothes washed and ironed, his boots and shoes polished, his bath-water poured, he was never without a clean handkerchief, and the cook was always "most upset" if he never ate all his meals.

For a long while it had been completely beyond Codlik's comprehension as to why Hillyard should choose to live the Romany existence he did, when he could have had a very comfortable life at the big house. Now Codlik understood only too well. The big house was also a hen-coop. Women were the dominant force there. The men, according to some of the maids, were little more than furniture. It was a matriarchal society, and all matriarchal societies are ultimately oppressive and suffocating.

Codlik could never quite bring himself to approve of the Indigo-ites' lifestyle. He didn't like their nomadic existence, the way they disregarded rules, or made them up as they went along. He was too much of a conformist at heart for that. But there were increasingly times now when it looked preferable to the life he led.

He was interrupted in his frantic pacing by a knock at the door, and he went to open it in a bad temper. Adam was standing there alone.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Codders old love", he said "But I felt I had to come and apologise for the little scene earlier. Julian can be such a vile brat sometimes I just want to give him a good smack!"

"It's good of you to come round", said Codlik, inviting him in "I-I need someone to talk to at the moment".

"I rather guessed as much", said Adam, sitting down in the chair the clowns had slept in the night before.

Adam was such an attractive, sympathetic presence that Codlik could see why he had been so immensely popular as President's Consort. Within a few minutes all Codlik's innermost thoughts and fears had been aired.

"I can't talk to Glynis about it", he said, sadly "She says men can only ever have a passive role in family life".

"What utter rubbish!" said Adam "My Father certainly didn't have a passive role. I only wish he had, the more passive the better!"

"I want to do my best by Leon", said Codlik "Glynis thinks he's too young for a tutor".

"He is, far too young!" said Adam "She's right on that point at least! He's only 3-years-old, Codlik!"

"It's a good age to start", said Codlik, defensively "One can never start learning too early".

"I'm going to say something that will shock you to your core", said Adam "But I don't actually agree with formal education, unless it's to train for a specific job of some kind".

Codlik did indeed look shocked.

"But you're an educated man yourself", he spluttered.

"Oh yes, Jules and I had the best education money could buy", said Adam "And we hated every minute of it! All my wondrous education did for me was to give me a healthy distrust of regimentation, and a complete abhorrence for wearing a tie! And as I'm sure Joby will tell you, a few dodgy sexual habits!"

"B-but what's the alternative?" said Codlik.

"I think if more families concentrated on providing a warm, loving environment for their children, and less on worrying about what's the best headstart for them, the world would have always been a much happier place!"

"I hope I make a good father", said Codlik, pensively.

"I'm sure you", said Adam, deciding to seize the bull by the horns "Far better than Hillyard!"

"You think so?" Codlik whispered.

"Certainly", said Adam "Hillyard's a wonderful person, and I love him very much, but children aren't his strong point, unless it's creating them! Now let's go and have some dinner".

The others had all started on the meal by the time Adam and Codlik got back to the sloop. A long trestle table had been set up on the forward deck, laden with chicken cooked in honey and ginger (prepared by Ransey), mashed potato, spicy tomatoes, and oysters. Julian ordered Codlik to sit at the other end of it, "with the clowns".

"Behave this evening, Jules", said Adam, in a low voice, sitting down next to him "Codlik's going through a bad time".

"More middle-class angst?" said Julian "So what's new? His sort spend their lives in therapy!"

"Keep a lid on it or I'll give you trouble", said Adam.

"Not half as much as I'm going to give you if I have to put up with much more of him!" said Julian.

"Waagh!" Tamaz shrieked and stood up, shaking the front of his sky-blue teddy "I've dropped an oyster down me. It's slithering all down my tits!"

"Tamaz!" said Joby "Siddown!"

As soon as the meal was over, Julian ordered the sparkling wine to be brought round. This was unusual. Normally they all went to bed straight after supper, but Codlik's presence had added such an unwholesome air of reality to everything, that they had to alleviate it somehow.

Because he couldn't drink Adam had started to clear the table and take things down to the galley. At one point Julian had followed him down there, and strong words had ensued because Adam had been the one to invite Codlik round. Adam by this time was so depressed himself by Codlik's presence that he had put up no resistance (not that he would have anyway) when Julian had beaten him for it.

"You shouldn't let him", said Hillyard, when Adam had gone along to the hold afterwards, where Hillyard was settling down the horses for the night "I don't know how you can let him do that to you".

"You know damn well why I do", said Adam, rubbing his behind with both hands "He's irresistable".

"Yeah I know", Hillyard grunted "Although I can never for the life of me think why!"

"Perhaps it's his face", said Adam "I only have to see it and I'm done for".

They were both thrown off-balance by sudden tremor, which shook the sloop like the clapper of a bell. The horses went wild-eyed with panic, and Adam fell back into the straw.

"We weren't expecting that", said Hillyard, helping Adam to his feet "Are you o.k?"

"I think so", said Adam "We don't want too many like that!"

Hillyard steadied him, and then in a sudden impulse kissed him on the mouth.

"Ad, you know I've always had a thing about you", he said.

"You're a very attractive man", Adam whispered.

Julian was heard shouting at the other end of the corridor.

"We shouldn't upset him again this evening", said Adam, standing back.

"You can handle him", said Hillyard.

"Are the animals alright?" said Julian, appearing out of the gloom, carrying an oil-lamp.

"They are, mainly 'cos you haven't beaten 'em!" said Hillyard.

"If Adam has been trying to get sympathy out of you, then ignore him", said Julian "He went along with it quite willingly. He always does!"

"Jules, with you around I can't do anything else!" said Adam, kissing him in passing, as he went back to the galley.

"That was quite some tremor just now", said Hillyard, after Adam had gone.

"Yes it was", said Julian "I have a feeling there may be more to come".

"Can't be big ones though", said Hillyard "The animals are fairly calm. They'd soon sense it if a major quake was approaching".

"That's how I feel", said Julian "But if that should happen we'd better prepare to abandon ship, and head onto the high ground above the town. Be prepared to do it at a moment's notice".

"There's only one plate broken, Adam", said Lonts, who was returning dirty crockery to the galley "Isn't that a miracle?"

"More like luck I should say", said Adam.

"Codlik's just gone ashore", said Joby, coming down the narrow wooden steps into the galley from the deck "I was beginning to think he was planning on spending the night here!"

"Oh let's leave this mess", said Adam, looking around him "I don't feel in the mood for it".

"I never feel in the mood for it!" said Joby.

They went along to the cabin, where Toppy was changing some of the bedlinen. During the tremor sea-water had got in through one of the side-windows and soaked a couple of the pillows and quilts.

"Someone's going to get a rude awakening if it happens again!" said Julian.

Joby was determined it wasn't going to be him, and grabbed a space towards the opposite end of the communal bunk. Even so, he was still woken up in the middle of the night, but by a drink-induced headache, and the raucous shouts of two men on the quayside.

"Wankers", he muttered, rolling over to to face Kieran.

Bengo, who was sleeping on the other side of Joby, gave a soft moan in his sleep and rolled over too. He flung an arm over Joby, and pressed his cock against Joby's butt.

Joby remembered all the politely disparaging comments Codlik had made during dinner about their "anarchic" and "primitive" lifestyle, the words "selfish" (although towards whom wasn't quite clear!) and "juvenile" had also been thrown into the vat of courteous, middle-class insults. As Joby lay in this very pleasent position, he could only think what an idiot the likes of Codlik were!

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