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By Sarah Hapgood

The Indigo-ites took him to Codlik's room at the 'Golden Compass'. It was nearer than the sloop, and the boy's distress at being stared at was so palpable that the sooner he was got out of sight the better.

Once in the room he was nursed by Kieran, Adam and Codlik, who bathed his wounds and wrapped him in soft blankets. The story he told them was appalling. He had been abducted from the town many months before, after having been drugged in a bar. For a long time he had known very little, as if he had been kept in a heavily-doped state. Then it became clear that he had been taken on as one of Dalman's sex-toys at his country house. Dalman's ideas of heaping degradation on his charges were limitless and imaginative to say the least. For this boy they had culminated in his dramatic appearance in the town this evening. Dalman's argument was that few people could think of anything more humiliating than to appear naked and beaten in a public place, and in this he was spot-on. He liked the thought of this attractive young boy having to face the entire town, crowded as it was because of the Carnival, in such a degrading state.

"But didn't it occur to him that you'd take the opportunity to escape?" said Adam, gently.

"He says I wouldn't dare", said the boy "That if I don't return, he'll make it all the worse for me".

"Short of killing you, I don't see how he can!" said Adam, bluntly.

"Well he hasn't appeared yet", said Kieran, standing at the window "So much for his 'I'll appear immediately' threats!"

"Julian's at the door", said Codlik "He says the doctor's here to take a look".

"Good", Adam showed the doctor in, and then asked Julian if he could get the landlord to send up some food "He hasn't eaten properly in ages. Dalman chucks scraps to them, and makes them eat off the floor".

"He's a right little charmer isn't he!" said Julian "O.K, I'll go and have a word".

Out in the corridor Julian found Tamaz lingering nearby.

"I told you to stay with Lonts and the clowns", said Julian, sternly "I don't want Dalman getting his greasy little paws on you again".

"Neither do I!" Tamaz burst into loud tears.

"Come along", Julian took his hand "Let's go and have a stiff drink".

Down in the bar, Joby had been cornered by the Fat Witchfinder, who was doing an I-told-you-so routine, even though Joby kept protesting that Dalman wasn't actually the Devil, even though he might seem like it!

"Hey kiddo", he said, tenderly, when he saw Tamaz's red-rimmed eyes "No need to worry. Dalman won't get near you".

Julian ordered food for Dalman's victim, and stiff drinks for the rest of them. He noticed Joby was only drinking beer.

"I thought I'd better keep a clear head", he said.

"Have a brandy", said Julian "It'll help to clear it".

On the opposite side of the bar, the 4 clowns were sitting on two sofa's back-to-back.

"I hope all this makes you realise how stupid you've been", said Bardin.

"I haven't been stupid though", said Bengo "I never had any intention of going off with that jerk, not even if he'd sent me a whole florists-shop full of roses!"

"I don't mean that", Bardin snapped "I mean the way you've been carrying on because Adam walloped you".

"Now you listen to me", said Bengo, crossly "I was just upset about that because I knew I'd loused things up, but I don't connect what Adam did to me with what Dalman's done to that poor sod upstairs. I've got more sense than that even if you haven't! Now go and get us some more drinks!"

Farnol and Rumble watched with pleasure as Bardin meekly stood up and went over to the bar.

"Bardin likes a firm hand", said Rumble.

"Bardin'll get a firm hand round his throat if he's not careful!" said Bengo.

"It's amazing really", said Farnol "If I'd known Bardin liked having his butt smacked I'd have done it for him years ago, with relish!"

Rumble felt he'd better stay silent. Unbeknown to both Bengo and Farnol, was the fact that many years ago Bardin and Rumble had both lost their virginity with each other. They had never told anyone because they were both naturally reserved men, and the subject had never arisen with their partners. Also it had been a one-off. Both had seen it simply as a practical way to break their duck with someone they knew and liked. Unfortunately, it had now become one of those secrets that would cause more trouble than it was worth if it was revealed! Farnol and Bengo were much more excitable, and both being so amiable were easier to hurt than most.

Bardin came back with 4 bottled beers and they sat drinking them peacefully, only to be interrupted by Jonner, of all people, coming in through a side door, carrying an overnight bag.

"What are you doing here?" said Bengo, in astonishment.

"I hitched a ride down on a cargo air-buggy", said Jonner "I'd heard you were all here and I wanted to see you. I've had enough of monsoon season in Toondor Lanpin. It's as weird as it was last year".

Introductions were made to Farnol and Rumble, and Jonner looked put out that they had joined the Indigo-ites. So it was with some glee that he informed Julian that they had recently had an infestation of bats in the Town House.

"Oh terrific", said Joby.

"The Vermin Controller was dubious about getting rid of them", Jonner wisped "He said they were beautiful creatures".

"He would, they weren't in his house!" said Joby.

"But they've gone now", said Jonner "You'll be pleased to hear".

"Jonner!" said Adam, coming into the bar "How nice to see you, old love. You look very dapper".

This was surprisingly true. Jonner was looking unnaturally smart in fawn-coloured trousers, shirt and a diarrhoea-coloured jacket. His hair had been trimmed too, although doubtless after he'd run his fingers through it a few times it would be standing on end as usual.

Adam proceeded to flirt with Jonner outrageously, although this was obviously a ploy to wind up Julian, and add a much-needed element of light relief to everything. Jonner was invited to join them on the sloop, and Joby complained that everything was getting like 'This Is Your Life', with old faces popping up everywhere.

After a few hours sleep on the sloop, Adam and Joby went to the galley to prepare a late breakfast. The problem with being such a large group was that even preparing a simple snack required a pheonomenal amount of food and organisation. A round of sandwiches took up 3 or 4 loaves of bread. Joby sometimes feared that he would spend the rest of his life buttering bread and peeling potatoes.

"Hello, you all alone?" said Julian, walking into the galley where Joby was working "Has Adam run off?"

"He's in the hold", said Joby, glumly "Fetching another sack of potatoes".

"You'd rather be chasing Father Dalman would you?" said Julian.

"No!" said Joby, defensively.

"It's o.k", said Julian, soothingly "I know this is difficult for you".

"Too right it is", said Joby "I wish we were back at the Bay".

"Oh so do I", said Julian, leaning against the draining-board "Hearing about Dalman's place in the country brings back unwholesome memories. Many years ago, after Adam got put in the jug, I went off the rails, even more so than usual! I took up with a crowd of extremist S&M freaks, as you would call them. I suppose I was trying to work something out of my system. One of the places we used to meet was a big house in the country, a bit like a health farm for sado-masochists! Proof positive that you can have too much of a good thing! Fantasy is all very well ..."

"When it's kept as a fantasy", said Joby.

"Exactly", said Julian "But these people lived it 24 hours a day. I may joke about you lot being my slaves, but it is only a joke, a bit of fun. There is nothing worse in my opinion than sex that isn't fun".

"Did it help at all?" said Joby "To cope with what had happened between you and Adam, I mean".

"No", said Julian "It made me miss him even more. Adam has a wonderful sense of humour, a great sense of the absurd. And with so many of those idiots all taking it so seriously, I could just imagine what he would be saying if he'd been there, and that hurt far more than anything else! Do you understand?"

"Of course I do!" said Joby "Kieran likes to pretend he's a bad boy sometimes ..."

"Oh those Catholics!" said Julian.

"But that don't mean I could get away with treating him like that all the time", said Joby "Chance'd be a fine thing!"

"Adam's the same", said Julian "Just because he likes to be whipped occasionally doesn't mean he's a pushover in any way".

Adam dragged a sack of potatoes in from the hold.

"What are you doing in here, Jules?" he sighed.

"Telling Joby about my S&M days", said Julian.

"Well don't", said Adam "It'll get him far too excited, and then I won't be able to do anything with him. Now leave us to get on with some work".

"And. Don't. You. Flirt. So. Outrageously. With. Jonner", said Julian, punctuating his words with slaps on Adam's behind.

"We'll see", said Adam, coyly.

Hoowie, the scourge of the clowns, had also found his way onto the sloop and, alarmingly, seemed to be making himself at home. When not causing marital discord between Farnol and Rumble, and Bengo and Bardin, he was expressing morbid fascination over Tamaz. He kept trying to get Tamaz to drop his drawers, claiming that he didn't believe Tamaz was a real hermaphrodite.

"I don't believe you've got a penis", he said "It's probably part of that clitty thing that females have".

"It's a penis", said Tamaz, sulkily.

"Tamaz is half-male", said Lonts, firmly.

"How can he be?" said Hoowie "Does he shave?"

"Yes", said Tamaz "Sometimes. Just not as often as the others".

"But you've had kids", said Hoowie "How the hell did you have kids if you're half-male, didn't your balls get in the way of delivery?"

"Don't let him upset you, Tamaz", said Lonts.

"I don't", said Tamaz "I think he's just a useless big kid".

"Well let me see it, if you ent got nothing to hide", said Hoowie.

"We can't all be wrong", said Farnol, supporting Tamaz "Those of us who live with him all know what he's got".

"I'm just saying I'd like to see it myself", said Hoowie.

"You dirty little bugger", said Joby, suddenly appearing on deck, having a brief recess from galley duties "You mean you have such a sad life you just wanna look at dicks all the time?"

"Joby!" Lonts laughed.

"Is Tamaz half-male?" asked Hoowie, insistently.

"Yes", said Joby.

"So does that make you half-gay?" said Hoowie.

"Gawd knows", said Joby "I'm a bit of everything, I think. I even fancy Vanquishers of Evil!"

"Does Tamaz's penis get erect?" said Hoowie.

"Pretty often", said Joby, unabashed "Now are you gonna leave him alone, or do I have to break your legs?"

"I just wanted to see it", said Hoowie "He's the world's most famous freak, so why not?"

"Am I still even more famous than Mieps?" said Tamaz.

"You're a little show-off", said Joby "Come below with me and show off in private for a few minutes".

He held out his hand and Tamaz gratefully took it.

"If you want to examine something", said Tamaz to Hoowie, before they left the deck "Examine Mieps, he'll love it. It'll get him excited. The old tart!"

Once Tamaz had gone below deck with Joby, Hoowie felt deprived of his main source of entertainment, and had to start on the clowns again instead. Bengo and Bardin were nearby, eating chocolate ice-cream off the same plate.

"Hey Bengo, you'd better watch out", Hoowie called, teasingly "You eat too much of that and you'll lose your lovely trim tum. You'll end up with a great fat one like Hillyard's".

Bengo was understandably annoyed by this. He had had enough lectures about maintaining his figure from Bardin, but he was also protective of Hillyard. He suddenly reached across and slammed the plate of ice-cream spectacularly into Hoowie's face. Lonts went delirious with laughter.

"Now say my timing's not all it should be!" Bengo snapped at Bardin.

"Bengo, that was really funny", Lonts gurgled, helplessly "I wasn't expecting that at all".

"Could someone help me out here?" said Hoowie "I need a cloth!"

Bardin imitated a 5-year-old child crying petulantly. Lonts obligingly helped Hoowie clean up with a large handkerchief.

"I'm losing track of how many we've got with us now", said Julian, grumpily, as he and Adam walked down the long corridor in the hold, towards the cabin, a couple of hours later "This place is a madhouse. There are people lurking about who I barely recognise!"

"But if we're going after Dalman we need all the help we can get, Jules", said Adam, trailing along behind him.

"Codlik and Jonner as reinforcements?" said Julian, in disbelief "Oh yes, a great help they'll be! And who's to say, once all this is over, they won't come with us back to the Bay?!"

"Codlik will have to return to Glynis at some point", said Adam "They can't fume with each other forever, and Jonner ... well I'm sure he won't want to live at the Bay with us, n-not all the time anyway".

"He'll live there at any time over my dead body!" said Julian "And what about this long hairy thing we've suddenly acquired? What the hell's it called?"

"Oh, young Hoowie", Adam laughed "The Ice Cream Kid!"

"Hoowie?!" said Julian "I thought it was bad enough having ones called Bengo and Rumble around, now we've got a Hoowie as well!"

They went into the cabin, which was surprisingly empty, and Julian bolted the door behind them.

"You know what I want to do with you, don't you?" he said, gently caressing Adam's face.

"I've got a pretty shrewd idea, Jules", said Adam.

"No, I mean when we get back to the Bay", said Julian "I suggest that for a couple of days every month we go off by ourselves to the old lighthouse, and live there, just the two of us, like the time we had alone together in the house in the City. I know you won't want any longer than a couple of days away from your little darling".

"It will be lovely", said Adam, kissing him "I'm sure Lo-Lo won't mind. He can keep the clowns in line whilst we're gone. But you'd better make it worth my while of course. No half-measures".

"Hah! Since when!" said Julian.

He roughly yanked Adam's shorts down to his ankles, something that was always bound to excite Adam. He then ordered him to stand there like that whilst he had a shot of whisky. Adam went to pull down his white, cotton underpants too, but Julian said he wanted those kept on, for the time being. He was merrily spanking Adam for all he was worth when there came a loud knocking on the door, and an impatient jiggling of the handle.

"Whoever you are, piss off!" said Julian, lovingly running his hand over the contours of Adam's backside.

"I want to come in and soak my feet in a bowl of water!" Ransey yelled.

"Go up on deck and do it", said Julian.

"No!" said Ransey, obstinately.

"He's not going to go away, Jules", Adam sighed.

Julian helped him up, and Adam scrambled back into his shorts, trying to fight down his own extreme arousal.

"I've got a bone to pick with you", said Ransey, coming into the room, carrying a bowl of water "You're supposed to be in charge round here".

"What do you mean, 'supposed'?" said Julian, indignantly "I AM in charge round here!"

"Then why haven't you called a meeting to make plans?" said Ransey, sitting down and placing his feet in the bowl "There seems to have been no campaign work done, no plan of action, nothing. I suppose you're too busy having sex to bother with such trivialities!"

"It's a human thing", said Julian, tartly "You wouldn't understand!"

Adam, who had been jumping around on the balls of his feet out of frustration, roared with laughter.

"Anyway, I have been coming up with plans", said Julian "I just hadn't got round to mentioning them yet. We're hiring 3 land-buggies, and going out to Dalman's place that way. Apart from carrying adequate protection, there is nothing much we can do at this stage to safeguard ourselves any furthe than that, as we don't know exactly what that turd is capable of these days. We can only play it by ear, look out for each other at all times, and try not to think about some of the worst things he could do".

"Sounds like a pretty good plan to me", said Hillyard, walking in carrying a saddle, which he dropped onto a side-table.

"What's that doing in here?" said Ransey.

"It needs cleaning", said Hillyard, getting out a chamois leather and saddle oil whilst Ransey tutted with annoyance.

"Who's looking after the animals whilst we're gone?" said Adam.

"I'm paying one of the stewards at the 'Golden Compass' to come in", said Hillyard "I'm hoping we're not going to be gone too long".

"I suppose that rather depends on Father Dalman", said Adam, absently rubbing his behind.

"Has he been walloping you again?" said Hillyard.

"Now don't start feeling sorry for Adam", said Julian, lighting a cigar "Any excuse to try and get your hands on him yourself!"

"I should do it to you myself", said Hillyard, pointing at Julian "Serve you damn well right an' all!"

"Oh Hilly, you would be magnificent", said Adam, groping Hillyard's arm "Jules has always needed a strapping, no-nonsense thing like you to keep him in order".

"'Thing' being the operative word", said Ransey, caustically.

"You've got bloody ugly feet, Ransey", said Hillyard "All boney and mottled, like your knees".

"Men's feet always tend to be a bit ugly I suppose", said Adam, despondently, as though this was a matter of profound sadness to him.

A raucous din broke out in the space at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, as though a sword-fight was in progress. Julian went out there to find Toppy and Bengo fencing with two wooden poles that normally slotted into the clothes-horse.

"Toppy can fence!" Bengo exclaimed.

"Pendor showed me how", said Toppy.

"Why didn't you ever say?" said Bengo, breathlessly, trying to match Toppy's thrusts and parries "You never mention these things".

"He doesn't normally get a chance!" said Julian, taking Bengo's 'sword' from him and expertly taking on Toppy "You are pretty good, our kid. Nifty footwork".

"That doesn't surprise me", said Adam, pulling Bengo out of the way and holding him against him "Toppy is very graceful".

"One never knows when these things might come in useful", said Julian.

On his way to the galley a few minutes later Adam came across Hoowie, standing outside the horses' compartment, shining a torch into Tamaz's drawers, who was holding them open.

"You call that a penis?" said Hoowie "Does it get any bigger?"

"Of course it does, you stupid dork!" said Tamaz "Don't you know anything about sex?"

"Not as much as I'd like, honey", said Hoowie, glibly "But I'd be happy for you to show me!"

"Ahem!" said Julian, appearing behind Adam.

Hoowie looked startled and nearly dropped the torch.

"Do you have a reason for existing?" Julian asked him.

"None that I can think of, off-hand", said Hoowie.

"So I take it you're coming with us into the interior?" said Julian "If not, you'd better leave the sloop".

"I've a feeling he's coming with us", said Tamaz, dolefully.

They all had a surprise visit about an hour later from Dalman's victim, Clovis, whom everyone thought had been taken to the hospital for rest and observation. Instead though he looked surprisingly fit, although moving stiffly. In a scruffy top and trousers he looked waifishly thin, and younger than ever, in spite of the stubble around his chin.

"I wanted to escape here", he said, in a faint laid-back voice "They've brought in some female nurse from somewhere, 'cos I guess they think I'll feel safer that way, but she's driving me mad".

"Oh dear", said Adam "Meaning too well?"

"She's o.k", said Clovis, reluctantly "Just believes that Discussing Your Inner Feelings is the best therapy, only trouble is I don't feel I have any but she can't accept that. When I said that I was gay, but that I wasn't too bothered about having sex, and that I've always been like that, it's got nothing to do with what happened in the country, she said I had to Get Real, whatever that means".

"I really couldn't say", said Adam, in bewilderment "Although it sounds dreadfully aggressive and exhausting! Sort of having sex whether you like it or not, just to make a point. Oh I'm sorry, that was a tasteless joke".

"S'o.k", Clovis shrugged, gently rocking on the edge of his chair in the cabin "I like being here with you. She tells long anecdotes that don't make any sense. I think she drinks".

"Sounds like she'd fit in well with us lot!" said Joby.

"Don't go saying things like that!" said Julian "Or before you know it we'd have a gin-soaked nurse along as well, just to add to the menagerie! Still, on the whole I think it's a good thing you're up and around, Clovis. Lying around thinking about it all won't do you any good. Life must go on".

"Don't ever join the Samaritans, Jules!" Adam sighed "The suicide rate would rocket!"

"Leave it out, I think he's got a point", said Joby.

"Where's Kieran?" Julian asked, suddenly "He seems conspicuous by his absence in here at the moment".

"He said just now he was popping out buy some new clothes", said Lonts.

"Eh?" said Joby, in complete and utter astonishment "I've never known him go out and buy new clothes, not willingly anyway! His idea of dressing up is to put a pair of pyjamas on! He never said anything to me about it".

"Perhaps the new clothes are for you", said Adam, teasingly "As a little surprise".

"Complete bloody shock more like!" said Joby "He's up to something, the little scrote".

Hoowie came into the room carrying a coffee-pot and cups, which Adam had ordered him to fetch. He put the tray on the desk and ogled Clovis.

"Jeez, ent you skinny!" Hoowie exclaimed "I love really skinny men, the skinnier the better, like Kieran. Skinny and neurotic. That sort do things to me".

"Oh go and boil your head!" said Joby, trying to push him out of the door, without much success.

"Go back outside, Hoowie", Adam picked up Julian's cane and swished it threateningly "Go on, back in your kennel!"

"Do we have to have him living with us?" said Joby.

"I don't know that he is, officially", said Adam "At the moment he's just along for the ride".

"Yeah, trouble is he'll end up staying", said Joby.

Clovis had been getting nervous because it was going dark outside, and he still had to get back to the hospital.

"Don't worry, Hillyard will see you home", said Adam.

"I'm glad he's not staying with us", said Julian, after Clovis had left "Talk about watching your p's and q's, he's a right melancholy little drip!"

"Jules, for heaven's sake", said Adam "Shows a little milk of human kindness".

"Hey!" said Julian, in a tone of rebuke "We're showing enough milk of human kindness by going after his abuser, so don't start lecturing me into the bargain, understand?"

"Yes Jules", said Adam.

Kieran came home soon after, wearing a new, very smart velvet jacket, and carrying a large, flat box under his arm. He had hoped he would bump into Tamaz before he met any of the others, and as luck would have it (or psychic intuition) he did. He took Tamaz into the food-store and placed a sack of potatoes against the door, to stop anyone coming in and interrupting them. He then took the black evening gown out of the box and handed it to him. Tamaz was surprisingly unenthusiastic about it.

"I know why you've got this for me", he said, handing it back to Kieran.

"I thought it'd suit you", said Kieran "It'll emphasise your eyes".

"Increase my power you mean", Tamaz spat "You want me to turn Dalman to stone!"

"Doesn't that appeal to you at all?" said Kieran.

"If you really loved me you wouldn't use me this way!" Tamaz cried.

"Tamaz, I do love you", said Kieran, catching him in his arms "More perhaps than you'll ever realise".

"Joby says you always know how to flannel to get what you want", said Tamaz, disdainfully "I've never turned that power on anyone, not ever. I don't mind being thought of as a freak, in fact I've often quite liked it, but I don't want people knowing I'm a monster. You don't know what the last few years have meant to me, since I was let out of the cage. I've lived as a normal person".

"And that will continue", said Kieran.

"How can it?" said Tamaz "How could anyone treat me normally once they know what I could do? And the fact that I can control it makes it worse. No one would ever trust me again".

"Yes they would", said Kieran "For the simple fact that you have never used it before. Do you honestly believe that Joby would be any different after he knew? After all, you could have used it on him any time when you kidnapped him".

"No!" said Tamaz "Because that isn't why I took him, and you know it. I wanted him. I always wanted him".

"And you still have him", said Kieran "Lonts is another one. Do you really believe he'll go off you? We'll get him in here now and ask him if you like. Nothing will change amongst us. I wouldn't even suggest putting you through this if I thought there was any chance of that".

"You want to go taking all this risk just to get rid of Dalman?" said Tamaz "Why can't we just ignore him?"

"Because he won't go away", said Kieran "Because when we get back to the Bay or the Town House, we'll always have him lurking at the back of our minds, wondering who he's kidnapping and torturing next. We can't leave this unfinished, and you're our best hope of finishing it. And you can trust me completely, Tamaz. I won't leave you alone for a moment. I won't take me eyes off you".

"And you won't abandon me afterwards?" said Tamaz.

"Why the fock should I?" said Kieran "I love you. Do you love me, or do you just put up with me for Joby's sake?"

"I love you", said Tamaz, mournfully "I wish I didn't".

"I seem to have that effect a lot!" said Kieran.

"I don't know if I can trust you though", said Tamaz "You wanted to use Her, my Mother, to destry Father Gabriel, and after it was all over she was shut away in a stupid dark cellar".

"There is no way that is going to happen to you", said Kieran, in exasperation "After it's all over we'll go back to the Bay, and everything will be as it was before, I promise you".

"But the world will know!" said Tamaz, tearfully "Everyone will know I'm a monster, a real monster, like She was. It's not fair! It's not bloody fair! And you say it'll all go back to normal?!"

"Yes it will", said Kieran "You found out the other day that I'd practised vampirism with Angel, and you were shocked. So was Joby and the others when I got back to the Bone-House. But it passed, like this will. And most of the time we'll all be at the Bay, out of sight of the world anyway, and when we're not, you'll still be with all the rest of us. Tamaz, don't you think that it's an amazing thing that you have had this ability all along and you've never used it?"

"Of course it's not amazing!" said Tamaz "I'm not stupid. If I'd revealed that I know I'd have spent my entire life being hunted down, like She was. The Ministry would have hacked my head off whilst I was sleeping! You're asking a lot of me. I suppose you're calling in old debts. You saved me from being executed, so now ..."

"No I don't think that way!" said Kieran, angrily "I'm not a focking accountant, putting people's lives into terms of debit and credit. I'm doing this because I want a nice, clean, effective way of getting rid of Dalman. Yes, I know all the risks. I know it's putting you in a great deal of danger, but I have every confidence we can look after you. We have up to now, haven't we?"

Tamaz sought Kieran's lips with his own, and they kissed one another with incredible force.

"You're my goddess", said Kieran, breathlessly "You take me to the stars when I'm with you. I feel as though we're weightless in space".

"If you close your eyes, we are", said Tamaz, softly.

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