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By Sarah Hapgood

That evening, after dinner, Joby came across Glynis sitting on a bench in Brinslee's garden, looking hot and tired.

"Are you alright, Glyn?" he asked, sitting down next to her "You look done in".

"Brinslee says the weather will turn very soon", Glynis replied "I for one shan't be sorry".

"Yeah, it must be very uncomfortable in your condition", said Joby "Oh don't look at me like that, of course I know you're pregnant! Kieran told me. I dunno what all the secrecy's about. Are you gonna give birth to the Anti-Christ or summat?!"

"It's a very delicate situation", Glynis began.

"Bollocks", said Joby "We all know it's Hillyard's. Every kid that's born these days seems to be Hillyard's! As long as Codlik's cool about it, I don't see what the problem is".

"Oh Codlik's cool about it alright!" said Glynis "He'd like me to have about 2 dozen children, so would everyone back home! They had so many years of just poor old Woll at the big house, that they can't get enough of having a family there again. The more the merrier. I seem to symbolise the new, burgeoning, fertile hope in the world. In other words they want me to breed incessantly, until I'm a spent force!"

"I know", said Joby, sympathetically "It's not easy being a consort".

"I don't have to tell you that do I?" Glynis smiled "You had it far worse than me".

"No I didn't", said Joby "Don't let anyone fool you. It's a lot easier being a male consort than a female one, particularly when you're both fellas. No one expects any kids from you, so that takes away a helluva lot of stress for a start. As a female consort you've gotta be a goddess, the perfect wife and mother. As a male consort all you've gotta do is stay out of trouble, and try not to suffer from the Prince Philip foot-in-mouth syndrome too often".

"You managed that quite well", saids Glynis "In spite of your bluntness".

"Oh people'll put up with a bit of grouchiness now and again, but they won't take direct insults", said Joby "I knew I was alright as long as I stuck at 'bog off' in public. If I'd made personal attacks it would have been Kieran who really got it in the neck, not me, and he had enough on his plate. Anyway, I didn't have to do the job alone. Adam was consort too. He was the one with all the good looks and charm, I was the blunt, grizzled one that the losers liked!"

"You didn't get jealous of him?" said Glynis "I think I would get very jealous if Codlik had another wife who got more praise from everyone than I did".

"Yeah well that's the unfairness again innit?" said Joby "You see, it's easy to play two women off against each other".

"Hm, it's good sport I suppose!" said Glynis.

"But it don't really work with two guys", said Joby "Even if one is a lot better-looking than the other. I don't know why that's the case but it is. The press never held us up and compared us in great detail, but if we'd been women they would have done".

"Oh yes, right down to the colour of your nail-varnish I expect!" said Glynis.

"And it also helps of course that we were screwing each other too", said Joby, gravely.

Glynis laughed so much that Joby feared she'd bring the baby on early!

"I've been drinking too much since we've been here", said Julian, sitting by the side of the ornamental pond in the gathering twilight "My liver must be in almost a shocking state as yours by now".

"My liver must be in an immaculate condition these days", Adam retorted "It's had the past 30 years to sort itself out".

"What's that you're drinking?" said Julian, sharply.

"Quadruple vodka and orange", said Adam, facetiously.

"There are children running around everywhere on the sea-front", said Nesta, approaching them "They are completely out of hand. Back home in the Marsh Village we keep them segregated to their own areas".

"I quite agree", said Julian "That's why I banished ours to a caravan whilst we were here".

"And you've been moaning about their absence all the while", said Adam.

"Yours aren't children though", said Nesta.

"Want to bet?" said Julian.

"Adam!" Lonts bellowed, striding over to the, closely followed by Joby.

"It's the Kiskevian Robocop!" said Joby "I don't usually give a warning!"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Joby", said Lonts, crossly.

"Nothing new there then", said Joby.

"What's the matter, Lo-Lo?" said Adam.

"Ransey's gone down to the caravan to see the clowns", said Lonts, in agitation.

"Well he is allowed down there, old love", said Adam "We don't keep him in leg-irons".

"That could be arranged", said Julian.

"B-bu what if he's gone to tell them off?" said Lonts "After everything they've been through today too!"

"He's only gone to see how Bengo's ankle is", said Finia, who was reclining nearby on a sun-lounger "To see if he needs anything".

"Oh he's such an old sweetie really", Adam gushed "So thoughtful".

"Humph", said Julian "In that case, let's all go down and see how Bengo's ankle is, otherwise we'll be hearing about Ransey's thoughtfulness from now until Christmas!"

Bengo, Bardin and Toppy had been alone in the caravan when Ransey called in on them unexpectedly. The other 4 had been out at the show, to discuss tomorrow night's programme with Hawkefish.

"You should be in hospital with that ankle", said Ransey, standing by the bed and glaring down at Bengo like a rather fierce doctor.

"B-but I-I don't w-want to be in hospital", Bengo stammered, lying there with a bread roll stuck between the toes of his good foot. He had been trying to see if he could eat it that way when Ransey had walked in.

"People don't go to hospital just for a sprained ankle", said Bardin "All he has to do is keep his weight off it for a few days".

"He can get proper care in hospital", said Ransey.

"He can get proper care here!" said Bardin, almost hysterically "You can't come in here and take over like this. You don't seem to realise I am Captain now. What I say goes".

"Not without any question at all it doesn't", said Ransey "And don't come the Big I Am with me. I didn't swear blind obedience to Kieran or Julian, and I'm not doing it to you".

"I'm sorry", Bardin mumbled, feeling like a brattish small boy who'd been told off for getting too big for his boots.

"Come out here", Ransey pulled him outside, watched apprehensively by Bengo and Toppy.

"What?" said Bardin, nervously, once they were out on the grass.

"You shouldn't dissemble like that", said Ransey "Or your subordinates will walk all over you and use you as a floor-wipe. If you're going to throw a regal tantrum, you have to see it through to the bitter end. Don't ever look meek afterwards. Even if you're in the wrong you've got to learn to turn it to your advantage. The most effective way is with a quiet assurance, as though you're secretly congratulating yourself that your subordinates have such good initiative as to correct you when you're wrong. You don't ever see Julian looking humble when he's been caught out do you? And nor Kieran either".

"I can't imagine Kieran ever threw such a fit as that", said Bardin.

"He had fits of temper all over the place when he was President!" said Ransey "As bad as any Lonts has ever had. He once threw a whole stack of books at my head".

"What did you do?" said Bardin.

"Ducked", said Ransey, simply.

"What was it about?" said Bardin.

"Oh I had to tell him that the treasury didn't have the funds to run to one of his grand plans", said Ransey "He wanted to build another cathedral in the City. He accused me of being against the idea for reasons of my own. He was right. I thought it was a waste of money, and if he wasn't checked we'd have bloody cathedrals all over the place! We'd be knee-deep in them!"

"Who got their own way in the end?" said Bardin.

"I did", said Ransey "I got Joby on-side. He told Kieran he was being a jerk for wanting to waste money on a church, when the poor people of the City had another winter to get through. Kieran then went around for days afterwards, in private, telling us lot how ashamed of himself he was and how he should be publicly whipped for such thoughtlessness. Joby said to just ignore him until he came to his senses, so we did".

"Did you come down here this evening to set a trap for me on purpose?" said Bardin.

"Not a trap", said Ransey "Just to see how you were coping with your new position".

"Huh, like a big kid", said Bardin, sourly.

"You'll grow into it", said Ransey "The moral of the Kieran story I told is this, that any leader, even the Kierans of this world, can only be as great as the people in their team. Without a good team, Kieran could have become a religious fanatic, putting shrines and churches above people's welfare, and Julian could have become a bullying emperor, not listening to anyone, intent on his own wants. You'll be alright as long as you always listen to the people who genuinely care for you. Don't forget that now".

The last day of the Festival was looming in sight. Bengo was determined he was going to have a part in their final routine, and hobbled to rehearsals with the aid of a pair of wooden crutches that Hillyard had purchased from the hospital for him. Bardin protested that he should be resting.

"But all I've got to do in this one is sit on the barrier and sing", said Bengo, manoeuvring his crutches through the debris backstage "It won't be as good as you singing, because you've got a much stronger voice, but Rumble says that way we can all take part in this sketch. I can do the sitting job, and the rest of you all the crazy running about behind me. He says it should work a treat".

"It seems Rumble's got it all worked out", Bardin snapped.

"Oh Bardy!" said Bengo, in exasperation "He just thought it all up 'cos he knows you've been busy looking after me the past couple of days. Which you didn't have to, Toppy was on-hand all the time".

"I wanted to do it", said Bardin "I also wanted to be there to protect you, in case Godle decided to have another go, using Zooks, the world's most gormless criminal as his sidekick!"

Bengo laughed and sat down thankfully on the barrier. Tamaz was rollerskating around the ring with Rumble, doing deft swirls and figure-of-eights.

"Freaks is pretty good these days isn't he?" said Bengo, watching him appreciatively.

"All that practice he used to get with Kieran", said Bardin "They both went rollerskating along the waterfront this morning, just like old times".

"Oh I wish I'd seen that", said Bengo "I bet everybody was looking".

"They probably thought it was part of the show!" said Bardin.

Nearby, a paunchy bespectacled man, as camp as they come, was rehearsing a mawkish love song, accompanied by his "friend", an elegant young man who redeemed the song's shortcomings by his smooth fiddle-playing. Hoowie barracked them all the way through it, keeping up an endless stream of sodomy jokes.

"I'd like to see you get up and sing like that at this hour", said the singer, adjusting his spectacles, indignantly.

"Nah, the song was great!" said Hoowie "It would have been even better without the words!"

"Did you know", said Rumble, skating over to Bengo and Bardin "That without food or drink Hoowie would eventually die?"

"Mm", said Bardin "We must try that sometime!"

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