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By Sarah Hapgood

It was a chilly, but beautiful autumn day. Julian decided that he and Hoowie should take a couple of the horses out for some exercise in the forest.

“Don’t go too far”, said Bardin, standing at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, as they put on their outdoor gear “Wolves were heard yesterday”.

“Thank you Bardin”, said Julian “But we are not completely devoid of commonsense”.

“Well you might not be”, said Bardin “But I’m not so sure about Hoowie”.

Julian playfully grabbed Bardin and gave him several lusty smacks on the behind.

“Ow! Damnit!” Bardin complained.

Hoowie laughed.

“Anymore out of you”, Bardin said to him “And you’ll be cleaning the heads for a month!”

Hoowie shut up.

“Serves you right, Bardy”, said Bengo, when Bardin walked into the galley.

“Do I never get any sympathy from you?” said Bardin.

“Not where you getting a smacked bottom’s concerned”, said Bengo.

“Well Hoowie laughing is enough to test anyone’s patience”, said Bardin.

“I rather think Hoowie gets very jealous of you, if that’s any comfort”, said Adam “Julian finds you irresistibly spankeable”.

“Anyway, you need to be taken by surprise like that occasionally”, said Bengo “Telling me last night when I could sue the hairbrush!”

“Oh now that’s not on, Bardin”, said Adam “You are there to be spanked, whenever we feel like it, however we feel like it”.

“And what about my poor bum?” said Bardin.

“The starch protects you”, said Joby.

“Yes, and with the weather getting colder you’ll be wearing your thermal shorts as well again soon”, said Bengo.

“The Club hasn’t had that particular pleasure yet”, said Adam “And at some point we’re going to have to have the inaugural meeting in here”.

“You’ve spanked me in here before”, said Bardin.

“Not since the Club’s inception we haven’t”, said Adam “Think how cosy it’s going to be in the winter”.

“Have you given up on the courtyard kitchen then?” said Bardin.

“Sorry to sound wimp-ish”, said Adam “But it doesn’t feel right at the moment”.

“Not with those bleedin’ wolves circling around”, said Joby “Let alone Crowley. It’s cosier here. And more convenient”.

“Yes I can see that”, said Bardin “Looks as if we’ll soon be bedding in for the winter”.

“Almost a siege situation”, said Joby.

“We’ll manage somehow”, said Adam.

“I hope we’re not going too far, Julian”, said Hoowie, unsettled by the intense silence of the forest around him. In the summertime the forest had been a cool, dark sanctuary, away from the scorching heat of the sun. Now it was merely silent and forbidding.

“Now don’t wimp out on me, Hoowie”, said Julian, and he added mischievously “I bet Bardin wouldn’t be wimping out”.

“You can be an old cunt sometimes”, said Hoowie.

“Ha ha”, Julian laughed “So I’ve often been told. Never fear, I think we should turn back now. The trees are getting too densely packed”.

They wheeled the horses round and re-traced their steps. Hoowie was in front this time. Once they were back in the courtyard, they dismounted.

“Why the glum face?” said Julian, touching Hoowie’s chin “You didn’t take my nonsense about Bardin seriously did you?”

“No”, said Hoowie “I just wish he’d take me seriously for a change. He just thinks I’m a prat all the time. I wish he’d admire me as much as I admire him”.

“Oh I think Bardin’s very fond of you”, said Julian “You keep me out of his way a lot of the time for a start. Perhaps you should try simply being nice to him for a change”.

“I’m always nice to him”, said Hoowie “I’m always telling him how much I want him! He just treats me like a pest!”

“I meant try saying something nice to him, other than sexual advances”, said Julian “We all tease Bardin a lot, but perhaps sometimes you need to ease up on the prankster bit. Come on, let’s get the horses back on-board”.

Once the horses were settled in the hold, Hoowie went along to Bardin’s cabin. The fire was lit in there again, and the dogs were sprawled out contentedly on the hearth-rug. Bardin was standing nearby, going over another of his lists.

“Working standing up I see”, said Hoowie, when he came into the room “I suppose you have to these days”.

“What do you want?” Bardin groaned.

“Oh fuck, I’ve screwed it up already”, said Hoowie “I’m supposed to be being nice to you”.

“Why?” said Bardin, suspiciously.

“To show how much I admire you, Bardin”, said Hoowie.

Bardin now looked downright alarmed.

“What have you done?” he said “What happened on the ride?”

“Nothing”, said Hoowie “Just the woods were a bit spooky that’s all. I just wanna stop teasing you all the time, and be nice to you”.

“If you insist”, said Bardin “Though I’d appreciate it even more if you’d do what you’re told without arguing and mucking it up”.

“I’ll try”, said Hoowie.

He suddenly lunged at Bardin, got him in a bear-hug, and kissed him enthusiastically. When he’d finished, he fled the cabin before Bardin could say anything, and ran into the galley where Bengo was alone, kneading dough.

“You’ll never keep it up”, said Bengo’s comment when Hoowie told him about his be-nice-to-Bardin campaign.

“I will Benje, you see”, said Hoowie “It’ll make life easier for you too, ‘cos you wont’ have to put up with him moaning about me all the time”.

“That I can’t wait to see!” said Bengo.

Joby came in.

“Hey”, he said to Hoowie “We’re busy, clear off”.

Hoowie departed.

“What did the hairy string bean want?” Joby asked Bengo.

“Some cock-a-many plan to go getting on Bardin’s right side”, said Bengo “He’ll never manage it, and I’m not sure I want him slobbering all over Bardy all the time anyway”.

“Oh don’t worry”, said Joby, flicking a tea-towel at him “If it drives you mad, you can always take it out on Bardin’s bum later!”

“Yes”, Bengo laughed “As long as Hoowie doesn’t get any ideas about spanking him too”.

“It’s not Hoowie’s thing”, said Joby “Anyway, he gets enough of all that from Julian”.

“I know, but he’s gonna creep round Bardin now”, said Bengo “I can see it. He’ll be all servile, like he is with Julian when he wants something”.

“Well there’s gonna be no chance of it going to Bardin’s head now is there”, said Joby “Not with us around to keep him on the straight and narrow!”

Bengo couldn’t help noticing, as they served up dinner that evening, that Hoowie was acting ridiculously respectful and timid around Bardin.

“This is going to get on my nerves if he keeps this up”, Bengo murmured to his partner.

“Ignore him”, said Bardin “Knowing him he’s doing it as a wind-up”.

“No, I think he’s being serious”, said Bengo.

“He’ll never keep it up for long”, said Bardin.

“I hope not“, said Bengo “You might get used to it. I shall have to keep you in line even more”.

“Which means the bloody hairbrush again I suppose?” said Bardin.

Bengo relaxed into a softer expression. He leaned towards Bardin and whispered “you can have a night off tonight, if you behave yourself. Though you’ll still get your bottom smacked”.

“Time we all ate!” boomed Ransey, from a short distance away.

“Yes”, said Adam “Everybody sit down before it all gets cold. That includes you, Bardin. Would you like a cushion?”

“No”, Bardin grunted.

He sat down in his now customary cautious fashion. He looked around the room and saw that someone had draped a blanket over the wireless-set.

“Why’s the wireless covered up?” he said.

“So I can’t see it”, said Umbert “If I know it’s there, I’ll wanna keep fiddling with it”.

“I can’t keep up with you”, said Bardin “One minute you want to use it, the next you don’t, then you do again”.

“It’s because it’s always there”, said Umbert “In my line of vision”.

“Then we’ll move it”, said Bardin “After dinner. We’ll put it in the coats and boots cupboard. It can become The Wireless Room. Should’ve thought of that before”.

“Ahem”, said Hillyard “And where do all the coats and boots go?”

“Find somewhere else for them”, said Bardin.

“Just like that?” said Hillyard.

“Just like that”, said Bardin.

“We’re having a wireless room?” said Bengo “We’d be just like a proper ship!”

“What do you think we are now then?” said Joby “A bloody dinghy?!”

“Oh you know what I mean”, said Bengo.

“No I don’t”, said Joby “But that’s nothing new!”

The wireless was re-located after supper. Bardin walked into his cabin afterwards to find the sofa piled high with boots and coats.

“What’s all this?” he demanded to know.

“First place I could think of to put them”, said Hillyard “And you said to find somewhere”.

“Yes, but not here!” said Bardin.

“You didn’t say that though”, said Hillyard.

Joby and Kieran were engaging in fits of laughter behind the galley door.

“Poor old sod”, Joby laughed “We really put him through it sometimes”.

“Oh don’t worry about Bardy”, said Bengo, coming into the room “He can take it”.

“You’re going to have all those smelly old boots in your room”, said Kieran.

“Won’t bother me”, Bengo shrugged “I spect it’ll only be for tonight anyway. Bardy’ll have Toppy removing them first thing tomorrow”.

“Bengo!” Bardin shouted.

“I’m not helping to move them tonight”, Bengo shouted back “So you can forget that!”

Bardin appeared in the galley doorway, looking rather accusatory.

“Did you set Hillyard up to do that?” he asked.

“No I didn’t”, said Bengo “Why would I want to do that?!”

“The wireless is all installed now”, said Hillyard, dusting off his hands “I hope you’re pleased with it”.

“And don’t get any ideas about moving it again!” said Ransey.

“I shan’t”, said Bardin “It should’ve gone in there right from the beginning. Still, better late than never”.

“I sometimes think that could be our bleedin’ motto!” said Joby.

Adam ordered a mushroom-gathering expedition the next day. Joby, remembering the last one, when they had encountered a couple of the Cyanide Sisters, treated it with great foreboding. He was slightly mollified when Kieran offered to come with them.

“I never found these woods sinister in the summer”, said Joby, as they crunched through the undergrowth “But they bleedin’ are now!”

“Joby really, get a grip, old love”, said Adam “It’s just because there’s a bit of mist lingering amongst the trees that’s all. Honestly, when I think of all the frightening situations you’ve been in over the years, and you get spooked by a bit of shade and fog!”

“I’m only human”, said Joby “Weird things can happen in fog”.

“Weird things can happen in all weathers!” said Kieran “Anyway, stop panicking, I’ve got three crucifixes on”.

“Oh great, that’s really reassuring that is!” said Joby “Vampires gonna come out of this fog are they?!”

“It’s not really fog”, said Bengo “Just a little bit of mist”.

“When did you turn into a pedant?” said Joby.

“I think it’s quite beautiful”, said Bengo.

“Beautiful things can be sinister”, said Joby “Look at Angel!”

“He’s not beautiful”, said Kieran “He’s as ugly as sin these days”.

“He used to be”, said Joby “That’s what I meant”.

“Do you think so?” said Adam “I always found him quite repellent, even before we knew what he was. When we first met I thought to myself he looks like the sort who’d have the marrow out of your bones before you know it. Not like Patsy”.

“Who’d also have the marrow out of your bones before you know it!” Joby joked “Cut from the same cloth!”

“Hah!” said Kieran.

“I think you can usually tell when there’s no soul to someone”, said Adam “Or a warped soul, whatever their looks are. But there are always plenty of people who choose to be blind in the world. So the likes of Angel will never be short of victims”.

“We’re back to Crowley again”, said Kieran “Said that same thing about him recently too”.

“I think it was Aldous Huxley who said some people are born to be victims”, said Adam “You can see it written all over them”.

“It’s also within their power to transcend that”, said Kieran.

“Oh blimey”, Joby groaned.

“No it is”, said Kieran “But they usually disregard that. It’s easier for them to give in than to fight. That’s how the likes of Angel and Crowley succeed”.

“I think some people get tired of fighting”, said Adam “So they give in. Whereas others want someone to submit to, to turn their lives over to. To be mastered”.

“Where do we fit into all that then, with our antics?” said Joby.

“Not the same”, said Kieran “I like being mastered by you, because it’s so relaxing to be taken charge of. But I trust you implicitly. I know you’re not out to wreck my life”.

“Scarcely!” said Joby.

“You’re saving me”, said Kieran “Not using me up to be thrown away”.

“Ooh and I’m saving Bardy”, said Bengo “Though I’m not sure what from”.

“You’re easing his responsibility”, said Adam.

“Stopping him driving himself doo-lally with all his bossiness and controlling”, said Joby.

When they had collected enough they returned to the edge of the forest, where Bardin was directing a few of the others in log-cutting.

“One thing we won’t be short of round here is firewood”, he said, with great satisfaction “We’re surrounded by it”.

Umbert appeared on the main deck of the galleon and shouted over “Bardin! He’s on the wireless again!”

“Bloody Crowley I bet”, said Joby “I thought Umbert was sposed to be leaving the wireless alone now?”

“He can’t”, said Bardin “He’s addicted to the damn thing. If this keeps up one of us will be driven to taking the wood-chopper to it!”

He strode off back to the galleon, leaving his duffel-coat discarded on the ground. Bengo picked it up and scampered after him.

“This really has to stop”, said Adam.

“It wont’ though will it?” said Joby “I’m starting to wonder if Crowely and that bleedin’ wireless are having a hypnotic effect on Umbert”.

“I wouldn’t put anything past Aleister”, Adam sighed.

Back in the new “wireless room” Bardin angrily seized the mouthpiece.

“Now look Crowley”, he said “This has got to stop. We’ve come to an arrangement, we’ll leave you alone if you leave us alone”.

“Bardin my dear boy”, Crowley purred “How wonderful to hear your voice again. You have such a presence at all times …”

“Answer me this one question”, said Bardin “Is this call an emergency?”

“Well no …” Crowley began.

Bardin angrily tore various cables out of various sockets. He then turned to Umbert.

“And it bloody stays like that until I say otherwise!” Bardin shouted.

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