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By Sarah Hapgood

Kieran was taken over to the caves the following day.

“Do you good to have some shore-leave”, said Joby, mercilessly “Put some roses in your cheeks”.

“Very funny!” said Kieran.

Admittedly, the omens weren’t good for a life-long friendship between himself and “Cat Woman”. In Julian’s words Kitty didn’t possess “a single shred of humour in her”. She had sat in the dining-room on the galleon with her cup of tea, looking around her with a glacial reserve. When asked what she thought of their ship, she replied (irritatingly): “I discern, I never judge”. It somewhat set the tone for the rest of the visit really.

Beatrix recognised Kieran when she saw him properly for the first time.

“Of course I should have realised”, she said “When you mentioned the name Kieran. I should have put two and two together, with you all saying you were a religious order”.

“We weren’t sure”, said Adam “After all, you didn’t know Bardin had been a clown”.

“I had forgotten about the clowns”, Beatrix confessed.

“Can’t say I blame you”, said Joby.

“Anton! Anton!” Beatrix called her husband over from the back of the cave “This is Kieran! THE Kieran!”

Anton greeted Kieran courteously, but it was clear he felt uncomfortable. Kieran too felt uncomfortable and wished he was anywhere but there.

“I seem to be raining on the party”, he said, sadly.

“Not at all”, said Beatrix, taking pity on him “Come, let us sit by the fire. Wesley, there you are. This is Kieran, THE Kieran”.

“Cool”, said Wesley, affably “Does that mean you lot are immortal? I couldn’t bear being immortal, all that thought of life going on and on, never ending. Brggh!”

With that positive comment he cheerfully bore Hillyard off to have another look at his still.

Kitty had flatly ignored Kieran, and sat instead on the other side of the fire to him. She had cornered Bardin instead.

“I’ve been talking to Finia about astrology”, she said.

“Oh yes”, said Bardin, with a distinct feeling of impending doom.

“You’re a Sagittarian”, said Kitty “I’m a Sagittarian too. We are special people”.

“With special needs”, said Joby.

Kitty pointedly turned away from him.

“Not everyone understands us”, she said to Bardin “We’re fiery, untamed, free-spirited. We fire our little arrows when we are crossed”.

“Ooh”, said Bengo.

“Bengo is a Sagittarian too”, said Bardin, as though confessing to an embarrassing family secret.

“Really?” Kitty exclaimed. The dismay was obvious.

Joby gave a bark of laughter.

“Oh yes, I’m REALLY special I am”, said Bengo “Always have been”.

“Well you’ve always been a complete basket case”, said Bardin.

“I had been hoping that we could have our own little Sagittarians Club”, said Kitty.

“You still can”, said Bengo, robustly “Just I’ll be in it as well!”

“We Sagittarians are also renowned for being kick-ass”, said Kitty, fiercely.

“Yes, I’m good at that too”, said Bengo.

“I’ve made a little soup out of that tinned sweet corn you gave me, Adam”, said Beatrix, hoping to cause a distraction “Would you like to try some?”

“I wish you had let me make that, Beatrix”, said Kitty “I’m a bloody good cook”.

“Well I wanted to do it myself, Kitty dear”, said Beatrix.

“That woman is utter poison”, said Julian, when they were all back on the galleon “It’s all your fault, Adam”.

“How on earth can that possibly be my fault?” said Adam “Though I’m sure you can find a way to make it so!”

“Because you’ve gone and got us embroiled with them”, said Julian “The bloody neighbours! Now we’ll never be able to shake them off”.

“What nonsense”, said Adam “Sometimes Julian, you are so middle-class it’s positively embarrassing”.

“Wesley’s alright though isn’t he?” said Hillyard.

“For fuck’s sake”, said Joby “Will you listen to you lot! Anyone’d think we were on some housing-estate somewhere, instead of out in the middle of nowhere, in the Northern Arctic wastes”.

“Yes it is all rather absurd when you put it like that”, said Adam.

“Anyway, you’re missing one fact”, said Hillyard “It’s not exactly easy for them to just pop round is it? I mean, it’s not like cocking your leg over the garden fence!”

Bardin thumped on the table to get everyone’s attention.

“Now look”, he said “We help them out when they need it, but otherwise we keep our distance. In fact, we act like the religious order we are meant to be!”

“I was very proud of you in there, Bardy”, said Bengo, taking off Bardins’ boots in their cabin “You’re so authoritative. If I started talking like that I’d dry up as soon as everybody looked at me!”

“I don’t want to sound too severe though”, said Bardin “I mean, if Hillyard wants to help Wesley with his still, or Adam wants to swap recipes with Beatrix then they can”.

“From what I’ve heard that’s probably what monks in the old days would’ve done anyway”, said Bengo.

“Exactly”, said Bardin “What I don’t want though is everybody getting emotionally entangled with them”.

“You mean Kitty and her Sagittarians Club”, said Bengo.

“Well not just her”, said Bardin “But I think she’s pretty high maintenance”.

“And she’s after you”.

“No she’s not, don’t be daft”.

“Oh she is”, said Bengo “Look how disappointed she was when I said I was a Sagittarian too!”

“Probably doesn’t fit her ideal of what s superior race the Sagittarians are”, Bardin smirked.

“Oh thanks!” said Bengo.

“I’d forgotten what hard work strangers are”, Bardin sighed “I’m not sued to making conversation outside the family anymore. Having to explain everything from scratch to people who don’t know. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, it’s just the way it is”.

“It takes a lot of energy just to survive, the way we’re living”, said Bengo “Without all that as well”.

The next few days were to prove that. The temperatures sank so low that just trying to keep warm became almost a full-time job on its own. Concerns were raised about the 4 in the caves, although they seemed remarkably resilient, and it was fair to say they had survived two previous winters in such conditions.

“If they require anything then we send it over to them”, said Bardin “But otherwise I’m staying here”.

“Are you hiding in the wings, old love?” said Adam.

“I hope it doesn’t come across like that”, said Baridn “But I can only take a little of Cat Woman. A very little. She does my head in”.

“How strange”, said Adam “Patsy was saying exactly the same thing!”

“And he’s lucky”, said Bardin “She ignores him!”

Bengo was alone in the galley, rolling out pastry when Hoowie suddenly burst in.

“Hey Benje, I’ve sorted out that Cat Woman creature for you”, he yelled.

Bengo froze in terror.

“What have you done?” he said, when he had finally found his voice.

“I told her to stop getting her hopes up about Bardin”, said Hoowie “That he was married to you, and we weren’t letting him go anyway”.

“Oh my God, you didn’t?” said Bengo.

“I did”, said Hoowie, proudly “And she said she wasn’t after him. I got some long, self-righteous speech about how she was a strong woman who didn’t need a man in her life to boost her self-esteem”.

“No, she’s got plenty of that, it’s true”, said Bengo “But you still shouldn’t have said anything!”

“I had to!” said Hoowie “You lot would’ve farted around for months. Pussy-footing everywhere. As it is, we now know what’s what”.

“Do we?” said Bengo.

“Yeah”, said Hoowie “She says she sees Bardin as a spiritual leader. She senses greatness in him. I did point out that Kieran was the spiritual leader, and she said Kieran was into Organised Religion. Made him sound like a pervert!”

“No, just kinky”, Bengo laughed “For God’s sake don’t go interfering again though, or you’ll get barred from going over there”.

“I don’t care”, Hoowie shrugged “When we’re over there Hillyard just keeps rabbiting on about that bloody still, does my head in. Him and Wesley”.

“Don’t you enjoy being fawned over by Beatrix?” said Bengo.

“Oh Bea’s alright”, said Hoowie “But I have to be sweet all the time with her and it’s hard work. But if I can brighten her day a little, then I suppose I shouldn’t complain”.

“God forbid, that woman’s life must be even worse than we thought”, Bardin boomed from the doorway “If she needs you to brighten it up!”

“Well it is grim innit”, said Hoowie “She lives in that dismal old cave with Anton - nice, but a bit round the bend, Wesley: a drunk, and Cat Woman … less said the better”.

“Beatrix did say to Adam the other day that living in a cave could feel de-humanising”, said Bengo.

“That’s something I don’t understand”, said Bardin “They’ve been here 2 years, and they’ve made no attempt to construct a proper home for themselves. If that was us, and we didn’t have the galleon, we’d have built something by now”.

“Yeah, but they’re not up to it are they?” said Hoowie.

“I would’ve thought that even they could have built even the most rudimentary of huts in 2 years!” said Bardin.

“Oh be fair, it’s different for us, Bardy”, said Bengo “There’s a lot of us, all with different skills”.

“And you to tell us all what to do”, said Hoowie.

“Yes alright, Smart-Arse”, said Bardin.

“Perhaps they feel safer in the cave”, said Bengo “Than in a flimsy old hut”.

“There is that I suppose”, said Bardin “But they’ve added nothing to the cave have they? Everything they’ve got there now had previously been put there by somebody else. I mean, what the hell have they been doing for the past 2 years?!”

Adam felt sorry for Beatrix. She was the only one out of the Cave4 who seemed to have maintained a foot-hold in reality, plus she was plainly trying to keep some normality when her life had been swept clean of all that she had known. He often invited her over to the galleon, and sat her by the fire in the dining-room, with a glass of hot cider, or sherry.

“It’s so organised around here”, she said, wistfully.

“That’s interesting”, said Adam “Because we usually think it’s pure chaos. Or at least Bardin does!”

“No it’s not”, said Beatrix, shaking her head sadly.

She espied Kieran walking past the door again.

“He’s very beautiful isn’t he”, she said “It seems an odd thing to say about a man but he is. ’Handsome’ doesn’t seem to quite work somehow”.

“Handsome implies something rather more rugged and manly I suppose”, said Adam “Whereas Pats … Kieran is more sort of ethereal”.

“Kitty says it’s just because he has blue eyes and blonde hair”, said Beatrix “But I don’t think it’s just that. His bone-structure is so perfect, and yet he’s not vain with it”.

“Oh good heavens no, Kieran’s never been vain”, said Adam “Quite the reverse. I sued to despair sometimes how little care he took over his appearance. That was when we lived in civilisation in the old days. Of course, the way we live now, it rarely matters”.

“No it doesn’t matter here”, said Beatrix, looking down at her badly-mended jumper “I used to love colourful dresses. They used to be all the rage in our area in the summer months. There would be a sort of gentle competition amongst the ladies as to who could wear the most colourful. I suspect we looked rather gaudy at times”.

“I’m sure you didn’t”, said Adam “Let’s have another drink”.

Later that afternoon Joby walked into Bengo and Bardin’s cabin to find Kieran brushing his hair.

“Oho, if only Beatrix could see you now!” said Joby “Apparently she’s been telling Adam about what a remarkably un-vain man you are, for one so boodiful”.

“And giving me hair a quick brush makes me vain does it?” said Kieran, putting down the shaving-mirror “I’ll remind you of that when you’re spending hours staring at that face of yours in the mirror”.

“I spend hours staring at this face of mine in the faint hope that one day it might show some sign of improvement!” said Joby.

“It does”, said Kieran “You just need to smile more”.

“That’d scare everybody!” said Joby.

“What else did Beatrix say?” said Kieran.

“Not much”, said Joby “She got a bit upset about the old days, poor old bint”.

“I suspect Adam’s the only one who really takes the time to listen to her”, said Kieran “She must have a lot to get out of her system”.

“Perhaps you should do a Confession with her”, said Joby.

“No, that’s not what she needs”, said Kieran “She just wants someone to listen to her. I expect her family don’t very much”.

“Too wrapped up in ‘emselves”, said Joby “Cat Woman made some snark-y remark about you being all blonde hair and blue eyes apparently”.

“Hah! That’s the sort of thing Angel used to come out with!” said Kieran.

“Praps we could marry her off to him”, said Joby “To The Devil - A Wife”.

“The wedding night would be pretty grim”, said Kieran “She’d want to save his soul, and Angel’s shit-scared of sex”.

Bardin burst in.

“It’s alright, you can carry on, I’m not stopping”, he said “I just want to change my shoes”.

“Alright Dobbin”, said Joby, pushing him onto his bunk and proceeding to unlace his boots.

“I’ve been thinking”, said Bardin.

“Blimey”, said Joby.

“Now you take it steady there, Bardin”, said Kieran.

“Yes alright, alright, when did you two join the circus?” said Bardin “No, it’s about the caves. I was poking around at the back of their living-chamber the other day, near where Wesley keeps his still, and I noticed some tunnels”.

“There’s always tunnels in caves”, said Joby.

“MANMADE tunnels”, said Bardin.

“I expect it was an old mine once”, said Kieran “There were probably a lot of mining-communities in this part of the world at one time”.

“Look at the main entrance”, said Joby “Those steps didn’t grow out of the rocks by themselves did they!”

“Oh no”, said Bardin, pausing in wonderment “I suppose they didn’t. But anyway, why haven’t they explored them?”

“Because not everybody’s as nosey as us!” said Joby “And anyway, can you imagine Beatrix and Kitty mooching about in dark tunnels with hurricane lamps?”

“Kitty would probably regard it as disturbing the peace and equilibrium of the Universe”, said Kieran.

“Ooh, that felt good did it!” said Joby.

“Are you suggesting we explore them, Bardin?” said Kieran.

“If I never see another bloody tunnel again for as long as I live I’ll be quite happy”, said Joby “Bardin, it’ll just be tunnels that’s all. There’ll be nothing to see”.

“You don’t know that”, said Bardin “And it’ll be a nice diversion for Beatrix, stop her moping over the old days all the time”.

“Bardin, she doesn’t need you to provide her with entertainment!” said Kieran.

“And I can’t see her wanting to join us somehow”, said Joby.

“You don’t know the value of diversions to take people’s minds off things”, said Bardin “I do! We can’t have people moping”.

“Nothing wrong with a bit of moping”, said Joby, stubbornly “Allows time for quiet reflection”.

“You can too much of that!” said Bardin, now newly-shod, getting up to leave the room.

“Chance’d be a fine thing!” said Joby “With you around!”

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