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By Sarah Hapgood

The following morning Bardin supervised the other clowns loading the back of the truck with crates of beer, their first delivery to Jarvis at The Dancing Dog. Even at 9 o’clock in the morning the heat was pretty fierce, and the clowns grumbled.

“Just shut up and get on with it”, said Bardin “You’ve got to get used to this, you’ll be doing it a lot. It’s our livelihood from now on”.

“I preferred it when we didn’t have a livelihood”, Hal grumbled.

“Well that’s the story of your entire existence isn’t it!” said Bardin.

He walked round the side of the truck to where Kieran and Hillyard were chatting by the bonnet.

“Surely you’re a bit over-dressed for this heat, Bardin?” said Hillyard, looking him up and down.

“My trousers are staying on until we’re safely back home again”, said Bardin “Are you coming with us, Kieran?”

“No I don’t think so”, said Kieran “There’s no need for me to come into town, not now we’ve got all the beer we can eat at home”.

Adam came down the gangplank from the ship, carrying empty shopping-baskets.

“Looks like we’re about ready for the off”, said Hillyard.

Adam and Bardin sat in the front of the truck, Rumble and Ransey occupied the back, with the beer. Bardin rather rued his decision not to bring a cushion on the bumpy drive into town.

“I swear you are deliberately trying to find every bump in the road there is”, he complained, waspishly.

“Don’t need to with this road!” said Hillyard “It’d be hard to avoid them! What I love about you, Bardin, is you’re still a shrewish little bastard all the time, no matter how much knocking-about you get!”

“Good God Hilly”, said Adam “I hope you’ve got strong suspension on this thing”.

“These trucks were built to last”, said Hillyard “Bit like us really!”

Hillyard parked at the back of the hotel, and Bardin made his way to the public library. He spent a couple of hours looking through the meagre collection of local history books, and then met up with Adam outside.

“Any luck?” Adam asked.

“Some old maps showing that there was a farm and a chapel in our area a couple of hundred years ago”, said Bardin, as they strolled along the street together “But we already knew that. And a farm marked where we saw that gloomy building yesterday”.

“Which could still be a farm then”, said Adam.

“We’ll definitely have to take the truck up that lane”, said Bardin.

“I suggest you take a cushion this time, Bardin”, said Adam.

“A few other things too, I’ve made some notes”, said Bardin “I’ll pass it all on at dinner tonight”.

They all had an enjoyable lunch at The Dancing Dog, but didn’t linger over it. The heat of the day made them want to repair back to the galleon as quickly as possible. Once there, Bardin went to his cabin, stripped off his shirt, and washed himself with cold water and a flannel.

“Got a bit icky out there”, he said to Bengo.

“It’s broiling”, said Bengo “It’s too hot in the galley, and too hot outside as well”.

“That might be an argument for using the old kitchen for a while”, said Bardin “It stays quite cool in there. You don’t need to use the old stove if you don’t want to”.

“I don’t think it could be used!” said Bengo.

“So what I can gather”, said Bardin, reading from his notes after dinner “Is there are numerous tales of monsters and demons in the locality, which go back about a thousand years. To read it though you’d think it was just the usual legends and folklore you get all over the world”.

“What sort of monsters and demons?” said Kieran.

“Various different kinds”, said Bardin “Wood Demons, interestingly. Malevolent goblins, they’re pretty standard anywhere. Some of these round here though live underground. It is said they can’t cope in direct daylight, a bit like vampires. One old yarn has it that direct sunlight can turn them to stone!”

“That would be very convenient for us”, said Kieran “If they had to stay in dark places”.

“That might account for why you were attacked in the dark wood, Pats”, said Adam.

“And it was even darker than normal, because of the rain”, said Joby.

“So we’d better be careful during thunderstorms”, said Bengo.

“We’d better be on the alert full-stop”, said Bardin “Jarvis’s daughter went missing in the woods, and came back in a state of shock, from which she hasn’t recovered. It might be that she was attacked by one of those things, we don’t know. It’s all guesswork at this stage”.

“Was there anything else on this area?” said Ransey “Why the town shifted to where it is now?”

“There was a bad outbreak of some strange disease”, said Bardin “Which caused people to go into fits, a bit like epilepsy, or catatonic states”.

“Shades of Jarvis’s daughter again”, said Adam “The poor girl is like a zombie”.

“It killed several villagers”, said Bardin “This was a couple of hundred years ago. I gather the survivors decided it was a bad area, and moved to where the town is now. You can’t blame them I suppose”.

“I take it we don’t just dismiss all this as old wives’ tales?” said Ransey.

“After our travels in the Demon Lands?” said Kieran “Not likely! We found an entrance to Hell in that Moss Palace, who’s to say there aren’t more around here?”

“Oh fun”, said Bardin, recalling their adventure in the Moss Palace. “Ach don’t worry, Bardin”, said Kieran “We’re in no rush to go and find it”.

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