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By Sarah Hapgood

The early part of Winter seemed to be symbolised by sleeting rain, dark clouds, lamplight, burning stoves and the covered market in the run-up to Christmas. In spite of the darkness (the figurative sort) that lurked on the edges of their existence, life on the galleon was a delight. Kieran and Bardin between them agreed that as much light as possible had to be put below deck, to stop a repetition of the strange scratching noises Adam and Bardin had heard months before. As such, they got Hillyard to fix extra lantern brackets at strategic intervals around the rooms and corridors.

Julian (“showing his middle-class roots”, as Adam put it), baulked at the extra cost of this, but was howled down.

“Alright then”, said Julian “Don’t blame me when the ship burns down”.

“For fuck’s sake, Julian”, said Joby “After all these years of living on a ship, we do know how to be careful!”

The brewery was providing them with a regular income, and Jarvis seemed entirely satisfied with the arrangement. Trips to the town were frequent, but the Indigo-ites had not returned to the “Turd House” since the drive out there in the Summer. Likewise they tended to shun the woods. On particularly gloomy, overcast days, when there was a risk of the Wood Demons emerging from the trees, they lit braziers outside the brewery building as a deterrent.

Neither Bardin nor Hoowie had suffered any further nightmares. Both of them ha likewise calmed down from their usual excitable states. Between being kept in line by Julian, and occasional bouts of lovemaking with Bardin, Hoowie was entirely content, although occasionally given to executing zany dances down the corridor of the ship.

On one of their delivery trips to the hotel in town, Hillyard and Ransey were taken into the kitchen and plied with plum brandy by Hedda.

“I do worry about you boys over there all on your own”, she said.

“No worries, Hedda”, said Hillyard “There’s a lot of us. Safety in numbers”.

“I know, but even so”, said Hedda “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather dock here on the quayside for the rest of the Winter?”

“Being out there’s convenient for the brewery”, said Ransey “Otherwise we’d have to keep driving to and from it everyday”.

“And we can keep an eye on it better”, said Hillyard.

They shared a convivial half-hour with Hedda, and then emerged into the deep gloaming of an early Winter twilight.

“They don’t like mentioning it out front do they?” said Hillyard “When talking about the Evil that surrounds this area. Even after what’s happened to Monika”.

“Perhaps they feel if they don’t’ mention it, it keeps it in its place”, said Ransey.

“Well I suppose at least we haven’t got to worry about any of our lot wandering off”, said Hillyard “They know the score too well. Thank God Bardin won’t do that”.

“All that spanking must finally be paying off”, said Ransey.

The weather got steadily worse over the next few hours. Squally winds developed which moaned down chimneys like the distant rumble of thunder. They all had a leisurely lunch in the dining-room, and then broke out the cards, dominoes and backgammon.

“Let’s leave the brewery for the rest of the day”, said Hillyard “It’s all locked up anyway”.

“Going to get enough of going out in that over the next few months”, said Ransey.

“If it gets much darker it’ll feel like the sky will fall in”, said Joby.

They eventually got round to clearing the table at four-thirty. Adam put Bardin across his knee by the dining-room fire and spanked him slowly but firmly. Bardin squirmed with pleasure.

“Intruder alert!” shouted Hillyard, rushing into the room.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, who? Where?” said Adam, pausing with his hand on Bardin’s starched behind.

“Wesley”, said Hillyard “He’s on the shore”.

“In this weather?” said Joby “The nutcase!”

“Can’t we just batten down the hatches?” said Mutton Broth.

“Well he knows we’re all on here”, said Hillyard.

“Damnit!” said Bardin “I am in no mood to see him!”

“You don’t have to”, said Adam “Go to your cabin with Bengo, we’ll sort him out”.

Bengo helped Bardin to his feet.

“Hopeless”, said Bardin “He just won’t get the message”.

“We don’t know what he’s there for yet”, said Joby.

“Bardin, do as you’re told, old love”, said Adam “Or I shall get the paddle out when our visitor is gone”.

Bengo hoiked Bardin over his shoulder and carried him from the room.

The clowns enjoyed a lengthy snogging session by the fire in their cabin. Bardin was sat on Bengo’s lap.

“I’ve left my trousers in the dining-room”, said Bardin, when they eventually came up for air.

“Well you don’t need them in here”, said Bengo, caressing Bengo’s legs.

“That’s one damn good reason for Wesley not moving in here”, said Bardin “If that’s what he wants anyway. I’m not being spanked in my underwear in front of him or his bloody family!”

“No chance of them being allowed back here”, said Bengo “We’ll scare them off by telling them we’re being constantly plagued by demons”.

There was a knock on the door.

“It’s me”, Adam called out “I’ve made you both some tea”.

Bengo unceremoniously turfed Bardin onto the hearth-rug and went to unbolt the door.

“It’s alright, Wesley’s gone”, said Adam, carrying two mugs of tea into the room “Bardin, what are you doing down there?”

“Bengo chucked me on the floor”, said Bardin, still sitting sprawled on his butt.

“How delightful”, said Adam.

Both of them helped Bardin to his feet.

“Shut the door again”, said Bardin.

“No need”, said Adam “Our visitor has gone”.

“What was the matter with him?” said Bengo.

“Having an emotional crisis”, said Adam.

“He came out, in this filthy weather, just to tell us that”, Bardin exclaimed “He’s always having an emotional crisis!”

“That was the general consensus”, said Adam “Wesley is a classic drunk I’m afraid. And I should know all about that, having once been one myself”.

“I can’t imagine you went around hassling people in their homes on stormy afternoons”, said Bardin, adjusting his shorts.

“Nobody would have listened if I had!” said Adam.

“Damnit”, said Bardin “He’s a grown man. It is not down to us to sort out his emotional state. We’ve got enough problems of our own”.

“I doubt Wesley wants to be sorted out anyway”, said Adam “He wants to carry on as he is. I suppose he thinks, as long as he keeps apologising afterwards, that it doesn’t matter”.

“Well it damn well does!” said Bardin “I’m bored with him, and as I’ve just said to Bengo, he is NOT moving in here. I’m still Captain, my decision still counts for something round here!”

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