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By Sarah Hapgood

Once the storm had passed, the decision was taken jointly to return to Snow Lake, and warn everyone about the state of the outside world. Of course, there was always the chance that they already knew, but even so. There was a general feeling that they wouldn’t be able to relax on the island again until they had sorted this out. With reluctance they sailed away, the sound of wind-chimes attached to the mast adding an ethereal background music to their departure.

As they approached Snow Lake again, a fine late Summer/early Autumn rain began to fall steadily. It didn’t stop several women, who were gutting fish on the quayside, to pause in their labours and wave at them as usual. The galleon sailed on and took up its old mooring once more.

They had only been back at the old mooring for a few days when it emerged that the atmosphere in the town was tense to say the least. Yes, the locals had heard about the escalating wickedness in the outside world, and in their fear had turned in on themselves. To the Indigo-ites unspeakable horror the truth almost emerged that Kitty had been winding up the people of the town by telling them that everything was due to the Universe giving the world a Cleansing.

Now, under normal circumstances no one would take any notice of this nonsense, but these were not normal circumstances, and everyone was under a great deal of strain. To add to everything, the recent storm had caused devastating damage, with buildings either flooded or reduced to rubble. It was an intolerable situation.

Matters came to a head in the covered market, where one of the old women (the ones that had once intimidated Kieran so much) turned on Kitty and accused her of being a witch, and of bringing misfortune to the town. This spread like wildfire, and Anton, Beatrix and Wesley decided to flee to the galleon for sanctuary.

“So, don’t tell me”, said Joby “A lynch-mob could arrive here at any moment?”

“Hopefully they’ve all calmed down a bit”, said Adam.

“Some will have”, said Joby “Some won’t”.

“I wish to God you would learn when it was propitious to speak, Kitty”, said Anton, who was clearly at the end of his tether.

“You must forgive me”, Kitty bleated “Forgiveness is everything, if you can’t forgive you will make yourself ill”.

“Be quiet, you daft mare!” Joby thundered.

“Alright, pipe down the lot of you”, said Julian, thumping on the table “The damage is done. It’s the aftermath we have to deal with now”.

“It might be best if a few of us go into town tomorrow to try and quell the mood”, said Bardin.

“I should be able to get you there in the truck, now the water’s gone down a bit”, said Hillyard.

“Kitty, you’d better stay here”, said Bardin, who didn’t think for one minute that Kitty could be trusted to keep her trap shut.

“And what if they can’t be calmed down?” said Lonts.

“We’ll see just how bad the mood is”, said Bardin “If it’s atrociously bad then we might have to do an emergency exit”.

“Where to?” said Beatrix “The Demon Lands are to the north, and the hooligans are to the south”.

“That island you were on won’t be safe”, said Wesley.

“We’ll go back to the caves”, said Bardin “The ones where we found you”.

“You’ve always been itching to explore them properly haven’t you!” said Joby.

In the early hours of the morning Bardin was woken up by Ransey.

“There’s a posse outside”, Ransey whispered “On the shore. They’ve come from the town”.

“They’ve come for Kitty?” said Bardin.

Ransey nodded.

“Shit!” said Bardin “OK, I’ll go up on deck. Keep Kitty in her cabin. Lock her in. We can’t risk her showing herself, and I wouldn’t put it past her. Jeez, I never expected them go become like this!”

He hurriedly dressed. Bengo followed him. Bardin tucked his revolver into the inside pocket of his duffel-coat and clambered up the quarterdeck steps. Up aloft, Hillyard, Julian and Adam had already gathered on the main deck. They were rapidly followed by Kieran and Joby as well.

A rabble - there was no other way of describing it - had gathered at the lakeside. Their sinister, menacing appearance exaggerated by the flaming torches they carried. Bardin recognised several of the contingent, people he had often met around the town, and was astounded by the hostility in their faces.

“What is this?” he shouted, going over to the bulwark “You know us, we’ve never done you any harm”.

“Our grief isn’t with you, Captain Bardin”, Jarvis shouted back “We want the witch. Hand her over, and we’ll leave you alone”.

“The witch?!” Bardin exclaimed “She’s not a witch! That’s just daft! I can’t believe I’m hearing this! She made some tactless comments, which she very much regrets [this wasn’t strictly true, but never mind], but she didn’t mean any harm!”

“Hand the witch over!” shouted Jarvis “There has been no luck in this town since you brought her here!”

“That’s demented!” shouted Kieran “You had bad luck in the town before Kitty came here! You can’t put it all on her!”

He was howled down by the mob. Bardin went speak and was hit in the face by a clod of wet mud. Kieran got some in his hair.

“Focking mud again”, he muttered to Bardin “I’m always getting covered in mud around here!”

Clods of mud now began to rain at them.

“Right, start the engines now!” Bardin ordered to Hillyard “We’ve got to get away from him before they decide to chuck something more damaging at us. We can’t risk harm to the ship”.

It was a close-run thing. It wasn’t long before the mob were showing every inclination to try and storm the ship. There was talk amongst them of going back to the town to fetch a skiff and board it, and take Kitty by force. Fortunately - it has to be said - none of them were as quick-witted and well-organised as Bardin, and the galleon was able to get clean away.

“Head north to the caves, as we discussed”, he said, going back below “They’re must less likely to follow us if we look as though we’re heading back to the Demon Lands”.

“Rotten arses”, said Bengo, trying to wipe the mud off Bardin’s face.

“Well he was a good shot”, said Bardin “Whoever it was who did it”.

In the end they didn’t stop at the caves, feeling the need to put yet more distance between themselves and “civilisation”. They made full use of their dwindling hours of daylight. Eventually they turned eastwards down the nearest river estuary, and breathed a collective sigh of relief at being off the main lake. The weather was unexpectedly on their side, with bright, crisp sunlight.

“I wouldn’t expect so much sunlight up here at this time of the year”, said Bardin.

“God’s helping us”, said Kieran.

“Hm”, said Bardin “Well something bloody odd is happening that’s for sure”.

When the river eventually opened out into a huge lake, which was surrounded by mountains, and dotted with numerous small, treeless islands. The galleon glided through them, as if serenely taking in the sights.

Beatrix was ecstatic about it all, and couldn’t stop enthusing how much she adored Bardin for taking them in.

“After the trouble Kitty gave you, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d left us behind”, she said to him up on deck.

“We wouldn’t have done that”, said Bardin “Anyway, Kitty’s behaved herself since we left”.

This was true. There had been a brief upset when they had first reached the old caves, when Beatrix said Kitty had threatened to lose herself up a mountainside, and lie there, exposing her naked body to the elements as a last penance. Fortunately, they had simply ignored her and moved on. Now she seemed to have even made peace with Kieran, and joined him in prayer sessions, to try and send out vibes of Peace and Love to the troubled world.

At dusk, Bengo and Bardin were chatting up on deck. It was very cold, but they held gloved hands as they watched the darkness deepen.

“No lights anywhere”, said Bengo, scanning the view.

“No sign of life”, said Bardin “We’d better make sure all the shutters and thick curtains are drawn below deck during the dark hours, and no lamps on deck. We’re in full blackout mode”.

“In case anyone pursues us this far?” said Bengo.

“Yes”, said Bardin “If they did, our lights could be seen for miles around here. We’d stick out like a sore thumb. And it’s not just the marauders and townspeople, Crowley’s still lurking in the woodwork somewhere”.

“We seem to have everyone chasing us”, said Bengo.

“And we’ll out-run them”, said Bardin “I feel oddly positive about all this, in spite of all the dark forces on our tail”.

“That’s what makes you a great leader”, said Bengo, squeezing his hand.

“All down to the constant rough-housing I get no doubt”, said Bardin “I’m constantly being hammered into shape. Come on, let’s go down into the warm”.


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