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In February the railway station was closed for refurbishment. Hillyard had finally bought it. It was a chilly late winter/early spring, but the sun had come out in force, reborn after the dark days, and this allowed the thaw to come on apace. For several days the Indigo-ites were busy during the expanding but still limited daylight hours, rejuvenating a place that had sunk into a kind of depressed torpor. The station was at the end of a remote branch line, and as such had only one platform. On the other side of the track was the signal-box, and Kieran had taken this over as his own personal project.
“This is a bit of alright ent it!” said Joby, coming up the wooden steps with a tray of tea “I could live in here meself”.
“Cosy isn’t it?” said Kieran, who had been polishing the brass bells “Should suit somebody who wants a quiet life”.
“Well the advert’s gone out”, said Hillyard, who had followed Joby up, with the less welcome sight of a bundle of Ransey-style papers under his arm “Now it’s just a case of seeing if anyone bites”.
“Perhaps we should have put ’for someone who wants the quiet, solitary life’”, said Kieran.
“You can’t put that in job adverts!” said Joby “It’d only encourage all the wierdos, and we’ve already got enough of those round here!”
“That’s alright, we’ll be taking those with us when we go”, said Kieran “Including the biggest weirdo of the lot”.
“Crowley?” Joby exclaimed “Oh he’s not coming with us is he, Kiel?”
“He has to I’m afraid”, said Kieran “We can’t leave him here. There’s no knowing what he might get up to once I was off the scene”.
“I spose so”, said Joby, grudgingly.
“It’ll be fine when we get to the other end”, said Kieran “We’ll find a spare tower to put him in”.
“Yeah but it’s the journey down through the forest that’s the problem”, said Joby “He’ll probably start thinking he’s some filthy old pagan satyr or summat!”
“START thinking he’s that?!” Kieran laughed.
“It’s the journey I’ve been sent over to talk to you about”, said Hillyard, who had made himself comfortable in a battered red leather armchair.
“Ransey’s been making plans I take it?” said Kieran, eyeing the pile of papers.
“For the advance party”, said Hillyard.
“What advance party?” said Joby.
“An advance party is to go on ahead down through the forest a day ahead of everyone else”, said Hillyard “It makes sense you see. We’ll be taking a lot of stuff with us, including a boat. Somebody needs to go on ahead to make sure of a convenient way down. So Bardin’s come up with a small advance party. Himself, Kieran …”
“Of course”, said Kieran.
“Me”, said Hillyard “Ransey, Mieps …”
“Won’t she be a liability with her ropey leg?” said Joby.
“It’s a lot less hassle than not asking her!” Hillyard sighed “You, and Bengo …”
“BENGO?!” said Joby.
“Bardin will feel better with him there”, said Kieran “It’d be like expecting me not to have you around. Tamaz might put a fight to be included as well”.
“And that’s a SMALL advance party is it?!” said Joby “Typical that is. Somebody makes a suggestion and then everybody wants to go!”
“Will we be having the tepee?” said Kieran “I’d better sleep in the middle of you two then!”
“There’s going to be one other”, said Hillyard “Bloke from the village. He’s the chief huntsman round here. Again it makes sense. He knows the forest better ‘en we do. In the old days we never explored it in that direction. We only went down to Bandorra, which is in the exact opposite direction”.
“Does he know the way all the way to the lake then?” said Kieran.
“Not all the way down”, said Hillyard “No one’s done that in living memory, but he knows a fair bit of the way. He said he’ll help us find a reasonable track, something a bit bigger than a rabbit’d need! He wants to meet us at ‘The Wild Man’ later”.
Bruck watched them walking up the main street of the village to the in. Ransey and Bardin in front, Kieran, Hillyard and Joby behind. Brock didn’t know what to make of Hillyard. The rest of the village was awed by his vast wealth, his burly, handsome looks, and his amiable disposition. Brock consoled himself that he though, (Brock that is), was entirely heterosexual, and he felt this gave him an advantage over Hillyard. Brock was charismatic, one of life’s natural enthusiasts for whatever pursuit he was engaged in at the time. His vibrant personality had earned him considerable success with women, and he didn’t want anybody around who was likely to put the mockers on that. The women in the village loved Hillyard though, and to be fair it wasn’t just due to his money, so Brock thought it would be quite nice to escort Hillyard safely out of the way for a while. This particular pond wasn’t big enough to hold two such enormous over-sexed fish at the same time.
The women also loved Kieran, in fact they loved him with a passion, they felt it was he who had made the world a fit place for them to live in again. That he was also beautiful , gentle and charming was only the icing on the cake. Brock didn’t feel threatened by Kieran. To him Kieran was an enigma, he had never seen a man like him before. Brock respected Kieran for what he had achieved, and for the power he so clearly had over people, but at the same time he found him quite amusing. With his elfin looks and short, spindly body, Brock didn’t feel Kieran should be treated with too much gravitas, more a sort of grudging respect.
The Indigo-ites went into the bar, which was deserted, as Brock had been watching from the private bar upstairs (which he regarded as being primarily for his own exclusive use, and was known to get quite hurt if anyone else claimed it first). They ordered a jug of brandy from the landlord and sat down.
“Where is he then?” said Joby “Is he hiding in the woodwork somewhere?”
“He’ll be in in a minute”, said Hillyard “:Probably just got held up”.
“Slaughtering some wildlife no doubt!” said Kieran, caustically.
“You promised you would not make pointed remarks like that”, said Ransey “It’s not going to be much fun for us if you just keep ranting on like that. You’ve already upset Hegley enough”.
“That was Joby who did that!” Kieran protested “It was him who barred him from the kitchen!”
“Eh old Julian’s chewing the furniture a bit”, said Hillyard “He don’t like missing out on things”.
“Why didn’t he come then?” said Bardin “I don’t understand all these comments I keep hearing”.
“Adam’s orders”, said Ransey “Julian is to take much more of a back seat, to enable you to shine”.
“Does he think I’m such a delicate, shy little thing that I need to be coaxed gently out of the wings!” said Bardin.
“He was only thinking of you”, said Hillyard.
“There is too much thinking going on around here!” said Bardin.
“That’s a first!” said Joby.
“Julian doesn’t have to efface himself for my sake”, said Bardin.
“I cannot imagine anyone in the world less capable of being self-effacing than Julian!” said Ransey.
“Look, just enjoy the few days peace and quiet we’ll have in the woods before he catches up with us!” said Joby.
“No sign of this fella yet”, said Kieran “How’s about we get another jug in?”
The landlord came over, wringing a tea-towel in his hands.
“He’s … he’s upstairs”, he said, pointing upwards in a reverential fashion.
“Well why didn’t you tell us he was lurking overhead?” said Joby “We’ve been sat here like a bunch of lemons!”
The Indigo-ites all rose to their feet, and Kieran prepared to lead the way upstairs. Ransey forestalled him.
“How many times have I told you about that?” he said “You do not go marching into a room ahead of everyone. There could be an assassin in there”.
“What, sort of tall and stringy geezer with glasses?” Hillyard joked.
“This don’t bode well for going down through the forest, if we can’t even find our way upstairs in the pub!” said Joby.
Bardin went in first, striding over to Brock and shaking his hand firmly. Brock greeted him in his traditional stance of feet apart, Henry VIII-style. With his whip-thin dancer’s body, Bardin felt dwarfed by Brock, but he was determined not to show it. He had to assert from the first that he was Captain, and was just glad that Adam wasn’t there to introduce him in his traditional way of “our little Captain”. Brock greeted them all in a very man-to-man manner. When he reached Kieran though he confounded him by launching into a sort of mock Oirish-brogue.
“It’s Himself, so it is”, he said.
“Do you do much of that?” said Kieran, in bewilderment.
“Let’s get down to business shall we?” Brock bellowed, in his customary way. He indicated a jug of wine on a side table “Help yourselves to that, it’s very good”.
He began to fart about unfolding maps and draping them over the backs of the chairs, like a window-dresser arranging a display.
“Now the forest around here is not for the faint-hearted”, he said “It is a dark, serious place, and should be treated as such”.
“We have travelled in remote, wild regions before you know!” said Joby, who rapidly didn’t like his tone.
“There are many legends about the forest”, Brock went on.
“Are you a superstitious man then, Brock?” said Kieran.
“Everyone in this region is superstitious”, said Brock.
“Too much so if you ask me!” said Ransey.
Brock then began to give a lecture on the impact of the forest on the village, and the grave respect with which it should be treated at all times. This went on for quite some while.
“I dunno if I can cope with the thought of several days of him!” said Joby, sitting at the dressing-table in his room and smearing his nose with suntan oil. It had got burnt in the harsh winter sunlight. “Every time he opens his gob I keep wanting to reach for the volume control!”
“He’s a strange mix of hard man and superstitious wally”, said Kieran, who was lying on the bed reading a newspaper.
“Are you going to be long taking your make-up off?” said Kieran.
“Don’t be cheeky!” said Joby.
“Well that’s what it looks like, sitting there slapping cream all over yourself!” said Kieran “And does he have to put on that silly voice every time he mentions me? Do I really speak like that?”
“Sometimes, when you’re getting excited!” Joby laughed, helplessly “When it gets too bad I can’t understand a word you’re saying!”
He got up and peeked through the curtains to the edge of the forest, where the fire was still burning.
“I get me focking arse whipped when I look out at him!” Kieran complained.
“Too right you do!” said Joby, going over to him and dealing him a ringing smack on the behind “What’s he still dong there, that’s what I don’t understand”.
“I’m beginning to think he can’t leave”, said Kieran “That’s the trouble with demons. Summoning them isn’t the problem, it’s getting rid of them afterwards that’s the problem. I dragged him here when I looked through that scrying-mirror of Aleister’s, and he’s been anchored here ever since. The way I feel about it is that at least with us leaving here we might be able to drag him away from the vicinity of the village”.
“But if he’s trapped here, as you say”, said Joby “Why hasn’t he tried to get into the house? It never usually stops him. I’ve had the heebie-jeebies sometimes, keep expecting to see his horrible face lurking somewhere in the shadows. I thought he’d be in here giving you a hard time”.
“He’s afraid to come in”, said Kieran “I’m too happy at the moment, he can’t afford to face that. For him it’s the equivalent of facing Tamaz with his power on”.
“He’s scared it’ll destroy him?” said Joby.
“No it can’t destroy him”, said Kieran “But I can weaken him a lot. It might make him very sick”.
“I thought he was like that all the time!” said Joby.
Joby had some idea of what Kieran was talking about. Kieran was glowing at the moment. Joby would previously never have thought it was possible for Kieran to become any more beautiful than he already was, but it seemed to have happened, and Joby’s hunger for him was now violently insatiable. He kissed him these days as though he was afraid that at any moment Kieran would be torn from his arms. Joby had always been one of the most tender and compassionate of the Indigo-ite lovers. It was a fact little aired in public, but it was true. And these days, for Kieran, he had the intoxicating blend of having a very firm hand on a regular basis, and a deep, intense tenderness.
“It’s late”, said Joby “Come on, I’ll put you to bed”.
Over the next few nights Kieran would wake up to hear something scampering around the outside of the house. One night, when he was sure and certain that Joby was snoring and well out of it, he got out of bed and went over to the window. He saw a shape sprinting across the lawn towards the forest. He was certain it was Angel. The following day he announced that the move to the retreat house should be brought forward. He was concerned about keeping Angel near the village.
Some of the others were disappointed to be leaving the station just as everything was getting well under way, and thus having to put the rest of it into the hands of contractors, but they could see the sense in what Kieran was saying. The least surprising event of the winter was Hal and Mutton Broth closing the restaurant and coming up to the Castle. Bengo was only surprised that they wanted to risk Bardin’s castrating tongue, that they hadn’t made a go of it. Hal and Mutton Broth didn’t care. There were no insults Bardin could throw at them that they hadn’t heard before, and they wanted to follow them into the wilderness.
The day before the exodus Aleister Crowley had to be abducted from the cemetery. Ransey, Hillyard, Bardin and Joby assigned themselves to this grisly task. Bardin voiced surprise that Kieran wasn’t coming, until Joby pointed out that the last time Kieran had called in on Crowley they had got lumbered with Angel as a result. To make sure that Kieran stayed out of trouble whilst he was busy down in the village, Joby locked him in their room. Adam had a horror of locked rooms, having served two stints in prison, and voiced outrage. Bardin adopted a lofty stance and said that he never had to resort to such measures with Bengo, who obeyed him implicitly at all times. To which Joby gave a rather sarcastic “Yeah right!”
“Go on tell me I’ve created a monster”, said Adam, pacing round Julian’s bedroom “You would be quite justified”.
“On the contrary I have been very impressed with Joby of late”, said Julian “I didn’t think he had it in him to be ruthless enough with Kieran, he’s always allowed himself to be dragged along in his wake before. But he’s shone since Christmas. He’s even asked me for my spare wooden paddle”.
(The spare wooden paddle was a nasty item which left a horrid sting when applied. It was never used for sport, only for genuine discipline. Julian had had a brace of them, which he kept polished to a mirror-like sheen).
“What on earth’s he going to do with that?” said Adam.
“Well what do you think!” said Julian, pouring out two glasses of port “He hasn’t used it yet apparently, as Kieran has been remarkably well-behaved. Oh come on, stop trying to look so disapproving. Kieran is thriving under this regime. He’s positively glowing. I swear he’s even managed to put on some weight, and not before bloody time! He’s even developing an arse”.
“Yes I know”, Adam smiled “All little and rounded, like two little peaches. Even so, locking him in his room though. How very Dickensian!”
“That’s our Joby”, said Julian “Dickensian all over!”
Crowley was brought to the Castle like a convict. Adam thought that he only needed a blanket over his head to complete the picture. Hillyard and Ransey took him to the small sitting-room, which had been evacuated and turned into a rather comfy prison cell for the night.
“I met that mouthy one in the village”, Bardin was saying in the lobby.
“Brock?” said Adam.
“Tried to imply Bengo wasn’t right to be in the advance party”, said Bardin “I pointed out to him in no uncertain terms that Bengo has never lacked courage”.
“I hope you told him I was up for anything”, said Bengo.
“I would have thought that he would already have realised that”, said Adam “You being a clown and all”.
“Has Kieran been behaving himself?” said Joby, shedding his outdoor gear.
“As he’s been locked in his room all afternoon he hasn’t exactly had much choice!” said Adam, tartly.
“You must be joking”, said Joby “Kieran could misbehave anywhere!”
He went upstairs and unlocked his bedroom door. Kieran was lying in bed, reading one of Joby’s lurid paperback horror potboilers, the ones that usually came with pictures of people (usually incongruously unclothed) being mangled by bizarre-looking machinery.
“Has me parole come through at last?” said Kieran “Talk about the Count of Monte Cristo, I was beginning to wonder if I should start digging a tunnel!”
“Don’t give me that”, said Joby “You need a rest, and this is a good way to ensure you get it”.
“Funny that”, said Kieran “I thought it was to keep me out of mischief!”
“How much have you been drinking?” said Joby, looking at the brandy decanter on the side table.
“I needed to take in some liquids whilst I was in here!” Kieran protested.
“There was a jug of water in the corner!” said Joby.
“Oh I thought I’d give the hard stuff a miss this afternoon”, said Kieran, airily “Anyway it’s your fault, you should have remembered to take the decanter out of the room”.
“I might have known it’d be MY fault!” said Joby “You are gonna be a bleedin’ nightmare over the next few days, particularly as I’ll be limited how I can control you”.
“How do you work that one out?” said Kieran.
“No corporal punishment”, said Joby “Think about it, Kiel. You’re gonna be saddle-sore enough with riding a mule all day, without a smacked bum to contend with on top of it!”
“We’ll be taking a jar of cream with us won’t we?” said Kieran, whose immense capacity for taking punishment was one of the wonders of the Universe.
“No no no”, Joby stood in the middle of the room, shaking his head, whilst Kieran watched with some amusement.
“Is this a private consultation?” he said “Or can I join in?”
“Well it’s not fair is it!” Joby exclaimed.
“What isn’t?” said Kieran “I’m only a poor simple-minded Irishman, you’ll have to let me in on the intricate workings of your great mind at this point”.
Joby laughed. He sat down on the bed, took Kieran’s hands and sighed.
“You’re a marvel you are”, he said.
“You’re too kind!” said Kieran “Are you giving yourself a hard time because you know it’s time to break in the wooden paddle?”
“You won’t enjoy it, Kiel”, said Joby “It’s painful that thing, you’ll cry”.
“Most likely I will”, said Kieran “But try it anyway. Hillyard can pad me saddle up for me in the morning, and it’ll make me so incapacitated tonight that I won’t be any trouble this evening at all”.
Joby knew there was nothing but pure commonsense in this.
“You’ll make such a row though”, he said “Adam’ll come charging in, he already thinks I’m evil! He’ll probably bring Lonts with him”.
“Then stuff a hankie in me gob”, said Kieran “Julian’s done that sometimes”.
He squeezed Joby’s hands.
“Are you looking forward to the adventure ahead?” he asked.
“Yes”, said Joby “Yes I am”.
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