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By Sarah Hapgood

From the south-facing tower of his sprawling house Pabbio watched through his telescope as the galleon glided gracefully through the mist. When he reckoned that it had got sufficiently close enough, he ran down the steps and outside to light the beacon on one of the island’s many rocky outcrops. He didn’t want to run the risk of the galleon getting snared in the island’s ragged teeth, or running aground on the beach.

He was breathless with anticipation. He had waited a long time for this moment.

Pabbio was a small, frail man with milky skin and floppy, mouse-brown hair. He had a wispy little goatee beard, and usually wore silk pyjamas and a quilted dressing-gown. Julian later described him as “prissy”, but Pabbio wasn’t prissy in the highly-fastidious way that Toppy was for instance. It was more that Pabbio simply wasn’t at all strong, and as a consequence his care of himself had to be excessive at times. He could get around by himself fine, but he became exhausted easily, and the strain of recent times, of constantly waiting excitedly for the galleon to appear, had taken its toll on his constitution.

As Bardin approached him on the iron walkway which was the island’s main jetty, he prepared to launch into his grand “I am Captain Bardin of the Indigo galleon” speech, but he was to be deprived of this pleasure by Pabbio leaping in first.

“I know who you are”, he said “I know who all of you are. I’ve been waiting for you”.

Pabbio’s house was spectacular. It was huge and very rambling, and parts of it were hewn out of the (extinct) volcanic rock which comprised the main body of the island. He led the shore-party (made up of Bardin, Bengo, Adam, Hillyard and Ransey) in through the main entrance, which was a large space cut into the jutting front rocks. They were then taken down a broad corridor, which eventually opened into a large living-space. This room looked like an antique shop that the rest of the world had forgotten about. It was crammed with brocade sofa’s and chairs, glass coffee-tables, and a substantial wooden refectory table, decorated with sizeable china plates and cutlery with enamel handles, as though in permanent readiness for a dinner-party.

Just about everything about the house seemed to be massive, apart that is from the man who lived in it. It was also very gloomy. There were few windows in the room, and those that were there were cramped up high against the ceiling. As the island was still shrouded in fog, there was no sunlight to let in anyway. And the whole room had a dark, greenish, underwater feel to it.

As Pabbio busied himself setting out goblets of sherry, Bardin prowled around the room. He stopped to examine a stack of sheet-music piled on one of the chairs.

“I enjoy singing”, said Pabbio, apologetically “But although my voice is reasonably good, it’s not strong enough for the stage. I could never be a professional like you”.

“You seem to know a lot about us”, said Bardin.

“Yes I do”, said Pabbio, matter-of-factly “I know that They were onto you in Zilligot Bay, and that … er … little kerfuffle in Peridot didn’t help matters either I’m afraid”.

“Who are They?” said Ransey.

“The Ministry in the City”, said Pabbio.

Ransey nearly choked on his sherry.

“The Ministry?” he croaked “You mean somebody’s started all that up again?”

Pabbio nodded sadly.

“One of the most depressing aspects of human nature”, he said “Is how little humans really learn from experience. The same old mistakes committed time and time again. I can only deduce that they don’t really want to learn. Anyway, they have sent bounty-hunters after you. There’s quite a bit of money at stake too. They want Kieran back in the City”.

“What for?” said Hillyard.

“I suspect“, said Pabbio “To lock him up somewhere. Rather like The Man In The Iron Mask. They can’t have him keep popping up all over the world when they least expect it. His presence stimulates people too much, and then they’re not controllable you see. I was desperate to get you safely here, out of harm’s way. That’s why I sent the fog down. You’ve been followed since Peridot, I had to shield you somehow”.

“Who are you?” said Bengo, abruptly.

“I am Pabbio, a failed Vanquisher”, said Pabbio.

“You are like Pats …?” said Adam “Kieran?”

“There were a number of us who were sent into this world”, said Pabbio “Braaw, the doorkeeper at the Winter Palace, was broken by the vampires as you know. Some of us disappeared. Some were eventually corrupted. Kieran was the only one who survived”.

“But you’re here”, said Bengo “You survived”.

“I escaped”, said Pabbio “I got away from the mainland as soon as I could. I knew I could never take on that level of evil, not all by myself. I would have ended up like Braaw. So I came here, and I’ve been here ever since. I have followed Kieran’s adventures over the years though, and with much love and admiration”.

“Why did you never make yourself known to him?” said Hillyard, thinking of the amount of times Kieran could have done with assistance.

“I withdrew from the world”, said Pabbio “I didn’t know how to use my power, so I hid from it. But this latest threat, this new resurrected Ministry, it has the potential to plunge the whole world back into the dark ages, to as it was when we first came into this world. I cannot bear the thought of Kieran hidden away forever in the darkness, never to see the light again. I had to do something to help”.

“You are immortal too?” said Bengo.

“I never made a conscious effort to be immortal”, said Pabbio “It was just that simply I never died. I suspect it was the same for Kieran. When he realised that, he knew he couldn’t bear to live on without any of you, so he made you immortal too”.

“This new Ministry, Pabbio”, said Adam “Are they a threat to the women, as the old one was?”

“No”, said Pabbio “They are a threat to EVERYONE. They are every bit as destructive as the vampires, they like to destroy. But they do it under a pretence of civilisation”.

He told them how the new regime had modelled itself on the old Ministry, how they all had some Codlik-ish idea of how the world should be, and how the world could be made to conform to this “fantastic” ideal. Adam thought of how big, mysterious, and in many places, impenetrable, this world was, and voiced optimistic reservations that this new regime would be able to achieve what it wanted.

“Oh Adam”, said Pabbio, shaking his head sorrowfully “You know such facts have never stopped regimes before. It never stopped the Nazi’s from trying to over-run the whole of Europe, from Norway down to Greece, now did it?”

It was so astonishing for Adam to meet someone in this time who knew anything about the world he had come from, that he found it quite awesome. Pabbio had had plenty of time on his hands, and had used it to study history. He also knew just about everything there was to know about Kieran, and his followers. It was a weird and unnerving feeling. Sort of akin to finding out that somebody had been bugging your house for many years.

Ransey though had other things on his mind. He was dismayed beyond belief that somebody was trying to resume the dark old days of the Ministry. In his agitation he got extremely restless, and joined Bardin in pacing about the room.

When they came to leave the house to go back to the galleon, Adam tried to calm him down.

“No, don’t try and soothe me, Adam”, said Ransey “It’s just too bloody awful for words”.

“Anyway, he’s invited us all over for dinner this evening”, said Adam, when he got to Julian’s cabin.

“Jolly nice too”, said Julian, sarcastically.

“I have said though”, said Adam, choosing to ignore Julian’s tone “That it would not be practical for us all to go over, and besides, someone’s got to stay here and mind the ship”.

“Hoowie and I can do that”, said Julian.

“Well I think that Bardin’s decided that Rumble, Farnol and the other clowns can do it”, said Adam “They won’t enjoy Pabbio’s house very much you see”.

“Neither will I”, Julian barked.

“Oh Julian, why are you being EXCEPTIONALLY difficult today old love?”

“Because I don’t want to meet another one exactly like Tinkerbell!”

“Oh he’s nowhere near as beautiful as Patsy”, said Adam.

“I didn’t mean his looks!” said Julian “I meant that they’re cut from the same cloth. It’ll be an evening of spiritual talk”.

He made this sound like something too disgusting and perverted to be tolerated.

“I can’t imagine that, not for one minute”, said Adam “Not with all our lot there! Look, he has done a lot for us, given us a place of sanctuary, and a sort of cloaking device, with the fog. I fall he wants to do is to meet Patsy, well it’s a small thank you in return”.

“God, you drive me mad when you’re in one of your lets-be-fair moods”, said Julian.

“I know old love, I know”, said Adam “And I’m about to add insult to injury, and ask you to be extra nice to Ransey this evening”.

“Now you really are taking the piss!”

“No I’m not. All this nonsense about them in the City trying to resurrect the bad old days of the Ministry has left him very depressed. He’s got rather sunk into the glooms. Even Hillyard can’t do anything with him”.

“Well if Hillyard can’t I certainly won’t be able to!” said Julian.

“Perhaps”, said Adam “I’m just asking for you to go easy on him this evening that’s all”.

“Another thing”, Julian called out, as Adam tried to leave the room.

“Yes Jules?” Adam sighed.

“Are we having to dress up this evening?” said Julian “Gold waistcoats or digging out our cassocks?”

“I don’t think that will be necessary, old love”, said Adam.

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