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By Sarah Hapgood

The 6 of them wandered back through the house in the surreal greyness of the pre-dawn light. There was no sign of Pabbio, and they assumed he must have gone somewhere else to sleep. When they got to the main living-area, where he had entertained them the night they had arrived, they found several days accumulation of glasses, plates and cups lying around.

“I’m surprised he doesn’t magic himself up some servants”, said Joby, caustically.

At least they knew whereabouts they were now though, and they decided to step outside for a moment to get some fresh air before going to the galleon.

“It gets so dark down there”, said Joby, when Hillyard came to join him on the rocks facing the sea to the south of the island “Especially in the galley. I’ll probably go off me nut from light deprivation!”

“When the immediate danger’s passed”, said Hillyard “We can move it back out of the caves, then you’ll be alright”.

“I’m gonna see if I can try and stop Kieran coming over to the house for a few days”, said Joby “I don’t trust Pabbio, and he really winds Kieran up. It’s just spite. He knows he’s not in Kieran’s league. OK, so he can do a few glorified conjuring-tricks, but that’s about it. It might impress the greedy or feeble-minded, but he’s not on Kieran’s level”.

“Well I’m sure if you order him not to, he won’t come”, said Hillyard, mischievously “Kieran won’t dare cross you”.

“Oh get real!” said Joby “It’s always Kieran pulling all the strings, always has been, from Day One. He’s just obedient when it suits him, that’s all. Don’t be fooled by him being all submissive. I bet you any money you like, by lunchtime he’ll be arguing the toss with me about summat”.

“Only so’s you’ll put him over your knee again!” said Hillyard.

Pabbio was clearly concerned by the effects of all that had happened in his library the evening before. The following afternoon his languid frame presented itself on the galleon.

“I wanted to make sure you weren’t leaving”, he said, finding Adam having a rest on the main deck.

“That isn’t our intention”, said Adam “At least not yet awhile”.

“Things get rather out of hand sometimes”, said Pabbio, dolefully “I-I understand you are quite an artist?”

“Well I do a bit of sketching and painting when I have the chance”, said Adam, thinking that the current dark confines of the cave didn’t exactly over-stimulate his artistic imagination.

“I’d like to see your work if I may”, said Pabbio.

Thinking that this might be a good bridge-building exercise, Adam took a couple of his sketch-pads over to the house later that afternoon. Pabbio met him in the conservatory, a vast, echoing glass structure at the back of the house.

“Is there anything this house doesn’t have?” said Adam, as their shoes clicked against the black-and-white tiled floor.

“I don’t use this part very much”, said Pabbio “I thought it might be nice to have a sort of arboretum, but I find it more sinister than relaxing”.

“Perhaps you need something a bit smaller”, said Adam, as they reached a white marble fountain (not currently in use) at the far end “It’s quite hard to relax in a place as awesome as this”.

“You may be right”, Pabbio sighed.

They perched on the edge of the fountain, and Adam handed him a sketch-pad to browse through.

“Oh dear, I’d forgotten that one was in there”, said Adam, when Pabbio stalled at a charcoal sketch of Bengo and Bardin standing giggling nose-to-nose.

“No no I’m fine”, said Pabbio.

“I suppose at least they’re not in full motley and slap!” said Adam “I do find the clowns great fun to draw”.

Pabbio turned the page over and found a sketch of Kieran sunbathing naked on deck, his great mass of hair flung out all around him. Adam suddenly had a depressing feeling that he was going to have to apologise for every picture Pabbio saw!

“You’re very talented”, said Pabbio, after an uncomfortable pause “With a skill like this you should be famous in your own right. I have heard over the years that some of your old pictures fetch quite a sum in the City”.

“Probably nude ones of Patsy like that one!” said Adam.

He was relieved when the next sketch turned over showed a fairly innocuous study of Umbert playing the piano in the galleon’s dining-room.

“Adam, I confess I don’t understand”, said Pabbio “Here you are, a talented artist, an aristocrat by birth, and yet you are content to slave away in the ship’s kitchen”.

“Well I suppose I’m fairly good at cooking too”, said Adam “How did you know I was an aristocrat by birth? I certainly haven’t given you that information”.

“I can tell”, said Pabbio, smugly “I am one too you see, although not British”.

Adam felt dismayed at the thought of the mileage Joby would get out of this nugget of news.

“What era do you come from?” said Adam “You know that 4 of us are originally from the 21st century but …”

“The 30th”, said Pabbio, abruptly.

“That might account for why we couldn’t place you”, said Adam.

“It was not a good time”, said Pabbio “ A terrible amount of persecution, many of my own kind were rounded up and terminated, but I don’t feel there is anything to be gained by going over the past”.

Adam privately felt that people who came out with that sort of thing usually had profound reasons for doing so.

He was glad when the session came to an end and he could retreat back over to the galleon. When he got below deck he found Bardin, Julian, Ransey and Hillyard all having a meeting in the dining-room. They all looked rather serious.

“You’re a very solemn-looking lot”, said Adam, dumping his things on the table and joining them “Has something happened?”

“No we’re just having a sort of strategy meeting that’s all”, said Bardin “Try and decide what to do next”.

“How did you get on with showing Pabbio your etchings?” said Julian.

“He’s never the most relaxing of people to talk to”, said Adam “He’s always so sort of defensive and barbed all the time. Doesn’t like giving much away about himself”.

Umbert came in carrying a teapot and mugs.

“I’ll get you a cup as well if you like”, he said to Adam.

“Thank you”, said Adam “So what conclusion have you reached about what we should do next? I thought the last suggestion was that we stay here for a month”.

“I’ve revised it”, said Bardin.

“You always were a restless little soul, Bardin”, said Adam.

“There are things I still want to do here”, said Bardin “Such as investigating that door in the cellar. Particularly now that Ransey has finally managed to return the key to me!”

“You talk as if it was your key to start with!” Hillyard laughed.

“So I suggest we do that sometime this afternoon”, Bardin continued “And a lot will depend on what we find down there. Of course I always have it in mind that it’s a gamble if we go back on the high seas”.

“A significant gamble I would have said”, said Adam.

“But at the same time”, said Bardin “I think this house could in the long run have an adverse effect on everyone if we stay”.

“Who’s going to come over on this investigation?” said Hillyard.

“Anybody who wants to come”, said Bardin “As long as somebody stays behind to mind the ship. I am feeling very democratic today”.

“How delightful”, said Adam.

“We’ll have to see if Kieran wants to come”, said Hillyard “Only I think Joby’s grounded him at the moment. Banned him from going over to the house”.

“I doubt anyone’s going to be able to break up this marathon shag-a-thon they’re currently engaged in!” said Julian, with a distinct note of asperity to his voice.

“Oh god, oh bloody hell”, Joby groaned into Kieran’s hair “You’re gonna drive me mad, you little rascal. I’m gonna have to take the paddle to you after supper. Oh god!”

There was a polite knock at the door.

“Oh for fuck’s sake!” said Joby “Sometimes I think there’s a bleedin’ universal conspiracy to stop me enjoying meself! Who is it?”

“It’s me, Bengo”, said Bengo.

“I’ll be back in a minute”, said Joby “Now clear off!”

“But it’s important”, Bengo protested “Can I come in?”

He sidled cautiously around the door. Kieran jumped up and pulled on his dressing-gown, mainly to hide the erection which was poking out of the front of his pants.

“It’d better be important”, said Joby “Or I’ll wring your neck. Is the galley on fire or summat?”

“No it’s Bardy”.

“Bardin’s on fire?” said Kieran.

“He’s said he’s gonna investigate the door in the cellar”, said Bengo “And anyone who wants to come over can”.

“Do you wanna look at it, Kieran?” said Joby “It was you and Hillyard who found it”.

“Yes, and I’m beginning to wish we hadn’t!” said Kieran “I’ll do whatever you want”.

“I spose we might as well satisfy our curiosity”, said Joby “Otherwise it’ll be niggling at us like an itch we can’t scratch. When’s Bardin planning on going over?”

“In about 20 minutes to half-an-hour he said”, said Bengo, and he gave a naughty giggle “Give some of us a chance to get dressed”.

“Yeah alright, we’ll be there”, said Joby “Now leave us alone for a minute”.

He bolted the door after Bengo had left.

When Joby got up on deck he found several of the others already congregated there. Bardin was giving instructions to Rumble, who was to be left in charge of the ship during his brief absence.

“Oh you made it then”, said Julian, when he spotted Joby “You managed to tear yourself away from playing with Kieran”.

“Shut up, Julian”, said Adam “Is Patsy not joining us, Joby?”

“Yeah he’ll be up in a minute”, said Joby “Just getting himself dressed”.

“What’s the clipboard for, Bardin?” asked Hillyard.

“For taking notes”, said Bardin, rather menacingly.

There was a muffled giggling from the top of the stairs and Kieran emerged, closely followed by Hoowie.

“Are we finally all ready?” said Bardin.

“I shouldn’t think so for one minute!” said Joby.

“It’s even more dingy than I remember it”, said Hillyard, when they reached the lower levels of the house “All this cold, slime and damp”.

Light was coming out of an open doorway nearby.

“Is Pabbio in there?” said Adam.

“I hope not”, said Joby.

They went to investigate what was in the unknown room. They found themselves in a small, windowless sitting-room, decorated in a fussy, very old-fashioned style, complete with gas-lamps, velvet tablecloths, and antimacassors on the button-backed armchairs.

“What a perfectly ghastly little place”, said Adam.

“That ‘cos it’s got no windows”, said Joby “Makes it feel all claustrophobic”.

“And this archaic Victorian style”, said Adam “Looks like the sort of thing Julian would do if he could get away with it!”

Fortunately Julian was out of earshot. He was down the corridor, peering through the windows of the locked wooden door, flanked by Kieran and Bardin. Meanwhile, in the strange poky little sitting-room, Hoowie had picked up a black, cloth-covered book which had been lying on one of the armchairs, and sat down with it. Joby found the sight of Hoowie with a book completely incongruous.

“What have you found?” he said.

“Weird shit”, said Hoowie, turning over pages depicting sketches of hideous, misshapen creatures, some of them appearing to be monstrous, human-animal hybrids.

“For fuck’s sake, Hoowie, don’t let Kieran catch you with that”, said Joby, snatching the book out of his hands and slamming it shut “He’ll brain you with it”.

“What’s up?” said Julian, coming into the room.

“It’s a book of bloody demons, that’s what it is”, said Joby, passing the book to Julian, who opened it at a random page to see a picture of a wild-haired wild-eyed man stuffing a human into his gaping mouth, feet first.

“Hoowie, leave this alone”, said Julian.

“Oh don’t speak to me in that tone of voice Julian please”, Hoowie pleaded “It freaks me out”.

“Good, it’s supposed to!” said Julian.

Bardin drifted into the room, looking rather ghostly. Gone was the clipboard-bearing bristling efficiency of his normal shipboard persona. Instead he seemed to be sleep-walking in a daze.

“Bardin, are you alright, old love?” said Adam.

Kieran next came into the room and stood under the main light. He spoke to Bardin, also asking him if he was alright. Bardin looked at him as if he didn’t know who he was. Kieran spoke to him again. Bardin peered at him, as though trying to work out his identity. Suddenly Bardin opened his mouth and let out a horrific yowl, like mad cat in a torment.

“Jaysus, we’re losing him!” said Kieran “Get him out of here. Lonts, carry him back to the ship”.

Lonts slung Bardin over his shoulder and carried him, still yowling, out of the room. They were followed by Adam and Bengo.

“What the …?” said Joby.

“My God, what an eejit I’ve been!” said Kieran, slapping his forehead in a gesture that would have been comical if the situation hadn’t been so confusing and serious “The truth’s been staring me in the face since we got here. Some focking Vanquisher of Evil I am when I don’t even recognise evil when I see it!”

“Never mind all that”, said Julian “Tell us what the hell’s going on”.

“The whole thing’s been lies”, Kieran rambled on “Of course! The Lord Of Lies. Evil confuses us so we don’t know what is truth and what is lies. We’ve been confused ever since we got to this house”.

“And we’re still bloody confused now!” said Julian “What’s going on? What are you waffling about? And what’s happened to Bardin?”

“And will he be alright?” said Hillyard.

“He’ll recover once he’s away from here”, said Kieran “Bardin’s highly sensitive and psychic. We shouldn’t have let him come down here”.

“It would have been hard to stop him”, said Ransey.

“Kieran, tell us at once what’s going on”, Julian ordered “Or I shall slap you senseless!”

“I feel embarrassed to tell you”, said Kieran, pulling out his cross from under his shirt and grasping it for comfort “I’ve been completely hoodwinked. This is a demon-infested island! That’s what I’ve brought you to!”

“We brought ourselves here”, said Julian “We grabbed at a place of sanctuary after we were recognised in Peridot”.

“Exactly!” said Kieran “Pabbio knew all that, and played on it to reel us in. He’s spun us and spun us and spun us, until we didn’t know what was real anymore. If we’d stayed here much longer we’d be deranged with lies and confusion”.

“Is he a demon then?” said Joby “I mean, I can well believe it if he is!”

“Yes, and I should have damn well known it too”, said Kieran “But I was so concerned about everybody’s safety. Jaysus, talk about being played like a focking violin!”

“Has it all been lies that he has told us?” said Ransey, seeing a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Kieran grasped eagerly at the straw that was on offer.

“Yes!” he said, excitedly “The whole damn thing! There are no bounty-hunters after us, there is no New Ministry in the City!”

“Good, it means we can leave without any further delay”, said Julian. Kieran had other ideas though. When they got up onto the next floor he located the conservatory at the back of the house, and ran into it.

“I know where he is now”, he said “The illusions been torn away from me. Pabbio, come out and show yourself!”

There was a movement by the fountain at the far end. Pabbio scuttled out from behind it on all fours, looking revoltingly like a human spider. He scuttled over to a nearby doorway, pulled it open and disappeared down a forbidding black corridor on the other side. As he ran away he let out inhuman shrieks and high-pitched whooping noises.

“Kieran, enough”, said Ransey, grabbing Kieran by the elbow “Don’t go down there”.

“We could send Tamaz after him”, said Hoowie.

“No we don’t do that to Tamaz”, said Joby.

“Agreed”, said Julian “Adam said he thought there was something completely off about this room, now I know what he meant”.

“Now let’s get out of this place”, said Ransey.

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