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The plan was to spend one more night in the monastery area, and then move on in their relentless journey westwards up the river. Life though decided to throw in other plans. They were all bunked down in the communal bed in the big saloon in the middle of the night when remnants of the super-typhoon hit. It was fortunate that it had lost some of its momentum by the time it reached them, but even so it was still an unnerving experience.
“That rain’s not like normal rain”, said Joby, having briefly looked out on deck “That feels like summat else entirely”.
“It always does when it goes sideways”, said Hillyard.
“Make sure the boat’s well-sealed”, Bardin directed.
“That’s what I’ve been doing!” said Hillyard “Did you think I’d forget there was a big storm on or something?”
“If you did forget”, said Bardin “And I didn’t remind you, then you’d complain”.
“No I wouldn’t”, said Hillyard.
“I don’t see anything to be gained by this conversation, children”, said Adam “I shall go and make some tea”.
“I’ll light you along the passageway, Adam”, said Toppy, trotting along behind him with a lantern.
The boat began to rock like a child’s cradle, or like a child’s cradle being rocked by an aggressive giant.
“Christ, this is gonna be fun”, said Joby.
“I can hear someone outside”, said Tamaz.
“How?” said Joby “In this racket?”
“I just can”, said Tamaz “Somebody’s shouting”.
Ransey pushed past them and galloped up the steps to the main deck. Joby followed at a more sedate pace.
“You wouldn’t believe how lovely it is to see you”, said Adam, sounding as though he was at a summer garden party, and not on a storm-tossed boat in the middle of the night.
“We are delighted to be here”, boomed Lord Robert, standing in the middle of the dining-room on the galleon, which was a hive of lamplit bustle.
“How did you get here so quick?” said Bengo “It took us ages to travel up this river”.
“Yeah well, not everybody pisses about and dawdles along everywhere like we do”, said Joby.
“Joby, go and make some more tea for our guests”, said Adam.
“Anyone want any rock cakes as well?” said Joby “They’ll stop you being carried off by the wind!”
To his astonishment there was a general assent to the rock cakes idea. The ones that had come over with Lord Robert from his own ship were Jane and Cloris, plus Tomas (the pig fanatic) and, to Adam’s utter dismay, Beatrix. He was even more dismayed to hear that Anton had died.
“He went into a rapid decline”, said Lord Robert, briskly.
“I don’t think he’s got over everything that’s happened”, Beatrix snivelled “And then we had to leave him behind on the island”.
“But he’s dead!” Bengo protested.
“He’ll still be there all alone”, said Beatrix.
“I don’t wish to sound unfeeling”, said Bardin, who really couldn’t care less if he did “But we are in a situation where the living have to take priority at the moment”.
“Agreed”, said Lord Robert.
“Well that’s easy for you to say, Bardin”, said Beatrix “You’re immortal”.
“Even so, we’re not immune from harm”, said Bardin “And we are in a very dangerous area, and it’s very likely to get worse. We have to concentrate on immediate matters in hand”.
Beatrix bristled, and looked as if she was about to head out into the storm in high dudgeon. A rare moment of self-awareness though warned her that they would all be quite relieved if she did.
Adam went into the galley to see how Joby was getting on.
“I can’t believe she is with us again”, said Adam “I think I’m going to cry”.
“She’s not”, said Joby “She’s just visiting, she’s not living here”.
“On the next ship is quite close enough!” said Adam “And now she’s a bloody widow too! I don’t feel like being sympathetic. She probably wore Anton into his grave with the incessant way she carries on”.
“Yeah alright, calm down”, said Joby “We’ll all protect you. Anyway, Lord Robert seems pretty wise to her”.
“Yes it is good to have him and the girls here”, said Adam “They are a good team to have onside”.
“And we’ll need all the help we can get”, said Joby “If Kieran is intent on finding this bloody Evil HQ. D’you know summat? I can’t believe the fucking messes we get into sometimes!”
“That’s because the world seems to be in a particularly bad mess at the moment”, said Adam.
Their visitors prepared to leave at about 2 o’clock in the morning.
“You are the only people I have ever met who manage to look elegant in waterproofs”, said Adam to Cloris and Jane, who were now standing at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, ready to go back to their yacht “One so dark and one so fair. Like Snow White and Rose Red”.
“Oh blimey”, said Joby “He’ll want to sketch you next if you’re not careful”.
“Well why not?” said Adam “They’re like a female version of you and Patsy”.
“Far more elegant than me and Kieran could ever be!” said Joby.
“Hey! Hey!” shouted Hoowie, running across the deck to the top of the steps.
“Calm down or you’ll fall down stairs!” Bardin shouted back “You’re always doing it!”
“I can hear a horrible noise!” yelled Hoowie.
“Yeah it’s the wind you berk!” said Joby.
“I’m not on about the wind, it’s coming from the forest”, said Hoowie.
“Bengo! My coat!” Bardin ordered, imperiously.
For once Bengo didn’t poke out his tongue or kick him in the butt. Instead, he draped Bardin’s duffel-coat over his shoulders, as though Bardin was about to go for a leisurely, dapper saunter through a sunlit park. Bardin went up on deck, where Hoowie was literally hopping about with impatience and excitement.
“Listen! Listen!” he exclaimed.
There was the unsettling sound of dozens of voices all groaning in pain at once, filtering through the trees.
“Creepy as fuck ain’t it”, said Hoowie “I did think it was the wind at first, but no”.
“We heard that once before”, said Jane, as the others followed them up on deck “Back on Fire Island. it wafted over to us from the mainland. It’s like the souls of the damned”.
“And like the ones we heard in the Sea of Torment that time”, said Bengo “Remember, Bardy?”
“It is like that”, said Bardin “I think someone’s playing tricks with us. Mind games”.
“God, some people really get on your tits don’t they!” said Bengo.
“But it don’t make any sense, Bengo”, Hoowie wailed “We should all be going there en-masse, as many of us as possible”.
“Look, he hasn’t finally decided anything yet”, said Bengo “And this is a really boring conversation. Go away, I’ve gotta get ready for work”.
“Yeah, putting on a pinny”, said Hoowie “Big deal. Scarcely three hours in the make-up chair is it!”
“What’s all this about?” said Bardin, from the doorway.
“Nothing, Hoowie was just leaving”, said Bengo.
Hoowie gave a snarl and flounced out of the room.
“He’s in a bit of a strop isn’t he?” said Bardin.
“Yeah, with any luck he won’t speak to me for the rest of the day”, said Bengo “Though I doubt I could be that lucky! It’ll be ‘oh Benje ..’”
“What’s he in a strop about though?”
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