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By Sarah Hapgood

“Have you asked Bardin why we aren’t coming?”

“No, and I wouldn’t ask him right this minute as he’s inspecting the leaks caused by the storm”.

Hoowie had cornered Bengo in his cabin the following morning, and was harrassing him about why Bardin might only take the usual six (himself, Bengo, Ransey, Hillyard and Ransey) plus Lord Robert and the Girls on the horrible expedition to Evil HQ.

“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 …’”.

“About what though?”

“He thinks we should ALL go to the castle, or whatever it is. Safety in numbers”.

“He has a point I suppose”, said Bardin “Though I haven’t decided anything yet. A leaky ship is a more pressing priority. There’s so much needs planning and thought at the moment. And there is an argument for taking Julian with us, and he’ll insist on Hoowie going as well”.

“Why?” said Bengo “Hoowie’ll be a bloody liability”.

“Not sure”, Bardin smirked “The Evil might cut and run when it sees him!”

“How can you joke about it”, said Bengo “I’m suddenly feeling really anxious”.

“We’re clowns, dope, we have to joke”, said Bardin “And you’ve just got a touch of stage fright that’s all. You’ll be OK. Kieran always says the Evil never wins in the long run. Just remember that”.

“Bardy”, said Bengo.

“Mm?” said Bardin, picking up a heap of crumpled maps.

“Can’t we just ignore them and move on?” said Bengo “This Evil lot, whoever they are, I mean”.

“And how do you think Kieran will like that?” said Bardin “They’re already caused enough devastation in the area”.

“Exactly”, said Bengo “So it’s hard to see how they can cause anymore! It would be better to try and contain them”.

“Oh yes”, said Bardin “And we do that by ignoring them and running away?”

“No, we warn the outside world”, said Bengo “We head to the Village of Stairs, or any nearest big town on the west coast, and we do some broadcasts. Adam used an expression once, ‘Knowledge is Power’. Well if people know all about them …”

“We don’t know about them ourselves”.

“Oh c’mon, we’ve got a rough idea”.

“Have we?” said Bardin, in genuine astonishment.

“Well yes they’re vampires”, said Bengo “Possibly demons. But vampires mainly, and there’s not much variety in them as far as I can see. Boring bloody lot, as they can’t feel anything, and they have no sense of humour”.

“I’m not sure, Bengo”, said Bardin “It seems a bit odd”.

“We can’t keep interfering”, said Bengo “We’re as good as dead, except to each other. if the vampires are feeding on our energy, then it will reinforce it and make them stronger as we fight back. If we ignore them and carry on, then what have they got to feed on?”

“I’ll think about it”, said Bardin “Anyway, in the meantime, we have to carry on. We’ve got the boat to fix. Everything takes second place to that”.

Whilst some urgent repairs were going on, there was also an exchange of food between the galleon and Lord Robert’s yacht. Jane came over with a sackful of salted meats, and Bengo took her down into the hold, to exchange them for some tinned vegetables.

“Have you kept your pigs?” he asked.

“Oh yes, they’re on the yacht”, said Jane “Tomas wouldn’t have left without them”.

“Adam will be delighted with these”, said Bengo, hanging the joints of meat from the hooks “We so rarely get fresh meat, apart from when Mieps and Hillyard go hunting in the forest”.

“And that should keep for months”, said Jane “I’ve heard a rumour that you may be thinking of moving on without stopping at Evil HQ”.

Bengo didn’t bother to ask how she could possibly have known that. Gossip and information was spreading like wildfire between the boats at the moment. He had a suspicion that Toppy had been listening at doors (as was his want), and passing gossip onto Hoowie, who probably blabbed it to Tomas

“How does your lot feel about that?” he said.

“Lord Robert’s fine with it”, said Jane (as if Lord Robert was fine with it then the rest of the were as well) “Your idea of ignoring the Evil and depriving it of its energy is very sound”.

“Oh”, Bengo blushed. He felt uneasy.

“I’m not used to coming up with intelligent ideas”, he said “This one will backfire and it’ll all be my fault. Now I’ve come up with it, I keep thinking of the villagers at Somba and the monks at the monastery. Are we abandoning them?”

“Well no firm decision’s been made yet”, said Jane “But as regards Somba. They’ve had ample chance to get away and they haven’t. We had to leave Fire Island. I’m sure you’ve had to leave plenty of places you’ve loved”.

“Yes, when the time was for moving on”, said Bengo. An image came into his head of Midnight Castle at The Bay “Some places we’ve loved very much”.

“The vampires are goading us into a fight”, said Jane “We hard those dreadful noises they made the other night. They’re provoking us”.

“Who’s down here?” shouted Bardin, from the stairs.

“Me and Jane”, said Bengo.

“Oh right. I could hear voices in the distance”, said Bardin, emerging into view “Wanted to make sure none of the other clowns were pilfering supplies”.

“There is an argument for not even planning things anyway”, Jane continued “And simply just travelling along the river”.

“Until we come to the end”, said Bengo.

“I was going to call a meeting about all this”, said Bardin “But I don’t see the point. We’ve already got it all mapped out”.

“I spose you don’t approve of all that”, said Joby, when he was alone with Kieran in their cabin “You want us to go in all guns blazing”.

“Who d’you think I am? Fucking John Wayne?” said Kieran “I am supposed to be a peacemaker y’know”.

“Yeah, SUPPOSED to be!” said Joby.

“Huh”, said Kieran “What you seem to forget is that I always like to find a peaceful solution, if there is one. It is true I am not happy with ignoring Evil, but if we find a way of containing it, then it might be the best option. We did that on the Cursed Isle don’t forget”.

“Yeah, but that was an island, easier there”, said Joby “How do we do it round here?”

“We seem to have switched horses in this conversation”, said Kieran.

“Just talking things through that’s all”, said Joby.

“I think we should proceed warily up the river”, said Kieran “And see what’s what”.

“Hm”, said Joby “Still not convinced I entirely trust you”.

“Joby”, said Kieran “You never have!”

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