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By Sarah Hapgood

“What the hell were you thinking of? Wandering off into the forest like that?” said Julian, once Adam was safely back on the main deck.

“I did not wander off into the forest, Julian”, Adam snapped.

“Well what the hell did you do then?” said Julian.

“That I would dearly like to know!” said Adam.

He noticed that Bardin was carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder. Adam suddenly felt very weary.

“I’m going below deck”, he said.

He went down into the diningroom, where all the others were congregated.

“I’ve just had to stop the neighbours from coming over”, said Bardin, the last one to walk into the room “I want to hear what’s happened first before we tell anyone else”.

“I don’t know what happened”, said Adam, sitting down drained at the table “God, I feel absolutely whacked. Joby, are you getting on with the stew for dinner?”

“Never mind that now!” said Joby “What happened? We couldn’t find you anywhere”.

“You seemed to have vanished into thin air, Adam”, said Lonts, who was looking fully distraught.

“Oh Lo-Lo I’m so sorry”, said Adam, touching his hand “But I don’t know what happened. I went to see Tomas topside, make sure he went back to Lord Robert’s yacht. Really that man’s becoming a ruddy menace. He’s always on the scrounge. And then, as were stopping for a little while, I thought I’d just step ashore for a moment. I honestly can’t remember anything after that, until I came to, and found I was tied to that bloody chair!”

He explained what had happened in that strange firelit room.

“She tied you to a chair?” said Lonts, indignantly.

“Frankly Lo-Lo, I’m relieved that’s all she did!” said Adam “My imagination will go into hyper-driver from now on! The really really peculiar thing though was how I became untied. SHE certainly didn’t do it. And as far as I could tell there was no one else in the room. But suddenly my hands were free. It was all very surreal, quite dreamlike really”.

“We need to go there and blast them to bits”, said Lonts “They are demons! I’m going into the hold to get the rest of the guns”.

“No Lo-Lo”, Adam began, but Lonts had already thumped off “Oh dear”.

“I’ll go after him”, said Joby “You stay there”.

Joby pursued Lonts into the hold.

“Here”, said Joby “Don’t go wrenching open the gun cabinet. You know how touchy Ransey gets about all that”.

“You heard what happened to Adam, Joby”, said Lonts, fiercely “We’ve got to go there and sort them out”.

“Calm down!” said Joby “We dunno what we’re up against yet!”

“Yes we do, they’re demons”, said Lonts “And they should be destroyed. We’ve done it bfore. Kieran knows what to do”.

“Look calm down!” Joby shouted again “You’re not gonna help Adam carrying on like this are yer!”

Lonts’s bottom lip began to tremble.

“Sorry Joby”, he said “I just got so angry”.

“Yeah, I had noticed!” said Joby “Now calm down. God help me, I can’t carry you out of here, not a hulking great man-mountain like you. It’s easier with Kieran, I can just pick him up like a roll of carpet”.

Fortunately this image made Lonts hoot with laughter.

“Blimey, that’s better”, said Joby.

“I will be composed now”, said Lonts.

“Yeah”, said Joby “Like a symphony!”

“They must be even dafter than I thought”, said Julian, pouring out sherry for two in his cabin.

“Who?” said Adam, wearily.

“The Evil lot”, said Julian “Sending a woman to seduce YOU! The faggiest one of the lot of us!”

“Some women are like that”, said Adam “She likes a challenge. And it hasn’t stopped Beatrix being a bloody menace. There was something very odd about that whole scene, Jules”.

“You’re telling me!” Julian exclaimed.

“No, I mean how did my hands suddenly become free?” said Adam “All very dreamlike I’m wondering if Patsy had something to do with it. He’s been very quiet since I got back”.

“Probably because Ransey locked him in his cabin”.

“He didn’t?”

“He had to”, said Julian “When we went ashore to look for you we felt it best to keep Kieran out of the way. Just for the time being. And there wasn’t a hope in hell he’d be reasonable about it, so we felt it best to lock him up. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can do”.

“Oh poor Patsy, he does go through it”, said Adam.

“He loves it”, said Julian “He’s a Catholic, built for endless martyrdom and suffering. If we let him have his own way all the time he’d be thoroughly miserable. That’s why we never made him Captain. Stop looking at me like that. If he was a normal, sane, reasonable man we could reason with him. But we can’t. He’s stubborn and fanatical. So we have to lock him up when he can’t be trusted”.

“You are a ruthless old bastard, Julian”, said Adam.

“Needs must when the Devil drives”, said Julian “As my old Nanny used to say. And sometimes I swear the Devil is a scrawny little Irishman with blonde hair!”

“Nonsense”, said Adam “Patsy is the very personification of Love. We wouldn’t be sitting here talking now if it wasn’t for him”.

“Did I say I was ungrateful?” said Julian “I love the little squirt to bits. He’s an exceptional human being - if that’s what he is - but he has to be kept firmly in line”.

“Sometimes I thinnk you should be kept firmly in line!”

“Not possible. Now drink your sherry”.

They were interrupted by loud noises overhead. A commotion had broken out on the main deck.

“I don’t like the sound of that”, said Adam, gulping back his sherry and jumping to his feet.

The galleon had been invaded. Strange, aesexual dawrf-like creatures with hairless, bony white heads had swarmed onto the main deck, and were running around, gibbering in a bizarre falsetto tone. Long tongues flicked out of their rat-like mouths.

“Stop!” Bardin blew on his whistle, but the piercing noise only seemed to make matters worse. The creatures swarmed at random, pulling at his clothes and his hair.

Ransey fired a pistol into the air. The creatures stopped and turned to face him. They showed no fear. Quite the reverse in fact. The firing of the gun seemed to have mobilised them into a grim order. One bent on destruction.

One of them broke away from the pack and advanced on Ransey, clawlike hands outstretched. Ransey lowered the gun. “Go no further”, he said “This is a warning”.

The creature kept moving towards him. Ransey fired at the deck near the creature’s feet. Unfazed, it kept advancing. When it was within touching distance Ransey fired the gun at point-blank range into the creature’s face. It fell lifeless to the floor.

The rest of them took note of this dreadful development, and receded off the boat like a swarm of ants being sucked off by some magnetic force. They disappeared silently back into the jungle.

“Get rid of this”, Julian pointed at the corpse.

Hillyard and Hal picked up the creature and tossed it overboard.

“They know fear”, said Lord Robert, who had been trying to come aboard when the creatures had suddenly appeared “So they have a survival instinct”.

“It also means they can regroup and come back”, said Bardin “We must push on. I’d advise you to maintain vigilance at all times”.

“What were they?” said Cloris, who had followed Robert aboard.

“Minor demons”, said Kieran “And Lord Robert’s right, they know fear. But it’s the only human emotion they do know”.

“So why didn’t the bloody thing stop when I pointed my gun at it?” said Ransey.

“It assumed you would be too kind to go ahead with your threat”, said Kieran “They have no empathy, so they won’t feel the loss of one of their own. If they come back, it won’t be for revenge. But because someone has sent them to torment us”.

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