"BERK!" the Thing's voice boomed from the upper reaches of the castle. "MY PARLOUR IS NOT IN A FIT STATE TO RECEIVE VISITORS! GET UP HERE AND CLEAN IT AT ONCE!"
"Just on my way, sire!" Berk called. He set down his hand of cards, and nodded to his two companions. "Sorry, I got to go and— well, you heard, didn't you? You'll have to carry on without me. Just need a few bits and pieces first."
He disappeared into his store cupboard.
Rogg drew another card from the deck. "I got Mr Bun the Baker," he said proudly. "Your go, Boni."
"But if Berk isn't here, how am I supposed to take cards?" Boni complained. "And who's going to hold them up for me?"
"I'll do it for you."
"You'll look at them. You always do."
The discussion might have become heated — at least on Boni's side — had Drutt not rendered the question moot by jumping on the table and scattering the cards across the floor. At the same moment, Berk returned, now carrying a broom, a shovel and a shrimping net, and wearing a snorkel.
"Oh, have you finished already?" he said. "Who won?"
"We didn't finish, but I would have won if we had," Boni said firmly. "We can't play without you, Berk. It doesn't work properly."
"Yeah." Rogg scratched his belly. "Now we got nothing to do."
"I've never seen Him Upstairs's parlour," Boni said. "Why don't you take me up there with you?"
"I ain't got any hands left to carry you," Berk replied, and headed for the staircase.
"I'll carry you," Rogg said. Holding Boni in one massive hand, and using the other as an occasional aid to walking, he lumbered up the staircase in pursuit. It wasn't until they reached the top that Berk seemed to realise that he had company.
"Oh, no," he said. "What are you two doing here?"
"Boni wants to see the parlour," Rogg said.
"Can't see why. Partic'larly not in the state Him and His friends leave it." Berk looked around. "All right. You can look. But don't touch anything, and keep quiet. If there's unneccessary noise at this time o' the day... He won't like it."
He pushed open a door easily four times his own height, and advanced into the room beyond, his shrimping net at the ready. Rogg wandered in after him.
"Oh dear, oh dear," Berk said. "Still, I suppose it's not as bad as that time with the hoopla set."
"Goodness me, Berk." Boni sounded quite shocked. "Whatever's all that orange stuff?"
"I dunno. I just puts it on the garden."
"It smells funny," Rogg said. "I don't like it."
"Now, you two just keep back out of the way and—"
"Berk? I think I'm gonna sneeze."
"Now just a moment." Berk's voice sounded as if he was backing away, his hands raised defensively. "You know what I said about Him and loud noises..."
Rogg's sneeze reverberated through the castle. Something white flew out of the door and bounced twice, with a cry of "Ouch!" on each bounce. After the second bounce, Boni, still complaining, rolled almost to the head of the stairs.
"Boni?" Rogg lumbered out of the parlour, leaving a trail of orange footprints. "Where's Boni gone?" He raised his already loud voice. "Boni?"
"WHAT'S ALL THAT NOISE?" the Thing's voice answered him. "BERK! IF YOU'VE BEEN INSINUATING UNDESIRABLES INTO MY CASTLE IT'LL COME OUT OF YOUR WAGES! I WON'T WARN YOU AGAIN!"
"Ooh dear." Rogg had turned to face the direction the Thing's shouting had seemed to be coming from. "I don't think he's pleased, Berk."
He took half a step backward. His foot caught Boni, giving him just enough impetus to reach the staircase.
"Ouch!" That was the first step.
"Ow!" The second step.
"Ouch!" The third step.
"Oh." Rogg turned again, in time to see the skull bounce round the corner of the stairs, still exclaiming vociferously as he hit every step. "Boni!" He raised his voice again. "Boni, you have to keep quiet!"
Berk appeared at the door of the room, making frantic shushing gestures.
"Berk?" Rogg turned for the third time. "Why are you waving at me?"
"I WARNED YOU!" the Thing's voice boomed. "YOU'RE IN TROUBLE NOW. YOU AND WHATEVER RIFF-RAFF YOU'VE LET IN!"
A door further down the corridor creaked open. Berk and Rogg looked up, and further up, as the approaching shape blotted out the light.
"Oh." Berk searched for a word that would express the depth of his feelings, and found it. "Globbits."