Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Four

The 'plane from the South Seas landed at Cardif International Airport as unseasonal rain sluiced down on Wales. Looking out of the window, Ms. Madison wrinkled her cute nose at the sight, thinking of the sun-kissed beaches they had left behind.

"This had better be serious," she told Lady Sylvia. "If your friend's just feeling a bit fragile, I'll arrange for her to get framed for murder."

"I know Jill," Lady Sylvia reassured her friend. "She's not that type. Jill's tough as they come. Her family were Norman warriors who carved out a lordship in the Welsh hills. She's a bit of a throwback herself, tough and fearless."

The girls left the 'plane, hurrying into a waiting taxi. The taxi in question was green, and had turned away a number of other people. Ms. Madison smiled, as the driver got out to put away their baggage.

"One of us," she told Lady Sylvia happily. "The Green Man's got an agent in every city. Now, shift over, I need to sleep."

Lady Sylvia watched her friend, as the elegantly dressed Ms. Madison slumbered, while the taxi climed up from Cardiff towards the Valleys, passing beautiful castles and deep woodland. These gave way to the post-industrial wastes of the valleys, the taxi passing through the once-flourishing metropolis of Merthyr Tydfil. Then they were amid the wild country of the Brecon Beacons, glowering hills, wasteland. From there, the landscape softened a little, with fields divided by hedges. And a few remains of Norman timber castles, green hills surrounded by banks and ditches. This was the boundary of the lordship that the D'Estranges had carved out from the territory of Welsh princes.

At last, the taxi passed between the tall gate piers of Jill's house. The taxi's wheels slid on the mud of a drive which had seen better days. Lady Sylvia slipped on the seat, almost falling to the floor. Ms. Madison began to stir.

At the door, Jill D'Estange waited. As soon as the taxi stopped, the young aristocrat ran to it, throwing open the door.
"Thank goodness!" she shouted, face flushed, "I don't know what I'd 've done if you hadn't come! The Devil's walking these hills!"
And, with that, she fainted.

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