Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Eighteen

"You!" Sparrowhawk gasped, a small, cute sound. Ms. Madison smiled, finding the masked girl actually quite sweet. She still could not bring herself to believe Sir Richard Arcos' story about Sparrowhawk's being a great deal older than she seemed.

"I could say the same thing, Sparrowhawk." The Green Man took a step forward. "You look exactly the same as you did the first time we met. And very well, of course."

"All the better for seeing you..." the blonde smiled sweetly at the menacing figure in green. "Say, do you remember...?"

Ms. Madison looked from the lovely heroine to the Green Man, her expression one of deep concern. She shook her head, before looking back to the elegant figure of Sir Richard Arcos. He shook his head as well, looking up to the ceiling with an expression of world-weariness that Ms. Madison suspected was a pose.

"Of course I remember," the Green Man nodded. "I have lived with that memory for almost a decade, Sparrowhawk. But for me, that is the past. I know that for you it was only last night..."

"There's another, isn't there?" Hawkie looked at the Green Man with huge blue eyes. There was an air of loneliness about the masked blonde. "I've been away too long, haven't I?"

Sir Richard moved to the side of the girl in leather, putting an arm around her shoulders, his expression kind and definitely fatherly. She looked up at him, and Ms. Madison found herself a little more able to believe that this strange girl was the daughter of Sir Richard Arcos.

"It's part of the life you chose when you put on that mask, darling," Sir Richard smiled tenderly. "We have to learn to hold all things lightly. To let people go when we have to. She's a nice lassie, and we all thought you were gone. There's only so long a chap can wait, my dear. Even the best of men."

Sparrowhawk nodded, mute.
"You're right of course, daddy," she sniffed a little, "but it's still difficult letting go. It still hurts me, daddy - hurts a lot."
"I know," Sir Richard rubbed her shoulder, looking into her eyes. "But we'll have to see. Now, shall we find the bad guys and biff them on the bean?"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Seventeen

Ms. Madison's brain was awhirl, as she looked first to the patrician figure of Sir Richard Arcos, then to the dangerous, leather-clad blonde who now stood by his side. She shook her head, pointing first to one figure, then the other.

"But... but that's impossible..." she protested. "I mean... how old are you, Sir Richard?"

"Not being a lady, lassie," Sir Richard smiled, "I cannot be offended by such an impertinent question. Besides, I stopped counting when my daughter clubbed together and bought me a rocking chair. But what you mean to say is that given my age and that of my wife, the idea that I could have a daughter young enough to be my grandaughter is more than a little improbable. Be that as it may, Hawkie is my very own dear daughter. Adopted, I'll confess."

Ms. Madison looked at the masked girl and shook her head, still hardly daring to believe it.

"And when did you take her in?" she continued to question the old gentleman.

"Believe me, Lynette," Hawkie took a step forward, "that's a hard question."

"But, since you are the centre of this," Ms. Madison raised her chin, "then it's a question that needs to be answered. I mean, how come I never heard about Sir Richard taking in a little girl some time in the 1980s?"

"That question's an easy one," Sir Richard laughed idly. "You'd 've been reading the wrong papers, dear lassie. I adopted this little bombshell back in 1952."

Ms. Madison's jaw dropped, as she took another look at the slender figure of Sparrowhawk.

"Long story," the masked girl confessed. "Let's just say that it involves an ancient Egyptian curse. But that's not what matters. We need to find out who had me taken out of the nursing home."

"And biff them on the bean," Sir Richard nodded.

"More than that," Ms. Madison looked concerned. "The reason for the snatch was that someone wanted to get to the Green Man. We still don't know why or for what purpose."

"That no longer matters."
A simister voice, emanating from the shadows, caused the three to turn, looking across a rapidly darkening room. There, in a shaft of light left by the sinking sun, was the Green Man.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Sixteen

Ms. Madison looked, open-mouthed at the tall, elegant form of Sir Richard Arcos. Standing in the doorway, leaning on his cane, the Norfolk Squire looked sternly at the two blondes. Sparrowhawk took a step back, her eyes wide. There, in bowler hat and old-fashioned coat, the elderly gentleman seemed to belong to another age, expecially compared to the two young women.

"May I come in?" he removed his hat, stern expression turning to a gracious smile. "Or is that now not allowed? I mean, I must confess to having come here unchaperoned. The moment I heard you couldn't have kept me, my dear." He bowed in the direction of a distinctly flustered Sparrowhawk.

"I... I... I..." the masked maiden coloured at the smile of the gentle knight. "I can..."

"Explain everything, my dear?" the gentleman laughed softly. "Of that I've no doubt. You've always had a peculiar talent for that. Not that those explanations have always been entirely consistent with what actually happened, of course." There was a bantering light in his eyes. "Besides, I was informed, darling lassie. Your friends have been most good to me - and, I hasten to add, to you. Not that that should ever be unexpected, of course. After all, you are the sweetest little heroine in the entire world. Why, I remember...."

"Please..." Sparrowhawk coloured hotly, trembling a little, "we... we're..."

"In company?" Sir Richard chuckled. "Lynette here knows me and my ways, lass, she'll be fine with my little eccentricities. Why, we had her over for Christmas the other year. Do you remember old Horace, the detective chappie?"

"Do I remember?" Sparrowhawk smiled, her laugh an amused gurgle. "Sure I do! Of course, you go back further, but..."

"Hang on," Ms. Madison interrupted, "this is a touching scene, but you lost me a while back. How come you know Sparrowhawk, Sir Richard?"

"Hawkie, please," the girl in leather grinned cutely. "I'm not one for standing on ceremony..."

"Or feet," Sir Richard contributed, eyes sparkling. "You used to be quite an accomplished little dancer. How are you now, dear?"
"Probably fine," Hawkie laughed, "it's like the battle murder and sudden death stuff. Even after a decade, I'm still great. But I'd no idea it was so long, you've got to believe me, it's just been like waking up after a night of dreaming."
"Please," Ms. Madison rolled her eyes, "won't you tell me just what's going on. How come you know this girl, Sir Richard - and how come you know she's the real Sparrowhawk?"
"It's really quite simple, dear girl," Sir Richard turned to face Ms. Madison. "A chap ought to be able to recognise his own daughter, oughtn't he?"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Fifteen

Still blushing from her near miss, Lady Sylvia followed the directions of the man in the brown trenchcoat, ascending the steps up to the front door of the house which called itself 'Ty Garth', and was apparently the dwelling-place of Professor Cadwgan Hughes. Her heels tapped an urgent beat on the stone steps, which was taken up by her knocking on the door.

"If it's a charity," the door was opened by a white haired man who still possessed a vital physique, "then I'm fully committed right now. Of course, once my book comes out..."

"It isn't charity," Lady Sylvia shook her head. "As a matter of fact, I ... we," she looked back at the man in the brown coat, "were meaning to have a word with you about the Nanteos Grail. Do you have a moment?"

"For pretty young things with an interest in the consuming passion of my life?" the man smiled, "of course, my dear. What's your interest in the Nanteos Cup?"

"Purely practical, I'm afraid," Lady Sylvia took a seat in the front parlour. "Someone was kidnapped at the same time that the grail was stolen. Where might someone have been taken if the Grail was stolen for its healing properties?"

"Anywhere, conceivably," the old Professor shook his head. "There's no association of the Grail with a specific holy well. Besides, the Grail isn't really the holy Grail. It's a medieval bowl, the legend's probably only seventeenth or eighteenth century. Its chief value is folkloric."

"So what's the connection between the theft of the Grail and the disappearance of Sparrowhawk?" Lady Sylvia's eyes widened. "If the only healing powers possessed by the cup are pyschosomatic?"

"The Cup was not taken for Sparrowhawk, my deat Sylvia," a new voice caused Lady Sylvia to start. "I had the Cup stolen as payment."

"You..." the colour drained from Lady Sylvia's face as she turned to the door.

"As ever, my dear." The Grey Tabby bowed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Fourteen

The Cardiganshire countryside flashed by, as Lady Sylvia guided her little sports car down the narrow lanes of the county. In the passenger seat, the man in brown tried to keep his eyes on the road, in part because Lady Sylvia's eyes seemed to be everywhere but. A tall column, standing on a hill, attracted the attention of the young aristocrat.

"There's one just like it near Aberystwyth," she observed, "why's that?"

"Coincidence," the man spoke softly. "The column you see was built as an eye-catcher from Derry Ormond House, which is now demolished. The one at Aberystwyth was built in honour of the Duke of Wellington. There ought to be a connection, but no-one knows of one."

"And where are we going?"Lady Sylvia looked away from the road again.

"If you can get us there without killing the pair of us," the man in brown winced, as a car narrowly missed them, "then we're supposed to be going to Lampeter, the other university town in this county. There's a retired professor there I think we ought to see."

"Hey!" Lady Sylvia's eyes widened, "when did this become a jont operation? Last time I looked, Im the Green Man's agent."

"And I, my dear," the man laughed, "am the local agent of the same gentleman. Now, the chap we're due to see is a certain Professor Cadwgan Hughes. He used to teach engineering at Cardiff University, but he retired here to become an expert on Welsh folklore. That makes him the perfect source for further information on the Nanteos grail. Apparently he's in the process of writing a book on the subject. Has been for the past decade."

The car swept into Lampeter, narrowly missing a bus. Lady Sylvia sounded her horn, as the car mounted the kerb, causing several pedestrians a fright. The man in brown shook his head, covering his eyes, as the young aristocrat skidded into a side-road.

"And, if you've done with almost killing people," the man sighed again, "it's a big detatched house, just past the church."
Lady Sylvia gave the man a dirty look, but followed his directions nevertheless.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Thirteen

Ms. Madison followed the girl in leather into a broad courtyard, and found herself looking at a little house that someone had created out of the ruins of the ancient fortress. She smiled, as the girl opened the door for her, hanging on the door, looking back at her, a lovely smile on her beautiful face.

"Hungry, Lynette?" she asked, blue eyes sparkling. "I know I could eat a horse. Do you know what the food's like in nursing homes?" She made a face. "Of course, it's not the first time I've found myself in a sanatorium." Entering the house, she flopped down on a sofa.

"No." Ms. Madison looked sternly at the little blonde in leather.

"What?" the girl arched one elegant eyebrow.
"You can't be her," the English girl walked over to the window, looking out at the greensward of the ancient courtyard. "The Green Man met Sparrowhawk about a decade ago. The way he speaks about her, it's like she was older than him, more experienced. You can't be more than about twenty-five."
"Really? she girl in leather leaned forward in her seat. "And how did you become such a great judge of age?"
"Working for the Green Man." Ms. Madison glared at the pretty girl in the mask. "I had to learn to recognise friends - and foes. The picture the Green Man showed me looked exactly like you. Since then ten years have passed. Do you seriously expect me to believe that you haven't aged in ten years?"

"Not really," Sparrowhawk laughed. "No-one else does. But you have to believe that I don't wish you any harm. If I am an impostor, it's in a good cause."

Ms. Madison turned back to the American girl.
"The ends justify the means?" She sighed. "Look, if you are Sparrowhawk, then tell me this - who is the Green Man?"
"Your boss," Sparrowhawk laughed, "you just said..."
"I mean, under the mask." The English girl's tone hardened. "If you are Sparrowhawk, you ought to know that. That's why you were kidnapped, after all..."
Sparrowhawk burst out laughing.
"I don't know!" she declared, tears of mirth gleaming in her eyes, "that's what made what those bad guys were doing so priceless! I don't know any more than they did. Why whould I know?"
"Because the Green Man recognised her without her mask," Ms. Madison spoke sternly. "He said that, when he saw Sparrowhawk almost killed, ten years ago, he saw her face, and then he knew why she wore the mask - he knew her face."
"But he had never met her." A new voice - a man's voice - came from the door. Ms. Madison turned with a start.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Twelve

The blonde bombshell landed the little boat on a gently sloping beach, leaping out into the surf. Ms. Madison did the same, helping manhandle the boat onto the beach. She followed the intense girl in the mask, as she hurried up the beach, towards woodland.

"Where...where are we going?" Ms. Madison not unnaturally asked, "and who are you?"

"I told you, didn't I?" the girl did not turn around, "I'm Sparrowhawk. What about you?"

"Lynette Madison," the Gren Man's secretary replied, still not sure what to believe. "They told me you were..."

"They forgot to tell me," the girl in leather laughed. "Still, ten years locked away inside my mind. It's not a pretty though, Lynette - you don't mind if I call you Lynette, do you? - You can call me Hawkie, all my friends do."

Ms. Madison did not have a ready reply, as the girl in leather led her up the beach, ascending rock-cut steps at the cliff edge. Ms. Madison followed gingerly, very aware of her bare feet. The path was clear and litter-free, although there was no sign telling people that the route was private property. She was still unsure about this girl in leather, this mix of menace and frivolity. Could she really be Sparrowhawk?

The woods quickly hid all sight of the beach from view, only the gentle rolling of the waves remining Ms. Madison that they were close to the sea. A few overgrown bridges told her that this landscape had once belonged to an estate. At any moment she expected to see a mansion through the trees.

What she in fact saw was what looked like a dilapidated castle, glazed windows showing that the place was still inhabited. Sparrowhawk paused, looking back to her new associate.

"St. Peter Park," she told Ms. Madison, "my home. I think I can manage to make us supper. Would you like to join me? That way we can discuss things."
It was with the greatest of trepidation that Ms. Madison accopanied the girl dressed as Sparrowhawk to theancient mansion.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Eleven

Ms. Madison looked incredulously at the figure in front of her. She could not have been more surprised if she had been confronted with a unicorn grazing under a goose-tree. The girl in front of her was unmistakably the same as the girl in the photograph that the Green Man had shown them, and yet she was certainly no nursing home patient. There was a vital spark in her blue eyes, as she looked curiously at her.

"You're obviously not with the bad guys," the girl spoke with a slight American accent, dispelling any idea that this could be Sian Rule, the young lady that the Green Man had once dressed up as Sparrowhawk. "And in that state, you don't look like you're with the cavalry, either."

"S...Sparrowhawk?" Ms. Madison's voice was a cautious whisper, "but how...?"

"I'd love to tell you I flew," the girl shook her head, "but I can't. There's a motor launch on the far side of the island. I crept in under whatever radar they had. When you've been in this business as long as I have..."

"Wait..." Ms. Madison took a step back. "You were almost killed a decade ago. You've been a patient in a private nursing home since..."

"That long?" The masked blonde's jaw dropped "-no wonder she..."

"Who?" Ms. Madison sank down in a nearby chair. "Sparrowhawk, I was sent to try and rescue you from men who had kidnapped you, but now I find you alive, well and free. Not to mention in costume. What happened?"

"I remember being asleep," Sparrowhawk sighed, leaning against the wall. "It was like some half-remembered dream. The Green Man was there, and so was I. Then I woke up in this poky little cottage. There were these two men asking me a load of really dumb questions, like who the Green Man was. Well, they didn't have me tied up, so I escaped after breaking a few of their limbs. I was able to contact my support. They were a bit surprised to hear from me, and after what you've told me, I don't wonder. That's where I got the costume from, and this place was marked on a map in the cottage."

Ms. Madison listened to the tale. It was earnestly told, but somehow she didn't believe a word of it. Still, she felt, there was nothing that she could do except play along. That being the case, she allowed the girl in the leather costume to lead her out of the dilapidated fortress, skipping lightly over the rocks. NBarefoot, Ms. Madison followed at a distance, every moment expecting a trap to be sprung. When they made the boat in safety, no-one was more surprised than the Green Man's secretary.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Ten

Ms. Madison came to on a very hard concrete floor. She groaned, looking around her at a scene of dereliction. She lay on a rickety old camp bed, and could only conclude that she was being held in some sort of old fortress. Rising, she heard no-one. Barefoot and without her jacket, she was otherwise untouched, although the dull pain in her head reminded her that she had been drugged. The experience did not improve with repetition.

Padding to the door of her cell, she found it unlocked. Opening it, she found herself in an ancient gun battery, looking out at the grey sea. And the coast, too far for her to be able to swim it. She shook her head. Whoever the enemy was, they had clearly put her here in isolation. And why not, after what she had told the man at the marina?

She wandered through the empty passages of the fort. It would have been perfect as a secret headquarters, but it seemed to be utterly deserted, littered with the rubble left when the army (or navy, she wasn't sure which) had decommissioned it.

Leaving the casements, she made her way gingerly past various bits of rubble, heading for the command post at the centre of the fort. A chill breeze caused her to shiver, hugging her arms to her. She shook her head, wishing that they had left her her jacket. After all, it wasn't like it contained an escape kit or anything. Unlike her shoes, which had contained a hidden radio.

But that was a matter for another time. She tried the door of the command post and found it open. Unlike the others, however, this one seemed to have had its lock picked recently. Heartbeat quickening, she slipped through the door. Ahead of her, she saw a man lying on his back, still alive but out cold and tied up with his own belt.

She stepped over him, seeing the blinking of electric lights. There, in the middle of the old fort, was a modern communications relay. And someone was bent over it, doing something, almost invisible in the darkness. Ms. Madison approached stealthily, preparing to knock them out.

Before she could strike, however, the figure turned, raising their own hands, slender hands encased in black leather gauntlets. The light fell across a face, golden hair gleaning in the light. Red lips opened in an expression of surprise.
Ms. Madison gasped. She found herself looking into the eyes of someone she had only ever seen in pictures.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

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Blasted Past: Part Nine

A decade ago, the town of Aberystwyth possessed a slightly down-at-heel appearance, large areas of waste ground reminding the visitor of coal yards and railways that had long ago vanished. Today much of that is gone, and the town wears a decidedly gentified aspect, although a few dilapidated buidlings seem to survive here and there. As Ms. Madison stood in a smart flat by the Marina, she wondered just what the Green Man would have seen when he came here with Sparrowhawk so long ago. And just when the man she was speaking to would actually get to the point. He had told her that he had been a stident there a decade ago, staying in digs in Powell Street, opposite the Tabernacle Chapel, where Sparrowhawk had been assaulted, now a mental health officer with the local council, he had apparently seen Sparrowhawk the day before she had been abducted.

"She was the same as ever," he told Ms. Madison, as he made coffee, "perfectly sweet, but incomplete, traumatised by the experience. I have to amit that I was a little surprised, after what she apparently was..."

"Why?" Ms. Madison smiled innocently. "She used to dress up and fight crime - don't you think that anyone who does that is a bit strange to begin with?"
"Fair point," the man nodded. "But still, I don't think I've ever seen a worse case of that nature. I'm shocked anyone could have thought of kidnapping her. She's just a child, mentally, I mean. The woman is gone, maybe forever."
"So, do you know anything else?" Ms. Madison took the coffee he offered her. "I mean, if you'd kidnapped a girl like that, what would you do with her?"
"Honestly?" the man sighed deeply. "I wouldn't have taken her. "It 'ld be a waste of time. In her condition, she couldn't say anything worth knowing. Nothing that could be relied on."

"So what would you do?" Ms. Madison drained her coffee.

"Use her as a decoy," the man smiled. "Use her disappearance to draw in her protectors. That way I might be able to get one of them at my mercy."
"Hence the mickey finn in the coffee," Ms. Madison smiled.
The man started violently, drawing a smile from the lovely blonde. She shook her head, swaying a little.
"And you'll have to ponder that one. bucko," she laughed. "'Cause right now, I'm about to pass out without telling you anything. Tell you boss that the Green Man doesn't send his people into traps without knowing everything."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Eight

"There are some people," the man in brown told Lady Sylvia, "who say that the lake at Nanteos is the same lake from which King Arthur took Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake."

"And are you one of them?" the brunette's eyes twinkled mischievously.

"No." The man's voice carried a trace of irony. "That would be silly. The Holy Grail is supposed to have come to Strata Florida from somewhere else, for safe keeping at the end of the Middle Ages. This is a nice lake, but the idea is absurd. I have shown you this place because strange things have been happening around here. This house is not that far from the nursing home that Sparrowhawk was taken from. A number of people stayed in the hotel for a few days before she vanished - and they asked lovals whether there were any rituals associated with the use of the Grail for healing."

"And were there?" the young aristocrat's eyes widened with interest.

"None at all," he replied, "not even the use of special water. I suspect that means they might be anywhere in the county."

"Or the world..." she mused.

"No." The man in the trenchcoat was emphatic. "Sparrowhawk's mind is still fragile, she couldn't take being moved too far. She will be nearby, not at Strata Florida, and not here, but she will be close. Perhaps your friend will uncover the exact location. The staff here remember that the men who stayed here had to check in with someone else every few hours. Probably they've gone to be with him. And taken her with him." The man clenched one fist.

"What do you know about Sparrowhawk?" Lady Syvia leaned towards him - I mean, who is she?"

"As big a mystery as the Green Man," came the enigmatic reply. "All anyone knows is that the Green Man once loved her. He recognised her when he saw her unmasked. But no-one else ever has. And remember, she was in that nursing home for about a decade. Perhaps, if you find out who she is, then you find out who the Green Man is. Maybe that's the idea of snatching her and healing her. That way the bad guy will get to find out who the Green Man is."
"So you think that's what this is all about?" Lady Sylvia smiled.
"I hope so." The man in brown looked down. "You see, the alternative is that someone's got a grudge against Sparrowhawk herself, and they want her to be fully herself when they kill her."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Seven

Lady Sylvia followed the directions of the strange figure in the brown trenchcoat, back through narrow roads among the wooded hills of Cardiganshire, at last climbing up through the valleys towards the main road to Abersytwyth. At the last, they turned off the road. They, ahead of them, in a wooded park, was an elegant mansion, the sun shining down on a classical front. Lady Sylvia smiled.

"I take it this is Nanteos," the young aristocrat looked across at her hitch-hiker. "It's a really lovely house. Who lives there now?"

"Today, it is a hotel," the man told her. "The Powell line died out when the last Powell was killed in the First World War. The estate passed to the Mirylees family, distant relatives, after a court case in which the terms of the will of the last Mrs. Powell were set aside. The house and grounds have since been sold several times, but the Mirylees family retain the cup - or did until recently."

"So why have we come here?" Lady Sylvia brought the car to a halt outside a massive archway."

"Maybe I brought you here so that my fould associates could kidnap you?" the man in the trenchcoat's eyes twinkled as he spoke.

"Maybe you did," she laughed, "but I don't believe that. You've got an agenda, but I think our agendas merge somewhere. What do you know?"

"Far more than you could ever know," the man in brown shook his head. "And I must confess to several personal interests. I have brought you here so that you can see where the cup came from. It may give some clue as to where the cup now is."

"I'll contact my friend," Lady Sylvia removed her mobile 'phone from her handbag, pressing the shortcut for Ms. Madison's 'phone. It simply proclaimed that there was 'no signal'.

"She's probably in Lampeter," the man told her. "Now, shall we take a look around?"
"Why?" Lady Sylvia looked worried.
"Because there are things that we must see here," the mysterious man spoke softly. "My dear Lady Sylvia, just because the cup is no longer here does not mean that there is nothing here. Follow me and I will show you."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Six

Lady Sylvia was glad that she did not need to ask any other silly questions. She just looked at the mystery man in brown and shook her head, the wind blowing through her hair. The Abbey seemed suddenly very far from the world of the twentieth century, cold and apart. Perhaps what the monks had in mind when they came to this secluded spot.

"I was told someone here had seen someone answering to Sparrowhawk's description," she told the stranger.

"A subterfuge to bring you, I'm afraid," the mystery man bowed slightly. "I trust you will forgive my little deception, but on the 'phone, you might not have waited. I was afraid that you would not have understood."

Lady Sylvia looked at him again, silent for a long time. She closed her eyes, leaning back and sighing deeply. The chill sun of spring caught her face, its silver light casting strange shadows. She tried to understand the words that she had just heard.

"I'm going to trust you," she told the man. "Trust you because no-one 'ld be mad enough to use that as a decoy."

"Or perhaps that's what someone 'ld want you to think," the man in brown spoke half in jest. "But I'm going to trst you, too, trust that you're not a spy."

"From whom?" Lady Sylvia raised one eyebrow.

"My enemies," the man replied matter-of-factly. "Now, shall we go, my dear?"

"Go where?" she paused, leaning on a broken pillar.

"Why, to the next place touched by the legend," the man in the Trenchcoat pulled his cap further down over his face. "We shall go to Nanteos, for many centuries home of the cup."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Blasted Past: Part Five

Strata Florida Abbey nestles between the mellow hills of Cardiganshire. The abbey, founded by Rhys Ap Gruffydd, one of the mightiest of the Welsh Princes, the body of Dafydd Ap Gwilym, one of the best known Welsh poets, is supposed to be buried there, but he is also supposed to have been buried at Talley Abbey, just over the border in Carmarthenshire. One of these has to be wrong, since, to the best of our knowledge, Dafydd Ap Gwilym was never divinded, before or after death, in spite of his deplorable tendency to pay court to other men's wives. Dafydd Ap Gwilym is known for his poetry, most notable among his verses a meditation upon the looks of the young ladies he saw while he sat in the church at Llanbadarn Fawr, outside Aberystwyth.

Accordingly, old Dafydd would probably have been most happy to meet Lady Sylvia, for she was as pretty as the proverbial picture, as she stepped through the magnificent Romanesque arch that would once have led into a magnificent abbey church. But he has been dead for a good many years, and may not even be buried there, so the fact is probably less than material. But the temptation to mention him is too great, so he sneaked in.
Lady Sylvia paused, taking in the magnificent view. She drew in breath deeply, looking up to the magnificently wooded hills, above the ruined walls.
"Did you know that there's a legend the Holy Grail was brought to this place, just before the monasteries were dissolved?"
A male voice, close by, caused Lady Sylvia to start. She turned to see a man in a brown trenchcoat and flat cap, hands in his pockets, a scarf wound around his face, eyes concealed by driving goggles.

"So what happened to it, then?" Lady Sylvia smiled sceptically.

"The grail passed into the hands of the Steadman family." The man spoke softly, not rising to the bantering tone in the young aristocrat's voice. "They bought the abbey and built the house that stands alongside this church. The grail was kept for the use of pilgrims, who believed that it contained a healing virtue. When the Steadman line ended, the cup, and the abbey, passed into the ownership of the Powells of Nanteos, though marriage to the last of the Steadmans. That cup remained at Nanteos until the 1960s. It is now kept in a bank vault in Aberystwyth."
"But you're kidding!" Lady Sylvia laughed out loud, covering her mouth. "The Holy Grail, here...?"
"It may be just a legend," the figure in the trenchcoat nodded, "but the cup exists. And it is gone from the bank vault. It vanished the same day that Sparrowhawk was taken from the nursing home."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sunday Supplement: Man Worshipping

Sir Richard Arcos here: Having recovered of my recent attack of Mexican bandits, I resolved to pay a visit to another church. The church in question was the Anglican Church of Great Twittering in the Mire, which comes just before the hamlet of Nether Wallop, ministered to by the Rev. Fred Jones, a radical proponent of the creation of woman Bishops. After the Church in Wales failed to approve the election of woman Bishops, he decided to deliver a sermon on this.

We were informed that this decision was 'inexplicable', and that he was 'ashamed' to be a member of a Communion in which women were denied equal rights. He told us that the decision not to ordain woman bishops made the Church in Wales 'look absurd in the eyes of the world'.

The reading set for the Liturgy was 1 Corinthians 1:18: 'For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.'
When the reverend gentleman read this he turned red and sought the alternative epistle reading. I had detailed my grandson to break into the vestry and substitute a new lectionary while the gent wasn't looking, so he found himself reading:
'Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.'
At this point the Reverend gentleman turned even redder, muttered something about a plot against him, and told us all that we had to get with the times or be left behind. After the service I asked him whether he had read Tim LaHaye. The court order banning me from the church arrived in the post this morning.

Blasted Past: Part Four

The chill waves of Cardigan Bay washed the beaches of Aberystwyth. Weeks later, Lady Sylvia Vaughan was lying on the beach, trying her best to acquire a suntan, despite the wind. Somewhere in the little Unversity town, amid its narrow, winding backstreets, Ms. Madison was still searching for Sparrowhawk. Above, seagulls wheeled. There were supposed to be dolphins somewhere, but they are almost impossible to find, so the less said about it the better.

The mobile 'phone by Lady Sylvia buzzed, moving on the flat stone she had placed it on. She started awake, snatching up the little handset.

"Sylv Vaughan," she announced, removing her sunglasses, "I'm out of town right now..."

"I know," Ms. Madison laughed. "I'm in an attic in Chalybeate Street with some local strange guy. Apparently he was there the night Sparrowhawk was attacked..."

"And?" Lady Sylvia looked confused. "Lynette, we know who reduced her to a vegetable. The Green Man wiped him out ages ago. We're looking for the people who snatched her from the nursing home."

"But, before this," Ms. Madison explained earnestly, "no-one knew that someone had seen the attack on Sparrowhawk. That means the story the Green Man gave is flawed. Remember, he said that he'd recognised Sparrowhawk - what if someone else saw her and recognised her - ow!"

"Lynette!" Lady Sylvia shot to her feet, concern written all over her face. "Are you...?"

"The man's got roving hands," Lady Sylvia shook her head. "But my last stop, in High Street, suggested that a blonde answering to the description of Sparrowhawk the nursing home people gave us was seen near Strata Florida Abbey, in the middle of the county. I want you to check that out while I chase this lead."

"Is that wise?" Lady Sylvia shook her head.
"I can take care of myself," Ms. Madison spoke with a quiet confidence. "Now, get out of your swimsuit and start making like a detective."