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.Even now, the pernicious urban sprawl that was eating the Hudson Valley alive had not reached this far north; once Ria was out of Glastonbury and back on the road again, all she saw was trees, apple orchards, and occasional glimpses of the river.Finally, about ten miles outside of town, there was a small sign off to her left, easy to miss: Carbonek."I suppose it goes along with Glastonbury," Ria muttered to herself, turning onto the narrow, one-lane road.The road was barely wide enough for one car, and without shoulders or turnoffs.Though the road was surprisingly good, Ria drove very slowly, mindful of the possibility of other vehicles and of pedestrians—and, for that matter, deer, which were becoming increasingly a problem on the roads.Dense hedges grew right up to the sides of the road, so tall she could see nothing beyond them.If she met anybody coming the other way, one or the other of them had better be prepared to back up for quite a distance.To her relief, a couple of miles along, the road widened out into a lane and a half, and the high hedges diminished and finally disappeared, to be replaced by a low drystone wall.She could see trees in the field beyond, towering venerable evergreens.A little farther, and she came to a set of gates.Two massive fieldstone pillars supported a wrought-metal arch—not iron, Ria noted, but bronze, long weathered to green by time and the elements.The metalwork was in the style of the followers of William Morris, and spelled out one word: "Carbonek."The Castle of the Grail, which none but the pure in heart and soul might enter.Well, let's give it a shot, shall we?A brass plaque on one of the pillars announced that this was Private Property.The other said that TRESPASSERS were FORBIDDEN.But the gates—massive things of oak, that looked as if they'd just come from Morris's own workrooms—were standing open, so Ria drove through.Just inside the gates there was a blacktopped parking area—necessary in a region that required plowing and shoveling several times a winter—and the road did not extend any farther.Ria pulled in and parked.There were a number of vehicles already there, from battered vintage VW bugs, to no-nonsense pickup trucks, to a few nondescript vans and sport utilities.She got out of the car and stretched, looking around.The air was sharply cold, and she could smell the river, though she could not see it.Ria inhaled deeply, relishing the fresh air.City girl she might be, but it was nice to get out into the countryside every once in a while.There was a large building on her right, as anonymous as a barn, and thoroughly locked.No help there, unless she wanted to break in.She turned to the path leading away from the parking lot.It bisected another drystone wall, and beyond that she could see rows of cottages on either side of the path.They looked anachronistically English, from their slate roofs and whitewashed exteriors, to the white picket fences outside.She walked toward them.She knew from his mailing address that Inigo Moonlight lived in something called Avalon Cottage, which would be right in line with the Arthurian motif of this place.The cottages were constructed in blocks of four with cross-streets intersecting.Peering between them as she passed, Ria could see that there were large back gardens, and other cottages beyond.And probably, elsewhere in the colony, there were large communal studios for those whose art required large spaces and specialized equipment.And surely—somewhere—perhaps in the barn she'd passed on her way in, there was a place for the residents to receive their mail, because nowhere did she see a mailbox on any of the cottages, nor did she think a postman would relish tramping all over the quaintly retro Carbonek on foot, especially in the winter.To her relief, each cottage was clearly labeled on an enameled plaque beside the door, its name easy to read from the gate.All of the cottages seemed to have placenames out of the Arthurian mythos—there was a Tintagel, a Camelot (of course), a Badon, a Lyonesse, a Winchester, a Camlann.But no Avalon.Perhaps it came and went, like its namesake.All the garden plots were neatly kept, though their makeup varied wildly, from a full English "cottage garden" (now bedded down for the winter, of course), to one empty of growing things entirely, where grass had been replaced by colored gravel laid in pleasing patterns, with a boulder or two for decoration.What they lacked was any rhyme or reason to the naming.She didn't even know how many cottages there were.The residents might value their privacy, but surely this was taking matters to extremes?"Excuse me, are you looking for someone?"Busted.Ria turned at the sound of the voice.A woman had leaned out of the window of Sshalott Cottage.Her long white hair was pinned up in an untidy bun on top of her head, and there was a ferret draped around her neck."I'm looking for Avalon Cottage," Ria said, mentally crossing her fingers.Might as well be hung for a sheep as a goat.But the woman did not seem to be inclined to have Ria flung out as a trespasser.Instead she smiled, looking pleased."Ah, you're looking for Mr.Moonlight." The woman reached down out of sight and scooped up another ferret, absently adding it to her living necklace."Avalon Cottage is all the way down at the end of the lane, past Broceliande and Logres.You'll know it by the roses.He does grow the loveliest roses," sheadded with a happy sigh."Good luck!"Reaching for yet a third ferret—apparently she had an infinite supply of them—the woman turned, her arms full of squirming mustelids, pushing the window closed with an elbow.Roses? At this time of year? Ria set the question aside for later.She continued down the path, wondering why luck would be called for.She soon discovered the answer, as the path grew steep, narrow, and twisting.The block of cottages ended, and the trees thinned out as well.The cottages the ferret woman had named were larger than the ones in the cottage-blocks, and each stood alone, surrounded by the ubiquitous white picket fences.Broceliande's tenant was a sculptor.Ria heard the ring of steel on stone as she approached.He was out in the garden, muffled to the eyes against the cold, hammering away at an enormous block of granite.He did not look up as she walked by.Other sculptures stood about the garden.Ria stopped, and looked, and made a note to find out who he was—and more to the point, who his agent was.Logres' tenant apparently did not care for plants overmuch [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]