The Stone Key – Chapter 36

One week till The Sending!

Chapter Thirty-Six

Norseland seems to desolate and flat, and there is no sign of any of the settlements that are supposed to exist somewhere on the island. I guess it is just that this area there is no reason for anybody to live here, but still, a pretty boring place to be. And they have no real idea where they are going, especially for Ariel’s residence. Only a few people will be going with Elspeth and Jak (including Gilbert, and two Sadorians), since they don’t really have that many people left now that the other boat didn’t arrive. Oh and to make their depature even more merry, Gwynedd reminds them to arrive back at Covetown by tomorrow night or the next morning, otherwise the boat will leave without them, and they will be stuck here amidst a battle between the Norselanders and Hedra. And off they go!

The going isn’t easy as though it is flat, this seems to be a volcanic island (or remnants) since it is so rocky, and the rain has just made everything slippery, and only the two Sadorians are finding it easy. I do like that Isobelle Camrody uses a few words that aren’t regularly seen, like ‘hale’, I’ve never heard of it before, but it fits. I know that all authors have a vast vocabulary, and since they love words, they treasure them all and use the best ones to fit their emotional and intellectual requirements for each and every sentence, but I do think that sometimes authors feel obligated to ‘dumb it down’, to make sure people don’t need to go and reach for a dictionary. While I agree that is annoying, it is a great way to learn, and these sorts of words need to be known, so we can enrich our vocabulary, and I really like learning new words, so I like seeing them included.

All this talk of Ariel, and Elspeth’s deduction that he must have felt Lidgebaby’s mental static when he came to the Druid’s camp, have gotten me very interested. He would have had to have known that his powers weren’t working in the camp, but at the same time, I think that his twisted empathy must have been able to seep through, because he needs that to win over people. Though, I’m not sure if it is always his talent, or just his charm and innate ability with people, still, I do wonder what he thought about Lidgebaby, who he would have come into contact with when he took them as slaves. Did he kill the baby, sensing it was more powerful than he was? But then Daffyd would have known. But I do find it almost sick that Ariel was courting Erin, but I guess it is a match made in hell, since they are two evil people. I wonder if Erin died in the firestorm, or if Ariel took her too?

Soon they finally come to the knoll where Ariel’s residence is said to be, but from a distance they can’t see it. But upon closer inspection the knoll is actually very small, and it is a wall that is the majority of its height. Of course, the walls are tainted, to prevent any Misfit probing inside, so of course this must be Ariel’s house. It was a massive place, and it seemed to fit the knoll perfectly, almost too perfectly. Why does Ariel need such a large residence if it is just him? Even with a few nulls and even Salamander, there is way too much room. Gilbert breaks down the gates (after knocking of course, who knows if anyone is inside), something Elspeth wouldn’t have considered given her Talent, but that would have worn her out anyway. Coming up to the door itself, Gilbert is about to break it open when Elspeth remembers Ariel’s room in the Herder Compound, and stops him to check for explosives, but luckily it is a simple door.

Now inside, Elspeth probes the area, and finds nobody, but people can go undetected, including in two unreachable places. I wonder what they are. Gilbert and the Sadorians do a preliminary search of the area while Elspeth and Jak thaw out infront of a fire. This room is unusually bare, I guess Ariel doesn’t care for homely touches, but still, has he cleared out his rooms to prepare for his departure, or does he just not have possessions?

Splitting up (is that ever a good idea) to take both directions around the building, they begin to search for anything that might just be plague seeds or a Beforetime weapon. An interesting question is what Ariel has done with his servants, because someone would have needed to look after this place and cook and help Ariel out, he is human after all (so far as we know!). So did he just let them go, take them with him, or kill them? Or did he just use nulls? Starting their search they find room upon room for living, at least they have a few pieces of furniture in them. Elspeth is certain that Domick and Rushton were taken here and imagines what it was like for them. What is just terrifying is that Elspeth thinks that even though they think Ariel isn’t here, she can’t be sure, so they could come face to face for the first time since Obernewtyn itself. She had actually brought herself to him, just like he asked, and it creeps me out.

They continue coming across various different living areas, and even stumbling across a lavishly adorned bedroom, that might have been Salamander’s. It was full of exquisite cloths and colours, and even perfumes. Again there is wood in the fireplaces, so maybe Ariel left quicker than we had expected, and it wasn’t planned. Elspeth finds a gadfian book in this room, so I guess Salamander can read it, and has probably conversed and traded with the Gadfian people, wherever they are now. But Elspeth realises that maybe Salamander is Gadfian himself, after all we don’t know of his origin. It would explain a lot of he was from Gadfia, but still it is speculation. Things get weirder as the wardrobe is full of woman’s clothes. Which would explain the room itself, but unless Salamander is a really feminine man, who is this room’s? Elspeth remembers talk of a woman who would speak for Salamander when he first arrived, and maybe it is that woman. I must admit that they aren’t really considering that Salamander is a woman, and not a man. If this is Salamander’s room, then it would make sense, and so would the covering up in public. The woman who was said to speak for ‘him’, could have just been Salamander herself. Again this is a theory, but you can’t exactly rule it out, simply because everyone thinks Salamander a man, probably because they think that he is ruthless and therefore is a man.

Jak has found animal pens, which were probably used by Ariel to keep some more tormented dogs like he did at Obernwetyn. Where are they now? Did he take them with him, or let them loose? Elspeth has another slightly awkward moment with Gilbert, as he tries to say that he doesn’t think she could ever settle for an ordinary man like him after what she has done (sounds a tad like Rushton). But Elspeth has really helped Gilbert see his life how it really is, and see what he has done to Serra is wrong, and just how lucky he has been. And he even wants to try and get Serra to give him a second chance, so all is well I guess.

They hear a loud crash, and find out that Jak and Hakim have found a trapdoor, but when they tried to open it, it exploded. Another booby trap, Jak is bleeding and Hakim has been knocked out. So the trio hurry to go and help them, but the question remains how is there a trapdoor if this is built on a knoll, which is solid rock? Elspeth was searching for a trapdoor before, but Gilbert stopped her with this simple common sense. But now, there is a trapdoor leading down to some underground area. Gilbert suggests that the Beforetimers must have built it, for how else would it have been made. Gilbert seems to think that this place was built on the ruins of a Beforetime place. It would make sense since the knoll seemed square, and the Norselanders thought it was haunted, which usually means ruins. He is pretty quick to figure that all out! But now we have to wonder what is down under the building? And why did Ariel booby trap it?

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