The Stone Key – Chapter 37

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Of course Jak isn’t actually interested in his injuries, and tries to brush aside any notion of needing stitches, he is more interested in the explosive itself. He finds it fascinating, and it was only by chance that he even noticed the trapdoor in the first place. It is interesting that it exploded as they tried to open it, I can’t imagine what sort of device would allow that to happen, so if they want to get inside it, they need to open it, though there is the chance it will just explode again, possibly with more devastating results. My guess is that Ariel definitely knew how to get inside, and I bet he set up the explosive again upon his quick departure.

Of course Elspeth can usually unlock locks, so this should be no problem, except when she has a go, it is beyond her expertise, she doesn’t even understand the complex nature of this lock, so she has no chance of opening it. But Jak suggests she go through his mind, so that then she will be able to understand it, and then open it. It is an interesting suggestion that they can literally ‘team up’ and use both of their knowledge and power at the same time, an ability that is once again envious. Of course it works, and all Elspeth needed to do was break a current of electricity, which she wouldn’t have understood given they don’t actually have electricity! But the excitement of Jak is contagious for me, what if there is an Ines like computer in there? And Jak is surprised at the strength of Elspeth’s mind, he is the first person to really firsthand witness what she is capable of, and not just witness the result of her mind. If only he saw her using her killing power, then he’d just be terrified!

Now the terrifying part begins, because they have to descend into the unknown, Gilbert and Hakim remain above, but the other three descend, down a very long ladder. Honestly that isn’t a very safe method of going down into a bunker like this, what if someone fell? My guess is that this isn’t the main entrance, unless of course this is the only place they could break the rock, then that would make sense, but us Beforetimers don’t like to firstly be at risk and secondly have to actually do something. There could be an elevator somewhere else, plus they actually need to get all these things into this underground place, they don’t just magically appear. Jak’s suggestion that this is a missile silo kinda scares me, but I don’t think there is any such weapon, otherwise Ariel would have tried to use it for sure! But still if this is some sort of military installation, then there could be so many deadly and terrifying things, who knows what is down here. And his suggestion that they used missiles to launch plague seeds scares me more, because I’m sure that some military people are investigating that right now, and it is probably only a matter of time that something like that will be used.

They try to see if this place is controlled by Ines, but sadly they get no response, which makes Jak think that this wasn’t controlled by the Govamen, or at least they didn’t want to install such an expensive program for a weapons installation. But his explanation about how these sorts of places would have worked is surely helpful knowledge for Elspeth in her quest, for she knows that she must give the right codes sequentially or face death at the hands of a computer. Elspeth of course knows more about the Beforetime and weapons than she can let on, so all of Jak’s speculation is interesting to her, since it is slightly accurate.

Anyway they start to explore this area, and find it is a natural cavern, with a path seemingly circling it and cutting it in half. They enter through a door a set of rooms, Andorra doesn’t want to continue into this alien world, so Elspeth sets her a task to walk around the cavern seeing if there are more doors that lead off into more areas of this complex. It is interesting to see the limits of people, and I have to wonder what is Elspeth’s limit, and what is mine? Would I be able to explore these abandoned halls? I’ll never really know.

Continuing exploring, they find a lot of living areas, but then they come across some computers. Jak of course tries to get them to work, but it isn’t easy, I don’t think they are asleep like Ines, and honestly, they don’t have time now. Jak will have to come back and explore another time. The two of them split up to search for the plague seeds (again when is splitting up a good idea?). Elspeth comes a strange series of compartments, which Elspeth later figures must have housed animals. I guess this was a testing facility for biological agents, hence the need for animal test subjects. Elspeth thinks that maybe they were trying to save animals in the event of an apocalypse, though it sounds nice and noble, I doubt it.

Continuing deeper into these compartments, Elspeth finds a room and is convinced that this is where Ariel tortured Domick and Rushton. There were computers and bare tables, and Elspeth realises that this is a place of torture. Elspeth tries to leave and finds a room containing the plague seeds, and somehow the glass is ice cold, the cooling system is still functioning. Curiosity as we know killed the cat, but it is so critical to being able for development and exploration. The question is, when does curiosity go too far? Some might say that our curiosity with the atom, space, medicine or the human brain has gone too far, and that do we really need to understand everything? If curiosity is the driving force of research, does it neglect morality? These are very important questions for us in this day and age. How far do we want scientific research to go? And how much humanity are we willing to give up in order for advancement? There is no easy answer, but don’t you think we should discuss things before we start tampering and it is too late?

Elspeth finds that her lantern’s oil is nearly gone, so it is time for her to find the others. But in the maze of chambers, Jak has disappeared, and even Andorra has vanished in the circuit of the cavern. Then there is a scream, whose it is we have no idea. Maybe it is Gilbert, maybe Andorra, but what ever is happening I don’t like it. Elspeth tries to reassure herself that it was something logical, but then there is a rumbling growl, which can only mean an animal. Maybe this place isn’t deserted as she thought, and the animals are still here, or at least those that could survive, which makes them more deadly than ever. Elspeth backs away and returns into the maze of glass compartments, hoping to secure herself in one of them. Her lantern extinguishes, and we enter one of the most intense, nervewracking scenes of the story. What is Elspeth facing, and can she get out?

This fast paced action is sometimes hard to keep track of, but I’m pretty sure I know what is happening, at least what Elspeth is doing. She enters one of the larger compartments, but prevents the door closing with her shoe. Why does does that, I’m not entirely sure. I think she did this to keep the red light going that illuminated when the door was open. Elspeth could see something moving outside the compartment, and it looked bigger than a dog. It started sniffing, and Elspeth tried to reach it, but all she got was static, is it wearing a demonband? The animal struck the compartment, causing the shoe to fall out, and the door to close, which is probably a good thing, whatever is out there, Elspeth doesn’t want to be too close to it.

But then, everything gets so much worse as she sees what is out there. It isn’t an animal at all. But her beloved Rushton. It breaks my heart to see him now obviously afflicted with his memories, turned animalistic. How did he end up here? He must have gotten on one of the boats after all, and maybe he caused the third boat to be delayed. Rushton continues to try and smash into the door where Elspeth is, breaking bones in the effort. The rage that he has, would have caused him to kill Elspeth and rent her limbs off. Whatever Ariel has done, he has made him go mad. Hopefully nobody has been injured or killed along the way, that scream we heard, isn’t a good sign.

Elspeth realises that this was Ariel’s plan all along, and when they found him in Sutrium, the drugs were used as a cover, to hide what had happened. Ariel had wanted Elspeth to experience Rushton’s love slowly turn to rage, and end up here, in Norseland, with him at the lowest. But Ariel can’t have set Rushton upon her to kill her, he needed her. Maybe he thought Elspeth would kill him, to save herself, but I don’t think he understands people that well, Elspeth would never do that. But maybe he saw that Elspeth would be safe in this compartment, and made Rushton put on a demonband to stop Elspeth using her powers. If he saw all of this, then his power is huge and that is one scary thing. But Elspeth remembers, that no futuretelling can see everything, and that is the only thing that can give her hope and save her.

Elspeth understands that Rushton will kill himself trying to get to her, and the only thing she can do is open the door, and take faith in the knowledge that Rushton still loves her, and that Ariel was never able to destroy it completely. She shows Rushton how to open the door, and soon enough the door slides open, and Elspeth is no longer behind her shield. But she isn’t afraid, and just tells him that she loves him. She knows that Ariel wouldn’t have foreseen this option, because she could die, and he can’t let that happen. It becomes a heart0stopping moment as Rushton tries to fight with himself, and then almost seems to lunge at Elspeth, but stops himself. She gets the courage to go over to him, hold him, remove the demonband and enter his mind.

Inside it is chaos, but there is the same bear that was inside Dragon’s mind, which must be his form on the dreamtrails. He seems focused on the road which leads to his dead, the mindstream. Elspeth does something interesting, she enters the mind of the bear, and this makes me really think of Inception, but this book was out first. Inside she was in a winter wonderland, Ariel is inside this house of ice, so is Domick, conquered by him is sent off to torture Rushton, who is still the injured bear. Elspeth goes into this new bear, and finds herself somewhere else, and this time Elspeth is there, but it seems to be a vision of Elspeth how Rushton would see her, beautiful, strong and proud. Ariel is there trying to convince yet another bear that it is Elspeth that would hurt him, and not Ariel. The vision of Elspeth tells Rushton she doesn’t love him, and goes to strike him. Elspeth combines with this vision, and then goes yet again into the bear’s mind.

Tumbling down into the deepest parts of Rushton’s mind, Elspeth witnesses the horrors of the torture that Ariel and Domick committed, certain that the two of them would have been sent mad themselves by their deeds. They come just above the mindstream, the bear trying to enter it, and Elspeth trying to keep him away. Atthis appears, and tells Elspeth that she must not enter the mindstream, and must let Rushton go. Elspeth makes Atthis help her, though she warns that there will be a price for saving Rushton, and it won’t be Elspeth who pays. Atthis tells her that she must enter his deepest mind, which means yet again she goes into the bear.

Even here Ariel remained, and he continued to torment Rushton, but he wasn’t real, and that was something Elspeth could use. She uses the energy Atthis gave her to destroy Ariel and to rid him from Rushton’s mind. Elspeth had made her way to Rushton’s Talent, a vast cavern where infinite minds could be contained. This is Rushton’s deepest mind, and with Mika’s help, Ariel was able to find his way in, but now, with him gone, Rushton can heal, the bear vanishes, and Rushton returns.

Returning to her body, Elspeth finds Brydda, who lead those in the boat to safety when it capsized, lead on by a voice (Atthis?). They then found their way to the surface, he came to find Ariel’s residence, where Gilbert was unconscious, and Hakim had seen Rushton go into the trapdoor. Rushton must have found his way here past the Hedra, though maybe they were told to let him go past. Andorra had been knocked out, and Jak was lost wondering this vast place, and was found by Jakoby. Much time has passed (an entire day and night Elspeth was in the same position!), and the battle for Norseland is basically over.

Elspeth shows Jak the plague seeds, and he stops the cooling mechanism, which will make the seeds useless. And they leave this place, after such a momentous time. Rushton has been cured, but really, what is the price that someone will pay for saving him? That worries me, and how did Atthis know there would be a price? But it is a joyous time because Rushton is back, and the two of them can finally be in love. I guess part of the price will be when Elspeth has to leave him, it will be hard for them both. But that is in the future, right now, I guess we are still going to Sador.

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