The Stone Key – Chapter 40

Chapter Forty

So yesterday’s time in the Earthtemple isn’t over, the overguardian still has something from Kasanda to give Elspeth. Taking a new path out of the panel cavern, they approached the front of the temple and Elspeth could see Templeport and the vast ocean beside it. The overguardian, who isn’t exactly the ‘nicest’ of people, but being chosen as the overguardian is probably a huge burden and it would be wearisome hearing thoughts and seeing into the future, tells Elspeth to grab something from a crevice. Inside was a stone sword, and the overguardian tells her to keep it until she finds the person who it rightfully belongs to. Who that is, Elspeth is going to have to find out?

And that is apparently all, the overguardian has nothing more, she cannot answer any more questions because she does not know any more. Except that Kasanda, who obviously made it, said it had great value and it was the ‘key to all things’. And no Elspeth there will never be an end to all of the mysteries, I almost feel like Isobelle Carmody is toying with us at that point trying to highlight our own frustration about the never ending mysteries with Elspeth’s. But a stone sword is a really strange object to make in the first place, so confusing! Is this the STONE KEY, instead of the other thing?

Returning to the settlement, Elspeth isn’t going to join the dancing and frivolity, she has been reminded that she is the Seeker, and that her path is one which she alone must go down. She tries to ponder the sword and why Kasanda would make such a thing, and who it could belong to, but she really has no clue. But at this point I think Elspeth just has to trust that there will come a time when the answer is clear, and she won’t really have to search for answers, they just seem to come to her eventually. But some answers that Elspeth doesn’t have is what the other signs and things are going to do, and I think that they must be the commands to destroy the weaponmachines, this device is just to get into the place, not destroy things.

But something that I completely missed was Cassy saying that she had ‘defied time twice and in more than one way’. What on earth does she mean? I guess this is one way she defied time, but what was the other? And she also said that it had cost her much to get this computer, but what exactly was that? Was that in the Red Queen’s Land, and it means her husband? Did he go off to get it and died in the process? Or was it during the Great White that she lost something to get the computer? But then she would have had to keep it hidden for ages, so maybe she found it when she was a captive of the Gadfians, but what did she lose there? We haven’t heard much about her time there. In fact I find it curious that Elspeth has only ever seen Cassy before the Great White, and never during her life afterwards. Is that because we only need to see her Beforetime life, and we can hear more about her other parts from the Gypsies and Sadorians? A little strange how that works, but I guess seeing the Beforetime and understanding how and why the Great White happened is more important.

Another great mystery is Maruman! How did Cassy know about his ‘other name’ Merimyn, and why did she use that name? Is Maruman actually Merimyn? And if so, why did he tell Elspeth his name was Maruman, or indeed how did Elspeth come to know that was his name? I mean the fact that Maruman seems to have somehow existed in the Beforetime with that vision of a girl calling Merimyn, is just so puzzling. One explanation I guess would be that somehow Cassy sent him to Elspeth’s time, since she said she defied time twice, maybe this was the other way?

I do like that the Sadorians take theft so seriously, and regard every crime as theft. If you kill someone, it is theft of life, if you steal a thing, it is theft of property, if you keep someone captive it is theft of freedom, there is also theft of love but I don’t know if that means you cheat on your partner, or seduce someone’s bondmate, it is a little ambiguous. And if you steal freedom or life, you are sent out to the desert naked, and if you find your way back you are free to go anywhere but Sador. Of course it wouldn’t make sense to send out the experienced Sadorians since they would find their way back without trouble, they are given a potion though, that means they can no longer see long distances, so they are unable to make out the stars and unable to navigate there way back. Apparently that effect is permanent, so most people don’t really want to return even if they could. So I guess crime is so low because of such harsh penalties. The punishment actually acts as a deterrent because it is so severe, some might argue it is unethical, but why should you break these laws in the first place?

Elspeth decides to go for a swim in the pool at the base of the cliffs, and finds Bruna and a lot of other young women there. It seems Jakoby’s plan has worked and Bruna and the other women are preparing for the hunt, by cooling down in the pool. As for whether Dardelan has put in a stone, we do not know yet, but Bruna has three, so there is a good chance. Elspeth is reminded about Miryum and Straaka, who have been missing for a long time now, Straaka is dead of course, but as for Miryum we do not know. There was a kasanda who said that they walked together but no under the moon or sun, which could mean that they are now together but in death. But that is a mystery that is once again, not really solved, maybe we will never know where Miryum took Straaka’s body and what she did after. And just before the hunt begins, there is a strange moment where Elspeth sees two honey coloured women, and she wonders where they have come from, not the Land, Norseland or Sador, because they don’t look like anyone Elspeth has seen. So where have they come from, and how on earth did they get here? But sadly we don’t get to find out, MORE MYSTERY!

Instead it is now time for the ‘hunted’ to depart, before the hunters leave themselves an hour later. And as Bruna departs, we find another person Elspeth knows, Daffyd. He is still searching for Gilaine, his brother and Lidgebaby. Of course part of that is to try and bring down Salamander, but he hasn’t been to Sador has he? Daffyd thinks so, but doesn’t elaborate, instead talks about the Land’s own victory against the Hedra. Elspeth pushes him again, and Daffyd explains his theory that Salamander is a Sadorian tribesman. Even though Sadorians hate slavery, there are always ‘bad eggs’, so maybe it is true.

He tells his tale, he came to Sador in an attempt to reach the west coast after the rebellion, but soon found that nobody was sailing there. So he got a job here, and began to ponder why Salamander had never attacked one of the Sadorian greatships (apart from the one that was burnt) and why he never came to Sador. Continuing his story, he was sent on a kar-aven, and when he was travelling through the desert he heard something that made him realise that maybe Salamander didn’t come from the Red Queen’s Land after all. He talked to a woman who was originally from the Land but had married a tribesman. The woman was once a shipgirl on a small vessel, which was attacked by Salamander’s ship, the crew were taken as slaves, apart from one who was sent adrift, and if lucky would reach land to spread word of Salamander. But this woman had climbed over the edge of the boat and hung onto a rope connected to the boat while it was raided. The woman then swam back onto the boat, and unbound the man, and they were brought by currents to Sador. The woman remained here, but the man returned to the Land.

But during her time in the water, clinging to the rope, she saw something nobody else has ever seen. She saw in one of the windows of the ship, Salamander who had been wounded. His slave tended to him and gave him stitches. The woman saw that Salamander’s skin was ‘as brown as choca’. Elspeth thinks this makes him Gadfian, but that also means that he is likely to be Sadorian, since Gadfia (or what remains) isn’t exactly around the corner. Daffyd then thought that Salamander would be so secretive simply so he was then able to come to Sador and do as he pleased, without his disguise. This gives Daffyd a chance to get onto his boat, if indeed his theory is true, but how he would know it was Salamander is impossible. But he seems to think he must just find a Sadorian who disappears and then reappears after a long period of time, but after all these are nomads so that isn’t an easy feat.

But now with the expedition to the Red Queen’s Land coming into place, Daffyd will tag along and find Gilaine and the others. Rushton wants him to propose his theory to the tribe tonight, just as he puts his request forward, so that the tribes have even less incentive to refuse. And that on their venture to the Red Queen’s Land they will find out who the hell Salamander is, and can put at stop to him, though I don’t see how they will do that, even with the four ships they won’t have a huge force, and Salamander can just sail away with Ariel and all his people to wherever the hell he wants! So I think they are slightly optimistic to think they will stop him. But what seems to be true is that the slavers of the Red Queen’s Land are in fact Gadfians, but not the same ones that stole the Sadorian women. Since Gadfia was a huge place, this seems likely. All of this has come from Daffyd’s time here with the Sadorian people, who know an awful lot about Gadfia and the Beforetime, but prefer to keep such information a secret, and don’t like sharing the knowledge because they don’t like dwelling on the past, preferring to see it as a lesson not to go down their path.

Daffyd is taken away by Gilbert, who is happy to see the man after such a long time, but first we find out that Dardelan has apparently retired and gone to bed. But I don’t know, Gilbert just hasn’t seen him for a while, and the hunt might be a good reason why. This is as the first hunter catches his ‘prey’, honestly it is very barbaric thinking and writing about this in these terms, but it is the Sadorian way, and the women aren’t really caught unless they want to, so it is just a display of their love, and the man’s dedication and determination to get what he loves.

Elspeth and Maruman head off to bed, and I’m going to leave it here, even though I haven’t finished this chapter, and since the epilogue is REALLY short, it makes sense to stop now, and finish it all off tomorrow! A lot has happened already, but there is still some room for something else, who knows!

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