Part Two – The High Road
After such a climatic and eventful final chapter, we open with Maruman warning Elspeth that nobody can see her go, including Rushton. Even though the last few years have been building to this moment, she feels unprepared, and that’s just how I feel too! But what Elspeth is failing to grasp is that she isn’t going to the Red Land, at least not on the ships, it won’t be possible, there’s less than a week, and they can’t be delayed. There has to be another way for Elspeth to go. But what will Rushton and the others do when the find Elspeth missing? Won’t they all just start to panic and want to search for them, and will they resign themselves to continuing on their own quest. Elspeth has to leave right now, so I’m disappointed we won’t talk to Dameon again! Elspeth is sure she is going to the Agyllian ken, but is she really doing that? I’m not so sure.
Maruman warns her that she must take everything she cherishes, because she will never return to Obernewtyn. Do you have to be so dramatic Maruman, surely there is some hope? Still, Elspeth thinks that she will make it to Sutrium to get onboard one of the ships, she is probably mistaken. NO ELSPETH, don’t assume you are going on the ship, you need the bow and the pack now! It is only Maruman who brings her out of this delusion, they aren’t going on the ship. Elspeth won’t be coming back to the Land at all, once they depart. Of course this revelation to Elspeth gives her a lot of questions. Has she misinterpreted Cassy’s message, and she won’t go to the Red Land at all, I doubt it, she doesn’t seem to think it possible for there to be a different way, but there must be. And what about Swallow, are the ancient promises fulfilled? Still Elspeth believes they are going to the Ken where Atthis will explain everything, and again, I’m not so sure.
The realisation that she won’t have time to say goodbye to Rushton or to Dameon is painful, but Maruman continues to rush her. She can’t say a goodbye anyway, since how could she ever explain to them. She also realises that Maryon’s gifts are perfect for a land journey, and the food that has been sent up will be useful as well, they are after all, travel food samples. Honestly, she doesn’t really have time to explain why Maryon didn’t tell her in detail because of the things Elspeth would have done differently, I know you want to overanalyse this Elspeth, it’s kinda your thing, but now is not the time.
It gets a million times worse those, as Rushton has left her a message. And it is one that will break Elspeth’s heart to ignore, he is requesting to bond with her, and to have the ceremony at sea. She nearly falters at this ‘first test’ as Maruman puts it, and this is a very good point, Elspeth knew what was expected, and promised to go ahead and do it. Elspeth resolves herself, and finishes packing, though she neglects to think about the stone key (which may be the stone sword, hold on, is it the key to Dragon’s memory?) and memory seed. Luckily Maruman is there, and reminds her of this critical things, what would she do without him. Even with the supplies Elspeth have, they won’t last that long, so you have to wonder how will they survive, especially once they get on the black road, where there is no safe food or water?
And now it is time for her to leave Obernewtyn, though she notices that Maruman is looking surprisingly youthful. Did the Agyllian healer, Nerat, work his magic and heal Maruman, of both mind and body? It would explain a lot, but there easily could be 20 different explanations. As they begin to leave, he once again warns that Elspeth cannot be seen leaving Obernewtyn, the consequences could be great. So Ahmedri isn’t going to try and follow her then? Looking around her room for the last time, seeing the halls of the Farseekers for the last time, and just seeing Obernewtyn for the last time, is challenging for Elspeth, all her memories are rushing to her. As they get outside, there is no sign of Darga, but will we actually see him again, or was earlier the last time? Otherwise, what role does he have yet to play?
Maruman leads Elspeth through a small opening under a hedge, and through an orchard towards the small inner wall of Obernewtyn. It is likely this was the way he arrived to Obernewtyn, did he come with Darga though? And where is Gahltha? This area, where the orchard is, once held that secret passage that Elspeth and Maryon both found, it certainly didn’t survive for long. Elspeth is struck by the irony that Maryon probably foresaw Elspeth standing here, possibly thinking about their past meeting. I’m not sure if she sees this much, but who knows. Elspeth still tries to figure out the news that she isn’t going on one of the ships and how that fits with Dell’s and Maryon’s futuretelling of her in the Red Land, as I said there are a few different ways this could happen. She could get on a shipfish and meet them somewhere. She could somehow ‘walk’ to The Spit. She could find some sort of other people who have the ability of teleporting, anything! Maruman tells her off for it, but seriously Elspeth can’t be blamed for feeling overwhelmed by these developments.
Nearing the exit of the orchard, Elspeth wonders about Ahmedri, and knows that if she is in anyway seen, he will start tracking her, and will likely be able to find her. Maybe this is why she cannot be seen. But then why had he been sent by the overguardian? He must have some role in the future. But coming to an open space, it is time for Elspeth to get ready to try to blend in, so nobody notices her leaving. How will Gahltha get away though? Or is he not coming, like we had all assumed? They pass the open section unseen, but Maruman continues to lead her through the ‘wilderness’ between Obernewtyn’s outer wall and the orchard wall. Where is he taking her? As they continue, a sense of urgency, like a premonition, takes hold in Elspeth, I think they are running out of time to slip away.
Elspeth thinks of Ceirwan, who will likely be the first to notice her absence, but it is unlikely to cause alarm for many hours, Elspeth is known to want privacy now and again. She thinks of Angina, and when his burial will occur, and whether Miky will recover enough to farewell him. But, we can’t think about all this too much, because we won’t be here to see it, so we’ll be forever waiting to find out! Elspeth imagines Rushton raising the alarm of her disappearance, he might go to see if she went to see Swallow, who will then also know something is amiss. Will he know what is happening, will he have foreseen something himself? Elspeth is too right, there is so much just about to happen, and we have to go off and do an important quest! Elspeth knows that people will be sent out to look for her, and she is naively hopeful that they will find Miryum, but I doubt it, even if it would resolve the vision, as it would be because of her.
Elspeth’s only hope is that Maryon will tell Rushton that he should not seek her, or give some good reason for her disappearance. And remind him of his own task at hand. I think he’ll blame himself though, because he’ll see his offer of bonding, as the reason for her departure, which is unfortunate. They’ve made their way right round Obernewtyn, to the the main gate, and for the last time Elspeth looks Obernewtyn, the place she has come to love so much and turns to a future full of uncertainty. This is so exciting!