The growling was almost shaking the air, even after it had finished, it must be a big animal. Elspeth can’t use her powers to find out where and what it is, because of all the taint, and the best Darga can do is say that it is an animal. Another growl pierces the air, but there is nothing the group can do, they can’t go on, they are too tired and it is too dark. All they could do was wait and hope it was nothing to do with them, and after another five growls, it seems like it wasn’t a ‘call to arms’ for the beast/s to attack/hunt, so what is it? By the time morning came, they were tired, and the growls just seemed to have been getting closer, let’s hope these animals are nocturnal and that the group get out before the next nightfall.
Not long after they started walking again, the ground turned into endless marshland, the only good news was that the water was quite shallow. They could get through the water, but again only with Darga’s help, who guided them and avoided the holes and bogs which would trap them. The water is only slightly tainted, but still when it comes to taint, you don’t want to take too much of a risk with it. Now began the toughest time of the pass, they were all thirsty and tired, and couldn’t rest until they came across a dry patch. Their feet were wet, and the mire gave off a bad smell, it was not a good time.
They were walking in silence, so when Jik asked a question, Elspeth jumped in fright. He is wondering if he touched a poisonous (I really wonder are they referring to taint, or just a deadly plant in general?) or if he fell into the water, would he die instantly, or slowly like Pavo. Of course no one really knows, the best Elspeth can tell him is that it depends on how strong it was, because if it was weak it would take a long time. And she does mention that they aren’t sure of all the different poisons, because some were here before the Great White and some were created by the Great White (like radiation). Apparently back on Herder Isle, sometimes Herders would die if they had touched too much whitestick before it was ‘transformed’, what exactly is whitestick, well nobody knows. It is used for medicines, but Jik reveals a much sinister use, as it can be used as a gas to burn people’s skin! It sounds like the Herders are developing weapons, maybe they are getting sick of only being the ‘religion’ and not the rulers of the land?
It seems Jik is in an inquisitive mood, and wonders why the Beforetimers created the Great White, which is a VERY good question, why did they do such a thing? Of course we don’t know, and I don’t think we could really find out, was it an accident or was it some sort of war? No one knows, not even the Herders, who say they do. Again, Jik’s insight into the Herders provides interesting information, that they believe that Herders existed in the Beforetime, and that they have passed down knowledge from them, which is another interesting suggestion. Then Jik begins to talk about the possibility of Beforetime-weapons which makes thing quite awkward for Elspeth, as we know they do exist. And he brings up a constant worry for Elspeth, what if Ariel or the Druid were to find the weapons and use them again.
Elspeth cuts off further talk as this isn’t the best setting for such depressing thoughts, and brings their attention to bubbles of gas that are coming from the swamp. Darga assures her that one of them was not going to hurt them, but another two (one yellow, another blue) made him worry and have to change their direction. It is obvious they are starting to get into a more poisonous area. Then further ahead, a random blue gas appeared, which nearly made Jik fall into the water to try not an touch it. But it was only Dragon, who has started to copy the gasses, and she seems excited that she can create such things. I wonder, can she only create things she has seen, or that others have seen? Because if that is so, she obviously has seen the gasses, but does that mean she has seen a dragon?
They have been walking all day, and night-time has now fallen, and with it the mysterious growling. It seems that they haven’t gotten away from the beasts, which may be stalking them. I wonder how much further they have to walk, they have been walking for two whole days, and yes it has been slow going, but how long did they expect it to take? They soon found solid ground again, and finished the last of their water. Elspeth hopes that they aren’t too far away, because they won’t last long without any water, but is hopeful because firstly it has flattened out, secondly her powers are stronger from the increased altitude, and thirdly it is now a lot colder. Darga smells out that a storm is coming soon, he has been invaluable to this expedition, and I have no doubt that this is why Jik had to be included on the expedition. He also smells that the compound (of the Druid) isn’t that far away either.
Elspeth fell asleep for the night, and awoke to Jik laughing. He was walking around trying to keep warm whilst on watch, when he stepped on a small, ‘lumpy-skinned swamp dweller with bulging eyes’. This creature let out the growling that they had been hearing for the last two nights. It was these creatures that had been scaring them, and they had seen many of them along the way, but just hadn’t connected them to the noises! Well that is a relief! Elspeth was then able to sleep again, after having laughed for a while, at Jik’s suggestion that the sounds are a ‘lovesong’, which Darga took quite seriously.
Elspeth is overcome with a red-hot pain in her feet, and a ‘dampness’ in her neck. Her feet had gotten much worse, and were now probably infected. The pain was bad enough that Elspeth decided to draw it away using her Talent (which is an interesting concept) so she can ignore it. But according to Roland, this is a very dangerous thing to do and he forbade anyone to do it unless it was an emergency, because the pain didn’t go away it was just there waiting for you when you let go of it, and it came back with a vengeance. The longer it was left, the worse it became, so much so that a minor pain could be suppressed for too long and if released would kill a man. But Elspeth had no choice, she had to make it back to Obernewtyn, and once there the healer’s could help siphon off some of the pain. We must hope that she does make it back to Obernewtyn.
They started walking again, and an hour later Darga alerted them to funaga ahead. They had finally made it to the Compound, and now were so close to Obernewtyn! There were a few men standing around the compound, blocking their path to Obernewtyn, and not far away were more men, two of which were locked in an argument. It seemed that it would be harder to get through unnoticed than they had planned. They would need a distraction, or they could wait until nightfall, but even then the moon would be bright, and they couldn’t afford to waste a day. But they do have Dragon, and she can create a perfect distraction.
But (things can never go perfectly!) Dragon is afraid of the storm that is approaching, which makes things a little difficult. So they have to move right now, as she might not be able to create an illusion if the storm gets any closer. Lightning strikes, and Dragon cowers with fear, and Elspeth gets the odd sense of déjà vu, and also feels like a premonition is coming along. But she dismisses such things, connecting them to her suppressed pain. The premonition only gets stronger, and nearly causes her physical pain, but she has to hold it together to comfort Dragon and to get her to create a distraction.
Chaos broke out through the compound as Dragon unleashed her images. That gave the group the best opportunity to get through the compound/area without being seen. Elspeth couldn’t see what Dragon conjured up, but whatever it was it worked. The storm was right upon them, but they were nearly home and Elspeth’s feet are just getting worse, and her pain levels are getting much too high. They had reached the White Valley, as the storm increases in intensity. Elspeth could no longer run, and slowed to a walk, but urged the others ahead. Elspeth tripped over a rock, and Dragon moved to help her, but froze with a look of terror on her face.
Elspeth didn’t know what was going on, but Dragon was in some sort of scared state of shock and fear. She only seemed to get worse, and that was when Elspeth turned around and saw what Dragon was scared about, and she too was overcome with fear. Less than 50 meters away from them, was a wall of fire, not just any fire, a green tinge Elspeth would recognise anywhere.
It was a firestorm, and they were out in the open! OH DEAR!