The storm has passed and Elspeth uses a stick to clear the snow from the small slit of the cave opening. The storm lasted for a long time, and their firewood was nearly depleted, and I doubt they had much/any food. Outside, the world was covered in pristine white snow, and what a sight that would have been. Gahltha comments that it is a hard trek to Obernewtyn, and the snow has now hidden crevices and ditches, making it even more difficult. They start their journey and Elspeth is left to her thoughts. How is she going to explain her healed legs to everyone? I’m sure that Roland will want to know every detail, and she can’t really share what actually happened. They walked until nightfall, and reached the edge of the plateau they had walked across all day, and Elspeth nearly fell off, and would have if not for Gahltha. It sounds like this is a huge area, is it all untainted? And why aren’t there people here, or is it just too inhospitable during the winter? Or do people not explore to find new land, in fear of coming across taint? I guess when you have been brought up to believe this Land is it, exploration is not really an option.
Looking down over the edge of the plateau, Elspeth can seen clouds beneath her, which I guess explains why nobody else is living up there. And no one explores the mountains because the snow hides tainted areas that would kill a man. Only the voices in Gahltha’s head were able to guide him to the ‘top of the world’ where the view just shows how small we really are. I wonder if that is what it is like on top of Mt Everest, you are literally the highest on Earth, and everything is below you, these sorts of things can really put in perspective how small and insignificant life is, and that’s without even thinking about all space in the Universe.
On the opposite side of the plateau, the vision is very different. There are now clouds, and all that can be seen is endless Blacklands. There is no life, and it would be many years, many decades, until life could grow there again. Elspeth now understands why she was brought here, so she could see what she was fighting for and what she was trying to prevent. And now she understands (and puts things in an interesting perspective) that the first farmers who created the Council knew first hand how evil and destructive humans had been and what they were capable of doing, and decided to deny their past and head forwards. But instead of really making things better, they have make things worse, in a different sense.
There is no doubt that someone would try to wake the weaponmachines when they found them, but who the Destroyer is (and whether we have met them) is a question that is very important! I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Ariel, but then again that almost makes too much sense, but then it could be a red-herring, gah too many possibilities! Now though, they need to get back to Obernewtyn and the path down is a long one. Gahltha offers to let Elspeth ride him because she is still quite weak, and she does, heading for the barud (equine for homeplace). It was three days and nights until they were close to Obernewtyn, and green shoots were now visible, the next day they would be home.
That night (the third) they saw their first signs of animal life, a wolf. Elspeth had been staring straight at it, without realising, as it camouflaged completely with the snowy background. All night the wolves howled, until they suddenly stopped. To Elspeth this was good news, but Gahltha found this disturbing. They slept, but during the night Gahltha woke, as did Elspeth, and he warns her of the Brildane. He does not know the human word for them, but Brildane is what they call themselves, and in equine they are called gehdra, or the invisible. They hate all other creatures, especially funaga who trap and kill their young. Elspeth figures out that they are wolves, and this is there territory, and they wonder why they have intruders. They are dangerous creatures, and Gahltha is somewhat afraid of them.
During the night Elspeth dreamed of Ariel, and wondered how he survived after the Zebkrahn Machine incident. Matthew, the only one in Obernewtyn, thought he survived, and wanted them to search for him, but they were too busy to conduct such a search. I wonder if they would have found him. He out of the trio of Madam Vega and Alexi, was the worst, relishing in people’s misfortune and torment. Disturbingly, once the sun had risen, Elspeth could just how close the wolves had got, they were only a handspan away from her head! They are getting close to home, and both of them are very hungry, Elspeth hasn’t eaten in a very long time!
Then very quickly, they could now see Obernewtyn. They were now in sight of the valley, and once the clouds moved out of the way they could see Obernewtyn. But, all she could see left of Obernewtyn, was a charred ruin. What had happened?