The Keeping Place – Chapter 20 – Part Two

Chapter Twenty – Part Two

The magi have just departed, the knights are away, and Rushton is still kidnapped, so Obernewtyn is a little downcast. And with the rebellion looming, that makes things worse. But they are determined to keep their home.

Aras, Zarak and Elspeth are sitting down talking during dinner. Aras has a great suggestion (she is full of great ideas), a few of them were talking yesterday, and they wondered why don’t they just block off the pass, that way nobody could get through to Obernewtyn, and they wouldn’t have to destroy or leave Obernewtyn. She doesn’t think it would be very hard for the tecknoguild to create an avalanche to block it off. Garth overhears, and he comes over to join them. He admits that they could do it, and they have thought about it. If they do block off the pass, that would mean nobody could come to Obernewtyn if they were looking for refuge, though if word spread that Obernewtyn was abandoned then would anyone come? And also blocking themselves off to the rest of the Land would bring its own challenges, as they do need access to some supplies they can’t make or grow, and there are other reasons for keeping the pass open.

Aras isn’t put off, as she says they didn’t mean block off the entire pass, but block it off so people couldn’t get in without knowing how to. They would create a way through, and the beasts could let other beasts know so they could come and seek refuge. But Garth says the pass is the only way through to Obernewtyn, and creating a new way would require boring through a mountain and that is no small feat, but they are also tainted. A little disappointing, but it was a really good suggestion, pity it wouldn’t really work.

Elspeth asks if Fian has come up to the house with Garth. He has, but he has gone to see Alad about getting some animals to help them make the caves habitable. Garth asks about Rushton, but there has been no news, the knights have coerced as much as they can, and nobody remembers Rushton at all. Elspeth wonders if Rushton was taken to the West Coast, as nobody has been able to find him, but they haven’t looked there. But Sutrium is a large city with many hiding holes, and Elspeth remembers where Matthew was taken, just over tainted water, and wonders whether that was really a coincidence. But she doesn’t really have time to think about Salamander and the slaves, there are more pressing issues at hand.

Garth seems sure that they will find out where Rushton is after the rebel meeting, but how can he be that sure? Garth pulls out the plan for the caves, and it sounds impressive, with smaller caves (can they be called caves?) offshooting the main caves, which would serve as sleeping caves. They’ll cover the opening in the spring cave with plastic (interesting to find they still have plastic, do they still make it from oil?), and they’ll need to dig out some of the caves, and build fires and hearths. Garth wants to put false rock falls over the entrances, which sets Elspeth off an a tirade, as this means he will want to escape the caves and go and do some research, which would endanger everyone. Fian arrives, and Elspeth feels a little guilty since she just reproached Garth for past research, and here was some of her own past research. Luckily for Elspeth, Garth leaves in search of Maryon, saving her looking like a hypocrite.

Fian nearly leaves too, but then remembers to give Elspeth the translation, but warns that it doesn’t really make much sense. Elspeth could see there were gaps and question marks, and two or three possible meanings, but with Zarak and Aras still watching her, she can’t study it closely. After a while, Elspeth gets her chance to escape, and in her chamber, she struggled to light a fire, which Ceirwan would usually do for her. Once she had got the fire going, she sat down to read the passage.

The first line says: “I, Carandy? have left steps/signs/things behind me which the leader/wanderer/searching one, must find before…” which unfortunately ends with a gap, so we don’t know what timeline Elspeth has. Clearly Carandy is Kasanda, and searching one is the Seeker, but must Elspeth find it before the Destroyer, or someone else, or a certain time? Elspeth had to wonder was this the first sign from Kasanda, or was this just a way of finding the four signs, before going to the Earthtemple to get the fifth?

The second line says: “That … which must be used/found before all else is with/give/sent to? she who first dreamed of the searcher – the hope beyond the darkness to come.” On the margin Fian wrote key, and inserting that into the sentence makes it slightly clearer, that a key must be used/found. Was it an actual key, or was the person the key. And who dreamed of the Seeker first, if it was not Kasanda? And where is it, is it in Kasanda’s grave. But the four signs were said to be in the Land. Maybe there is another person, but how could Elspeth find her?

For some reason we skip the third line and get the fourth which says: “Who would/must enter the sentinel/guard/watcher will seek the words in the house where my son was born.” These are really obscure clues, I guess they have to be to make sure the Destroyer doesn’t find things first, but how will Elspeth find any of the signs? And everything just keeps making more questions to be answered! And how would Elspeth find out about her son, if the only person she knew of who knew Kasanda, was the overguardian, but he won’t answer any questions until Elspeth has the 4 signs. Elspeth remembers that the overguardian said she would arrive with one of Kasanda’s blood, which could just mean a seer, but could literally mean a descendant of Kasanda. Clearly Kasanda would have had to be in the Land when she was young to have her son, and a shocking thought comes into Elspeth mind. What if she was taken by the slavers to Gadfia, and there she was rescued by the Sadorians.

The fifth line says, “That which will reach the heart/centre/core of the sentinel/guard/watcher seals a pact/vow/promise which I did forge, but never witnessed/saw.” Sentinel sounds familiar to Elspeth, but doesn’t really to me, but since Elspeth can’t think of it, we won’t know until she does. Maybe Elspeth is seeking out a carving to commemorate the pact. And did Kasanda not see the pact take place because she was taken by the slavers? Which means she would have foresaw even that.

The sixth and final line was longer than all the rest, and was copied hastily at the end of Elspeth’s time in the dreamtrail, and it says, “That which will open/access/reach the darkest door lies where the … lies/sleeps? Strange is the keeping place of this dreadful sign/key but there is no other, for all who knew it are dead save one who does not know what she knows. Seek her past … Only through her may you go where you have never been and must someday go … danger … Beware … dragon.” Wow, Kasanda was able to foresee that Elspeth would be attacked by a dragon in the dreamtrail!

Elspeth tries to makes sense of all 6 lines, and tries to make a list of all the things she has to find and what she knows. Elspeth wonders how this odd collection of things could help her on her quest, but then she remembers that the Beforetimers programmed locks and tricks to hide and protect their machines, and the weaponmachines would surely be protected by the most secure locks. These things must be the key (metaphoric and literal) to accessing and destroying the weaponmachines. Elspeth remembers now that sentinel is the name the Beforetimers gave the program to collect and analyse aggression, and would retaliate aggression if needed. This sentinel could be the same thing Cassy discussed with her father called the guardian program, and they sound similar so why aren’t they the same thing? Elspeth wonders if this sentinel is waiting to be activated, and if it was, it would see the devastation, and then want to retaliate, using the Balance of Terror, and wipe out the world. I wonder where it would direct the retaliation, was there a country responsible?

Elspeth realises now that the signs needed to be obscure and well hidden to protect them from the Destroyer, who Kasanda surely foresaw. Elspeth tried not to think of him as a man, but he is out there somewhere, and he knows about her. I wonder if Elspeth thinks the Destroyer is Ariel, I forget if that has been mentioned previously. Elspeth also realises that Kasanda would have made it possible for Elspeth to find the signs, indeed she would have made it almost easy for Elspeth, because she foresaw her life and skills, so Elspeth will have every chance of succeeding. Elspeth feels now that she is not alone on her quest, because Kasanda foresaw it, and maybe even foresaw Elspeth reading her message. Elspeth only needs to find the first clue, and then surely the rest would follow. In fact, knowing Elspeth things will lead her to where she needs to be to find the signs, without too much on her part.

Things are progressing now for Elspeth’s quest, it is only the beginning of that, and we have the rebellion first, but it is good to finally find out about the signs, which Elspeth will have to find soon. Once the rebellion is over, Elspeth will have time to find them, and then it will be time for her dark journey!

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