The Keeping Place – Chapter 32

Chapter Thirty-Two

Elspeth was so relieved to see the stars once more after her close-call with death and her unique experience of diving through the submerged city under Tor. The question remains, did she get what she was looking for? Back on the surface, Elspeth and the others spot a huge bonfire, the Gypsies have accepted their invitation. The Gypsies accepted the invitation immediately, and they even have cooked up a feast. But Swallow made everyone wait until Elspeth was among them before eating, so everyone is very hungry. Marie spots Elspeth and greets her like an old friend, even though she was very suspicious of Elspeth to begin with. Elspeth also sees Iriny, and Iriny thanks her for saving her life, but Elspeth must thank her for saving theirs.

Then Swallow spots Elspeth, and she is called to him. They talk of the rebellion, and discuss just how much change for Misfits and Gypsies will really occur. After all such ingrained oppression and hatred doesn’t vanish over generations, let alone overnight. There is also the issue of the West Coast, which still remains in control of the West Coast Council and possibly the Herders. The rebels have been all but quashed, and the Misfits may or may not be safe, possibly in the Beforetime ruin complex. Who knows whether they will be able to uprise from within, or whether they will just have to wait until those back on this side are able to save them.

Food is served, yet the conversation continues. Apparently Gavyn was quite attracted to Darius, clearly their connection with beasts is obvious to one another. They have gone to see the horses. Even Dameon finds the boy a mystery, his empathy which is very strong, has trouble distinguishing him from Rasial. Swallow is quite interested in Misfit talents, and also shares that they have futuretelling but call it seering. Gypsies can also scry out lies, but this is more ‘a trick’, since they observe ‘patterns of energy’ to see if someone is lying. I believe that he is talking about auras, which would also explain why the Gypsies seem to gaze past Elspeth when looking at her, because they are looking around her. Swallow was very intrigued when he learnt of the fingerspeak for the beasts, and eagerly wants to learn more about it. He wants to learn the language, but announces that they will be leaving soon to deal with matters on the west coast. Elspeth believes this to be the ancient promises, but everyone is confused. How does he expect to get there, with both sides guarded, and the boats burnt? Even if you found a boat, it would be an easy target.

But Garth suggests that maybe they could swim across. Now this might sound like an innocent suggestion, but the river is strongly tainted, which is why the Misfits can’t farseek across it. Which means that it would be poisonous for anyone who tried to swim across. He suggests that they could use a diving suit to avoid the taint, so long as the person kept their head out of the water. The suits would protect the person from the taint for a limited amount of time. Swallow is so interested in these suits, that he immediately suggests that as a payment for their services at the White Valley, he would accept one of these suits. Garth tells him that such a suit would have to be built and tested, which would both take time. Swallow doesn’t care, and says he will send someone up in two weeks (the time Garth suggests). The Gypsy musicians prevent any further talking as they play up a storm.

Elspeth does not get up to dance like the others, and suggests that she and Swallow take a walk together to see the monument that they have been making. Now alone the two can talk of things that aren’t for others and their ears such as the Red Queen’s Land. Apparently there are no maps and no written diary, which would have helped Elspeth to find this place. The two talk of fate, which seems to control both of their lives. Elspeth has struggled with accepting her fate, and going with the flow, sometimes she tries to go against it, but then other times she submits to it. Swallow on the other hand knows that trying to fight fate is idiotic.

They speak of the future, and from the sounds of things, Elspeth is going to do a lot of waiting. Waiting for news about the west, waiting for Rushton to get better, waiting for Swallow to come and get the suits. Swallow suggests that Darius stay with Obernewtyn until he returns, that way he can learn the fingerspeak and also try to help with Rushton. The two of them arrive at the monument, and it is beautiful as ever. The names of each of the dead were inscribed on the wood carving. They soon returned to the camp, and Elspeth fell asleep. As always, she dreamed.

She was back in the foyer of the clinic, but this time the monument had the faces of all those she had lost. Pavo, Jik, Dragon, Matthew, Cameo and Selmar. Rushton’s head was the one that was severed off from the monument. Elspeth tried to put his head back onto the statue, but then it became sharp, and she cut herself on it. The water then rushed into the building, and Elspeth tried to grab the head, knowing that unless she put it back on the monument, Rushton would be lost from them forever.

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