The Keeping Place – Chapter 33 – Part Two

Chapter Thirty-Three – Part Two

The story is reaching its finale, as Elspeth and Maruman go into the dreamtrails and enter Dragon’s mind. Now flying on the dragon above the wall, it is interesting to note that inside the wall there appears to be just fog. Once the dragon entered the fog, Elspeth and Maruman were alone and standing on a road and the dragon was no where to be seen. It was very hot, and the fog seemed to be here too. Maruman tells her that inside her own mind Dragon does not take the form of the dragon. Instinctively Elspeth tries to reach out to her with a probe, but she finds nothing, which is hardly surprising, considering everything is Dragon. She remembers that Rushton is here, and tries to find him, but it is hard to make anything out. Rushton will lead them to the sign, that much is certain.

It is a bit of a dilemma for Elspeth since the purpose of this expedition is not to save Dragon, not to save Rushton, but to find a sign for her own quest. It sounds selfish, but we all know that this quest is important for humanity. I did just have a slightly disturbing thought. What if Elspeth is just insane, and she isn’t the Seeker, and in fact there is no Seeker. It is a strange idea to harbour, what if Elspeth never met the Agyllians, and she just happened to be in a daze. Okay, there would be too many questions and instances, where Elspeth wouldn’t survive without some sort of help. But maybe, Elspeth is actually still in that daze after the firestorm, and this has all just been happening in her head. Not the best thought for a story, so I’m guessing that isn’t true.

As Elspeth and Maruman walk down this path towards a possible settlement, it is clear that everything around them is constantly changing. Nothing is constant, but I wonder why would this town be constant. Is it because that is the focus of Dragon and her memory, and this is just emptiness, filled in by random scenes? For a while they see or hear nothing living, until they stumble upon two men and one woman. They seem to have stumbled upon a beast, and are trying to decide what to do with it. One suggests they sell it, another suggests they train it and make it dance, but the woman suggests that they should offer it to the Queen. As Elspeth approaches the group, she wonders whether they will be able to see her, and whether they will question her for having a tyger. They don’t question her about Maruman, but since they have a bear with them, maybe animals aren’t such a surprise. The bear is in terrible shape, whipped and drugged.

One of the men even asks Elspeth if she will sell Maruman, but obviously she wouldn’t. The three people lead the bear away into the town, frightened by the tyger. As they leave Elspeth wonders whether they should have tried to let the bear go, and also finds that she cannot access its mind, whether that is because it has been drugged, or it is part of Dragon’s mind is unclear. Maruman says that everything here is a symbol part of Dragon’s mind. As they enter the town, they find it a strange mix of buildings that look like they come from the Red Queen’s Land, and others that are from Sutrium and even Obernewtyn. I guess Dragon’s mind has just mixed everything together. But then that would mean that Dragon has been in the Red Queen’s Land, unless it symbolises her connection with Matthew, who is in that place. The town is full of life, and we find that strange beasts are all the rage, and even some of them are unrestrained like Maruman. There are hints that Elspeth sees a zebra and a giraffe, but interestingly their minds remain closed to her. Maruman seems interested in this town, just as much as Elspeth is, but he thinks there is ‘something rotten’ about it.

Elspeth could reach a few beasts, but they weren’t much help, and asked if she was a friend of the Queen’s. This might mean that the Queen is a beastspeaker, which would explain her love of animals and why they are so free in this area. Maruman suggests that Dragon is the Queen, but that would be odd, since the one thing she couldn’t do was beastspeak. But Elspeth has a feeling that Dragon will be close to this Queen. Elspeth soon finds out that this Queen is in fact The Red Queen from her dreams. To find her, they need to go to the centre, where they are sure to find Dragon. Eventually they found themselves near a park surrounded by a wall. They walked around it until they found a gate, which was open. But they could not see inside.

There was a guard of sorts at the gate, and he was busy talking with the three with the bear that they had seen earlier. Elspeth doesn’t think this to be a coincidence, even though the three had said they were going to be there. Kella had said that Dragon was reliving something over and over, that might be true, but her mind has distorted things and made a jumble of everything. The presence of this trio makes Elspeth believe that they are somehow important to the larger narrative of Dragon’s memory, and therefore they are important to Elspeth. The guard was just about to send away the bear, because of its scars, but a bell tolled, and it signalled that the Queen wanted to see them. Which is interesting, so the Queen could somehow see them? Is she a farseeker?

The guard turns his attention to Elspeth, who tells him they want to pay their respects to the Queen, so the guard rings a bell of his own to summon an escort for them. I along with Elspeth wonder why they have an escort, and yet those with the bear did not. Was it because Elspeth looked like an outsider? Or is this some sort of illogical sequence that the dream has conjured? So they enter the park and walk along a path to a pavilion where a throne was occupied by a woman with red hair. I’d say that that was the Red Queen. Elspeth thought that the Queen could easily be Dragon in thirty years, and curiously, it looks like the princess that the coercers had conjured for their story. I wonder if they have seen the Red Queen in their own dreams.

The three offer the bear to the Queen, who accepts it, and says that the gatekeeper doesn’t understand that she loves more than beauty. She tells the bear that he is safe now, and that he is now welcome in her garden. She even went and removed the muzzle from the bear. She thanks the trio and sends them away with the escort. The Queen focuses on Elspeth now, and immediately she knows that they are not from around here. The Queen is very interested when Elspeth says that Maruman is free, as if it is one of her lifelong goals in life. Something that her gatekeeper does not approve of.

The Queen reaches out with her mind to talk to Maruman. But that is not the shocking thing. What is shocking comes next. A small girl runs up to the Queen, crying ‘Mami!’. And who else could it be, but Dragon! Dragon is the daughter of The Red Queen? If that is true, then how come she is in the Land? What happened? Clearly something terrible happened since this is the memory Dragon has repressed, and has been reliving for quite some time.

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