The Keeping Place – Chapter 34

Chapter Thirty-Four

Maruman and Elspeth are now inside Dragon’s mind. They know that Rushton has been taken into her mind as well, and they have just found out that Dragon is the Red Queen’s daughter! Dragon was coming to her mother to talk about the bear that the Queen had just released into her garden. Dragon seems to believe that since the bear has been whipped and beaten, that is proof that the ‘arena’ exists. The Queen denies such a myth, but after hearing from the trio, I think this arena does exist, and either the Queen is just feigning ignorance for her daughter, or she really is clueless. It makes me wonder how much the Queen knows about what goes on in her city, let alone what happens outside her garden. Once Dragon is sent away to make peace with the bear (which really, is that a safe thing to do?), Elspeth asks about the arena. The Queen again says that the arena is a myth, and hints that the gatekeeper knows this town better than anyone, and yet he does not know of the arena. I hate to break it to you, but the gatekeeper might be lying. He doesn’t seem to share your love of animals.

Elspeth asks if they can wander in the garden, and the Queen allows them, though warns that the gatekeeper will again disapprove. As soon as they are out of earshot, Elspeth shares my concern that the gatekeeper is not as innocent as the Queen believes. Maruman suggests that they find Dragon. The garden is a strange one, and somehow goes down into a valley, even though the wall that surrounded it, did not. So again we must assume that Dragon’s brain has merged various things together to make illogical surroundings.

They find Dragon talking to the bear, and she is trying to talk the bear into opening its mind, and showing the Queen about the arena. Dragon soon spots them, and thinks that they are spying on her. It seems that Dragon (or the Dragon in this dream) thinks that her mother is too accepting of people, and that she doesn’t realise that some people in this world are bad. Which is interesting, for such a young girl to think, which makes me wonder whether this is just the dream Dragon talking. Dragon finds Elspeth familiar, which again points to Dragon not being the Dragon of the memory. Elspeth tries to figure out the underlying story which is what Dragon has been repressing. There is some danger that Dragon can see clearly, but her mother is blind to.

Elspeth offers her help in proving the existence of the arena. But she goes a little too far in questioning why Dragon believes in the arena without proof, it almost breaks the illusion. Elspeth tires to divert before it collapses, and Dragon tells her that the bear must be from the arena, otherwise why would he be so injured. Suddenly Dragon stands and runs to find the Queen, she is in danger. Elspeth follows Dragon to find the Queen struggling with the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper draws out a dagger, and stabs the Queen. Maruman tries to pounce, but a net traps him. Another traps something else, and then Elspeth is caught by a man. Elspeth tries to coerce the men, but she remembers that they are just apart of Dragon’s mind, so that would be futile, since Dragon is stronger than her. She contemplates using her killing power, but honestly, that would do more harm than good. Anyway, somehow Dragon escapes and ends up in the Land, so there must be more to this story.

The gatekeeper tells Elspeth that it sad that they are caught up in this, and that he really wanted Maruman to end up in the arena, but there are other beastspeakers who would see this event, so that would be foolish. The bear from earlier arrives at attacks one of the men, but is quickly shot with an arrow. Dragon and Elspeth where taken inside a shed, where a carriage awaited. It was a strange carriage, and looked like a train or tram of some sort, and would go underground. Now apart from Maruman, Elspeth is fearful for his safety. The carriage begins to move, and Elspeth was thrown around the carriage unable to brace herself anywhere.

Eventually the carriage stopped, and Elspeth tried to speak to Dragon, but the door opened, and they were near the ocean. For some reason Elspeth was deaf, but I think that would be because Dragon would be in so much shock that she could not hear what was being said at the time. The two of them were herded onto a ship. The ship was a slave ship, and the gatekeeper has done some sort of deal with them, to send Dragon away. I am surprised that he doesn’t kill them all, but I guess he could earn some coin for them. Elspeth finds that the bear and Maruman have both been brought along too, both are injured, but still alive. Elspeth wonders why the bear got involved in the first place. Did it make a connection with the Queen, or did the sounds enrage it? Strange.

Elspeth also finds that Dragon is fighting against the men, because her mother, who is still alive, is within reach. The whole reason for this treachery, is that the gatekeeper wanted to be king, but the Queen refused. He thought that the queen was stuck in the past, and living in a fantasy. What’s more, he thought she wasn’t taking advantage of what this land could be used for. It’s a wonderful plan actually, because he will pretend that he is merely guarding the throne until the Queen returns. Nobody knows anything about his betrayal, and they have no reason to be suspicious.

The slaver is ready to go, and the gatekeeper tells him to either throw the beasts overboard, or sell them if they can be bothered. Dragon and Elspeth are tied up, and Elspeth makes physical contact with Maruman, which allows a mental connection. The issue is they don’t know what is going on. Elspeth isn’t even sure that this is what happened to Dragon, or whether this is just a fabrication. Maruman warns that the cycle is not over, and that they are now apart of Dragon’s dream. If they do not end the cycle this time around, it will reset, and they will be stuck in it. Unfortunately, the next time, they will have less freedom, as they start to be worked into the narrative. So the longer they stay, the harder it is going to be. Elspeth does think about contingencies, and believes that if it came to it, she could destroy the illusion. But what that would do to Dragon, is anyone’s guess.

Elspeth turns her attention to Dragon, who has begun to cry. Somewhat surprisingly, the Queen opens her eyes and talks to Dragon. She tells Dragon that she was a fool, but she will be different. Dragon must return to claim the throne one day, and it is most important, so that they can do it for Cassandra and the promise made to her by their ancestor, the first Red Queen. It is a shocking revelation, which proves that Dragon is the Red Queen’s Daughter, and this is not some dream narrative. The Queen continues, and tells her to remember the location of the Red Queen’s grave, and that next to it, is the grave of her brother (the first Red Queen that is). It is an important location, and Dragon must remember it, and it must be the location of a sign, because otherwise, the world will fall into darkness. The Queen is about to die, and Elspeth suddenly realises that Dragon came from the Red Queen’s Land.

The real question is, how did Dragon make it to the west coast of the Land? Did something happen to the ship? Clearly the slavers wouldn’t take her there, because she wasn’t sold to anyone. But it is clear that the Red Queen, is going to die. It is in this moment, that Elspeth pieces everything together. Cassy/Cassandra is Kasanda. Now it doesn’t take a genius to see the similarities, but it is something that unless you were observant you wouldn’t notice. I would have mentioned it, but I already knew about it. And Cassy knew Hannah Seraphim, and then somehow became the leader of the Gypsies. These Gypsies came to the Red Queen’s Land, and then she married the Red Queen’s brother. She left a sign there for Elspeth, and then went to the Land, where she gave birth. She was taken away to New Gadifa, where she was saved by the Sadorians, and then she became Kasanda, the seer. I think it is more than a complexly interwoven puzzle, because it is a story. All these pieces are slowly coming together. And yet we know so very little.

Elspeth continues to chew threw her thoughts, and imagines Cassy giving the Red Queen a key, which she promised to keep hidden forever, and in fact, she buried it with her brother. The Red Queen passed down knowledge of this key, and probably of Elspeth. What is interesting, is that Cassy must have foreseen that the Red Queen would be betrayed. Possibly after she left the Red Land, and so she tried to steer Elspeth towards Dragon, without making it easy for the Destroyer. Who, I must add, has to be conveniently be around Elspeth’s age. Because, otherwise why didn’t he come earlier, or later. But of course, the two must be together. Which honestly gives rise to the theory that Jes is actually alive, and is the Destroyer. But that is wild. Elspeth tries to figure out why Cassy would lead her here, and how they can get out. And that, is what I’ll leave for tomorrow’s post. After that, there is only the epilogue! We are getting so close!

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