Upon day-break the two wagons trundled back out of the White Valley and back on the road to Sutrium. Of course the news of Analivia and her ‘spying’ on the Misfits, has spooked Garth, who clearly wants Elspeth to do something about her. Only because he wants this to be his secret, even though, as Elspeth rightly says, the land is free, and people won’t come flocking to take a look at the sunken city because people still, and probably will never, get over their fear of the Beforetimer’s and all their creations. He is so concerned that he even tries to suggest that Malik will become high-chieftan and will try to hunt down the Misfits, meaning they should keep Tor a secret! Elspeth just leaves him gaping there, refusing to entertain his paranoia any further.
I do find Maruman’s constant reprisal of human nature to be interesting. This time, he condemns all human emotions as ‘untidy and disturbing’. Just imagine him as a human! He certainly would be cantankerous, but he is getting old, something that seems to be playing a major factor in this book. Is it a sign that he will die? I can’t bear to imagine Elspeth without Maruman! His origin is another mystery that lurks in the background. Where did he come from? And why is his brain unique?
Still Elspeth is so strongly attached to her belief that Ariel is the Destroyer. I just can’t help but feel this is a red-herring planted there so that the big reveal happens, we all fall over dead with the shock, and kick ourselves, screaming HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS COMING! Clearly Ariel is a possibility, but he isn’t definitely THE destroyer, he is a strong candidate, but the identity of the Destroyer, wouldn’t be given to us so flippantly. Would it? Or is this the ultimate double-red-herring?
We are also reminded of the whereabouts of Matthew, for those who may have been wondering where he was, since they forgot after ELEVEN YEARS! He is trapped as a slave in the Red Queen’s Land, where everyone refuses to over throw the slave masters, simply because they are waiting for the Queen to return. Of course, the Queen can now return, if Dragon gets there! I wonder what would happen if Dragon showed up. Would people believe that it was the Queen, returned from wherever they think she went? Or would they, brainwashed by their masters, reject her as a liar? Of course Matthew still believes that Dragon is in a coma, and thinks that maybe if she is brought here, she will wake from it. And is still trying to convince people to uprise, before the Queen returns, and even goes to suggest that they have been interpreting their prophecy incorrectly (something which a little foolish, since people are very stuck in their beliefs, and trying to suggest they have it all wrong, doesn’t end well).
He seems to have figured that out, and now wants, with other Land slaves, to steal a ship and sail to the Land. Which is fraught with so much danger, that if they were caught, they would be sent to the mines where the beast lives, and surely die within days. That beast is another mystery, waiting for Elspeth to uncover. I don’t remember if she had a name for it previously, but it is called entina, who Garth suggests is a mutant beast, who has grown to live off of the taint. It is a pity that Matthew has never dreamed of Obernewtyn, since Obernewtyn has dreamed of him many times. Speaking of dreams, people have dreamed of Miryum and Straaka, which is interesting, since Straaka has died, so it can’t be a true dream like those about Matthew. That will be an interesting avenue to look at. Will we ever hear from Miryum again? Or has she gone completely AWOL?
The rebellion has not been good news for everyone. The miners from Darthnor, have lost all work since the smelters on the west coast are inaccessible, meaning their products are worthless. Some have taken up jobs in the orchards, but others have moved themselves up and left town, with much anger towards both the rebels and Misfits. The group stops at a small hamlet, to replenish supplies and gather some intel but the way Elspeth is talking about, something is going to happen. Elspeth could easily lead a life as a spy, as she quite easily into a role of lying to get information. She pretends she is going to Saithwood for work, which she obviously knows would never happen since everything is in limbo there with Vos trying to maintain his leadership.
These roadside taverns are amazing places to gauge the opinion of the public, especially on proposed changes to the Land, such as the beast charter. The server doesn’t think people will be able to give up their meat. They could always go back to hunting it themselves. Which Elspeth suggests, but a ‘farmer’ comes up to her to ask if she knows the fingerspeech, and whether it was true or just a gimmick. He is convinced it is a trick, even though Elspeth tells him it is useful. The server urges her to keep quiet about these matters in Saithwood, where Noviny is not chieftain. He will be soon enough, once the election occurs, and Noviny has struck up a relationship with Khuria, who has stayed with the man, and has taught him fingerspeech. But what is curious, is that the communication from Khuria has grow weird. It is almost as if he is censoring himself, which is why they are going to check it out. Either Khuria isn’t writing the letters, or he is purposely making them so dull, that someone would notice just what was going on.
But Vos is so determined to stay as chieftain that he is using nefarious methods of coercion (not the talent) and fear to try and make people to vote for him. Even if they don’t, the server believes he will forge the results by swapping the ballot boxes when his men take it to Sutrium. What is more, there is now even a blockade preventing entry into Saithwood. To ‘keep out bandits’ but really it is just to prevent people finding out what is going on, on in the inside. This woman experienced the same strange letters as Zarak, so clearly there is something heinously wrong going on. I wonder what Dardelan intends to do about it. She asks if Elspeth is set on going to Saithwood, whether she would give a letter to the woman’s sister. A kind woman, who certainly answered a few questions Elspeth had about the goings on of the Land.
They prepare to leave for Rangorn, with Zarak immediately scheming about how Dardelan could make something up to protect the ballot box. Elspeth asks the woman if Malik comes by, and apparently his men visit inns frequently causing all sorts of hassle. If you speak out against Malik, you will soon find your house mysteriously burnt, by the ‘bandits’ of course. Hmm it will be interesting to see what is going on in Saithwood and what Dardelan is doing about it. Also, I am not too sure what the expedition is actually doing. Is it going to Saithwood to check on Khuria? Or going to Sutrium to return the soldierguards and so Kella can set up her healing centre. As well as being ready for the trials? They haven’t made it very clear, but I think it is sort of flexible, and that Elspeth will go and do, what needs to be done.