The Stone Key – Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty-Two

After a fantastic victory for the shadows, rebellious priests and of course the Misfits and Norselanders, and a lovely reunion with the shipfolk and Elspeth, we were left with bad news. The ship won’t be fixed for a week, too late for the west coast. So, what is Elspeth left to do?

As expected their joy is turned to despair at this grave news. Elspeth turns to solitude to try and think through the problem and accept what was going to happen, knowing that she couldn’t do anything. But how can she accept such large numbers of death? How can she accept that innocent people, some she knows, are about to die? We know that Elspeth is not one to sit idly by to these sorts of things, she won’t be able to let it go. Even if it isn’t her fault directly, she will blame herself, no matter what Reuvan or anyone tries to tell her. She dismisses Reuvan, unable to have any part in planning or celebration, preferring to be alone.

For a long time she just sat, and did nothing, and even when she did wake herself from that, the effort of returning to the Compound to rest, was too great. As the sun begins to rise, Elspeth figures out what she can do, and as she steps into the water, it becomes clear. She is going to call on the shipfish/Vlar-rei. Using Maruman as the signal, she calls out for help. For some reason she expects something to happen straight away, it didn’t last time, and it clearly means that they are further away than they were previously, I mean, why would they hang around Herder Isle? So she falls into despair again.

Cinda arrives with kind words, again telling her not to blame herself, but Elspeth reasons that she must blame herself. Cinda noticed her go into the water, and I bet it looked as if she was trying to drown herself, but of course that isn’t what Elspeth was doing. But I do like Cinda’s message that even when times are hard, you shouldn’t give up, because if you do, you won’t be around for when good things happen. Just as Elspeth explains about the ship fish, one of them arrives, not Ari-rtoh, but Ari-noor, her sister. She must depart immediately, so Cinda is there to serve a purpose, to tell the others what Elspeth is doing, she is saving the west coast and that the rebels must be warned to stay clear of the west coast lest they too become infected.

Before long Cinda was little more than a speck, and it wasn’t too much longer before Elspeth felt refreshed from Ari-noor’s spirit energy, ohara. Ari-noor warns Elspeth that this will be a long journey, even longer than the one that Dragon took long ago, and that Elspeth must not fall asleep and must not let go of her, otherwise she will die. Elspeth tries to ponder Ari-noor’s other warning not to let her ohrana flow into the dreamwaves. Are the dreamwaves, like the dreamtrails, but just water? Or is this a whole new realm? And was Atthis somehow connected to Ari-noor’s appearance? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, there are sharks about, and Elspeth better not fall into the water!

Elspeth’s plan was to go to Murmroth and from there use a horse to travel, and to also enlist the help of the Misfits that are already there. But even with their help, will they succeed? Elspeth still has a long way to go, and already she is fatiguing and becoming tired, and scared by the three sharks that are now following her. I don’t know how Elspeth will be able to continue, she is struggling now, and there is still a lot ahead of her, and how will Ari-noor cope giving Elspeth her ohara? She tries to pass time talking to Ari-noor but she isn’t as communicative as her sister. Soon Elspeth nearly falls asleep, and it is only Ari-noor’s warning that saves her from the sharks that reappear. We must remember, that Elspeth spent the night awake staring out to sea, and now she is forced to keep hold of Ari-noor, it can’t be easy. And she is so thirsty, and even contemplates drinking sea-water, but again Ari-noor is there to warn her.

I see this journey as a huge step for Elspeth, she has to battle to stay alive and stay on Ari-noor, but it also gives her a chance to digest what has just happened and what the whole world means to her now that she is free. She is very conflicted, constantly feeling one set of emotions that is her natural response, and then disgust at those very emotions. This has happened time and time again, and I wonder if there will a time when Elspeth won’t catch herself out for her emotions, and she will be in control of them and will come to respect them. Right now she turns her thoughts to Maruman and Gahltha, and whether they have any idea what she was doing. It has been a long time since they were around, and for Elspeth this is another challenge, all her old support networks are gone, and she has to rely on different people, not just herself. She also wonders whether Maryon has dreamt of her, but even if she had, what would she have seen, probably a fragment that looked like terrible news for Elspeth, my guess is she would have kept that to herself.

I do like that Elspeth wonders whether the knowledge of what she was going to face when she set out for Sutrium, would have changed the outcome. Would she have ever gone to Saithwood knowing the danger and trouble that lay ahead? That is a difficult question to answer, and there isn’t a good one. Ari-noor, just like Maruman or Gahltha, notes that Elspeth’s thoughts just go around in circles. And it is something that we are all guilty of ourselves.

Time continues to drag on, and Elspeth still thinks they are far from their destination, so she remembers some important information that we didn’t know of yet. Elkar found the novice who got a look at the nulls that Ariel was using. He saw that there were two special nulls, one very short, a child, which makes Elspeth think Ariel did not use them for the plague, not for some noble reason but simply because it was likely that something would happen to the child before it could spread. The other null was a grown man, paled by a long period without light. Elspeth would focus her effort on finding Ariel, or at least finding where he has been, since nobody would forget the ‘beauty’ of Ariel. And I do think Elspeth’s assumption that he would love to walk among the ‘doomed’ having them adore him.

What confuses me is that when Elspeth laughs, at the folly of questioning what else could be thrown at her, Ari-noor is confused and thought Elspeth was actually ill because of the noise she was making. Then she gives a definition of laughing, as if she were some sort of robot or computer. It is a weird moment, and I feel like there is something more going on, why did she gives such an emotionless definition. Is she a robot? Surely not since she is giving Elspeth life spirit. ‘Thou art amused?’ Actually Ari-noor I am at that remark. Who are you Shakespeare? But your separation of asking questions of the world, and wanting answers is a wise one.

Again Elspeth is buffetted by the waves, and it is not until she surrenders that it becomes easier for her to relax and to ‘hear the wavesong’. To hear it, she had to stop trying to sing her own song, and listen instead. She found herself connected to the ocean and to Ari-noor, something that reminds of her the mindstream, which might be why the dreamwaves sound similar. Sadly, Elspeth can feel Ari-noor’s own fatigue setting in, and Elspeth hasn’t been given any ohara for a long time, can she actually make it to land? Now in this new state, she fell into a memory, but she was not sleeping. She remembered Dragon’s mother and her death in the ocean. Then she was about to drink some water, but was stopped by Rasial, who morphed into Sharna the dog that saved Elspeth from the wolves back in Obernewtyn. He too became a different dog, Darga, the Herder dog who came with Jik, and whose arrival would signal the beginning of Elspeth’s final leg of the quest.

In this strange sequence, she now seems to speak to Matthew, just as she always wished was possible. And finally she has a chance to tell him that they know about the Red Queen, and they know Dragon’s connection. And also she can give him the good news that Dragon is not in a coma, but sadly she doesn’t remember him. Then he becomes Rushton, they are in a hot spring, and it is before he was captured by the Herders. She became so immersed in that memory, that she was struggling to reveal herself fully to him, because that would mean revealing her dark centre, but he didn’t care. And now ‘awake’ again, Elspeth finally vocalises that she should never have refused Rushton, and it didn’t matter if she kept her secret from him. I think finally Elspeth is having a catharsis and is able to release all her pent up emotion about Rushton, even though she blames herself for not loving him and giving him strength for his time with the Herders, she is able to release, something she hasn’t done before.

But now properly awake, Elspeth takes a while to gather her surroundings. Ari-noor is no longer with her! And she is in the middle of the ocean. The sharks could be near, waiting to kill her. But she strikes something solid, and it takes her ages to realise what it is, she is on land. She was so confused that she didn’t recognise its touch. It took her great effort to drag herself further up the beach, and then she sank into another dream sequence, too fatigued to do anything else.

And we get a fantastic memory, the meeting of Cassy and Hannah Seraphim! In fact this is the first time Hannah had appeared to Elspeth, and this is when Cassy first arrived at the Reichler Clinic, under Tor in Newrome. The reception is the same, without the statue of course, and Cassy cannot believe that she is finally here. The history of the Reichler Clinic and it’s fake testing damaged the paranormal movement, and Cassy was turned away, and who knows who else they ignored. Quickly Hannah explains that this building is not at all the Clinic, and this one is bugged with Govamen listening devices, and it is only now Hannah can reveal this to Cassy, since their electronic (they still used emails!) communication could easily be intercepted. Cassy will meet the others in due time (which I want to see badly) but right now they must keep up the façade.

As they enter the bugged area, Hannah communicates using farseeking, which shocks Cassy, but what is more shocking is that the Clinic made sure Cassy’s emails were hidden and wiped, as they could tell she was paranormal from the outset. Instead, the emails that were ‘sent’ were fake ones, and I am impressed. They have to be so careful against the Govamen, and they have taken great steps in ensuring they don’t know that the Clinic are on to them. There must be a considerable taskforce behind all of this, but I guess, if there are Tecknoguilders, they could do wonders with computers, since they actually know how to use them!

The two have to stop talking too much telepathically, because they need to keep up their performance, which will show that Cassy only has a latent ability, and that she must be disappointed. Then, she will go on a hike near Newrome, and follow a guy she meets in a bar, to the real Clinic. Cassy can’t believe how clear Hannah’s voice is, but that is because they are touching, removing that, it is clear that even Hannah is very weak, at least compared to Elspeth, but Cassy will surpass Hannah, I wonder if she was stronger than Elspeth. I know she was able to Futuretell with great accuracy and power, but what about the rest of her abilities?


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