The Stone Key – Chapter 25

The Sending by Isobelle Carmody starts 10th of February!

Chapter 25

Elspeth is on top of a structure called Stonehill, and just made contact with Merret, one of the west coast Misfits. But the real mystery is what is Elspeth looking at, stone trees? It is immediately revealed that she recognises that the stones were work of Kasanda (or at least her apprentices), which means that here lies the first and only settlement of the Gypsies. I think seeing a settlement of the Gypsies in its full glory would have been amazing. I do wonder though, why didn’t they just say, let us say up here on Stonehill? Why did they choose to be nomadic, couldn’t they have done both? Or was the Council mean, and told them they can’t claim land? I don’t understand this agreement, and I want to.

Stonehill was once a place where they taught stone masonry, and there is a stone garden (which Elspeth just saw) which Merret told her about previously, hence her weird comment. But this place has more significance, this could be a place where there is a sign from Kasanda. Possibly the ones from the line referencing her son’s birthplace. I keep forgetting the lines, so I can’t really argue with Elspeth, but she is supposed to be seeking words. Where could these words be? Elspeth tries to figure out the timing of Cassy’s carvings and sign placing (which is a huge puzzle), and she assumes that Cassy learnt gadi in Sador, but couldn’t she have learnt it during her time in the Beforetime, I guess it is more likely that she learnt it as a slave and in Sador, but still, who knows.

Elspeth began to check through the ruins methodically, looking for any words which could be ‘the ones’. And her thought about why nobody settled here after the Gypsies is a good one. There was arable land, which the west coast had very little of, and there was fresh water. Maybe the locals thought it cursed after the Gypsies spent time on it, or maybe the Gypsies ensured that nobody was allowed to. Too many mysteries. She checked again, and still there was nothing. I think Elspeth has forgotten just how hidden Cassy made everything, to ensure the Destroyer didn’t find anything. There is something Elspeth is missing. Are the words only visible at a certain time, do the stone monuments spell out something if looked at from above, meaning Elspeth would have to go into her dream form to fly above them? Or something else I haven’t even thought of. After all this time spent with the rebellion, the Herders and the plague, we really needed to revisit Elspeth’s quest.

Elspeth’s chain of thought about Cassy and her life as a person, then mother, and her connection to The Red Queen, and thus Dragon, and what did she foreseen Elspeth doing, is mind-numbing. It’s confusing, it’s not impossible to understand, but there is a lot going on, and everything is more connected than you could have thought. There is so much about her quest that Elspeth is guessing. Has she even found a sign yet? I honestly wonder, because the glass carving, may or may not have been a sign. And the other sign Elspeth knows of is with Dragon, and probably where the Red Queen (the first one) and her brother died, since Dragon’s mother wanted her to remember the location of it. So she doesn’t really have much going for her, but there is plenty of time for that to change.

I am interested in her musing, was Cassy too distraught at losing her bondmate and best friend, with the added kick of knowing that soon The Red Queen’s land would be taken by slavers, and that the world would be destroyed if she and Elspeth didn’t do their best and save it? Plus she knew that her futuretellings would come true, and she couldn’t alter them, for that is fraught with folly. And that is interesting, because I have wondered whether they were set in stone, and it appears that way.

Finally Elspeth takes a look at the garden of statues, some were clearly Cassy’s, but others were her students. The best, someone whose initial was E, is this person important? Was it her son, who learnt her trade when he grew up, before she was taken? And now I imagine what his life was like, knowing that his mother had to leave him, to save the world. Did she tell him that? Or was he one day, without his mother? It brings up the often used trope about ‘important’ people on quests hurting the ones they love. How many people did Cassy hurt? And how many will Elspeth hurt? She has already closed Rushton off because of her quest, though finally she regrets that and wants things to change. But who else will be caught in the crossfire of her destiny?

Elspeth finds a carving of Hannah as a girl, and I wonder if these statues are the sign. But, all of this is forgotten, as someone else approaches Elspeth, someone completely unexpected. Iriny, Swallow’s half sister. Both women are quite shocked, but they go back to the fire, and have some food together. Iriny came across the Suggredoon in the plast suit that Obernewtyn gifted Swallow for his help. It was the one Elspeth was taking to Sutrium, as well as Darius before things got in the way. Apparently Swallow dreamed that one of them needed to come across the river, as a matter of ancient promises, which we still have no clue what they are. Her passage over was detected by a soldierguard, and he paid the price with his life. But soon enough they will know that someone got across, but Iriny is certainly long gone.

With the arrival of a Gypsy, Elspeth thinks to ask her where the D’rekta’s son was born. Iriny says something a little grim, that the ‘end days’ are upon them when the promises have been fulfilled. I guess if the promise is one of the signs, that is true, because the fight for the future will have begun. As soon as Elspeth ask, Iriny answers. His name was Evander (hence the E) but he wasn’t born here. He was born nearby, at the foot of Stonehill, since Cassy couldn’t quite make it up to the top during her pregnancy. She carved words in the cave that was the back of this hut where he was born, but it collapsed. When Evander came here to die, he found it collapsed, and demanded it be dug out, but that was impossible. So, he carved the words on one of the rocks, saying it was part of the ancient promises. He passed on knowledge to his son, before dying, being buried with the stone in his cairn.

Luckily Iriny is so helpful (just imagine Elspeth asking this when they first really met) and she takes Elspeth to it. Elspeth’s excitement, and my own, are both very high. The carved words said that they were first in the cave where he was born, but more importantly we have the words. Elspeth’s first/second sign! finally!

I come unto thee, Sentinel. Judge my hand and let me pass, for all I have done was in your name.

What? Is this some sort of passcode for the Sentinel, which we know now is the weaponmachines. “Judge my hand” is that like a literal reference that Elspeth’s hand will be scanned, but how would the computer know that she is allowed? Or is that some metaphor that Elspeth will be judged? Iriny doesn’t understand it more than Elspeth does since they aren’t allowed to speak of the time before they were at The Red Queen’s Land, but Swallow might know since the D’rekta’s know more than anyone else. Seriously that is a bad system, what if one of them died unexpectedly. Or do their seers predict that happening, so they pass on the knowledge? Still, very exciting that Elspeth has some sort of sign! One down, four to go? Before she goes to Sador for the fifth and final one?

Iriny confirms that the seers make sure knowledge is passed down before the D’rekta dies. Evander died because of a fall from his horse, and some complication that happened afterwards. And the more Iriny reveals about the lengths they go to, to keep the ancient promises, the less worried I feel that they could ever be lost. They certainly have a contingency plan for everything. Iriny points out that the carving that Elspeth thought was Hannah, seems to be her daughter, since she came too to the Land, and was loved by Cassy. She went to the mountains (Obernewtyn) after Cassy was taken.

Rawen arrives, spurring Elspeth to tell Iriny about Domick and Ariel (for she had been caught up in her own quest). Iriny isn’t going to leave Elspeth, since Swallow told her to aid her in any way possible, so Elspeth has another person to help her, which is good news. Anyway, they leave and head back to Halfmoon Bay, this time going down on the easier road, apparently cut by a Beforetime machine that the Gypsies had. They talk about Lud, since Iriny doesn’t understand the Herders, and I love her question, “How can people make Lud.” It gets better however, when she suggests that even if there was a Lud, maybe he was like a gardener, and planted the seeds, tending it for a while, before leaving it to grow. And that is a very interesting idea!

Soon enough, Iriny and Elspeth enter Halfmoon Bay through the sea gate, Erit is not there, so they make their own way to Rolf’s house. They have to hide from soldierguards for a moment, before continuing finding Erit in their place a while later. Rolf has a plan, but we have to wait to hear it from him directly. But what we end with is the reveal that Erit and everyone else believe that the top of Stonehill is haunted by the ghouls of dead Gypsies, and they drink the blood of the treacherous. And he sent her there as a sort of test. She passed.

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