The Stone Key – Chapter 28 – Part One

Chapter Twenty-Eight – Part One

The next morning Elspeth and the Misfits dismantle their camp and set off for the Beforetime library ruins. They made sure to disguise their true path, with the aid of coercion of the other two camps, both with disagreeing directions. Though wouldn’t that be more suspicious having two camps disagree, wouldn’t it make sense for them both to point in the wrong direction? Anyway, they make their way, eating little (waybread which reminds me of the Elven lambas from LoTR) and talking occasionally. It is quite common for Elspeth and the others to try and figure out why Ariel or Salamander do what they do, and I don’t think they ever come close to their true intentions. We know little about Salamander, and Ariel is just ‘defective’ and plain evil, so you can’t understand the man unless you too are like him. But the closest explanation would be that they derive pleasure from the suffering of others.

Orys has spent some time learning all he can about Salamander, or the Raider, but of course there isn’t a great deal, because of how secretive he is. Does he have a secret to hide, or just is ensuring that his trade has mystery about it, and is protected by its secrecy? I do find it odd that he knows when treachery is afoot, and he can tell if he is being lied to, so that makes me feel like he has some sort of Misfit Talent. He must be able to futuretell to know about treachery, and the lying could just be him probing. And it would make sense that two defective, evil Misfits gravitated towards each other. But nobody else seems to have that thought.

Their progress was halted by dust demons, which they had to make their own cover in the sparse desert-like area, and hide from the harsh winds which pick up sand and make them like bullets. Eventually they were able to continue, quickening their pace as they learnt that the Hedra had passed them. Domick continued to deteriorate and his fever continued to soar, but all they could do was keep him under the influence of the sleeping potion.

Elspeth asks Merret about Matthew, and whether Dell had dreamt of him. It seems that even these Misfits dreamt of Matthew, just like those at home. At first I thought it was because of Dragon, whilst she was in that coma state, that everyone was dreaming of Matthew, but it seems that that isn’t the case, and that everyone is just dreaming of Matthew ‘naturally’. In fact they’ve dreamt enough to piece together the story of where he is, and what he has been doing, just like Elspeth has. They even have dreamt of entina, and heard the screams of men taken by the monster. They didn’t quite know that Dragon was the daughter of the Red Queen, so Elspeth explains what happened to get her out of the coma. Elspeth is hopeful that once they can organise a journey to the Red queen’s Land, that Dragon will regain her memories, and most importantly will remember the location of the sign.

Then they arrive at the ruins, though they have changed since last time Elspeth saw them. There is a watchtower that is designed to look like a ruin, so the west coasters don’t quite notice that things have changed. Though Dragon’s visions have kept them fearful of the place. There had been many trips to the library over the years, and they thought it only the top of the complex, a way in hadn’t been discovered, until now.

The group stranded on the west coast soon discovered a total of 30 levels below the surface, not just levels of library, but an immense complex designed to serve as a fall-out shelter, with enough supplies and space to house people (around 300) during an emergency. Dell (who has become their leader) and Seely greet them, but their main concern is Domick, and bringing him to Jak for treatment. And there are a few new faces in the group, other Misfits they found on the west coast, one is called Pellis and there are six others among them.

Entering the complex for the first time memories haunted Elspeth, there were bones the first time she came here, but they were no longer there. The walls illuminated the way, the opposite direction from the library, Jak seemingly finding a way to operate them. I guess since it was designed as a shelter, it would create its own electricity, was it solar, a generator, wind? Or some new format that needed no fuel source? Then we have a moment of hilarity as Elspeth goes onto an elevator for the first time. She has no idea what is going on, and thinks that everyone is just walking into a small room. Then the doors close on her again, and she starts to feel claustrophobic, but soon calms down when she notices that nobody else is at all alarmed. Of course she was confused by the whole progress, and felt quite sick at the feeling of falling, something that she would never have experienced before. I have to laugh, otherwise I’d just feel sorry for Elspeth, but as she comes out, the passage looks identical to the one they just left, and she gets angry at Dell for taking them into a room, and ignoring the time constraints they have with Domick. Dell explains it to her, and tells her that now they are 17 levels below the library, something Elspeth has a hard time comprehending.

They walk down the passageway following a red line on the floor, and meet Jak. Elspeth realises that all of them have changed in their time of isolation, and the stereotypes of their guilds have fallen away. I don’t think Elspeth can imagine what it was like for this group of Misfits, and what they have been through together. They have formed great friendships and it will be hard for them to adjust to ‘normal life’ once this is over, and I wonder if they will want to leave. And right now, we’re going to leave, and come back tomorrow. This is already turning out to be a favourite passage of mine (though it has a long way to go to surpass the uprising) as we explore a Beforetime complex, something that is so mysterious and foreign for Elspeth. What secrets does it hold?


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