Oh my this is it, Elspeth and Maruman have left Obernewtyn, there is no turning back! Maruman was leading Elspeth through a pathless trail through the tress. It was already though going for Elspeth (a symbol of just how hard this journey is going to be), the stone sword made moving through close trees difficult, and her pack was heavy. I’m now starting to get concerned, is Gahltha coming on this journey at all? Elspeth seems to think they are waiting for him, and soon enough he arrives, and my concern dissipates. With him is Darga, who has transformed from the runt of his litter, to a ferocious and ugly dog. It seems that Darga is joining them on this quest, at least for a while, and that is reassuring, plus we might get to hear some of his tale of just where exactly he has been. Darga and Gahltha sense something, and they move off, this time Elspeth and Maruman get a ride from Gahltha, making it easier for them, but harder for him! Where they are going, who knows, but the beasts obviously have some idea.
For over an hour they continued, and it seems that Gahltha is as clueless about their destination as Elspeth, they are going to the high mountains and that is it. Darga says that the Agyllians have sent him to guard them to where they must go. Of course his ability to smell the tainted patches will be undoubtedly useful in the time to come. After the firestorm, Darga wandered aimlessly, just like Gahltha did after they all went down on the raft. It was only the Agyllians, who healed his mind and body, who saved him from death. They even cured his grief for Jik, but that means he can no longer remember why he loved Jik, because knowing that would cause too much pain for him. I too am appalled, about this loss of memory, is it really worth losing the good times, just so you can get over their death?
They continue on for hours, crossing over paths, and nearing the Tecknoguild caves, before moving away from them too. They can’t stop though, they must continue. Gahltha made no attempt to follow any paths, and it wasn’t until they came across a wide stream that they stopped. Elspeth takes the opportunity to give Gahltha her burdens and use the netting to secure them on him, but decides to continue on foot, for the time being at least. Soon enough, Elspeth finds a familiar trail, one that leads to the hotsprings that she and Rushton once bathed in, but now the closer hot spring in the cave, where Katlyn’s herbs are growing, is more popular, since it is sheltered from the elements, and it even has sleeping quarters! But I think the open-air ones will always be special for Elspeth and Rushton! Finally going along a trail, Elspeth rides Gahltha again, and he sets off on a gallop, well a fast pace with all the stuff he is carrying.
Elspeth is still working a coercive net to catch her grief, so she can focus right now on getting on with the job. But she will have to deal with this eventually, even if she can heal herself, will her grief be whisked away when it builds up over time behind the net? Already, on the way to the hotsprings, it is being pushed it to its limits, it’s full and she can’t rely on it any more, and will have to endure what has built up. She wants to stop at the hotsprings and release her grief, but that will depend on whether they even go near enough to them, Gahltha could be taking her to the plateau they visited back in The Farseekers, since he does after all know the way, but what’s the point in going there? Going through the tainted land will be an interesting challenge, I always suspected Elspeth would use the plast that Jacob used, or something similar. I know her body can heal itself, but that process does have a limit, and I don’t think it can compete from the constant radiation. Plus what about her animal companions? Darga could try to sniff out a clear path, but there’s no guarantee there will be a clean path at all.
Gahltha changes course, and it looks like Elspeth was wrong and they aren’t going near the spring, or on the same path they came down from the plateau on. But for once, and hopefully finally, Elspeth decides it best not to question what is happening, that time has past, the time for speculation is over, since she really didn’t have much power to decide what is going to happen. Finally some more progression in Elspeth’s development, plus also, it forces us as readers to nut out this sort of stuff ourselves! I disagree though with her summation she is nothing more than a tool of the Agyllians, she is her own person and that something important that she must remember, the Agyallians won’t be able to control her forever, once they leave the ken for the last time (if they ever go there) that’s basically it for communication, Elspeth will be on her own, and she will be the one making decisions on the spot. This journey won’t go smoothly, and it will be up to Elspeth to make some hard decisions, and sadly, not all of them will survive, Maruman is less likely to, because then everything would be over since the memory seed relies on it, but everyone else is fair game.
The sun sets, and after another quick stop, they continue, seemingly heading to the eastern section of the valley of Obernewtyn, a place we haven’t been to before. Elspeth is still very confused as to where they are going, and how they are going to ascend the mountains (she goes so far as to imagine climbing up the cliff faces, leaving Gahltha behind, so much for stopping speculating!). But why are they going this way then? Is it to prevent being tracked, and how do the animals know which direction to take? Elspeth has to stop herself from farseeking to see if Rushton or Ahmedri were in pursuit, because that would just make it even harder to leave.
The finally stop for the night, and Maruman tells Elspeth that she can sleep, but they don’t really set up any sort of camp, and lighting a fire would just be dangerous. Elspeth thought of what would be happening at Obernewtyn, the futuretellers would be finishing off their tapestry, probably featuring some of Elspeth’s latest feats, with a feature of Domick and the freeing of Herder Isle, Westland and Norseland of the Herders. The magi would be busy at working practising their routine, and the chieftains might have arrived, and I’m sure that Rolf is sad Elspeth is not here. I was looking forward to seeing him again too! Would Analivia and Bergold be making an appearance, or is she off trying to find her father?
And Dardelan and his men would be preparing for the raid they are going to go and do, before coming up to Obernewtyn. Elspeth has certainly decided to dwell and speculating on what everyone else will be doing, at least she isn’t think about what she will be doing. She saves Rushton for last, and wonders if he is with Swallow, discussing where she could have gone to, before remembering their final night together. This causes her coercive net to split over, the force of it all causing her to weep for a long time, Darga moves close to her, and comforts her, before she remembers Dameon, and how they won’t have a chance to say goodbye. She soon falls asleep, and dreams of leaving Obernewtyn again.
Waking up, Elspeth is already sore from just one days journey, she uses a bit of healing liniment, but knows that she can’t use too much, and soon enough she will have to harden up and deal with the pain. Elspeth starts thinking really philosophically that she is about to leave behind human concepts of time and even human life itself. I think she is getting a little too deep, because what she is really is doing is just going away on a quest, and she can’t leave behind human life, because she has to remember that that is part of what she is fighting for. And she has to have something to fight for.
As usual, she turns to speculation, where are they going next? And she tries to rationalise that they have gone here to the east, to put off anybody who is going to follow them, nobody would think to look here. But I think there is more to it than there, there must be a way out that we don’t know about. Elspeth remembers that she has Jacob Obernewtyn’s journal with her still (Garth won’t be pleased) but I’m guessing there is some clue in there that will help them find their way. Maybe they are off to find Jacob, and find the key he took out into the Blacklands? Still, she believes she is going to the ken, but still I am doubtful, though she seems to think that she was told she would go there when she had everything (I don’t remember that though). But if she is to go to the ken, she needs to find the key. How far did Jacob make it before he was killed by the poison? It wouldn’t take much for it all to be over, but how will Elspeth be able to find him?
Maruman comes to say it is time to move on into the mountains, and Elspeth has to let him decide their course, he must know more than us. They continue east, and Elspeth starts to get really impatient and wants to demand where they are going. When she notices that the stream has vanished, they have come to the beginning of the stream, a narrow ravine that cut into the mountain, a path that they could just take. It was one of those paths that until you were right up close to it, didn’t look like anything at all. And now it gets exciting as they enter the ravine, or as Elspeth puts it being ‘enfolded by the mountain’. Where is this going to take them? I guess both Jacob and Miryum/Straaka made it up here somehow, but what will we find?