Chapter Nineteen – Part One
Waking up from that terrible nightmare where Dragon was attacking Elspeth, it isn’t long before Maruman says it’s time to go. I really have to wonder, why he won’t share his information with anyone, is it just because he doesn’t want to humour human curiosity? Is it because he’s still mad with Elspeth over leaving him? Or has he been told to keep it a secret? But if he has, what reasoning is there behind this? Unless it is more like a futuretelling, and sharing this knowledge somehow changes the future, but I can’t see how that would work. A whole day passes (which we thankfully don’t have to be witnesses to), and they find that the road, has ended, a landslide has taken it out. But no big deal, since the rubble has conveniently formed a bridge to the next mountain, not exactly an easy bridge to cross for poor Gahltha, but climbable at the very least. The ease of their passage, has given Elspeth no doubt that Jacob Obernewtyn would have managed this journey as well, but that makes us wonder, where did he end up?
Now, I believe they aren’t on any Beforetime road, but headed towards a ridgeline, it is sadly hard to tell just exactly where they are going. It cannot be easy to write this, but, I’m not really understanding what’s going on. It’s not like it’s that important, they are just making their way along, led by Maruman (who won’t even reveal how much longer it will take to arrive at their destination), but I’d like to be able to visualise this better. Elspeth seems to be encourage though by what she is seeing, in that there may just be a city around here, that she could seen from the Agyllian eyri.
Multiple days pass by in a matter of sentences, and we are starting to realise just how long this journey is going to take, and it certainly is reminding me of Lord of the Rings! I wonder if everyone has left for the Red Land by now, since it has been nearly a week since they have left, but Elspeth hasn’t thought of them for a while, so maybe I’m taking her place on the speculation! As they continue, the sense of urgency returns, Maruman seems to be hurrying them more and more, but doesn’t reveal if they have a deadline to stick to! They were continuing for another high pass, and just to emphasis how high these mountains actually are, Elspeth is struggling in the thin air. Beyond the pass, there isn’t a downward slope, but a long ridge continuing north, with even higher mountains, peaked with snow, surrounding it.
For the first time, Elspeth comes face-to-face with another animal, a goat to be exact, though I don’t think he was very interested in her, so their encounter didn’t last long. Elspeth wonders though why they didn’t communicate, but these mountain goats probably haven’t encountered humans, so probably don’t want to chat. And it turns out that this ‘ridge’ is actually a remnant of another Beforetime road! And it actually has asphalt on it, which confuses Elspeth, and makes Gahltha fearful enough to suggest that they ride him. Ahead Darga takes the lead, as Elspeth starts to sense nearby taint, and realises there haven’t been any birds around for a while. This eerie silence, reminds Elspeth of the Silent Vale, which is a place we haven’t heard mentioned for a while.
Continuing on foot Elspeth notices that the road seems to be ascending up ‘in steps’, and she can help but try to figure out why on earth there was a road here, in a ‘remote’ area. Which is a brilliant question! I know it is the future, and people should have had enough time and money to ‘seal’ up every road in the world, but unless the Talliard Observatory is more important than we are yet to be told, it doesn’t really make sense. And I just love Elspeth’s comment about the poles built next to roads, that nobody knows their purpose. Of course she is talking about street lamps, or maybe stobie-poles (telephone poles). They were so mysterious that in the Silent Vale, the priest always made them pray before passing it! But I do wonder what cryptic markings there are on the pole!
The days almost drag by, as Elspeth continues walking further and further, but her thoughts not really changing. I actually see this as a very concerning sign. Ever since Elspeth was washed over by all that guilt, she hasn’t been herself, and I don’t think that was because she has made some sort of emotional maturation. I actually am concerned that her spirit might be injured, even if she doesn’t have any physical injuries, I’m concerned about her. And I’m starting to get concerned about the group as a whole, as they have to start napping during the day, to ensure they don’t freeze to death during the night, and the taint is creeping closer and closer. Maruman is no longer able to find anything to hunt, and I’m sure the grass for Gahltha is declining as well (and what’s left is tainted), their own food supplies won’t last too much longer. So what are they going to do about food, or will they miraculously make it to a settlement in time? And water is now becoming a concern too. Even though I’m worried about all of this, it’s starting to finally feel like a proper world-saving quest, because it isn’t meant to be so easy!
The conditions worsen, as they eventually come to a section of taint that they cannot get around, so they have to take a risk and get to the taint-free other side, with the hope that nothing too bad will happen. Gahltha’s hooves would give some protection, and Darga’s paws were wrapped up in bandages to protect him, but just how much damage will be caused, we’ll never know. It didn’t take too long to get through it, and it didn’t seem to be that strong, but with radiation, there is no safe amount of exposure. After that, the road started to disappear, and then the storms arrived. Good thing Elspeth has her waterproof coat and boots, but that doesn’t give her all that much protection.
The rain gets bad enough that Gahltha is concerned about slipping on loose stones, so makes Elspeth and Maruman get back to walking themselves. After a little doze on Gahltha, Elspeth has no idea where they are, and what time of day it is. For some reason Elspeth wonders if this is where Jacob died, I don’t know how she decided that at all. They come to what looks like two enormous, steep mountains, a dead end. But maybe this is just where Jacob died? Continuing on, they come to what looks like a huge pile of rubble, but somehow Maruman finds an opening between the two mountains, which had been blocked by the rubble. And after that, was a ravine. They followed Maruman for several hours, until the way forked and Maruman continued without hesitation.
Then they came to some sort of crevice, full of foliage! And then it gets weird, as Maruman tells Gahltha to leave, and go back to the ravine, and take the other path, which will take him to the ‘Skylake’, where he should wait for them. Apparently he can’t go any further, so they have to split up. Maruman ignores Elspeth, as he silently communicates with Gahltha, before going into the ravine, saying goodbye to Gahltha. Elspeth of course doesn’t want to leave him behind, but she must continue on to wherever Maruman is taking her, she is needed there. He wasn’t speaking as a friend, he was speaking as the Daywatcher. So somewhere ahead, there is Cassy’s key, and sadly Gahltha can’t make it any further.
And so the first split of their group happens, and I’m worried that before we arrive at the Sentinel, we might lose Darga permanently, Maruman and Elspeth aren’t expendable enough, but Darga and Gahltha could be. I don’t want it to happen, but it might. Though I don’t think Gahltha is going to be killed off just yet, I still am worried that this could be a final goodbye. But, I’m still super excited to see what’s beyond this rift!