Chapter Twenty – Part Two
And now, we enter the Valley of the Skylake, already the name sounds so cool! Looking around, Elspeth is concerned that there is no possible way into this valley, since the walls are steep and smooth. So how are they going to do this? And where’s Gahltha? And it seems this valley is really a crater, and it is easy to see where Skylake came from, since it reflects the sky so well. I find it interesting that the beasts also refer to it as Skylake, and not some beast word. It seems the only way into the Valley is to circle the rim, and reach the gorge on the other side. There is taint about, and Elspeth is too weak to properly form a probe (after all she used her dark power, which always drains her), so we can’t go ahead and contact Gahltha. So they begin to walk, yet again.
Elspeth, now in the lead, calls a stop, when she realises it will be well after sunset that they reach the opening to the valley. She is quite concerned with Maruman, who seemed to have gone very silent, and possibly into a seliga state, just like the pack leader, which is most certainly worrying. Without any of their supplies they settle down for a little nap, and Elspeth decides to start being pragmatic and meticulous again. She has woken up from the rut after her grief, and she now is ready to face the quest, and to do that she now needs to take every opportunity for rest, food and water that she can get, and when they get into the valley, she’ll do just that. And she’s certainly back to her old self, since she is back to speculating and gnawing! That’s actually a good sign.
Elspeth remembers the first time she actually used her powers, when she was five she locked herself in a cupboard, to avoid being found by Jes in a game of hide and seek. She was so fearful of being found, that she willed the lock to close, and it did, she didn’t realise that she had done it for many years. Certainly it would be so weird to realise you have these powers, but at the same time it wouldn’t be weird to you, because you would have always had them. Just imagine a world where people could read your mind, coerce you and influence your emotions! Kinda scary! The renewed talk of Jes though, keeps me wondering whether he has actually died, it is something I’ve always wondered, and since every other character has seemed to reappear, why not him to? But what role would he play in the narrative? Is he the Destroyer? Where has he been? My guess is we won’t seem him, if at all, until The Red Queen, maybe he was sold as a slave, it would make sense since the soldierguards were after him. Who knows, apart from Isobelle herself!
Thinking of her ‘spirit-force’ as Elspeth now calls her dark power, she wonders if it would strengthen her other abilities, and the answer is of course. We already know the power can rip through a demonband, so there can’t be too much that would be a hindrance to it. Except of course that it takes so much energy from her, and leaves her reasonably defenceless for nearly two days. That’s a pretty major ‘but’.
Elspeth thinks about the wolves, and whether they escaped from Ariel, or whether they were they ones that Sharna’s mother had freed. What I find interesting is that beasts seem to view ‘madness’ as just an alternate way of seeing the world, which is true, there is always the argument that it is not them who is mad, but us, and we just cannot see what they can. Indeed, Maruman’s states have proved invaluable at times. Speaking of Maruman, he reveals that a new Agyllian will become the Elder, and right now they are seeking them. I wonder who it will be, not Nerat surely or any Agyllian we have seen before. But will they contact Elspeth, will they be as helpful, or will they be scornful of the way Atthis treated Elspeth? Whoever it is, they must have the ability of ‘finding and absorbing’ the oldOnes. That is certainly a strange thought, that the bird must find the knowledge of all the past Elders, but how is that possible if Atthis is gone? Elspeth wonders if the Elder would have to go into the Mindstream and collect these memories, who knows with the powerful birds, they can do nearly anything. It could just be their collective spirits live on, and they have to find them, but really we have no clue.
Elspeth falls into a dream, and it seems to me that she is dreaming of possibly what was once in Skylake. A missile silo, possibly the source of some of the deadly weaponmachines that caused the Great White. Of course this could be an image of the future, the one where the world is destroyed, but since there wasn’t a lake, it must be the past. But I think it’s a good point that Elspeth’s quest isn’t about finding and destroying the countless weapons in the world, but destroying the Sentinel Program which would be able to unleash them because of the BoT. This is the first time that Elspeth realises that the weapons would be spread across the globe, and in the end this won’t be her goal. What I’m slightly concerned about is that the White-faced lords have some of the arsenal and are trying to figure out how to best use them. That would of course set of the BoT and wipe out the world.
Beginning again, it doesn’t take them long to reach the gorge, and entrance to the valley. This gorge was filled with a great number of old trees, and Elspeth is struck that she once thought behind the mountain ranges of Obernewtyn there was nothing, how wrong she was. It is quite possible that this is the work of some of those taint-eating bugs, cleaning the water of taint, it’s pleasing to know that life continues on despite harsh conditions.
Reaching the Skylake itself, Elspeth is concerned by the sight of a paw-print, Darga says it’s not the wolves, so is it an old one, or is there something else around? Elspeth relaxes a little, and starts to plan her first hot meal in days, and goes about collecting some twigs for a fire. But, when she looks around Skylake, she sees a pebble beach, but more interestingly a grey horse. That’s not all, there is already a campfire going, and the horse surely didn’t do it! Two men appear, and start to head towards Elspeth. She cannot believe it, what are people doing in the mountains? She immediately thinks she’ll have to coerce them to leave before the wolves get here, but then Elspeth starts to recognise them! One of them is Swallow, and with her is a woman Elspeth doesn’t know. Another man arrives, and can you believe, it is DAMEON! With him is Faraf and Galhta!
Swallow strides up to Elspeth and says that they have been waiting for her. Uh, what? What just happened. Why are they here! How did Dameon slip away. How did they get here? I can only think that Swallow must have had a vision, and gone up here. But why is Dameon with him, what role does he have (he isn’t the Destroyer is he………..?). Who is the woman? How far are they coming with us? GAH SO MANY QUESTIONS. Isobelle you certainly keep me guessing!