Not finding Maruman anywhere, Elspeth decides to just take a dip in one of the streams, not being up to farseeking him, which even at her peak could be futile, she needs this time to relax and digest everything that has happened. After a good wash, she goes over to the horses and greets them, using physical connection with Gahltha to avoid expending any mental energy. Something is already concerning for Elspeth, since the beasts seem to still be under the impression that this quest is to free beasts from slavery to humans, which isn’t what Elspeth is really focusing on right now. I guess it’s possible to fulfil both prophecies, but how will that be possible? Elspeth tells Sendari that she has a more important quest first, but the horse doesn’t seem fussed by that, they are happy to serve her until the beasts do go free. And since the humans with Elspeth are ‘serving the Seeker’, they are happy to help them out as well. But I don’t care about any of this, as Elspeth very casually makes a remark that Malik has died! WHAT? That’s such a huge piece of information just thrown out there. Apparently his allies (who were they) didn’t trust him. I’m so confused, what?
I’m actually a quite disappointed at the such random nature of the end of this, most hated character. I don’t know if any more information about his death will come to pass, but (and don’t tell me) if this is it, I wanted more. When did it happen, how long has Elspeth known, who were his allies? Unless I’ve missed something, this just seems really offhanded. Yes I’m glad he is gone, but the reveal wasn’t up to scratch. And with this explanation, that’s all Elspeth says of it. I can’t believe this is the first time we’ve heard of the death of such an enemy of Elspeth. I was looking forward to some penance for his crimes, but this is just a let down.
Moving on, Elspeth asks where Maruman is, and it seems he has decided to take a nap. Something Elspeth decides that she needs to do as well. Sleeping dreamlessly, soundly, Elspeth wakes up to see that most of the day has gone, and that the wolves have just arrived. And this brings about a big challenge, there are a whole lot of them here, and the sight of so many humans could be really interpreted as a trick. So Elspeth sends away the horses so they are hidden, and the others Elspeth tells to sit near the fire and make no movements, even though they’ll be paralysed by the musk. The others sit, though they are very tense and have their weapons nearby for a moment’s notice, which is exactly the sort of thing that could get them killed. Elspeth though, is quite calm about it all, she has met them before, and she is hopeful that Rheagor has just come to tell her some good news.
But all is not good news, it is Descantra and Gobor One Ear who are leading this group of wolves, and their minds are closed to Elspeth. They’ve come on their own, and decided to disobey Rheagor, they want some blood. Elspeth realises that she has to convince not just Rheagor, but the whole pack to help her, and she had failed on the latter. And right now, Rheagor isn’t here to back her up, he is still seliga, and he might not wake up, since that is a path that is close to death. So the pack is here, and they are seeking revenge for the wolves tortured by Ariel, which is completely unfair in our eyes, Elspeth has done nothing wrong, it was Ariel, but they don’t see the distinction. Sort of like when an animal kills a human (especially a shark) we go out and ‘hunt’ them, even though we have no idea which animal it was!
Elspeth tries to ask Descantra how they escaped, and it was in fact because of Sharna’s mother, who freed them, but was injured before she could save the others. However, Descantra isn’t so interested in talking, and thinks Elspeth is just trying to ‘lure’ her with words. So Elspeth gets angry and tells her to go ahead and kill her, for all she cares about is revenge and not the other wolves, for all will die if she does. Elspeth maybe goes a step too far as she calls Descantra a coward for betraying him while he is off trying to get the truth and protect them all, Elspeth is almost getting through to her, but Gobor says that she is a fool for talking, just like Sharna. And this is Elspeth’s way in, because for him to know Sharna, and call him a fool, must mean Sharna decided to come back to Obernewtyn.
The wolves get closer to Elspeth, but before anything can happen Maruman arrives and sends them all warnings. And just in time Rheagor arrives, and he isn’t happy. All the wolves apart from Gobor drop to submission, and he just chooses to run off, and it won’t be the last we see of him. The fantastic news is that Rheagor is going to help them, and lead them to the ‘graag’, the way across the tainted land. Rheagor saw his pack leading Elspeth there, but many of the pack will die, and that also means that some of our group may die, but once successful beasts will be free. However, once again he says that Ariel is the Destroyer, which I still am not sure about, is it really going to be that simple? In a way I think lot’s of people would feel almost betrayed if Isobelle came out and wrote that Ariel wasn’t the Destroyer in the end, because after all these hints, it would almost be cruel. But I think for it to be so obvious is almost just as cruel. So it will be interesting to see what happens much later, especially in The Red Queen.
Beyond the graag, is a city, ‘on a bone white plain’, and it was where Rheagor’s ancestor were once held, before finding the graag and escaping. The city is guarded by the efari, who or what they are, we have no idea. This city must be the one Jacob Obernewtyn dreamt about, and I guess it is where we will find the key, but I wonder will we find this Taillard Observatory at all, or is just that a throwaway? Beyond the city, is darkness. Rheagor says the pack is going to hunt, but for them to all be ready to leave when the moon rises, they will be doing all their travel at night, and resting during the day. Rheagor knows about the others will Elspeth, and only says that they will be safe from his pack ‘until they part ways’. Which isn’t exactly a very good guarantee.
Now free from the musk of the wolves, Elspeth goes to the others, who are obviously very shaken up by all of this, not least of all, Dameon, who couldn’t see the exchange! Elspeth doesn’t explain everything, they don’t really have time, but just tells them to get ready to leave soon enough. There is so much to tell them, and not really that much time. Elspeth wants to find Gavyn and Rasial, who she hasn’t seen yet, and she worries what Rasial will do with the wolves, and remembers that she is seeking her death. Maruman explains that the wolves are able to selectively target people to paralyse with their musk, so that when they travel together they will be free to move. Elspeth considers the news from Rheagor, and wonders about these efari, and whether they are descended from Beforetimers, and still keep all their knowledge. Whoever or whatever they are, we’ll just have to wait until we meet them!
The only reassuring piece of information is that this graag must be safe enough for them to pass, since this wolf and Jacob Obernewtyn would have done, some time ago. So this should mean that none of them will get ill/die from it, at least not in the immediate future. Elspeth also wonders whether the Sentinel is in this mysterious city, which would sort of make sense since surrounding it is darkness, but, what about the Red Land? Surely Elspeth isn’t going to save the world and then be expected to do everything else! But Elspeth still thinks she is just going to die, but with all these predictions, she still has a role to play in the Red Land.
Finally, Elspeth shares with the others the information from Rheagor, and also a little about why she thinks they have to go there. Analivia already knows quite a lot, since she has spent plenty of time with the Tecknoguild, and they have uncovered a lot that relates to Elspeth’s quest, but have never connected it to anything. Elspeth doesn’t explain everything, that would take far too long, she just takes comfort that she has done what Atthis had wanted her to do, and convinced the wolves to help. Plus, the knowledge she always needs, keeps arriving at the key moment, so no matter how hopeless it gets, she will figure it all out eventually.
Rasial and Gavyn arrive, the boy hardly acknowledges any of them, but gladly accepts some soup, even though he has collected a lot of berries. Rasial seems just as cheery as ever, and simply says that the oldOne came to her in a dream, and told her the way to Skylake, and Gavyn share that dream. She doesn’t stay for long as Gavyn moves to the lake’s edge, the pair of them are almost literally inseparable, and I’m sure there’s some form of spirit bond between them. But what part are they going to play in this larger narrative? I have no clue.
The moon rises, and the owl that was once Kella’s arrives and goes to Gavyn, but Dameon is still interested about the wolves, and the power play that went between them. Dameon asks if Ariel was a beastspeaker, but Elspeth thinks that he just used his twisted empathy to hurt the wolves, without really know what he was doing. Elspeth asks them all to be sure that they want to continue with her, for the way is dangerous and they might not survive the efari (bright ones according to Darga, which is what Jacob also said) and there could still be taint. Everyone starts to speculate what will happen, and Swallow suggests that the darkness Rheagor saw was just his own death, but really who knows. But since Rheagor saw them all travelling with them, then they are all going to stay.
So everyone is going to stay with her, but still we have no clue why they have been chosen. And that’s something Elspeth really is pondering. But right now, the pack is arriving, it is time to continue on with the next phase of their journey!