Do you remember it? That strange little moment? It happens in both Veiled Rose and in Heartless. When a character stands in the gallery of Oriana Palace and his or her eye is drawn by an unusual portrait on the wall.
It was a small piece in a very old style; a storytelling style intended to convey a certain truth of the tale without specific accuracy to the characters. There were three men with the same face, two of them chained together, the third one crowned. There was a woman in the center of the piece, and she wept beside a gold stone, an altar, on which lay a figure that was like a man and yet, horribly, like the Dragon. (Veiled Rose, p. 311)
In the course of both these books we do not learn who all of these characters are. However, a careful reading of each text might reveal a few secrets.
This figure that is man-shaped but also the Dragon lies upon a gold stone. It's an easy leap to see the connection between this image and the name of Goldstone Wood. So we might infer, at least, that this scene took place in the Wood between the Far World and the Near and that this golden altar is the Gold Stone for which the Wood is now named.
Just a few pages earlier in Veiled Rose, we see Rose Red in the Netherworld sailing upon the dreadful Lake of Endless Blackness (as it was named by Leo back in a younger, more innocent day). While making this dreadful journey, Rose Red sees an awful sight:
Something flickered in the lantern light. Rose Red gazed forward and a little to her left and saw an enormous rock jutting from the lake. The little stick boat glided past it, and she saw that the rock was smooth and polished and gleaming, a pure gold stone. An altar. The sight of it made her sick, though she did not know why. (Veiled Rose p. 300)
Could this be the same stone as that seen in the portrait? The argument is strong, especially if we look back at the description of that same portrait as described in Heartless, which reveals details omitted in Veiled Rose.
Three men stood on the shores of a black lake; one of the three worse a crown upon his head while the other two were bound in chains. Otherwise, their faces were identical. In the center of the lake lay another man upon a golden altar that rose up out of the water. (Heartless, p. 124)
So it must be the same, the Dark Water, the Lake of Endless Blackness. This place, once located in the Wood, has now sunk to the Netherworld itself.
There are a few more small details we might pick up from these two novels alone. Near the end of Heartless¸ we see three Knights of Farthestshore defending King Fidel against the onslaught of the Dragon. Their defenses are useless against his great fire, and yet Sir Oeric, the ugly, goblin-esque knight, refuses to back down, even when he sees his two companions tossed aside like dolls.
The Dragon laughed again, a thunderous sound. Fidel dropped his own sword and fell to his knees, and even the knight stepped back and cringed away as sparks flew and burned his skin. "I owe you too much to crisp you to cinders," the Dragon said. "I do not forget a service rendered, however unwillingly. If not for you, little knight, I might yet be bound to the Gold Stone!" (Heartless, p. 303)
So what is this Gold Stone, featured in this picture, glimpsed in the Netherworld? Again, we don't know the complete story. All we know is that it served as a prison of some sort, binding the Dragon. But why? For how long? And how was he released?
Many of these questions will have to wait to be answered in Moonblood. Others . . . well, others might have to wait a little longer!
In the meanwhile, what are your thoughts on this odd little image? Who do you think the three men, one a king, two prisoners, might be? Or the woman weeping beside the gold stone? Any guesses?