All right, back to the story . . . Give me another day or two to catch up on reader questions, but feel free to leave more questions as we go along!
Back to Felix. It's been a little while since we saw Felix in the Haven, so I was pleased to start this chapter this morning and see that we were back to him. Felix is a favorite! Plus this scene uses the word "susurrus," which is just an awesome word . . . .
Poor Felix is getting restless, however. As his wound heals--or, at least, apparently heals--he finds himself thinking more and more of his father and sister, far away in a dragon-ridden kingdom. Being the heroic lad he is at heart, he wants to return to them.
And when the wind brings word to Imraldera that Fidel has been captured by the Dragon, Felix cannot bear to remain in the Haven a moment more.
Blood ties. A theme is introduced here that goes on to be a very important one later in the series. Felix, when arguing with Imraldera to permit him to go to his father, reminds her that "there is power in blood ties that . . . that sometimes can overcome foes much too great otherwise."
This is a very fairy tale theme. It's only lightly touched on here, but later on in the series, it's going to be vital. Particularly in Dragonwitch . . . which, granted, doesn’t come out until this summer, so you'll have to trust me on this in the meanwhile. Watch for that theme, however!
Dragon poison. But Imraldera warns Felix that he has not yet received the full healing of his wounds. If he leaves now, the dragon poison could pump through all his veins, down into his heart. And it will kill him. Maybe not right away, Imraldera admits. But eventually, he will die.
Felix promises that he will return for the rest of his healing long before then, however. But he needs to go to his father now.
Imraldera cautions Felix that she will not be able to make him return for his healing. If he does not come back of his own free will, there is nothing she can do about it. Felix sees no problem in this, however. He'll rescue his father before the year is out and be back before she knows it!
Of course, we readers know that this is just not how stories like to play themselves out . . .
The key and the cage. Una--who no longer believes she is Una, but simply the dragon-girl--shakes too much to turn the key in its lock. So Aethelbald reaches through the bars and does it for her. Again, I read this and think that he is not out of control in this situation at all. But he is careful when, where, and how he chooses to use his power.
Una hastily backs away from his hand, trying to hide her arm. She is ashamed that he might see the scales, even though he knows already what she has become. This reminds me of how I am with God sometimes. I try, even in my prayers, to put on a brave, "holy" face, hoping to hide the scales. But He knows what I am, and He knows what I've been. He also knows the likeness to which He is conforming me. So what is the purpose of hiding? Of false pretenses?
Don't be afraid. Aethelbald tells Una that she needn't be concerned about the other dragons. They are so "caught up in their own burning." Like Una herself, they are consumed in selfish, disappointed, dying dreams, so consumed that they can't even be aware of what goes on right around them. They certainly aren't aware of each other's pain . . . they are all too selfish for that, include Una. They probably all believe that the pain of their brethren is as nothing to their own pain.
This is demonstrated in the image we have of the dragon's pacing. They cannot focus their minds on any real destination, on any real goal. All they do is pace, going over and over again their hurts and their betrayals, all the reasons they would give to justify their transformation.
Trust me. Aethelbald asks Una to trust him, and it is almost as though he put a knife to her ear. She's been asked to trust before, and she's seen her trust betrayed.
But it is different with Aethelbald, and she knows it somehow. Unlike Lionheart, he has already proven his trustworthiness. Has he not returned to her, as he promised? Has he not pursued her even to the depths of this evil village? She knows, deep down, that she can trust this man. So she finds the courage, even within her quivering, dragon spirit, to step forward into the darkness.
I'll die before I leave you. Una tries to show Aethelbald the way out and then make him go on without her. But Aethelbald refuses, quietly and firmly. He declares, without an excess of emotion or drama, quite simply that he will die before he leaves her. What a difference between him and Lionheart!
A difference that, at the moment at least, only stirs up Una's wrath and hatred. She wanted Lionheart to be this faithful, this true, not Aethelbald! Why did Lionheart have to prove the coward?
And why did Aethelbald have to prove himself a love she could never deserve? It is too hateful for her in this dragon form.
Leading. Una believes for a time that she leads Aethelbald, but soon realizes that he is leading her, even though he walks behind. Even this aggravates her dragon spirit, which wants to be independent, which wants to trust no one anymore.
Moonlight. A small part of Una still longs for purity, for goodness, for light. This is reflected by her reaction when she sees the moonlight--the glow of Hymlumé--shining down into the mouth of the tunnel. Later on in the series, we learn about the Sun and the Moon singing the Sphere Songs. I wonder if Una somehow heard the Sphere Song, deep down beneath the roar of her furnace, and responded to it without realizing why? Because she is so filled with sudden delight, that she runs out of the tunnel, into the night, longing to drink in as much of that moon-glow as she can.
And, of course, runs right into the clutches of the yellow-eyed dragon.
Hounded down. The yellow-eyed dragon begins to tell Una his story, about being pursued by the Prince and his knights following his transformation. He even uses the phrase "hounded down," which is kind of fun considering what I wrote in Starflower. I don't know if it counts as foreshadowing, per se, when it wasn't planned. But hey!
Anyway, the Prince long ago took up his sword and offered to run the yellow-eyed dragon through, delivering him from his living death.
But the yellow-eyed dragon who had been Diarmid did not trust the Prince and refused his sword. And he tells Una now that the Prince is manipulative, that he will twist her around, making her long for the death he offers.
Don't look at me. Una, escaping the clutches of the yellow-eyed dragon, begins to transform into her dragon form. She cannot bear for Aethelbald to see her like this. Even though he knows. Even though she knows he knows. But there is a part of her that longs for him to still think well of her, and the idea of him seeing her in her dragon form is unbearable!
Thus she transforms and takes to the air, fleeing from Aethelbald once more, fleeing from the Village. And the yellow-eyed dragon calls after her, "Burn, sister, burn! Don't let him quench your flame!"
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. "What's that look for?" Felix asked, watching her.
"What look?" She blinked and turned back to him.
"That faraway, no-longer-paying-attention-to-what-you're-doing look. Like you were suddenly a thousand miles away."
"No, no!" Imraldera laughed. "I am very present."
"Good, because you've got a knife in your hand." (p. 308)
2. "Attendants! Invisibles! Can you get me some real clothes? Something other than a nightshirt? And boots and things. And a sword! Don't forget a sword! A sharp one!" (p. 311) I love Felix. LOL.
Questions on the Text
1. Do you think Felix was right or wrong to leave the Haven before receiving his full healing? Do you think Imraldera was right to let him go, or should she have forced him to stay?
2. What do you think of Una's wish for Aethelbald not to see her in dragon form? Did she demonstrate that same wish for Lionheart?
3. Favorite lines?