Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Beautiful and terrible

I'm re-reading Inkdeath and I'm at the part where Mo, the book binder from our contemporary world who gets "read into" a fairy-tale type story, has left his daughter Meggie safely behind to travel with the princess Violante and her soldiers to the deserted 'Castle in the Lake' to escape her evil father, the Adderhead (p. 420-423) .....


The path had brought them to the crest of a mountain, and far below lay a lake with a castle reflected in its waters, drifting on the ripples like a stone fruit floating a long way from the bank. It's walls were as dark as the spruce trees that grew on the slopes of the surrounding mountains, and an almost endless bridge, narrow as a ribbon of stone and supported on countless piers, led over the water to land, where two ruined watchtowers stood among a few abandoned huts.

"The Impregnable Bridge!" whispered one of the soldiers, and all the stories he had heard about this place were echoed in that whisper.

It began to snow again, tiny, wet flakes that disappeared in the dark lake as if it were devouring them. Violante's young soldiers stared at their destination in dismal silence. It was not a very inviting sight. But their mistress's face lit up like a young girl's.

"What do you say, Bluejay?" she asked Mo, putting her gold-framed glasses on her nose. "Look at it. My mother described this castle to me so often that I feel as if I'd grown up here myself. I only wish these glasses were stronger," she added impatiently, "but even from here I can see that it's beautiful!"

Beautiful? Mo would have called the castle sinister. But perhaps, to the Adderhead's daughter, that was one and the same thing.

"Now you see why I've brought you here?" Violante asked. "No one can take this castle. Even the giants couldn't harm it when they still came to this valley. The lake is too deep, and the bridge is just wide enough for a single horseman ..... A nephew of my grandfather's was the last who tried to capture this castle. He never got across the lake. My grandfather bred predatory fish in it. They're said to be larger than horses, and they crave human flesh.The lake guards the castle better than any army could." ......

Mo looked out over the dark water uneasily. It was as if, though the drifting swaths of mist, he saw all the dead soldiers who had tried to cross the Impregnable Bridge. The lake was like a copy of the Inkworld itself, both beautiful and terrible ....

Mo was the last to ride onto the bridge. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to be made of water. Mist drifted into his face, and the castle swam on the lake before him like a dark dream: towers, battlements, bridges, oriels, windowless walls with the wind and the water eating at them. The bridge seemed to go on forever, and the gate to which it led looked out of reach, but at last it began to grow larger with every step his horse took. The towers and walls filled the sky like a menacing song, and Mo saw dark shadows glide though the water like watchdogs picking up the scent of their coming.

"What did the castle look like, Mo?" he heard Meggie asking. "Describe it!"

What would he say? He looked up at the towers, as many of them as if a new one grew every year, at the maze of oriels and bridges and the stone griffin above the gateway. "It didn't look like a happy ending, Meggie," he heard himself reply. "It looked like a place from which no on ever comes back."



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