Welcome to WEEK 2, where we’ll discuss CHAPTER FIVE TO END OF PART II
You should know that I’ve written the 3 posts for this book club in advance, so I have no clue about whatever was discussed last week, -if there was nice participation, or it was a solitary post-. In any case, I love this book so much as to be happy about writing about it in 3 installments.
Chapter 5 is the last of Part I. In it, the group will cross a bridge with several soldiers. Wistan alerts Axl and Beatrice to play the dumb and deaf card, avoiding being recognized as enemies and a threat. They make a narrow escape. But one of the soldiers comes back to inspect the suspicious group. Master Wistan will end up killing him in a duel, -even though the soldier realizes the group has noble intentions. Leaving him alive will jeopardize their journey. (It’s his duty to alert of the passing of these strangers and enemies through their territory).
As Wistan is cleaning the sword from the killing of the soldier, he informs Axl that though his Saxon kin live in harmony with them, Britons, it’s true that they have reports at home of Lord Brennus’s ambitions to conquer this land for himself and make war on all Saxons now living on it. Sir Gawain confirms he has heard the same reports. He fears Lord Brennus will be the one to undo the great peace won by Arthur. They even say, Wistan continues, that Brennus intends to capture Querig, the she-dragon, to fight in the ranks of his army. That’s why he, Wistan, has been sent to destroy the dragon before it falls into the hands of Lord Brennus. Gawain is aghast. He remembers times of war too, with a dragon in the opposing army, and he is sure nothing good can come of this scheme by Lord Brennus. Gawain offers to return the horse of the fallen soldier to the camp, and tell them the man was assaulted by bandits and died. He also turns to Wistan and assures him he’ll redouble the efforts to slay Querig.
The group makes it to the monastery where Axl wants brother Jonus to look at Beatrice and her ailments. This part was my favorite. Monks. Aww. It reminds me of two dear books, The Name of the Rose, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Alyosa in and . I just adore to visit the monasteries, the secrecy, the different monks and the dynamics. Axl and Beatrice meet with Father Brian and an out of control Irasmus, throwing stones to the birds and shouting “devils, devils”.
Wistan talks to Gawain about Lord Brennus not believing the story about the soldier, but Gawain reassures him he will. This soldier’s death upsets Beatrice, and triggers memories in Axl. We start to see signs that Axl may have been a warrior himself in the past. He has some connection or understanding of the grey-hair soldier, as if he had known him, or known he was on his side. Master Wistan seems to be suspicious of the monks. They have seen horses, maybe secret visitors. But Axl says it may just be their own conferences and things. But Wistan insists he’s heard groans as coming from a man in pain, and reports that Edwin, (the boy) saw marks of blood fresh and old at the quarters were the groaning came from. Axl tries to calm Wistan’s suspicions, but Wistan recalls a time of war, when the monastery was a fortification, and how they devised a trap for the enemy were men got caught and were killed. Axl keeps arguing for a gentler purpose, he thinks good of the monks, while Wistan has this interpretation of a hidden violent nature of the monks.
Finally, they go to see Jonus. Wistan says they want him to see Beatrice alone, that the boy’s wound is clean. But Beatrice tells him not to be so sure, for a clean wound can turn feverish any moment.
Brother Jonus doesn’t believe that Wistan is a shepherd as he claims, (Wistan is disguising his warrior true nature.) Wistan is bold enough to tell Jonus about the device in the monks’s barn. What do you make of it?, Jonus asks, it angers me, Wistan replies. Jonus, in his conversation with Wistan, says as much as that there’s two different sides at the monastery, those who, like the abbot, want to carry on as always, (with their secret practice of taking care of things), and those like him, Jonus, who want to uncover what’s been hidden and face the past. Wistan asks Jonus if he’s saying that he, Wistan, has friends in the monastery. Jonus says that not in the monastery, but in that very room. Jonus looks at Edwin’s wound, which takes a lot of his energy. Brother Ninian assists Jonus.
Beatrice moves on with her case, but she jumps from her sickness to the midst that is bothering her, for which she doesn’t seem to find an explanation. Jonus and Wistan exchange looks. Wistan tells Beatrice that the cause of the midst is Querig, but that the monks are protecting her. He is even sure that they must have sent word to destroy him, once they’ve uncovered his real identity (that of a Saxon warrior.) Axl daydreams, and suddenly he realizes that Wistan and the boy have left, propably Brother Ninian left with them. Jonus now finally addresses Beatrice physical ailments. He tells her:
“So you can go to your son with nothing to fear,”
“Mistress, you seem happy to know the truth about this thing you call the mist.”
“Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”
“It may be so for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together: To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”
“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”
“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?”
“You’ve no fear, then, of bad memories, mistress?”
“What’s to fear, father? What Axl and I feel today in our hearts for each other tells us the path taken here can hold no danger for us, no matter that the mist hides it now. It’s like a tale with a happy end, when even a child knows not to fear the twists and turns before. Axl and I would remember our life together, whatever its shape, for it’s been a thing dear to us.”
This part of The Buried Giant makes me think about my own marriage, and memories, how we make them. This past Christmas, my brother, my sister and I, had a tough conversation with my parents. It was truly revealing, and also a low blow to me, to see how my father, (and even my own siblings), did not remember the painful memories that related to me. But I also realized my siblings have harsh memories they deal with, that I have no clue about. It’s hard to look back at your life with your parents, and have a few salient memories of very painful moments, while at the same time, not having particularly many or any good memories. On the other hand, I also realized I have the power to reinvent those memories, -not lying, or pretending, but just engulfing them in something bigger in which they can have a purpose, regain positive meaning. And that’s exactly what I chose to do.
My siblings and I decided that for us there’s no other way to look at than forward. And moving forward, we all agree that we have invaluable understanding on how not to treat our family, or how not to be, which doesn’t make us perfect, but maybe a bit wiser. And we’ll take all that wisdom and experience that’s been earned the hard way. Likewise, we are three very different people, living different lives, who get along and who love each other. They with their partners, and I with my husband, have very different relationships than the one my parents have. I’m the only one with kids, and even though the teen years can at times look insurmountable, truth is our girls are very decent people, and life with them is fun and deeply rewarding.
In sync with Axl and Beatrice, we’ll take all the bad for it’s glued to the good. We rather have pain, if that means we’ll also weep of joy, rather than experience an aseptic bland existence with no memories whatsoever.
Axl makes his request known to Father Brian, of wanting to see Father Jonus, but he is unwell, receiving no visits at the time. Axl wakes up and realizes he was sleep after the questions Father Jonus raise to Beatrice. Beatrice didn’t fear Jonus’s questions about her health, (though we can all sense she probably has a serious disease, -blood in the urine-), what scared Beatrice, were the questions of the boatman in Part I, because she has no recollection of her marriage in the past, and the questions were about that. That’s why she also seems happy about the prospect of Querig being slew, which will help her regain her memory.
Suddenly, the group has to flee. Soldiers have arrived, and their lives are in peril. Father Brian leads them through narrow corridors, until they come to darkness. Brian says the soldiers wish to murder Edwin. They are at the entrance of a tunnel. Edwin tells Beatrice he’s going to aid Wistan. Beatrice seems to convince Edwin they’d help Wistan if they escape through the tunnel. But Edwin questions why Brother Brian has closed the door so quickly behind them. Though they don’t understand very well what’s happening, they continue what seems to them their escape. They encounter strange things, a man who is breathing. It’s Gawain. He can’t explain well what he was doing there before them. He claims he was there ahead, trying to defend them. Ninian brought him there, he says. Not all monks are the same. Ninian is on their side. Gawain is insinuating that the monks wish them death. He replies that they certainly wish the boy death. There’s also a beast that dwells there.
Beatrice is experiencing strange things, it seems they are stepping on bones of children, and that they may even be hearing the beast. Gawain manages to lit a candle, and they find out they are in a mausoleum, there’s also Roman letters on the walls. It doesn’t seem an ancient burial place to Axl, as Gawain claims.
They come to a portcullis, behind the bars they see a beast. It’s a ravaging dog who seems to stare at Edwin. Gawain thinks of a plan, use Edwin as a goat tied to trap a wolf, raise the portcullis, let the beast come through, and slay it when it passes. Beatrice has to climb on Axl to reach the rope that will open the portcullis when pulling on it. Beatrice ended up suspended, her weight not enough to raise the gate. then Axl tugged too, and after a while, it happened, the beast passed them and Edwin too.
They then see the head of a beast which jaws are still moving. Gawain must have killed it. They passed under the portcullis, and see the second chamber of the mausoleum, what must have been the beast’s lair. There’s suspicions among them. Beatrice tells Gawain if it wasn’t him the one to uncover Wistan’s real identity as a Saxon warrior to the abbot. Gawain dismisses her concerns and replies he’s the one leading them to safety now. Axl thanks him for his help, and asks also if it wasn’t the case they both were comrades long ago?
In the open again, Gawain goes for his horse, Horace and they part. Master Edwin also appears to have hasten back to the monastery.
We come to chapter eight, the last in part II and the one that closes this section, which takes us to a detour of sorts. It’s devoted to Edwin, who is back at the monastery, but trying to leave it and reunite with Wistan, who he thinks has hopefully escaped as they did during the night. He had to cross through the monastery. He finds Father Ninian, and without speaking, he tries to tell him if Wistan is lying there. Edwin feels he’s let Wistan down by falling asleep when he needed to be alert. He can’t explain why he slept for that long. Was it his mom calling for him in his dreams? As Edwin is walking with the young monk, leaving the monastery, he reminiscence of that day at the end of the summer when he had talked with the girl.
This is a surreal scene, he talks to the girl who is tied, but refuses Edwin offer to liberate her. she says her other companions leave her tied until they come back, and untie her. She says if they come back and find him, they’ll kill him. But he insists and unties her. At that point she urges him to leave. Edwin keeps remembering his conversation with Wistan before he let him down. How they both saw that the monks tower was once a fortification meant to escape making the enemies follow them, just to be trapped in an inside moat, then burned by throwing torches into their trapped space, while the warriors could then escape from the top of the tower by jumping through the window and into a wagon full of hay.
Back to the present, the young monk informs Edwin they are going to cross a stream, and asks him to take off his nice shoes. Edwin notices a change in the monk’s tone, he sounds curt when once he had been friendly. I’ve read When We Were Orphans, and this section here with Edwin not remembering well what’s happened reminds me of that book too, when the main character is traversing through corridors that have been bombed, (or are being bombed), where he sees soldiers hurt, someone whom he recognizes, -or not?-, and we start getting confused about many things. We don’t know anymore if the main character is victim, perpetrator, or someone just caught up in the middle of something. Likewise, Edwin remembers having been asked by Father Jonus to step outside, and hearing him discuss things with others, (about his fate), and the young monk, coming out of the room to fetch for him in a friendly way, and urge him to leave the monastery. Now he’s with Edwin again, but Edwin came back for Wistan. The young monk recalls how his brother (I assume he’s talking about Wistan), made his escape from the soldiers which came to aprehend Edwin, right?, the way he described to Edwin, (starting up a fire, and jumping from the tower.) Now the monk is not that friendly but distant. Edwing keeps thinking about his failing Wistan, but he concludes that, “If he explains it all from the start, honestly and frankly, it was possible Wistan would understand and give him another chance.”
This concludes our second section and Part II of the book. The third and last post next week, will bring us to Part III to the end.