The Spider Cliff Mysteries

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Clues in the Gondola Cypher

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^About the above post^

Posted by Swift_Articuno, 5:05am, 26 Dec, 2007

ralphmerridew, I see your point. :)
~I did know about the first point, and I don't think Alex wouldn't know about it. I mean, Elkwood was a great adventurer, and being very famous in SC, how could Alex not know that Elkwood didn't survive the woods? Shouldn't a thing like that be printed in the newspaper or something? I can just think of it: "ELKWOOD SURVIVES THE WOODS! :0" The face was just for fun. :P Anyway, maybe.... Elkwood DIDN'T go into the woods and the sheriff's memory is failing him!! OH NO!! Or the sheriff could be lying, of course. (Pfft, ALWAYS the simpler answer...)
~On the other hand, the second point was something I did not notice. Wow ralphmerridew, you're really putting a lot of effort into solving this comic!!! Anyway, maybe the bumberberry was growing in the gondola and the sheriff knew about it!! :O

Posted by FFWF, 6:41am, 26 Dec, 2007

Maybe jason hadn't had the idea for Elkwood at the time. He's got a lot of the town's history solid, which is really helpful, but I'm careful not to expect any author to have thought too far ahead. Alex's knowledge has been incomplete before, for example over the whole Annabelle-Arabelle situation.

I've been having some ideas. Here's a crazy theory: On the day of the gondola disaster, Vedalia slipped Elkwood some anti-love potion, then let the weak child-stealing demon into Spider Cliff herself so that she'd have an excuse not to be on the scene when Elkwood came to his senses and confronted Katherine, presumably on the gondola trip. But Vedalia, being a demon-hunter and not a witch, botched the potion and accidentally gave Elkwood a deadly poison.The disaster itself was caused by something different - Hatchetpaws, or Elkwood personally going crazy and cutting the cable himself.

...Not too likely, I admit. But I'm sticking by parts of this: I think Elkwood was likely killed by a poorly-made love or anti-love potion, and I think the child-stealing demon was probably let into Spider Cliff to make sure Vedalia wouldn't be on the scene during the gondola launch and so wouldn't be able to interfere or investigate. Elkwood being responsible for the fall of the gondola would be an interesting twist, but doesn't really help with the deaths of the others on the gondola... unless he shared whatever it was he had that the poisonous potion was in. That's not bad. The pie Annabelle baked her love potion into looked fairly substantial, for example.

Here's a suspicion of mine: Alex will eventually head off into the Smoggy Woods directly to meet the one he's been communicating with - the person he believes it is, if not the person it actually is. (This could be the big problem that often forms the denouement of each mystery.) This will necessitate Annabelle to go and help rescue him - as a zombie, a dead person, perhaps she has some immunity to the effects of the Smoggy Woods - and this will rekindle their romance without the help of silly potions, which have been shown to taint the past.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 8:58am, 26 Dec, 2007

Considering how close the cut was, I think it was done by someone on the gondola. I've been alternating between "Hatchetpaws was waiting at the other end, and the gondola was cut down to keep him from getting back." and "It was done to cover up some serious indiscretion by Katherine."

Posted by FFWF, 10:22am, 26 Dec, 2007

I've been wondering which side of the gondola the cut was done on - was it on the side nearest the gondola station, or the side nearer Spider Cliff? In other words, which side of the cut was Elkwood on when it was done? Was he going away from it or towards it? Hatchetpaws on his own is a very good candidate; I mean, come on, he has hatchets for paws. Plus "Hatchetpaws did it." I doubt it's that simple, but I would be very surprised if Hatchetpaws wasn't involved at all; at the very least, I expect it'll be "Hatchetpaws cut the line and someone tried to stop him but couldn't." Incidentally, there's a comment in early chapters - not a clue, just a comment - that it's not just human bones but also paper mammal bones are also found on the edges of Smoggy Woods each fogtide. I wonder if they ever found Hatchetpaws' bones? And what happened to them?

Another idea is something like, through the actions of others, by the time Elkwood and Katherine got to the gondola platform in the woods he'd found out what she'd done to him with the love potion, they were going back to town to see Vedalia, and then something happened to cut the gondola down. Katherine may have escaped into the woods, but who knows what could have happened from then on? I'm putting all my money on deadly misbrewed love/anti-love potions, though; I won't let go of that idea, I'm sure it's crucial. But in the end, it all comes down to that woods nymph; I bet she knows exactly what's going on.

Something I just noticed in Chapter 18 - the one with the oracle, and Elkwood's body being in the house - Barlow's window is open. And there's a slightly damaged ladder in the basement. With that, Barlow when sleepwalking could get in and out without trouble, and so could anyone moving skeletons about and putting hatchets in mirrors. I was thinking secret passage for sure, but seeing the open window and ladder make me think again. That said, they're not commented on or marked with clues, so I might just be reading too much into the background. And given that the Moon poker is needed to open Vedalia's secret room, perhaps secret passages are the better explanation, as the time would be really tight for whoever put the hatchet in the mirror in the secret room if they were getting in the normal way.

So what do we think about the ghostly blood appearing on the floor in Barlow's room? I don't know what to make of that except possibly "elaborate hoax to put everyone off the gondola repair." Which is what Barlow thinks.
This message was last edited on 26 Dec 2007.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 10:39am, 26 Dec, 2007

Well, if the cable had broken between the gondola and the tower, why didn't somebody find the gondola within a fogtide or two trying to follow the cable? OTOH, if it broke between the gondola and town, when the cable was pulled in, why didn't somebody notice that the cable was cut?

Posted by FFWF, 1:22pm, 26 Dec, 2007

I think that would more support the cable being cut between the gondola and the town, because the cable would probably have been pulled in. Nobody noticing the clean cut is something I'll put down to incompetence, a reluctance to investigate too closely, and a general presumption that the gondola must have just been a bad idea. So that probably supports somebody inside the gondola cutting it down (as opposed to someone in the gondola station), unless Hatchetpaws' ghost hovered up a tree or something. So that puts the criminal in the gondola with Elkwood, probably, so we've options of Elkwood, Katherine Ivy Sprawling, Hatchetpaws or, as a wild card, the woods nymph.

Whichever it was, that indicates either that they were being taken back to Spider Cliff against their will, or that they suddenly realised that going back was a seriously bad idea. Hatchetpaws was probably involved, in order to provide a weapon. I'm leaning towards "Hatchetpaws was waiting at the gondola platform" now. He maybe butchered the other two passengers, and tried to force his way back to town in the gondola but was foiled by Elkwood... no, Elkwood captured Hatchetpaws and was taking him back to Spider Cliff to stand trial, but Hatchetpaws got loose and cut the gondola cable. What happened when they hit the ground? Your guess is as good as mine. I don't think this is the whole story even if it's partially right, though; I'm not giving up my theory that Elkwood was killed with a bad potion, or at least that somebody was.

An extra clue that Alex wrote the chalk message: The chalk was taken from the Revolving Spider Diner. Not one hundred percent, but circumstantial; his mother runs the place, he'd have been in a position to take it.

Here's an idea. Maybe Hatchetpaws was overdosed with anti-love potion in his childhood, and that's why he hated everyone. A cautionary tale.
This message was last edited on 27 Dec 2007.

Posted by smjjames, 1:22pm, 27 Dec, 2007

Well, considering that alex is a SC history guru, I'm sure he would have found out the code sooner or later and since he said that it was horrible poetry, then he must have read it before.

Anyways, as far as the cut cable goes, the fact that it was cut in a single place with a clean cut means that something cut right through it with a single slice. At first that made me think of a lightsabre, but this isn't Star Wars lol. We don't really know whether Hatchetpaw's demonic hatchets could cut through a foot thick cable like it was butter or something. So, if Hatchetpaw's weapons (not to overstate the obvious here) really were the size of the one in chapter 19 and had normal properties, you would think that there would be multiple cut marks.

While Hatchetpaws is not completely ruled out because as we have seen in previous stories, ordinary objects could be given magic properties. There is also a huge axe in the secret archives that looks like it could slice through a thick cable. Although I'm not ruling out some sort of magical energy blast or something.
This message was last edited on 27 Dec 2007.

Posted by FFWF, 3:05pm, 27 Dec, 2007

The strands were indeed "cut in a straight pattern directly across one spot." I admit that hatchets aren't too likely to do such a clean job, but then again, we can always say "they are from demons," and what else would do? It'd be better than, say, some sort of minor knife. Although I suppose it would be ironic if the line were cut with some sort of implement from the paper mammal mill. It doesn't have to have been one of Hatchetpaws' hatchet paws, but no other handy props have appeared in this chapter to my recollection that could have done it.

Rereading a couple of chapters, I see I misremembered; it wasn't the Monocles who went with Elkwood and Katherine, it was the other Sprawlings, Ellen and Ignatius. Katherine had a coded message in her diary, "Must not mention Hatchetpaws to Ellen." Katherine's son was stolen by a demon, and there was a child-stealing demon in Spider Cliff on the day of the gondola disaster. Ellen and Ignatius lost their own son to Hatchetpaws, I think. But Turnip thinks Hatchetpaws was already dead at the time of the gondola disaster, although that doesn't mean his hatchets can't be used. It's not too much to speculate, I think, on some kind of sinister connection between Katherine and Hatchetpaws or demons which would be disastrous if Ellen were to find out. And conveniently, all four Sprawlings were gathered together for that one gondola trip. Hey, I have an idea; I'm almost certain now that one of the Sprawlings let that child-stealing demon into Spider Cliff - the one that tried to sabotage the restraining bar - because of course the Sprawlings would be safe and far away thanks to the gondola. So this adds a bunch more motives to the mix. Maybe we don't need Hatchetpaws and woods nymphs to come up with a suitably murderous solution after all. Indeed, the deaths of the Sprawlings might not even be connected to the gondola being cut down, if we have a woods nymph living out there and a dead paper mammal handily leaving some hatchets lying around.

Incidentally, in Chapter 20, Alex seems to be deliberately trying to put Crystal and Annabelle off researching Katherine Ivy Sprawling. Maybe he deciphered the Sprawling Code from the same place they did, if he's the second messenger.

A thought. I wonder if that old dirigible is still lying around? It'd be a quicker way to get to the gondola platform than repairing the gondola itself.

One more question: When does jason usually start letting you make guesses, and when does he stop? I'm wondering if he closes the guessing before or after the revelation of a final big clue, because I want to know if it's possible for us to solve the mystery right now. I think we can.

This message was last edited on 27 Dec 2007.

Posted by smjjames, 9:37pm, 27 Dec, 2007

the guesses have been open for months now, since he posted the current chapter I think, and he usually opens the guess submission a couple chapters before the end.

I guess theoretically, it's possible to hit on the answer with what we have so far.
This message was last edited on 27 Dec 2007.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 4:17pm, 10 Jan, 2008

One of the clues in the last chapter was "sheriff: Think of it this way... Isn't there a long-standing tradition of demons and humans making pacts, each doing something that other can't do?
barlow: Sure, but that never actually works out for the human, does it? That's exactly the sort of thing that demon-hunters are around to prevent."

Could this refer to:
- Hatchetpaws / demon
- ??? / demon that stole the Sprawling child
- ??? / demon that tried to destroy the town

Posted by smjjames, 7:40pm, 10 Jan, 2008

we don't know that there was some kind of pact made with the demon that tried to destroy the town or with the one that stole the sprawling child, although there is a hint of something as I believe that Alex or someone said that somehow the demon got through some of the defenses, as if someone had helped it.

Still, it is a plausible scenario where someone made a pact of some kind with a demon in exchange for a child, which could apply if it wasn't actually a child stealer type demon. Or the child origionally wasn't part of the deal since it was made before the child was born and I could see where the pact included the human needing to give thier most precious possession or something along the lines of that. Some time later the child was born and the human proabably expecting to give some gold or other material possession when the demon returns, but the demon knows better and takes the child instead. So, in order to explain the childs dissapearance, they blamed it on a weak child-stealer demon, even though it could theoretically have been a stronger demon.

That could be ONE possible scenario if the Sprawling's made a pact with a demon (whether it was a child stealer or not), although they would have to be extremely desparate if the pact was made after the child was born, or naiave to what the demon would actually do.

However, while what the sherriff said could also have reference to some book Barlow had read, I had thought of something. We know as a kid he listened to many of the stories Elkwood told, so I'm sure there were stories involving fighting demons, dragons, giants, whatever, and maybe at least one story involving some pact between someone and some demon. While the story may have been mainly fictional, what if Elkwood had ineed made some kind of pact with a demon? That could explain his apparent death without any obvious injuries.
This message was last edited on 10 Jan 2008.

Posted by ralphmerridew, 7:59pm, 10 Jan, 2008

I was going the other way:

- That item being tagged as a clue strongly suggests that a pact between a demon and a mortal (which works out badly for one of them) is key to this story.
- Those were the demons mentioned.

And since TWTW had the town's legendary hero be revealed to be a horrible villain, perhaps this story will have the inversion of the legendary villain being revealed as a hero. (Done in Schlock Mercenary.)

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