Did this on tumblr but I thought I'd share here, although I think only honeymink will enjoy it. But anyway. Since the sneak preview of The Burning Maze is now floating about (which I have not read, so no spoilers in this post), I thought I’d go back to where we left off in The Dark Prophecy and, well, have a look at the dark prophecy itself, and have some fun guessing at what might be coming our way.
I’ll probably be way off (I’m always pants at this sort of thing) but hey, I’m happy enough to be proven wrong.
So here’s our lovely Shakespearean sonnet, broken up as it was in TDP.
The words that memory wrought are set to fire,
Ere new moon rises o'er the Devil’s Mount.
The changeling lord shall face a challenge dire,
Till bodies fill the Tiber beyond count.
Our main cast have already parsed most of this—an attack on Camp Jupiter in five days, possibly to destroy Ella’s recreation of the Sibylline books. And with the reference to the Devil’s Mount, I guess we’re looking at the attack coming from that direction too … which is interesting given that the Little Tiber actually borders Camp Jupiter on the west, at least according to RR’s map of it. But that’s probably beside the point.
But I actually think this is only going to be a minor part of the book and we’ve possibly been mislead by the ’bodies fill the Tiber’ bit. Let’s face it, I really don’t think we’re going to get a massive bloodbath because hello, ultimately, children’s book. What I do think is that Frank (the changeling lord, as guessed by Leo) is going to pull off something like what he did in HoH with the katoblepones. Because he kind of filled Venice with those bodies (beyond count)!
I had a think about what sort of shapeshifters could possibly come up if ‘changeling lord = Frank’ was a misdirection, but Greco-Roman mythology isn’t exactly filled with notable shapeshifters besides the gods shifting into animals and whatnot. And there’s no one god that’s really renown for it, so I think the attribution to Frank is probably a safe enough one.
But I stand by my prediction that all this is going to take place fairly early in the book, possibly in the first couple of chapters, because the rest of the prophecy fits the book title and set-up (with Grover and the Labyrinth) much better. Not to mention, there’s five days. I mean, sure it’s possible the whole book can take place in that short a period (since a lot of the series pretty much happens over one week or two in each book), but five … is kind of cutting it very fine, I think. Especially if we’re going into the time-warping Labyrinth. And also the last line talks again about the Tiber reached alive. So prediction: we’ll have some action at Camp Jupiter involving loads of monster-killings by our awesome shape-shifting Frank, but resulting in the loss of the Sibylline recreations/kidnapping of Ella, because why not? Half the first two series is people being kidnapped! Followed by which Apollo, Meg, and Grover head off south (I’ll get to the next prophecy chunk in a bit), likely going after the Sibylline prophecy/the Oracle of Cumae.
Yet southward must the sun now trace its course,
Through mazes dark to lands of scorching death
To find the master of the swift white horse
And wrest from him the crossword speaker’s breath.
Okay, so south they go, and we’re pretty much committed to the Labyrinth now. Here’s the interesting thing—in THO, we have people accidentally ending up in Peru. We also have the introduction of Paolo, a Brazilian demigod. Could this be a clue that we’re heading to South America? (The Atacama Desert borders Peru and is the driest in the world … just saying. There’s also the Sechura Desert in Peru). Not to mention Peru is southwest! Of course, it could just be that we’re headed to Arizona or some other US desert or really hot state (you US citizens will know what there is better than me, I’m sure) but wouldn’t it be cool if we do go overseas? (I loved popping over to England in Ship of the Dead, but hey, I’m biased. And I’m fairly sure RR’s 'verse isn’t going all the way to Asia, so I’ll take the UK as a win.)
The master of the swift white horse is posited to be the third emperor, but I don’t know—this could in many different ways. I admit I thought immediately of Arion, but I think he’s a different colour? Anyway, a horse named Incitatus was the favoured steed of Roman Emperor Caligula (and he actually attempted to appoint the horse a priest …), which could point at him being the final of the triumvirate. More on that in a bit.
Apollo names the crossword speaker as the Erythraean Oracle, which gives me pause, because we’re already looking at finding the Sibylline Cumae, and I kind of think we’re probably going for one Oracle per book (since there’s conveniently five and five books … and I’m fairly sure the last one has to be Delphi, because Apollo slaying Python makes a nice symmetry and relates back to old mythology). So which would it be?
Legend has it that the Erythraean Sibyl spewed prophecies in the shape of leaves, which connects nicely back to Meg and Demeter’s daughter’s ancient roots … which brings us to the next stanza.
To westward palace must the Lester go;
Demeter’s daughter finds her ancient roots.
The cloven guide alone the way does know,
To walk the path in thine own enemy’s boots.
This bit has been glossed over quite a bit in TDP, where Apollo just goes how he can’t wrap his mental fingers over what the westward palace means. Which just means this probably is the plot 'twist’ in the next book. I admit the first thing I think of with westward palace is Mount Othrys, but I also think that’s pretty unlikely, because the Titans are pretty much done with. But then, given the Triumvirate’s apparent hand in orchestrating/financing those wars … possibly they’re building on something from that?
As for Demeter’s daughter’s ancient roots, I do think that goes beyond a simple family connection. It’s interesting to note that Demeter was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, which RR has not really drawn upon thus far in any of his books. So while admitting I have no clue how that could possibly be spun out, I do think it may be somehow related to that.
We’ve pretty much committed Grover as the cloven guide, but relying on him to know the way suggests more than just his ability to get them through the Labyrinth, because let’s face it—Grover was never the Labyrinth guide back in BotL. I’m guessing the 'the way does know’ discusses a different way that Grover knows about—possibly providing an answer to that last line: to walk the path in thine own enemy’s boots. And Grover knows plenty about walking in (literally) another’s shoes. Even traitorous, drag-you-down-to-Tartarus shoes.
And okay, side point that I can’t quite work into the rest, but let’s not forget the Teumessian Fox that got raised at the end of TDP—I think it’s got to come up at some point (if not in this book then one of the next). I just can’t figure out where to slot it into the prophecy just yet. Unless the lands of scorching death is a reference to a modern-day Thebes.
When three are known and Tiber reached alive,
'Tis only then Apollo starts to jive.
I’m guessing the three here refer to all three emperors in the Triumvirate, which sparks the guessing game as to which is the last. My money’s on Caligula, who seems like a shoe-in given his description as referring to himself as a god during his own lifetime. And also, he owned a swift (possibly white) horse.
Finally, Apollo starts to jive could refer to some godly power finally returning to him (well, he’s had some flashes on occasion, but this could be the point at which he finally gains a modicum of control over it).
And this brings us back to the Tiber, and the question of what prophecy will shape this book. There’s two ways I think the overarching plot could go. One, they track down the Erythraean Sibyl and get the prophecy from her; two they rescue the Sibylline/Cumaean Oracle and the next prophecy leads to the Erythraean. I favour the book being about the Sibylline Oracle because it makes a nice little enclosed adventure within a bigger series, which is neater, literarily speaking. As opposed to resolving a new Oracle and leaving the existing one dangling for two books (since we are pretty certain to be going to Camp Jupiter where the Sibylline books will be under attack).
And here’s a question about poetry and prophecies in the upcoming books. We’ve already seen the limerick and the sonnet, and most likely there’s two more to go if the next two books will follow the same general structure. Since every chapter title’s a haiku, it might be unlikely that one of the prophecies will end up being one (it’s not easy squeezing a prophecy into seventeen syllables … believe me, I’ve tried!) Yet it might be poetic (sorry!) if Apollo’s final prophecy comes out in his over-abused favourite style.
I don’t think RR will go for a long one again, so my money’s on something like a sestet, a sestina, or even free verse (hey, you never know!) Or maybe we’re looking at visual poetry if it’s the Erythraean Oracle …