(discussion / idea sparked in this thread)
This is my attempt at a theory for eventual submission to the Theories Archive - if you have any more info to add that may support it (or even prove it false), please leave it here and I'll add to the theory, referencing you of course!
The Freerunning Barud and (maybe) Gavyn's Purpose
The question has been raised many a time - what, or where, is the Freerunning Barud that Elspeth will lead the beasts of the Land to?
Guesses have ranged from the Redland, Sador, the Moon, even death, as sad as it sounds - for with the latter, the beasts would truly be free of funaga
But I think the nature of the Freerunning Barud was heavily hinted at in The Sending
, in a dream sequence Elspeth experiences between Cassy and Doctor Ruth;
"...'The government may not see much value in putting animals into suspended animation, but it seems someone has decided the process will have significant public-relations benefits. They even like the name. It seems Erlinder was right to suggest the Eden Project.' She smiled at Cassy. 'I thought it was unscientific, but the spinners think it sounds romantic and optimistic.'..."
- Doctor Ruth in The Sending, p103.
I believe the Eden Project is the Freerunning Barud. It allows animals to stay in stasis, and thus would allow the beasts to remain that way until a time arrives when humans have died out (be it through a natural progression / departure from Earth, or wiping each other out).
In pages 103 to 107 of The Sending
, Doctor Ruth explains some more about the Eden project that she and Erlinder were working on. 'Were' in her case, because she has been moved onto the next phase of the project - human cryogenics - while Erlinder has moved to live at the relocated Eden facility to collect and store genetic material, and continue studying, with a team of researchers.
Doctor Ruth also mentions her dismay in the project progressing so quickly, worrying about their lack of information about the long-term effects of extended cryo on living creatures; the longest test period they have is 10 years. The intent is to wake and replace the beasts every ten years (apart from those beasts that go extinct), and to constantly monitor and improve the process.
This information is important, I believe, because it hints at a choice that will need to be made in order for the Freerunning prophecy to come true; that a human will have to go into stasis with the beasts, to be woken and to interface with INES (I'm making the assumption here that it'll be INES controlled, but it could be any computerised system, really).
Perhaps that's why Maruman thinks Elspeth will never return to 'the barud' - because he believes she's going into stasis with them.
being part of the project is important for a couple of reasons. The thought is that the Eden project system needs a human to activate, then seal them in, and to monitor and issue commands, since there's no interface for INES to operate with beasts directly. It was always the intent that the human scientists would monitor it. The human who goes into stasis with them could be woken every so often to make the required checks on both the beasts in stasis, and the state of the outside world.
If this is the case and it needs a human though, I don't think it'll be Elspeth. One thing we never picked is that Elspeth would have other people with her to fulfil her main quest (as we learned in The Sending
). We're still in the mindset that she's doing all of this alone (can't really help it!). And while she may lead
the Beasts to the Eden facility, I don't think she'll be staying with them.
The most logical a candidate for the task of Freerunning Guardian is Gavyn. The beasts consider him one of them. He would technically be human enough to carry out any tasks required of the Eden system, plus the beasts would still believe themselves to be free of the funaga
once the time of waking arrived.
And Gavyn, really, is no longer human - we learn that in The Sending
, too. A task such as this would explain his presence in the Chronicles, and the reasons for the strange path his character has taken thus far.
It would also somewhat explain how Rasial sees her death in him (if, of course, seeing her death in him doesn't entirely refer to the merging of their minds and thus the death of Rasial as a single entity). Perhaps when Rasial says 'death', she means shortsleep, which is 'a kind of death' (one of the beasts mention this at a point in time - very difficult reference to find, though!). Rasial's aggressive to funaga
because that's what they've turned her into, but she sees what purpose Gavyn serves - their eventual freedom depends
on him - so she does everything to save and protect him.
The Freerunning Barud being the Eden Project feels like a morbid solution - we want the animals and people to live freedom and happiness together, naturally. In a perfect world, it could be like that, sure.
But in all honesty, the Eden solution feels more truthful
than the idealistic "we're all super best friends" solution, and more truthful than Sador, Redland, or even Obernewtyn being the Freerunning. We already know that the animals aren't satisfied with the attempts so far offered at equality, and they are all well aware that the promise of one generation can be broken by the next. The only true freedom from humans will come when humans are removed entirely from the equation.
I don't believe that all beasts will depart from the world come the end of the series, though. It would make sense that it becomes a choice offered to them - wait for the (inevitable) time of Freerunning in stasis, or take your chances living with the funaga
Either way, something will survive long after the funaga
have died out.