The Stone Key – Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen

Elspeth has just had a harrowing dream, forcing her to relive when her parents were burnt alive at the stake all because they were Seditioners. What they did that was sedition, I do not know, probably herb lore, or maybe they just looked at a Herder funny. That’s all it takes. I mean it is obvious that the Gordie’s weren’t the most Herder-loving folks around, and that they wanted a rebellion (pity they never lived to see it happen, and to see what their daughter has done), but still even people who were Lud-fearing were burnt alive at the whim of fanatical Herders. So waking up after that, is not exactly ‘fun’ for Elspeth. Not to mention her very confused feelings towards Rushton, which were thrown up in the air after Dameon’s passionate talk to her.

But what is worse, is that Elspeth had never before remembered her parents being burnt and captured. This was the first time that she had experienced that memory, it had been locked away, until now. But Elspeth is glad that it came to light, she feels as if ‘dark poison’ had been removed from her psyche. Which I guess is analogous to what Dameon was suggesting Rushton needs to do, with Elspeth’s help. It seems to be a very common theme to have to deal with events in the past that have been neglected or even buried deep in the subconscious. It happened with Dragon and Iriny, and we all know the consequences of pushing memories too deep down, and how tragic they can be. We also know that opening them up to fresh air to be dealt with, must be done, so Rushton must, soon or later, deal with his demons. I think this dream has really helped Elspeth realised what needs to be done, and that she must help Rushton so that he too can be free of the poison, and be light again. It is comforting to see Elspeth now determined and hopeful that she can unlock Rushton’s emotions once again.

Elspeth shares some breakfast with two local boys, whose father is the cook of Vos’ house. It gives us a real insight into just how ingrained the prejudice against Misfits is, but it also gives us hope. When the younger of the two asks some ‘insensitive’ questions about being a Misfit (like can she make a head explode or read minds), and the older one thinks him a fool, it is pleasing to see that eventually the younger comments that Elspeth doesn’t look like a monster/freak. Something that is constantly cropping up. People have had a belief drilled into them that Misfits are monsters/freaks and will eat little children and all the rest, but when they actually meet Misfits, they quickly can see that is just a bunch of lies. And this is why Misfits cannot hide away at Obernewtyn and let everyone decide their fate and role in the Land, they need to have an active voice, and be seen in the Land, as regular people and not freaks.

Linnet arrives and dampens the mood in an instant. One of Malik’s men has come forward to offer information, and he is doing this because he didn’t support Malik, but had to, otherwise he and his pregnant wife would be in danger. He said that any information they will get from Malik will be too late for the invasion, and Linnet foolishly put him back in his cell to go and fetch Elspeth (or maybe someone else) and then of course, the rest of Malik’s men caught on to what was going on, and tried to kill him, for betraying Malik. Right now he is dying, and they can’t probe him, otherwise that person might die too because of the link.

Elspeth rushed to the man, to try and get him to explain, but it was too late. It sounded like he said close or maybe cloister. Either way, they need to investigate, as ‘too late’ is way too ominous, plus Malik’s smug face makes a lot of alarm bells ring. And conviently for Malik, it seems this armsman was the only one who knew what he was trying to tell everyone, and indeed he would have been killed by Malik, had he been found out. Maybe he was warning them that the invasion was happening much sooner than they had anticipated, and that anything they got from Malik would be too late, as the invasion would have already begun. That means it is happening in a day or so, and Dardelan doesn’t have time to send reinforcements. That means, the townsfolk, and whatever coercers they have, will have to deal with the invasion. But how will that work, when they will be vastly outnumbered and vastly less skilled?

They need people on watch to make sure they don’t get surprised by the arrival of ships, so that must be organised. Elspeth doesn’t want to send word to Rushton just yet because she wants something more concrete, so she is going to the cloister to check it out. Honestly, if you think that the invasion is going to happen tomorrow, and that only villagers will be left to defend the entire coast, shouldn’t you send word immediately? What if it turns out that nothing happened? Well, isn’t that the best news ever? It is time for the defences to be prepared, and for everyone to prepare themselves for the coming battle.

They may need to use a few tricks to succeed, and that may include coercing Malik’s men to play a role and leading them into a trap. But the Herders will be curious as to why Malik is not present, so that creates a few problems. If only Zarak were here with his scheming mind! Elspeth makes her way to the cloister, and prepares a wagon just in case there are prisoners or slaves like there were in Sutrium.

As soon as Elspeth approached the walls, she could feel the taint, meaning it had been updated to ensure its strength, which means they were hiding something from Misfits. Again Elspeth felt a premonition, and once again she brushed it aside, which is not the best thing to do, when they usually turn out to be important. Maybe one day Elspeth will learn that, but today is not that day. Elspeth made her way around to the back of the cloister, to see the mounds of earth Zarak mentioned, and Elspeth noted that there was no sign of a dig site, yet there was huge quantities of earth. Elspeth theorised that maybe in the cells there were crates of weapons and black powder there waiting for the Herders to invade. And Malik could have used his prisoners to dig the holes, and maybe that one of his men stumbled into the knowledge.

Elspeth entered the cloister building, though she had no lanterns and little light to explore with. She soon found an entrance into the underground cells, but with no light, how would she see? She soon found a lantern in one of the rooms, so that solved the light problem. She explored the cells, and found them completely empty, and without a sign of any earth movements. She left and then she wondered about the shed that was near the mounds, what was in there? It took her a while to open the lock, but inside she found a tunnel. Elspeth’s curiosity got the better of her, so she entered, without telling Gahltha of the development. How the Herders had enough manpower to build such a tunnel is beyond men, but I guess slaves/prisoners were involved.

After a while Elspeth wondered if whether this was just one of the escape tunnels that allowed the Herders to come and go secretly like the ones in Sutrium. Meaning this one could go on for miles. Elspeth decided that since she was in so far now, she might as well continue, even if Gahltha must be beside himself with fear and concern. The tunnel seemed to go on forever, and it made Elspeth feel more guilty and annoyed that she didn’t tell Gahltha. She wondered whether Wenda had arrived, but even if she had it would take a while for her to find the tunnel, and then Elspeth hoped she would go and fetch Linnet. Elspeth would have to turn around soon, because the lantern doesn’t have infinite oil in it, if only she had brought a spare, but how would she know how long it was?

As it just so happens, the lantern snuffs out, and Elspeth is plunged into darkness. She was left to stumble around blindly, until she decided it was best to turn back, as the exit was no in sight. Then, she heard voices! Were there Herders here already? Were they the ones directing the prisoners to dig? Now Elspeth was more curious, what were they saying, she just had to find out. Clearly she doesn’t like the old adage, ‘curiosity killed the cat’. Elspeth hoped that they weren’t wearing demonbands, because then she could know everything about the invasion. I guess it was too good an opportunity to pass. Elspeth was in a precarious position, because if someone came down the tunnel, she would have to try and out run them to the other end. Soon enough, she could smell the ocean, the other exit must be near. Elspeth had to ponder with the possibilities of what lay beyond, and how a captain could direct a ship into inlets.

She was so caught up that she didn’t pay attention and tripped and fell. She landed with a crunch, which hopefully nobody heard. Elspeth had a strange dream, and I don’t think it was a memory. Rasial was with her, and they were discussing where beasts could be free, because in a land of humans, they must rule. Elspeth said that there is no land (to her knowledge) where beasts rule themselves, and to that Rasial says that maybe beasts don’t have to, and it is the humans who must cease ruling. She looks at the boy with her, who I guess must be Gavyn. But is she suggesting that humanity be wiped out? Is this the Destroyer? Could Gavyn be the Destroyer? But that would make no sense, because every beast would be killed! Maybe all of this isn’t even real!

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