The Stone Key – Chapter 27

Chapter Twenty-Seven

With Domick safely on Golfer (suddenly changed from Golfur) Elspeth lets him lead the way to the nearest gate. Elspeth learns from Erit that the chaos disappeared as quickly as it appeared, leaving confused revellers, and some really furious Hedra, who were complaining about losing their priest. The signal that Rolf employed, wasn’t one specifically designed for today, it was a long standing one, created to alert the other stall holders when one of them was in danger. Each stallholder created a different scene, and combined they produced enough cover for the person in trouble to slip away without anyone specifically being held accountable.

Just before Elspeth leaves out of the nearing gate, she locates Iriny, who unfortunately is in the hands of the soldierguards, but her fate was being debated by the soldierguards and Hedra who have bad blood between them. Elspeth soon found Rolf, her calmed her, and told her that she must continue, and that he will take care of Iriny. As soon as Elspeth reaches the gate, she learns that Iriny is in more danger, as word has spread of her arrival from the other side, and her description is being filtered through the ranks. But Elspeth can do no more, she has to get out of the city. Her way is slowed by a close call with a soldierguard who tries to question her further, and seems suspicious of her, but she is saved by someone yelling out at him.

Elspeth manages to slip away, but now off of Golfur, she can’t get back on him, because of his immense size. She has to try to find something to give her a boost up, but the first set of rocks are too small, and someone mocks her for her elegant attempt. But it turns out that that person is in fact Merret, and she is more than happy to help Elspeth. Elspeth then notices Orys and Blyss, two other west coast Misfits. Elspeth tries to warn them to stay away in case Domick is contagious, but they have no fear, Dell has foretold of her arrival. She was certain that Domick would not be contagious until dusk tomorrow, Ariel had gotten it wrong (though really how could he be certain, viruses and illness don’t follow scripts, they affect everyone differently). The two of them were sent by Dell to escort Elspeth and Domick to the Beforetime ruins where Jak will be able to care for him, whilst keeping the contagion contained. What is creepy is that Dell also foresaw that Elspeth would say that futuretelling isn’t set in stone (though it looks that way), but she has checked her prediction a dozen times.

Dell has clearly got immense power, rivalling Maryon, because she also foresaw that a group of Hedra will begin their search for Domick, and they must be camped, since ‘no sane fugitive, would pitch a tent’, as they check all those on horse and cart. They even have food and medicines for Domick. It takes a while for Elspeth to realise just how lucky she was to have their assistance, and that she should appreciate their help. It seems that the rebels on the west coast trust the Misfits a lot more after the Night of Blood when most of the rebels were murdered. They accepted Dell’s futuretelling that Elspeth would succeed in containing the plague, and so halted their plans for an evacuation of the rebels. Gwynedd is most interested in the events on Herder Isle, and how that will impact Norselanders.

Of course these Misfits were missing home, and their first questions were what was happening at Obernewtyn, and there was no way Elspeth could decline telling them. They soon were approached by people asking about a Gypsy assassin sent to kidnap a Herder, but soon enough they walked on. And it was not long after that they decided to set up camp, in between two other groups of campers who were quite noisy, but it meant greater safety. They put Domick into a tent and started to try and ease his pain. Merret will go around telling the other camps of a companion with constipation, so that any moans Domick might make, aren’t met with suspicion.

Taking off Domick’s clothes, it disgusts Elspeth that all over his body, he had been burned or cut, and many had never healed properly. With the torture and pain he endured at the hands of Ariel it is no wonder that Domick’s mind collapsed and was left with ‘the strongest’ part left, his cold, stony, spy self. He later was in pain as he relived his torture through his dreams, only the sleep potion Elspeth had gave him relief.

Elspeth takes leave and goes and talks to the horses, and finds that they have set up their own freerunning herd, who occasionally help the Misfits in exchange for food when pickings were scarce. Their leader Ran was urging Golfur join the herd, but he refused, and wished to return to Rolf who was his little brother, and he thought that he would get into difficulties if he wasn’t around. I’m not surprised that he wishes to return to the kind metal-worker, but I find his attitude amusing. The contingent of Hedra soon ride past, without giving them a glance, and once again Elspeth must accept that without Dell, they would have been in huge danger.

Elspeth can’t stop wondering about Iriny and what fortune she would get in the hands of the Hedra, even Rolf can’t help her that much surely? But what is strange is that Elspeth seems to think that when she was saving Iriny, the knife that she got thrown at her, actually stabbed her, but I am certain it was just the hilt. She seems to imagine that it was her healing power that saved her from the wound, but that’s not what I remember.

They discuss the impact on the downfall of the Herders on the west coast, even if they aren’t freed from the Council. It seems that tensions between the two have been at an all time high, and the Council will be thankful that the threat of more Hedra has gone. And the likelihood of war seems high. Elspeth learns of what happened after the rebellion on the west coast. Things went sour fast, and the Misfits retreated to the ruins and held out there, as the Council went on a rampage against dissidence and rebels. Innocent people were tortured and arrested under the clampdown, and even Herders were out on the prowl looking for Misfits. People were burned for being sympathetic to Misfits, so turnouts to Herder sermons was at an all time high. Eventually the Herders and Council went back to their old friendship.

Soon the rebel network rebuilt itself with Gwynned as their leader, and he was keen on getting the Misfits on side. The two groups worked together to attack the Council and Faction, stealing coin and freeing slaves and novices. Seely’s knowledge proved invaluable to Gwynned and it helped their efforts and gave them information about all the Councilmen. Gwynned was now a source of reverence, even among Misfits, as he demanded the rebels be taught fingerspeech.

I like how the chapter ends, and it reminds me of Harry Potter. Elspeth has done a great deal of things, and yes she couldn’t have done them alone, but she has done them. And wrested power off of the Herders, and stopped an invasion and a plague. Though she tries to be modest, she is powerful, and her arrival is a great sign for the west coast, even if she is alone.

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