Maruman is in the Healer Hall, and (as usual) is covered in filth from wandering in the Blacklands and tainted ground. He looks no worse than any of the previous times that Elspeth has seen him. Randomly we learn that the Healers are trying to help Ariel’s wolves, and make them not so bloodthirsty. The terrifying thing is, that when Elspeth removes her mental shield, Maruman’s mind is emanating gibberish, something not seen before for Maruman, at least this extreme. It is interesting that Elspeth can put up a mental shield, but others seem incapable of doing so, is this because of her mental strength? Alad too had a mental shield, so many some can but others can’t, or others choose not to.
Christa explains that Maruman’s mind is a complete mess, but the interesting thing is that it has adapted and formed links and by-passes, and it works fine, in normal circumstances. His fits are, according to Christa, due to a ‘leak’ from his deep unconsciousness that rises up and distorts his thinking. Alad had sent for Gather, to deep probe Maruman, but why do that when you have Elspeth, who actually has a connection to Maruman, and who he would probably prefer do this.
Elspeth begins the strange process that allows her mind to reach into Maruman’s deepest unconscious mind. There are different ‘levels’ of the mind, the first that was projecting the gibberish, and there was his unconscious thoughts whizzing around. It would be a strange experience for Elspeth. She went into the next level effortlessly, Maruman was letting her in. Elspeth had to concentrate on not ‘forgetting’ which was a danger of entering an unconscious mind. I assume she means that if she were to forget the real world she would be trapped in his mind, floating from memory to memory.
Elspeth has gone quite deep and calls out to Maruman, he responds with ‘Elspeth Innle’. She tries to take him with her to ‘the top’ and make him awake, but he is not moving as ‘he must wait’. When asked, he tells her that he is waiting for ‘the Seeker’. But that is the name Maruman sometimes gives Elspeth, and he explains (kinda) that he wants her to go deeper into his mind because ‘the oldone wishes it’. The mental exertion required to keep Elspeth there, is almost too much, soon she will have to rise to the surface. But her curiosity and need to help Maruman outweighs her exhaustion.
But there is danger going any deeper, there is an ‘unconscious mind stream’ which futuretellers tap into to do readings. Without training, it was possible that her mind would ‘dissolve’ and she was already deeper than she had ever been. Slowly she went deeper, and was now almost in danger of being pulled into the mindstream and merging with it. But still Maruman wants her to go deeper. She went closer to the mindstream and was at a point where her need to rise and her attraction to the mindstream were equal.
At this point it turns into an odd experience when Elspeth and Maruman are ‘one’ in some sort of memory or experience. It is strange experience for us the reader trying to understand what is going on, and it is done well, but imagine experiencing this in real life, it would be unimaginable. As Elspeth is in this joint state with Maruman someone calls her name, and reveals themselves as Agyllian. These Agyllian have been using ‘yelloweyes’ to communicate with Elspeth Innle. Apparently Maruman is ‘weary to death’ and would happily merge into the mindstream, but Elspeth could not let him go, and he wouldn’t not want to leave Elspeth. His strange mind is what allowed the Agyllian to communicate with him.
The Agyllian wants to remind Elspeth the her task is not over, and that she promised to destroy the weapon-machines. She must be ready to go on the journey when the time is right, and not worry about her or her friend’s needs. But they will help, when the time is right. Before Elspeth could find any more they disappeared and Elspeth returned to the top of Maruman’s thoughts. Finally Elspeth was able to return to her own body and mind, but was extremely exhausted from the effort. Elspeth was close to sleep but could not stop thinking about what she had heard. She ponders whether it was some sort of ‘illusion’ or dream formulated on Elspeth’s concerns. But I think it was the real deal, it explains a lot, but there are now even more questions to be answered, and I think that is the nature of this series (and most in general). The thing is that she cannot talk about this to anyone, as they would believe it was an illusion, and none of them know about the weaponmachines. She does not have an easy life, as animals seem to think she is going to save the world, but how can you believe that, as it just sounds too good to be true. The future is an interesting thing, and knowing it is more of a burden than a blessing.
The next morning, there was another guildmerge to plan the expedition, and Elspeth had no time to contemplate things. She couldn’t talk to Maruman, as he was still in a natural sleep. She sees Matthew and Dameon on their way to a meal, and she wonders how Dameon is never clumsy and always seems to be able to know where he is going, even though he is blind. Matthew too wonders sometimes if Dameon can really see. But he explains that other people’s emotions allow him to know what is going on, and that Matthew needs to perfect his mental shield so Dameon doesn’t have to witness all of his emotions, no matter how entertaining they are.
Mealtimes are another ‘strategy meeting’ for Rushton and the guildmasters at the head table. Dameon is not the Empath guildmaster, and the guildmasters are Milky and Angina, the twins did not want the responsibility because they love Dameon and did not want to take his place. Louis Larkin is lurking around the courtyard door, which is unusual as he eats down on the farm, Matthew quickly replies to Elspeth’s inquiry that he wants to talk to her. Louis seems to see Elspeth’s decision to join the Farseeking Guild instead of the Beasting one as some sort of betrayal. He has some gossip that Henry Druid is still in the highlands, and is rumoured to be somewhere near their planned expedition path, which makes things dangerous. He also wants to go on this expedition because he believes he needs to see the lowlands once last time before he dies, which is quite sombre, though he has been at Obernewtyn for a very long time!
Just as Elspeth might be able to return to her meal and relax, Zarak and Lina of the Beasting guild run towards her. They bring the unfortunate news that Zarak was farseeking (when he wasn’t supposed to be) and came across someone else’s mind, a stranger. It is this exact situation that led to the decision for novice farseekers not to be allowed to farseek beyond the mountains, in case the stranger can trace them back to Obernewtyn, but Zarak tells Elspeth that the mind thought he was an ‘evil spirit’. Elspeth sends Zarak to Javo for ‘heavy kitchen work’ indefinitely for his break of the rules and will also be suspended from the Beasting guild also indefinitely.
Lina makes Zarak tell Elspeth the real news. Zarak believes that the mind he bumped into was from a Herder. What a game changing revelation that a Herder is actually a Misfit with a talent. Even though they are untrained, they are still powerful enough to use their mental powers. It just goes to show that no-one is immune from developing Mental abilities. It begs the question, how many other Herders have mental powers, and do Herders in general ‘understand’ the powers, and use them as an advantage? Or do they find out about Herders with these powers and burn them? What if the ‘head Herder’ or a high ranking Herder (assuming they have this sort of hierarchy) was found to be a Misfit? The Herders appear to be very odd people, it will be interesting to find out more about them as the series progresses. But now we have to deal with this one particular Herder. Is it possible he will reveal the location of Obernewtyn (if he knows it) or would that mean he would be killed for being a Misfit? Can they even do anything about him at all? Or should they?