The chapter starts with Elspeth and Ceirwan both investigating the Herder talent using their own abilities. The mind was clumsy but was still able to sense Elspeth’s presence even though her shield was tight. The Herder believes it to a demon, and his meeting with Zarak to him was a minor demon testing his faith (as Elspeth is able to deep probe him without him knowing). They are prepared to basically stun and alter the kid’s mind if things go wrong, lest they be given away to the Herders. When asked if he had shared their presence with anyone, the boy told them that he was to remain silent about the demons, as his master warned him that things like this would happen to test his faith. I think it is quite interesting that people like this can justify just about anything to fit their beliefs, I guess it shows that people can get blind to the ‘truth’ in favour of protecting their beliefs.
The boy is a trainee Herder and is undergoing an ‘apprenticeship’ in Darthnor and his mental abilities have become present to him after mental training which Herders do. We learn from Elspeth that they rescue few older people because they tend to believe that their powers are evil, and won’t be convinced otherwise. Interestingly if they find someone like this, who is risky, they put a block in their mind and they are no able to use their powers again. That is quite intrusive, and I wonder how they wrestled the ethics of that situation, I could see very heated discussion about doing this, but I guess they have to so they remain safe, and the person is none the wiser. The Herders were horrified, but in their experience, most were happy to lose their powers believing ‘Lud’ had cured them. Which isn’t actually a good thing that it intensifies their delusion beliefs.
The boy is another matter, as he is still young and it is possible that he can be saved, and to be honest having someone will real knowledge of the Herders would be priceless. When Elspeth decided to talk further to the boy, he reveals that only demons can talk to a man in his thoughts, and that many people go mad from it, though he believes that the demon (Elspeth) will have a hard time breaking him. Elspeth pushes him to find whether other priests have demons visit them, which he says they do, but Elspeth’s plants the seed of doubt in him by telling him that no other man has ever talked to her before. Elspeth has made up her mind and wants to rescue him.
In the meantime as a plan for the rescue is created, she talks to him every night, eventually breaking him down and allowing him to admit that he knows he is a Misfit. He also thinks that his elders are beginning to suspect that he has mental powers. I wonder how they would know, or does someone else have powers and is checking to see if he has talent? He is scared of capture, and knows that Herders are interested in Misfits, and don’t send them to the Council but ‘deal’ with them themselves. Elspeth also reveals that she is no demon and that she is free, and asks if he would like to be free too. All it needed now was for Zarak to talk to him, and for him to be allowed to bring his dog, and they will save him.
When the boy escaped, he made it look like he drowned in the Suggredoon, one of the rivers in the Land. They had to plan and perfect the escape to a point that they had never done before, otherwise it would be too risky. The boy is a powerful farseeker and an empath. It is an unusual combination, and is the first with equally strong talents, sadly for Elspeth he chose the Empath guild over her own. His name was Jik. I quite love the names!
The expedition is due to leave in a week, and Elspeth was talking to Rushton about the final preparations, when he found out that her name was on the list, and quite expectedly he exploded with rage. Elspeth had not told him of the agreement with the horse, which made him angrier. He refuses to allow Elspeth to go, as he doesn’t want guildmasters to go on the trip (even though they would be the best suited, they have the most worth, bit tricky to pick between the two). But Gahltha is not one to change the agreement, and quite rightly tells Rushton that why should the horses risk a leader, if the funaga do not. Rushton then propsed that he go, but the guildmerge outvoted him, as he is obviously worth way too much. His own rule that allowed a unanimous vote against his own to overrule his opinion, worked against him.
It is odd that he would risk himself and not allow Elspeth to go, obviously there is something more to it, but I’ll leave that point for now. Ceirwan would lead the Farseekers in her absence, and she would join Pavo, Matthew, Kella, Louis Larkin and Domick (who will be the one to go to Sutrium). They are planning to pose as Gypsies and have faked Normalacy Certificates to try to make sure they aren’t caught.
The night before they depart, Rushton came to Elspeth to talk to her. He tells her that she is too important to Obernewtyn to be lost, and this other talent isn’t worth risking too much. He still wants her to change her mind as he believes she belongs here, but it is obvious that he likes Elspeth a little more than anyone else in Obernewtyn. Before much more could be discussed both Dameon and Maryon come to see Elspeth. Maryon has futuretold the expedition and Jik must go with them, for without him many, if not all, of the others will die. But Jik is new to Obernewtyn and only ‘fully-fledged’ members could go on expeditions.
Maryon however reveals that it must be Jik, no one else is good enough. Rushton believes they should cancel the expedition until more is known but Maryon has more to the ‘telling’, if the expedition does not happen, and they do not return before winter, Obernewtyn will fall. Such a grim future, means they can do nothing but send Jik on the expedition. Though Rushton is not happy with the idea. Elspeth reflects on the fact that two weeks ago Jik was a Herder novice and now holds Obernewtyn’s fate in his hands. If Zarak did not communicate with him who knows what would have happened, but as Elspeth points out that ‘you could go mad trying to think of the possibilities’. Roland is right, the present is enough to deal with. But it is interesting to think about how the future would be and what would happen to Obernewtyn if Jik did not come to Obernewtyn, but there are so many different, little possibilities you could go way back to the beginning and say what if Madam Vega never came to Elspeth’s orphanage. But we can think about what role Jik will play in the expedition.