As Elspeth was led towards the settlement and Henry Druid, she realised that the settlement is in the numb area that she could not penetrate. Hauntingly as soon as Elspeth entered the numb area, her powers were useless, she couldn’t farseek Matthew right behind her, let alone Domick who is outside the numb area. I would have thought that it was some sort of amplified shield, but it actually stops all powers, I wonder if empathy doesn’t work as well. And from the look on Jik’s face, he too has no powers, and for Elspeth this is a strange experience being ‘normal’ and ‘headbound’ for the first time. Elspeth is sure that the mental block has to be because of a machine like the Zebkrahn. And making a logical connection from Elspeth, it must mean that Henry Druid knows about talents, which may mean that all Herders know too.
Approaching a wall, it is obvious that life isn’t perfect for the settlement, and there are tensions within the group. As the gatekeeper (Relward) and one of the captors (Gilbert) have a bit of a ‘powerplay’ to see who is really in charge, and it is obvious that the gatekeeper is not. Inside the walls it looked like a full settlement, with everything one would need, even a blacksmith. Being so far away from the main road, certainly aided the Druid to be hidden, but wouldn’t the Council assume him to be somewhere out of the way? Or is he too big a threat to confront (sort of like *Hunger Games spoiler!* The Capitol and District 13)? Nearly all the people in the settlement held some sort of arms (is that swords and arrows, or do they have guns, which are unlikely?) which makes escape less likely. At least Domick is still free and could assist, if only they could communicate.
The group is now alone with Gilbert, and he starts to ask questions. Elspeth is pretty good at weaving a tale that would be accepted, and says that they came from Obernewtyn as they thought they could make a living, but found the place in ruins from a firestorm (apparently something Rushton concocted earlier). The robed man who was apart of the group of captors, and seems to be quite powerful in the settlement, sends the men to the compound, the boy (Jik) to the other children, and the girl (Kella) to Rilla. Elspeth on the other hand will be staying with him for the meanwhile, and is taken to see the Druid.
The Druid is interested in Obernewtyn as well, and makes her repeat her story. He tells her that the olden pass does not exist, and rationalises that they must be thieves trying to avoid the main road. He asks about the name of the Master of Obernewtyn, and again Elspeth lies quite well and reveals it is Rushton but makes out that he is half mad. He then goes on to reinforce the fact that he is Henry Druid and that he will rise again against the Council.
The Druid’s daughter interrupts proceedings, and he tells her to take Elspeth to Rilla, and let her know that they are both to attend tonight’s meal, and they should look accordingly. We find Rilla in the washhouse, and Kella is already bathing. Rilla seems nice enough and once the daughter is gone, she tells Elspeth to quickly bathe, and then she can go and eat some food. Elspeth is quite dirty, and looking in the mirror she hardly recognises herself. She is finally able to talk to Kella for a moment, who reveals that she too has no powers, she had hoped that Elspeth was strong enough to withstand it, but she isn’t. Elspeth is planning on trying to get through the block tonight, and then if that doesn’t work she will try to destroy the machine.
Kella reveals that tonight they won’t just be dining with the Druid, all the ‘unbonded men’ will be there too. There aren’t too many women in the settlement, so the opportunity for some of the men to get married is too good to give up. Rilla returned with expensive and luxurious gowns that they would were to the dinner, but Elspeth is not too pleased that they are trying to make her bond. But if they don’t get away soon then she will have no say in the matter.