Ashling – Part One – The Days of Rain – Chapter 1

Part One – The Days of Rain

Chapter One

We return to Elspeth’s world, looking on at a burning just about to take place. The victim of this, is a Gypsy, and she almost seems to be enjoying the thought of her punishment. The Herder running the burning, started chanting the ‘purification prayer’. Elspeth could see that he was a fifth-level priest, not one of the inner cadre, but still high up. It seems that Elspeth has gained quite a lot of knowledge about the Herders and their own hierarchy, I wonder if Domick was the source of this information, once again my thoughts went to Jik, but he is no longer with us and for once, this is a death that is certain. The Herder continues his little charade, and proclaims that there is a demon inside the Gypsy and he will remove it. But the Gypsy is feisty and isn’t content with taking his garbage, and challenges him to reveal the real reason why she is being burnt. She tried to heal a baby, when the medicines that the Herders provided had failed. Of course the Herder is steadfast, and addresses this justification of her actions, as forbidden because she used herb lore. And it was this dabbling in ‘forbidden lore’ that caused the Beforetimer’s demise. Apparently the plagues (seems like things are not well in the Land) have been sent by Lud because his word is not being obeyed. I don’t want to start a religious debate, but in my opinion I don’t understand the whole concept of a vengeful god and one that is full of wrath, shouldn’t he be loving and not want to spite his ‘creations’? But I’m sure everyone can agree that the Herders are spewing lies.

The fight continues between the Herder and Gypsy, as the Herder reveals that the mother of the baby will be burned for heresy, and this appears to be news to the woman, who is in the crowd. It is obvious that the public is heavily indoctrinated, and is reluctant to do anything to comfort the woman, or defend the Gypsy. The Gypsy is not going down without a fight, and defends the mother, and says that he will not be able to burn her because the Council will make her work on their farms. Which infuriates the Herder, claiming only Lud is his Leader, and not the Council. I sense some tension between the Council and the Herders, that will become interesting. The Herder continues to proclaim that the Gypsy used black arts, and it is his right to burn her, and anyone that helps her. But the Gypsy wants to know what black arts she is supposed to have used. Apparently, she said that the baby would die within a day, and it did, so she cursed it, which is the lamest excuse ever and makes no sense. All the Gypsy was doing was telling the parents that the baby was close to death  and that they should say there goodbyes. I wonder if the parents reported her, or if the Herder just happened to find out, because why would the parents get involved surely they realised that if they were found out to be involved with a Gypsy they would get in trouble too!

The Herder is furious and is eager to get the burning underway. Apparently though, he wants to prolong her death, and actually brand her, which is barbaric. At this point, Matthew wants to save her, and Elspeth wants to as well, but she has lost a lot of blood, and it isn’t certain that she will even survive a rescue. They are in Gypsy disguises, and Elspeth seems poised to intervene, so she sends Matthew away with their carriage. Elspeth starts to step to the front of the congregation, and also sends a coercive probe into the Herder’s mind. She asks where the Gypsy’s carriage is, which doesn’t make the Herder happy and he questions her actions. But Elspeth knows that by Council lore, blood kin could defend one another (which she makes out to be). She was using this to stall the man, and because of rife tensions between the Council and Herders, the Herders don’t seem to be eager to break Council lore.

The Herder proclaims that the carriage was burned along with all her possessions, but his memories, tell another story. He picked through their stuff and pocketed some of it, and even tortured the woman’s bondmate. The Herder asks for proof of relation, which of course Elspeth has none, so she offers the point that all Gypsies are related, which doesn’t really work, so she is told to shut up. The Gypsy has fainted, and the Herder is about to start the burning, so Elspeth prepares herself to mentally attack him, but before she can, an arrow flew into the Herder’s chest. This nearly killed Elspeth who was still attacked to the Herder’s mind, but she quickly disengaged.

The events have been thrown into chaos, as the crowd gathered, come to the conclusion that the Herders will kill them all because of this Herder’s death. One man suggested, that they kill all the Gypsies and no one tells a soul, but he too was killed by an arrow. This sends everyone running, not wanting to risk their own lives. Who had sent the arrows? Elspeth doesn’t have time to find out as soldierguards might at any minute arrive to investigate the commotion. Elspeth quickly runs to the Gypsy and cuts her away from the stake. Having gotten the Gypsy in her arms, Elspeth was about to get away, but the Herder’s acolyte decided to attack Elspeth and try to beat her to death. Elspeth fights back and gains the upperhand, to which the boy yells that his masters have been granted great powers to kill scum like Gypsies, even the powerful Twentyfamilies.

Elspeth struggles with the woman’s body, and summons Zade, her horse to carry her. Just as she is on the horse, two soldierguards arrive. One is immediately killed by another arrow, and the other hides. Elspeth too gets on the horse, and they ride off. Elspeth quickly sends a strong coercive attack on the acolyte to wipe his memory, but he has already thrown a knife at Elspeth with ‘uncanny accuracy’. There was no time to dodge it, and it hit Elspeth straight in the head. Her last thought is that she has died, and that is replaced with pain.

She can’t have possibly died, we aren’t even a chapter into the book!

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