Elspeth is in some sort of dream world. She is standing on a plateau and in front of her is a path into the Blacklands. In the distant was a light, and suddenly she was transported to it. It was a cave and inside were two carved doors, which were the source of the light, even though they were made of stone. Nearby was a terrifying image, the Agyllian Elder, Atthis, was dead and stuffed. It seems that this is Isobelle’s unconventional way of reminding us about Elspeth’s dark journey. The doors opened, and Elspeth saw Ariel standing inside them. He told her that revenge would come, and that Elspeth cannot hide from him. He wants her to do something for him, but Elspeth obviously will not, but this does not phase him, as he believes no matter what she does, she will be helping him. And once she has served her purpose, she will be killed, for now though he plans on hurting her. But before he can do anything, a gigantic Maruman leaps out and stands between the two. Ariel is frightened by him, but he changes into a different person, Jik. And with that Maruman vanished, and Jik was left begging Elspeth to promise something, but she never got the chance to answer, as he caught alight and Elspeth screamed.
Elspeth awoke and she was inside the Healer’s hall at Obernewtyn. Her head was painful, and she didn’t remember what happened before she was knocked out, at least yet. Rushton is in the room, and he comments on the dreary weather outside, it is dark and it has started to rain. Dameon too was with her, which surprises Elspeth, that she would have visitors. Maruman answers her question, telling her that they were concerned for her, his thoughts trigger Elspeth’s memory of the dream, and wonders how he was so large. He answers this too, saying that all is not what it seems on the dreamtrails. Matthew is also in the room, and they had not yet realised that Elspeth was awake. When they do realise, Rushton gets her a glass of water, and Elspeth finally remembers the knife that was flying towards her head.
She was lucky, the blade did not hit her, only the hilt. Luckier still, she had locked herself in place on Zade, and didn’t fall off him, and he was able to take her to Matthew and the carriage, and finally back to Obernewtyn. Elspeth tries to sit up, and experiences quite a lot of pain, so creates another block to stop the pain for now (seriously hasn’t she learnt that this is DANGEROUS!). Elspeth asks about the gypsy that she saved, and Roland enters the room saying that she has lost a lot of blood and her body seems to be resisting any attempts to heal her. Elspeth has only been out for a night, and Roland hints that she always seems to heal well, again annoyed that he doesn’t know how her feet healed. He also mentions that it is good it was not serious, as her mind was blocked and no one could try to heal her, which is something Elspeth did not know about.
Roland tells her that she needs to rest, so Matthew and Dameon both leave, with their well wishes. Rushton on the other hand wants a quick word with her. He tells her that she always seems to be getting herself in danger, and comes too close to death. Their relationship is an awkward one, after having mind-bonded back in Obernewtyn and his pronouncement of his love to her, though in a drugged state, at the end of The Farseekers. But Rushton wants to tell her that she said Ariel’s name in her sleep, and tries to reassure her that he cannot hurt them, while he is a Herder acolyte ‘trapped’ in a cloister. Elspeth also called out Jik’s name, and Rushton seems concerned that she blames herself for his death. We learn that ‘ashlings’ are ‘dreams that call’, according to beasts.
We learn that the plague the Herder mentioned, had caused the Herders to gain power in the Land, because people were afraid of contracting it. It started in Aborium or Moraganna, and killed one in three people who contracted it. And all those who contracted it bore hideous scars. It also caused shortages of people to work in farms, which meant food was scare, and this killed more people, like a vicious cycle. Obernewtyn is safe from such illness, its isolation being its saviour. Rushton mentions that he needs to send someone to Sutrium to make contact with Domick, who seems to have gone a bit quite of late. They will also have to decide what they will do with the gypsy when she wakes.
But that is a matter for later, and Elspeth was alone with her thoughts. She wished Atthis would call her, and she would be able to go on her journey, instead of having to wait. I had not thought that Elspeth knowing her fate would be frustrating, because she had to wait until it was time, and waiting is a hard thing to do. But all she can do is wait, until it is time to act.