Ashling – Chapter 6

Chapter Six

Quickly Elspeth had to act, and I must say that she is very quick thinking, not only now, but all the time she can come up with a good story to tell someone to avoid the truth. She sent out a coercive bolt to Jaygar to stop him, and then looked around to see what caused the outburst, it wasn’t difficult. Ahead there was a thin pony struggling under the weight of a load of wood, and a fat boy on top of the heavy load sitting and eating a bun. And when the poor mare tried to keep balance and staggered sideways, the boy cursed at her. Jaygar was not pleased that Elspeth had restrained him, but Elspeth had the right to, it was outlined in the ‘expedition charter’ that she had the right to restrain anyone who was endangering the rest of the expedition. Jaygar is furious that they would risk their lives for an unknown funaga but never for a beast, Elspeth eventually silences him and makes him still.

Elspeth decides to get closer and sort things out, but surprisingly Gahltha refuses. He believes that she cannot risk her life for this one equine, because later in her life she will save many more beasts, and she can’t do that if things go badly. But this just angers Elspeth, because she doesn’t want to be a slave to her destiny and Atthis, and commands him forward. As Elspeth got closer to the mare, she could see that physically the pony was not in good shape, so set about to use her powers to remove the load. It was hard work, I mean using your thoughts to have physical effects could not be easy. But eventually the load came off, and the boy and wood fell to the ground. This made the boy very embarrassed, so he decided to start whipping the horse, it almost seems Elspeth made things worse for the horse.

Elspeth decides to intervene by asking the boy to move, which makes them start an argument, and the boy tries to strike Elspeth, but Gahltha rears and stops any attack. This brings them to the attention of the soldierguards, which is the last thing Elspeth wants. So to take away the focus on her (even disguised as a boy) she mentally prods a few people in the crowd to make comments about how overloaded the horse was and how poor the horse looks, which isn’t too ethical, but it is hard to balance up whether to risk yourself or make someone do something they wouldn’t normally do. This just infuriates the boy further and even leads to him threatening to kill the horse, which puts Jaygar on edge further, but the soldierguards warn him that he can’t do anything if he is going to hold up this line.

So while the boy tries to pick up his wood and reload it, Elspeth tries to talk to the mare and tell her about Obernewtyn, I would have thought that one of the horses talking to her would be smarter and more effective, but maybe they will in a moment. The horse doesn’t believe anywhere is free from fuanga, and believes that only once she has died she will be able to run free. And eventually, after Elspeth told the horses to talk to this mare (why they didn’t of their own accord I am not sure) the mare is interested in going to Obernewtyn, so Elspeth gives her directions. The mare’s name is Faraf, and Elspeth warns her to be sure she is not followed on her journey to Obernewtyn. Faraf even pays Elspeth a great compliment saying that she (and others) burn with the heartfire, which symbolises the harmony between beasts and is where the spirit of all beasts lie (those who have died and are yet to be born) and humans are excluded from this distinction, and even believe that humans don’t have true souls because of this. This is the highest of compliments, because Faraf is calling Elspeth her equal and that she bears a true soul, and from an equine that moments ago hated ALL funaga, Elspeth should feel honoured.

Shortly afterwards it was their turn to enter the city, and it is the true test of their fake papers and disguises, it has to work. From the rain Gahltha has turned back into the fine specimen of a horse he is, because all of the mud Elspeth puts on him to hide his true value has washed off. And already people are eyeing him, so Elspeth asks him to put on a show and make it look like he is limp and he also starts wheezing, who knew that he was a good actor! Now at the gate, one soldierguard examined their papers and talked to Elspeth about what they were going to do in Sutrium, while another went to examine the carriage. He was just about to see the Gypsy, which they were trying to hide in case they were on the lookout for this Gypsy, when Maruman intervened and hissed him away in fright. And luckily for them it really started to rain then, so the soldierguards were not keen to prolong their time, so sent them through and reminded them that they could not be here for longer than a week, otherwise they would need Council approval.

They moved through the city, which was quite shady. Some houses, even rows of houses had been burned down, and the whole place smelt of urine. They had to get to the safehouse quick, before they drew too much suspicion to themselves, as people are desperate and are willing to sell information. They had taken a wrong turn, and needed to turn the carriage around, when suddenly Gahltha turned and went into a gallop, Elspeth had enough experience to stay on, but it was odd behaviour. She nearly fell off when he abruptly stopped, and Elspeth asked him what on earth he was doing, and it was then that Elspeth felt someone tampering with her own thoughts. Once this alien probe had been detected it fled, and it was now that Elspeth could see what it was preventing her from seeing.

Dragon. She was in front of Elspeth, dripping wet, and looking defiant and full of fear. How on earth did she get here? Was she on the carriage all along, or did she follow them. The latter is less likely, because how would she have gotten into the city? But she is very powerful, and could even prevent Elspeth from seeing her, so everyone else would be easy. It will be interesting to see how much Dragon has changed since she first was found ‘wild’ in the Beforetime ruins. Does she talk now, or is this still only in ‘basic’ form. I really want to know more about her, and I don’t know when we will find out!

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