Ashling – Chapter 8

Chapter Eight

Well that turned out to be a non-event, it turns out it was Domick, Elspeth didn’t recognise him. He now looked emotionless, I dare say almost lifeless. It is evident that life is hard for Kella, but it seems to have completely changed Domick, though I wonder if he would admit to that. His first thought is that something has gone wrong at Obernewtyn, and he doesn’t even greet Elspeth or Matthew, which causes Kella to scold him. It is evident to Elspeth that Kella cannot see any change in her man, giving evidence to the adage that love is blind. Domick pretends to ease up a bit, but it doesn’t take an empath to see things are a façade. He warns them that this is a dangerous time to come to Sutrium, though it seems he only means the rain, but I would think he is hinting at something more than that. So Elspeth explains that they are bringing the Gypsy back to her people, but still she neglects to mention Maryon’s futuretelling because it doesn’t feel right to her, and I trust her feelings because they have in the past proved to be useful, but I still feel bad that she is lying to her ‘friends’.

Domick seems to think that their actions in saving the Gypsy were reckless, and that they should focus on the larger struggle rather than trying to win small victories. Matthew is furious at the suggestion that they should have let her die (though he was not the one who actually risked themselves to save her, that was Elspeth) and strongly believes that trying to do something good is better than just standing by and letting evil happen. Domick disagrees and it seems his time in Sutrium has certainly hardened him, personally I would make him forget the Council and take him back to Obernewtyn, so he can actually relax and return to ‘normal’. Tensions are high, and Domick even takes a swipe at Elspeth because they have come on this expedition for social reasons and to return ‘the irrelevant Gypsy’. If only he knew that Obernewtyn depended on this Gypsy! But of course Elspeth is also here to see Brydda, and to be honest I thought it was he who was the stranger, not Domick.

Elspeth hopes that Brydda will be able to help locate the Gypsy’s own people, which leads Domick to assume that the Gypsy is a half-breed. And this causes a need for an explanation of what a Twentyfamilies Gypsy is, something that has been mentioned frequently in the last few chapters. So it is a name of the ‘pureblood’ Gypsies (I cannot help myself by think of Harry Potter and the purebloods) and it was not well known until the Herders decided to use it to condemn them. It seems we can add Gypsies to the list of things Herders hate (is there anything they love except Lud?) because the Twentyfamilies were the ones who struck up a deal with the Council to be allowed to travel around freely in the Land and exempt to Herder lore. They also claim that it was the Gypsies whose wanderings caused and spread the plague. The half-breeds are those Gypsies who aren’t ‘pure’ and they are stuck in two worlds, belonging in neither, they cannot settle and they aren’t free to move, and to top it all off, they are strongly persecuted by basically everyone.

Domick continues to explain that the Twentyfamilies and half-breedsGypsies are almost two separate races. The original Gypsies arrived in the Land long ago, either from the sea or walking here. They made an agreement with the Council that they would never farm or own land and would not be under the lore of the Land, in exchange for this, the Gypsies would give the Council a percentage of their wares that they produce each year. The crafts are beautiful, and none but the Twentyfamilies artisans know how to create such beauty. Of course over time, some Gypsies mated with Land folk, and in the beginning the knowledge of the crafts were shared freely, but eventually after The Great Divide the purebloods refused to teach their skills to the halfbreeds. So the halfbreeds can only produce inferior work based on what knowledge they had and what they could make up, and their wares were close to worthless. The division arose because the halfbreeds began to bend Council lore, so the Leader of the Twentyfamilies had to cut them off or risk losing their own agreement with the Council, it leaves the halfbreeds in a lurch, and the general population attack them because they are jealous of the wealth of the Twentyfamilies.

Kella warns them that because they are disguised as Gypsies they are in some danger because they are obviously halfbreeds. And you cannot pretend to be a Twentyfamily Gypsy otherwise they will kill you as an imposter or turn you over to the Council. The Herders want to control all Gypsies so they want the agreement with the Twentyfamilies to end, but the Council couldn’t afford to lose their valuable agreement, because money is what motives them all. To top everything off, Domick warns that it will be difficult for them to find the correct halfbreeds to deal with because some will think them a Herder spy, others will hand them over to the Council and generally they won’t be trusted, making finding ‘our Gypsy’ her home, next to impossible. And of course the Herders will still be on watch for them after the incident in Guanette, so they agree to try and leave their Gypsy disguises and Kella will brew something so their tan will fade away faster, though for now Elspeth will have to remain a Gypsy to have any hope of talking to the halfbreeds.

Elspeth asks Domick to tell Obernewtyn that they have Dragon, but he tells her it will take a week because Enoch can’t take his messages to Obernewtyn otherwise people will think he has caught the plague and should be killed. Kella longs for information of home and asks what it was like during the plague. Apparently Roland and Katlyn found a way of immunising them all by taking the blood of a Coercer who survived it and giving it to those who had not been exposed, exactly like vaccinations. Though the injections had had terrible effects on everyone, but it still protected them from the plague. Kella tells them that there were so many bodies lying around during the plague, and so many died because of the close proximity and filth. She entertains an interesting thought that the Herders someone predicted it, so maybe they were involved (though she blames them, and rejects the notion of them being involved, because ‘how could they’. But I wouldn’t be so sure, remember Jik talked of the burning gas they developed from whitestick, they could be doing a lot more than we think).

Further fuelling hatred of the Herders, they did nothing to help those infected because they ‘deserved it’ for angering Lud. Even if they were old or very young. Domick adds curiously, that very few Herders were infected (conspiracy!) which made it look like evidence that Lud was protecting them, I seriously think that these Herders orchestrated the whole thing. But if they did send the plague, they started to worry when even the strong were being killed off, because who would be there to preach to and provide food for them? It went on for a long time until half of the people were dead, so the Herders told the Council to lock up the houses of those who had died, and burn them. But the soldierguards burned more than just the houses of those who had died, they probably could not be bothered checking and exposing themselves, so many were burned alive. It was terrible for Kella, who being a Healer, was employed to try and help those with the plague but she was only one person, and she had to decide who to try and save and who to die.

Recalling this brings her to tears, so Domick leads her out so she can compose herself. When he returns he actually tells us that he COERCED HER TO SLEEP! How could he do that? Sure it may be in her best interest, but that is just so unethical! He urges them to take her back to Obernewtyn when they return, because the burnings tormented her and nearly sent her mad. Elspeth enquires to his own feelings of the burnings, but he sees it ‘realistically’ that the burnings stopped the plague spreading, so even if it was brutal it was necessary (he adds that the whole world is brutal, which just sounds like he is wallowing in self-pity). Things turn to the growing rift between Herders and the Council and Domick explains that the Council are worried that the Faction has too much power of the public and they are too extreme in their views. And we learn that the Council has sent a group of Herders to Sador to try and foster relations between the two ‘countries’ (is that what you would call them? Or should it be communities? Gatherings of people? Civilisations?).

Domick commands Elspeth to follow him, and tells Matthew that they will be back before midnight. He explains that they are going to see Brydda, though he could have done that first and made it less rude (though I guess it adds suspense and also keeps Domick character consistent). I wonder what Brydda will have to tell us, and what the rebels think of an alliance.

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