Ashling – Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

The streets were deserted, and as they walked Elspeth could see the gaps between the houses, and now understood that this meant they were burnt down. They had not taken the horses, and Gahltha will probably be annoyed that he is not there to protect her, but in Sutrium there has been many incidences of people stealing horses (not that they could do that with Gahltha) and it is less conspicuous this way. There is a curfew that is not strictly enforced that starts at midnight, so they better be home by then, but it is not the soldierguards they need to fear, rather thieves and murderers. Elspeth questions Domick on Brydda, and to him he is starting to go mad from his constant hiding from the Council, even still he is a cheerful, awe-inspiring leader. Well not mad exactly, but he is being affected by his solitude, when his nature is one surrounded by people. Elspeth knew what solitude was like, but for her, she is so used to it from her time in the orphanage that it is almost like a constant companion, but for Brydda it must be hard.

As they continued talk turned to Ariel. Domick last heard that he was headed to Herder Isle, and this was before the plague, and his closeness with the Faction is confusing as many were angry with him for the Obernewtyn failure, but he has a way of making people do what he wants, so it doesn’t surprise me that he is doing well. Elspeth wonders how he was so certain that Obernewtyn was still running and had not be burnt by the firestorm and was determined to investigate. Domick adds that maybe his talent told him about Obernewtyn, maybe has futuretelling and could see Obernewtyn and his own destiny. For some reason this shocks Elspeth, as she never seemed to consider Ariel as having Talent, and I don’t see why this should. Domick continues that Kella believes he is an emapth and that is why he controls people so well, but he also thinks he must have some coercive ability, and he refutes the idea of being a futureteller because otherwise he would have seen Dragon’s involvement. So he could have just had a common truedream.

But the real issue is why Elspeth never saw Ariel as a Talented Misfit, I always saw him as this, it just never crossed my mind that he couldn’t have Talent. It is possible that Elspeth just didn’t want to think of the horrible idea that he had talent just like her. It seems she wanted a perfect picture that all Talents used their powers for good and were striving to make the world a better place, but of course there have to be exceptions, and there are going to be evil people everywhere, it just happens to be Ariel. I am actually curious about him, what makes him tick, what happened to him to be like this, or is it just because he was born evil? As much as I hate him, I’m curious to understand him.

The rain fell heavier now, and it quickened their pace, and I think subdued their talk. So Elspeth was left to think of the scary thought of Ariel being a coercer, even if he was an untrained one, it still frightens her. She then thinks about how in the early days of Obernewtyn there were questions raised about the morality of coercion (I am really glad that this actually existed, and people were concerned about the ethics) and there were even ideas to try and turn it to ‘good’ in the form of healing, but of course coercion is so useful for their survival, so it has to be used. To try and limit a divide between guilds, a change to Obernewtyn occurred and now everyone trains in all areas, whilst still ‘specialising’ in their chosen field. At first there was of course resistance, but they soon learned that this crossguilding had interesting effects. Those that studied secondguilding found that their ‘primary’ powers were stronger and made it more useful, for example coercion and farseeking, could mean you could coerce from a distance. Not only that but it is just a smart move to make sure everyone has some sort of knowledge and experience in all areas in case they find themselves in need of another talent. Though I wonder if this is limited to those that are able to do so, and whether everyone can study anything, or if those with one ability are left out. Because Elspeth doesn’t have any empath skills, so this means she can ‘learn’ it? The powers are one really exciting aspect of the mythology of the world that I want to explore as much as possible.

And Elspeth returns to the thought of Ariel, and she cannot comprehend him having the same empathy as someone like Daemon, so it leads her to believe that he has some twisted variant, or he has a ‘defective mentality’. Elspeth seems to think that he uses his powers unconsciously, and is not fully aware of them. I disagree, I think he full well knows of them (especially now). I don’t see why he wouldn’t especially when he was exposed to the idea of their existence from Madam Vega and Alexi (those two I haven’t thought about in a long time). Ariel is an important character, and we will be seeing a lot more of him in the future, I’m sure.

They finally arrive at ‘The Good Egg’ where they will make contact with Brydda. Elspeth is a bit concerned with asking for Brydda at an inn, considering what happened last time, but Domick reassures her that this time will be different. They will just ask for a strange brew and that will signal (somehow) Brydda and if it is possible for him he will come to them, or he will go to the safehouse. Inside, Elspeth has to risk herself because she cannot pretend to be a boy, as the clothes she is wearing doesn’t match. Interestingly Elspeth has found that when she has to convince a large number of people something else, she is really assisting thoughts that are already there, so if she looks like a boy it is easy to make sure everyone believes she is a boy. And it doesn’t matter if one of them has a natural mindshield because a group of people acted as an entire mind, not individuals. Which makes sense if you think about group mentalities.

So instead Elspeth makes herself look like a fully grown Gypsy woman. Suddenly and quite surprisingly Domick reached out and ‘hugged’ Elspeth. What is he doing? Is he pretending to be romantic with her, or is he covering her so someone doesn’t see her or him? I’m sure we are going to find out shortly.

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