Ashling – Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen

Elspeth is talking to a bird. But the bird is not talking back, there seems to be no thoughts coming from the bird, there only is primal instincts to eat and fly. I had never really thought about birds and whether they were like all other animals we had seen, I guess the Agyllians are different to the standard birds, because they are capable of much more than thought. It seems this is not the first bird Elspeth has tried to communicate with, and with every failed attempt, she buys the bird and frees it. Brydda’s suggestion to use birds to communicate was a good one, but since Elspeth can’t talk to birds it doesn’t really work. The only benefit is that Elspeth can try to find information about Gypsies as she walks around. The birds seemed to communicate with each other using something that was similar to empathy instead of farseeking, so Kella, was is partially an Empath, has more ‘luck’ with communication, but definitely not enough to send them to Obernewtyn. And any birds that were able to think, had no sense of time, so would quickly forget their directions to Obernewtyn, so would be of now use.

Elspeth had bought fifteen birds already, making their number of coins dangerously low. Elspeth would have to make a decision by herself on Brydda’s proposal to talk to the rebels. Her hunt for the Gypsies people is also in dire straights, she has very limited information on them, and right now I don’t think she even knows where they stay! She hadn’t had a chance to speak to Brydda about it, and she doesn’t know when she will see him again, so for now, she doesn’t really know what to do. Elspeth sees a half-breed Gypsy trying to sell his wares, and she takes the chance to see if she can get some information, through coercion, about the Gypsies from him, so if Elspeth visits them, she won’t be so scared. But he had a mental shield, so she was unable to read his mind at all. Elspeth despairs at her hopes, and turns angry at the thought of their Gypsy, who doesn’t even want to live, though Elspeth’s life rests in her hands. I don’t think Elspeth actually hates her, it is just her hopelessness at being unable to do anything.

Bringing Elspeth back to the present, Kella wonders whether the messenger has to be a bird, why not another animal? But Elspeth thinks they will be too slow, and have the same level of danger attached to them, as a human messenger, and if she wanted that, she might as well send Matthew. Out and about in Sutrium, it is clear to Elspeth that the Herders anti-Gypsy message has been strongly accepted, and everywhere she goes, she is getting bad looks. They return to the safehouse, to find Dragon has done a job Elspeth set her, to dirty Gahltha very well. He asks whether a bird/sahric (one who sings) can take her message, but we know that they cannot.

It is then that Kella sees in the distance a Gypsy they had witnessed watching them earlier, it seems he has been following them. This makes Kella terrified and she is sure that this is something to be concerned about. The Gypsy starts to approach, and Kella believes he is trying to look at Elspeth’s face, probably to see if he knows her, she is a Gypsy after all (a boy at that). Kella is on the brink of having a panic attack, so Elspeth takes charge and tells her to return to the market and pretend to shop, that way they can see whether the Gypsy is after her of Elspeth, and if he follows Kella, he is on a horse, and Elspeth can control the horse. If he follows Elspeth, she is on Gahltha and I’m sure they can run away and lose him.

Elspeth can now see the other Gypsy (her back was facing him earlier) and she has no idea why she is of interest, and he does not fit the description of the Gypsy from Guanette that helped them. Kella thought he was a Twentyfamilies Gypsy, from his elaborate outfit, and dark skin, but Elspeth isn’t sure, he could just be impersonating one. And it is clear to Elspeth, that he is interested in her, more than Kella, and she spurs Gahltha on, away from him, but he is in hot pursuit. Gahltha informs Elspeth that the horse’s name is Sendari, and the owner has many horses, so they have not ridden together in a while. Sendari is not sure why they are following Elspeth, but it seems that its owner has been riding for days, just looking, watching, and when he saw Elspeth, he tensed, clearly he is interested, but why?

Elspeth tries to enter the Gypsy’s mind to coerce him, but again she finds a shield. Odd that all the Gypsies Elspeth has tried, have had shields, maybe it is to do with their shared lineage? Elspeth thinks of Garth’s theory of an increasing occurrence of natural shields, and the link to an increase in Misfit behaviour, but this is not the time for this thinking. Elspeth had no way to find out what the was doing, lest actually asking him, but she wasn’t too happy to do that, incase he is a spy or informant, so she decides to lose him. So Gahltha breaks into a canter, but the Gypsy is in hot pursuit, though Gahltha could go faster, he doesn’t want it to be obvious that they know they are being followed. Once out of Sutrium, Gahltha breaks out into a full gallop, and still the Gypsy follows. Elspeth asks Gahltha if he can outrun Sendari, but he tells her that they don’t have to, because Sendari knows she is Innle, and will protect her.

They get away into some trees, and find that Sendari has pretended to be lame, so they won’t be perused. They Gypsy got off his horse and examined the leg, he seemed impressed, and unlike most, he did not strike the horse. He spotted Elspeth in the trees, and Elspeth fought of the urge to cheekily salute him. So they continue onward, and came back across the main road, and were visible from the gate, unfortunately this means the soldierguards can seen them, so they cannot change course now, and I don’t think Elspeth was ready to go back into Sutrium.  Luckily for Elspeth, it was an Obernewtyn rule that on expedition they always have their fake papers with them, so Elspeth was able to produce them at the gate.

One soldierguard was eyeing Gahltha, and questioned whether he was white underneath all the muck. Elspeth probed him to find out why he was so interested, apparently he was comparing Gahltha to Zade’s description. Digging further into his mind, he also found a description of her as a Gypsy girl, and Matthew and their carriage, it seems they are all wanted by the Council as word of Guanette had reached them. They even ask her whether she has been in the highlands recently. Elspeth uses her powers to make sure she is let through without too much suspicion. But as she was leaving, she learnt from the soldierguard’s mind that the Council wanted to initiate gate searches tomorrow for the Gypsy and Matthew and Elspeth, and they would reference all papers with the actual register, so any fake papers will be found out. For Elspeth this means that they think they are coming to Sutirum, or worse they already know they are inside, and are waiting to catch them as they leave.

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