Ashling – Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen

Scared at the thought of what was going down, Elspeth decides to ignore law that prohibits riding through a market, and just coercer her way through making people ignore her and move out of the way. Anything to get there quicker, is a good thing. The soldierguards Elspeth saw earlier are taking a longer route around the market, and hopefully will be delayed and won’t notice the confrontation. As Elspeth rushes to Dragon, Matthew sends some images to explain what happened. A woman and two children were being manhandled by Herders, the woman shouted something at one of them and was struck down, and then a Herder went to take the boy, who was holding on to his sister. Dragon had intervened and the Herder moved away. The priests had been collecting boys to train as acolytes, and the woman didn’t want them to take her child, so the ‘leader Herder’ decided to take both children by force. Just as Elspeth gets within earrange of Dragon’s shouting, Matthew vocalises a warning, something has happened.

Dragon was still infront of the children, and she was shouting at the Herders telling them that they shouldn’t dare take the children. Then she gets into a crouched stance, and starts to bare her teeth at them, which causes the Herders to fall back in shock. Dragon would surely unleash one of her visions, and that would send the whole market into chaos, Elspeth could not let that happen. To make things worse the soldierguards have just spotted the crowd, and are just about to come and investigate. The captain of the soldierguards demands to know what is going on and it is the senior Herder who responds. He says that the woman infringed on the rights of the faction and then ‘that creature’ attacked them. The captain looked at Dragon, and Elspeth thought the look was something to fear.

To stop Dragon from doing anything further, Elspeth decides to send a strong coercive bolt with the help of her killing power (she is using this more and more now, but not to kill) to break through Dragon’s own mental shield. It wasn’t pretty, and it smashed through her shield, and knocked Dragon unconscious. Elspeth had to act fast to get Dragon away from danger, and she stops the captain from going over to her straight away, and sends instructions to both Mathtew and Gahltha. Gahltha rears up and pretends to be mad, as Elspeth shouts warning to everyone that he has been fed prickleberries, which cause a rage that leads to death. The Herders all run away in fear, and another soldierguard breaks Elspeth’s trance on the captain, and they find that Dragon has disappeared. Elspeth and Gahltha run away, just as someone shouts out that a Gypsy youth took Dragon, Elspeth had been hoping that nobody noticed Matthew, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Elspeth sends warning to Matthew, who has taken refuge in a burnt-out house. Dragon is still unconscious, and Matthew is amazed at what Elspeth did to her. Elspeth is going to come to them and take it from there, she is nearly out of mental energy, and it won’t be difficult for the soldierguards to figure out that they are the same Gypsies from Guanette, because Elspeth no longer looks like a boy. Elspeth rides towards Matthew, and has to get off Gahltha and travel on foot through another market. On her way through she spots strongly coloured cloth, Sadorian dyed. Never before had Elspeth seen such bright colours on cloth, and she goes to touch it, but is swatted away by the stall-holder, because she is a Gypsy. Now is not the time to be admiring coloured cloth! The stallholder decides to get violent with Elspeth, even though she didn’t really do anything more than touch his product, and pushes her over.

Everyone is now looking at the confrontation, and Elspeth does not have the energy to try and conceal or alter herself, so she looks like a half-breed Gypsy girl. Elspeth decides to politely regard the stallholders actions as rude and move on. But for some reason this guy just won’t give up and let her walk away (she only TOUCHED IT, she didn’t steal it!). And his mate, decides to add that it is odd that a Gypsy is being polite and civil, and why else would one wear trews unless she wanted to run away with stolen goods. The crowd agrees with them. I cannot believe these people, seriously she didn’t steal anything, just because she looks like a half-breed Gypsy does not make her a thief and she doesn’t deserve to be treated poorly. Such bigots! It’s people like them that deserve to be mistreated!

Gahltha asks Elspeth if she wants him to bolt, but she says it will be ill-advised to use him twice for a distraction, and orders him to go to Matthew and take them to the safehouse, Elspeth will deal with these people on her own. So Gahltha leaves, though he doesn’t want to abandon Elspeth. The stallholder’s mate (I mean this in the Aussie meaning of friend, not ‘bondmate’) decides that they should publicly whip Elspeth for her actions. And he actually gets out a whip from his belt (why is he carrying around a whip, who is he?). And people from the crowd actually shout encouragement and want to be the first to strike her. What is wrong with these people? It is making me so angry!

Elspeth actually can’t get away, so she is going to have to let herself be abused and whipped, she has no energy, and she can’t physically take on all these people or run away. So Elspeth puts up a fuss when the men grab her to hold her down, but tries to suggest mentally to the man to whip lightly. And he strikes her, but she feels no pain because she puts up her trusty mental pain net. A second blow hits her, and the stallholder comments that he is whipping too lightly. Elspeth tries to coerce this man too, but he has a natural shield! So he is going to whip her at full force, probably multiple times. What sort of people whip other people, it just reminds me of the ‘Peacekeepers’ from Hunger Games whipping Gale.

His whip tears her skin and inflicts a lot more damage, but still Elspeth can only act as she feels no pain. The man continues to strike, for ages, without any intention of stopping, almost as if he wants to kill her (again, for TOUCHING his cloth!). Elspeth contemplates her death, and thinks that maybe Maryon was wrong in her prediction and now was her time to die because she did not understand swallow. The trader is revelling in her pain, and keeps suggesting that she dances because she is a Gypsy. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if someone whipped him, at least he deserves it more than Elspeth!

A man comes forward and stops the trader from striking Elspeth again. We don’t know who he is or what he looks like, but he clearly is influential and powerful enough to stop the men. Elspeth turns to see that it is a dark-skinned Gypsy, probably Twentyfamily. It was the same Gypsy that had ridden after Elspeth yesterday, and the men who were holding Elspeth are now on the ground completely dazed. The Gypsy is one skilled fighter, and is able to fend of the trader and even hold him in the air, as if he were a feather. The Gypsy has taken offence to the trader’s suggestion of dancing and ‘schools’ the man. The public begin to back away from the man, clearly scared of his power and influence. The Gypsy even makes the man apologise to Elspeth! And makes him give Elspeth a piece of Sadorian cloth as a gift. He makes the trader wrap up a green cloth, and in exchange he will not mention it to the Council and he did give a few coins as payment.

The Gypsy takes Elspeth by the arm, quite powerfully, and guides her along the streets. He takes her into side allies and into the shadows, which I think Elspeth took the wrong way and tried to struggle, and tries to leave. But he tells her to shut up, and then she hears running footsteps. A soldierguard mentions a big reward for Elspeth, and they have already connected her from both market incidences. Once they leave, the Gypsy wants to know her name, and Elspeth tries to reason that she didn’t need rescuing. And the Gypsy quite humorously suggests that she wanted to be whipped, and apologises for intervening and even hints at another sort of whipping.

The Gypsy (still nameless) already knows of the other market incident, but wonders where her horse is. Elspeth plays it dumb, but the Gypsy is not convinced. And he recalls yesterdays escapades chasing down a boy dressed just like her on a black horse. So Elspeth admits it all, and now wants to know why he helped her. She was just about to unleash a mental bolt at him, strong enough to get through his shield, when he kissed her! I love this guy, he is so funny and witting, I want him to be more involved in the story, and I’ll probably get my wish soon. Because the chapter ends with him asking why Elspeth is pretending to be a Gypsy. I just really want to know how he knew it was her yesterday, and how he keeps finding her… Not only does the chapter end, but we are about to enter Part Two!

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