Ashling – Part Two – The Twentyfamilies – Chapter 17

Part Two – The Twentyfamilies (hopefully this firstly means we learn more about them, and secondly there is more of that Gypsy, who I think is a very strong, interesting character)

Chapter Seventeen

As always, Elspeth lies and pretends she is truly a Gypsy, the real Gypsy merely says that her back is bleeding and nearby is a rig that he will take her to to be healed. Elspeth didn’t like the Gypsy (how disappointing) even though he did save her life basically, and walking around town bleeding is not a good option. Plus she is about to be surrounded with full blooded Twentyfamilies Gypsies, where she could learn a lot of valuable information, so she needs to go with him! The rig was nearby, and out the front were four horses (just like Sendari said, they have a few horses). Speaking of Sendari, he scented her, and came over to nuzzle her. The Gypsy had a most startled look on his face, which would have been hilarious to see!

The rig was a masterpiece, intricately crafted, even reminding Elspeth of the doors that once were Obernewtyn’s front door. The rig is this Gypsies, crafted from his families fine art, no wonder the Council are desperate to keep receiving their wares. The Gypsy calls out for Marie, and (in Elspeth’s words not mine) an extraordinarily ugly crone appeared (that sounds very harsh). And the Gypsy (why hasn’t his name been revealed?) tells Marie that Elspeth needs to be healed. It seems Marie isn’t too pleased with our Gypsy, and assumes that he saved Elspeth, and makes a sarcastic comment about his father being proud of his hero son. Marie turns to Elspeth and sharply asks her to hurry up and remove her clothes so the wounds can be seen.

Even Marie was surprised at the extent of her wounds, lucky Elspeth isn’t feeling any of the pain, otherwise I’m sure she would be writhing or even unconscious. Elspeth is reminded of Louis Larkin by Marie’s behaviour, as she is someone who is harsh on the outside, but caring on the inside. Marie cleans the wound and then applies a herbal concoction, and it is done. Marie comments that she must be a strong girl, if she did not flinch once during her healing, which makes Elspeth realise that she forgot to act like she was in pain. Elspeth tries to say that half-breeds are stronger than Twentyfamily Gypsies, but Marie also knows she is not a Gypsy of any kind. Marie knows all the signs of a true Gypsy, Elspeth has none, no thickness of the lip, no darkness of the eye, or any characteristic of a Gypsy. But Elspeth continues to say she is a Gypsy.

Marie questions why she was whipped (good question) and of course it is just because she touched some cloth. Elspeth notices that both Gypsies seem to avert confrontation and instead change questions when Elspeth denies being a fake, where others would demand proof of some sort. Marie comments that Gypsies are not popular right now, and Elspeth gives her the name Elaria when she asks. But the man knows this is not her true name either, how exactly does he know that? Apparently Twentyfamily Gypsies can sense when a lie is being told, hence Elspeth’s lies are being detected. Elspeth remembers Domick’s warning that Gypsies do not take lightly to impostors, and wonders if they will kill her.

The Gypsy continues on to say that it is clear Elspeth is lying because she is not using of signs (customs I guess) that Gypsies use when communicating to each other, she even asks ‘what sign’s which show she is not even aware of them. The Gypsy rolls up his sleeve to show an elaborate tattoo, not just of any design, but identical to one Elspeth saw earlier this book from Garth, the symbol for the Govamen. This ‘painting’ on his arm is more elaborate than the symbols in the Reichler Clinic, but they are the same. But the real question is why does a Gypsy have it on his arm? Elspeth has lost the thread of the conversation because of the shock of seeing this symbol again, and attempts a lame excuse that ‘hers washed off’. In response the Gypsy spits on his and rubs, the image does not change.

So Elspeth changes tactic and says that not all Gypsies have them, so why does she need to have one. The man agrees that this is the case, but she interrupted him to say hers washed off, because only true Twentyfamily Gypsies have them. This allows them to pass through the city gates untouched and unsearched. How valuable would this be for Obernewtyn, if they could have these, and pass off as true Gypsies, they would never have to worry about the Council again, though I’m sure the Gypsies would not be happy about it. Higher up his sleeve he was wearing a metal armband, and both half-breed and Twentyfamily Gypsies wear them, it tells others the person’s bonding status. Then he goes on to show Elspeth a woven band on his thumb, which show a Gypsy’s lineage. This is all to make sure Gypsy knowledge and talk is for Gypsy ears only.

But still Elspeth decides to claim herself a Gypsy and weaves a story that her father left her mother and she did not have time to learn any points of Gypsy culture (which I guess is a reasonable excuse). Marie asks whether the Gypsy left without giving a name, and Elspeth agrees, Marie then gives her some clothes to wear, since hers were tattered. The other Gypsy (still without a name) comments that that was a good story, and that a person matching her description saved another Gypsy in Guanette (he seriously knows everything!). The sun begins to set, as the man comments that there is a large reward for this girl. Elspeth dismisses his knowledge, as pure chance that he knows of all incidences, and just presumes it is Elspeth.

He then asks her whether it was her or the boy, that killed the Herder. It is then that Elspeth gives herself away, by saying ‘it wasn’t us’. She fell for such an elegant but simple trap and realises her mistake, just as Marie returns with a shirt for her. The man confirms to Marie that Elspeth is the Gypsy from Guanette. Marie asks Elspeth if the Gypsy they saved is alive. Elspeth was going to continue to lie, but tears in Marie’s eyes, stopped her from lying and Elspeth tells her that she is alive. Marie tells her that her name is Iriny and she is close to her. Elspeth reveals that she is in Sutrium but is very weak and she wanted to die. The man comes close to Elspeth and demands Elspeth take him to her, but Marie disagrees and Elspeth says she will return her.

So they plan on how to get Iriny (we finally have her name) to them, tomorrow is no good because it is market day so it will be very busy. The Twentyfamilies are going to leave in three days, which is the same date as the deadline from Maryon (hence the reasoning behind the haste). Apparently it is tradition to leave on the same day, which marks the day when they made a deal with the Council. Both Gypsies agree that they will stay until they get Iriny, but it will be easier to leave with the whole group instead of by themselves. So the man will spread a rumour that Elspeth has left the city, to try and take the focus away from the city. He says that he will reward her with coin, but Elspeth does not want money. Marie goes and fetches some more clothes for Elspeth to wear, which are actual Twentyfamily design so that when Elspeth returns she will not be troubled, and she must not talk to anyone, especially other Twentyfamily Gypsies. In exchange for Iriny, Elspeth wants information about the Gypsies, and also one of the arm tattoos so she can use it also. The man is shocked by this proposal, and warns her that they are be bound by lore to kill any impostor of the Twentyfamilies. But Elspeth is not concerned if she has the clothes and the mark.

Lastly, Elspeth wants to know about swallow. And the man, also reacts interestingly. We learn that swallow is a man, and the Gypsy name wants to know where she heard that name. Marie agrees to the conditions (as does the man) and she suggests that she may even meet Swallow once Iriny has been returned. So they organise a place to drop off Iriny, and then Elspeth leaves. As Elspeth walks away she cloaks herself and sends word to Matthew (who is back at the safehouse) that is is coming soon. Elspeth takes this time to reflect on all that has happened today, and contemplate how the Gypsy could have known it was Elspeth from Guanette. So many questions have been raised from today, and there are so few answers that we have. Elspeth considers how valuable one of the Twentyfamily tattoos would be, though it would have to be used sparingly, lest they be caught by the Twentyfamily or the Council become suspicious.

Elspeth also reflects on the incident at the market, and the look on the captain’s face, which made Elspeth strike Dragon’s mind. The striking thing is, he looked at her, as if he actually knew her. But how could that be possible, Dragon has never been to Sutrium, and she hasn’t been anywhere to be remembered. So how would he know her?


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