Ashling – Chapter 20

Chapter Twenty

Elspeth is surprised at Brydda’s offer of hunting down Salamander right now, and quite rightly. He wants to leave this minute, and explain along the way, but understandably Elspeth wants to know what she is getting herself into before risking her life. On Idris’ body there was a message, one only readable by Brydda, that was developed for such an occurrence and it told Brydda information about the meeting with Salamander. A councilfarm overseer when to see the drunk man that Idris was tailing before he left the inn, to tell him about 5 men whose death’s were staged, and that he wants to sell them to Salamander. The men were drugged and smuggled into the city and were being hidden, and a meeting was arranged so this overseer could meet with the man’s master. This man who talked to the overseer, was disposable to the slave industry, and was found with his throat cut, also this morning, possibly for being followed. Idris left a message detailing the time and location of the meeting, dawn of this day (it must be currently after midnight) at an inn across town.

Brydda has a plan of finding the councilfarm overseer before he gets to the meeting, and take his place at the meeting. That is seriously a risky operation, especially with such ruthless people. So instead of being the overseer (Evan Bollange) he will pretend to be his brother, Arkold Bollange. Elspeth is clearly confused with Brydda’s intention, because it sounds like an impossible plan to work, and Brydda explains that he doesn’t want to slavetrader to believe him. What? Then what is the point? Well, Brydda doesn’t think the man will tell him anything useful about Salamander, even if he did believe him, but it won’t matter, because Elspeth can simply read his mind! That is true, but what if he has a mental shield, or they meet in a place of static? And Elspeth will have to be in the room, pretending to be Brydda’s assistant. This will be a big gamble, who says the man won’t just kill them both because he expects Evan? But Brydda is hopeful the man won’t do anything because Salamander is desperate for slaves, and must keep the supply coming constantly.

Elspeth thinks of Rushton, who would never agree to such a risky mission. And he will be furious when he finds out, if she goes along with him, not to mention the fact she is already going to meet with the rebels, without Obernewtyn’s approval. Brydda says that sometimes those out on the field must make split-second decisions without advice from their leaders and act without orders. Elspeth reluctantly agrees, but once outside, Gahltha makes sure she does not forget her promise not to wander off without him, so they take two horses, Gahltha and Jaygar. Who will be able to take them away much quicker than on foot, and fight if the need arises. Brydda is an interesting man who honestly accepts beasts as his equal, and his sign language has taken off in Obernewtyn for those who cannot beast speak.

The streets were deserted at such an hour, but Elspeth felt as though they were being watched, everywhere they went. Gahltha says he cannot smell any funaga, so that eases Elspeth’s concern, though only a little. Brydda tells Elspeth that he will be sending away messenger birds to the other rebels so he can tell them of Elspeth’s attendance at their next meeting. He wants to make sure as many leaders as possible are there to see Elspeth, otherwise it will be up to secondhand reports for the rebels who don’t attend to make up their mind about an alliance.

They approach the location that the meeting should be taking place, and stop before they arrive. They are likely to be watched now, and Brydda hopes to intercept the overseer without trouble. They do not know exactly what this man looks like, so Brydda is relying on luck that the man approaches from the direction he has predicted, and that others do not start wandering the streets, but Elspeth will be able to alert Brydda to anyone who approaches. Brydda wants Elspeth to turn the man back and forget what he is going to do, so Brydda can take his place, and Gahltha warns that someone approaches.

The first person to walk past was a woman with a basket, then two boys (why are they out and about when it is like 4-5 in the morning?). Then the man they are looking for, and best of all, his mind is wide open to Elspeth. Elspeth quickly coerced him to forget what he was doing, and then implanted a previous memory of getting drunk, and gave him a nice headache to match before sending him back to his lodgings. He remembers nothing of the slaves he wishes to sell, and Elspeth even has their location so they can be freed. So it is now time to go to the meeting, and Brydda has to drink at a public trough to identify himself (I’m don’t know how so much detail was told to Brydda by Idris’ body, and their secret form of communication, it sounds like a lot, maybe a bit too much).

A ragged boy came out of the shadows, and told them that there was only supposed to be one man walking alone. But still he relays their next instructions, to go to an inn, and ask for the best room. The inn was a cheap drinkhouse, and it smelt rank, I think the best room here might not be all that great. The inn was built from slightly tainted material, so if Elspeth needs to use her powers through the building, she won’t be able to. But Gahltha sends to her that he will kick down the door if she does not return, and he means it. A man opens door a crack, and Brydda passes him a note for the man in the best room, the note is from ‘Evan’ and details Brydda being his proxy, and now they have to wait and see what the slavetrader does next.

The man returns and they are allowed in, the smell is even worse on the inside, and Elspeth is glad she has an empty stomach otherwise she would have vomited from the stench. The man takes them to the door, and nearly runs away before they open the door. One inside, the man waiting, is a dangerous, threatening figure. He has a raspy and enormous scarred hands, which are holding a curved dagger. Before Brydda could completely introduce himself the man notes that he does not look like his brother. He explains that they had different fathers, and Elspeth is astonished that Brydda has transformed from a powerful man into one a snivelling coward slightly covered by a self-important pompous fool. Elspeth sent out a probe and found that there were three other men standing behind the man lurking in the shadows. Two of these men were hired killers and the third was an assistant to the slaver. The two hired killers, were ready to strike when a combination of words is said. The slaver’s assistant’s mind was shielded.

The man questions Brydda about why he is here and not Evan, and why there is a Gypsy with him. Brydda explains that Evan feared he was being followed and sent him to discuss the price, Elspeth on the otherhand, is here because she is his servant. Though Elspeth is pretending to be a defective man, who is capable of protecting him if need be. The man reluctantly accepts Elspeth’s presence, but tells the man that she is never to be brought here again, and that Brydda should get rid of her, because all Gypsies are just carriers of disease.

The talk turned to business as the man explained the price for each slave, and told them that if they were able to bring more slaves, they would get paid more for each one. Brydda asks what happens if there are any problems, can he contact him, and the man just tells him flatly that there will be no problems. The man produces a bag of coin as an advance payment, the rest will be given to him once he is sure the slaves aren’t defective. Elspeth was so caught up with the conversation, that she nearly forgot what she was there for! So she quickly set out a probe for the man, but she was shocked to find there was another farseeker probe already there! It was wrapped around the man’s mind, preventing Elspeth access to it.

Elspeth found the source of this other probe, and was shocked to learn that it was the slaver’s assistant. He was a talented Misfit, just like Elspeth! So Elspeth decides that she needs to get the information, and readies herself to launch a coercive attack on the assistant. As Elspeth does this, the man continues to explain to Brydda about where the slaves will be taken for trade, and gives him a map. Elspeth sends her probe, ready to be aggressive, when she finds that the other mind let’s her in, without any resistance. What is going on? Do we know this man? Why is he being helpful? And what does Elspeth find out?

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