Ashling – Chapter 21

Chapter Twenty-One

We are now fast approaching the half-way mark, so much is happening, and so many questions remain unanswered!

Outside now, and dawn is nearly approaching, they were only inside for a little while, but for Elspeth it felt like forever. Gahltha is glad to see Elspeth again, without any trouble. And Brydda is most curious as to what Elspeth was able to find out inside, as am I, what exactly happened? Elspeth casually tells him that there was another mind around the slaver (a bit too casual, shouldn’t she be eager to explain everything, I know I would be bursting to share the info). Brydda is shocked, and asks whether he was protecting the slaver’s mind. Elspeth says that is what she first thought, but she found out the source of the probe was none other than DAFFYD, one of the Druid’s armsmen. What a huge coincidence, did we not see him first in Obernewtyn at the Councilcourt, and then again at the Druid’s place in The Farseekers and now again in Sutrium but working for a slavetrader. Elspeth reflects on her previous encounters with Daffyd. But we learn something that we did not know, Daffyd stayed at Obernewtyn for a while after surviving the firestorm but left in the summer after Maryon had dreamed of his friends (Lidgebaby, Gilaine, etc.) which convinced him that they are still alive. But Maryon was not so sure, as the dream wasn’t too clear.

So now Daffyd is working for the slavetrader, but he is hopefully only there to gather information about his friends and their whereabouts. But there was not enough time for Elspeth and Daffyd to communicate, so Elspeth told him the location of the safehouse and he will drop by and let them know everything. Unfortunately neither Elspeth nor Daffyd are able to read the slavemaster’s mind because it is sensitive, and he would be aware of their presence. Daffyd stopped Elspeth from trying just in time, and he has been attempting it for months, with no luck. And he has no knowledge of Salamander’s location either, which is why he is trying to gain access to the man’s mind.

Hopefully Daffyd will come by soon otherwise Salamander will once again slip through their grasp. Brydda would never take the slaves to the slavemaster so they cannot use him to find Salamander, and if they do not hand over the slaves, Salamander will be suspicious and vanish.

They eventually return to the safehouse, and Brydda changes the subject to the Gypsy they saved from Guanette, and what they did with her. Elspeth explains that she was ill and with them in Sutrium, though she will soon be returned to her people. Brydda doesn’t understand why they are taking such a risk, with a Gypsy, because they are so notoriously untrustworthy and only care for their own folk not outsiders and because she is not a Misfit, why are they helping her. Elspeth is annoyed at his opinion, and tells him that they do not only work for the betterment of Misfits, and have frequently helped nonTalents escape the soldierguards, because unlike Gypsies, they (Obernewtyn) don’t see themselves as another race, and so help all deserving people. And with that Brydda leaves to return to his rebel duties, and he will be back tomorrow night and he hopes Daffyd will have come by before then.

Now alone, Elspeth tries to seek out Maruman, but has no luck. She is concerned, even though there are many reasons why this could be the case, and most of them not because he is in danger. She asks Gahltha and Jaygar if they have seen him (though I don’t see how they would know when they where with her the WHOLE TIME!) and they had not. Elspeth is annoyed that she was not more watchful of him, but Gahltha tells her that he goes where he wants to, and he is his own cat, something Elspeth knows only too well.

Later in the day, once Elspeth got a few hours of sleep, Elspeth recalls a dream she had during the ‘night’. Once again it was about Ariel and they were in a stone tunnel like last time. Stone tunnels were a recurring aspect of her dreams, and when she asked Maryon about it, she said that it was either a place she was going to go to, or an aspect of herself. This time, Ariel wasn’t trying to hurt Elspeth with a knife, but was holding her hand (I don’t know what is more frightening). They walked up to the doors that had been on Obernewtyn and were now burning, paying homage to their fate Elspeth had caused them in the real world. Ariel was desperate to know why she burnt the doors, and we know that there was a map that was carved into it, so she didn’t want anyone (especially him) to find it! Elspeth believes he asked more questions, but she remembers no more. I wonder if Ariel is actually there somehow, or if it is Elspeth’s minds antagonising her.

Gahltha had interrupted the questions, and asked her to ride him. Together they rode away from the doors, towards the sky, and they rode impossibly high together. He had kicked her up into the air, and then an Agyllian bird was underneath her, and she was riding it. She thought it was the Agyllian Eldar, Atthis, but she was in a different shape, and she was pure white, a voice mentioned to her that in dreams things take different appearances, so it actually may be Atthis. So for once, Elspeth is being told directly from Atthis some information, hopefully that will please her. But instead the dream ended, it was a peculiar one, and one she remembers quite clearly.

She goes to the bathroom to freshen up, and looks in the mirror to see a sleep deprived, person looking back. It was then that Elspeth remembers that she never dealt with the pain barrier she put up to stop the whipping! She knew better than most, how dangerous it was to let the pain fester away undealt with. So carefully she dismantles the barrier, so the pain does not flood her body, to her surprised, nothing leaks out. Even after completely removing the barrier, she finds no pain whatsoever. How can that happen? Had the Gypsy herbs Marie put on there, absorbed the pain? Or was the pain removed during her sleep? Or was it something else? She is very grateful that she doesn’t have to deal with the pain, so leaves her bandages in place, and gets on with her day.

Over a late breakfast, Elspeth recounts the night’s events to Kella and Matthew. Kella is displeased that they are seeking revenge and Matthew reminds Elspeth that Rushton would not approve of her actions. Domick arrives later, and he is not at all surprised that Daffyd turned up, saying that he knew he would pop up again at some point (well sorry, Mr. Knowitall!). And he tells Elspeth, some good news, that the attention of the soldierguards has been transferred to Rangorn, due to a ‘sighting’ there, so Sutrium is a lot safer for them, so whatever the Gypsy said, it worked. Though what is confusing, is why the Council are so focused on finding them, when no soldierguards were hurt. Domick shares that they may not be involved, and that the Herders may be the cause of the search, using their coin to control the soldierguards. Actually he doesn’t say that, he says that the soldierguards might be doing it of their own accord, I just assumed he was about to say Herders (though it is still a possibility) and he mentions the Faction a tad later.

Elspeth asks (nearly demands) Domick to find out who is funding the search for them, and if it is the Faction, where are they getting all the money. Though he is not convinced at all, and thinks the Faction have nearly no money whatsoever, and they are not a real issue and that she is believing too many tales. To be honest, all the events are a strange tangle, and it is no wonder the Council and soldierguards want to know what is going on, but the good news is, it is not Misfits they are investigating, but Gypsies.

Domick once again returns to the Councilcourt, and Matthew takes up Kella’s offer of teaching him how to make bread. So this leaves Elspeth to herself, she has decided to take Iriny to Marie at dusk so she can then arrive at the Gypsy carriage during the night, as suggested. So Elspeth spent her time tending to the horses, and their shoes which they only require in cities. Elspeth thinks of the way the soldierguard looked at Dragon, and also how sloppy Domick is becoming when it comes to shielding his thoughts (maybe with only Kella around, he doesn’t need to worry, since she does not have this ability). Elspeth wondered whether Domick should stay as a spy, as her instinct was leaning towards bringing him back to Obernewtyn, regardless of his useful position, but it would be up to Rushton to make a decision.

Her thoughts again turn to Maruman, who must be wandering around Sutrium. She wonders whether she should restrain him for his own good, so he does not get into trouble, but that probably isn’t a good idea. And Elspeth realises that she doesn’t want to exchange freedom for safety. Elspeth thinks about how she has a set of rules for everyone else, and one for herself, and there should be no shame in having these double standards. But I guess she is right, we have one opinion on how we should act, and then have a different opinion of how everyone else should act to us, and usually these things are quite different. She was delving into philosophy something she had no time for, unlike the empaths and futuretellers who revelled in mental journeys that never had answers.

Returning to the kitchen, which now smelt like bread, Dragon entered the room, and she does not look well. And her opinion of Matthew, has changed from admiration to something bleak. Dragon is still in a world of hurt, from Elspeth strong mental attack, and it doesn’t look like it has gotten any better. Again Kella gives her some herbal concoctions, but she is not interested in eating anything. Kella asks Elspeth what Brydda will do if Daffyd never comes, but Elspeth is sure he will come. But for now, she is going to take Iriny home. Finally!

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