Ashling – Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty-Two

Daffyd did not arrive by the time Elspeth was preparing to return Iriny, and I guess that is a good thing. It means Elspeth can focus on Iriny, and the Gypsy problem, and not have to think about Daffyd and what he is going to share. Elspeth tells Iriny that she is going to be returned to her people, and she is as defiant as ever, and acts casually, telling her to do what she wants. They give her a sleep drug so she is not able to recount the journey from the safehouse, or know it’s length, which is a smart move. She tells them that she wouldn’t care if she gave her a poison, now you would have thought she would be happy to return to her people? But now, she still is miserable. I think for Elspeth it is an odd experience saying goodbye to her, she has been with them for a long time, and she held the fate of Obernewtyn, and yet, Elspeth knows nothing about her.

They carry Iriny onto the carriage, and Elspeth changes into the Twentyfamily garb she received from Marie. It exposed her bandages, so she decided to remove them and surprisingly there was no wound there. She must find out what herbs Marie used to heal her, because it would be very useful back at Obernewtyn. And so they depart, finally able to take Iriny home. Elspeth makes sure she sends out coercive thoughts so any onlookers see the carriage as a Twentyfamily one, she wouldn’t want to look the part, only to find nobody believed her.

Elspeth’s thoughts turn to Rushton, and a comment Kella made about him seeing her dressed as a Twentyfamily Gypsy. In this garb, Elspeth feels like another person, not like herself and not like the half-breed Elaria, either, I guess her disguises are like different aspects of her personality. Gahltha interrupts her thoughts, and points out that humans play far too many games with one another, and that they should just tell things as they are, and not lie about things, and tell the truth. The truth hurts, and we don’t like to get hurt.

They approach the Gypsy green, and make their way through all the other ornate carriages. They searched for a while for Marie’s carriage, but they couldn’t find it, even after going past the same places a few times. Gahltha offers to try and seek out Sendari, just as an older Gypsy asks Elspeth her name, she responds Elaria. She tells him that she is seeking out Marie, and he tells her that she is here, but he does not know exactly where and points them in her usual direction. It took some further instructions from Sendari for them to locate the rig. The Gypsy man that saved Elspeth had some company, but quickly sends them away when he spots Elspeth.

The man comments that she looks so much better now than when she was in her boyish trews, and Elspeth ignores it to share that Iriny is in the back. But he does not want anyone to see her, so prevents Elspeth from showing him Iriny. He (annoyingly still unnamed) goes to get Marie. She is very happy and grateful that Elspeth has brought Iriny back to her. After making sure no one else is around, they bring out Iriny and lay her down infront of the fire. Marie is impressed by the level of healing that has taken place with Iriny, testament to the wonders of Kella and the healers.

The man returns after taking Iriny into the rig, and asks whether Elspeth wants her rewards now. First Elspeth wants to meet Swallow, and to her surprise she is looking at him. The Gypsy man IS Swallow. Elspeth wants to know more about him, but she only wanted to meet him, and she has, so he doesn’t have to give her anything further. Elspeth asks whether he will give her the Twentyfamily tattoo as promise, and he will keep his promise, but wants to talk about it first. Elspeth isn’t interested, as she wants the tattoo. So he is going to prepare what is needed.

He brings back out a box and inside are the needles and glasses of the colours. Elspeth doesn’t understand what is happening, and asks where the brushes are to pain on the design. What she doesn’t know, is there are no brushes, the colour is injected into her skin. He explains that the ink is put into her skin where it sets, first he will do the outline and then fill in the detail. Normally this process would be over a number of days, but since Elspeth wants it now, it will have to be done over the entire night. Elspeth feels really foolish and angry at him for her lack of knowledge. Swallow is also annoyed, because Elspeth didn’t ask any questions and didn’t want to know anything about the procedure, so it is her own fault. He now doesn’t even want to do it.

Elspeth is desperate, and demands that he keeps his promise. And he asks her one last time if she wants him to use the needles on her, and she does. Swallow discusses as he works the history of the design. As we know it is called a tattoo. Elspeth is feeling the full force of the needles, because she has decided against using a net to catch the pain, at first it was not so bad, but now, it is excruciating. Swallow explains that Gypsies had come to the sea, contrary to popular belief and they were led by a person who immediately vanished when they arrived. The story took many hours to tell, but Elspeth senses much was left unsaid.

Eventually it was done, though Elspeth can’t inspect it until the scabs form and then heal. He gives Elspeth a strange look and then calls out to Marie. The sun is about to rise again, as Marie comes out and expresses her opinion that they are stupid for doing this, but wants to see the product. She gives her a rank tasting potion to drink instead of applying any slave, as Elspeth had hoped. Swallow offers a toast, from the D’rekta, but since he is not here, Swallow will do because he is the heir. Marie explains that the D’rekta is the leader of the Twentyfamilies. Each D’rekta is the blood descendant of the first leader who brought them to the land, and Swallow’s father is the current D’rekta, a relationship without much love, apparently.

The making of a Twentyfamilies mark is toasted by the D’rekta, and Swallow produces an ornate box, containing a precious, exquisite jewelled goblet. He drinks a vial of liquid, and Marie is shocked that he actually did so, because this is mocking their practises as a people. Marie is grateful for Elspeth returning Iriny, but she is not a Gypsy of any kind, no matter what she says, and she is not apart of the ‘ancient promises’. But Swallow disagrees, and says that she is involved in the ancient promises. Marie is shocked, as Swallow offers Elspeth the goblet to complete the toast. But she does not accept, not without knowing what is going on. Swallow explains that he is offering a toast of fealty (pledge of allegiance) to the Twentyfamilies promises, whose fate is bound up in them, as is Elspeth’s. It seems the toast he offered, “I am for you, as you are for me.” Is not the same toast a D’rekta would give, which is why Marie is shocked.

Elspeth is understandably shocked, now she is involved in ANOTHER prophecy! Clearly she knows nothing about how she could be involved, but Swallow explains. He tells her that tonight, giving her that tattoo, is something that if his father knew, would cause him to be hunted down and killed. If anyone finds out she has it, and is an impostor, clearly a Twentyfamily Gypsy gave it to her, and it means that the ‘truce’ between the Council and the Gypsies will end. All Gypsies would be forced to settle in the Land, and Marie and Swallow would not want to be alive. Elspeth doesn’t understand why he would go through with such a thing, if there is so much danger, but he says it was what she wanted, and he promised.

He explains that Iriny is his half-sister. Swallow’s father, the D’rekta, loved a half-breed Gypsy before he became the D’rekta and bonded with Swallow’s mother. He did not know he was to become the D’rekta, as he had an older sister, but she died and he was forced to become the D’rekta and he could not have a half-breed wife. Swallow is not his real name, just a pet name for him given to him by Iriny. It puts in context that it was Swallow the Herder wanted Iriny to identify in the torture. Marie is his grandmother, but her daughter and the D’rekta don’t have any love for one another.

Swallow notes that there is too much division in the Gypsies, and he wants to unite them and rectify the Great Divide. He doesn’t care about half-breeds not being full blooded, any Gypsy who pledges allegiance to the Ancient Promises will be one of them, no matter what their blood status. Swallow is the name he takes on when he is around half-breeds, so he can walk among them. Elspeth asks him how he knew that they had her. He tells her that it was he who was the archer in Guanette, he was disguised. He was there ready to save her, and prepared to risk identifying himself, when Elspeth stepped out. So he owes her a lot.

But this doesn’t explain how Elspeth is involved in their ancient promises. He explains that he saw in Guanette, a horse go to her without being called and when she was struck, it did not let you fall and continued to ride. He expected them to head to Sutrium and find them with Iriny, but then they did not come, and he wondered whether they were Gypsies after all. He then wondered who on earth would want to pretend to be a Gypsy when they are beneath most people in the land and are despised. He figured that it must only be someone who has more to hide and a greater secret to keep hidden. I think he knows she is a Misfit. But what is all this about her being involved in yet another legend? Is this again Atthis’ work, or is it the work of someone else? Can Elspeth really be the focus of three separate legends?

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