Ashling – Chapter 24

Chapter Twenty-Four

It only happened about 30 minutes ago, but now Dragon is in a coma. Elspeth doesn’t understand, how she could suddenly be in a coma (I find it interesting that they have this word, and not some Land version, like some other ‘technical’ words). Kella is cautious when answering this question, because she doesn’t want to upset or infuriate Elspeth, but it is possible that when Elspeth smashed through her shield, causing the blocked part of her mind to get damaged. Elspeth is quick to ask whether she caused the coma, quite defensively. It is only a theory.

Returning outside, Elspeth finds Brydda sitting in their kitchen, having not noticed him on the way in. Kella was out this morning buying some milk and met Brydda in the market, they were returning to the safehouse when they heard them arguing, and then Dragon fall to the ground. Elspeth blames herself, and thinks she hit Dragon much too hard, after all she did use her special, “killing” talent to hit her. Kella reassures her that there is no way to know, and that damage to blocked regions (containing memories) of the mind are common. And sometimes they become damaged and open up without any warning and without any reason. Dragon’s memories are very deep, and the chances are that her mind can’t cope with the flood of repressed and unresolved memories. Right now she has been absorbed into this memory, and will stay there until it is resolved, playing the memory over and over. Just like Iriny, only I suspect things might be worse for Dragon.

Elspeth misunderstands Kella and thinks that Dragon will become defective and only thinking of this memory, but Dragon’s mind retreated inward, and Kella thinks this is the best. Of course Elspeth doesn’t see a coma as a good thing, but in retrospect of the other alternatives, it is a good thing. Dragon would have sensed the block had broken, and unknowingly drawn herself into her mind. So she is caught in a loop of the repressed memories, trying to sort them out. Brydda asks if she will emerge once the memory has been resolved, but nothing is certain, and that is the best thing we can hope for. How long it will take, is anyone’s guess. Elspeth blames herself, and thinks that everyone she is around gets hurt, Dragon, Jik, Cameo, but it’s not her fault, though she will continue to blame herself.

Kella can see Elspeth blames herself, and tries to comfort her, and tells her it could be Dragon’s own doing. But Matthew, who enters, believes it is his fault (maybe everyone needs to share the blame). Kella doesn’t want them to start arguing over who caused the coma, and tells them that this might just be a natural development, because sooner or later, this was going to happen. Dragon wanted to eventually remember these memories, because they were not shoved into her subconscious like Iriny, instead she ‘encrusted’ them into her conscious mind. So whatever is in there, is something she really wants to forget, but something she never wants to lose, like some sort of sick paradox.

Elspeth is in need of sleep, and voices her exhaustion but does not leave. Instead Brydda shares his deepest condolences for Dragon, and tries to remind them that they do not have time to grieve or regroup (such is life) and he is here to ask for their help. Elspeth is concerned that she would be of no help right now, without any sleep. But Brydda tells her that he needs her tonight, and even with Dragon’s condition, she is still needed. Daffyd has not returned, and Brydda needs to take the slaves to the slaver’s warehouse and he wants to do this so he can track them back to Salamander. They can’t be followed, as Salamander is much too crafty and cautious, instead Elspeth can track them using her talent.

Elspeth is sceptical, because there is way too many variables that would not allow her to track them, what if they had shields, or were taken over taint? Elspeth explains to Brydda, who is taken aback by Elspeth’s unwillingness, that tracking a known Talent is hard enough in Sutrium, tracking someone you don’t know, and is not talented, is harder still. Matthew suggests that the mind Elspeth will track doesn’t have to be unknown, and offers himself to take one of the slaves’ places. He tells Elspeth that she would have no trouble locating him. Elspeth is so against the idea, what if things go wrong and he is taken by the slavers forever? He offers the suggestion that they follow behind, not closely, but close enough, so if something goes wrong, Elspeth will be able to find him soon enough. Elspeth rules it out.

Brydda accepts Elspeth decision, and asks her whether she will track the slaves. Elspeth is still uncomfortable will the possibility of losing them and then they will be a slave forever, though Brydda reasons that they would have if they had not intervened. Which isn’t the most ethical reasoning, and Elspeth questions whether he has asked the slaves whether they are okay will being involved. Brydda replies that they still believe they are held by the slavers, and he is trying to use this opportunity to his advantage, and it is one he will never get again.

Elspeth accepts, and tells him that she will need to go to the warehouse, and get a fix on one of the slaves. Brydda gives Elspeth a map, and tells her to meet him there well before dawn. Why doesn’t she go to the slaves soon, and get a fix on the mind now, before they are sent to the warehouse? Or would this not work, because going to the warehouse is going to be dangerous, as the slaver didn’t want to see her again. Elspeth recalls that he doesn’t want to see her again, and Brydda agrees and doesn’t want to risk the chance of the slaver coming personally, so decides to keep her hidden somewhere nearby. Matthew asks whether he will be involved, and Elspeth says he can come and she will use him as her eyes in the building. Elspeth will track the slaves, and then meet some rebels and follow them.

Brydda leaves with the plans sorted, and Matthew immediately tells Elspeth that she should have let him be a slave to him there would be no risk. But there is HUGE risk, so many things could go wrong, and he would be a slave. Kella steps in, and remembers that Elspeth has not told them about the Gypsy. Elspeth is too tired, but tells her that Marie said she was a good healer. Elspeth stumbles to her bed, and feels very exhausted, and thinks something may be wrong with her because her tiredness is unnatural. Everytime she has been injured she has felt very exhausted, as if her mind and body seemed to withdraw. She drifts in and out of sleep.

So much had happened, and yet it felt like just the beginning. Elspeth tried to seek comfort from Maruman, but he is still missing, and Gahltha tells her that he will guard her on the dreamtails. Matthew woke her up, alerting her that it is time to go. She slept solidly for quite some time, longer than she had planned, 13 hours in fact. She was refreshed, and was no longer exhausted. She meets Kella in the kitchen, and finds out that Dragon is still in her coma. Strangely her tattooed arm doesn’t hurt, even when Kella touched it. Bizzarely Elspeth responds to Kella’s query about her arm, with ‘it is Cameo we should be concerned about’. What an odd slip of the tongue.

Elspeth has to rush off, as Matthew tells her to hurry. They take Gahltha, as it would be faster and safer and begin the journey. Will things go right for once, or will things go wrong. And if so, what will be the damage?

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