Ashling – Chapter 30

Chapter Thirty

Reuvan verbalises his concern with going any closer to the warehouse, the soldierguards are still running their drills, and them wandering around is something they are going to find suspicious. He proposes that they wait until night, when they should surely leave, but of course, they cannot wait. Brydda cannot believe that the slaves are being moved now, with the seamen and the soldierguards so close by. They cannot ask Daffyd for any further advice or help, because he is unreachable over the water. One of the rebels, voices his confusion that the only boat scheduled for the wharf is a Herder boat, so unless the slave boat is not scheduled, it doesn’t make sense. But Brydda says that Herder ships are for hire, at the right price. Brydda asks Elspeth if she can cloak them to get them closer, she can only cover two of them, so it will obviously be him.

Elspeth can sense Daffyd once again, and she connects with him. He tells her that they have very limited time, as Matthew is in the last lot, but that will be moved soon. Once onboard, they have no chance of saving him, unless they have an army. He also expresses his frustration that Salamander has not yet come off of the boat, making his attempt to reach the slave master, impossible. Brydda wants Elspeth to ask about the Herders  and the soldierguards, but he disappears, moving back into the taint. Brydda is not overly surprised that Salamander has stayed on the ship, attributing that to his keen instinct for trouble.

Elspeth and Brydda go closer, under the coercive cover. Elspeth could feel the strong taint from the river, interesting that higher up the river is clear. They could see the ship and the warehouse, and there is plenty of activity going on. The soldierguards nearby seemed oblivious to the fact that slaves were being loaded. Brydda thinks that the soldierguards are here for a reason, but not all of them could have been paid off. But a certain soldierguard captain might make his men train in a particular spot. Elspeth can’t take them any closer, as the seamen are just around the corner, and there are too many to coerce. It is starting to look hopeless, they are vastly outnumbered, so there is no chance of a fight. Even though Gahltha has crept up behind them, they still cannot attack them all. Daffyd appears again outside of the warehouse, and he tells her that Matthew is in the next lot to be taken on board, and it does not matter if they scare away Salamander there is no hope of getting any information from him today. It is Matthew they need to help.

Elspeth decides to get on Gahltha and ride, ignoring Brydda’s concerns. She approaches the ship and can clearly see that it is a Herder vessel. The seamen Elspeth had sensed, were no longing doing anything, and were watching the slaves being loaded. It is clear that they are corrupted as well. Elspeth hears some of their conversation, and it seems that the seamen are happy the slaves are being taken away. They comment that the Herders should have done this a long time ago, but they don’t see how they can heal any of these people, even if they are skilled on Herder Isle. The seamen think that the slaves are defectives being taken to Herder Isle for treatment! No wonder no one is reacting. They spot Elspeth, and say that the Herders should round up them too. Elspeth had forgotten to continue her boyish appearance, and the soldierguards could recognise her, so she commands the seamen to continue working and turned herself into a seaman’s lad. But this all takes energy, and soon she won’t have any left.

She is now quite close to the warehouse, as the next batch of slaves are being taken out. Matthew is among them, and now they can communicate. He urges her to leave, to protect Obernewtyn. He was now so close to her, but she cannot do anything. She pretends to examine Gahltha’s hooves, as she tries to figure out how to save Matthew, when he is only steps away. Matthew continues to urge her to leave, as he knows they cannot save him. Elspeth suggests a diversion she he can run, but he is chained up to all the other slaves. Elspeth is desperate and suggests pretending to recognise someone, and say that they are not defectives and try to get the soldierguards to intervene. But Matthew knows that the soldierguards will do nothing, and that will probably cause Elspeth and the rebels to be caught as well. Matthew has accepted his fate, but he tells Elspeth that he will be back from wherever he is being taken. And he will try to find Gilaine and the others while he is there.

Ayle comes near Elspeth and tells her to move off. Matthew also tells her to leave, as there is no hope. And Elspeth must leave, and with that Matthew is taken on board, saying to Elspeth that he loves her and that he is sorry for Dragon. And then he is gone. The ship quickly leaves the wharf, and sets sail. Elspeth keeps her eyes on the boat, as it drifts away, with the feeling that she will never see Matthew again. She sees a tall, blonde youth on the deck of the vessel, he was beautiful and extremely pale. He reminded Elspeth of Ariel. No, he didn’t remind Elspeth of Ariel. He was Ariel! It is a Herder ship, and he was last known to be with the Herders, but why is he involved with slavers? Poor Matthew, being stuck on a ship with Ariel, what if he recognises him? Would Ariel kill him, torture him, or not even care? Will we ever see him again?

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