Part Three – The Sadorian Battlegames (Does this mean we are going to Sador?)
I wonder if this chapter will continue seamlessly, as many chapters have in the past, or whether we will skip some time, as Elspeth is dealing with the loss of Matthew.
Elspeth is walking with Brydda, and it takes all her concentration to keep walking, and to listen to what he is saying. It has been five days since Matthew was lost (time was skipped, so maybe the separation of parts are always indicative of a ‘skip’ of time?). We’ve skipped forward, past Elspeth’s grief, past telling the news to Kella, who would have been distraught, past telling Domick, whose reaction would have been intriguing, would he have been upset or unsurprised? Instead, we are now on the way to Bodera’s house, for the meeting with the rebels. On the way Brydda has been giving Elspeth advice and warnings, about how to deal with all of the rebel leaders and their individual quirks and pet-hates, as well as the complex political relationships that are in the background. But Elspeth has little care for the alliance, after Matthew’s loss and seeing Ariel again. That was the first time she saw him, since the Zebkrahn Machine incident.
Brydda continues to update Elspeth, telling her Malik has arrived with another leader, with papers indicating he is the proxy for two other leaders. Tardis on the other hand, has sent a proxy called Gwynedd. Elspeth continues to think of the scene on the wharf, and I am sure she is trying to think her way out of that situation, not alone, and with Matthew. But she can’t change anything, things have happened, and obsessing over them does nobody any good. This obsession over memories is just like repressing the memory (though in the other extreme) which has caused Dragon and Iriny serious trouble. Elspeth has thought of a dozen ways which she thinks would have saved Matthew, but it is likely that even these ideas, would have lost Matthew. Once again though, these ideas don’t save Matthew now.
As they walk Brydda still gives Elspeth the latest news, and tells her that the ‘Western-bloc’ is now under the control of Cassell, which is probably cause for concern for Malik, now that there is another rebel group to match his own. Elspeth is constantly tormented by scenes where Matthew and Ariel come face to face. How would Matthew react when he learns of Ariel’s presence, when he wanted to kill him for what he did to Cameo. And how would Ariel react, learning of Matthew’s presence, and knowing him, it is probably something sick and despicable. Brydda seems to start wrapping up his overview of who has attended, and reveals that Jakoby from Sador, is to attend. They came by ship, and had no intention of coming to the meeting, but one of the temple-guardians had a dream, and they hurried to attend the meeting. It sounds awfully like a Futuretelling, and Elspeth’s own journey to Sutrium, based on a dream, does this mean there are Talented Misfits in Sador?
Brydda stops and turns to look at Elspeth. Without warning, she burst into tears, lucky for her, the street was deserted. Brydda comforts her, as she cries into his chest. It’s not just Matthew getting her down, it is Dragon and also Jik, she feels like she is a failure as a leader of an expedition. Brydda understands this more than most, because of Idris’ death on his watch, and he tells her that as a leader, it unfortunately means putting those that we love in danger. He tells her that those that follow are their own people, and make their own decisions, and if they follow us, then as a leader we must honour their choice, and that their death is not our fault, but is a result of their choices. He continues by saying that Matthew chose to follow Rushton, and Elspeth’s grief is not helping his honour, and he has not died, and is a strong and capable man, who can return. Elspeth voices her concern over Ariel, but Brydda thinks she is getting ahead of herself, as she does even know for sure that the person she saw was Ariel. And even if it was Ariel, how could he possibly single out Matthew in a hundred, and Matthew is no longer the same boy he was, when Ariel last saw him. Even the Herders’ involvement in the whole thing is dubious, as people are willing to do anything for coin.
He finishes his pep talk by telling her that she should let Daffyd investigate, while they compose themselves, as they have work to do, that Matthew would want them to do. Brydda tells her to act, just like he has been doing after Idris’ death. He draws on Elspeth’s ‘alter-egos’ as Gypsies as proof she can act. They are almost there, and Brydda reminds her that they are expecting a half-wit, and she must do her best, for Obernewtyn, and look like a confident and most impressive person and being withdrawn will not help her. Elspeth composes herself, and tries to look determined, it is not ideal, but it will do.
Elspeth tries to remember all of Brydda’s words about topics to avoid, and how to treat all the rebel leaders, but all the information is a mess, and jumbled. Elspeth hopes that Daffyd will have good news when she sees him again, and hopes that he does not blame himself for Matthew’s loss. They arrive at a door, as Brydda makes sure Elspeth is ready, and they go inside. Well, it isn’t inside, it is a garden, and I don’t think there are many of those in Sutrium. A boy (though he is older than Elspeth, so he is hardly a boy) came to greet them and bowed to greet Elspeth. Elspeth guesses that he is Dardelan, because he is the youngest rebel here today, and that is a point that Malik continues to make. Elspeth comments of the garden, and Dardelan informs Elspeth that his father says that Beforetimers had many such walled gardens, one for each home, because ‘they were concerned about privacy’. I’m not too sure of the presence of walled gardens, I know of many gardens in general, and I don’t know if they are for privacy, but I guess it does certainly give increased privacy, but it wouldn’t be a home without some plants and trees.
They walk into the house, and Dardelan apologises about the heat, as his father is sensitive to the cold. Elspeth can sympathise with Bodera’s illness, as Pavo died from the same things. Elspeth senses that Dardelan did not expect Elspeth to be so normal, he was expecting something else. They enter a sunken room, at the centre of the residence. It is dark, but Elspeth can sense all eyes are on her, and she waits for her eyes to adjust. A man rises, and is clearly disgusted, and of course, it is Malik. Elspeth counters his sneering, by saying that she will move closer to the light, just in case he wants to make sure she has all her teeth and toes. There was silence after that, and only an elderly man laughed. Malik though, is very experienced in word play, so continues, and says that she is just as young as Dardelan, and sees this clearly as a bad thing. Brydda voices his opinion that being young is not a bad thing, and it does not mean weak, but being old (as Malik would know) can make you resistant to change.
It is a tense exchange, and eventually dies down, but Malik turns back to Elspeth and asks whether she can speak, or has she run out of things that Brydda has told her to say. Elspeth tells him that she speaks when she has something to say, and not to just hear her own voice. Dardelan goes to introduce Elspeth, and Malik does not accept her as a guest, since she is a Misfit and a Half-breed Gypsy. I can see already, that Malik is someone who I will have no issue hating. Right now, I am giving Malik a lot more hate than anyone, including Ariel. The old man who laughed earlier, leans forward, and Elspeth can see that he is not as old as he looks, and asks Elspeth whether there all of the Misfits are like her, and are skin and bones, when they are looking for warriors to fight a battle. Elspeth isn’t liking this meeting very much, and tells the man that Talented Misfits, do not judge by size, but by the actions, and being small, doesn’t mean you can’t be crafty and cunning and most importantly courageous. He introduces himself as Cassell, the leader of the western bloc.
Elspeth then sees Elii from Kinraide, and it is the same boy who lead her to the whitestick as an orphan. He did not look ill from all the exposure to the whitestick, which was surprising. He shakes her hand, as Dardelan introduces another man, Gwynedd, who is Tardis’ representative. He continues the introductions, with Brocade, who is a very large man, who is quite allied to Malik, so questions whether Elspeth should have been better dressed for such a meeting. WOAH! He goes on to ask whether all Misfits are so dark skinned, because ‘it is known that as a rule such belongs to people of inferior mentality’. That is just outrageous, and so judgemental and oppressive, no wonder he is friends with Malik. Elspeth is struck by the sheer dumbness and absurdity of that statement, and so am I.
Instead of Elspeth responding another person does. And says that that is an interesting observation and they will be sure to tell Bram of that in their next meeting. The voice is a woman’s and she has a unique accent. Elspeth turned to see her rise up, and she is a head taller than any man in the room, and she had an exotic beauty with yellow-gold skin and straight black hair. The look she gives Brocade sends the man into fear, as she grips her knife in its hilt. Brocade gives a poor excuse that he did not mean her people, because they have a different colour than Gypsies, so that statement does not apply to them. It is clear this woman is Jakoby and she is not impressed, and asks him why colour has anything to do with it (I can sense that Jakoby is going to be one massive bad-ass, who I will love dearly). Brocade is nearly dead with fright, as he continues to say he meant no offence, and Jakoby accepts this as long as he retracts that awful statement. If he does not, she suggests that they will have to have a bout to see whether his pale skin reflects a greater wit than other skin colours (I love her already!).
Brocade is slightly confused, and finds the suggestion absurd, and has no intention of wrestling her. Which causes more offence, because now he is being sexist, so Jakoby asks whether her gender makes her inferior. Brocade folds, and retracts his statement. Jakoby takes Elspeth’s hand, and instead of shaking it just holds it. She then turns it over to examine her palm. She proclaims that Elspeth has a good hand, and it shows that many threads of destiny are in her future. She continues to say that she has terrible secrets, and ‘a seeker of them’ (I guess secrets). She turns to everyone, and votes to have an alliance with the Misfits. It is something I would not argue with!