Ashling – Chapter 34

Chapter Thirty-Four

Elspeth found Dameon sitting next to Dragon, holding her hand. Elspeth had hoped that somehow he would be able to connect to her, and bring her back, but she remained in the coma. Dameon greets Elspeth lovingly, and shares that he thinks Dragon will awake eventually. He shares a story which he read from the Beforetime, about ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the sleeping princess, who of course, could not be woken, except as we all know, by a kiss from Prince Charming. Elspeth is a tad ashamed, that he is trying to comfort her, when he too is mourning the loss of Matthew, a dear friend, who he has known longer than Elspeth has. Dameon kisses Dragon’s hand, and Kella laughs behind them, Elspeth wonders if Matthew kissed Dragon, would their love be powerful enough to bring Dragon back from her sleep? I wonder if Dragon will remain in the coma, until Matthew returns, in some sort of connected, sympathetic system. Dameon shares that Miky and Angina have made it into a song. They comfort one another, and Dameon is sure that Matthew will not be kept for long, and when he does, he will be full of stories to share. Rushton, quite brazenly and rudely interrupts and asks them to join them back in the kitchen. I wonder if there is a touch of jealously there?

In the kitchen, Rushton tells Elspeth what exactly Maryon had foretold. She saw the eight of them travelling to Sutrium, and at the end, she saw Elspeth’s face. She saw that thirteen would go over the water (and I guess travel to Sador) and that it was key for Obernewtyn and figuring what to do next, something about finding the right road to tread. Elspeth takes over, and explains all that has happened since they arrived at Sutrium, with some deletions (I’m guessing Swallow’s kiss). Once she is finished, Miryum wonders why Jakoby made such a suggestion, and what she would get out of the deal. Elspeth explains that Sadorians are different, and she doesn’t believe Jakoby is trying to get anything out of it, and was just offering a solution to the problem. Dameon asks whether they are all sure that it is the Battlegames that Maryon foresaw and not something else. But Hannay thinks it is too much of a coincidence that they just happen to go to Sutrium, and arrive just after Elspeth agreed to go to the Battlegames, and they cannot think of any other possibility.

Freya suggests that it might have to do with rescuing Matthew, who has after all been taken away on the water. Rushton however does not agree, as they have no idea where they would look for Matthew, and as much as they would like to think otherwise, it must be about the Battlegames, why else would there be so many of them. Miky voices a concern, there aren’t enough of them though. Rushton tries to count them all, if they add Kella and Dragon it makes 11 to go over the water, as Dragon could not be left here alone. Rushton adds Domick, who would make 12, but Kella doesn’t think he can leave, because he has been sent to Morganna and won’t be back for ages. She told him that she was going to return to Obernewtyn, and he left a report for Guildmerge. Elspeth did not know what to say to her, and the others were confused at her sadness.

Miryum is still concerned about Brydda’s warning against going, and is opposed to the idea of the Battlegames. Hannay adds that it must be because he thinks they will lose. Dameon adds, that they may go to Sador, and not even have to engage in the Battlegames, which is true, Maryon never said anything about battling, so it is possible that something else requires them in Sador. Maybe they can prove to Malik and the others that they are human. Miryum asks Elspeth why she didn’t just coerce Malik into agreeing to the alliance. That would have saved things, but it wouldn’t last forever, and would be highly suspicious, and extremely unethical. Elspeth thinks that that would be what Domick would do, but they can’t force them to accept them, and if they made them think how they wanted them to, then they would be as bad as the Council. Freya asks whether they will be using coercion in the games, and whether it is different to use it then and not at the meeting. But Elspeth counters that, because it is a fight, and they will expect the Misfits to use their skills, as they will use theirs. Elspeth sees this as a chance to show the Malik’s of the Land, that they can defend themselves.

Miryum sees it as a show of strength, which Elspeth can also see, but she sees as an opportunity to show everyone who they really are. Dameon asks who exactly are they, warriors? Misfits? He sees this as their problem they are not sure of who and what they are, so instead of being able of continuously act in the manner they have defined themselves they must make it up as they go. They haven’t figured out their morals, should they fight as warriors, or remain as Misfits, or are they both? Rushton adds that they will see how everything goes once they leave, he hoped that they wouldn’t have to force the rebels to take them seriously, but at least they are not at war with them.

Elspeth tells them all that after the Battlegames, the rebels will organise their plans for the rebellion, which is interesting news for Rushton, for if they win, they will be involved in the process of planning a rebellion. Miky wonders who are the 10 that will fight, as she and her twin, have never fought, and Dragon cannot and she discounts Dameon. Rushton thinks if they were sent by Miryum they have a purpose to play.

Late the following day (I thought it was three days and not two…) they were on the Sadorian ship ready to set sail. Contrary to Maryon’s telling, there were only 11 of them on board, that doesn’t seem like a very good sign! Unless, she concluded the captain, and a crew member, who else is on the boat? Oh, Reuvan arrived to give Elspeth a homing bird for Elspeth to send word from Obernewtyn, and Rushton told him to organise a boat at once, so they can leave now, instead of waiting. He found a boat captained, by a long time rebel supporter, Powyrs, a jolly, bold, brown-faced man. He didn’t care about taking Gypsies, and probably wouldn’t have cared to take Misfits either.

Waiting for their final clearance from the inspectors, Reuvan, Dardelan and Jakoby’s daughter came to see them off. Reuvan lets them know that Malik and co are leaving tomorrow, and then he will travel on Jakoby’s ship the day after (though this seems like four days, instead of three…). Jakoby’s daughter asks haughtily if she is going to be presented, or if she is just going to stand there namelessly. Dardelan introduces her, as Bruna. Bruna tells them that she thinks they will like her land, because as Gypsies they are like the tribes, who don’t have a fixed home, unlike the Landfolk. She shares that there is room to run around, and ride a beast, called kamuli (I can only assume some form of camel). She then turns to Dardelan and tells him to take her to the place of many trees, the ‘for-rest’ because of course, they don’t have them in Sador, which is mainly desert.

The inspectors are checking to make sure all goods have had tax paid on them and they all head inside the boat, as it starts to rain. The rocking of the boat, is starting to have its effect on Elspeth, even though they haven’t even left the dock yet. But if it is your first time on a boat, you are probably going to be seasick. She thinks of Matthew, and wonders if he too was seasick. Elspeth could see Powyrs talking to a dirty beggar, at first he seemed to be opposed to whatever the man was saying, but now seems interested, if only Elspeth could farseek and find out what they are saying. The salon in the ship, was quite spacious with bookshelves lining the walls (not sure if there were books there or not, but hopefully there are books!). Rushton went in a corner to talk to Reuvan, Miryum and Hannay. Dragon and Dameon were taken into a room, and Elspeth was about to go and see them, when Powyrs called that it was time to go, and if Reuvan didn’t want to come, he needs to get off. The ship lurches, and everyone was left stumbling to gain balance, except Reuvan who has had some experience on a ship, and he tells them that they must learn to dance with the ocean. He gets offboard, and they see him off.

They cast off, and Elspeth can’t help feel that she has lost something, and that she was setting sail towards a new life, and leaving behind her old one. A symbolic journey seems to await them! It was the first time they had ever left the land, and they were all anxious, as some boats never made it back ashore. Interestingly the taint faded away, as they moved further from the coast, I wonder what causes the taint. As they continue their journey, some of them are not taking too well to being on the water, and are feeling ill, Elspeth among them. And they have only just set sail!

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