Ashling – Chapter 36

Chapter Thirty-Six

They took Daffyd into a room, to let him sleep, what he had told them, gave them lots to think about. The rest of them stayed up long into the night, trying to figure out why Ariel would work with Salamander, and what he would get out of a deal. Though, talk leads to nothing in this case, as they will not figure it out just by talking. They are not hopeful of Daffyd’s quest to find Gilaine, but I find that a bit rich, coming from them, when they expect Matthew to return eventually. Most of them retired for the night, and that left only Elspeth and Fian in the salon (I may or may not have been calling this a saloon). Elspeth was feeling too sick to sleep and Fian was too busy studying to notice the others leave. She is envious of him, and how he can be lost in a book (I think it a tragedy that she does not enjoy reading) and reflects that he refused any treatment for the seasickness, incase it affected his mind. Elspeth decides to go out on the deck, to get some fresh air.

Elspeth wonders what it would be like to ‘give herself to the sea’ like Powyrs suggests. A mind cuts in and says that it would be quite wet, and in front of her, Elspeth can see Maruman. How on earth did he get here? And where has he been? Those two questions, Elspeth asks him, but as we know, he is not one to be questioned. He doesn’t answer, but doesn’t seem too annoyed, as he comes and rubs against her leg. Powyrs comes out and picks up Maruman, as if he was looking for him. Elspeth assumed Maruman would attack the man, but he sits in his arms plaintively. Powyrs comments that the other men on board, think of Maruman as a bad omen, but he is too quick for them, as they try to throw him overboard, Maruman even taunts them occasionally. So I guess that answers our questions, he has been with Powyrs. And I assume that Atthis told him to go and befriend Powyrs, but I’m not sure why? So he would be guaranteed to be on-board?

Elspeth pats Maruman, and Powyrs is surprised as only he has been able to touch him previously. He tells Elspeth that he can be savage, and she should leave him be unless he is holding him, what a sly cat. He goes on and explains what his father said about the ocean, and tells her that the sea is not like a person, and doesn’t act of spite, and trying to control it is fruitless. You just have to learn its ‘moods’ and let them carry you. Powyrs goes off to scold a crew-member for repairing a sail incorrectly, and Maruman curls up behind Elspeth’s neck, oddly she no longer feels sick with him on her neck. Elspeth expresses her gladness at seeing him again, and for once, even Maruman admits that he missed her.

Elspeth accompanied by Maruman, heads down to her room, and starts to settle in for the night. Maruman tells Elspeth that Atthis sent ashlings to him, to tell Innle something. He flew the dreamtrails with the oldOnes, and saw Elspeth on the ‘blackdeathroad’ going to the ends of the barud (home). Obernewtyn was finished, and all was gone. What a depressing thought, that Obernewtyn was gone. Would it have been abandoned? Destroyed? Or a hopeful possibility, is that there is no more need for it, because Misfits are equals and can live wherever? (probably too hopeful.) The real question is why did Atthis what him to tell her this, at this moment, not later. It is possible that she has misunderstood (even so she seems a tad calm for what he has said) because beastspeak is not set in stone. And understanding Maruman is harder than most (other beasts). Elspeth sees the most obvious definition, as that if she completes her task she will not be able to return to Obernewtyn. She is not pleased to think that once her quest is over, her life will still not be in her control. This makes me wonder, what would Elspeth do, after all this is over? She wonders if her freedom is just an illusion, and that forever she will be be controlled by fate.

She understands though, she cannot deny her destiny, it was too late for that, and without her quest, who would she be? She seems certain and prepared to go wherever destiny takes her, which makes her wonder, is Atthis just testing her to make sure she is ready? Maruman stops her thoughts, and tells her to sleep and that things appear worse at night. But she can’t just turn off her brain, and she thinks of how many deaths she has caused, before drifting off and dreaming of being caught in the ocean clinging to a frail raft. I must note, that she never seems to have pleasant dreams, no happy dreams, all just nightmares, a bit depressing.

Then her dream changes, and she is walking on a path, just like the Blacklands she saw with Gahltha. She saw that her legs had started to become poisoned by the road, and she knew it was the rotting sickness. This gives her the terrible realisation, that maybe Maruman meant that she would not survive her journey. A voice questions whether she is prepared to pay the price, whatever that is, her own life, the life of her friends and Obernewtyn? She woke, and found that the boat was still, Elspeth hoped this meant she had adjusted to the ocean, but I think they have stopped moving. She thinks of Maruman’s words, which don’t seem as bad now, and starts to rationalise them, how could destroying the weaponmachines, destroy Obernewtyn? She thinks that Maruman is just warning her that Obernewtyn is at stake, if she does not succeed, I’m not too sure about that, but we won’t know for a long time.

Kella comes in, and says she better come and see this. She is surprised to see Maruman, and Elspeth explains that he had come here earlier because of a true dream and now Powyrs is wrapped around Maruman’s paws. Kella is pleased, and says that maybe what Powyrs says about them bringing good luck is true. Who is them and what is she talking about? They reach the deck and Kella points out into the ocean. Elspeth saw that the ocean was completely still, hence why she felt back on land, and there was not a breath of wind. Elspeth only saw rocks, but Kella redirects her sight to what is around them. She sees three, grey, sleek fish in the water, jumping high into the air. They can only be dolphins. It makes me wonder what happened to the oceans, because of the Great White. Did they grow or shrink, did the animals die? Who knows.

Elspeth is so amazed by the sight of them jumping out of the water. Kella tells her that they have been known to save the lives of men thrown overboard, and Powyrs tells her they are good luck for drowning seamen. He explains that they are jumping, and Elspeth thinks they must be quite strong to do such things. Elspeth thinks to communicate with them, as she feels they would be capable of it, and the sea was without taint. But she didn’t want to disturb them, and wanted them to remain untouched. Fian comes up to tell them that they are not fish, and are mammals just like humans. He points to a book that talks about them, and Kella asks whether they are descended from ‘merpeople’ creatures she has read about in Beforetime books. I think this sort of ‘dramatic irony’ is amusing for us modern readers, as we see these people try to cope with concepts that are just obvious to us, and their talk of common things, is innocent and light. Fian does not know, but says that the book mentions that Beforetimers had boats that would go under the water to underwater cities (clearly they were much advanced compared to us). Fian doesn’t know about the merpeople and where the fit in.

Instead he mentions the city under Tor, and the Reichler Clinic. Apparently it has been all everyone could talk about after the last guildmerge. Everyone feels like what they are doing, is continuing something that started long ago, and the Tecknoguild have been overwhelmed by requests for more information on Jacob Obernewtyn and Hannah Seraphim. Apparently interest has been sparked in Misfits joining the tecknoguild since this latest discovery, and Powyrs and said that he has a trunk full of books for Fian to go over. He complains that he has so little time to go through them.

Later, Kella grows tired of watching the dolphins, and Elspeth goes to a different part of the ship to look at the dolphins more closely. She was calmed by the immense stillness of the ocean, and she began to understand Powyrs’ words about not fighting the ocean. Elspeth suddenly hears laughing, and hears Freya say that it tickles. A moment later Rushton walked around the corner, and Elspeth was not happy. Rushton and Freya seemed to be deep in conversation, and Rushton was holding her hand. Is this a new romance, has Rushton given up on Elspeth. I think this will create some tension, for Elspeth is clearly jealous. Elspeth hears Rushton telling Freya that she doesn’t know what it means to her, and that it will be their little secret for the moment. What exactly has happened, what was he asking her? Are they being bonded? How could this happen? And poor Elspeth, who finally understands that she wants to be with Rushton, and it is much too late (or so it appears). I guess it is true that you only understand how much you want something, when you can’t have it.

Elspeth is filled with such jealously, she wants to know where this girl came from, and how she stole Rushton from her. Well, if you wanted him for yourself, you should have told him. Elspeth realises that she never had Rushton, and steals her self to such emotions, and thinks of her dangerous, lonely task ahead. She would think about such things after her quest. And maybe Maruman was warning her that she would lose Rushton’s love. She resolves herself that she has already decided to walk the black road alone, and Rushton was never hers to begin with. It’s sad for Elspeth, but I can’t help thinking she was acting like a male when it came to telling the person she loved about her feelings. But, what can you do. And for all we know, this is all for nothing.

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