Ashling – Chapter 40

Chapter Forty

And so begins what will probably be an awkward journey back to the camp. Rushton starts it of saying they had better get back and tell the others what happened. They start walking, and Elspeth apologies, though rather insincerely and formally, because she did not think there would be this sort of danger involved, and Jakoby didn’t mention this. Rushton asks whether she thinks Jakoby was trying to deceive them. But Elspeth doesn’t think Jakoby would see such danger as an issue, and Rushton says that then there should be no blame given to anyone. Rushton was still remote, clearly angry with Elspeth, and she wants to heal the rift that they both have caused, but she keeps picturing him with Freya. Then she concedes herself to the idea that maybe they should not be together and should be so distanced from each other. She had her quest, and Rushton had Obernewtyn and Freya (I swear that this thing with Freya is a complete misunderstanding, and Elspeth will call Rushton out on being bonded or something, and then he will be furious, and the rift will grow further).

Elspeth tried to think of the Battlegames, but couldn’t concentrate with the silence between them. They didn’t speak again as they arrived at the camp. Everyone gathered around Rushton, as he (unemotionally) described the Battlegames to them and what had happened in the tent. Miryum questions if it is possible if they could die, and Rushton says it is a possibility but they do not know what risk will be involved until the games are selected. Hannay thinks that Malik is not a nice, likeable man, and I’d agree. Rushton agrees, in one sense, but says that even though he doesn’t want to have to face him in battle, that strength will be on their side against the Council, and that war makes for some strange alliances between people, and they need the rebels and to do that they need to win the Battlegames. Dameon questions whether what they will win will be something worth having at all. Rushton isn’t impressed, and says that they need this aid against the Council, and philosophising about the Battle beforehand is something they can’t afford to do, and thinking about what really is a victory will have to be done after they battle. He apologies for his snap at Dameon, and blames it on being tired. He tells them to move away from the Battlegames and be distracted by food, songs, talking and rest.

So Miky got out her gita and they dished out the food, but Elspeth took one look at Freya sitting next to Rushton, and lost all her appetite. She longs to comfort him, but doesn’t have any idea what she offer him, even if he did love her, she could never say that she would not leave him (because of her journey) and she wasn’t even sure what she was feeling now because of Freya’s interaction with him, was love for him. As Miky sings about Sleeping Beauty, Elspeth can’t help but think of Dragon. Dragon is being kept onboard Powyrs’ ship, as it was thought she would be safer there, and Powyrs is going to take them back after the Battlegames. Though he thought they were here to perform at the bonding of one of the tribal chiefs. As the twins sing their song, Elspeth decides to leave and slip into a tent and get some rest.

She is greeted by Maruman, who coming next to her, fell asleep at once.  Elspeth on the other hand, her mind was too active to sleep. She decides to send out a probe and explore this foreign land. Here and there she felt the minds of small nocturnal creatures, and at one point she locked onto to an intelligent, but distinctly non-human mind, before losing it. This soaring about Sador in her mind, relaxed Elspeth and she returned back to her body, and the others had all gone to bed. She thinks about asking Jakoby if the Templeguardians would have something to wake Dragon, and drifts of to sleep.

Next thing she knew, Miky was waking up telling her that the Sadorians are here to take them to the games. Elspeth could not believe it was already morning, as Miky tells her that they said to hurry, and they must be there before the sun comes up, or the whole thing will be called off. She quickly gets organised, and takes some breed and cheese from Kella (which Elspeth bought yesterday) and Rushton tells the Sadorians that they are ready. They are taken to where some more Sadorians and some kamuli are waiting. They sat on top of the beasts in wooden saddles, and Elspeth farsends to Maruman that if anything happens that he should go to Powyrs. With one Sadorian behind each of them, the kamuli rose and they started the amble into the desert. Elspeth could now understand why they were called ships of the desert, because it felt like they were back onboard a ship. As Fian notes they are going out into the desert, he is not hopeful, and Hannay says unless it is cloudy, they will all fry in the heat. But the rebels will suffer the same as they will, and why would the games be held in the middle of no where, out in the desert.

They travelled for an hour, in what looks like featureless desert, the sky now empty of stars, as the Sadorians stop the kamuli. Elspeth could see nothing to indicate where the games would take place, so would they be outside in the desert with no food or shelter? The sky starts to redden, indicating that day is about to start, and one of the Sadorians points to Rushton where the games are being held. But all it looks like is plain desert. The Sadorians made the kamuli continue to move, and soon Kella could smell flowers. Out here in the desert? They were travelling along a long narrow crack in the ground, which opened up into a great cave under the earth. It was too dark to see much, but it was obvious there were plants, and flowers and even water in this hidden cave. This is one of the isis pools. And this explains how the Sadorians can survive for so long out in the desert without having to take a huge supply of water. But if you didn’t know exactly where it was, there was basically no chance of finding one of them.

Sunrise was only moments away, as the group was approached by Jakoby and they dismounted the kamuli and were brought in front of Bram. Around him were the rebels and a score of Sadorians. Malik and his chosen nine were in two lines directly in front of Bram, and Jakoby indicated that the Misfits should arrange themselves amongst the rebels. The rebel Elspeth was next two was easily twice her hight, and vastly stronger, I wonder what those rebels are thinking about the upcoming contest, with opponents who are tiny compared to them. Jakoby too her place next to Bram, and looked towards the sky, and stood there until the sun appeared through a crack above her, they were literally waiting for sunrise to start the games. She asks if they are prepared, and Malik (this is very interesting, and poignant) says that he is ready, while Rushton says that we are ready. Already indicating that the two groups and leaders are vastly different, and I think this is something that is the real test here, not just who wins, but how they win.

Bram collects the dice from the overguardian, and throws them into the air. They land on six, and that means they are competing in ‘The Pit’. Bram threw them again, and there are going to be four members from each group competing. Rushton and Malik now have to decide which four will be competing. Rushton asks Bram how they can choose if they do not know what is involved in ‘The Pit’. Bram answers him with another question, how do warriors deal with lack of knowledge in battle? So the Misfits gathered around, and Miryum says to go for diversity in their selection, and Dameon offers that the name might give them a clue to the task. Since it is a pit, it must be in the ground, so they may need to climb and be strong, which means Hannay. And Fian remembers that sometimes Sadorians use pits to holdbeasts, so they need a beastspeaker just in case. Rushton suggests Freya, without even thinking about offering Elspeth. Fian wonders if the Pit is to do with mechanics, so Rushton allows him to compete. They also choose Miryum because of her strength and coercion. I think Elspeth feels a bit hurt that she wasn’t chosen, when she is honestly the strongest Misfit they have, but who knows what the task entails, and whether coercion would be helpful.

As the chosen four step up, Rushton is concerned with his choice, and seems to be affected by not putting his own name into the ring, in contrast, Malik is not competing either, but does not seem fussed. Jakoby tells them to choose an implement each from the selection in the armament. Angina cannot believe they have to choose a weapon without know what they need to do. But Miky disagrees as Malik is in the same position, so it is a level playing field. Elspeth notes that it is slowly getting hotter, and sees that the roof and walls of the cave are covered in moss, and thinks about how often the caves collapse (this isn’t really the time, to be honest). The eight returning from the armament, you can see that the rebels are selecting the most deadly, with knives, a net, an axe and a sword. The Misfits on the other hand, have some rope, a shield, a knife, and a stave made from wood. Bram led them to another pit, like a smaller copy of where they just were, and it was invisible until they were nearly in it. Daffyd theorises that these cracks must have been made in the Great White and Elspeth hopes that these ones are poisonous like the ones near the orphanage.

Elspeth could see a cage was set in the rift, and divides it into two. Inside the cage were two bears. One large bear, and one small bear (where do these bears live normally, surely not in the desert?). Jakoby announces that this Battlegames have now opened, and the first game shall commence. There is no further explanation or instructions. What are they supposed to do? And good thing they have at least one beast speaker, to control a bear. They should have picked Elspeth, she could have helped. But what will the rebels do? And I’m going to leave it there, as much as I hate to, but I know that I don’t want to start the first game and try to rush through it, so that will be next time. Sorry.

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