Ashling – Chapter 42 Part Two

Chapter Forty-Two Part Two

It is time for Bram to roll for the final battlegame. The game was titled ‘Song’ and if it literally means sing a song, the Misfits CANNOT lose because of their awesome talent. The number of players is two, and that suits the Misfits perfectly, with the two twins being the best singers ever. I just can’t help but laugh at the thought of Malik’s reaction to this (partially that he thinks this is a joke, but he would look so mad) and what the rebels will possibly sing at all. Bram tells Malik that that Battlegames test many qualities, and that unless he wishes to forfeit he must choose the two rebels that will sign.

The two rebels that Malik chose, sang a ‘bawdy battle song’ which was probably the only song they sung. I feel slightly bad for them having to do something they likely were not comfortable with doing and compared to what the twins are about to sing, they look like fools.

Speaking of the twins, it instead of the battle song, deals with not the glory of war, but with the tragedy of it. It is an old song song that told of two boys, who were brothers separated at birth and sent to war against one another. Only when one had killed the other, did they understand what had come to pass. A tragedy indeed. The song was a dirge, apparently sung by the surviving brother over the dead brother’s body. Elspeth had heard this song before, but never like it was preformed there. This rendition had pure rending sorrow, and now empathised it was a song that went greater and deeper than just a song about two brothers. Elspeth wept at the song, and wept for the two brothers, but she also wept for her brother, Jes, who she lost back in Obernewtyn, and Jik, Matthew, Dragon, the gypsy Caldeko (Iriny’s bondmate) and even the nameless rebel who died here today. She cried for all the victims of hatred and war.

She was not the only one who wept, Kella, Dameon and Freya and many of the Sadorians also wept. Even a few of the rebels wiped their eyes by the final line, which I will quote. “Will there ever be a time when war does not kill the babes and the dreams of the world?” A question I do wonder, and I assume Isobelle Carmody wonders also. As the final notes faded away, the sun set, as if paying homage to the twins and their wondrous song.

Malik was dry-eyed (of course) as Bram stepped up to speak (he was wiping his eyes). He says that the rebels offered a song with humour, which can raise the hopes of warriors and boost their courage. But he acknowledges that the Mifits sang a song that ran much deeper, and reached into the souls of warriors and made them question themselves about what they are about to do. Malik is very rude and didn’t understand the meaning of the song or see the beauty, and questions how this would help warriors win a battle, and how can a song that brings tears to the ‘weak and the womanish’ help? Complete sexism there, you can’t just say that only women cry, and that crying makes you feminine, I think that Malik doesn’t even have a heart, and is really a robot sent into the future from the Beforetime, and he is the Destroyer, because robots will revel in a world without life (yep… that’s my theory….).

Bram deals with him well, and tells him that though a song may not wield a sword of metal, it can put a sword into the heart that will never rust or blunt. A song can make warriors who are close to surrender get up and fight, it can raise an army, or quell the tears of a baby. He announces that win the setting of the sun, the Battlegames are over! Immediately, Malik demands to know who won, and Bram just stares at him and then tells him that impatience is the least of his faults, and that it is a kind of greed and one day will be his undoing.

He then speaks to everyone. He has been asked to judge these Battlegames, but would like to tell everyone that the games are not a matter of tallying up points, but examining how all the games were played. This makes judging difficult, and can mean that those awarded less points, can end up winning (good news for the Misfits). Elspeth is heartened by this news. But it is short lived. For this Battlegame, the decision is easy. The games were played to find out who were the better warriors, and whether the Misfits with their unusual Talents were worthy of an alliance. The answer is of course that the rebels are more suited to battle than the Misfits. The rebels are aggressive and turn to violence immediately, and if these men are representative of the full army, are ready for battle. No instict, mercy, compassion or love of beauty would restrain them from their destruction (not necessarily a good thing). They are swift, ruthless, decisive and resourceful. They are filled with desire to dominate and abuse (maybe good values for a warrior, but not a human). Remember that these men will have to live with what they do in any war, and they may be all gung-ho now, but how will they feel with their ruthless actions later, or will they be filled with no regrets because of their cold-hearted nature?

As for the Misfits, Bram continues, that if they are representative of their fellows, they are no warriors. They care too much about life and one another to be ruthless killers. And they are not inspired by the glories of war, and are filled with sorrow at the death of friend or foe, whether that be beast or human. Their powers are used for defence, making them ‘useless’. They are not weak or cowardly, but seem incapable of using their minds as weapons. He uses their song as an example, which instead of putting fear into the hearts of their enemies, made everyone cry. He believes that they will never have the rebel’s single-mindedness because for the Misfits they cannot see things in terms of simple goals, there is a bigger picture.

He continues to talk now speaking about Sador, where they value the earth above all life (including beasts and humans, so I guess animal rights aren’t their main concern) because of the short and unimportant nature of life. The Sadorians had thought that all Landfolk had valued their lives too much, and that they thought themselves as the most important person/thing on the planet. But the Misfits seem to value all life, and to the Sadorians this is a hard thing to contemplate. He gives them one final thing to think about. They opposed the alliance with the Misfits because they were seen as inhuman and monsters, but he asks them, which team today has shown humanity and which has shown itself to be monstrous. In the end, he announces the rebels as the winners of the Battlegames, but he does so with no pride or happiness. The rebels cheered, but there was some confusion to that cheering, and Malik was happy to move to the rebel leaders and receive their congratulations.

Rushton faces all of them, and says that Bram’s judgements were fair. Elspeth went to tell Rushton that if she had to be like Malik to be a warrior, she would not want to be a warrior, but oddly her legs buckled and Rushton had to move to catch her. However, it says she slipped through and fell into the abyss, but I don’t know if that actually happened (that she was somehow really close to a cliff in this isis pool and she fell down it) or if this is just referring to her falling into unconsciousness.

Elspeth dreamed of being strapped to the Zebkrahn machine, and her legs were on fire. She dreamed of the Agyllian healer, Nerat, who taught her body to heal itself. She dreamed of the red-haired lady drowning in the ocean, bleeding, of Swallow raising a sword to salute her and of Ariel searching down tunnels to find her. She dreamed of Maruman telling her she would lead the beasts to freedom and of seeing the dolphins out in the ocean. She dreamed (she saw quite a lot) of Rushton standing at the doors of Obernewtyn, with Freya in his arms. She dreamed of a shining river, that called her name, the Mindstream, that if she went into it, she would die.

But, Atthis speaks to her, and warns her not to go into the Mindstream. Elspeth is relieved that Atthis has finally spoken to her, and not through someone else (like Maruman or Mayron). She asks why she never spoke directly to her and Atthis tells her that the H’rayka would hear, because he flies the dreamtrails, and listens to find out what she would tell Elspeth, so he can thwart them. But right now, he cannot hear (interesting that it is a he) them now, because they are too close to the ‘death/dreaming river’ because he would fear being swallow. Elspeth might share that fate, because she is perilously close, and she must move away. Atthis is holding her but her strength is fading. But Elspeth doesn’t want to leave here, where there is no pain, and she says that if she leaves, Atthis will not speak to her again. Atthis tells her that now is not her time to ‘hear this song’ and die, but Elspeth wants to why she is here then. Atthis explains that a small artery in her leg was severed during the Battlegames, and she nearly bled to death, and they (probably Kella) stopped the blood, but right now she is too close to death. Her body has learned to heal itself (which explains why she miraculously healed all the time, is that why the tattoo did not work?) but being so close to the stream she cannot heal herself, and she must draw away if she is to live.

Elspeth fell a pull to return and live, but she fought against it, because she was not sure she wanted to live. Atthis tells her that the pull she feels back to the world, is because someone wants her alive. She tells her to go and heal, because the world needs her, and that otherwise the H’rayka wins and the beasts will never be free. She felt the pulling again, and wondered who it was that she was connected to, and drawn by curiosity she was drawn away. She tries to call out to the person, but there was nothing.

She opened her eyes, and she saw a monster, and she fled. Again she opened her eyes and saw Kella, and then Dameon. Then she was lying in a dark, cold room, sitting beside her was the Temple overguardian. The overguardian tells her that she is in the Earthtemple and she has slept for a long time.

What a dramatic turn of events, I did not expect Elspeth to nearly die, especially when she seemed fine. Who was holding her to the earth, was it Rushton? Dameon? Matthew? Could it be in some perverse way the H’rayka (who may or may not be the Destroyer who may or may not be Ariel) want Elspeth alive, so they can have a showdown and a real challenge, or that he needs Elspeth to find the weaponmachines faster? I have no idea how we would find out for sure, but it is good to know Elspeth is well. I wonder if we will find out more about this overguardian, and how they are, and more about the Temple in general! Even though there is not a lot left, I think there will be a lot to talk about! (Have I ever gone over 2000 words before? Now I have.)

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