Ashling – Chapter 43

Chapter Forty-Three

The Temple guardian (a he, but not the overguardian) makes Elspeth follow him through the network of tunnels that is the Earthtemple. Elspeth demands to know where she is being taken, and when she can see her friends. The overguardian says soon, but apparently he has been saying the same thing for days. Elspeth snaps at him saying that she is no longer sick and doesn’t want to be kept as a prisoner, and that she knows they were here earlier, so why can’t she see them now. He doesn’t respond. What exactly is going on? Why is he keeping Elspeth away from everyone else? Elspeth resigns herself and wonders whether everyone has just left to go back to Sutrium, because it has been 8 days since the Battlegames ended (5 days she was asleep, and now 3 days awake). Elspeth had been weak when she first woke up, and the guardians cared for her, but now she was fine, and wanted to leave. And she has no chance of finding her own way out in this labyrinth of tunnels, so she must wait until the overguardian allows someone to show her the way out.

Elspeth was about to ask the guardian again why she was being kept, when they rounded a corner and found themselves looking at carved panels which Elspeth had not seen previously. I’m sure it would be an impressive sight in itself, but, Elspeth recognised the style, it was done by the same person who did Obernewtyn’s doors. The guardian prompts her to continue, but she wants to know who did the carvings, he tells her that Kasanda did them, and asks her to keep moving. Who is Kasanda? And how did she carve things that ended up in Sador and Obernewtyn? Does this mean she travelled by boat, many years ago between the two lands? So many questions, and Elspeth has another, when will she see the overguardian?

He does not respond, giving rise to Elspeth internal challenge of keeping control of her temper. Before she could say something rude enough to crack the guardian, he stops infront of a stone doorway. He asks her to go in, and the overguardian will be with her soon. Just like that? Was she going to the overguardian to begin with, or has her reaction changed things? Inside the doorway, was a cavern. Apparently the Temple is a natural labyrinth and only a small portion of the entire thing is used. Inside this cavern (unlike any other) the walls were covered with stone carvings, clearly also done by Kasanda (whoever she is, she was skilled at both wood and stone carving, that is impressive!).

The guardian shows her the first panel in the sequence, and tells her that she starts there and then should go around the room. Looking at the first carving, Elspeth could tell it was not all stone, part of it was mud and fibre to make some shapes, and some of it was tinted for different tones. The panel shows one of the Beforetime cities, Elspeth thinks of Tor, but this one was alive. The buildings reached up into the sky, and seemed to praise the Beforetimers. With such detail, it must mean that Kasanda must have been alive to witness these buildings first-hand.

A while later, Elspeth tore herself from the first panel to look at the second carving, again with Beforetime structures, but subtly different. She could see that the buildings were being shown to crush the earth and smother live. This panel was not speaking of the greatness of the Beforetimers but of their oppression of the earth and other life forms. At the third panel, the Beforetime structures were still present but this time there was a blackness above them, showing how the Beforetimers choked the air with their poisons. Panel after panel depicted similar scenes, of rivers, forests and mountains destroyed and poisoned by the Beforetimers who mastered the earth and built ignoring all costs.

At the next panel, there were scenes of the Great White, and Elspeth thought their fate was inevitable given what she saw beforehand. After the Great White faded (in the panels) the panels showed utter desolation, the Blacklands. A boy speaks to her, saying that this is a place of sorrows, and Elspeth turns to see the overguardian. He lifts away his hood, and Elspeth recoils involuntarily. His face was grossly deformed, and Elspeth apologises for her unkind reaction. He does not seem to mind, and says the same thing that poisoned the earth poisoned his mother, which is true of all guardians here. Elspeth was surprised by his age, and that he is a Misfit (whether he and others have Talent, remains unknown). Elspeth tells him that she is thankful of his healing, but he tells her that he nor any other guardian healed her, she did that herself.

Elspeth is reminded of her strange dreams, where Atthis told her that her body knew how to heal itself, which does explain a lot. She also remembered that Atthis told her of the world’s need for her, but looking around the room at the panels, Elspeth cannot help but wonder if the earth would be better without humanity. Especially since the Holocaust hasn’t changed anything, people like Malik still exist. The overguardian tells Elspeth of a story, about one who comes across the ocean searching for the fifth sign of Kasanda. Elspeth asks if this is the same person who carved everything, but he does not respond. Instead he speaks to tell her that there are many born with Kasanda’s gift both in Sador and ‘The Land’, but the story says that the one who comes seeking the signs, will have three companions, one of whom shall be of true Kasanda blood. How mysterious.

Elspeth asks him why he telling her all of this. He replies that he may have dreamed of her coming here, and that he must tell her this, as he has Kasanda’s gift of true dreaming. The first Kasanda was the one who dreamed of the Seeker. Elspeth can hardly believe it, she is the Seeker. Kasanda told his people that the Seeker would bear the Moonwatcher (who has daylight eyes) and be borne by the Daywatcher (who is the colour of shadows), who are complementary to one another. No information was given about the Seeker, maybe it was too dangerous to leave any (especially incase the Destroyer found out). But the Moonwatcher sounds a lot like Maruman, and the Daywatcher could easily be Gahltha. Elspeth cannot believe that her destiny is linked to Sador.

The overguardian continues and tells her that Kasanda dreamed of the signs and spread them across the lands, so only the Seeker could find them. Elspeth asks if he knows what the signs are, but he says he knows many things, like the Herders who come bearing lethal gifts and must be watched to stop them harming the earth. He also knows that the Seeker, with her three companions, will come to Sador to find the last sign, and it is then that the overguardian can help them. Elspeth pretends that this has nothing to do with her, and asks to be let out. He says her friends will be here tomorrow to collect her. Back outside, the overguardian vanishes, and Elspeth is left to follow the guardian back to her chamber.

Left alone, Elspeth tried to catch up with all that just happened and how the Beforetimers could possibly screw up the earth so greatly (her answer, is power, which is true). She decides to relax and sends out her mind out into the desert. Elspeth is longing for the mountains of Obernewtyn and Maruman’s voice comes into her mind and tells her to seek them, if she needs them. He is flying on the dreamtrails, and continues to push her to seek the mountains, even though they are across the Blacklands, which Elspeth’s mind cannot cross. He tells her that she can, if she seek the dreamtrails, and he tells her to follow him.

She let him take hold of her, but then she felt claws, and Maruman yelled at her to flee, and then Gahltha was there telling her to ride him. Was that the H’yraka? Somehow she is now back in the turrets of Obernewtyn. How can this be possible? She spots Gahltha outside her window and runs to ride with him. Gahltha tells her that this has happened and anything that has happened can happen again, because life is full of circles (interesting…). Whether this is real or not, is a hard question, because both of them are far from here, and yet here. They rode far reaching the feet of the highest mountain. He told her that he would eat some grass, and she would nourish herself on the mountains (okay…). She was faced with a question, could anything humans do, really matter, when compared to the immovable mountains? But even mountains could be killed.

She felt as though she felt the lifeforce of the earth. She realised that if the Destroyer reached the weapons and used them, it was not just humanity that would be wiped out, but so would everything, even the earth itself, which could be killed, just like a mountain. She was now resolved as ever to fight for the earth, and to go when the Agyllians called her. She would complete her quest, no matter what, even if it meant giving up her own life. She slept then, and awoke, more refreshed than ever before, and without a worry.

The guardian led her outside, where she was greeted by Kella and Dameon. Kella tells her (after a greeting) that the rebellion has been decided for the winter, but Elspeth was not interested. She asks about Maruman, who has been making himself at home with Powyrs, and Dragon, who has remained unchanged. Elspeth wonders if she even had to leave Sador, because Atthis could call her just the same here as Obernewtyn, but she will return. They reach the tents, where everyone wants to ask her many questions. Elspeth asks where Rushton is, and an uncomfortable silence falls. Kella tells him that because they lost, he blamed himself for their defeat, and has been cold ever since. He walks alone, and hardly eats, and has decided to give up leading them. He thinks they should be led by a true Misfit, not just one with a latent Talent.

Elspeth remembers that Rushton had said they would learn about themselves because of the Battlegames, and they had found the price of being warriors was too high. She realises that the empath’s song was better this time, because they finally knew what it was like to be a warrior. Elspeth remembers that Atthis had told her to join the Misfits, because their cause was worthy, and Elspeth worked, but was always waiting for the call to whisk her away. Now she saw that the Misfts’ cause and the quest, were one in the same. She needs to make sure the world is not full of Maliks and Herders, otherwise they will only build them again in the future. Maybe Obernewtyn can start a revolution, one where they do not need destruction. She began to grin like a fool, and looked at everyone. Rushton might no love her anymore, but her emotions were not important in the context of everything. She finally understands that she could never lose Obernewtyn, even for the quest. And she must tell Rushton that the Battlegames have been the best thing for them, and it has shown them their true nature.

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