The Keeping Place – Chapter 10 – Part Two

Chapter Ten – Part Two

So we now know that it is Dragon that is disrupting everyone’s sleep, and is that flying beast that attacked Elspeth in her dreams. Angina has just gone off to sing to her, to try and get through to her, and see whether they can calm the beast. Gevan asks whether they should cancel moonfair, but that would be an overreaction, and since Dameon has not returned, people need something to lift their spirits. However, Elspeth would like one coercer and one futureteller to sit with Dragon constantly to monitor her, as well as one of the twins to sing to her (though I guess they only need to sing at night). As the other guildleaders go back to their duties, the others gradually leave. Alad will ask Rasial if any of the beasts have been dreaming of the dragon, and Roland will send Maruman to Elspeth, when he wakes. Unfortunately for Elspeth and for Miryum, Bruna also is certain that if Miryum does not name another gift, Straaka will kill himself. I guess the only thing they could do, is name something that is either impossible or would take a very long time.

Elspeth catches on to this idea, and starts to wonder what exactly the limit of the gift could be. But this presents a problem, as it is entirely dishonest for Miryum to set him a task if she does not intend to bond with him, and given her code of chivalry, she will be against it. Miryum will just have to accept this moral dilemma, because she either gives him something impossible to do, or allow him to kill himself. Ceirwan says Elspeth should bathe and relax, after her journey, but this will have to wait as Wila arrives, wanting to speak to Elspeth about her presentation on the Herders. I had forgotten about this presentation, and am very eager to find out what Wila has on the Herders.

Wila comes in and arranges her notes, and points out that these are only ‘rough notes’. Just before she starts, Elspeth makes a point I had never considered. Wila is considerably older than Elspeth (in fact she could easily be her mother) and there are others at Obernewtyn who are ‘old’, and yet, none of them are in any position of power. Rushton is only a few years older than Elspeth, and as far as I can gather all the other guildleaders are around Elspeth age, give or take a few years. It is almost like a role-reversal, that the ‘adults’ have to be told what to do by the ‘children’. Elspeth is not exactly a child, but it is just an unusual, and somewhat awkward situation for them all, when dealing with the older members of Obernewtyn, as it is just a thing, that your elders know more than you, and you should follow their instructions. If you look at politicians, especially the Presidents and Prime Ministers, they are almost exclusively ‘old’. And this system is actually an issue, considering that these people who are in power, won’t really have to pay the price in 10-20+ years for their policies, their children will. But in Obernewtyn it is the youth that are in charge, and it makes it somewhat awkward for them dealing with the older members. Something I had never considered.

Back to the juicy, exciting news. Wila describes that they all knew it would be hard to get information on the upper levels of the Faction, but they had a chance when a visiting Herder came to the mainland. Good thing this Herder was not a mind-sensitive or natural shield person. They found out quite a lot of information. The leader of the Herders is called The One, who is served by a group called The Three, who in turn are all serviced by three members of The Nine. They were unable to get a name for The One, clearly this man does not know it, and probably only The Three do. However, they found out the names of The Three. They are Zuria, Mendi and Grisyl. The Nine are supposed to service all of The Three, but there is division of The Nine into groups of three to service each member of The Three. They do not know of all of The Nine, but they do know a few. Zuria’s men are Nhills, Juri and Eril. Each of these three, have different responsibilities. Juri recruits boys, Eril trains novices and Nhills deals with the acolytes and places the novices around the Land. Eril rarely leaves Herder Isle, but the other two regularly travel to the Land.

Elspeth interrupts to ask whether The One leaves the Isle, but only The Three and a few special servants even get to see The One. This collection of The One, The Three and The Nine are called (or may have been called by Obernewtyn) the inner cadre. These are the brains of the operation. Each of the cloister head priests form the upper ranks of the outer cadre. There are 39 head priests, and they act like the leaders to over 117 senior priests, each. That’s over 4,500 senior priests! These senior priests have been called Lesser Nines (I think that is an error and they mean Lesser Threes, not nines, they are next in this progression). The Lesser Nines are the ordinary unranked priests.

Elspeth again interrupts to ask about the 39 head priests who each lead a cloister, as Elspeth believes there are not 39 cloisters. But Wila knows this, and explains that there are 15 cloisters on the land, but in Sutrium and Morganna, there is a ‘double set’ (so two heads, two sets of lesser threes, etc.). There are three training cloisters on Herder Isle and two cloisters on Norseland. And the remaining head priests are on Herder Isle, waiting to be ‘rotated’ into a cloister. I misunderstood a section, there are 39 head priests, and they lead three senior priests (totally 117 senior priests), who in turn lead nine other priests. This means there are over 500 priests involved in the cadres (not quite as impressive as 4,500, but still a large number). But there still are all the many acolytes, novices and servants. Which easily totals over a thousand people.

Each of these levels of priests has different clothing and armbands. It is a very complex organisation. This complexity makes it easier for the Faction to keep control of everything and everyone, and only let those at the top know everything. Elspeth asks how exactly she found out all of this information. Nhills came to Guanette, but it was not his mind, but his servants that was scrutinised. Even still Elspeth is concerned about whether the boy was aware of their entrance and journey in his mind. She full well knows that the Herder senior priests are aware of Misfits, and those who are found to be Misfits are sent to Herder Isle, never to be heard from again. Elspeth cannot help but wonder what exactly goes on at Herder Isle, and why they were not in charge of the Land, they certainly had their numbers, but seem to be waiting for something. But what?

Elspeth commends Wila and her team, and tells her to definitely prepare a report for guildmerge, so everyone can understand the extent of Herders. They may have to consider sending people to Sutrium to stake out one of the cloisters to try and gather more information than they would get at one of the lesser cloisters. Even Rushton, who has dismissed the Herders in the past as not a threat, will have to take notice of their vast numbers. Elspeth even supports Wila to come up with a daring strategy to get someone on Herder Isle to get right in the thick of things, but it would have to be impressive, otherwise it would just be too risky.

Once Wila had left, Elspeth was alone to think of just how powerful the Herders are, and that their large numbers have gone unnoticed. Elspeth didn’t have lone to wonder, she still had Tomash’s charts and maps to go over about the Council, and she still had an unopened letter from Dameon to read, she was too busy to be kept in her thoughts. When Ceirwan returned with some food, Elspeth was not hungry. The number of soldierguards and Councilmen, was not shocking, but still very high. It makes me wonder if the rebels are aware of the Council and Herders’ true numbers. Ceirwan suggests she rest, as tomorrow is Moonfair and there will be much to do. But Elspeth tells him of Wila’s findings and he too is shocked. It raises the question what will happen if the rebels overthrow the Council. Will the Herders just roll over? Or will they launch their own rebellion? And could the rebels even take the Herders, especially on Herder Isle, which must be a fortress?

Ceirwan ran into Miky on his way, and saw Dragon, who looked no different. He could not tell whether Angina’s singing had any effect on Dragon, and the group was too busy to let him know. Maruman is still sleeping above Dragon’s head, and Dell attempted to enter his mind, but his shield made that impossible. Ceirwan announces he is going to bed, and Elspeth is finally left alone. All she can think about is Rushton, and just where he could be. It was time for him to get back home.

And now, we are onto part two. Quite a lot has happened for the first part of this book. Okay no real fighting, not much travel, but a lot has been learnt. A lot of detail has been given to us about the Council, the Herders and the Beforetime, which just shows how expansive and complex this world is. And yet, we still no so little. And then there is poor Dragon, who is trapped in her coma, and is causing people to have nightmares with a flying beast. No one has been able to reach her, so let’s hope the empath twins can calm the beast. It won’t be long before Elspeth asks Maruman about going on the dreamtrails, and if we do, that will be another first. Rushton should be back soon, and moonfair is tomorrow, so exciting things all around!

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