Just a quick point before I begin. Can you believe that it has been 300 pages (40% of the book) and Elspeth has been at Obernewtyn the whole time (well she went to Tor, but that is an outpost of Obernewtyn). So different from ‘Ashling’ and ‘The Farseekers’ where she was hardly at Obernewtyn. Now we just have to find out what is wrong with Miryum.
Elspeth demands to know what happened, as she looks at the unconscious Straaka (very reminiscent of the scene back in Sador), and I had forgotten that Straaka was going to talk to Miryum about bonding during moonfair. Had Elspeth even told Miryum of her plan or discussed it with her, since telling Straaka of her duty to Obernewtyn? Miryum explains that she had to knock him out, otherwise he would have killed himself. So it seems whatever she told him, it wasn’t good enough. She continues by saying to Elspeth that she was waiting to talk to her before talking to him, but he came over to ask whether she would uphold the vow she made to him. Miryum couldn’t respond, so decided to tell him it was all a mistake, and tell him the truth. She said that she did not know what taking the horses meant, and he couldn’t make her hold an agreement she did not understand.
Elspeth cursed herself for not talking to Miryum sooner (I guess her mind was elsewhere), and asks what he did next. Apparently he said that he understood, but due to customs of his people, he was required to kill himself. He then took out a knife, and she knocked him out. Elspeth takes control of the situation, and tells Miryum to drag Straaka to the barn and put him in a spare bed, making sure to remove his knife (or any other weapon for that matter). Miryum doesn’t think that would stop him, because he was so calm and determined about the whole process, and she doesn’t think there is any time for a plan. Elspeth does offer her a way out though, and it pushes the line of what is ethical/moral and what is not; she suggests she wipe his memory of what happened and start again.
What an ethical quandary. Removing his memory is such an invasion of his mental privacy, that it is almost abhorrent, and starting to play with people’s memories opens a whole new issue, as where is the line. If you had a bad date, but really love the girl/guy, does that make it okay to just wipe their memory of the terrible experience and give it another shot? Of course not. But it opens a whole new set of situations, that people (immoral people yes) could exploit by just wiping other people’s memory until they get what they want. However, in this situation where they either wipe his memory or let him kill himself, I think wiping his memory is the better option.
Elspeth tells Miryum to say that he fainted before they could speak, and even though he will ask the same question of her, she will have to listen to him, and tell him that she has every intention of keeping her vow. But Miryum is pressed on morals again, as she doesn’t want to, and will not lie. So Elspeth lays down the gauntlet, and says that if she doesn’t lie, she will have to watch what the truth will do. Miryum says that she cannot bond with him, but Elspeth never said anything about bonding with him (he just needs to think that), just saying that she will come eventually, but for now, she must keep another vow to Rushton and to Obernewtyn. And that oath is to serve Rushton until the Misfits are free in the Land (again a lie), and she must say that she is not free to leave with him, until that vow is fulfilled. If he does not accept this, then she should tell him to go back to Sador and wait for her, and if he wants to kill himself, use the ultimate bluff, and say that she will kill herself too. Since Straaka loves Miryum so much, he would never want Miryum to kill herself. Miryum reluctantly agrees, but what else can she do?
She tries to make out that it isn’t her fault she is in this mess, but as Elspeth says, if she didn’t knock him out in the first place, and listened to him, nothing would have had to happen. And with that Elspeth left to join the festivities, and left Miryum to decide what she wanted to do. She found the crowds surrounding Gruffyd’s wagon he created for the magi, and she had just missed a spectacular demonstration of defensive illusions. But the magi performance was yet to occur.
Gevan started the performance juggling, with music to match, and he made the performance progressively more difficult and more spectacular. I’m not going to try and describe the performance, you can read that yourselves, but it does sound very elaborate, and there is as little coercion involved as possible. Parts of the performance were awe-inspiring, and other parts were hilarious (unless you were a coercer-knight). The reaction from the coercer-knights is concerning, instead of enjoying the performance, which everyone else was, they drew away into their own group, and watched without expression. I wonder if it is envy of their fellow coercers, that are performing and are loved by Obernewtyn? Or are they just trying to reject the coercers, because they are not using coercion anymore, and are trying to be pacifistic?
As the performance went on, Elspeth could start to see the underlying message of the performance. Gevan would appear, and mock ignorance, and praise those who saw through the tricks, it was a smart, yet very subtle way to get their message across, and the knights should congratulate them on what they could achieve with this performance. The very underlying message is that fear makes people ignorant and stupid, when there is really nothing to fear. A puppet play took this idea further, showing how violent this fear could make people. Elspeth couldn’t help but question whether the message would make an impact on how Misfits were treated, Hannay, who sat near her, said that the performance was about not being frightened by what looked different. The next show will be about fearing what shouldn’t be feared. The second performance builds on the foundation they are laying in this performance, so in essence, they could perform different shows in the same town, slowing strengthening their message, and hopefully altering people’s attitudes towards others.
As the performance ended, Elspeth could see that in the towns the audience would likely shower the magi with coin and applause. But she is concerned that if they become too popular, people will become envious, as they are ‘half-breed Gypsies’. Just imagine what would happen if people could out they were Misfits! Elspeth had a closer look at the wagon, and it was so detailed, that it could pass of as a Twentyfamily Gypsy rig. Gevan comes over to Elspeth, and they talk of the performance, and he sadly tells her that Miryum may have to make her own splinter-group from the coercers, as having a guild so divided, is not healthy. They could force the two groups to stay together, but it would be best to allow both groups to exist separately, but they will have to see what Rushton thinks on the matter. She also asks what they will do if the Herders don’t take lightly the magi. But Gevan doesn’t mind if they come snooping, as long as they have nothing to find, and having the support of some councilmen, will make the Herders less inclined to do anything.
Gevan suggests his plan to send the magi on a Land-wide tour, which could double as an information gathering expedition, but that would have to be approved later. Though Gevan seems confident that they would be able to appease enough people to make travel safe, and spreading their message is something they have to do, otherwise the message is pointless, if nobody is listening. Night fell around them, and Gevan points out that Elspeth will have to take Rushton’s place again, in the all important Choosing Ceremony, which is a shame that Rushton has not returned yet.
Several Obernewtyners (I really don’t know what to call people who aren’t yet into a guild, novices, newbies, Obernewtynities?) chose their guilds, and some guildmembers were promoted, and a stunned Aras and Zarak were both promoted into the ward position. Elspeth made another speech, expressing her sadness that she was making the speech and not Rushton, but implored them to do their best, and thanked everyone for their contributions to the amazing day. Dinner was served and everyone split up into their own groups, enjoying music, dancing and more food. Elspeth farsought Miryum, and found that Straaka was yet to wake, and found Gahltha, who told her that Avra was still in labour, but everything was going well. Elspeth decided to go back to Obernewtyn, and end the day, but tomorrow she will ride with the Sadorians across the pass, to farwell them.
And with that, our first moonfair is over. Where is Rushton though? Has he just been held up, or is there something more worrying? And will Straaka and Miryum work things out so neither of them will kill themselves? I don’t know where this will go next, as everything was really leading up to moonfair in the previous chapters, though there is still the war, that this ‘part’ was titled after. That is coming, and I’m sure Obernewtyn will be taking part in one way or another.