The Stone Key – Chapter 6 – Part 2

Chapter Six – Part Two

The talk with Noviny now over, and a plan in place for tomorrow, Elspeth retires to bed, where he mind continues to figure out what to do about the blockade and the invasion. She elaborates on why she believes that Rushton would never come and rescue her like Zarak assumes. It’s not that he hates her, but he no longer loved her. Which I don’t think is true. Did something happen when they went for that nighttime walk at the end of The Keeping Place? Things looked like they were going to heal, but now, the two are just as distant. Now, the irony is that Elspeth loves him, but he doesn’t love her. What a mess.

Of course, with night comes dreaming. She dreams of the time when Matthew was about to be taken away by the slavers in Sutrium. The emotion of losing Matthew was strong enough to force Elspeth out of that memory and into a dream. Predictably, Elspeth ends up dreaming of Matthew, but now as a slave chipping away at rock with a pick. Strangely, it seems Elspeth was pulled into the present, where Matthew was at that moment. Because, Matthew seems spooked, since he thinks someone called his name, which Elspeth did. Did her cry for Matthew, somehow cross the sea and reach him? If this is true, then either Matthew is working during the night, or The Red Queen’s Land is so far away, it is still daylight.

Elspeth is soon woken by Zarak, who has an idea about Malik, just before dawn. He was always a schemer, but this idea, is probably his most ambitious. He wants the Herders to disembark from the boats, and then over power them, and take control of the ships. It would then mean they could use them to go to the west coast immediately, and it would mean they would have a cover, since it is a Herder ship. Elspeth went one step further in her head, she wants to ask Dardelan to allow a trip to the Red Queen’s Land, to free them using Dragon, and free Matthew, and also find the sign. For this to work, they still need a sizeable force to stop the Herders once they have landed.

But for now, Elspeth is going to go into town with Wenda, to ‘look for medicine for Darius’. Speaking of Darius, he has recovered, though his pride is a little shot. He too has no idea how to get word to the others, which I guess destroys any vague hope of Elspeth’s, that the Gypsies had some mysterious and secret form of communication.

Wenda and Elspeth later departed pulled in a wagon by Gahltha. It looked as though it was going to rain, which was bad news. But apparently it is worse than I thought, since Elspeth says that she would be unable to coerce anyone without physical contact in the rain. But that is not true, at least according to all the other books. They have been able to coerce, just think of TKP when they were being chased by the soldierguards. It was pouring then, and they still were able to use coercion (well, on those not wearing demonbands). I guess that is one of the contradictions that some people found annoying. But I guess Elspeth means that it would just be challenging to coerce. I don’t know.

They soon reached the town, and it was deserted, save a few of Vos’ men, who all wore demonbands. And these demonbands seemed to have been ‘improved’ with added taint, I guess word got out that Elspeth smashed through and killed a man wearing a demonband, so they thought it best to make it even more deadly. I wonder when the first person will get cancer from wearing such tainted material so close to their head, and for such a long time. They were so tainted, that Elspeth felt numb just trying to probe the men. And I guess the rain will make no difference, since everyone of importance is wearing these demonbands, so Elspeth’s powers are useless.

Of course the poor store-owners are completely shocked at seeing a stranger, I just hope that they don’t get into trouble for Elspeth’s plan. The conversation between Elspeth and the store-owner, was more than awkward, as both are full of apprehension. It only gets worse when one of Vos’ armsmen enters the store. Wenda comes over to Elspeth to ask if she has found some medicine for Darius, but Elspeth says she hasn’t, so Wenda offers a herbal solution. This sets off the armsmen, who accuses her of stealing a customer away from the store-owners. In fact the armsman is Vos’ nephew. Seriously all of Vos’ men are so delusional and power-hungry, that he threatens the store-owners’ child, as a way of ensuring they do not vote for Noviny. Though, how Vos would know who they vote for is a mystery, since hundreds of ballots will be mixed together.

Elspeth plays it well, and actually intervenes in the situation, by saying that he should not tarnish the chieftain’s name by blackmailing these people, very clever. Though she goes a step too far, by basically saying that Vos is a tyrant if he allows blackmailing, but Elspeth rectifies this by saying that Vos would never be a tyrant or a criminal, since he clearly wouldn’t order his men to blackmail. That puts an end to the man’s attempt, and Wenda takes some terrible looking flour, and they leave. But I don’t think they’ll get away that easily. Outside, they are met with another armsman, who tells her that they forgot to mention who they were staying with at the blockade. Apparently this armsman is supposed to learn the names of the newcomers in the area, and of course, Elspeth gives a fake name, Ella.

They go to leave, and nearly do, before the man catches Elspeth’s arm, and tells her that she should pay Vos a visit, as is custom. Elspeth treads the line very carefully, though she could almost be seen to cross the line in how she responds. It is a very dangerous game, and she tries to make out she will visit him tomorrow, but they aren’t taking no for an answer. Elspeth is taken away from Wenda to be taken to Vos by these men. Of course Wenda doesn’t realise that this is exactly what Elspeth wants, so Elspeth has to coerce her, to let her go. Of course Gahltha is very reluctant to leave Elspeth on her own, and it takes some convincing for him to leave.

As soon as Elspeth is taken into ‘custody’, one of the armsmen seems to have figured out that Elspeth is a beastspeaker, and that Gahltha is hers. They actually do know that Khuria is a beastspeaker, and they assume that Zarak is also a beastspeaker. Elspeth goes along with it, and agrees, but says that Darius is not. She hopes that nobody will connect her to Elspeth. The nephew of Noviny is so infuriating, that he actually believes in Lud, and thinks it an abomination that Elspeth is speaking to a beast. Elspeth goes toe-to-toe with him, with one of the funniest lines. “Did Lud tell you that, did he? It is odd that he didn’t tell me or the horse.” That makes ‘Otto’ so mad, but it gets worse for him, as Elspeth has taken his spot on the wagon, and now he will have to find his own way back. What is surprising, is that Elspeth tries to contact the horse, and even makes physical contact, and yet, there is buzzing. The horse is even wearing ‘demonbands’! Malik is taking things very seriously. The poor horses, having to wear the taint!


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