Chapter Twelve – Part One (plenty to get through, so two parts, don’t want to run out of posts too quickly!)
Elspeth now makes her way around Vos’ home, a strange contrast to a few hours earlier where she had to creep around the house with Kevrik. She finds food, and a large group of people, where Vos’ throne once stood. It is not just people in the room, but also Maruman, he has returned, and is safe. But he wasn’t very happy to see Elspeth, and part of that would be because he didn’t enjoy the ride over to Vos’. But I guess he isn’t happy with Elspeth risking herself yet again, since he thinks Elspeth must be careful lest the Destroyer win. Though, I am sure the Agyllians would have had a hand in at least predicting these events, so maybe it was fate.
The room is full of strangers, men and women that Noviny believe are trustworthy and should be involved in deciding what happens next for Saithwood. Vos has already handed Noviny the chieftainship, and even will be a witness to Malik’s crimes. But who is chieftain is not important, since there is an invasion to work into an advantage. Rushton lays down some rules as he prepares to leave. Everything must remain as it is, lest someone catch wind and the invasion be called off. Malik’s camp and the blockades must look as though nothing has happened, and coercers will be out in force pretending to be Malik’s men. Anyone aligned with Malik will be thrown in prison for the time being, since this is an opportunity they cannot afford to lose. Surprisingly, though it shouldn’t be too surprising, Elspeth and Dameon are now temporary joint-chieftains, until Noviny returns, at his insistence.
Of course Elspeth feels hurt that she was not consulted on whether she wanted to stay in Saithwood or go to Sutrium. I understand that she feels like she has been ignored, but the question should be asked, did she want to go to Sutrium? Eventually she calms down as she listens to a man talk of the Herder raining exercises, which seemed to mirror the coercer training. And the weapon they use, I have no idea of a modern equivalent, but apparently it comes from the Red Queen’s Land, but originates from a place where it is constantly winter (the Arctic? The Antarctic?) and is based on a Beforetime weapon. I do like hearing talk of these other lands, pity we know nothing for sure. Scarily for the Herder warriors, their fighting is not about violence, it is about serving Lud. And for them, fighting is their sort of praying. That sort of devotion is one of the most dangerous things, so I am now more terrified of these Herder warriors than ever before. How are regular people and partially trained armsmen ever going to fend off an attack of these highly skilled and very dangerous warriors?
Dameon is reminded of the Gadfian men who found a sort of honour in dying in battle, I have no doubt that the Herders would also take great pride in dying during a battle against these traitorous Lud-haters. Rushton seems to think that a coercer could easily taken on a priest in this battle. But of course, they will be quickly outnumbered. But the location can easily play to our advantage, since the steps coming up from the beach are narrow and only allow one person up at a time. But still how can they knock off one person continuously without warning the others about an attack? Rushton makes a rousing ‘speech’ to those regular folk in the room, who are afraid of fighting the Herders. He reminds them that they are all free, and if they want to stay that way, they will have to fight.
Rushton tries to calm Elspeth’s anger that she wasn’t consulted, by saying that he thought that she would want to stay and keep Darius company until he can be moved, which will be a week. It isn’t the best attempt at calming her down, and I don’t think it worked. But Elspeth can’t respond, because Zarak has a plan about the invasion. He wants to use some caves that are on the beaches. But Rushton doesn’t want to talk of strategy now, and gets pretty snappy at him. It almost is like he doesn’t want to discuss it in front of Elspeth, yes a moment was just ruined, but why not talk strategy now? He makes amends by suggesting Zarak come with them to Sutrium to talk further once they know what Malik knows.
Everyone soon leaves, and the townsfolk talk to Elspeth and Dameon for a bit, somewhat fearfully at first, but then Dameon works his magic and they are smiling. I do like that Elspeth wonders about the morality of even empathy. I have in the past waved off any moral attack on empathy because empaths are just the nicest and kindest people and wouldn’t be malicious, in fact, I don’t think they can, unless they are twisted empaths. So the morality of empathy hasn’t been a huge concern of mine, I focused on coercion which can make people do what someone else wants. But empathy completely changes a person’s emotions, without the other person knowing or without their consent. That is actually a serious thing, because emotions play a huge part in how people react, interact and simply function. Obviously this could make bad situations less explosive, but tampering with emotions isn’t exactly a shining example of morality. I guess because the empaths will never manipulate people, which would be frankly, very easy with empathy, it shouldn’t be a worry. But with all Talents and things, there has to be people out there willing to abuse it, so surely there are empaths out there who are twisted and who do control people though emotions. I’d say Ariel fits that description pretty well. And leading on from that, if he is the Destroyer, then wouldn’t it be fitting that he has the one Talent that Elspeth doesn’t?
I’ll leave it there, and leave the rest of the chapter for tomorrow! Give some thought to empathy (the Talent) and how ethical/moral is it use it on people who don’t even realise that is a thing? I look forward to seeing some comments!