The Stone Key – Chapter 15 – Part Two

Chapter Fifteen – Part Two

Elspeth has been saved by a dolphin (or Vlar-rei) and brought to one of the Herder ship boats, which are attached to one of the Herder ships. Elspeth has had a lucky break, because a stowaway, who is the son of the ship’s captain, has no demonband to wear, so Elspeth has been able to listen in on his thoughts. For a while, Elspeth was busy listening to his fears, without remembering that she has stuff to do if she wants to learn more about the invasion and get control of the ship.

Elspeth starts to get on focus, and realises that she always thought that Norselanders willingly helped the Herders, but it turns out that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Norselanders are just as much slaves as the rest of the Land were. I do find it interesting that Elspeth thinks the Council of Chieftains would be interested in this, because surely they know what it is like, they used to have a Norselander representing Norseland in discussions before the rebellion (Gwyned maybe?), so they should know that Norselanders aren’t allies with the Herders, they are captives.

Elspeth makes a ‘foolproof’ plan involving coercion to get the shipmaster (captain) to remove his band, and then using him to get all the sailors to remove their demonbands, and then using plain force to get Kaga (the Hedra captain) to remove his. He would then be able to control the other Herder leaders, before controlling all Herders and Hedra. Elspeth monitors Lark’s (the captain’s son) thoughts, and finds out that his mother tells him of forbidden Norseland mythology. Which I guess is a direct comparison to the actual Norse mythology. Excpet Norseland mythology is banned, and anyone who speaks of it, is killed. Pretty drastic, but I guess the Herders only want their own ‘mythology’ and to do that, they must stamp out all other forms of spirituality.

Delving deeper into Lark’s mind, reveals that his parents were born on Norseland, but now dwell on Herder Isle. Apparently Herder Isle is split in two, with a channel dividing the two sections. The larger of the islands is home to the walled Herder compound, and the smaller island is for the Norselanders. Many years ago there were Norseland towns on both islands of Herder Isle, Hevan and Fallo, but the Herders came along and destroyed the towns and took control. Lark’s parents moved to Herder Isle to better serve their masters, who commanded them sail ships, and if they refused, they would be taken to the Compound and killed or worse. This worse, is not elaborated on since it is in Lark’s mind, but he is fearing that this will happen to his father when they return to Herder Island, because of Lark coming onboard.

Norseland itself is now just a handful of villages, with two large towns. But there is a training camp for the Hedra on there, and the number of Hedra vastly outnumber the number of Norselanders. Ariel also has residence on Norseland. It seems that Norseland is truly in the grasp of the Herders, and even if Herder Isle falls, Norseland will still be a challenge to take bloodlessly. Lark remembers the training exercises the Hedra did onboard, and Elspeth was again struck by how much it looked like Coercer training, which was taken from Beforetime books. Which is interesting, but not surprising, because it means that the Herders are breaking their own rulings and using Beforetime books for themselves. Of course the oppressors of this world are dishonest, and use these forbidden texts and means, even if it goes against Lud. Because even they can see that Lud doesn’t care.

Elspeth plants a question in Lark’s mind (though, it is one that he would soon have asked himself) to ask his father. Why would the Herders want to invade a land filled with mutants and monsters? His father soon replies that maybe the folk aren’t monsters like the Herders tell them. Again Elspeth prompts Lark to ask his father about the demonband, and even gets him to ask if his father will let him hold it. As soon as the band is removed, Elspeth goes into the father’s mind.

His name is Hevlar and he too is fearful of retribution from the Herders because of his actions, but he knows that he will be safe from the Compound, because he knows that he is too useful as a shipmaster. I really think being useful is the best protection. If people can’t function or live without you, then they won’t want to lose you. What Hevlar was fearful of, was that they would choose Lark to become a novice. Their only hope was to train Lark up as a shipmaster himself, and then make him too indispensable to be a novice. Ironically Lark had thought that his father doubted his skills, which was why he wasn’t allowed on the ship, but his father wanted to keep him out of the minds of the Herders for as long as possible. Lark wanted to prove himself so he stowed away on the vessel, without realising that they were invading the Land instead of just going to Norseland.

Elspeth had to quickly regain focus as she was becoming too involved in Hevlar’s story. She had to maintain her control of Hevlar to ensure he didn’t put back on his demonband, which he desperately wanted to do, because if he didn’t wear it, it would mean death, even to someone as valuable as him. Even as the shipmaster, Hevlar had no knowledge of the plans about the invasion, it seems the Herders have kept that to themselves. Hevlar and the other shipmaster of the other Herder ship, were not even told where they were going, but were just told to follow Salamander. Hevlar was impressed with the sailing skill of Salamander, and how he was able to get The Black Ship into such a narrow and treacherous inlet.

Hevlar was furious that his ship was damaged because of the Hedra captain, and knew that travelling back through the strait to Herder Isle, would be very dangerous now. He hoped that the Herders would allow him to fix the hull before travelling, since even Herders wanted to preserve life, at least their own, no matter how much they say it is worthless. The Hedra on the other hand, believe they are so pure, that Lud guides them in every action. I sense a division between the Hedra and the Herders themselves.

Hevlar’s concerns again went to Lark, as the Hedra captain, Kaga, seemed to be eyeing the boy off. He hoped that Lark was not chosen to become a null, one of those chosen by Ariel for what I can assume are Misfit abilities. Whatever Ariel did to the nulls, it clearly was a worse fate than becoming a Herder priest. Ariel tested the new novice intakes using a machine, that caused great pain, but my guess is that that is just there to hide the fact that Ariel is a Misfit and can seek out Misfit powers himself. Apparently nulls were ‘purified’, which would enable them to receive messages from Lud. And that is a frightening prospect, because whatever Ariel does, it is to be feared. The nulls that survived, returned as babbling idiots, whose dreams were interpreted by Ariel as visions from Lud, but must be true dreams. I guess that is why Ariel has seemed to know so much and predict so much, he has an entire ‘team’ seeing into the future for him. Elspeth seems to think that the visions are just planted by Ariel, but maybe they do get visions. And Elspeth, of course Ariel enjoys destroying children.

Elspeth has seen enough, she was going to control him to take over the ship, but has found a man who is just as much a captive as Elspeth could be. He was a man who was looking out for his son, and Elspeth didn’t want to control him like a puppet. So she took a gamble, and asked him, using her farseeking, if he wanted to save his son. I guess that freaked him out!

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