The Stone Key – Chapter 17 – Part One

Chapter Seventeen – Part One

Herders are right outside Elspeth’s hiding spot in a locker in Oma’s room, and they know she is in there, and they are breaking it down. Who betrayed her? And can she ever possibly get away now, I mean there are over 600 pages left, so something has to happen, unless we just wait for years until Dardelan and the rebels invade and take over….

The locker is smashed, and Elspeth is quickly grabbed by a Hedra captain. Elspeth’s capture is so special that she gets greeted by one of the prestigious Three. A number of priests are in the room, and the Three emphasises that this woman is a mutant. Another priests arrives telling the Three that the Norselanders have already left and are on their way to Fallo, having been dismissed by the Nine, which makes the Three unhappy. It seems that they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Stormdancer, which makes me think that Ariel informed them that Elspeth was on board, but they decided against blowing the ship up. Which is true, Ariel did do that, at the same time he told them about the Orizon, but I guess Elspeth is too important to blow up, he needs her.

Because of one of the priests disobedience, the Three was not informed immediately about the arrival, and so he punishes that priest to a whipping and then confinement in a tidal cell for 4 days! Where there are crabs! The Herders really love punishing people. What is worse is that the Three commands the Norselanders be brought in a questioned, and lied to, telling them their families would be spared if they give information. Then they will take their families, and probably use them as slaves or kill them. They are truly merciless and vile.

As for Elspeth, the Three wants her to be taken to the Compound and interrogated about her intentions. However, the Hedra captain interjects, and says that the interrogation must wait until Ariel has returned from Norseland, so he can interrogate her with a machine and ‘the special null’. Of course, the Three doesn’t really care about Ariel’s own plans, after all, this man is a Three, and he can do as he pleases, and can ignore the word of a random man. Once again, Elspeth is plunged into her mind, as a demonband is placed on her. This time the taint was even stronger, and made Elspeth sick. I guess they have no reason to be concerned about rotting sickness for their prisoners, but I hope it isn’t too strong that Elspeth is irreparably injured. As Elspeth was taken into the Compound, her emotions were almost turned off. It was like the demonband blocked her emotions, she didn’t feel fear and she wasn’t guilty for the fate of the Norselanders who helped her. She accepted the fact that once she was inside the high walls, she would never, ever, get out. I guess this shows just how dejected Elspeth now is, she was so hopeful that she would be able to get to Fallo, and hide out there, and in every situation she has had hope that she could get out. But now, in the hands of the Herders, how can she be hopeful?

The only ‘good thing’ about this situation, is that we finally get to see what the Herders are up to, and what really goes on in the Faction. Who knows what things we might see! Already the hierarchy of the Faction is clear, as novices rush to the Three and change his robe, whilst trying to be invisible. What would drive these people to accept this? I guess the answer is that basically nobody volunteers for the Faction, and they are just brainwashed into submission, and ‘deal with it’, knowing that if they don’t, they will be killed. I guess there are no women in the Faction, because of their ‘inferiority’, so do they just sell women as slaves, or kill them, when they capture them?

Elspeth tries to build up a map of the Compound as she is brought with the Three and the Hedra captain, through the labyrinth of laneways and buildings. Elspeth wasn’t too hopeful that she would ever use this knowledge, because she has accepted her fate. But one interesting thing of note, all the buildings don’t have doors, meaning they are all connected. Which is pretty strange, what is the purpose of having no doors? Elspeth quickly realises that this isn’t a city, this is a hive, and all the Herders are just little ants working to serve their Queen (the One).

Finally the come to a door, guarded by Hedra, who do a strange ‘salute’, of grasping their throats. What on earth is that supposed to symbolise? That they are choking? Their life is in the hands of the Three? Bizarre. Now inside, the novice disappears, and we have instead two boys wearing black robes. And this time, these boys were invisible. I guess they are below the lowliest novice, or undergoing some punishment. They are met with one of the Nine, who is quite young, but has important news. The One, wants to see Elspeth! Woah! We are going to go and see the mysterious One! The Three cannot believe the One wants to trouble himself with a mutant, but he can’t disregard an order from the One, so he has to go along with it. Between the Three and the Nine, there is a lot of tension. Politics are rife in the Faction, and it seems to be almost split between those who support Ariel, and those who doubt him. And since the One supports Ariel, those who are suspicious of him, have to be careful to air their concerns too loudly.

They walked down an immense passageway, that finally came to a door that lead to the One. I guess such a long passage gives some protection to this highest priest. Inside the room, there was a strange fire, with red rock instead of wood. I know that is a small detail, but I am curious as to what it is. I guess it comes from some far off land, but I am curious to know what it is. Is it some form of coal? Anyway, more black robed boys came to put cushions on a ornate chair near the fire, and to open up curtains which provided a stunning view of the ocean. Which means that this room is actually inside one of the walls of the Compound, and I guess you could see in if you were out in the ocean.

Then the One entered, and everyone was forced to bow, I guess nobody is supposed to see his divine face. But he was fat, and old. Elspeth took a glance at him, and he was not impressed, and wants her ‘eyes to be put out’. Like literally removed? For such a powerful figure, his description sounds like a helpless ‘baby’ of a man. He truly seems helpless, but I guess he ‘controls everything’. Another Three enters, and this one seems to be held in high regard by the One, much to the disgust of the other Three who was with Elspeth. At mention of Ariel, the One has a strange expression, but it is obvious that he wants to do what Ariel tells him to, even though he is the one in command.

Mendi, the Three that came with Elspeth, is foolish, as he decides to question why the nulls did not foresee their failure at the invasion. The One was not impressed, but the other Three, Grisyl, replies that the nulls don’t see everything. The Nine that lead the invasion is being punished by Mendi, but even Mendi will be punished for the failure. I assume that Zuria is the other Three, and currently he is busy interrogating Kaga and the other Hedra who were involved in the invasion. I find it interesting that Grisyl uses ‘interrogating’ when talking about their own men. Shouldn’t it be discussing, talking, debriefing, or at least questioning. But interrogation always makes me think of torture and intimidation. But the Herders are ruthless, so I guess they do whatever they want to get the information they want.

Elspeth wonders about what Ariel has in store for her, and since she is certain that he is the Destroyer, she believes he will try to interrogate her on his own, about the signs and Kasanda. But then she realises that right now, he doesn’t know who she is, and that could mean that he just knows there is a Misfit, just not who, or it could mean that he doesn’t know that Elspeth is the Seeker. Still, it is small comfort for Elspeth. She immediately considered that to protect her quest she might have to do a mind wipe, or memory death. It sounds drastic, but she has to make sure her information doesn’t get to Ariel. She had to wonder why Atthis never warned her about this, but of course she only could through Maruman, and he hadn’t been around her for a while.

Mendi tries to make ammends with the One, but just angers him more. The One lashes out and tells Mendi that Ariel serves Lud more than he does, and that while Mendi is looking for someone to blame for the invasion, Ariel is already looking at a way to strike again. Which is terrifying, what else does he have up his sleeves. I think the One is so deluded, that he doesn’t even remember requesting Elspeth be brought to him, as he freaks out that a woman is in his presence. He blows out of control, and orders everyone away, apart from ‘his shadows’, the boys in the black robes.

Hmm, very interesting. But what is going to happen to Elspeth next?

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