Chapter Eighteen – Part One (It seems that Isobelle Carmody has stretched out these chapters now, and is making me split them up again, we had a good run, but I don’t really care, there is so much to discuss, that more reviews mean more time!)
But we have just had a most shocking discovery! Coercers were on board Stormdancer with Elspeth! And now Harwood has someone convinced everyone he is one of the Threes, Zuria. Behind him is another coercer, Veril! There are at least two of them! And they are just as shocked as Elspeth is, but Elspeth is now overcome with joy at the possibility that she will escape, and avoid Ariel (who now conveniently is away from Herder Isle when there is a chance (a tiny one) that it will be overthrown from within). There are way more than just the two of them, there are eleven coercers in total who came onto Stormdancer as ‘retreating Hedra’. Of course, wearing demonbands meant that Elspeth didn’t know they were on board. But how were they not found out, aren’t new Hedra kinda obvious, or does nobody pay attention to the faces and identities of the robes?
Harwood can’t believe Elspeth is there, and wants her to explain, but that will come in time, she wants an explanation. The 11 of them who were to board, went down to the caves to prepare to look the part, and then they found out that the Hedra were already here via the cloister. A coercer, Aben, died trying to probe Malik on arrival at Sutrium, so that rung major alarm bells, and a force was assembled and they set out to Saithwood. A fight was underway between some of the Hedra who were at the cloister and the coercer knights and other allies. And the coercers managed to get a Hedra captain and his men under the impression that they had been defeated, and they would rush to the Hedra just about to arrive, with dreadful tales, turning them back. At that time the 11 would go on board. Back on the ship, one of those Hedra coerced was supposed to tell the truth and get the Hedra back on land ready to get into battle, and by this time Dardelan and his men should have arrived, allowing them a chance to gain control of the ships.
The 11 of them were going to go onto the Orizon but that departed quicker than they had anticipated so they made it onto Stormdancer. This lucky change in plan saved them from the destruction of the Orizon. And the man who was supposed to reveal the truth, was killed by Kaga in his rage, meaning they were all headed to Herder Isle. The 11 of them kept clam and thought that eventually they would remove their demonbands and then they could gain control, but the Nine believed that they were still at danger of being controlled by ‘mutants’ that he made them remain banded. But even they, upon arrival at the Compound, and inside the massive walls, were disheartened at ever leaving.
But, they were able to disband soon enough, and since every one else was no longer protected, they were able to get control of a lot of Hedra, and even Kaga himself. So they were planning on escaping from the Compound, but then Zuria walked in, so they had a better opportunity with him around, plus they could find out more about the Faction and their long term plans. Then a message came for all the Threes to come to the One, so Veril suggested coercing all three Threes and then getting the One. Their plan is to take the Threes to Stormdancer and sail off back to the Land, but they don’t know that the hull is damaged, and that won’t work, even though now is a perfect time, since there are no other ships on Herder Isle, they are all back on Norseland. They then think about hiding on the other part of the island, but Lark has told Elspeth that that part is uninhabited for a good reason. So Elspeth proposes they do something more daring, and take over the Compound.
It shouldn’t be too difficult, they already have all of the Threes, and they basically control everything. They can control the Nines, and the One can easily be controlled. The only other entity with power is the Hedra, and they have Kaga under their spell already. Elspeth suggests that they use their power to repair the Stormdancer without anyone knowing they are here, and then sail away with the Threes and the Hedra captains on board, plus all the Norselanders and their family, so they aren’t hurt by whoever emerges from the Compound.
Right now they need to find out where the Norselanders are and whether they are being brought in yet, and after that, they can use the One and his assistant Falc to control everything. Elspeth quickly explains part of her story to the others, but they are concerned about Ariel, because they have heard talk of his residence here in the Compound, but Elspeth explains that he has a private residence on Norseland. This talk of Ariel reminds them that they will have to be well clear of Herder Isle before Ariel returns on The Black Ship or they will be sunk just like the Orizon. There is also concern that nulls might foresee that they are here and they are in control, and Salamander could bring a ship of banded Hedra from Norseland, and break into the Compound and seize back control. That is a real possibility, but right now they have some time, but they need to get organised here to at least have a hope of escape.
Elspeth delegates tasks, and sets about discussing what to do with the Hedra, who are the real danger in this plan, because they are almost a separate entity that doesn’t care about rank if something blasphemous is going on. All they can do is work from the top down, coercing everyone deeply enough so they can be seen acting normally, and right now Elspeth and Harwood are going to the One to deal with him. Outside it has turned to day, and even though there are many priests going about their business, nobody talks, and I agree with Elspeth, what sort of Lud wants them to leave such drab, lifeless lives?
They arrive at the long corridor, and are about to set off, when, I decide to end this section here. So there is so much to do, and little time to do it! A real coup is underway, and soon Misfits will control the Faction, something that is so unconceivable that nobody back on the Land will think it possible. And yet, they are so close, but we must subdue ourselves, in these tales, the best plans go awry very easily, we just have to wonder about the when, and not the if.