The Stone Key – Chapter 19 – Part One

Chapter Nineteen – Part One

Welcome to 2013 (for those of us who have made it already), I hope you have a wonderful year!

Elspeth and a number of the coercers are in the One’s chamber, organising what they are going to do about Ariel and the plague he is bringing to the west coast, that will wipe out everybody. All they can come up with is repairing the Stormdancer as quickly as possibly and then sailing after Ariel’s null. And to fix the ship, they need the Norselanders, who haven’t been brought into the Compound yet, so somebody will have to go and find them in Fallo. Yarrow is going to go, but it is going to take him nearly an hour just to reach the gate of the Compound, because of the isolation of the One’s room, giving rise to a need for a more central base.

On cue, one of the shadows shows them a much faster way out (at least we know they are able to act by themselves), through the dressing-room, past the bathing chamber, and down a secret stairwell. Elspeth finally gets a glimpse of the person under the hood, and realises that the shadows are all girls. The shadows cannot speak (I don’t remember that piece of information coming from anyone), so Elspeth uses her powers to speak to the girl mentally, with her permission of course. Elspeth uses the same visualisation method as she did with Lark, and for this girl, seeing herself speak is very emotional. She is called Cinda, and the two of them talk for a while.

The passageway out of the bathing chamber opens up in a huge laundry, which comes out onto the main body of the Compound. It is a much quicker way to the gates, than through the long passage. Elspeth sent out the coercers to keep lookout, and to collect Hedra to go to Fallo in case there is a fight between those already sent, who would be demonbanded. They also needed some food, and went with a few shadows to coerce the kitchen staff to give them a proper meal. I do like it when authors address the need to eat and sleep, otherwise it gets to unbelievable. I think Carmody even mentioned Elspeth going to the toilet once!

After they ate, word came from Fallo, the Norselanders had resisted the Hedra who had been sent to collect them, but in an ingenious way. The town was abandoned and they all retreated into the swamp where the Hedra don’t have a hope of finding them. Though that also means that they can’t come back and repair the ship, or be told of what is happening. They will have to seek assistance from the other villages so they can repair the vessel. Elspeth talks to Cinda some more, and finds out that many of them were taken from the west coast, and are scared about what will happen to their families. Elspeth decides to sit down with them, to see if they heard anything more about the plan, since they are always around in the background, because the One seems to know nothing about where the null is being sent, as it was all Ariel’s plan.

Talking to the shadows, it is clear that Ariel is even more of a monster than we had feared. He was the one who chose the girls, and had supervised the cutting, and he also uses the shadows as he pleases, and is very cruel. It almost sounds like he rapes these girls, but Carmody isn’t that explicit, but Ariel is just disgusting, I can’t wait for his death. But he is so clever, that unlike all the Herders, he ensures the shadows are sent out of the room so they can’t hear him with the One, or witness his coercion I presume. The shadows communicate through sign language that they created themselves, which is very clever of them. Elspeth and Harwood explained that they were all Misfits, and were using coercion to control the Threes and the Hedra.

We get Cinda’s story, which is heartbreaking, as her brother was taken to be a novice, and he committed suicide before he could be made an acolyte. Many of the shadows could speak, but if they did their tongues were cut, just as Cinda’s was. It was, as always, Ariel who suggested girls be used in the One’s chamber (which makes me wonder what happened before), but they were chosen because they weren’t distinctly female, which calmed the One. They were starved to ensure their breasts did not develop for as long as possible, because the One didn’t like change, but how did he know the shadows were changed, aren’t they supposed to be invisible? Once they were too old, they were put to work in the kitchens and washhouses of the Compound with the other women. Male shadows do exist, but they work in the mines, or in the demon-band works, and their tongues are not cut. And it sounds like they have it even worse than these shadows do. I guess working with tainted material is not a safe job.

One of the shadows believes that they are here to destroy the Faction, and it pains Elspeth to have to say that they are not here to do battle, and she tells them they plan to leave as soon as possible to stop the plague. They aren’t happy enough with promises that the rebels are nearing readiness to fight, Elspeth and the others have started a battle, and they have to finish it. The shadows are willing to help them, there are hundreds of them, and they are ready to fight the Herders, and kill if necessary. This new information makes Harwood interested in creating a plan to destroy the Faction forever. And they have the best opportunity to strike hard, and it all came to them via luck, they won’t get a chance like this EVER again. How would the rebels destroy the Faction even with shipfulls of fighters, it is impenetrable, and yet here they are.

Harwood is convinced that they can destroy the Faction and save the west coast. There are enough of them to split up once the ship is ready, and yet keep in control of the Faction. Elspeth doesn’t want to get these shadows killed, but Cinda tells her that they are dead already, and if they don’t rise up, they won’t have any chance at a life, but if they rise and succeed, it will be worth it, even if many die. The shadows can wage war without being seen, since they go everywhere anyway, and control the food. The Herders will never see it coming, they think that the shadows are weak, and can be ignored. Elspeth slowly comes around, when she realises that striking the Herders will mean that those responsible for her parent’s deaths will be punished. She concedes, that maybe the norselanders will fight also, but protecting the west coast must be the top priority.

To help them with the west coast, they will take a look at his chambers in the Compound. Cinda leads Elspeth to a friend of hers who might know more about Ariel and his doings. The laundry was full of shadows, and they slipped through unnoticed, before Cinda decided to tell all the women about what was going on. They returned to their work, as Cinda waved away any questions. She lead them to a narrow lane, which is a backpassage only used by those low down on the Faction hierarchy. Soon they see a novice of 15 chopping wood, and it turns out this is the friend Cinda was taking them to. He can understand Cinda’s sign language, so clearly he is trusted by her.

He explains how he was brought here, and tells her that he didn’t want to be a Herder, but if you fail the test, you are sold as a slave, or sent to the mine. If you are trouble you are sent to the demon-band works, where after a few months, your hair falls out and you die. He tells Elspeth that they shouldn’t worry about Ariel, since he’ll probably go to the Red Land before returning, but it does not surprise him when she tells him about the plague. All novices are tested by him, to be turned into nulls, and if you scream, he likes it. He will ask around about the west coast, but his chambers are in an area where few novices are allowed to go.

In the Compound there are 21 sections, most have their own sleeping chambers, kitchens and cloister. Novices are only allowed to go into a different section if they are being sent by a Herder, and you can only go where you are told to, and must return directly. Movement is tightly controlled through the use of tokens which show where a novice is supposed to be going. If you are in the wrong place, you are whipped, or put in the tidal cell, if you were lucky. Elspeth leaves, with the novice saying there are others among the Faction who would like to see it destroyed, but there isn’t a network because that would be too dangerous. Elspeth coercers his master as he comes out to check on the boy (who is called Elkar), and that means later on he can go where he pleases using the master to write his desired location.

Since this section ends, it is logical for this review to end. It will be very interesting to see them try and demolish the Faction from the inside out, but what will the cost e?


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