The Stone Key – Chapter 20 – Part Two

Chapter Twenty – Part Two

The group have decided that they need to take control of the armoury, and they are prepared to almost go into full war to do it. Elspeth wakes up to the news that her little rumour of a plague has been spreading and people are starting to wonder if there is a sickness. Proof of something amiss, that the Threes didn’t return to their chambers, has also been spreading. So Harwood has decided to move Grisyl into his bed, and let it be known that he is sick. Colwyn and Hilder have finished their exercises but are being taken to have a meal with the Hedra, so they will have to wait until they can go to the armoury.

Harwood then has the idea to go and check out Ariel’s chambers since they have to wait a while. And I think, this could be dangerous. They met Elkar, and he insisted on taking them, since to get to his chambers, they had to go through the library, and that was a maze. The Compound is so dreary and lifeless, because literally nothing grows. The walled garden is only possible because they brought over dirt from Norseland! Was it always like this, or did the weapon they used to take control responsible? That would have been quite an undertaking to bring all that dirt, but if it is Lud’s will, then it will happen.

Entering the library, there are numerous priests studying intently. What are they studying for I wonder? Are they reading Lud’s will? I don’t get what they would be reading. Is there a religious text? Or are they just studying these scrips from the One? Or are they studying Beforetime texts to learn their knowledge? Because I can figure out what they would be reading, its not like they’d be reading a fiction! But there seems to be a lot of them, and they have a lot of books. Unless it is all historical stuff, but still, the idea of Herder literature doesn’t make sense.

They arrive at the entrance to Ariel’s chambers, and Elspeth sets about opening the lock (which makes me wonder if others can do this too, or if only she can since she is the strongest?). It is tainted, which causes her trouble, and it is very complex, which makes her think it is actually from the Beforetime. I don’t quite understand when Elspeth talks about the complex nature of some locks, to me they are just locks, and how can one be so much more complex than another. Unless she is referring to simple locks that just have keys with only one tooth, and this Beforetime lock is something familiar to us, with a key that has a lot of jagged teeth? But the lock isn’t the problem, as Elspeth gets a premonition. And this time, she doesn’t ignore it. Somehow her mind had shown her that the lock was connected to an explosive device, and if it was opened without a key, it would explode (how does that work? It can only be unlocked if Elspeth does what a key does and lifts up the tumblers, so how can it know there isn’t a real key?). She seems to struggle with the idea that the device could do a lot of damage, but she at least follows her premonition and walks away.

They get back to the dye works to find everyone has already gone to the armoury, the two got away from dinner faster than expected, and Elspeth and Harwood were unreachable. The shadows were watching over the Herders, and I wonder how many will survive, because they’ll be tempted to attack them, so Elspeth makes Elkar stay with them. Of course it starts to rain, so now they can farseek the others (I am so sure they were once able to). They were about to walk straight out towards the Hedra buildings, when Yarrow grabbed down a doorway. Apparently Hilder and Colwyn went to the armoury, and were taken to the Hedra master. There are seven Hedra generals, and this one, reports directly to the One once a month. This is not good news, since he will think Zuria is trying to interfere.

So they decide to walk up to the armoury themselves, and use Zuria to get inside. The Hedra guards do that weird throat-grabbing gesture, which apparently denotes obedience, but just looks weird. It seems the presence of two Threes, isn’t enough to get them inside the armoury, as the Hedra want them to take them to the Hedra master. As soon as Elspeth sees the master, she is reminded of Malik, and thinks how foolish it was to be here, when she could easily be revealed as a woman. The master does not seem to like the Threes, but allows them to go to the armoury, on the advice of the One’s vision. He will accompany them back to the One once they are finished, to reassure the One. Why hasn’t Elspeth tried to coerce him yet? They are inside, the rain isn’t an issue! Or is it the taint? Still they are inside, surely they can coerce the master.  Hilder and Colwyn are being punished by the Hedra to be reminded of of the standard ‘expected’ of them.

They open up the armoury, which takes some effort since the doors are solid, so 10 Hedra are used, and inside are three levels of rooms filled with who knows what! There are metal-shod poles, short swords, daggers, shields and so much more. Everything was exemplary as it was each man’s duty to keep their weapon in spotless condition, or face the tidal cell. Apparently ever activity is a ‘preparation for Lud’s holy war to come’ so they must do everything with discipline and resolution. Elspeth is about to try to probe the master, when Yarrow stops her telling her that conveniently he and one of the Hedra he brought are mind sensitive. They would know if anyone probed them, but they coerced the rest of the Hedra in case they were needed. I am surprised that Elspeth couldn’t just quickly coerce the mind sensitive captain. Yes he would know, but couldn’t she quickly ensure that he couldn’t shout out, and then work her magic to get him under control? Or is this knowledge of ‘being under attack’ in the mind, set about mental defences, that make it impossible to coerce?

The next room had barrels filled with black power, which is explosive, so I assume gunpowder. And apparently it comes from the Red Queen’s land, and they will get more once Salamander makes his next trip. And there will be ‘powder balls’ which dipped in whitestick, explode on impact, scary. Next there was something called honey fire, which apparently sticks to the skin and burns like acid, something that has been tested on Norselanders for crimes. ‘Sadly’ they can put it on ships since it is too volatile. Upstairs there are devices that were gifts from Ariel. Guns! Yes, they now have guns! Except, they don’t know how they work, they are trying to find out, but so far, they have no clue, which is really good.

Harwood tells them that they need to take control, and he will deal with the Hedra master, so everyone get prepared for battle. But somehow, when Harwood tries to strike the master, he moves out of the way as if he knew what was happening! HOW? Then a Hedra tries to come at them, and is chewing spiceweed so they have to use force to stop him. A lantern is smashed, and the oil has spread, with it, fire! If that gets to the gunpowder, this whole place will go up, and there will be no surprise! And how knows what else is in these cells (I wish they waited to find out!) and what it will do in heat and explosions. Harwood, though a great coercer with good fighting skills, the Hedra master is leagues above him. The master quickly realises that his men aren’t fighting, and that mutants are behind it.

Elspeth tries to stop him with a probe, even if he is mind sensitive, but finds he has a natural shield. His sensitivity is so strong he could tell who attacked him. He turned and ran into one of the cells, and locked himself inside. I wonder if he was chosen to be the master, because of his sensitivity. They coerced the Hedra so they can control what happens next, and they were able to smoother the fire. Since they can’t coerce the master, they’ll have to coerce everyone else, that the master was knocked out by a weapon. Or they could make it look like he had a fit, and was ill, so was knocked out. They go into action mode, each being given a different tasks to make sure this all stays a secret. And they next want to take the demonband works.

They open the door to the Hedra master, but he wasn’t there. The cell was empty, and he was gone! How can he be gone! He’s the mutant! Now everything is ruined, since he’s going to go and get a billion Hedra and kill everyone!


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