The Stone Key – Chapter 21 – Part One

Chapter Twenty-One – Part One

Everything is falling to pieces. In their attempt to gain the armoury, the master of the Hedra found out that they were mutants, and was able to escape! At first they can’t believe how he got out of the room, so they think he has somehow hidden himself in the room, which is full of demonbands (not that he needs one since his mind is shielded). The only explanation is that there is some sort of passage out of this cell, which is why he chose it. So they need to find him, before he can get word out and arm the Hedra. Soon they find the passage, and they have no idea where it leads and how long it goes on for, but they have to go, so Geratty and Yarrow set out after him. Elspeth thinks to somehow secure the armoury so they cannot get any weapons, but there aren’t enough of them to do that. So Yarrow says that they should destroy it, and take as many weapons down with the building. And they have the tools for the job, the black powder, that will destroy everything!

They can use the gunpowder and draw paths into every room, and have the bulk of it near the entrance so that when it goes off, they can’t get in. Everyone else can evacuate, and of course, Elspeth will remain with Zuria and Grisyl (to be shown some secret weapon), and she can light the powder, and escape into the tunnel. They will then try and spread word that the master and the Threes were killed when testing this weapon. I can’t believe that they are doing this! Such danger, and if they pull it off right, people won’t know that the Faction was under attack!

They quickly spread the powder, and then evacuated. Elspeth lit the trail, and ran for her life, but no explosion happened. Was there a break in the trail? Had someone arrived to stop it? But then there was a mighty explosion, and they were just far enough to be out of the radius of the shockwave. Then there was another explosion, one that was stronger than before, something else had caught alight. Then there was a third, and it was so powerful that the stone above their heads creaked. The flames must have gotten through the doors and into the other cells, and caused the honey fire, and who knows what to explode.

With the threat of explosions behind them, Elspeth begins to wonder where she could possibly be brought out, the passage seemed to go on for ages. Soon enough, she found herself in the mines! What a dangerous, toxic place to be. And what is worse, up ahead the master was talking to some Hedra, with Geratty and Yarrow unconscious or dead at his feet. The Hedra were wearing demonbands, and Elspeth guessed hat the master was trying to lead an attack back into the armoury, but stopped after the explosions. This is bad, really bad. The group turn and take Yarrow with them, going, to some place unknown. But Geratty was left there, does this mean he is dead? Elspeth seems to think so. Upon actually checking if he was alive, she quickly found that he was just very injured. He may yet die.

Behind Elspeth someone approached, and luckily it wasn’t a Hedra, it was a male shadow. He can’t believe that Elspeth can talk, after all, he hasn’t heard a female voice for over 20 years! Wow, he is a ‘lucky one’ for surviving so long, but I guess it really is a curse having to work in the mines. He is already bald, so it won’t be long before he too dies of rotting sickness. Turning back to Geratty, Elspeth finds that he has died. The first Misfit casualty of this mission.

Soon many more shadows appeared, many in worse conditions that this man, with terrible sores. She tries to tell them that they are here to stop the Faction and that they will be free, but they don’t understand. How can they when freedom has been impossible for decades. Elspeth tries to find her way out, but realises that she needs their help to do so. The men don’t seem to want to do anything, and a boy confirms this. Why on earth is such a young child in the mines? What did he do to deserve this? Nothing! Apparently the men don’t want to be punished for helping her, and it is hard to imagine what punishment is worse than this. But there is such thing, a ‘black pool’, something that must cause the rotting sickness in a very short time. The boy explains that his mother was a shadow, and his father was an acolyte, which is clearly a forbidden thing. The shadows have hidden the boy, and want him to grow up to be a novice and ‘change things’, but he doesn’t want to be. It is clear that the male shadows love this boy and are trying to get him to a life, because what they are doing, is not living. And his name is Mouse!!!!

No matter how much Elspeth pleas, the men won’t help her, but the boy will. The men are so distraught at the possibility that this boy will be found out by the Hedra. She tells them to look after the body of Geratty and to bind up the Threes, but doesn’t hang around to see what they decide to do. Their journey was slow, the boy was very weak even if he was young, a life in the mines is not one of health. The boy tells Elspeth that Hedra don’t linger in the minds, because they don’t want to get sick, but they leave a guard on the locked gate, so they can’t get out. Interesting that none of the shadows ever tried to find out what was up the long tunnel to the armoury, I guess their sense of curiosity and hope have been destroyed. The Hedra that were in the mine were choosing who was going to get punished, but then the master charged in from the ‘forbidden tunnel’ (I guess that’s why they don’t go up there). The black pool which is punishment, is where they collect ‘stuff’ for the demonbands, and they soon die.

They reach the gates, and it is still raining, which means that Elspeth can’t farseek anyone. Mouse gives her directions and then Elspeth sends him back promising to try and overcome the Hedra and free the shadows. For some reason another explosion rocks the mine, and Mouse runs away, but I can’t help wondering what happened. Hopefully it is just another by product of their first explosion, and not the Hedra using weapons. Another one rocks the mine just as Elspeth reaches the door out. Outside Elspeth could hear people talking, and their voices were alarmed. Something is going on. And I don’t like it!

Elspeth prepares herself to open the door, without having a clue what is on the other side. There could be a banded Hedra, and she will have to try and fight them, but I don’t think we’ve seen Elspeth fighting anyone, she has always relied on her powers, maybe she should do some training with the coercers! Even though the Hedra would surely be focusing on the explosions, Elspeth can’t imagine they wouldn’t notice the door opening, but maybe they are a tad dull. Elspeth has a sword, and as she unlocks the door she draws it, but there is no sign that anyone noticed. Ah, it seems that Gevan has trained Elspeth in fighting, and surprise is really the best advantage to have.

She mentions that she had spars with Rushton, and ‘that lead to a different sort of engagement’ (blatant reference to sex?) but when was this? I don’t remember Elspeth and Rushton actually having a relationship. In the Keeping Place, Rushton was taken away, and afterwards didn’t love her, so they didn’t have a relationship. And before then, they did for a moment, but for ages Elspeth didn’t love him! So when did they have a chance for love? Anyway, she opens the door, and she is in luck, nobody is there. She realises that the master would want as many Hedra as possible for the fight, and who needs to guard a locked door? She runs to the laundry, and good thing she knows her way around for otherwise she’d be lost. And another explosion and ‘rumbling and cracking’ (is that lightning? Do they have some sort of weapon for that?) sound reached her as she arrived. Elkar was just coming out, and he was happy to see he was alive. Not only did the armoury blow up, but most of the Hedra sector and the whole library! There goes all of their books! The roof of the dye works collapsed, and the shadows, Hedra and tied up priests all died.

Cinda was hit by a rock, and so they brought her here, but the Hedra were going inside, so they went elsewhere. Elspeth has to go and see what is happening in the One’s chamber, even if they are demonbanded (I guess she doesn’t think too much about what might happen). She made her way into the bathing chamber, and could here the master discussing what they should do. The master knows the Threes have been compromised, and he tells them they can trust nobody until they are banded (even then coercion lasts, so maybe that’s a way to ‘beat them’). There is some complaint about the lack of demonbands due to the explosion of the armoury, but they have three more crates and if anyone hesitates they will be ‘run through’ I guess torture. The fate of Elspeth and the misfits at the hands of the master will be much worse, he is suggesting peeling off their skin and cooking them.

One of the group are in their custody already, and they try to question them. Elspeth slips away to get Elkar to muster up any coercers he can find, so they can come over and fight. But they must also block the passageway out of the One’s chamber with Hedra, and also stop the demonbands being distributed. Everything is happening so fast. Asra is interrogated, or at the very least abused, and Elspeth can’t do a thing. That must be torturous in itself, knowing that you can do nothing, otherwise you’ll be captured yourself. Elspeth is about to try and get information from Asra about the set up so she could use it against them, when shadows start to appear behind them. Not just a few, a lot. It seems they are prepared to fight, but how can they do anything against big, strong, Hedra? After hearing the explosions the shadows decided that it is time to fight, and time to stop being ordered around. Over a hundred had gathered, but they have no weapons. Alas, Elspeth can’t stop them, they will do it without her blessing, so she might as well let them.

She rouses them to find weapons and to get others to fight, hopefully they can scare the Hedra or at least demoralise them with their numbers. Unfortunately the Hedra move faster than anticipated, and if I’ve read it correctly it is only Elspeth and Ursa that are there to meet them, but it seems there are a number of shadows, and the Hedra are quite confused about what is going on. Elspeth tries to make them give up, with a rousing speech about them being in control (even though there are literally just the to of them). Then she and the master have a bit of a fight in words, and it’s amazing. I love how Elspeth uses their Lud against them, where was he when they were striking? Good question, but their fanatical minds would say that he does what he wants, and since it happened, that is what he wants (yeah confusing). Then she asks such a brilliant question I wanted to go into the book and high five her! “If your Lud is so powerful, why does he need you?’ Brilliant!! She asks why doesn’t Lud strike her down himself (which is slightly dangerous, because what happens if he does smite her?) and even invites him to do so! I love you Elspeth!

Mocking religion is something that is very dangerous, but Elspeth should do it, because the Faction are just pure evil, and nothing happens. She says that maybe he doesn’t exist, but tries to also say that maybe he is SUPPORTING her, because he doesn’t like their bloodshed. The master tells her to ask Lud when he is about to put her in hell, and orders his men kill Ursa, but let Elspeth live, so she can be taught a painful lesson. Elspeth tries to tell her to run, but instead she picks up a boiler prod, and prepares to fight, and it is touching. The Hedra don’t know what’s going on, why is a shadow trying to fight. And it gets spine-tingling as the laundry fills with shadows with weapons, and a look of revenge in their eyes. Actually, it is the male shadows, they had escaped after all.

Elkar is there too, telling Elspeth to get away from the Hedra, and then there is a Herder priest there too, cursing the Hedra. He is a Norselander, and he is proud to fight the Hedra, and he is not under the influence of the mutants, like the master suggests. And then everything becomes great as one of the shadows flings a wet rag at the Hedra! It literally made me gasp! They are flinging tainted poison at them! They dipped rags into the black pool, and they are prepared to throw them at the Hedra and condemn them to a miserable life of pain! It is the best plan ever, the Hedra aren’t fearing death, they are afraid of the disfigurement and lengthy death that will await them long after ‘battle’, it is not honourable to die of rotting sickness, no matter how you go it.

The master tries to tell his men that they will be killed if they lay down their weapons, but Elspeth tells him no, that’s how Herders do things, not how mutants to things. They will be judged and accordingly punished. The master is a huge fool, he decides to kill one of his brothers who surrendered, and he flees up the stairwell. Some followed, but many stayed where they were as more rags were thrown. And with that, the rest threw down their swords, which were taken by the shadows. Elspeth and Ursa celebrated and wept, something that surprises Elspeth, who once thought herself detached and untouchable. But after a victory such as this, you cannot help but be ecstatic, and weeping in joy! And the victory is also a good place for this review to end, on a happy note! It was a long review, but worth it, but there is much to go for the rest of the chapter!


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