The Stone Key – Chapter 26

Chapter Twenty-Six

Elspeth and Iriny (who she met ontop of Stonehill) arrive at Rolf’s house, and meet his sister, Mona. What I like is (apart from the fact that Rolf has no qualms with dealing with a Gypsy) that Elspeth immediately owns up to who she really is. She reveals she is a Misfit (again Rolf doesn’t care and is interested in her powers) and that Domick is also a Misfit, and that she used her powers to go into Rolf’s mind to see Ariel and Domick (again, he doesn’t seem too annoyed or angry). She explains about Ariel and his plan to unleash a deadly plague on the west coast, and that he has infected Domick with it.

I’m happy that Erit is angered that she did not tell them earlier, but quickly concedes that it wouldn’t have changed anything. Rolf, the ever trusting person, doesn’t mind that Elspeth didn’t reveal the truth from the start, and instead deals with Domick and the plague. Erit and his friends have been able to find out that Domick will be lead by the Hedra to the first night moon fair festivities. He’ll be in the centre of the crowds for a few hours. But what is more concerning he is to be used to deliver Lud’s blessing to everyone, so will come in direct contact with hundreds of people over the course of the moon fair.

The news that Domick will be contagious means that their plan will have to be altered, since once Domick leaves the house, it will be too late to safely get him away. And already he seems to be affected by the plague and his torture, he moans during the night, and it can be heard throughout the house (learnt from Erit via a maid), and he doesn’t leave his room. There seem to be at least some similarities between the previous plague (which must have been unleashed by the Herders) and this one, but the contagious phase must be when Domick is in the middle of the moon fair, and he must be well enough to present himself as a healthy regular Herder.

Rolf asks of Elspeth’s powers again, and is very curious about all the different limitations of her powers and I guess, what possible part they could play in any plan. One possible solution is to send a message-taker to the house and pretend to be Ariel, demanding Domick leave the house. But even then, they would have to deal with the Hedra that would escort him. Even though Iriny says she can deal with two men, there is likely to be more, and open confrontation is too risky. A diversion is the best option, and that is something that Rolf can easily arrange, I presume he’ll be using his favours that everybody seems to owe him. Elspeth will take Domick away, and if he refuses, they can drug him with a sleep potion. And then spirit him out of the city using Golfur, Rolf’s horse (and this time Elspeth will have some papers). Though Elspeth has to admit it is unlikely Golfur will want to return, and Elspeth will not force him to return.

So it seems to have been decided. They scribe a letter to the house, asking Domick to collect a gift from the One to deliver to Councilman Kana that evening, and requesting that he be guarded by an escort or two. Elspeth is given a selection of masks to choose from, to wear since they must be masked or face becoming a slave for a day, from Mona, whose sister, Carryn made them before she died of the last plague. It seems that during the moon fair, the wealthy delight in wearing their servants clothes but a fine mask, or vice versa, so that nobody knows their identity or status.

The kindness and hospitality of Rolf and Mona is most exceptional, as Elspeth is given a mask, cloak, shoes, food, a horse and more all for free. Most people would never do such a thing, even with the threat of a plague looming over them, and it is lucky that Elspeth was able to find such a family. And it is these sort of times, and people that Elspeth is fighting to save.

Elspeth and Erit go to the message-taker’s house, and with a bit of help from Elspeth, he agrees to take the message, though Elspeth makes him believe that he was bid to do so by Ariel himself, giving more credibility to the story that he will have to give to the Hedra. They follow him, Erit above the houses, and Elspeth on the road. As soon as the man arrived at the house, he was questioned, and suspicion placed on him, since he was not the regular missive person (so Elspeth had to quickly weave a story that their regular person was sick, so let’s hope he doesn’t come soon). The Herder is in a hard place, he has two commands, keep Domick inside, and now, send him away. He is struggling to figure out what to do, and Elspeth tries to offer, through the message-taker, a helpful suggestion for what is going on, before leaving (his memory was quickly removed).

Before Elspeth could even explain to Rolf what had happened, Domick had been brought out of the house, and he was wearing a demonband. And sadly, there were five Hedra, and not just two as they had hoped. Elspeth quickly loses sight of them as they head to the sea markets, but finds them again with the help of Erit. They arrive at the market, and the plan is about to get underway, with a signal from Rolf. Soon enough Elspeth was close enough to Domick to touch him, and then, pandemonium erupted. Two stallholders began to fight, and a man chased a ‘robber’, and they market was sent into chaos. Erit took out the nearest Hedra, and ran away, the Hedra behind him. Then Iriny arrived and made one of the Hedra fall like a stone, allowing Elspeth to take Domick and lead him away. The action is fast paced, but easy to understand.

Elspeth lead him to rendezvous with Rolf, though that point had to change slightly because of a few soldierguards, but soon enough they would meet. Domick stirs and asks where his master is, meaning Ariel, but he says that he wasn’t supposed to see him again. He then becomes distressed, and gets out of Elspeth’s grasp, and soon recognises her. How he did so, is not really clear, did he recognise her voice, or did Ariel warn him about her. Then he goes to strangle Elspeth, saying that she won’t interfere with Ariel’s plans. Even in his weakened state, Elspeth cannot get him off of her, and tries to appeal to him. But he says that Domick is dead, and he reveals that he is Mika, the spy persona of Domick. It is strange that Ariel broke Domick down so much that all that remained was his invented personality.

Then Mika/Domick turned and ran, but Rolf arrived just in time with his horse, for Elspeth to send a plea to Golfur to stop him. He did son, and Mika was soon unconscious on the ground. With Rolf’s help they hid him in the bundles of things on Golfur’s back, concealing him from view. Now it is up to Elspeth to get out of the city, and with not more than a moment to spare, for a group of soldierguards arrived, with weapons ready for a fight.

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