Things are not going swellingly (pun intended) for the Stormdancer and its passengers and crew. There is a storm right on top of them, and a nasty one at that. It had come seemingly out of nowhere (though Gilbert had known it was coming), and there were no signs of it ever letting up. Clearly if you were to believe in ‘signs’ than this is not a good one for the mission, but you can’t let that stop you. And poor Gahltha who hates water in the best of times, he now has to deal with a ferocious storm! Just before Elspeth goes to check on Gahltha, I have to wonder about the dreamtrails. Somehow Elspeth was able to see if Maruman was sleeping or on the dreamtails by touching him. Was she checking using a quick probe, or do people feel different when on the dreamtrails? Are they lifeless, as their soul has essentially left their bodies? Not very clear is it?
Elspeth leaves the cabin, trying to go to see Gahltha, but ends up nearly falling, only saved because of Jakoby. She leads her to the saloon, and Elspeth spots Norseland in the distance, the storm actually being useful and has pushed them straight to it. Though it wasn’t easy for the crew who had to avoid a tonne of shoals, but they’ve made it. The scary thing is, they will be getting off the Umborine and onto tiny shipboats for the next part of the journey, and Gwynedd isn’t going to be put off by this storm. Elspeth goes to check on Gahltha, regardless of their imminent departure. She tries to assure him and comfort him, the best she can do is just hold him, but she can’t stay for long. I feel for Gahltha, most people/animals would be terrified just by the storm, let alone if they hated water! She tells Maruman what she is doing, so he can’t claim she is abandoning him, and even though he wants to object, she stops him and lays out the facts and gets him to help Gahltha.
Moving to the saloon via a few ropes (which is an ingenious idea), Elspeth finds the others there assembled, and apparently Jak is coming ashore as well, because he thinks he will be able to dispose of plague seeds if any are there (which might be true) but still it is unexpected. They will be taking a look at Ariel’s residence, since he would have surely had something nasty holed up there, and who knows what he has left behind. Once again it seems that Gwynedd is going to abandon his people just when they need him, as they will have to get back onboard the Umborine after destroying the armoury, but Gwynedd thinks his people need to fight for their own freedom, and without an armoury, the Hedra aren’t much good. Luckily Rushton has chosen to stay aboard, so he should be fine. And now it is time to get on the shipboats, or be left behind. No more planning can be done, it is time for action.
Even though I have no issue with seasickness, I really don’t think I’d be comfortable in this full-blown storm, especially in these tiny little wooden ships they are using to get to this secret cove. The only thing keeping them alive is the skill of the Sadorian ship-people, honestly all their training pays off. There are a few tense moments as this opening doesn’t seem to appear, but it is a secret, so it isn’t easy to find for a reason, but it soon appears and they manage to get through it to the cove. Even inside this cove, it is hard to find a place to land, but Gwynedd finds a cavern, and deep inside it there is a beach. I don’t know how the other two ships are going to find this, but hopefully they can. Jak’s boat comes into view pretty quickly, but Brydda’s doesn’t arrive. They cannot afford to wait much longer, so they have to leave before they arrive. Something has gone wrong, and we won’t find out what, I really hope Brydda isn’t dead, he is a fantastic character.
But they have to actually find how to get out of here first. And it is an interesting way out, they have to climb up a blowhole (which is thankfully no longer one) and use ancient steps to get to the surface. The steps at the bottom and top are filled in to ensure the secrecy of this place, and honestly who is going to find this random place in a cavern, in a secret cove, through a treacherously difficult opening on a clearly inaccessible island? I get they are just being pedantic, just in case, they don’t really want a surprise invasion, which is smart, but honestly? What I can’t get over, is that someone climbed out the blowhole WITHOUT THE STEPS! Obviously they would have had to be made, so someone found this without the steps being here! Wow! It took everyone two whole hours to climb to the top! And still by the time the last person ascended there was no sign of the other shipboat, so it doesn’t look good.
Coming up to the surface, the storm is still raging, and they aren’t exactly safe yet either, the winds can easily blow them off the cliffs! How pleasant, what a great place to live. But at least it is obvious how the Hedra or anyone else has never found the secret steps! It would be impossible. And after a reasonably short chapter, it is time that they head off, Gwynedd’s group to Covetown, and Elspeth off to find Ariel’s residence, far from any settlement. Very exciting, what shall we find there?