Once again the other members of Elspeth’s group are proving their value, as Analivia gives Elspeth some herbs to ease her headache, honestly, I don’t think Elspeth could have made it this far without other people helping her, or if she could, she would be very miserable. Plus the human company is very comforting and helpful for Elspeth. But it does cause some problems, as Elspeth starts to worry about Rasial and Gavyn, who haven’t returned and the sky is already darkening. She is the only one who is really concerned, as they will catch up as they always had, but Elspeth believes that coming up to tainted area, it’s best they stick together, and she is planning on having a few words with Rasial. I guess her own experience has shaken her up a little, to the reality that this isn’t some leisurely expedition, this is dangerous and if they don’t pay attention and be on guard, they could die.
Oh dear, the irony that Elspeth can see and yet still trips up, while Dameon is always so graceful, is quite pleasing. I guess Isobelle had to put something in to lighten the mood of an increasingly dark book. What I do find very interesting is Dameon’s description of how he sees the world, he can ‘taste’ Elspeth’s emotions, and hers are pretty ‘loud’, so she is easy to find, just like Matthew was. Which is a perfect segue to discuss Matthew and any recent dreams they have had of the man, but really they haven’t had anything lately, maybe later we’ll see him spotting Rushton or something, and being quite shocked. But Elspeth does tell him about the time when she was sure they actually communicated, which Elspeth thinks happened on the dreamtrails, and assumes Matthew was ill to be able to do that.
Gavyn and Rasial return, but for Elspeth this isn’t such a relief, she realises that her headache is just a result of a premonition, and it’s about Rasial and Gavyn. Something terrible is going to happen, that’s what these premonitions always lead to. Rasial shows Elspeth a memory (correction vision) of Gavyn’s (their minds are so interconnected that she has no trouble taking Elspeth into it, I wonder how tightly linked their spirits must be), where it showed two people walking, and one of whom was the ‘wolfman spirit’ that saved Elspeth from the Destroyer. But there was a whole crowd of people below, but that is irrelevant as the person with him is DRAGON! But it looks like she is a captive of this wolfman, which is weird, is it just to stop her running off, or is this wolfman evil. Plus who on earth is he? What is more interesting is that it looks like they are following Elspeth’s own trek, and they might be trying to catch up to them.
This wolfman looks like he is wearing a rebel band on him, but Elspeth thinks that he is one of Malik’s men. Which is very strange. This is all very weird, because why would one of Malik’s men have Dragon, and how, she has evaded detection by the Misfits, so how could this man have captured her? And why? He seems to have beaten her, so this makes me uneasy, does he want a trade? Is he evil? Elspeth seems to think that Dragon heard Atthis’ voice call her to the mountain, but for some reason the man stopped her, and forced the information out of her. But that makes very little sense, why on earth would he choose to come up into the mountains? Well I misinterpreted a lot of this, the wolfman spirit is something else, which explains so much. But he was somehow watching this rebel and Dragon, he is not the rebel, that would make even less sense. So that just raises more questions, who is the wolfman, and who is this rebel?
Swallow starts to get in his mind that they should go and confront him, and tell the wolves to wait. But Rasial says that they better wait here, because the man will kill Dragon if he feels threatened, and if they make him believe that he has somehow captured them, it will give them an opportunity to save Dragon, and to kill the man. It is quite strange, what on earth is he doing? I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was Malik himself, but, first he is ‘dead’, and second Elspeth didn’t recognise him. OH, this is interesting the wolfman spirit is GAVYN and RASIAL! They have been travelling the dreamtrails, and have saved Elspeth! What a revelation! They have looked at the man with their spirit eyes and seen what he is capable of. When Rasial first met Gavyn, she noticed that his spirit was not ‘properly’ attached to his flesh, caused by some trauma. Rasial had tried to reach the high spirit realm and be free (find her death) but Gavyn travelled with her, and didn’t understand what she was doing, so their spirits merged. And now, they can never separate, which EXPLAINS SO MUCH!
It also explains Rasial’s desire to die, she thought she was supposed to die when she killed her master, but she didn’t realise that what her father had foreseen would be the merging of spirits, which is najulk. (wrong/unnatural). But this is a serious thing, they can’t ever mate anyone, and if one of them dies, the other dies too. It makes sense now as to why Gavyn is so different, he doesn’t even see the world of flesh clearly, he sees the spirit world even when awake. And it explains the wolves, they can sense the ‘wrongness’ of najulk, so shun it. Apparently Maruman doesn’t do it, because he too is najulk (at first I thought that meant his spirit was merged, but he’s just different). And their role on Elspeth’s quest is because of their merged spirit, which can fly higher than living spirits usually can.
The other’s who aren’t privy to this fascinating discussion, interrupt, and Elspeth kinda let’s drop that there is a person called Atthis, but she doesn’t explain about that and chooses to ignore that. Swallow asks if she could just coerce the man, but since Dragon couldn’t, I doubt she could, and Rasial explains there is a ‘mist of madness’ in him. Which doesn’t sound comforting, but Elspeth thinks that that means he has taint poisoning (which is concerning if Dragon has been afflicted too). As for his identity, I have a feeling he isn’t a stranger to us, but Elspeth just doesn’t know or recognise his face.
Anyway, they all spring into action and start setting up a trap, Darga and Ahmedri are going to be concealed nearby, and Analivia is going to hide back on the trail and act as a lookout. Elspeth and Swallow will remain in full view, since the man is obviously expecting someone. Dameon and the horses are going to go and basically hide. Gavyn and Rasial are going to go as well, since Rasial is concerned what Gavyn would do if he saw the man. Of course Gahltha and Maruman aren’t going to leave Elspeth unguarded, so they will remain. Preparing hiding spots for Darga and Ahmedri isn’t easy, since they have to be so well hidden that this man won’t suspect a thing, otherwise he’ll but put on edge, and could kill Dragon.
Alone with Swallow, he asks her about Cassandra, who he figures out is the first D’rekta. So Elspeth explains that she has dreamt many times of her. Their discussion leads to Dragon, and now Elspeth seems convinced that somehow the two of them are going to end up in the Red Land, and she now is even doubting that Dragon is the reason the four ships are successful. I mean it is a pretty ‘convenient’ thing for Elspeth to need Dragon, and for her to be brought to her by this deranged man! Which is why Elspeth believes that somehow they’ll make it to the Red Land.
Elspeth checks on Analivia, and finds that the man has moved faster than they expected, and is nearly upon Elspeth! Ahmedri won’t be able to arrive before them, so will have to try and approach stealthily. Elspeth and Swallow are going to offer the man some of their food they have been preparing, and hopefully he’ll be happy to accept, and be occupied with that, so they can strike. Swallow will take Dragon away from him, and hopefully Darga can control the man, if not, Maruman, Elspeth and Gahltha should be able to. Swallow does make a good point, what does he want? Why risk coming all this way just for Elspeth? I can only think of revenge, and that would mean Malik, but I’m not so sure it will be him, he is supposed to be dead. As for Elspeth’s suggestion of a hostage, that makes little sense, Dragon’s already a pretty good hostage! Maybe we will find out shortly.
The time comes, as the man begins to approach, and it is agony for Swallow and Elspeth who have to act as if they have no idea what is happening. Of course Elspeth tries to coerce the man, but his mind is so strongly buzzing from the taint that it was impossible. The man is close enough for Elspeth to get a good enough look at him, that he seems familiar, but as for who he is, Elspeth can’t tell. Whoever he is, he doesn’t have much life left in him, the taint sickness has nearly killed him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat! He immediately draws Dragon close, and puts a knife to her neck. Elspeth puts on an act, and invites them closer, and pretends to be kind and offers to heal them. Swallow continues and suggests it will be safer together and that they can share food. The man isn’t interested, he wants to know where ‘she’ is. The man’s voice is slurred, he must have drunk tainted water, causing his tongue and mouth to become blistered. Elspeth thinks it is her that she wants, but he is after his kin, somehow he knows that she is near. And that kin is Analivia, I guess Moss has come to punish her. But how did he know she was here? Like why would he bother. And has he already killed Bergold?