Chapter Twenty-Nine – Part One
The pool of water that is the ‘light place’, is a junction of six similar pipes as the one they have walked through, with the familiar taint-eating insects inhabiting it. The water and dryka must have come in through a crack in the bottom of the chamber, feeding in underground water. They begin to set up a camp for the night, but Elspeth has to go and ask whether they can cook anything, since the smell might attract the rhenlings. So she goes to ask them, and brings them some food, since they can’t really hunt in here, but I’m not sure they will want food made by funaga. It seems they don’t mind, but Rheagor says that unless they are cooking with blood, the smell should be fine, no rhenling will dare approach this place unless there is lots of blood about. So that’s good news.
Elspeth coerces Dragon to eat, but doesn’t feel like eating herself (not eating her, but eating any food herself, that’s a weird phrase that could be interpreted badly). Analivia suggests that this is an effect of the taint poisoning, and she too feels that way. Ahmedri is optimistic that they won’t have any permanent damaged from this journey, if the taint really has been slight. Elspeth opts to just go to sleep instead.
Almost instantly, in her eyes at least, she is being woken up, she had called out in her sleep. She had been dreaming she was ill, from taint poisoning I think, but in reality, she is looking better than everyone else, and we know why that is. The others have been vomiting and shivering all night, Darga and Rasial have also been affected, the horses, Maruman and Dragon seem immune. Again, we know why for Maruman, and the horses are just larger, so they need more of a dose. As for Dragon, I guess being unconscious helps. The wolves seem unaffected, but who can tell since they aren’t exactly friendly. I wonder what the wolves will do once they have gotten through the graag, or to the Beforetime city, are they just going to turn around, or are they staying with Elspeth? And there was that weird moment when Rheagor said nobody would be hunted by his pack during the journey, he didn’t say anything about after.
Elspeth wonders whether they should stay here another night, to make sure everyone has healed from the taint poisoning, and won’t be affected by it, but really I think they should leave this place as fast as they can. The sun began to rise, according to Rheagor, and they all prepared for the next leg of their journey, sending the horses, Dragon, Maruman and Dameon first with most of the wolf pack, who will all leave the pipe earlier than the others. The stronger wolves will remain with Elspeth and the others. Of course Gahltha doesn’t want to leave Elspeth, but he has no choice really, he won’t be much help against these nasty rhenlings, and hopefully there will be no need of help. The others followed them down the pipe (hopefully they chose the right one of the six!) running behind them. It wasn’t too hard, since they had given the horses almost all their supplies, and they weren’t sprinting, it was still pitch black after all. Analivia has figured out that they only have three days left of food beyond the pipe, and a week if they basically starved and the wolves hunted, and there was only enough fodder left for a day. Elspeth doesn’t seem too despondent with this news, and thinks the efari will have food, but whether they are willing to share, is the real question (or if they are human at all!). Elspeth feels guilty for being able to heal herself, without the others knowing about it, since they are struggling more than she is, but it’s not her fault they are in this situation.
They continued alternating jogging with walking, only lighting torches when they came close to the rhenlings, Elspeth wanted to be certain they wouldn’t wake because they ran into one. But things started going bad, when they were about to light another torch, but the pipes began to shudder and jerk. There were loud cracks, and earth fell on Elspeth, I guess the pipe was cracking up. At the same time, Elspeth could smell the rhenling musk, and that might mean they’ve woken them all up! Elspeth stumbled and fell onto her back, and it’s chaos, things are falling on her, a wolf cried out, and then more things fell on her, causing her severe pain.
Elspeth returns to one of her Rushton dreams, as she did last time she was knocked out. And this time he’s on board one of the ships, out to sea, with a storm on top of them. Brydda spots Rushton and tells him to go back to bed, it’s too dangerous to be out, but Rushton wants to look out for this land that Lark says he saw. Where they can hopefully wait out the storm, but in this weather how can anyone see anything at all? Sadly, even with this rain, they are in need of water, the pipes they used to collect the water, were strong enough, so now the rain water is going to waste. It really doesn’t sound so good for the ships, most are damaged, and they don’t even know where the Auroch is any more. Then, things get worse as a huge wave looms over them, Rushton is without a tether, and who knows what’s going to happen to him or the boat. Is he going to be washed away, or the boat destroyed?
Who knows, since we wake up with Elspeth, whose in terrible pain, and covered in earth. Elspeth thinks she is buried alive, and no talent she has can save her from that. The air with her, quickly became polluted with carbon dioxide, making it hard to breathe. But soon enough she was dug out by Swallow and Analivia. Sadly, Elspeth’s arm seems to be broken. But much better news, is that the rhenlings don’t seem to have been roused because of all this, but they have lost a lot of time, so they might not make it to safety in time. But worse, is that they are stuck here, their path is blocked by the earth, and we can only hope Dameon and the others were clear. Even now, there is a real danger of further collapses.
Rasial was knocked out, but she seems to be alright, and Analivia has a cut to the head, but everyone seems to be fine. Somehow Swallow has one of the dryka in his bottle, so that’s giving them some light. The water was strained, so how did that get there? Scarily, right above them, through the cracks of the pipe, there are rhenlings! Worse still, they are moving into the pipe! Strangely, it seems that they aren’t quite awake, they’ve been disturbed, but it’s still daylight outside, so they aren’t fully awake. I don’t quite understand how that works, since they are in these dark places, so far from the reach of the sun. But whatever the mechanism that keeps then asleep, it’s working, since they have yet to be touched by prey. They really have no choice, dig themselves out, or die. They can’t reach the bright place in time, even if Elspeth wasn’t injured. Even then, things don’t look so good. And where are all the wolves, were they all ahead? And then later Rheagor would hang back? This is worrying, even if I knew something bad was going to happen!