Debs looked around at the featureless countryside. She had to do twice as much looking, because she was looking for Janica as well as herself. Janica still couldn’t see, although the a’dam linking them was helping in other ways. She was, for instance, having no trouble understanding Debs’ thick, drawling Scottish accent.
“I think we must be in Seanchan,” Janica was saying. “It makes sense – if we’ve been put to the beginning of the story, then there’s no Seanchan people on the mainland. They’re all still on their way over there in a huge fleet.”
“Aye,” said Debs.
“And if we’re already on the mainland, then I don’t know where we are, and there’s no reason for us to be here, no explanation for it,” Janica went on reasonably. “It would have to be explained in the books somehow, the sudden appearance of Seanchan on the mainland without a fleet.”
“It’s probably a puzzle we have to solve. All the others are probably scattered around, and they have puzzles to solve too. Like the beginning of Baldur’s Gate. So I figure we’re in Seanchan, and we have to decide whether to stay here, and see what happens, or try to get to the mainland somehow.”
“We should ride that giant purple watermelon with wings just over there.”
“Aye,” Debs paused, then frowned. “Wha’?”
“You’re going all vague.”
“I was jest thenkin’. Mebbe we should’nae be together like this. I mean, mebbe it’s no’ right, and anyway, ye’re nae gonna enjoy bein’ a sleeve, like.”
“I’m not a slave. It’s just a disguise, so nobody will bother us during our adventure. As long as we don’t get separated, and I don’t end up being dragged off by some other sul’dam. I mean, you’re not going to immerse me in scalding heat and hit me with invisible birch branches, are you?”
“Gorrah nay, lass!”
Janica, who had been quietly wanting a nice sauna for the past three hours, sighed to herself. “So anyway, we have to decide what we’re going to do. Maybe we should stay here in Seanchan, and see what things are like. Maybe you should see what things are like, I mean. I can’t, of course. But it might be that we can do more over here. Find out about their prophesies, let them know who the Dragon is and help them make a more peaceful entry to the other countries. Maybe we can make sure the whole world is united when the Last Battle comes,” in her mind, she saw a medieval UN, and a peaceful solution to the war against the Dark One, ending with incarceration in some sort of magical prison.
“D’ye know who else is over here in this world?” Debs demanded. “Forsaken. Contro. McSmashie. Satters. Yer esteemed husband. An’ they’re all prolly o’er on th’ mainland, runnin’ aroond, tryin’ tae help out jes’ like we are.”
“Oh,” Janica thought about that. “Oh God. We have to get over there.”
“But how? The first step is to get to civilisation. There must be a city or a town somewhere, we might be able to blend in, or at least get people to leave us alone while we think about a plan – we’re sul’dam and damane, after all. Can you see anything like that?”
“Oh. Any houses?”
“Any bow-wows or moo-cows?”
“Nae boo-woo … ach, t’heel wi’ ye.”
“Sorry,” Janica said contritely. “I should be acting the part. By the way, maybe you should see if you can use the One Power, while we’re out here in the wilderness all alone.”
Janica gasped as she felt the Power flood into her, completely without her control. The tingling, life-bringing force was hers, it was from her and rushed through her, but she was separate from it, as if it was being siphoned out of her spirit by the heavy collar around her neck. There was a bright, blurry flash and a tremendous detonation.
“Coo,” said Debs.
“What happened? Did it work?”
“Oh…” Debs looked around at the shattered arc of landscape. The earth had been turned over, rocks had been boiled to evil red puddles, and the occasional tree was charred and stuck in the ground branches-first. “…Aye. Ye could say tha’.”
“Well, good. That’s good. We need to practice.”
“Aye,” said Debs, a lot more positively. “But mebbe we should wait fer these fine gennlemen on the birds tae leave.”
“What birds?” Janica cast her eyes futilely at the sky.
“They’re on the horizon, commin’ this wee.”
“What are we going to say to them? Quick, we have to come up with a story! We’re out here doing some practice, okay, and we’re very high-ranking and I’m your personal damane and I was a gift from Tuon, use the name Tuon, she’s the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and … oh no.”
“What if they don’t understand us? What if we don’t understand them? They might speak a different language.”
Debs looked up at the great, circling raken. The insect-helmeted man on the lead beast raised a gauntleted hand and roared to be heard over the considerable expanse of rushing air.
“Och aye, sul’dam, begorrah! See you, leashie!”
“Nae worries,” Debs said with a broad grin.
Ishamael McSmashie slid across Tel’ran’rhiod like nightsoil. The pack on his back bulged with assorted evilness, the shotgun was a comforting weight in his right hand, and the True Power of the Dark One roared through him without pause. He could sense the Great Lord of the Dark through this bond, and knew that His power would only increase as the seals broke. It had been a while since he read the Wheel of Time books, but he seemed to recall something about the Forsaken being trapped in the Bore, which was like part of the prison, and the Dark One’s power being unable to affect the mortal world.
Except for Ishamael, who was partially free. And apparently insane.
“Don’t know about the insane part,” he said to his special squeezy-friend Mister Hugglepuff, who never said Angus was too small to be a Forsaken, “but I’m certainly free. And before any of the others, too! It’s time to do some real work – get some real stuff done, make this guy into a real character, yes Mister Hugglepuff, lots of work to do…”
With a really bloody convincing evil laugh, Ishamael spread himself across the scattered lights of the dream-plane, giving children from Shara to Seanchan that really bad nightmare where you’re running away from something with only your underpants on and you’re wetting the bed and everybody’s watching you and you’re late for school and you’re falling and you keep trying to tell somebody something but they can’t hear you. And, inexplicably, something about tiny little guys with red hair too.
“First stop, the dreams of one of those bloody little farmboys I’ve been ordered to destroy,” he said, and looked around grimly. “No, cancel that – it can wait. First stop, a way out of this stupid place, and a bit of a look-see at the world around me. Nothing out there my trusty backpack of tricks can’t handle.”
Ishamael called upon the rich trickle of the True Power, tore a hole in the fabric of the dream-world, and stepped through it into darkness.