The Whitecloak Questioner pushed Contro firmly back into the cell he had come from, and ushered Forsaken_1 in behind him.
“Now you shall see how a true Inquisition takes place,” he said, reaching into a pocket of his snowy robe and drawing out a knotted length of string. Forsaken_1 watched, knowing he should be doing something … but he’d done his best, and besides, he’d always wanted to know exactly what these guys did with their famous knotted bit of string.
The Questioner wrapped the piece of string around his own finger.
“It is to remind me,” he explained condescendingly, holding up the trussed digit, “to deal harshly with the one on the table,” he turned to Contro. “Get on the table.”
“Alright! Ha ha ha!! This is where I just came from! Who would have thought I’d end up back here??!!! Ha ha ha! Funny old world!” Contro clambered up on the dark slab. “Do you want me to lie on my back or on my tummy?”
“On your back … for now,” the Questioner was still looking intensely at Forsaken_1.
“Okay! How’s that! It’s comfortable for me! Ha ha ha!!!”
The Questioner picked up a twisty sort of bottle-opener thing. “You can start by telling me your name.”
“My name’s Contro! What’s yours?”
“My name is Jaichim Carridin, and I am the instrument of the Light that will lead to the salvation of your soul.”
“Carridin!” Forsaken_1 gasped. “You! You can’t do this! If Contro’s a Darkfriend – which I doubt – then he’s your ally! You’re the Darkfriend here!”
“I?” Carridin snarled, turning on Forsaken_1 and brandishing the corkscrew. “I? You shall pay for your slander, Child Foreskin!”
Carridin gasped and the corkscrew fell from his nerveless fingers.
“Bors! That was the guy’s name!! Ha ha ha! Funny how I remembered! I’m usually really bad with names! Aren’t you Bors? You were at the Darkfriend gathering!”
Carridin was looking stunned and confused. “I don’t think that has happened yet,” Forsaken_1 whispered. Carridin turned to him.
“I have been given orders … from various sources. I have been instructed from the highest levels – by Ba’alzamon Himself! Who are you, and how do you know my code-name?”
Forsaken_1 raised his hands helplessly. “Not me, Jaichim. I’m not a Darkfriend … I’m not a Child of the Light either, to tell the truth, but I’m not a Darkfriend. This is the one,” he pointed at Contro. “You should be wary of him.”
“He is a Darkfriend?” Carridin was regarding Forsaken_1 with suspicion. “And if you are not, how can we trust you?”
“You can trust Forsaken_1!!” Contro called from the table. “He’s a Mormon!”
“What’s a Mormon?” Carridin demanded, then paled. “Did he just call you … my Lord Chosen!” he fell on his face.
“Fuckwit,” Forsaken_1 growled at Contro. “No, Jaichim, I’m not one of the Forsaken … I can’t use the One Power, as far as I know … it’s just a nickname, you know – like ‘Killer’ or ‘Dragon’,” he realised that was a bad example when Carridin snarled from the floor. “I mean, it’s not real … stand up, man. We’re going to help you. But you should unchain Contro.”
“Is he really a Darkfriend?”
“One of the darkfriendest.”
“Really?” Carridin climbed to his feet.
“Look at that face, Bors,” Forsaken_1 was aware he had said the same thing just minutes before, for the opposite reason, but he couldn’t think of anything else. “Somebody like that … capable of anything…”
“I must confess,” Carridin murmured, “the way he laughed on the table … it chilled my blood.”
“That’s the least of it,” Forsaken_1 confirmed darkly. “Don’t get him started about monkeys and old women.”
Carridin shuddered. “Never fear.”
“Me, I just want to protect innocent lives – I want to stop your family and friends from being targeted because of your ineptitude,” Forsaken_1 was quite proud of combining knowledge of the books with some large words. “We’re going to help you with your mission, and protect your family at the same time.”
“My family is not in danger.”
“That’s what you say now! Ha ha ha! But later on, they’ll tell you to kill Rand and then you won’t be able to and they’ll kill all your cousins and things! Ha ha ha! Trust you!!”
Carridin shuddered again, not looking at the brightly-coloured shape on the table. He was firmly convinced that it could not possibly be human. Not even a halfman could be so twisted. “What must I do? And who is Rand?”
Forsaken_1 clapped him on the shoulder. “Rand’s the Dragon, Jaichim,” he said. “Rand’s the Dragon.”
The raken boys were cheerful and hospitable, and immensely respectful of Debs and her prestigious office. They were also mightily impressed at Janica’s ‘training exercises’, and there was some talk of her perhaps melting out and levelling a landing/takeoff area for the raken and to’raken back at the main base. They flew Debs and Janica back to their little station house and after they’d thrown buckets of water on their raken and allowed the great awful beasts to urinate and eat something, they acted like perfect hosts. They gave the sul’dam and damane a good meal and plenty to drink, and Janica was only slightly miffed at receiving her own food in a platter on the floor.
“It’s the way they do it,” she assured Debs. “I don’t mind. Just find out what you can.”
“Find oot aboot wha’?”
“Whatever you can about this place. We need to get to the mainland, so find out about the Return. The Fore-runners, all that sort of thing. Find out if the invasion fleet has already left. If it hasn’t, find out if we can get on board.”
“Reet,” Debs turned to the raken captain. “Where’s the boots?”
The raken captain laughed and uttered a garbled sentence that the a’dam didn’t even come close to translating. It ended with, “…an’ aye wee ye canna hoots mon whiskey.”
“He says the boots all left months ago,” Debs translated, “they should be oover there by noo.”
Janica sighed. “By the time they get there, it’s the battle at Falme. And then they go to those little islands-”
“But some of them come back here,” Debs corrected. “Because there’s at least one scunner o’er here who was at the battle of Falme when…”
“When Rand and Aviendha come through here in that gateway!” Janica exclaimed.
Janica sat quietly and tried to look submissive while Debs explained. She’d seen her husband do it so many times, it ought to have been easy for her, but she kept accidentally raising her eyes, opening her mouth to add comments, and being generally presumptuous. Debs explained in detail about the little she knew concerning future events, making it sound as though her damane was having flash-forwardses.
“Ach! Damane wi’ the foretellin’!” the raken-men looked at her with casual interest. The captain grinned and slapped Debs on the shoulder. “She must be worth a wee fortune!”
“Aye,” Debs said. “A gift from the Emp’ress. May she live fer … ye noo.”
There was some more discussion about the Return and the Forerunners – Debs was worried about revealing too much, but apparently the sul’dam could do no wrong, and were completely above suspicion. They were as far as the raken boys were concerned, at least. They admired Debs and they admired her overly tight outfit, in as gentlemanly a manner as can be expected. They answered her questions and Janica trusted her to translate them properly. A plan began to form in the a’dam link.
“Rand and Aviendha come through from … where is it? Rhuidean? No, it’s Cairhein somewhere. They come through and it’s the middle of winter here, there’s snow … we could probably sneak through the gateway when they rush the other way … of course, once we got there we’d have Asmodean to deal with.”
“He’d be all but shielded,” Debs said. “Remember the fight?” she looked around. “It does’nae look like winter here yet. We may have tae wait a while.”
“Wait. This is no good. One of the Seanchan women who was at the gateway when Rand tried to come back … Lady someone … she was at Falme. And since they don’t know how to Travel, that means they’ve had the battle, and she’s come all the way back, before this gateway opens. That’s why it’s winter.”
“Aye – Rand’s sex scene is in Book Feeve. Chapter thirty-two.”
“That’s too long to … how did you know that?”
“Anyway,” Janica continued, “it’s too long. We need to get there quicker.”
“You lads,” Debs said cheerfully. “Ye look bored. Hoo aboot flyin’ us over tae th’, uh, tae the mainland? We’re late for the Return – we’re meanna be Forerunners, ye know.”
“Ye wanna gae tae Chaggabaggawoggaland?”
There was silence in the little station house.
“No wonder Jordan never mentions it by name,” Janica murmured.
“That’s the place for us,” Debs said. “Hoo ‘boot et?”
The raken captain babbled some more, the upshot of which was that it was quite impossible for him to fly the sul’dam and her damane to Chaggabaggawoggaland. It was too far, and the raken would die before they got halfway. Also, raken didnae groo on trees and he couldnae take any of them for such a long roomin’. Even if he did come back alive, the Deathwatch Guards would have his nicknacks. He was very contrite and apologetic, but he valued his nicknacks a great deal and insisted that the sul’dam kill him for failing in his duty, rather than subject him to a journey that might deprive him of the wee lads.
“Ach, nae worries,” Debs waved away the small ceremonial axe the raken master was offering. “We’ll find another way. Right, damane-wahnee?”
“Don’t call me that,” Janica said quietly enough for only Debs to hear. “Anyway, you’re right – I’ve just thought of something.”
“Good gel. Wha’?”
“We don’t need to wait for Aviendha to open a gateway. We can make our own.”
Chucky was awakened some hours later by sounds of a disturbance outside the stable. He climbed down off the wagon, which had miraculously survived the night, and stepped towards the doors. Late afternoon light was flooding cruelly through from outside.
A large crowd had gathered on the green in front of the Winespring Inn. None of them were waving signs or wearing placards, because of course none of them could read or write, but they looked as if they were supposed to be waving signs. Chucky stepped up to the back of the crowd. It was very late afternoon – evening, on second glance – but the sun was still unpleasant.
“What’s going on? Down in front! You there, with the red hair! Down in front! Don’t make me go back and get my gleestaff.”
The tall young man with red hair and terrible skin peered at Chucky. “Oh, mint! You’re the gleeman! I missed your story, but they’re all talking about it! It sounded absolutely mint, under the Light it did, I wish I had heard it. But we were attacked by trollocs in the night, and I only made it back here in time … were you hurt in the attack?”
Chucky stared at Rand al’Thor for a moment, and was interrupted before he could even speak.
“He wasn’t hurt,” this was a gap-toothed fellow with a straw hat. “I saw him fighting with a halfman! It was grabbing people and he was making it let them go! Then it ran away.”
“Is that true, Perrin?” Rand turned to a third hick, this one built like the side of a barn and about as attractive.
Perrin nodded. “Saved Haral and Alsbet, and for that I owe him,” he gave Chucky a grin that showed some people could have more fingers than teeth. “I didn’t see what happened to the halfman, but I think the gleeman and his apprentice saw him off.”
“Oh yeah,” Chucky said positively. “He ran away crying like a little … what’s going on here anyway?”
Rand’s face darkened. “They’re trying to cast out the Aes Sedai. She fought the trollocs, and Healed half the people in this village – including my father-”
“Tam,” Chucky said.
“That’s right! Tam’s my father! He is!” Rand exclaimed forcefully. “Do you know him?”
“I know that’s his sword,” Chucky grinned and pointed to the sword at Rand’s waist. “It’s a heron-mark.”
Rand looked awed. “That is so mint! How did you know that?”
The kid in the straw hat, who Chucky suspected was Mat, nudged Rand. “She’s coming out.”
The crowd stirred and there were angry, distrustful mutters as the door to the Winespring Inn opened and the small dark-haired woman stepped out. She glared at the crowd. Behind her, a grim-faced man folded his arms.
“He’s a Warder,” Mat said in excitement, breathing rank breath over Chucky’s face.
“No kidding,” Chucky smiled through gritted teeth.
Moiraine stood glaring for a short time, then she raised her voice and shouted.
“What do you ungrateful cunts want? Blood?”
At the front of the crowd, a Coplin or a Congar was muttering something about the One Power and unwanted trouble, and how Aes Sedai always asked more than the price they settled on, and other stuff. Moiraine cut him off.
“Shut the fuck up, you dumb hick. Listen to me, all of you,” she shouted effortlessly over the unhappy murmurs. She lifted up her staff, and bright arrowheads of flame sprang from either end. The crowd stared in slack-jawed amazement. “You’ve all forgotten who the Ghul you are. I’m going to tell you a little story. To the south lies the river you call the White River, but far to the east of here men call it still by its rightful name. Manethrendrelle. In the Old Tongue, Waters of the Mountain Home. Sparkling waters that, yes, yes, what is it now?”
She pointed her glowing staff at a man in the front row of the mob, who was waving his hand excitedly.
“Is Druss in this story?”
The mob immediately began clamouring for Druss. Moiraine stabbed her staff into the ground in frustration and turned to Lan.
“We’re leaving!” she shouted. “Gather up the boys. We’re leaving right now.”
She pushed past him and stormed into the Inn. Lan, expressionless, stepped out onto the street, where the mob was already dissipating amidst wild retellings of the Story of Delnoch. Chucky crept back to the stables.
Mister C was awake, and rummaging in the wagon.
“Time to get ready to leave,” Chucky told him. “They’re on their way right now, and they’ll probably take those horses,” he pointed at the huge charger and the little white one. Then he paused and smiled at the shaggy brown mare still hitched to an empty cart. “And that one. Hi Bela.”
“You’re talking to a horse,” Mister C told him. Then the stable doors boomed open and Moiraine strode inside. Lan followed her, closely followed by Rand, Mat and Perrin. The Aes Sedai stopped when she saw the gleeman and the Mambo shirt.
“You,” she grated. “I hate you.”
“What are you doing on the peddlar’s wagon?” Lan said, his hand on his sword-hilt.
“We’re coming with you,” Chucky said. “There’s stuff you need to know.”
“From you?” Moiraine snapped. “I think I’ve heard quite enough about Druss for one week, thank you so very fucking much.”
“And why are you swearing so much?” Chucky demanded. “I didn’t know you swore like that.”
“What in Shayol Ghul’s toilet are you talking about? Lan, kill them.”
“No!” Perrin jumped forward. “The gleeman saved people, I saw him. And the other one, his apprentice…” he glanced at Mister C with a worried expression on his broad face. “He helped too.”
Mister C of 9 snorted.
“Let them come,” Rand pleaded. “I haven’t heard the Memnoch story yet.”
“Delnoch!” Mister C roared. Everybody in the stable took a step back from his fury, even Moiraine. “Memnoch was the worst Vampire story ever!”
“What’s a Vampire?” Rand asked timidly.
“Draghkar,” Chucky explained.
Mister C elbowed Chucky. “Did he just say mint?”
“I’m afraid so. I think the editors … edited it. Like Moiraine’s swearing, and all the obvious inbreeding and disease – okay,” he clapped his hands. “We’re all ready to go. We’re taking the wagon – Fain won’t be back for it. He’s the one who brought those trollocs here, by the way.”
“Fain?” Moiraine blinked. “You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. They came through the Ways.”
“We have to talk,” the Aes Sedai breezed past the wagon and climbed onto her own horse. “Alright, they can come. Lan, don’t kill them.”
“Great!” said Chucky. “We’ll just wait for Egwene to show herself-”
“I’m coming with you!”
“Blood and bloody-!” Mat turned and stared at Chucky, who was making himself comfortable at the reins. “How did you know she was there?”
Mister C smirked. “We know many mysterious things. Like, we’re headed for the ferry.”
“Of course we are,” Moiraine said, while Lan helped the incredibly unsightly village girl to scramble up onto Bela’s back. Even Bela looked acutely uncomfortable between those gnarled and hairy legs.
“How did you know that?” Chucky asked as they rumbled out of the stable doors. “You said you haven’t read the books.”
“I haven’t,” Mister C said complacently. “But that’s where they go in Lord of the Rings, and I’ve been right so far.”