The reunion on the hillside outside of Fal Dara was a brief and violent one.
“Remind me again about the non-interference law we decided on?”
“Ach, shut up. It wasnae my fault.”
“You stilled her!”
“Killed?” Frendli, massaging some life back into his knuckles after the heroic jailbreak, blinked nervously. “Who did you kill, Mistress Hindle?”
Debs growled and sent a wave of vindictive chocolate-craving down the length of the a’dam. Janica gasped. “I did’nae kill anyone, alreet? I stilled her, but it was’nae a problem. I stilled her and then Healed it. Hoo many people can say that, eh?”
“You can’t heal stilling,” Wyse said reasonably. “I read it in a book. You must have done something else.”
“She was stilled,” Janica said tiredly. “And we know how to Heal it because we read it in a book. But it wasn’t a very good job. I think even Nynaeve did a better job.”
Debs huffed. “It was good enough.”
“As far as I could tell, Moiraine’s down to about ten percent of her former power,” Janica said, “and she does’nae even know it. Which means they will be in real trouble when they get into the Blight.”
“We’ll just have tae follow them,” Debs said, “and make sure they danna git intae trouble.”
“We’re going into the Blight?” Coarshus exclaimed. “That’s so dangerous!”
“Somebody has to look out for them,” Janica said firmly. “We haven’t done very well so far, but somebody has to.”
“They owe us just fer gettin’ rid o’ Fain,” Debs grumbled. “Hoo much trouble we stop there?”
“It’s not our job to stop trouble,” Janica insisted. “We have to make sure the story goes the way it was meant to. It’s all very well to wander around and think what a wonderful roleplaying game this is, but there’s been a mistake and now the whole narrative is in jeopardy.”
“Alreet,” Debs said, tiring of the dialogue. “We’ll goo then.”
“Into the Blight?” Wyse whimpered. “Into the Blight?”
“Can I go to the toilet before we start?” Coarshus asked.
“Will there be girls?” Hoarni added.
“When do we start?” Debs turned to Janica. The little damane frowned in concentration.
“We’ll follow them when they leave,” Janica said, “at a distance. If we lose their trail, the Ogier can lead us to the Green Man,” she stared at the four Ogier. “Can’t you?”
“No,” said Wyse.
“Not a chance,” Frendli confessed.
“Nope,” said Coarshus.
“Sure, baby,” Hoarni grinned, ignoring the other three as they elbowed and kicked him surreptitiously. “There’s a really simple trick to it, but only Ogier really know. I bet that’s how the others are planning on getting there.”
Just as Janica had predicted, the gates of Fal Dara opened shortly before midday, and a long column of warriors on horseback and not a few on foot emerged, heading for Tarwin’s Gap. After them came the smaller party containing Rand, Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve, Egwene, Moiraine, Lan, and a group of other people Debs wasn’t sure about. She made out a tall figure in a white robe, and a heavily armoured figure … and one who seemed to be wearing a gleeman’s cloak. She swore under her breath.
“Things are weird,” she said. “Thom seems to be with them. And I danna knoo who that Weetclook is. I think that guy in armour is Ingtar.”
“Thom?” Janica peered into the middle distance, cursing her eyes. “That’s not right.”
“I can see Loial!” Wyse exclaimed. “He seems to be alright.”
“He won’t be when Erith gets a hold of him,” Frendli promised.
Janica shrugged. “Well, as long as you can make out Moiraine…”
“Nae worries. She’s the little one in blue. I’ll keep me eye on her.”
They started out towards the Mountains of Dhoom.
Ishamael paced back and forth in front of them, looking rather pleased with himself. He had changed a lot in the course of his imprisonment, but the Chosen had to admit that they all had. It had been a long, boring series of millennia.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said loudly, his voice sounding strangely dead in the thick, dusty atmosphere. “I have almost succeeded in freeing you fom your confinement. It will not be much longer, and you will all walk free from this place, back out into the world to do the Great Lord’s work. Until then, I have moved you as best I can within this region of the Bore, to give you a little comfort.”
“Is that why we are sitting on couches?” Demandred said coldly. “I must say, such opulence is fitting for the Great Lord’s highest commanders.”
“Do I have to sit next to him?” Lanfear snapped. “Can’t I go and sit with Semirhage?”
“And did we have to have our chairs arranged so we’re looking at each other?” Rahvin added. “Personally, I’ve been looking at the back of Sammael’s head for the past four thousand years, and the front is freaking me out.”
“Silence!” Ishamael snapped. “I didn’t drag you all the way from the back of this hall – almost trapping myself in the process, by the way – to this nice area here where you can speak, and almost move around…” he paused a moment to recollect his run-on sentence, “…for nothing! We have important work to do. Now, very soon, Aginor and Balthamel and I will be heading to the Eye of the World. When we return, here is what we are going to do. The seals will weaken and you will be free. Before that happens, you will swear your loyalty to the Nae’blis. That’s me. And I’ll tell you what we’re going to do next.”
The Chosen watched Ishamael – or Angamael, as he had dubbed himself for some reason – warily. He was a dangerous lunatic who might snap at any moment. And none of them had the slightest idea why he was walking around with such a stupid little walking stick.
“We are going to gateway right into Tar Valon,” he said with relish. “Right into the White Tower, where just about every Aes Sedai in the world lives. There are enormous stockpiles of ter’angreal, angreal and sa’angreal in the Tower. And almost all of the world’s diminished channeling power. We’re going to gateway the fuck in there, with a bushel of halfmen and the element of surprise, and we’re going to turn them all to the Dark One.”
There was silence.
“All of them?” Demandred choked.
“Every single one,” Angamael said. “I could never understand why you never did it before. I mean, in the story.”
“What story?” Lanfear asked, before realising she was pointing out Angamael’s insanity for all to see. She bit her lip and fell silent. Angamael stared at her for a minute, his eyes blazing like caverns of fire.
“Never you mind what story,” he grunted. “We’ll take thirteen halfmen, and the thirteen of us, and we’ll-”
“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Sammael cried. “We can’t listen to this maniac, he’ll kill us all! If we all work together, we can cast him down and-”
Angamael’s weird little walking stick went crash.
“We’ll take thirteen halfmen, and the twelve of us, and some random Black Ajah Aes Sedai,” Angamael amended as Sammael’s decapitated corpse slumped in the couch, “and we’ll convert every single one of them, starting with the Amyrlin Seat and working our way down. We’ll set up a perimeter at the top of the Tower, and we’ll convert the most powerful Aes Sedai first, and then call up the rest one at a time, using the authority of the Tower itself to make them report. Once all the sworn sisters are converted, we’ll break into teams of twenty-six, and convert the Accepted, the novices, and the wilders.”
The Chosen stared in disbelief at the torso that had once been Sammael. In the thick atmosphere of the prison, the body could not collapse, and the blood pouring from the remains of his neck was glistening like treacle. Shards of bone, gobs of brain and crystals of blood fanned out behind the couch, frozen in midair. Angamael smiled widely.
“Any questions?” he asked. Demandred struggled to raise his hand. “Yes, Rahvin, you have a question?”
“I’m Demandred. I mean, I’m Rahvin. Rahvin,” Demandred sweated slowly. “When do we start, Nae’blis?”
“Nae’blis,” the Chosen repeated woodenly, pinned helplessly in their couches.