Padan Fain and the two Aes Sedai began to grate on each other’s nerves about half an hour into the journey, and by the end of their first day on the road they were ready to kill each other. Unfortunately, their loyalties stopped the black lace twins from doing anything about it, and Fain’s wretched state of confusion and his ‘responsibilities’ to his ‘peons, minions, underlings and grunts’ kept the peddler from nailing anybody to handy doors.
At least they were in agreement about what they were meant to be doing. They were following the Dragon Reborn. Or a false Dragon. Or the Horn of Valere. Or the dagger from Shadar Logoth. Or a force of evil nasty ol’ Darkfriends.
Okay. At least they were in agreement about where they were going. Tear. They just couldn’t agree on when, how, and why. And in one confusing case, who.
Chucky, at least, was glad they’d met up with the large group of battered Borderlanders. It slowed their progress to a crawl, but at least it meant they weren’t chased out of towns anymore. Even with Satters being a bad influence on Perrin, and Mat being a bad influence on Domon, and everybody being a bad influence on Fain, they were an almost civilised group under the direction of the two unusual Aes Sedai.
Hurin, the sniffer, explained that they’d been attacked by some sort of flying Darkfriends one night, and the Dragon Reborn had run off in the confusion. Nobody seemed quite sure who these Darkfriends were, and the Aes Sedai in particular had been quite upset by it, and were hesitant to agree that it had been Darkfriends at all. Since there was no real alternative, however, they had been forced to admit that the strange attackers had indeed been Darkfriends. They had been the victims of what Verin and Liandrin called an “Unsanctioned Shadow Action”.
Chucky found it amusing to hear Masema talking about being a “bloody victim of that flaming USA,” but nobody else saw the funny side of it. With the possible exception of Sattersnoam, who called him a cunt but who he later caught chuckling and saying “USA” under his breath.
Still, their journey ground down to less than walking pace. Every time Fain underwent a personality switch and demanded that everybody bow down to him, the whole group stopped in the middle of the road to argue about things. Every time Domon demanded that he be allowed to do what he wanted with the “pretty horses” that the Borderlanders had with them, the whole group had to stop and tie him to a saddle with a bag of ice between his legs. And ice was very difficult to come by, since the Aes Sedai refused to channel anywhere near the sailor and his strange friends. Every time Perrin and Noam got in a digging, howling, tail-chasing, pissing or flea-catching competition, the whole group stopped to place bets and make fun of the loser. Perrin normally lost, because he had very few fleas, he didn’t like pissing in front of people, he quickly realised he didn’t actually have a tail, he thought howling was unnecessary and digging was stupid. Satters always took full advantage of the fact that he won by rushing around all the assembled spectators for ear-scratches and strips of jerky.
And so the days passed with relentless, unending boredom and irritation.
They rode east through various little villages, uninhabited stretches of woodland, and boring riverside vistas. Chucky caught himself thinking that the whole process might have taken Jordan several hundred pages to accomplish in the real books, and that was without stopping to describe just how sad, filthy, disease-ridden and badly-built the villages were, how green and fetid and meningitis-and-malaria-ridden the water was, and how bad a set of allergic reactions a person could get from plants that did not really exist in the real world. Chucky had been suffering from these afflictions for as long as he could remember, but now was about the first time he’d had leisure to actually notice them. It was the first time he’d gone more than a week without being attacked by something.
And he wasn’t even free from attack now. Every day or so, Fain or Domon or Sattersnoam would insist that he do a girly dance, although the humiliating choreography had become a little more scarce with the reappearance of the Borderlanders and their subtle demands for Yoru stories. Also, Mat and Perrin and Loial were around to cheer him up, and Egwene was around to make Bela look good. And then there was Liandrin, who rode alongside and talked shop with the gleeman in a casual, extremely creepy manner. Occasionally Verin would ride on the other side, interjecting with questions and comments every now and then. She was very obviously a Darkfriend of some sort, although she seemed to be a beginner. Liandrin remained convinced that Chucky was some sort of extremely high-level friend of Ba’alzamon, and it was a charade that he would have found absolutely impossible to keep up unless she hadn’t unwittingly helped him at every step of the way.
“So how did you become a follower of the Great Lord of the Dark? Were you seeking for a way to make your ballads and epics last forever? A magical musical instrument? Perhaps the ability to win over your audience and have them shower you with gold?”
“Instrument. Definitely a magical musical instrument,” Chucky patted the bagpipes that hung on the pony’s saddlebags. “I really wanted to try the Horn of Valere, you know – I reckon you could get a Ghul of a sound out of that baby – but the Great, um, Lord gave me these instead. Or, well, He led the way to them. I actually got them from this innkeeper, who got them from Bayle Domon. But I was in the right place at the right time, and the, um, He led me there.”
“But how did you rise so high, so young? Did you put propaganda speeches into your songs, poison the wine cups of our enemies, and delve into the lost secrets of the Age of Legends to further the dark cause? Were you granted the secret knowledge, and given great tasks? Were you involved in the slaying of the Dragon, and the scattering of his followers in disarray and confusion?”
“Yeah. Uh, all of those.”
“And the … the Lady Selene? Did you perhaps meet her while studying the Portal Stones? Did she appear to you in a dream and show you how to break their secret, and then take you and Mister See adventuring through the lost Worlds of If, in an extension of your unholy schooling?”
“You got it.”
“And what is your role here?” Verin asked.
Chucky didn’t like Verin. She didn’t answer questions before he got a chance. Luckily, Liandrin was there, and she replied with a pout and a toss of her multitude of tedious, annoying braids that Chucky spent a lot of his time trying to describe as any colour other than ‘honey’. Yellow. They were yellow. Sort of dark yellow.
“He’s undoubtedly attempting to bring the Horn of Valere to the Great Lord’s use,” she said. “And following the same orders we are, concerning this false Dragon.”
Chucky turned to Verin and pointed at Liandrin in a gesture that said I’m too lazy to even acknowledge that shit she just said.
Verin nodded thoughtfully. “But why weren’t we informed about your … presence?”
“Well, I don’t really … it’s not like … well, it’s a sort of thingy … I couldn’t … um…”
“We can’t expect to be told of every little detail of the Great Lord’s plan,” Liandrin hissed. “The Chosen do their great work in secrecy, and we are just tiny, insignificant pawns. It is not our place to know the workings of the Great Lord’s mind.”
“Pawns,” Chucky said with a nod.
“Hey,” Loial rumbled, trudging up in between Chucky and Liandrin. “I heard that!”
“Oh, um, hi Loial, er, we were just, um…”
“No talking about porn unless a Gentlemen’s Club quorum can be reached,” the Ogier said in his giant bumblebee voice. “I’ll tell Mister See and Child Foreskin, and they’ll probably paddle you.”
“Creator fucking cuntery Whitecloaks and ever-shitting Ghul-blasted Hunters of the befuckered Horn! The bane of my cock-burned life!”
“For once, Moiraine Sedai, I completely agree with you!”
“Shut up and run, you! And don’t let go of the wagon! We’re all still back here, you know!”
“Don’t worry, Foreskin! I’ve got hold of you! Careful, there’s a bit of rough ground ahead!”
“Ha ha ha!!!!!!! Yay! This is fun!! But I’m getting sick! Ha ha ha! It’s still fun! But if I wasn’t sick, it would be more fun!! So it’s not very fun at all, because I’m sick!!!! Oi!! Ha ha ha!!!!! You punched me in the nose!! You cheeky chimp!”
“Good one, Lan.”
“Shut up, Foreskin. I feel like having a bit of a seven-striped-stole myself. Where’s that bottle?”
“Uh, I think it fell down to the other end of the wagon when Someshta picked us up. Yep, look, it’s down there, alright. Looks to be broken.”
“We’re coming to a river, hold your noses, I’m going to ford it!”
“No, wait! It’s too fucking deep. Just wait, and I’ll make a bridge of Air.”
“Okay. Hurry up though, I think they’re gaining. And the wolf can’t carry me much further.”
“Stop being so gol-durn cheerful, Cooper! It’s your fault we’all’re in this mess to start with! What in the Lord possessed you to place an order like that in the first place? They’se superstitious types ’round these parts! You cain’t just walk up an’ ask for somethin’ like that, no way nohow! Anyway, didn’t you have no more barrels?”
“Sorry, Nancy. It was just a joke, I didn’t expect them to take me so seriously. You said as soon as we got across to the Wetlands I could let my hair down.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t mean … not like that, for fuck’s sake! Them thar’s Whitecloaks, they get edgy when you go sayin’ shit like that. And they was edgy anyways, what with the Aiel attacks an’ all. You gots to learn to read situations, an’ decide what’all’s appropriate.”
“Hey, I’m falling out from the wagon, let me climb back up. The canvas at the bottom’s ripping, and all that junk of Nancy’s is dropping on the ground too.”
“Leave it, Min. Just get on the back of Aldieb. The tubby bastard could do with a bit of extra lifting anyway.”
“Ha ha ha!!! Aldieb! That’s funny for some reason, like pickles!!! Ha ha ha! Oi!!!!! Cheeky!”
“Good one, Lan.”
“Oh Light, I want a drink.”
“Well, I could always-”
“No, Coop! He don’t want none o’ that!”
“Nancy, you’re a real party pooper, you know? Anyway, don’t you want to pick up that stuff? You seemed to think it was pretty important…”
“Alright, if we’re gonna be here a whiles … Moiraine, you done shilly shallyin’ with that bridge of Air thang yet?”
“…the fuck up, Sidesaddle. I’m concentrating.”
“Alright, I’ll just get on down and … Cow, if you bite my tits one more time, I’ll do somethin’ real bad to you.”
“I’ll jus’ throw it all on in this here sack and tie it to the saddlebags, an’ strap up the canvas best I can … did that horse just say ‘cretin’?”
“Trick of the vocal cords. I once knew a cat that said ‘spackle’ whenever you squeezed on it hard enough. But it was just its entrails wriggling up its throat.”
“Damn useful stuff, spackle.”
“Yuh, you can say that again, Foreskin.”
“Don’t say ‘Foreskin’ in that tone of voice. Nancy.”
“Don’t say ‘Nancy’ in that tone of voice. Foreskin.”
“Please, people, can’t we just get along?”
“Shut up, Someshta!”
“Y’all done finished yet, Moiraine?”
“Yes I’m fucking finished, you sassy bitch. Just because you asked, you can fucking well go across first. Go. Go on! Faster! You’re going to have to hurry, it’s … no, don’t stop in the middle! Run!”
“She fell in! Your bridge collapsed!”
“Fuck up, Mandragoran! She’s heavier than she looks, okay?”
“Moiraine Sedai, you’re exhausted! If you’d told me that making a weave of Air was so difficult, I would have insisted that we ford the river manually. Look, I’ll just carry everybody-”
“Shut up, Cooper! If your stupid Portal Stone hadn’t taken us to the wrong place, we wouldn’t be in this mess, and Dr. Nick would still be around! It’s all your fault!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You’re a murderer!”
“Well, yeah, I guess so.”
“You sentenced him to death! You could have killed us all!”
“I still could.”
“You … okay, that creeped me out.”
“I just wanted to tell you, that hairy chick just got swept off downriver, and the wolf ran off after her as soon as I climbed off to help Nancy with the bag of crap. Downriver? Or is it upriver? They went the same way the water is going.”
“Ha ha ha!!!!! I – oi!!! Sheeky shimp!!!!! Now my lip’ff all schwollen!”
“Good one, Lan.”
“We’re crossing now. Everybody hang onto a branch. Um, no, Moiraine, not that branch.”
“It seems solid enough.”
“It’s not for touching.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it. Look, I can rub my hands up and down on it, and hang my entire weight on it, and it doesn’t bend. It actually seems to be getting stronger. I can even straddle it and – oh, fuck, that’s disgusting!”
“Don’t worry, we’re going into the river straight away.”
“It’s all over my Ghul-damned dress!”
“Okay, I’ve got everything, let’s go. What about Min and Cybes?”
“They’ll catch up with us. Come on. The Whitecloaks are gaining.”
“Ugh, my hair, it’s in my hair!”
Debs, Janica, Mister C of 9, Logain, Puddin Taim, Nynaeve and the four Ogier stumbled into the fairly sizeable town of Remen just as night was falling. They had followed the river into the town, but had intended to just skirt around and continue on their way. The Ogier, after all, weren’t exactly the sort who fitted in in backwater cities. But one thing and another had led them to abandon their original plan and go into Remen after all.
One of those things was the tearful assertion from Puddin that if he didn’t have a mug of warm milk before bedtime, he would be dead by morning. He had become increasingly convinced of this, and everybody was heartily sick of hearing about it. Frendli had gotten tired of singing up an endless supply of milkweed and cocoa-beans for the teary channeler, and for a wonder Hoarni had even gotten tired of providing the thick, protein-rich substitute that Janica had suggested in a moment of spite. Puddin, who never saw from where the Ogier sung their wonderful treats, rather liked the milkstitute, saying that it didn’t matter how it tasted, as long as it was warm and thick.
Another thing drawing them to the town was the Ogier themselves. They swore absolutely blind that a ta’veren the likes of which none of them had ever seen was at large somewhere in the area, and all signs pointed to Remen. Debs and Janica thought about it, and eventually decided that they would need a ta’veren anyway. Neither Vamps nor Logain were ta’veren, but the Dragon had been, and they might actually need the phenomenon at some stage. For all they knew, Janica and Debs agreed, the whole thing might rest on the Dragon being able to move the Pattern around. So if they could pick up some innocently bystanding hick, and overawe him with the One Power and various gold and trinkets, then it couldn’t hurt.
And so they made their way to the first public house they could find – the Wayman’s Forge.
“One large frosty glass of coke,” Mister C of 9 said, striding up to the bar.
The barman gave a low chuckle. “Well, we haven’t got any of that, but at least you’re not asking for blood,” he spared the other newcomers a long, suspicious glance. “You’re strangely-dressed.”
“We’re from Cairhien,” Janica said. “But these are real Ogier, before you ask.”
“And I’m a real man,” Vamps offered, free of charge.
“You certainly are,” Nynaeve agreed, taking her cue. “You were especially manly last night. I can barely walk. We shouldn’t talk about it now, it’s not polite, but that thing you did, I just can’t stop myself from talking about it. It was kinky. You’re so cool.”
Puddin looked acutely uncomfortable. “Nynaeve, please.”
The innkeeper examined the group suspiciously, before deciding that being polite to Ogier outweighed the social urge to turn away weirdos. “Gainor Furlan’s my name,” he said, “and I’ve got enough rooms for all of you. Even you Ogier. We’ve got Ogier beds made of sung wood, they’re a thousand years old or more, and no extra charge. Lucky thing, though. There’s Hunters of the Horn in town, and things are busy right now. You’re just lucky to find a place to stay. There’s been strange folk about. Aiel and Darkfriends and all sorts.”
Debs looked out of the window at the gibbet they’d seen as they wandered into town. “Ah guess tha’s an Aielman ye’ve got there, then,” she said, jerking a thumb.
Furlan scratched his armpit with a fork he was drying, before throwing it back into the drawer. “That’s right. Caught him a few days ago, part of a big group that came to kill us all in our beds. The Hunters caught him, managed to chase off the rest with the help of the Whitecloaks. There’s a lot of them about too. That’s why you were lucky to get a room.”
“Well, we don’t want trouble with any of those,” Janica said firmly, and the others all fumbled over one another in their haste to agree. “We’re just going to be staying here one night, and then we’ll be on our way. We’re off to Tear. A big marketing convention doing on over there.”
Mister C was peering at a menu, the candlelight and sunglasses rendering him almost as shortsighted as Janica herself. “Do you do vegetarian meals?”
“Reet,” Debs said, slapping her hands and almost tugging Janica off the floor in the process. “We’re after some grub.”
“I’ll bring it out to you,” Furlan said, giving Mister C of 9 another narrow, suspicious glance. He turned on his heel and headed into the kitchen, muttering ‘vegetarian’ and ‘Cairhienin’ under his breath. The group of newcomers made their way self-consciously to a large table, and sat down. The Ogier sat on the floor, and still towered over the humans, but the other patrons in the Wayman’s Forge weren’t looking at the Ogier. They were staring at the sul’dam dress, the silver a’dam, the crying man with the braid, and the Mambo shirt.
“So Gaul was there in the cage?” Janica asked in a low voice.
“Aye,” Debs replied. “He was there alreet. He luked bloody daft, but he was there.”
“Okay. So we’re ahead of Perrin and the others,” Janica said thoughtfully.
“Of course we are,” Vamps said, frowning through his tears. “They’re chasing us.”
“They’d be fools not to,” Nynaeve said warmly.
“Yes, but they obviously don’t know we’re headed for Tear,” Janica said. “They don’t know where Logain is going, and they haven’t overtaken us, or gone past and doubled back. They haven’t been through here because Perrin would have picked up Gaul.”
The food came out, and Mister C looked at it glumly.
“Even the potatoes are blood-fried,” he said. “Can’t they do anything without meat?”
“You dinnae have tae eat et,” Debs said curtly.
“My beef’s too tough,” Vamps whined.
“I’ll chew it for you,” Nynaeve promised.
“So,” Mister C of 9 folded his arms and pushed his plate to one side, where it was promptly demolished by Wyse. “What about this Faile chick? Where’s she?”
The hatchet-faced woman at the next table leapt to her feet. “Hey, how in the Light did you know my name?”
Angus settled into the deck-chair that Siuan had carried for him, and peered through the pair of binoculars he’d found in his bag of tricks. The distant specks down on the field sprang into sharp focus. Ten confused-looking peddlers and merchants conscripted at random from the streets of Tar Valon, an assortment of hastily-built wooden houses and wagons and catapaults, and one thoroughly zealous and overjoyed Aes Sedai were assembled on the plains beneath Dragonmount.
“Tell them we’re ready to begin,” he said to Shaidar Haran.
The Hand nodded politely, and turned to one side. He reappeared a moment later, and cleared his throat with a ratchety sound that made Angus’ ears stand on end. “Entering primary countdown,” the giant myrddraal intoned. “Twenty, nineteen, eighteen…”
Aginor, Be’lal, Demandred, Lanfear, Mesaana, Moghedien, Semirhage, Graendahl, Rahvin and Asmodean were assembled behind Angamael’s deck-chair, along with several of the most powerful Black Ajah Aes Sedai who had been let in on the Ultimate Weapon Project. Aginor, scientifically-minded and curious about all things, stepped forward and spoke in as un-wizened a voice as his ancient vocal cords would allow.
“I don’t understand, Nae’blis … if this woman is to open a gateway, surely it would be better to open it to a place where she could actually do some good. If she opened it, perhaps, to the sleeping quarters of this new Dragon, and poisoned him where he slept … I do not see how opening it to the sky could possibly…”
“Well, that’s why you’re all here,” Angus said. “To learn. And that’s why you taught this woman to Travel in the first place.”
“Eleven, ten, nine, eight…”
“And I think it’s a bad idea, tactically,” Rahvin said, “to give these children the power to make gateways. What if it were to fall into the wrong hands?”
“Relax, Asmo,” Angus said. Rahvin had learned by now not to correct him. “She’s the only one who knows, and in a few seconds it won’t matter.”
“But if she were to-”
“One, zero … Source touched … saidar accessed … flows weaved … ignition.”
There was a tiny flash of light on the field below, and Angus watched in delight through his binoculars. The rest of the Chosen and the new Dreadlords leaned forward and embraced the Source to clarify their vision, and gasped in amazement at what they saw.
A huge jagged cone of rushing, roaring air had appeared in the middle of the field, lying sideways on the ground across the target point, terminating in the tiny blue glow of a gateway. A terrible, howling vortex was being created, ripping up grass, houses, merchants and soil, and pushing it through the gateway at unimaginable speed. Sliced-off pieces of debris fanned out behind the gateway and formed eddies of sharp-edged detritus. The cone of suction expanded and became a hurricane, audible all the way to the mountainside where the spectators stood in awe.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the destructive gale ended. Dust fell back to rest, pieces of shrubbery rolled across the ground, and all that was left was a broad, vaguely triangular swath of bare, stripped earth terminating in the tiny little straight line of a vanished gateway. There was nothing left of any of the test subjects. Nothing at all.
“Fucking Ghul,” Mesaana breathed. “What happened?”
“I told you,” Angus said. “When you go up a mountain, the air gets thinner. If you go far enough, there’s no air at all. If you go even higher, there’s no nothing. And if you open a gateway there, it will cause a loss of equilibrium, and air gets sucked out at incredible speed. Air, and anything that happens to get in the way. Unfortunately, it kills whoever makes the gateway as well.”
“Kills them?” Rahvin leaned back, shaken to his core.
“Explosive decompression,” Angamael explained with relish. “Their blood boils, their skin freezes, the air in their lungs explodes, and their bodies tear themselves apart. Or something like that.”
“Of course,” Aginor said. “That’s why the gateway closed. The channeler is killed, and the weaves dissolve.”
“We’ll have to come up with some way of using this weapon so it doesn’t kill the wielder every time,” Angus said thoughtfully. “The last thing we want is disillusioned kamikaze warriors with the ability to channel and the knowledge that the one weapon they can use will also kill them.”
“We can keep using the children,” Semirhage said, gesturing lazily to the Aes Sedai. “They’re not useful for anything else, and they don’t need to know the weapon is lethal.”
Angus rolled his eyes, a movement that was somehow even more effective while ‘caverns of flame’ was engaged, as it was at that moment. “Fools,” he said. “Haven’t any of you seen a film? The bad guy is always defeated by the disgruntled suicide soldier who realises he’s been sent out to die. Well, not always, but I know this shit. We have to come up with another way.”
“What if you were to open the gateway facing in the other direction?” Shaidar Haran asked.
The Forsaken exchanged glances.
“Can we do that?” Be’lal murmured.
Many hundreds of years ago, the Lugard Road had been paved with stone. Now, it was just hard-packed dirt, but paving stones still worked their way to the surface sometimes.
Even without the footprint on it, this simple piece of stone would have been reason to break out the tents. Verin saw the chance to natter about history – a subject that, in spite of her obvious evilness, still managed to thrill the dumpy little Aes Sedai. Fain took the whole Lugard Road thing as a chance to reminisce about his life as a peddler, and the miscellaneous adventures he’d gotten in before being sent to the Two Rivers. Loial welcomed the chance to compare notes with Verin; Hurin took the opportunity to mention that this paving stone, along with everything else all around him, smelled terrible and wrong; Perrin morosely agreed with him; Mat had a good whine about being dragged along on an adventure he had no part in; Bayle Domon used the distraction of the paving stone to do more unspeakable things to himself and his horse; Elayne, Egwene and Liandrin took the chance to flirt with the Borderlanders; and Satters jumped on the stone and began biting it for no real reason.
“And then there was the taxation along the Manetherendrelle, and King…”
“Ahh, that was a lovely little village in its time, sure enough. I went through there with Bel Tine poles and a little mobile smithy, like a Tinker I was, carefree and happy, and then suddenly the Great Lord was behind my eyes, eating my skin, curdling my blood…”
“Was that King Dubloon or King Har’old? I seem to recall reading a book back at the stedding that concerned taxation along the rivers of the southern part of the continent, and…”
“…I smelled a dead halfman once, and whatever it was that killed him was … well, this smells just the same, only worse, it’s like that smell is here, but there’s also the smell of Shadowspawn, Darkfriends, and worse…”
“It’s a burning, sulphur sort of smell…”
“…want to go home, I hate this road, I hate this paving stone, this is all pointless, I don’t want to end up like Rand, I just want to go and see my ma and pa, my sisters will be missing me…”
“Stand still, there’s a good horse…”
“…never done it with a man with an eye patch…”
“Fucking Catholics! Fuck!”
Chucky sighed and made himself comfortable. He’d laid out his bed-roll, set up a campfire and was just beginning to wonder about food when Perrin nervously pointed out the footprint on the stone.
“Oh that. That’s just a Darkhound. Nothing to worry about. Gah, er, that is, it would be nothing to worry about, if we happened to be Darkfriends, but in our case, because we’re not Darkfriends, well, it’s still nothing to worry about, because it’s obviously in front of us, see? And it’s pointing this way, which means it’s heading away from us in any case. Probably chasing the Dragon Reborn, like we are. Gosh, I hope we get to him before those awful Darkfriends and Shadowspawn do, right Liandrin? Liandrin?”
“Mmm, do those scars go all the way down…? What? Oh yes, Verin, hate those Darkfriends.”
Verin beamed, and dusted her hands. “See? Darkhounds. Nothing to worry about. We’ll protect you all.”
“Darkhounds are tight.”
“Bayle, don’t be disgusting,” Fain said without turning around. “Ahh, yes, this reminds me of the good old days. I was halfway between villages, and my horse fell in a pothole, so the great Lord made me pick up my wagon and carry it all the way, and I ran and I ran, screaming, and He drove me and lashed me, and I howled and howled…” the little beak-nosed peddler stopped clawing at his own face for a moment, and looked around at the assortment of worried and insane faces. “Well then, should we camp here for tonight?”
“Hello,” Chucky said, and rolled himself in his blankets.
The large, poorly-matched group settled down for the night, after a bit of digging and tussling and pissing from Satters and Perrin, an argument over whose horse to eat between Fain and the Borderlanders, and a lot of rustling and giggling from the blankets of the varied girls and their ‘mystery guests’. Chucky wondered, not for the first time, if he should make a break for it in the night, but as always he ended up being too damn lazy, and went to sleep instead. The last thing he heard as he drifted away into unconsciousness was Masema complaining bitterly about how tough his horse was, and Domon weeping and snuffling about needing his precious.