The Farce of Heaven, Part 18

After affecting his daring rescue, Mister C of 9 was quite exhausted and insisted that Chucky carry him. This severely hampered Chucky’s plans, since he’d have liked to take a few things with him from Angus’s table, but he had to settle for the Horn of Valere, the seal, and the fat-guy angreal. Together with his pipes over one shoulder and the myrddraal over the other, Chucky estimated that he might just about make it to the Amyrlin’s study door before passing out and dying without ever emerging from the resultant coma.

He exceeded his own expectations, however, and was already a couple of levels down when he tumbled to his knees and dropped everything with respective clatters, wheezes and indignant swearing.

“Just going to … take a … breather,” he panted. “Can’t … go on.”

Fine,” Mister C grunted. “I’ll leave it to you to get us out of trouble next time we get captured, how about that?”

Chucky rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow. Mister C of 9 had already done the same thing, and was practicing taking his sunglasses on and off with his re-growing hand.

“How did you,” Chucky shuddered. “Stop that. Leave them on or take them off.”

“Sorry.”

“How did you get out of the recycling plant anyway?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Yes.”

“Aha!”

Chucky waited patiently. Every second Mister C lay there being smug was a second Chucky wasn’t staggering down the stairs carrying his bony eyeless carcass over his shoulder. Slowly, with much pregnant pausing and smarmy cliffhanging and annoying tangents about how Chucky himself might have acted in a similar situation, Mister C of 9 told his story.

“That’s quite impressive,” Chucky admitted, when it was all over.

“I know.”

“The way you killed … who was it?”

“Mephisto.”

“Mephisto, yes, with that B.F.G. you happened to fortuitously find in that box with a question mark on it.”

“All I had to do was bump it with my head.”

“Where did you put his soulstone?”

“What’s with all the questions?” Mister C bristled. “Are you implying that they let me escape for some reason they wouldn’t explain to me, and I made that whole story up out of various fragments from computer game adventures?”

“Well, it does seem-”

“What the … whoa, sorry guys. How about we just give you five minutes to finish up?”

Chucky sat up, and glared at the unwelcome sight that had just arrived at the top of the stairs.

“Stifler,” he said, staggering to his feet and picking up his pipes, “we’ve got to get out of here. Take the Horn,” he leaned over the banister and saw four pairs of extremely large and frightened eyes looking up at him. “And you guys, come up here and take Mister See. In fact, all of you get up here.”

A ragged procession, including Dr. Nick, Cyberwollf, the four Ogier, Nynaeve, Elayne, Min, Birgitte and Gaidal Cain, crowded onto the landing. There were also a few Aes Sedai desperately wiping black lipstick and white facepaint off their faces, and a collection of frightened-looking novices and Accepted.

“What’s going on?” Nynaeve demanded, folding her arms under her breasts.

“We don’t have much time,” Chucky said. “I think Shadow Monkey knew what was going to happen, and he’s let us get away. He knows about Salidar, and he knows we know. This is all part of his-” he looked narrowly at the new girls. “Who are you? Never mind,” he grumbled as name after name began piling up, Nicola and Selene and Areina, “which one of you is Marigan?”

There were blank looks.

“Okay, see, he knew about that as well,” Chucky snapped. “Moghedien disguised herself as a frightened refugee at this point, and came to Salidar with us, and later got in a big fight with Nynaeve,” there were worried mutterings. Nynaeve sniffed. “Look, the important thing is, Angus-” he paused while Dr. Nick had a giggling fit, “-Angus knew about Salidar already. If the Aes Sedai who just got free agreed to meet there, chances are he’s filled the place with his spies.”

“So what do we do?”

Chucky shrugged. “We’ll have to go there and start zapping.”

Cybes wagged her tail.

“But it means we have to get there as soon as possible,” Chucky went on, “and that means we have to, um.”

“‘Um’?” Min prompted.

“We’ll have to get there using the One Power,” Chucky said, and pulled out the little Buddha angreal. “I should have mentioned it before, but, ah, I can channel.”

“I knew it,” Min declared. Nynaeve tugged her braid, sniffed, and folded her arms under her breasts, and everybody wearing a skirt took a moment to smooth them out. This took a little while, so Chucky took the opportunity to lean down close to Mister C’s ear.

“You ready to drag the whole lot of us through the shadow and out the other side at Salidar?” he hissed.

“What have you gone and gotten yourself into this time?” Mister C demanded, more amused than cross.

“Just do it,” he gave Wyse a nod, and the trembling Ogier picked Mister C up as if he was a particularly potty-mouthed baby. “Everybody gather round, and don’t worry if this is a bit … disturbing. It’s saidin, you see. Tainted and all that.”

“I don’t want to go,” said Coarshus.

“Blow the Horn,” Frendli suggested.

“No way,” Stifler put the Horn behind his back. “I remember what happened last time. No way are you motherfuckers getting your hands on this.”

“Go on then, gleeman,” Nynaeve snapped, hiding her anxiety behind a front of annoying bitchness. “Do it, if you must.”

“I must, I must,” Chucky said mildly, and gave Mister C a nod.

Mister C of 9 sighed, found a likely-looking shadow, and pulled.

 


 

Most of the crowd were screaming as they materialised out of Debs’s shadow and tumbled to the baking-hot ground – including the Ogier, and Debs herself. It wasn’t a nice experience, to have a dozen or more people, four Ogier and a crippled halfman suddenly come charging out of a place as intimate as your own shadow. Not many people experience it, at least not without coming unhinged. Debs, of course was an exceptional sort of person.

Janica also shuddered as the crowd arrived, feeling ten times some sort of effect through the a’dam, but she was lost in a torrent of saidar and overall it was a bit too metaphysical to affect her too intensely.

Not only that, but they’d stepped out of the unnerving dead brilliance of fade-space into what seemed to be the middle of a sun. In fact, it was a miracle there was a shadow anywhere in the vicinity, but Debs was nothing if not a great source of shade.

Chucky crawled away across the loose flagstones, which were all but sizzling under his hands. He put a bit of space between himself and Janica, just for safety’s sake, and incidentally made sure the Ogier were between him and the rest of the passengers who had been dragged from Tar Valon. Mister C of 9 had been dropped in the excitement, and was groaning, flat on his face on the hot stones.

Chucky rolled him over.

“Where the Hell are we?” he demanded, squinting around. Indistinct figures were shouting and staggering in the glare, and heaps of what looked like melting stone were glowing bright white everywhere he looked. The ground was rumbling under his hands and knees, and there was general pandemonium. “I said to take us to Salidar. This isn’t Salidar!”

“How would you know?” Mister C of 9 snapped.

Chucky didn’t have the breath to answer that, so instead he looked around. Vague figures stood and crouched everywhere, but apart from Debs and Janica, only a couple stood out. One was clearly Vamps, channeling desperately. The other, a slim dark-haired woman outlined against a weirdly twisted archway, was gesticulating in a posture of extreme anger, and was most likely channeling as well. Details were difficult to make out, such was the brilliance of burning stone.

Lanfear, attempting to destroy Lews Therin in a jealous rage.

“We’re in Cairhien!” he shouted to Mister C, over the shuddering explosions. “Moiraine’s about to tackle Lanfear into that ter’angreal!”

“We’re in Salidar,” Mister C of 9 insisted. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand…”

Chucky tuned the jabbering myrddraal out, and turned expectantly to look for Moiraine. The foul-mouthed little Aes Sedai was nowhere to be seen – as far as the near-zero visibility could reveal – and the temperature was only increasing. Chucky tried to remember if there had been this much molten lava around in the book-version of the showdown. His cloak-patches began to smoulder.

“Moiraine may have been compromised,” Chucky shouted, squinting against the glare. Now he could barely see Mister C of 9, let alone Vamps. “We’ll have to do something!”

“I’ll do it,” Mister C rolled onto his back and flailed his legs. “I might as well, I’m on a winning streak.”

“You can’t even stand up!” Chucky said incredulously. Mister C tilted his head down and seemed to regard his collection of foreshortened limbs for the first time. He muttered something embarrassedly into the tattered collar of his Mambo shirt. “What did you say?” Chucky shouted.

“You’ll have to toss me,” Mister C said gruffly.

“Are you sure?”

“Do it! Just,” Mister C put his creepy little foetus-hand on Chucky’s shoulder, “don’t tell the others.”

“You have my word,” Chucky promised, staggered to his feet, and grabbed Mister C of 9 by the back of the pants and the scruff of the neck. Hoping against hope that he was deciding to be lighter-than-expected rather than surprisingly-heavy at that moment, the gleeman hefted the halfman a couple of times, swung, and hurled him in the direction of the screaming Lanfear.

 


 

Even with her impressive collection of saidar-aides, Moiraine was having about as much impact on Vamps’s violent channeling as a feather duster on a charging elephant. She was just about to step up to him, vast amounts of saidin or no vast amounts of saidin, and deliver a swift kick in the cods, when a glimmering intuition made her turn around.

She had less than a second to register the sight of the tooth-bared, sunglassed, colourful-shirted apparition flying towards her, before they collided.

“Pig fucker,” she said, and then she and Mister C of 9 were both plunging through the melting Waygate, into the waiting embrace of Machin Shin.

 


 

In the aftermath of the incident, people picked their way among the cooling puddles of slag delicately, trying to identify bodies. It looked like most of the Aes Sedai to come along from Tar Valon – except wide-eyed Nicola, Selene and Areina – had been char-grilled, along with some two dozen Maidens.

Chucky, stunned and disoriented, had staggered away into a cool alleyway to watch the recovery effort without getting himself in any more trouble. His bagpipes were a charred skeleton over his shoulder, but even as he watched, the weird dark tartan of the Ael’finn was re-weaving itself over the remains of the bag. He watched Janica striding back and forth across the pinging flagstones, shouting orders, dragging Debs along behind her. Together, they looked like a tiny greyhound being walked by a beachball.

A very attractive tiny greyhound.

Chucky decided to stay out of visual range for a little while longer, just in case that ‘greyhound’ remark had registered on her radar.

Vamps had more or less run out of steam a few catastrophic minutes after the largest Waygate had collapsed, and now he seemed unaware that he had channeled at all. His waist-length braid was frazzled at the end, and the soles of his shoes had burned out completely, leaving the leather flapping stupidly around his ankles while he walked. He looked pleased with himself, and was informing just about anybody who would listen that he was, despite outward appearances, the man.

The only person who seemed to be listening, as far as Chucky could tell, was Forsaken_1.

“I’m the man,” Vamps said, planting his fists on his hips and wincing as the wound in his side split open. “Ow. I’m the man, aren’t I?”

“Yeah,” Forsaken_1 murmured, staring in absolute thunderstruckment at the big cooling puddle of magma where Moiraine had been standing not half an hour earlier. “Yeah, if you say so.”

Keeping one eye on Janica, Chucky sidled over to the two men.

“Are you okay, Eff?” he asked, reaching out and patting his friend’s shoulder.

“I’m the man.”

“Yeah, whatever, Vamps. Go tell Hurin.”

“I will! Which one’s Hurin?”

“You’re the man. Figure it out,” Chucky waved a hand in front of Forsaken_1’s face as Vamps flapped away with his ruined shoes and his wide, fractured grin. “Dude?”

“She’s gone,” the Warder whispered. “I felt the bond sever. She’s really gone,” he looked at Chucky fearfully. “That means I’m going to die, man!”

“Nah,” Chucky clapped Forsaken_1 on the shoulder again. “No it doesn’t. Remember, Moiraine was ready for this, at least in the books. She handed the bond on to some other Aes Sedai,” seeing that this wasn’t cheering Forsaken_1 up very much, he added casually, “I seem to recall she was a young, frisky Aes Sedai as well. Green Ajah.”

A glimmer of almost-interest appeared in Forsaken_1’s eyes. “Nubile?”

“From somewhere around there, yeah.”

“Pubescent?”

“Like lilacs, probably,” Chucky distraction reached new heights as he saw Debs’s formidable hair swing around and start back towards them. “I have to, um, go over here now,” he gave Forsaken_1 another heartening clap on the back, and limped away. The exertions of the past few days were beginning to catch up with him.

Elayne, Nynaeve, Min and the Heroes of the Horn were causing something of a stir as well, not to mention the Ogier.

“Mat!” Nynaeve was gripping her braid firmly. “I ought to box your ears! Where have you been? And who is this hussy?”

“There’s no need to call names,” Mat protested weakly. “This is Melindhra, she’s a Maiden of the Spear, although she’s not actually much of a Maiden anymore,” he nudged Forsaken_1. “Got a lot to talk about, old friend.”

“Hmm?”

Elsewhere, the four newly-arrived Ogier were conferring respectfully with Someshta. The enormous tree-man seemed not to have suffered any damage at all, although his roots were smouldering a little where he was standing.

“I can’t think where Loial has gotten to,” the nym was saying apologetically. “I think as soon as he saw you appear out of nowhere, he ran off to collect his things.”

“What do you mean, Chucky brought you here?” Janica’s voice rang out over the chaos.

“He brought us here with the One Power,” Min said, “he can channel.”

“Where is he?” Janica demanded. Forty-seven-and-a-half fingers swung and pointed at Chucky. One finger pointed towards the sky, but since that finger was Contro’s, nobody paid any attention to it. The half-a-finger belonged to Vamps, who had lost it in a tiny gateway during the liberation of Cairhien. Even though it was his middle finger, he used it to point at things, just so people would see it had been cut off cruelly at the end knuckle. The crowd parted and Debs and Janica strode through towards the shuffling-footed gleeman.

“Y’all’re so screwed right now,” Shannon sniggered.

Janica pulled up, muttering words like ‘channel’ and ‘neglect’ and ‘gallivanting’ under her breath, and fixed Chucky with as direct a glare as was possible, under the circumstances.

“Right,” she said, “there you are at last. We’re going to-”

“Are we going to Caemlyn or not?” Vamps, deciding people had been paying attention to not-him for long enough, slapped over to the middle of the courtyard and struck some sort of Street Fighter Special Move pose. Several unwary lesser characters were unceremoniously sliced in half as the Dragon Reborn channeled through the Choedan Kal and opened a giant gateway through the middle of the courtyard.

In the ensuing pandemonium, Chucky eased himself to the back of the crowd. Now was clearly not the time.

 


 

Rahvin sighed as he watched the huge gateway slide open in the middle of the Queen’s ornamental gardens. Hanging pots, ferns, and a two hundred year-old oak tree fell to the ground. The Nae’blis hadn’t been specific about the nature of the attack, but he had known it was coming. It seemed like these days, the Nae’blis was always right.

The hole revealed featureless darkness – a Skimming gate, then. Either the enemy still wasn’t quite confident in forming the Traveling weave, or they were as worried about the ‘heartstone effect’ as everybody at HQ seemed to be.

“Alright,” he turned, and gave the bravely-smiling trainee a final look-over. “You’re all linked up and ready to go. Just do it like I showed you, and it will be easy. It doesn’t even matter that you can’t channel very much,” in fact, the ones who couldn’t channel very much were better than those who could, in these circumstances. Give a powerful channeler access to the power inherent in the standing flows, and there was always the risk that they might get overconfident, or over-creative, and mess things up. Put somebody who could barely juggle a light-ball into the control node, and things went smoothly. Plus, if they burned out, it was no big loss. “Are you ready?”

Morgase nodded. From the balcony, Rahvin could see the leading edge of a great big barge-shaped Skimming platform pull up on the inside edge of the gateway, and a milling crowd of Aiel and assorted channelers beginning to disembark. He wove a gateway of his own, handed control of the standing flows over to the mascara-smothered puppet Queen, and made himself scarce.

Flexing her fingers and smiling greedily, Morgase brought down the lightning.

 


 

Sheriam groaned, rolled, and groaned again, great whale-sounds of pain and fulfillment. They oozed through the Dreamscape like cold currents beneath the surface of a sun-warmed river, cold currents that could contain crocodiles, flesh-eating fish, and more horrible things that had no names. Where those currents met up with transient dreamers, wanderers in Tel’aran’rhiod, they inflicted madness, and death. Some dreamers were dragged into the World of Dreams forever. Some ceased to exist at all.

The un-creature that had been Mistress of Novices for the White Tower, thick with young, rolled in her protective miasma at the base of the Tower of Ghenjei. Without music, she could not get into the sanctuary, to feed her children on the rich masses of mind-matter within, but it was too late for regrets now. She had been fertilised, and now her children were coming whether she was ready or not. They would survive. Like the offspring of the sea-turtle, they would fend for themselves in a harsh environment, and only the strong, the ingenious, would survive.

She gave another groan. Her skin, already stiff and hot and stretched, split along hairline fractures and expanded, running with hot fluids and soaking the ground beneath her. She screamed, shuddered, and released.

In a soundless explosion, her babies scattered into the Dream, flying in every conceivable direction, and more than a few inconceivable ones as well. Shapeless conceptual nightmares, they took on forms that blended with their surroundings. They became innocent things, tiny things, innocuous objects and everyday items. They blended with the matter of Tel’aran’rhiod, and awaited sustenance.

They waited for minds, and it was with need that they hunted.

 


 

There was some debate as to who would go where and do what at the Cairhien staging area, but Dr. Nick was adamant about one thing – he was not going anywhere with the Wondergirls. Cyberwollf stuck with him, for no reason that her one-bark-for-yes system could readily explain, but he did manage to piece together the fact that she had a bad feeling about something. So they joined the strike force headed to Caemlyn, on the grounds that it would be just as dangerous, but far less annoying than going to Salidar.

The Wondergirls, in contrast, had no intention of going anywhere near Salidar until they’d had some well-earned rest and found out a little bit more about the place, and what awaited them there. Elayne, out of concern for her mother and country, had attended the Caemlyn attack instead, together with her three bizarre Warders. Nynaeve, Min and the few remaining Aes Sedai from Tar Valon, meanwhile, had retired to some luxurious bedchambers in the Royal Palace of Cairhien, with the avowed intent of getting “a little shut-eye” and maybe doing a bit of spying in the Tel’aran’rhiod reflection of Salidar on the side.

Shannon, in an attempt to escape from his destiny to become a Wise One or, alternatively, convenient ta’veren generator for Debs and Janica’s false Dragon, made himself comfortable in the same secluded reading-room as Loial and Lan had, and waited for the crowds to disperse. Since most of the Aiel, and Contro, were going to Caemlyn with Vamps, he considered it a fair deal. So far, his effect on the Pattern hadn’t dragged him back into the thick of things, although books would periodically fall off the shelves and land open at just the right pages Loial was looking for, much to his giant-bumblebeeing amazement and distant-thunderstorming gratitude.

Someshta somehow convinced Wyse, Coarshus, Frendli and Hoarni that they would be needed in Caemlyn, to blow the Horn of Valere if nothing else, although Stifler was still adamantly refusing to hand it over to them. Their quavering protests that they were trying to find Loial and had no interest in doing hasty human things, like getting dismembered by Darkfriends, had no effect on the Green Man, who just laughed and told them to get on the giant magic floating barge headed to the Forsaken-overrun city and stop being such enormous girls’ blouses.

Chucky, more out of fear of the consequences rather than any particular bravery, sidled onto the barge together with the Ogier brothers after seeing Forsaken_1 off. The grave-faced Warder had suddenly felt the pull of his new bond, and mounted Shadar Bob right then and there. Chucky would have liked to go with him, but doubted the usually-cheerful Los Angelino would be particularly good company.

Anyway, Chucky and the Ogier and the torn-out Heroes of the Horn were towards the back of the press, so they didn’t get blown to pieces when the huge lightning bolts began to flash down into the ornamental gardens. Asmodean, Aviendha, Mat, Melindhra, Dr. Nick and Cyberwollf, however, were blown to pieces, and some of the pieces pattered down over the guys in the back. Chucky was in fact almost smothered by an ear. Wyse and Coarshus had genteel panic attacks, and Hoarni crawled around looking for naughty bits and almost fell off the edge of the barge before Frendli could drag him back.

“RAAAAHVIIIIN!”

Vamps’s furious shout echoed through the ornamental gardens, clearly audible even in the chilly blackness of the Skimming plane. The floating platform flickered and went spongy underfoot as the Dragon’s concentration wavered.

“I think now would be a good time to get off this thing,” Someshta suggested, and everybody made a simultaneous rush for the exit.

 


 

While Vamps heedlessly tore open a gateway into the World of Dreams and charged away after Rahvin, Debs and Janica did their best to marshall the Aiel and Cairhienin fighters. The lightning storm had given way to regimented strafings of fireballs and nettle-whips, along wide but clearly-delineated avenues that were easy enough to avoid once you knew where they were.

The strange thing was, the huge weaves seemed to be under the control of a person channeling with saidar.

“Shadow Monkey’s playin’ silly buggers again,” Janica said, as she and Debs ran through the lower levels of the Queen’s private apartments, “it’s not Rahvin at all, it’s one o’ the female Forsaken. Or even just some Aes Sedai minion. That seems more likely, since whoever it is will probably get themselves balefired.”

“Aye,” Debs grunted, “there does’nae seem tae be any Shaddaespawn here at all.”

Sure enough, Caemlyn seemed fairly untouched by the forces of evil. While they’d pulled out of Cairhien quickly and left the place all but gutted, in Caemlyn it didn’t look like much more than the Queen’s Palace had been taken over. There were a few trollocs and fades wandering around aimlessly, but they seemed rather inferior specimens. Blasting the huge beast-men – and the flat-eyed Darkfriends fighting alongside them – out of their way, Debs and Janica strode through the apartments like a natural disaster.

They followed the sound of maniacal super-villainess laughter to the converted sitting-room where Morgase Trakand sat, surrounded by the weak glow of saidar, with a pair of weird copper rings in her hands and a dementedly gleeful expression on her face.

“You’re too late!” the Queen of Andor screamed. “The Great Lord of the Dark will kill you all!”

“We have tae zap her back tae normal!” Debs looked around desperately for something shaggy enough to rub, but Janica pulled her attention back with a swift tug on the a’dam.

“We can’t, there’s nae time,” she yelled, weaving Air and Spirit to disconnect Morgase from the standing flows. It was laughably easy – the woman was barely channeling enough saidar to light a candle. “If we don’t balefire her, Dr. Nick and the others will keep on being dead.”

“Aye,” Debs muttered, cursing the fiendish cunning of Shadow Monkey, “an’ it is’nae as eff anybody knaes she’s aleev anywee,” she went on. “Vamps brought us here ‘cos he thought Rahvin’d kell’der.”

“Reet,” Janica said, gripped the Choedan Kal ter’angreal purposefully, and shot a regretful glance in the general direction of the woman in the armchair. “Sorry about this.”

“The Great Lord will-”

The electric blue outline of Morgase hung in the air for a second, then broke away into little sparks of blue light, which winked out before they hit the ground. The pair of copper rings fell to the carpet. Debs and Janica stepped through a pair of glass doors and onto a little balcony. Beneath them stretched the ornamental gardens, mostly-untouched by fire or lightning.

“Ha ha ha!” Contro’s cheerful voice lilted up from the wagon, which Cow and Bela had dragged unwillingly under some parched-looking palm trees, “where did you come from??! I could have sworn I saw a bit of you go flying through the air a second ago, and Cow ate it!! Funny that!”

Debs and Janica exchanged a satisfied nod.

“Now, let’s get to Tel’aran’rhiod,” Janica said, rolling up her metaphorical sleeves. “It doesn’t look like the balefire reset Vamps, and there’s no saying how much trouble he’s gotten himself intae.”

 


 

Vamps, on the contrary, was doing very well indeed. After no more than five minutes, he’d realised that what he’d thought was Rahvin was in fact nothing but a giant sort of hippopotamus sort of thing, with the head of a rabbit. When he’d finally caught up with it and smashed it apart with flows of Air and Fire, it had turned out to be full of ants and flies. He’d chased after them for a while before getting tired of it, after which he had been entertaining himself by burning things.

“There you are,” he said, when Janica and Debs turned up and shielded him a few minutes later. He’d put down his own little Choedan Kal statue, because using it gave him a tummyache, and so the damane slid a barrier between him and saidin quite easily. “Rahvin turned out to be a hippo.”

“I see,” Janica said, and then blinked. “Wait a minute, we’re in Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh.”

“So?” Muffin Vamps’s cool nonchalance was dissolved temporarily by Puddin Taim’s unassuming respectfulness. “Oh, yes of course, we could be in danger. I couldn’t abide it if my actions harmed you good ladies in any way, we should get out of here as soon as possible.”

“We should,” Janica agreed, “but wait a second,” she held out a hand, and concentrated. With a scarcely-audible pop, a pair of glasses materialised out of thin air. She put them on, and sighed in relief. “Need. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before,” she went on. “You can get anything you want from the World of Dreams if you concentrate. That’s how we found Puddin, after all. And since we’re here in the flesh, I should be able to bring them out with me.”

“Gude thenken, lass,” Debs said approvingly. “Noo, let’s get oot.”

They looked around, Janica enjoying the full and unrestricted use of her eyes for the first time in what seemed like years. They seemed to be in a museum of natural history. The strangely familiar sight of a giraffe skeleton loomed in one corner.

“I wonder why Tel’aran’rhiod sequences seem to dredge this place up so often,” Janica mused. “Is it some sort of mass-subconscious hub? Do lots of people dream about it? Is it given some special density by the presence of a ter’angreal somewhere in the displays? It seems weird to me that-”

Nynaeve, connected to a fearful-eyed woman by the silvery length of an a’dam, suddenly flickered into existence in the middle of the room. She looked around, nodded to herself, and gave a start to see Debs, Janica and Vamps standing nearby.

“What are … I’m glad you’re here,” she said, yanking the other woman forward roughly. “We … there was some sort of shockwave through the Dream, but it doesn’t seem to have had an effect this far from the centre, whatever it was. I was…” she suddenly seemed to realise she had another woman attached to her wrist, just like Debs did. The other woman, a pale apparition with black hair, wearing a white dress, was shaking her head slowly, her face horrified. “I think this is one of the Forsaken.”

“Moghedien,” Janica said, “she was posing as one of the refugees-”

Nynaeve blinked, then shook her head. “Moghedien? No, I don’t think so. She was much, much more powerful than Moghedien. I was lucky to leash her. She … I think she’s the one calling herself Selene. Does that make any sense to you?”

“Lanfear masqueraded as a Selene one time,” Janica recalled. “And I seem to recall her description matching what this one looks like,” the dark-haired woman was shaking her head more and more vehemently, but Nynaeve pursed her lips and did something probably-unpleasant with the a’dam that made the captured Forsaken freeze in her tracks. “So, you’ve captured Lanfear. Good job.”

“Only for as long as we’re in the Dream, though,” Nynaeve said. “I’m not sure how I can stop her from escaping before I can trap her, in the real world.”

“Gi’ the betch a cup o’ forkroot,” Debs grinned.

“Forkroot? I don’t think I’ve heard of that,” Nynaeve frowned. “And you three are here in body, so you’d best not try,” she turned to Lanfear, gave the leash a little shake, and snapped, “forkroot! A cup of it, right now, and no bloody tricks, burn you.”

Wide-eyed, Selene produced a plain earthenware cup of lightly-steaming liquid. Nynaeve took it, sniffed it suspiciously, and then handed it back.

“Drink it,” Janica said, giving Lanfear a stern look. It was nice to be able to do The Look again. Lanfear opened her mouth, closed it, clenched her free hand, and knocked back the drink. “That’ll knock her out, make her unable to channel for a good while, even back in the real world,” she said. “It should give you enough time to find her.”

“Right,” Nynaeve growled, narrowed her eyes, and watched while Lanfear flickered out of the Dream. Then, with a purposeful nod to herself, she followed.

“Not a bad day’s work,” Janica passed the statuette to Debs, and dusted her hands off. “Let’s get out of here.”

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