The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind didn’t rise. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. It wasn’t even a beginning, because we already had the prologue and besides, there wasn’t even a wind.
Los Angeles was a smog-choked, underventilated, overpopulated stink-hole, held together by madness and bright, hateful commercialism. Of all the places to find a woman like Mrs_1, Morelin reflected, she wouldn’t have expected it to be Los Angeles.
“You want another bowl?” their smiling hostess asked. “With my Effie gone, we always seem to have so many leftovers.”
Morelin declined politely – three was her limit – but the boys picked up their forks and dug in. ~Brian~ and Wubbles seemed to treat everything as a competition, and Mrs_1 was just delighted to be feeding people. Excusing herself and putting her bowl in the dishwasher, she headed into the sitting room, which had been converted into a makeshift gholam-pen.
“It’s so beautiful.”
Cooper Two blew his nose, and wiped bloody tears from his eyes. He was watching The X-files episode “Tooms” for the seventh time straight, and he was still weeping. The heartbreaking story of a misunderstood stretchy guy who ate people’s livers touched a sensitive spot in the dislocated gholam. He wasn’t terribly interested in the rest of the tapes ~Brian~ had brought from his house, though, being of the opinion that “the two humans who refuse to mate” detracted from the stretchy liver-eating theme of the show in general.
Mrs_1 didn’t approve of The X-files – or Cooper Two for that matter – and had banned herself and her children from going into the sitting room for the duration of the visitors’ stay. Morelin found herself hoping, in spite of the wholesome pleasantness of their surroundings, that their stay wouldn’t be longer than necessary. She couldn’t quite figure out how the Forsaken_1 she knew fitted into this serene domestic picture, and even that juxtaposition was easier than trying to fit Coop in there instead. He lay draped over the couch like an Al Bundy who had been left out in the rain too long – not so much a couch potato as a couch noodle.
She sat down next to him and they finished watching the episode together in silence.
“How are you doing, Coop?” Morelin asked. “Not getting edgy at all?”
The last time Cooper Two had gotten “edgy”, he had dislocated ~Brian~’s shoulder while playing the Rock, Paper, Scissors game. ~Brian~ had agreed that he’d gotten off lightly, and new rules had been implemented to the effect that gholam rock, paper and scissors were of superior quality to the demonstrably squashy human varieties. It had been a long and stressful trip across the country.
“Nah,” Cooper Two snuffled again. “The ending gets me every time,” he cheered up with bipolar haste. “Are we ready to move on with Phase Three?”
Morelin, who wasn’t entirely sure what Phases One and Two had involved but was relieved that nobody with the likely exception of Robert Jordan had died as a result of them, shook her head carefully. “We’re still waiting for a couple more guys to make their way here,” she explained, “and then we’ll be ready to head into the Tor offices in the city.”
“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t go into the Tor offices in New Bork.”
“New York. There were too many police and guards and reporters around, after the … incident,” Moiraine knew the added security wouldn’t necessarily pose any difficulty for the gholam, but she didn’t want the deaths of innocent people on her conscience, even if they were cops. “Plus, Wubbles was banned from entering the state of New York because of some Prom Night disaster he was a part of in the late Nineties. In the end, we decided to meet here, because the L.A. offices have the same basic mainframe setup, or something. Plus, they run guided tours through every second day.”
“Who would want to go on a guided tour of a publishing house?”
“This is California,” Morelin shrugged. “The editors are probably topless dancers or something. Lord knows they’re not very good editors.”
“I still can’t get my head around the fact that it’s my entire universe you’re talking about, with these lousy editors and this Harriet woman,” Coop remarked. “And I can get my head around just about anything, especially if I dislocate my scibula,” he dislocated his scibula, whatever that was, and squeezed his head flat between his palms, to demonstrate. “Wee sqeewee bwee mwee geeweewee,” he concluded, his voice rendered incoherent by the accordion-folds in his face.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Morelin sighed and stood up. “Always right after I’ve eaten, too.”
She left the gholam re-shuffling his skull-bones and massaging his brains back up out of his windpipe, and went back into the kitchen. ~Brian~ and Wubbles were arm-wrestling on the table, so Morelin helped Mrs_1 do the dishes. This was not, we must hasten to add, a sexist thing – indeed, the boys had offered on numerous occasions to help with the cooking and cleaning. But the girls had only been foolish enough to let them help once. Amazingly, of the three of them, the gholam was the least disastrous when you put him into a cultery-and-crockery-adjacent situation. And he had put the plates away frisbee-style.
“Robert E and Ilya sent us a message this afternoon,” Morelin explained conversationally, “they’ll be in the city by tomorrow.”
“And you’re going to try to get into this Wheel of Time Adventure thing somehow?” Mrs_1 asked.
“If we can. At the very least, we need to try to get Coop back. He just doesn’t fit in here,” she shuddered. “No matter what shape he squeezes himself into. You know, if you want, we could take you along.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” the cheerful woman declined. “Somebody needs to stay here and look after the boys, I couldn’t take them with me – and besides, my Effie would think I was coming to ruin all his fun. I don’t know when he’ll be heading home,” she went on, a little sadly. “Apparently he was a bodyguard for this lady, but she died, and now he has to go and be a bodyguard for somebody else.”
“Hang on,” Morelin put down the cup she was drying. “How do you know that?”
“Well, he doesn’t go into much detail in his letters, and there’s so much of this fantasy gibberish that I don’t get, but I still get the general picture,” Mrs_1 smiled. “Warder this and Questioner that and Aes something-or-other. You know how they are.”
“You get letters?”
“Well, they come through as e-mails, you know the sort. I can’t reply to them, of course, because it’s a closed system and bla bla bla. But they let the players send messages out, through the interchange system.”
Morelin’s eyes narrowed. “How often do you get these e-mails?”
“Oh, once a week, without fail,” Mrs_1 blinked. “What, don’t you get letters that often?”
“No,” Morelin replied, “not that often. More like not a single darn time.”
Mrs_1 made a sympathetic noise. “Well,” she said, “My Effie is a good boy.”