Myrelle was nervous, and that reflected onto her Warders Nuhel, Avar and Croi. Nisao, an Aes Sedai who specialised in Healing of the mind, sat nearby on a horse, looking terrified.
The reason for their near-hysteria, the living legend Cadsuane Melaidhrin, was standing in the middle of the forest clearing, looking determined. It was the sort of facial expression that denied the possibility of any other possible facial expression existing on her weathered old face.
Cadsuane was Green Ajah, and many of the Aes Sedai had assumed she was dead long since. She had faced more male channelers than any four Reds, but today she was on another mission entirely – a favour, she had explained bluntly, for an old friend.
Before any of the younger Aes Sedai could voice their worries and doubts, there was a rustling and a horse and rider entered the far side of the clearing. The Warders tensed, hands on swords, but Cadsuane calmed them with an impatient wave of her hand. The rider, gaunt and haggard and trembling, spurred his horse forward to meet the small group. When he pulled up in front of Myrelle, he almost fell out of the saddle.
“The boy is hurt,” Cadsuane said.
“It’s just an old shotgun wound,” the man said. His voice was hollow and dry, although it livened up slightly when he looked at Myrelle. “Just a scratch, baby. Just a scratch.”
“You’re Moiraine’s Warder?” Myrelle asked, staring at the grizzled apparition. On closer inspection, the cloak he was wearing did seem to be the colour-shifting material of a Warder’s uniform, just frayed and stained and crusted with dried mud. “You’re Foreskin?”
“I’m Foreskin, but that’s just the start,” the rider said, and tried to grin. “As I always say.”
Myrelle exchanged a glance with Nisao, and then Cadsuane. “What do you think?”
“What’s to think?” Cadsuane said. “I’ll keep him alive somehow.”
Forsaken_1 looked from Myrelle to Cadsuane and back. “I was promised pubescent and nubile,” he said, in the uncertain tones of somebody who has repeated something so many times to himself that it has lost all meaning. “Pubescent and nubile.”
“Sonny,” Cadsuane declared, “you are shit out of luck.”
The dream came to him on the first night of the Feast of Lights. He was more unconscious than asleep, his head spinning from the apple brandy they’d drunk to celebrate the end of the year. It was the most powerful Wolf Dream he’d had in weeks, if not months. It was so powerful, he woke up to find himself licking his own balls.
“Perrin?” Berelain shifted beside him, and touched his arm. Her voice was crusty and hungover. “Are you alright?”
“Woof,” he said, and then cleared his head a bit. “I’m fine,” he went on. “We need to mobilise.”
“Again?” Berelain said, not sounding entirely displeased. “I thought you’d be tired after-”
“I mean, the fighters here in the Two Rivers, and the wolves. We must march, and quickly.”
“East for now. Satsujinki will lead us. Something has gone terribly wrong. There will be a Wolfmoot, in the Dream, somewhere along the way. For now, we have to follow his trail.”
“What’s a Wolfmoot?”
“I don’t know,” Perrin said, “I think it’s a word Satsujinki just made up. I asked him what it meant, but he called me a fucking fuck.”
They rose, dressed, packed, and sent out word to their loyal subjects in the Two Rivers and beyond. While New Manetheren rallied to the call of Goldeneyes, Perrin explained his dream in a bit more detail.
“Puddin Taim was taken hostage about a week ago,” he said, “as planned by Janica and agreed by Shadow Monkey as part of these peace talks they have been having with the Ogier. I don’t know why, it was something about keeping the Pattern from unravelling. Anyway, Padan Fain found out about it, and … interfered with the plan.”
“Did Satsujinki try to stop him?” Berelain asked.
“I couldn’t get a clear answer on that,” Perrin admitted. “You know how he gets.”
“Anyway, Fain seems to have made up his mind about something, or he might be getting orders from elsewhere. Either way, he’s captured the Dragon, and gone off with him,” Perrin concluded, “in a box.”
“So now our side as well as Shadow Monkey will be after him?” Berelain asked.
“It could be worse than that,” Perrin replied. “One or the other side, or both, might be convinced that the other is attempting to break the agreement and do something behind the others’ backs.”
“I see you, Perrin Goldeneyes Aybara sur Paendrag Tanreal of House Paeron of New Maneth-”
“Yeah yeah,” Perrin grumbled. “I see you, Rhuarc.”
The big Aielman grinned and lowered the half-unrolled parchment. “I was only just getting warmed up.”
“When did you get here, and how, and how many did you bring?”
“About half an hour ago; by gateway; and don’t worry, fucking billions.”
“And Wise Ones?”
“Plenty. And some Aes Sedai came along to help. Do you know where the Car’a’carn is being taken?”
“Sort of,” Perrin admitted. “I’ll explain on the way.”
He knew he was supposed to be on the good guys’ side, but Satsujinki just thought this was too cool. Nobody had ever really understood how evil and awesome he really was. They always just made fun of him. They didn’t realise his “firstname.lastname@example.org” Email address was deadly serious, and that he was the baddest motherfucker since Shaft’s evil twin was killed by The Man.
He crouched outside the tent and listened to the exciting noises coming from within. Galina, who as far as Satsujinki could tell was a captive herself, was interrogating Min for information about the Dragon and his puppeteers. Padan Fain was also in there, overseeing the festivities. Satsujinki wondered how much of this he would be obliged to report to the Wolfmoot, and how much he could participate before the big girly sissies started to piss and moan and whine at him.
“Gnyar,” he snarled at the goofy-looking Warder standing guard outside the tent.
“Fuck off,” Carilo replied, “you foaming nutbag.”
Satsujinki muttered a really, really good comeback under his breath, subtly implying that it was Carilo, and not Satsujinki, who was a foaming nutbag. Then he slunk away, triumphant.
The camp was a bizarre mix of frightened Shadowspawn, Fain’s corrupted minions, half-corrupted captives taken from the group of Angamael’s that had performed the fake kidnap of the Dragon in the first place, and some other captives who were well on the way to either turning to Fain’s service like the rest of them, or becoming trolloc food. Of the bunch of them, Satsujinki was the only one not falling under Fain’s corruption, and Satsujinki knew that was because his Celtic blood was protecting him, like a ring of standing stones flowing through his veins, or some other analogy that was even cooler and actually made sense.
A shabby-looking guy in an unrecognisable uniform approached him. Satsujinki stopped in his tracks and waited for his personal space to be vacated, missing his wolf-form, with which it was far easier to put across the sorts of messages he was interested in putting across. Still, he managed a low growl.
“Oh shut up,” Gawyn said. “The Younglings want to know what the plan is.”
“Need-to-know basis,” Satsujinki snapped, “and you don’t need to know. Fucker.”
“Who’s being tortured?” Gawyn asked as a particularly loud scream rang out over the camp.
“Really? Let me know if you need some help, then,” the unshaven soldier grinned unpleasantly and went on his way. Satsujinki patted the back of his neck to get his hackles all in place again, and headed on into the camp.
Several more Warders, Aes Sedai and myrddraal were standing guard over the box.
“You don’t need to keep me in here,” Vamps’s voice was muffled but clearly recognisable.
“Well!” Satsujinki pulled himself up and put his hands triumphantly on his hips. “I would have thought you’d like being in a box at last.”
“Don’t talk to me about being in a box,” Vamps retorted. “I spend half my life in a box, or eating out of one,” the voice from the box paused, as if counting out the three little dots in the ellipsis. “That’s an innuendo, by the way.”
“You’ve never been in a box, that’s why you’re so uncomfortable now,” Satsujinki declared masterfully.
“I think you’re projecting,” Vamps’s muffled voice replied. “Just because you’re uncomfortable seeing a man in a box, because you’re so deprived-”
Satsujinki pounced with his trump card. “No, you’re deprived!”
“I’m in a box right now,” Vamps pointed out.
“No, I’m in a box right now!”
“Enough,” Fain’s voice came from behind Satsujinki. “The sheer wit is killing me.”
“What did Min tell you?” Satsujinki asked.
“Oh, nothing we didn’t already know,” Fain waved his hand carelessly. “She’s terrified of Lanfear, Janica is the new Amyrlin Seat, Debs is the Keeper of the Chronicles, the Ogier are conducting peace talks with the Forsaken, Min doesn’t like having the soles of her feet flayed … stuff like that.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“I haven’t quite decided,” Fain shrugged. “The Great Lord of the Dark wanted me to find the Dragon Reborn, and I’m not even sure I’ve done that yet. Something tells me my hunt is just beginning. But in the short term, we’re left with a nice collection of hostages and followers, and we have the guy everybody thinks is the Dragon Reborn in a box. And we’re going to be getting some reinforcements before too much longer.”
“Yes. The Forsaken think they are going to stop us, but they have underestimated my power. I have already corrupted their minions, and I will turn these others as well.”
“Who are they?” Satsujinki asked. “More Shadowspawn?”
“No,” Fain said, “just Shaido.”