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 rose inexplicably in Braem Wood. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning. It was also a bit of a mystery.
The wind ruffled hair and clothes, and was generally the most interesting thing to happen to the Dragon Reborn’s army since the battle of Dumai’s Wells the day before. They’d camped about a mile south of the disturbing patch of land surrounding the oasis, and none of them had slept very well. Around midnight, it seemed the entire area had spontaneously ignited, and scouts now reported that Dumai’s Wells was a wasteland of ash and scorched bones.
Puddin’s brother Mazrim called it a natural reaction of self-defence.
“I still can’t understand,” Puddin said, “how so many of the enemy managed to escape.”
Min, who had recovered well after receiving Healing from one of the asha’man, shrugged. “Maybe Padan Fain controls the bubbles of evil, and everything that happened was to his advantage,” she said. “When he saw he was outnumbered, he escaped with his followers, leaving us with nothing.”
“Hey,” Vamps said, “hardly nothing.”
Min eyed him up and down. “You’re right. Hardly nothing.”
Mazrim sniggered. Min glanced at the tall, grinning channeler who the asha’man were calling “M’hael“, and her face went pale as her eyes settled on something above his head.
“You have blood in your past and blood in your future,” she whispered. “You are a dangerous man, Mazrim Taim.”
“You’re some sort of fucking genius, aren’t you,” Mazrim said. “I also have blood under my fingernails, blood in my goatee and blood down my Ghul-damned boot-tops.”
One of the other asha’man, who Vamps seemed to recall was named Dashiva, stopped tilting his head as if listening to unheard voices when he heard the M’hael‘s quip, and burst out laughing. When Mazrim beckoned him over, Dashiva walked like a man wearing pants about three sizes too small. When he halted in front of the Taim brothers, it took him a moment to untangle his scabbard and his legs, a feat he finally achieved by brute force and repeated use of the word “fuck”.
“The Wolfman of Manetheren wants to know if we can make a gateway for him and his friends,” Mazrim said to him.
“Alright,” Dashiva replied, and spread his hands in anticipation. “Who do you want me to prune?”
Mazrim looked around speculatively.
Puddin cleared his throat. “Don’t prune anybody,” he suggested. “Open a gateway somewhere in a clear space.”
Dashiva blinked as if he’d just been witness to a completely insane, utterly alien declaration. He looked so puzzled by Puddin’s suggestion that for a moment the Dragon Reborn wondered if he really had said something crazy. Maybe Muffin Vamps had regained control of his body, and instead of saying “don’t prune anybody” the way he’d intended, he’d actually said “I have constant sex with gorgeous bisexual demonologists” or something.
“You’re muttering to yourself, Puddin,” Mazrim said. “In fact, so are you, Dashiva. Stow it, both of you. You’re giving me the creeps.”
“Can I at least slice somebody at the far end of the gateway?” Dashiva asked.
“Not in the Two Rivers, you can’t,” Perrin said, striding up with his axe over his shoulder.
“You guys are so boring,” the asha’man grumbled.
After sending Perrin and his troops safely back to New Manetheren, Puddin was quite relieved to order his own retinue to return to Cairhien.
“Back to the palace for a nice warm bath, a cup of warm milk and some more Healing,” he declared, happily.
“I’ve already had you Healed three times,” Mazrim snapped. “What are you, some sort of pussy?”
“Well,” Vamps said, affecting a swift and total takeover, “you know the old saying, ‘you are what you eat’.”
There was a long silence, through which Vamps’s smile endured obliviously. Finally, seeing his little brother was going to neither apologise for nor even look embarrassed about the idiotic thing he had just said, Mazrim Taim sighed, opened a gateway, and sidestepped swiftly. There was a scream and a spray of blood, and Mazrim smiled when he saw it had gone all over the Dragon’s puffy white shirt.
Davram Bashere, the left side of his dress uniform splattered with blood and organ-fillings, stepped through the gateway and glared at the asha’man.
“Right in the middle of a parade inspection,” he said. “Nice work, dickhead.”