A Crown of Frauds, Part 8

Sighing bitterly for the seventh time that day, Chucky stopped outside the seven-storey building and prepared to climb a whole lot of stairs. Why the Rahad needed so many old abandoned storehouses, why they all needed to look the same and why, above all, he had to take part in the searching were just three of the universe’s more annoying mysteries.

Chances were, he knew, he would be doing this for the next two books if he wasn’t careful.

“Oh well,” he murmured to himself, and patted his bagpipes. “I still have Plan B.”

Nynaeve, after setting everybody about their tasks and giving each of them a royal warrant to make the whole thing run smoothly, seemed to have lost interest in the search for the Bowl of the Winds. Chucky couldn’t say he blamed her. The Rahad was a particularly stinky, particularly dangerous suburb of a city that had swiftly carved out a place for itself at the top of the list of stinky, dangerous cities Chucky had wandered through during his extended tour of Chaggabaggawoggaland.

She’d left instructions that Mat and Melindhra were to assist in the search for the Bowl, and Mat had put up surprisingly little resistance. Chucky distinctly recalled Mat being a whiny little asspain who didn’t want to do anything, but these days he seemed to be getting on board. No wonder Nynaeve had left him in charge. In the meantime, apparently, Nynaeve was going to some sort of party on board a Sea Folk ship out in the harbour.

The Bowl of the Winds had been missing for two thousand years. It seemed highly unlikely to Chucky that it would be in one of these warehouses in Ebou Dar. And yet, he knew perfectly well that it was. Which just went to show what a stupid world he lived in.

Chucky wondered if he was overcompensating for Mat’s out-of-characterness by bitching internally.

“Hey, Ricardo.”

Chucky turned to see Dr. Nick wandering across the street towards him.

“What?”

“Not a fan of Miami Vice, then,” Dr. Nick concluded.

“What are you doing here?” Chucky asked. “I thought you were meant to be in Sector Whatever.”

“Well, technically, we still are,” Dr. Nick said, then went on quickly before Chucky could lay a great ‘ears’ joke on the table. “I’m teamed up with the Ogier, and they’re still in the first room of the first floor of the first warehouse. Talking about an old bottle of wine, which was the first thing one of them pulled off the shelf,” he paused, then added in disgust, “an empty bottle of wine.”

“That’s nice,” Chucky said absently, and headed into the warehouse with the Aielman close behind him. “So you decided not to go along for the little soirée at the harbour?” he said.

“Hell no.”

“I guess the combination of Nynaeve and the Sea Folk would be pretty annoying,” Chucky remarked, although considering the new, cold-blooded psychopath version of Nynaeve that had manifested since Salidar, it was entirely possible that the whole thing would be quite fun to watch – although not, necessarily, participate in.

“Yeah, there is that,” Dr. Nick said as they began climbing the stairs. “There’s also the fact that I’m never going to set foot on a Sea Folk ship again, as long as I live.”

“Something you want to share?”

“No.”

The top floor of the whitewashed building offered a fairly pleasant view of the harbour, and the sea breeze pushed away the worst of the stink. Chucky had begun to realise that certain smells weighed more than others. The breeze, for example, carried away the smell of rotting food and bodies, but left the thick, sluggish smell of massed human faeces behind, as if it were unwilling to lift the centuries-old ingrained reek from its accustomed place.

“Stop pretending not to be winded,” Dr. Nick called, “and help me search these crates.”

“Just because you’ve been artificially enhanced into some sort of Aiel athlete,” Chucky complained, setting his pipes carefully on a cluttered tabletop and walking over to the ceiling-high stack of crates.

“Hey,” Dr. Nick protested, “I was always this limber.”

“Come on,” Chucky said, lifting down a box and emptying it unceremoniously onto the floor, “I’ve met you.”

“I’m surprised you can remember.”

“I remember everything,” Chucky started, then stared accusingly at the Aielman. “What are you doing?”

“Searching the boxes.”

“What, by using some sort of Aiel-packing crate mind-meld?” Chucky demanded. “You’re just waving your hand over the fucking things. How do you expect to find anything?”

“Magic,” Dr. Nick said smugly, holding up his hand. In the centre of his palm, connected via small chains to rings on pinky, index finger and thumb, was a dark metal disc. “See this? Cooper Two couldn’t identify it very well, but it burned his fingers when he picked it up. And it vibrates when you put it close to a ter’angreal,” he pointed across the room. “I’m getting a little bit of interference from those bagpipes of yours, but it’s still working fine. Efficiency is the hallmark of an engineer.”

“I thought being a colossal nerd who can’t get laid even if he’s covered in butter and shoved up a giant hen’s asshole was the hallmark of an engineer,” Chucky posited.

“Classic misconception.”

“And you told me you didn’t have any more of the ter’angreal that burned Cooper Two’s fingers,” Chucky went on accusingly. “That might work as an anti-channeling protector for me.”

Dr. Nick shook his head and waved his hand over some more boxes. “You know, this might be even more efficient if you were to move your pipes a little bit further away. Throwing them out the window might be a good start.”

Chucky’s devastatingly witty retort was cut off by an explosion from the direction of the harbour. Gleeman and Aiel ran to the window in time to see a massive fountain of foam, water, splintered planks and body-parts rising into the air.

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