A hundred miles east of Dumai’s Wells, Padan Fain and his followers called a halt while Fain got to the bottom of Sevanna’s belongings.
“I know it doesn’t really hurt you,” he said patiently, while Sevanna growled and sprayed grey foam from her mouth, “because you’re nailed to the floor with iron hoops and your kidneys shut down days ago and you’re still alive. But look at it this way. If you ever get free from this wagon, having no arms and legs is going to seriously hamper your mobility. Especially since horses seem to want nothing to do with you and the last one strangled itself with its own bridle rather than spend another minute pulling aforementioned wagon.”
“Which is why he’s got myrddraal pulling it at the moment,” Satsujinki pointed out.
“Quite so,” Fain smiled, “although to say they’re happy about it would be overstating the case. Anyway,” he held up the small cube, “you had this in your bags. I can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do … I sense the One Power around it, like a small cloud of stench, but what is it? A ter’angreal?” he raised the hatchet, and brought it down casually, lopping off Sevanna’s fingertips. “A weapon?” he swung the hatchet again, taking off her hand at mid-palm. “A gift from one of the Forsaken?” the rest of Sevanna’s hand, mainly thumb, flew away into the corner of the wagon and spasmed around in little circles in its own gelatinous blood.
Sevanna growled and foamed some more. Satsujinki felt she was infringing on his intellectual property.
“It is a call box,” she finally grated. “Sammael gave it to us before we left the lab.”
“I see,” Fain said, “and what is a lab?”
“It’s short for ‘laboratory’,” Satters explained, and sniffed contemplatively at his genitals. “Or ‘labrador’,” he added. “Labradors are hot. Especially the blonde ones. Find out if she meant ‘labrador’.”
“It was a building, in which Aginor brought us into being,” Sevanna said, much to Satters’s disappointment, “we were to use the call box to contact the Chosen when we had captured the Car’a’carn.”
“What Car’a’carn?” Fain smiled. “There seem to be several, alive as well as dead.”
“The Nae’blis believes that the false Car’a’carn set in place by the Aes Sedai and their allies is going to cause difficulties,” Sevanna growled, “and the true Car’a’carn is in no position to fulfill his destiny, which is going to cause even greater difficulties.”
The male Shaido they had pinned to the wagon bed suddenly began to flail and scream, then abruptly fell silent when Quincey clubbed him unconscious with a trolloc thighbone.
“Thank you, Sattersnoam,” Fain said serenely.
“Don’t mention it,” Quincey muttered.
Wilson Paperclip leaned back from his desk with a small, thoughtful smile on his face as Padan Fain resumed torturing the Shaido. The myriad events of the Wheel of Time Adventure continued playing across his monitor in a chaotic jumble, and his telephone was lit up with waiting calls.
If he’d known this experiment was going to result in total loss of narrative control, rogue book characters rampaging across the country, wholesale slaughter of non-player characters, the brutal slaying of the author himself and the destabilisation of the fabric of the universe, he would have suggested it to the Head Publisher a long time ago. Although, all things considered, it would have been better for everybody if old Hedge Beard hadn’t died at the hands of the runaway gholam. Of course, it scored a massive rating on the Delicious-Irony-o-meter, but without an original author the whole thing was probably going to end in the hands of his next of kin, and that would have chilled Paperclip’s blood, had it not already been at approximate room temperature.
As a faint silver lining, the Head Publisher had had a minor mental breakdown and the police were still looking for people to question in the hot case of the Mad Wheel of Time Fanatic Cult Slaying. With the Head Publisher out of the equation, and Darryl K. Sweet really incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence (although volunteering him to make sketches of the suspect had been nothing short of diabolical genius as far as Paperclip was concerned), the police were beginning to pester Wilson himself for an interview, and that was not on. He had far too much to do. Somebody had to keep this runaway train wreck on the rails … at least until it thundered into a more heavily-populated area, where damage – and viewer response – would be maximised.
“Maybe it’s time,” Wilson Paperclip murmured to himself, “to take a brief sabbatical,” he paused. “Pardon the expression.”
He leaned back over his computer, entered in a series of passwords and access codes, and activated his secret character generation application.
Black flecks swarmed across his eyes.