A Crown of Frauds, Part 16

As far as Satters was concerned, Galina was a bitch cunt who could go fuck herself. He’d told her as much, but she had ignored him. Of all the things that pissed him off – and let’s face it, at a certain point it just became easier to list the things that didn’t piss him off – being ignored pissed him off almost as much as … well, a whole lot of other things. Putting the things that pissed him off in some sort of order or context pissed him off.

She and her fellow Aes Sedai had, admittedly, been instrumental in getting them to Cairhien quickly. He didn’t like to think about how unpleasant it might have been in the Ways with two hundred insane Younglings, Padan Fain and the rapidly-degenerating Shaido creatures in the wagon. Even Fain had begun giving the wagon a wide berth. Galina, on the other hand, seemed to be getting increasingly attached to them … and her proximity to them seemed to be keeping Fain’s Shadar Logoth taint away from her.

Whether the cure was any better than the disease, Satters couldn’t say.

The funniest thing was, the Shaido certainly didn’t like her, even though she was the best – indeed, the only – friend they had. Unfortunately, Satters wasn’t in any position to appreciate the irony of this, because he invariably did the same thing to people who treated him with any decency. He settled for curling up and licking his bollocks while he listened to the Black Ajah Aes Sedai and the irretrievably corrupted Shaido talking.

“Leave us alone, da’tsang,” Therava growled. “We want nothing to do with you or your foolish master.”

“Master Fain was surprised by what happened near Cairhien,” Galina said in a low voice that Satters could only hear because of his special wolf-ninja ronin ears. “It was far more … intense … than he was expecting.”

“Would you lick your balls if you could?” Alexander said.

“What,” Quincey replied, “you mean if I could actually focus on them?”

“…bubble of the Dark One’s evil,” the male Shaido was saying in gloating tones, “made possible by the increasing weakness of the Pattern … I can almost taste it.”

“I bet Sattersnoam can too,” Alexander said.

“Hur hur.”

“And it will only get worse,” Sevanna said. “There is nothing more we can tell you, even if we wanted to. You have no idea what you are meddling with. None of you do. And this feeble new attempt to torture the information out of us, by sending you to play nursemaid, is nothing short of insulting.”

“And my neck hurts,” Therava added.

“Hur.”

Satters shook his head and trotted away. For some reason, it was difficult to focus on what was being said, almost as if he had to tune out a whole lot of other jabbering that was going on right next to him. He crossed the camp and approached the tent where Fain was discussing things with his faithful.

The bubble of evil had been a nasty one, sure enough. Satters wasn’t entirely sure what they’d been doing there anyway, except possibly trying to get the story back on track. Since Fain had failed to stab the Dragon with the Shadar Logoth dagger, Satters’s dazzling, crystal-clear logic told him that the twin wounds would not be sealed off together and therefore the way to cleanse the taint would probably never be discovered. At least not by these idiots.

Looking around Padan Fain’s camp, however, Satters got the feeling that the taint was the least of their worries.

 


 

Having seen gholam in action, Dr. Nick thought he was prepared for just about anything when he reached the sixth floor of the building. He knew it would be bad. By the time he was on the fourth floor landing, half the ter’angreal hanging off his body were burning-cold. Crashes, sizzles and zings of the One Power were coming from overhead.

When he got there, however, it wasn’t a bloodthirsty gholam demolishing Mat’s men and Nynaeve’s channelers.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Dr. Nick screamed.

Panting, Chucky finally hauled himself up and paused at Dr. Nick’s side. The Ogier were nowhere to be seen, and hadn’t been since one of them ‘stopped to tie up his shoelace’ on the third floor.

“Whoa,” Chucky whispered, staring at the carnage.

It was difficult to say what was more amazing: that a twenty-foot Nym had managed to fit into the low-ceilinged, box-filled storeroom, or that it was wreaking so much havoc among highly-trained soldiers and a large number of channelers. Fire and lightning was crashing all around Someshta, but the enormous tree-man was swiftly and methodically smashing his attackers to pieces. Chucky ducked as, with a swoosh-crunch-splat, a black-belted Wise Woman was catapulted out of her own hip joints by a single kick.

There was an explosion, and splinters flew through the air. Someshta roared in fury and stamped on another channeler.

“I think my shoelace is untied,” Chucky said.

“Mine too,” said Dr. Nick.

“Plus, oh yeah, there’s an insane Nym killing everybody in this room and I don’t want … well, that to happen to me,” Chucky added, and pointed at Mat’s buddy Janira, to whom that had just happened. Dr. Nick had to agree.

Then Nynaeve was bursting through a side-door, Mat on one side of her and Melindhra on the other, terrible ultraviolet power gathering between the former village Wisdom’s hands. Someshta roared again, and threw a few of the larger pieces of Janira that were left after that had been done to him at the newcomers. Melindhra stepped up and raised her spear, letting the body-parts splatter and wrap around the shaft harmlessly. Someshta’s next roar was in perfect three-part harmonic, and the Aiel Maiden screamed as her spear sprouted branches and long black thorns fast enough to impale her hand.

Mat jumped forward to allow his girlfriend time to hurl the writhing spear away and hobble to the relative safety of the door. Someshta lunged forward and grabbed the snarling farmboy by the arm, swinging back and throwing him bodily out of the window. And then the Nym’s furious walnut eyes fixed on the pair on the landing.

“Crap,” Dr. Nick muttered, and threw his spears as far away as he could.

“What good’s that going to do?” Chucky hissed. “The whole floor is made of wood.”

“So are your bagpipes,” Dr. Nick pointed out. “Still not too late to throw them. There’s such a thing as a fate worse than death, you know, and getting killed by bagpipes might just qualify.”

“Don’t talk to me about getting killed by bagpipes, Dumbo.”

Rumbling like a distant sawmill, Someshta took a floor-rattling step towards them.

In the momentary lull, Nynaeve flung her hands forward and a basketball-sized globe of flickering darklight struck the Green Man in the middle of the chest. There was a terrible crash, a considerable amount of smoke and airborne woodchips, and when the dust cleared half the room was gone. The same window Mat had been thrown through, together with the walls around it and the roof and floor adjacent, had all been blasted out into the street. Whether Someshta had gone with it, or the sawdust in the air accounted for his entire body mass, Dr. Nick couldn’t tell without a calculator.

“What was that all about?” Chucky murmured, exchanging a stunned look with Dr. Nick.

“No idea,” Dr. Nick said. “Bubble of evil?”

The survivors – none, Dr. Nick noticed, from anywhere near the vicinity of the fight-ending explosion – began picking themselves up and brushing wood shavings out of their hair. One of the female channelers limped over to Nynaeve, carrying a wide, round, cloth-wrapped object.

“About time,” Nynaeve said, lifting the corner of the cloth and examining the Bowl. “We’ve got it.”

“Great,” Chucky said. “So that’s over, at least.”

“Right,” Nynaeve said, “and now we destroy it.”

“Right,” Chucky nodded. “Wait, what?”

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