It had yet to be explained to Janica’s satisfaction why, in a universe where instantaneous teleportation was possible and dream conferencing was commonplace, she had to stay out of the important plotlines simply because her own thread, important though it was, was dragging along off-camera in the God damn wilderness.
As a result, the Amyrlin-in-exile and her burly Scottish sul’dam gatewayed out of their comfortable staging camp (she didn’t see why their growing “rebel” army needed to march, for that matter, or worry too much about food since supply lines did not need to exist and they were still ostensibly on the side of the Darkfriends so they were enjoying the full catering support of ShadowChow, a branch of Aginor Bio-Weapons Corp) and into Caemlyn one sweltering afternoon, almost cutting Stifler’s buttocks off in the process.
“Oh, hey,” the smart-mouthed Hero-of-the-Horn-turned-Warder said, spinning around, “I was just thinking about you.”
“Well, I was thinking about how I’d rather have my ass cut off than see you again,” Stifler said, “doesn’t that count?”
“Take us to your boss,” Janica said, “preferably with a minimum of fucking aboot.”
“I’ve never fucked a boot in my life,” Stifler said, “you’re thinking of Gaidal, and he keeps insisting that was just an initiation ritual.”
This indispensable repartee dealt with, he led the damane and sul’dam through the bustling passageways of the Royal Palace, finally meeting up with Gaidal and Birgitte at the doors to the throne room.
“Her Majesty is expecting you,” Cain said, stepping aside. “Something about a dream.”
“Elayne,” Janica said briskly as they stepped into the throne room, “I mean, Your Majesty, we have some information from Ebou Dar and … wherever Satsujinki ended up, somewhere near Cairhien I think, but he wouldn’t commit to specifics, you know how he gets.”
“Janica Sedai,” Elayne was not on the throne, but crossing the floor with a bag of assorted objects – probably ter’angreal – under one arm. “I thought you’d be dropping by. Where are we headed?”
“Ebou Dar, for a start,” Janica replied. “We’ve got some reports of things going pear-shaped over there, and in order to keep the Pattern from unravelling completely we need you, and some Sea Folk channelers, and … did you find Aviendha?”
“No,” Elayne said, “last I heard she was with Elder Haman and the other Ogier, negotiating a peace settlement with the Darkfriends, over in one of the stedding and we can’t get close to them there…” she frowned. “Did you say ‘Sea Folk channelers’? I didn’t know there were any Sea Folk channelers.”
“We’ll have to do withoot them,” Janica went on, stopping and looking around. “We have a location prepared, but it still might not be safe. Are your Warders coming?”
“Darn right we are,” Birgitte said, striding into the throne room with Cain on one side and Stifler on the other.
“Care to do the honours?” Elayne stopped beside Janica and gestured with her free hand. “I’m not quite sure of the location.”
“Alright,” Janica said, and gave Debs a nod. The sul’dam nodded back, embraced saidar through the a’dam, and together they started to weave a gateway. Janica turned to look at the bag of trinkets Elayne was carrying. “You’ve been busy.”
“I think I make them in my bloody sleep,” Elayne muttered. “And I have no idea what half of them do.”
Janica opened the gateway and they stepped through into a large room smelling strongly of abandoned campsite. The uneven flagstones were scattered with ash and chunks of charred wood, the ceiling was almost obscured by smoke, and the cold remains of a huge smouldering bonfire dominated the middle of the room. When the blackened mass of logs and charred branches shifted, rolled, and gave a menacing growl, everybody took a nervous step back towards the gateway.
“Someshta?” Janica stepped out from behind Debs and tugged the sul’dam forward by the bracelet. “What happened?”
“They’re Darkfriends,” the Green Man – misnomer though that name seemed to have become – sat up with a nasty crumbly sound. “All of them. Mat … Melindhra … the channelers. Nynaeve … she must be Forsaken. They took the Bowl … plan to destroy it.”
“How did you find out?” Janica asked.
“The Ogier Heroes. We have been discussing matters, studying events. They could not decide what to do next, so I was forced to come alone,” Someshta ground slowly to his feet, or as close to his feet as the ceiling and his currently reduced circumstances could permit. “I was able to grab some ter’angreal and other objects from the storeroom, but they defeated me before I could get the Bowl,” he rose precariously on one leg and shook himself sharply. With a clatter, several objects fell out of the remains of the Green Man’s undergrowth, including a small ivory box with red and green stripes; a blue stone sculpture that looked like a gnarled tree-root; a small bottle of red liquid; and a stiff-but-flexible black rod. “I thought you were meant to be keeping tabs on these people,” Someshta concluded angrily.
“We’re doing our best,” Janica replied. “We knew there were Darkfriends running the search party, but we had no idea that Nynaeve…” she sighed. “Admittedly, Chucky and Dr. Nick probably weren’t the best people to go along with the group, but there was nothing we could have done differently. The so-called rebels I’m meant to be leading have mostly been forcibly turned, we’re still trying to figure out what’s going on there. So far, they’re following the storyline and not risking the Pattern any more than they already have … but that might change overnight, depending on what Shadow Monkey tells them to do next. And we can’t re-convert them quietly. Not all at once.”
“So where’d they goo?” Debs asked.
“I don’t know,” Someshta said testily. “I only woke up and dragged myself here about half an hour ago. And most of that, I’ve spent picking body parts out of my branches, on account of having to fight the Dark One’s forces all by myself.”
“It gets worse,” Janica admitted. “Vamps has disappeared.”
“The Dragon Reborn?” the Green Man exploded. “How do you just lose the Dragon Reborn?”
“The Pattern seems to have rearranged itself catastrophically,” Janica explained, “sending the Dragon and some of his close advisors on a quest to kill Sammael. They were separated in Shadar Logoth, and we haven’t been able to find Vamps yet.”
“I don’t see that it’s a huge disaster,” Elayne bent to pick up a tiny amber turtle that had skittered across the floor on its shell, “he was almost dead, more than half-insane, and unless I’ve gotten completely confused, he was a false Dragon anyway,” she turned the turtle over. It was a brooch. “An angreal,” she said, pinning it to her dress. “I’ll take that.”
“Oh yes?” Someshta snapped. “And who died and made you Queen?”
“Oh,” this momentarily took the wind out of the injured Nym’s sails, but he soon got grouchy again. “So the Forsaken have infiltrated our group, we don’t know who is a Darkfriend and who isn’t, Shadow Monkey is five steps ahead of us, they’ve taken the Bowl of the Winds and are going to destroy it so we can’t use it to break the Dark One’s hold on the world, and the Dragon Reborn has disappeared,” he summarised. “Where does that leave us?”
“Under Kurast without an automap,” Janica muttered. She picked up another item from the floor, this one a statue of a smiling man with a beard, holding a book. “Luke,” she went on, “it’s Robert Jordan.”