“It’s really quite amazing,” Luc said airily. “With that much of Shadar Logoth’s evil coursing through your veins, you should be a full-blown Aridholic by now. Lord knows I’ve seen enough cases in my time, and caused more than a few of them. But you actually seem to be getting better. And I mean for real better, not just ‘pretending to be better so we’ll start sleeping without setting a watch, so you can do horrible things to us and laugh creepily’ better.”
“Where are we?” Vamps asked. He was miserable, and in horrible pain, and there wasn’t even anyone around for him to tell about it – he’d tried telling Luc and Smith, but Luc had this strange and horrible talent for taking something about Vamps, and turning it into something about Luc. And Smith had a talent for taking anything anybody said about anything at all, and making it smack into his pebbly hide like a puppy running headfirst into a fridge door. And yet, for all of his ailments, he did feel better. The voices had receded, the boils and visions had faded away, and he actually thought he might be able to grasp saidin soon without vomiting or incinerating the universe.
“Well, we were on the wrong side of Shadar Logoth,” Luc said, “but overnight it seems as though something weird has happened to the Pattern, and now we’re very close to good old Emond’s Field again,” he pointed. Vamps looked, but one hilltop view of a stinky little rural village looked much like another to him. This stinky little rural village, however, did have something a lot of other villages didn’t.
Vamps tried to put his finger on it.
“It makes me wonder whether Emond’s Field is some sort of nexus, a kink in the Pattern where all loops and threads ultimately converge,” Luc was saying thoughtfully. “Why else would our lives continually seem to circle back to this point in the spacetime continuum? Of course, if a powerful ta’veren had lived there for most of his or her life…”
It was, Vamps decided, the army camped on its outskirts.
“Hey,” he interrupted Luc’s increasingly Doc-Brown rambling, “what’s with the army?”
“We were wondering about that, too,” Luc said. “My theory is, it was drawn here by accident the same way we were, by the same fold in the Pattern that has made it very difficult for us to get away from this squalid little place. It may not even be an army, although a lot of them seem to be Aiel or Two Rivers folk. It is entirely possible that they are just a huge conglomeration of people who have been brought here in ones and twos by shifts in the Pattern, and found themselves unable to leave.”
“Male chan’lers down dere,” Smith grunted.
“I know,” Luc said, “I smell them too. In fact, I’m pretty sure our friend Logain is down there. With Callandor,” he glanced at Vamps meaningfully, but Vamps was preoccupied with the strange feeling of being simultaneously hurt, rugged, battered and increasingly healthy. “And possibly the Horn of Valere as well,” Luc went on, “although I am not certain of that anymore.”
“They look like they’re massing for some sort of attack,” Vamps said, although he had no idea if that was the case. “Do you think they’re actually attacking Emond’s Field?”
“Too many channelers,” Luc shook his head, “if they were going to attack here, the whole place would be a magma pit by now. Anyway, look at those banners,” he pointed again. “The New Manetheren banner and the wolf head of Perrin Aybara, they’re practically locals. No need to attack here. No, they’re either stuck here by the Pattern, or they’re preparing for an attack somewhere else. Whichever is the case, we should soon be seeing gateways-”
With bright flashes, several enormous gateways revolved open along the front lines of the assembled men. Horses and infantry skittered back nervously, causing a visible ripple in the masses. Vamps reflected that he would quite like to be proved right just moments after saying something the way Lord Luc so often seemed to be. Just once, to see it felt as good in reality as it did inside his own head.
“Maybe we should go down and join them,” he suggested. “They could be search parties, heading out to look for me.”
“I fail to see why,” Luc remarked, “but we might as well. They might be able to use another channeler, even one who’s not exactly in tip-top shape. And they could certainly use my expertise and assistance. And besides, we’ve been looking for master Ablar for far too long.”
They descended towards the milling army.