Luc glared down at the shattered pieces of crystal as if they had personally offended him. “What the fu-” a patch of dirt exploded nearby and he swung to confront the enemy. Vamps swung around too, assuming a hadouken pose that he firmly believed made him look like a channeling badass and was unaware made him actually look like an inept shortstop waiting for an easy out.
“I wouldn’t-” Logain said, and Vamps seized saidin and channeled. A rank of advancing Seanchan exploded soggily. “Whoa.”
“What’s the matter with you?” Perrin shouted, trying desperately to keep his horse under control. Damane somewhere in the Seanchan army began to detonate explosions around the gateways.
“Saidin has a foulness to it,” Logain said, staring at Vamps in almost insulting surprise, “most of the asha’man are unable to even-”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Perrin grabbed Callandor out of Logain’s hand and plunked it into Vamps’s lap. “Blow up some more stuff, Taim. And you,” he swung back and gave Logain a glare, “stick that halfman sword into someone wearing a bug helmet. When he dies, pull it out and stick it into another one.”
“I already have this,” Vamps admitted, pulling the Choedan Kal ter’angreal from his pocket.
“Use them both,” Perrin suggested, pointing. “Open these mountains, push the Seanchan inside and then button them back up again, and we can all go home and have borderline-psychotic sex for the rest of the afternoon.”
“Such a bad idea,” Luc said, nudging Smith’s hip with an elbow and beginning to sidle back towards the gateway.
“Psycho sex? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” Vamps said.
“Couldn’t agree more,” put in Logain.
“I meant doubling up on sa’angreal,” Luc said, as the churning and screaming of the battle washed closer to them and then away again, leaving the ground muddy and red in its receding tide. “Especially since one of them is flawed. So if we can just sneak back through that gateway…”
“Just a Bel-Tine-polin’ minute there,” Perrin growled. “What do you mean, one of them’s ‘flawed’?”
“Callandor doesn’t have a safety buffer,” Luc explained patiently, “so it magnifies the taint. It can only be used by a man Linked with two women, preferably more, with the women in charge.”
“Now you’re talking,” Vamps said. He was about to provide further clarification and a detailed back-story explaining his approval and clarifying it as a purely sexual approval, or at least planning on giving a lot of meaningful pauses until everyone got the message, when a crossbow bolt flew out of the melee and took him high in the shoulder. He screamed, saidin winked out, and he fell from his horse. He landed on the bolt, digging it deeper, screamed again and vomited.
“Fucking Ghul,” Perrin snapped. “Can nobody else channel at all?”
“Our Wise Ones are doing their best against the damane, Perrin Aybara Goldeneyes,” Rhuarc said, ducking as more crossbow bolts flew overhead, “and at least some of the asha’man are upright. Fortunately, we shit all over these guys in a straight-up military conflict. Unfortunately-”
“Oh, give me those,” Logain dismounted and snatched up Callandor and the Choedan Kal statuette. “I wish I knew why Puddin wasn’t affected by saidin‘s poison today, but…” Luc and Smith made a final determined run for the gateway as, teeth gritted and face green, Logain channeled.
Lightning crashed out of the sky. Body-parts and armour and rocks flew, and what had previously been a gory bloodbath became a completely ludicrous charnel house. Within moments, people from both sides were screaming and pouring through the gateways. Two winked out as the asha’man holding them were ripped to pieces, the suddenly-closing holes in space slicing and dicing men and women and horses and just adding to the unholy carnage.
“Let’s … et the fu … of here!” Perrin roared, his voice only intermittently audible over the explosions. Smith picked up Luc and hurled him bodily through the remaining gateway, then lumbered back across the sodden hillside with gravel and mince splatting and pattering off his hide. He picked the sobbing Muffin Vamps up by the seat of his pants, grabbed the convulsing, projectile-vomiting Logain in the other hand, and with an insensible male channeler under each arm he went through the gateway at as close as a forger could come to a dead sprint. Perrin grabbed Berelain’s reins and spurred their horses through along with Gaul, Elyas, Rhuarc and as many soldiers as could pick themselves out of the destruction, and the asha’man holding the gate jumped through and let it snap closed behind him just as the explosions reached a massive, cataclysmic crescendo.
Then Smith dropped Vamps, swung Logain around and brought him into short, sharp contact with his free fist, before dropping him like a sack of potatoes. Logain crumpled into unconsciousness and the One Power receded, leaving the channeler splayed on the ground with a glowing Callandor and ter’angreal statuette hissing on either side of his prone body.
“What a fuck-up,” Elyas opined. “I’m glad the wolves weren’t there to see it.”
“I’m glad Bashere wasn’t there to see it,” Berelain replied.
“I wish I hadn’t been there to see it,” Luc said with asperity. “Maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I tell you things I have no right to know about ancient artifacts of the One Power.”
“Did we get them all?” Vamps asked weakly. “See how I asked about the battle before asking if anyone could Heal me? That’s nothing, just a little thing I like to call bravery.”
“Pretty much all the channelers capable of Healing just got creamed,” Elyas said, glancing out across the ragged leftovers of the army that had managed to retreat back into the Two Rivers. “And also, I have absolutely no idea if we got them all. Or even half of them.”
“My cadin’sor are soaked,” Rhuarc noted amiably, looking down at his dripping clothes, “but it is difficult to tell Wetlander from Aiel. It really makes you think.”
“Give me the ter’angreal and I’ll Heal myself,” Vamps whimpered.
“Yeah, even if that were possible, I don’t think so,” Luc said, giving Smith a nod. The giant forger picked up the still-glowing ter’angreal in one hand, and Callandor in the other, and put them behind his huge, craggy back. “Maybe we’d better hold onto them until irresponsible exploding-shit arse-clown time is over.”
“Yur,” Smith rumbled.