The Chosen and their acolytes – nobody felt quite right referring to such clueless wannabes as ‘Dreadlords’, at least not most of them – took a short break from balefiring things when Lanfear and Lan arrived. Lanfear and Lan, Angus decided, worked well together. Their names even had a pleasing symmetry.
Lan had freaked out a bit when he’d discovered that ‘Nynaeve’ was not actually Nynaeve, but overall he hadn’t minded that much, and he had been dry now for several weeks. The Chosen did not believe in twelve-step programs. Most of them didn’t even believe in one-step programs.
Moridin was already with her by the time Angus joined them in the Amyrlin’s study. He’d wanted to finish his latest experiment with Idrien Tarsin, who had become a favourite crash test dummy among the Chosen. They’d killed her about fifty times, in a variety of different ways, always using an advocate – willing or Compulsed or otherwise – to do the deed so that balefire could bring her back. Aginor had made some fascinating discoveries based on this phenomenon and Graendal had filled notebooks with her psychological profiles. The more often they did it, it seemed, the more readily Tarsin remembered what had been done. Graendal believed they were just weeks away from ‘piercing the veil’ and making an enormous breakthrough in the study of death and rebirth – perhaps even cracking the code of the Dark One’s crummy form of immortality. Semirhage was already working on an automatic weave that would balefire anyone or anything that caused the weaver injury or death.
If these breakthroughs didn’t tear the Pattern a new arsehole, Angus believed, then the near-constant balefire required by the experiments certainly couldn’t hurt. And the rest of the Chosen and their minions just liked cutting bits off her and watching them reappear after what Angus called – and only Moridin understood – the Big Ctrl+Z of the Universe.
“You’re not still balefiring things, are you Angamael?” Moridin said when Angus marched into the study. Moridin was sitting at the Amyrlin’s desk with a lot of the writs and dispatches and suggestion notes that seemed to make him so happy, and Lanfear and her Warder were standing in front of him, both of them looking mightily pissed.
“Can’t think of any better way to tear the Pattern apart and let the bad guys win,” Angus declared, “and that’s what we all want, right?”
“Quite…” Moridin replied, “except that freeing the Dark One so He can destroy the Pattern, and destroying the Pattern before He can get free, may be two entirely different things and we ought to look into that possibility before we go doing any damage we can’t repair.”
“Oh, there’s looking-into-it going on,” Angus said. “Don’t you worry about that. What’s happening?”
“Well, perhaps the good news first,” Moridin picked up a neatly-bulleted list from his desk. Bulleted lists also made Moridin happy, which was not something Angus remembered from the books. “The Seanchan have moved into Amador and strengthened their hold on Ebou Dar, and we have a lot of good supporters among them. The battle with the forces of … let us call him the stand-in Dragon … went as disastrously as expected, perhaps even more so – our enemies were nicely routed and the Seanchan under Furyk Karede got away with minimal casualties. The so-called rebel Aes Sedai are in Murandy, and we have some good eyes and ears among them and are staying ahead of their Amyrlin’s attempts to turn them all back from the loving embrace of Darkfriendliness,” he smiled thinly and consulted his list. “Our work to drive the Sea Folk completely off the mainland and prevent them from ever venturing within eyeshot of land again is proceeding apace, and soon we may stop having to deal with those irritating topless yobs altogether. We have infiltrated their society and have begun work on converting their channelers, as per standard operating practice. And let me say, on a personal note, that a myrddraal dressed in traditional Sea Folk attire, with a bandanna pulled down to hide the fact that he has no eyes, is something I dearly wish I had never seen.”
“Even better news, Toveine and her strike forces took out the Black Tower a short time ago. There were hardly any experienced male channelers in the area, except for the Baijan’m’hael and the Tsorovan’m’hael who you were lucky enough to run into earlier,” he nodded at Lanfear, “and the trainees were overwhelmed easily. We have already moved in and begun full-scale conversions.”
“That’s awesome,” Angus said, treating Moridin, Lan and Lanfear to a whoosh of fire-cavern. Lan took a step back and put his hand on the empty pouch where his hip flask was normally tucked. “The monkeys can hardly have any supporters left, by this stage,” he spread his hands. “So what’s the bad news?”
“We have so far had little success in penetrating the, ahem, monkeys’ intimate circles,” Moridin lifted another, much smaller, bulleted list. “Our modest success with the woman Nancy Sidesaddle-”
“Can we not combine Shannon and the image of intimate circle penetration, please?”
“Yes, of course … Shannon,” Moridin made a little note on his paper. “Whatever her name is, she is a formidably powerful ter’angreal.”
“She’s a what?” Lanfear blurted.
“I think you mean ta’veren,” Angus said helpfully. “I’m always getting those mixed up too.”
“Yes indeed, ta’veren,” Moridin waved his pen dismissively. “This could come in very handy for us.”
“It could also make us all fall out of bed and drown ourselves in our chamber pots one night,” Lan pointed out.
“Indeed,” Moridin nodded sagely, and consulted his notes. “Among our other items of concern, Lanfear has just returned from her hideaway with the alarming news that our enemies have gotten hold of the Dragon As-Yet-Un-Reborn. As you know, Lanfear located him a little while ago and was keeping him safe until such time as he could resume fulfilling the Prophecies under our guidance. And, incidentally, keep him from killing us all and re-imprisoning the Great Lord of the Dark, which would have proven a significant setback in our plans.”
“Yeah,” Angus had found that whole issue confusing and disturbing, so had ignored it. “So, what, now the Dragon – who was a False Dragon – has the real Dragon? What does this do to our plans?”
“Nothing much,” Moridin said, “although naturally every effort must be made to recover the little fellow,” Lanfear, tight-lipped with fury, nodded and flexed her hands.
“Good idea,” Angus said. “We could send Saint Ungulant.”
“Yes, we … who,” Moridin interrupted himself politely, “in the name of the Great Lord’s testicles, is Saint Ungulant?”
“Well, he…” Angus struggled for a moment with his meta-intertextual quandry. “I don’t really know.”
“Is he any relation to this Saint Chucky you’re forever going on about?”
“Oh no, he’s much thinner than Chucky,” Angus replied. “I saved him from a lion once.”
“Have you been pinching your metaphorical taint-filtering tube again?”
“It brings me closer to the Great Lord.”
“Yes, well, be that as it may…” Moridin shuffled his papers, “I would appreciate it if you did not actively invite madness, mass-destruction and death into our summit conferences, Senior Co-Nae’blis.”
“We have the matter of the Dragon well in-hand,” Moridin went on, addressing Lanfear reassuringly. “We have been very busy, and very fruitful. I believe we can arrange something special for these home-invaders and kidnappers, and of course you will be informed and involved every step of the way. We will leave the details of their punishment up to you. In the meantime, Melindhra and her team can still use your guidance. The siege of Tar Valon is due to start at any time, and you have a very important role to play.”
Lanfear nodded, and Angus felt a chill as she channeled. Nynaeve’s face blurred back into focus around her own features, and in the same gesture she weaved a gateway in one corner. Giving the Nae’blises another respectful nod, the Chosen and her Warder marched through and let the gateway close behind them.
Moridin sighed and fingered the mindtrap that Angus was at least semi-sure was Lanfear’s. “So much exposition,” he said, “and so little time.”
“How about,” Angus said, “we put together some sort of horrible experimental Shadowspawn-Darkfriend strike force to take back the Foetus Reborn and drive his kidnappers insane with terror at the unthinkable things we do to our enemies and with the mind-twisting vileness of their very unnaturally-perverted appearance?”
“Yes, alright,” Moridin nodded. “Let’s see what Aginor has for us from the vat today.”