Although it felt as though it would never be enough, Vamps finally had to accept that he could not take any more Healing. His arms still hurt where the Aiel had tattooed Union Jacks on them, and his palms still hurt from the herons branded there, and he was sure his missing half-finger from the gateway attack still hurt in spite of the fact that it didn’t actually exist, but at least the crossbow wound and his other injuries had been Healed by the Soldiers and Dedicated who had shipped in from the Black Tower that morning. Even better, the wound in his side had stopped hurting and actually seemed to be healing over, and the constant queasiness from the taint had faded into a sort of background tummyache that his rugged survivalness compensated for quite nicely. Charl Gedwyn, one of the few full asha’man to have arrived, wasn’t very good at Healing but had been assigned as his nursemaid anyway. The Tsorovan’m’hael, whatever that meant, said there was something very disturbing about the way Puddin’s taint-ailments were fading away, as if something inside the Dragon Reborn was eating itself, but Vamps didn’t really care.
“It wouldn’t be the first time I got eaten,” he told Gedwyn confidentally, making sure the Dedicated at the hastily-enlarged doorway of his cottage also heard. “I mean, penally.”
Perrin was in discussions with Bashere, Luc, Logain and the Aiel, attempting to figure out how to recover from the royal whupping they’d given themselves in the Venir Mountains, and also what they should do about the so-called Prophet of the Dragon that was running around committing atrocities in Vamps’s name. Some rumours had it that this was none other than Masema, a Borderlander they had all believed long dead – except for Logain, who seemed to recall seeing Masema and all his cronies being rounded up and either slaughtered or carried away by one or another of the Forsaken. All in all, it seemed like an ugly situation. Berelain and Elyas were out running with the wolves to clear their heads, so it was pretty quiet in Emond’s Field.
“Yes, you told me already,” Gedwyn said, his voice sharp with what Vamps could only assume was admiration or jealousy. The black-clad male channeler glanced across at Smith, who was squatting massively in the corner with Callandor and the Choedan Kal ter’angreal in his hands, then exchanged looks and nods with his comrades at the door. Gedwyn stood up. “Come on, Puddin,” he said, “it’s time to go.”
“Go?” Vamps propped himself up on one elbow. The bed in which he had been convalescing for the past couple of days could have been softer and fluffier, but of course he knew he could never have admitted such a thing. “Where are we going?”
“Well,” Gedwyn said, as a small group of Soldiers came into the room, carrying what looked like a bunch of picture frames or mirrors, “you remember your brother Mazrim?”
“Yes…?” Vamps hazarded. “You said he had a plan to cleanse saidin. Are we going to go and do that?” he jutted his chin. “It’s a dangerous job, but-”
“Not exactly,” Gedwyn smiled worryingly, and some more black-clad Dedicated filed inside, along with Rochaid, Baijan’m’hael of the Black Tower. It was starting to feel decidedly crowded in the cosy little cottage. Smith shuffled to his feet, his tiny head burying itself momentarily in the thatch of the ceiling, and passed the little statuette to Rochaid and Callandor to Gedwyn. “We were going to stop him, of course, but now it seems your dumb brother has done something exceptionally stupid – even more stupid than trying to cleanse saidin – and we’ll need you to bring him to us.”
“Don’t worry about saidin, though,” Rochaid put in. “It’s not going to be a problem for you from now on.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s much of a problem for him right now,” Gedwin noted. “I think even his crazy has started to heal.”
“We’ll figure out what that’s all about soon enough,” Rochaid said, and gave Smith a nod. The enormous forger stepped forward, and suddenly a crowd of halfmen were jostling out of his considerable shadow. The lead myrddraal was far taller than the rest and was wearing a bright blue sleeveless vest, about which the nicest thing one could say was that it did not suit his complexion.
“Hi,” Shaidar Haran said.