The Path of Blaggers, Part 5

Lanfear rolled through the gateway and let it close behind her, grunting under her breath as she landed across the Bowl of the Winds and had the wind momentarily knocked out of her.

Bajad drovja,” she muttered.

“Language,” Moridin climbed to his feet, brushed grass seeds off his pants and pocketed a small notepad he had been writing in. “One hundred and forty-seven Kin, plus Aes Sedai … were you followed?”

“I don’t think so,” Lanfear struggled upright and looked around. She had emerged not far from the embattled wagon train, but a couple of ridges over and hidden from the circling raken by a cluster of dried-out trees. “Uh, Nae’blis.”

“No need for all the formality, Angamael is still Nae’blis. I’m really more of an executive assistant,” Moridin smiled, and carefully lifted the cour’souvra on its chain around his neck. “I was a little worried that the other one was yours,” he went on, giving it a shake, “I’m glad it turned out this way.”

“Whatever you say,” Lanfear said, eyeing the mindtrap nervously. “Whose was the other one? And what happened to it?”

“Not important,” Moridin said crisply. “Shall we get on with this?”

Lanfear picked up the Bowl, unwrapped it gently, and set it back on the ground. “We’ll need more channelers if we’re going to get this to work.”

Moridin looked at her in amusement. “If we wanted to get it to work, we would have left it with your chubby Scottish friend in the Flash costume.”

“The what?” Lanfear blinked. “Do you mean we’re actually going to destroy this thing?”

“That was the plan, was it not?” Moridin asked. “I rather gather that this Bowl would make it rain, and I do so hate the rain. Hot weather is far more to my liking. Don’t you agree?”

“Well … I suppose so, but Angamael…”

“Angamael may be Nae’blis, but in this case I believe a conflict of interest has placed his priorities … at odds with those of the Great Lord,” Moridin smiled thinly. “It would be a shame if yours happened to do likewise.”

“That’s not very likely,” Lanfear remarked, looking pointedly at the cour’souvra. “Is it?”

“In my long career in publishing,” Moridin replied, “I have learned it is often an inefficient use of resources to assume the glimmer of intelligence in one’s co-workers. I fully expect this mindtrap doohickie to be removed from you as soon as possible – and from me. Long before your husband is of age, certainly.”

Lanfear took the hint. “So what do we do with it?”

“Oh, a little of the True Power will take care of this, I think,” Moridin said, and the saa rushed across his eyes, turning them momentarily black. “These ter’angreal are so feeble when you feed the wrong current into them.”

Lanfear just had time to leap away from the Bowl of the Winds before Moridin, his superior little smile somehow awful in that hollow-eyed face, reached forth his hand and brushed it with a feather-touch of the Great Lord’s own power. With a reverberating crack that she felt through saidar itself, the Bowl shivered and fell still.

“There we go,” Moridin said, his eyes once again bright blue. “I suppose we could even take it back and let them try to use it, if we wanted … they wouldn’t know it had been altered. It would probably just break, but it’s entirely possible that it would explode. Very messy,” he leaned down, picked up the Bowl, and looked at it. “Of course, it is also possible that they would be able to examine it, and then fix it somehow,” he mused. “That Elayne woman is making ter’angreal without even knowing how. And the narrative is actively defending itself.”

Lanfear waited. Moridin was obviously thinking aloud, and wouldn’t appreciate her input. More importantly, he was holding the Bowl against his chest, where it was pressing the mindtrap with almost suffocating force.

“Oh well,” Moridin finally said, “best not to risk it.”

He tossed the Bowl of the Winds lightly against a half-buried rock, where it shattered into a thousand pieces.

“Gosh,” he said with a chuckle, “I’m a real butterfingers today.”

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The Path of Blaggers, Part 4

It had been a simple matter to sneak out into Ebou Dar, deputise a group of raken cavalry and rope a couple of sul’damdamane pairs into service. Getting them to stop destroying things, however, was a real trick.

“Hey!” Janica shouted, as one of the two sul’dam waved her arm, and the damane attached to her wrist reduced a group of struggling Ebou Dari soldiers to a bubbling magma-hole. “Cut that oot!” They ignored her as if … well, as if she were a damane. “Debs, can you get them to stop?”

“Ah’ll tree, lass,” Debs said, and channeled through Janica, amplifying her voice as she roared something largely unintelligible even to Janica’s Scottish-accustomed ears. The sul’dam reined in their damane and the raken-riders pulled back into a holding pattern. “Did ye feend th’ Bool?” she went on, lowering her voice and talking into the wagon.

“Es thess et, leashie?” the soldier stuck his head out between the canvas flaps and held up a battered tin soup dish.

“No,” Janica replied.

“Ach.”

“What I don’t understand,” Janica went on, watching the survivors regrouping towards the end of the wagon train, “is why any of this happened. Even the brainwashed rebels we’re supposed to be leading agreed that the Bowl had to be used. The narrative demands it. To do otherwise will further destabilise the space-time continuum.”

“Aye,” Debs grunted, looking around. “Did ye feend Nynaeve?”

“She’s not here,” Janica replied, reflecting on the amazing things the Scottish accent was capable of doing with a word like ‘Nynaeve’. “I think she made a geetwee.”

“D’ye reckon Shadae Monkey was lyin’ tae us?” Debs theorised. “Maybe he did’nae want tae use the Bool.”

“I’m pretty sure Shadow Monkey wanted to use it,” Janica said, “or at least, he didn’t care if we used it. I mean, what does it achieve? The weather gets better. It doesn’t weaken the Dark One’s presence or anything, that’s getting stronger all the time. But deviating from the plot, that could make things get worse. The Dark One might want that, but I don’t think Shadow Monkey would.”

“Ye reckon Shadae Monkey’s’nae in charge anymoor?”

Janica thought about the ter’angreal they had found. “If Shadow Monkey does’nae have information about the rest of the series, it might be that continuing according to the plot isn’t really important to him anymore,” she sighed, giving up on what was obviously a futile exercise in second-guessing. “Of course, if our helpful friends here hadn’t shot first and asked questions later, this might all have sorted itself oot and we’d have the Bowl by now.”

“Tha’ damane … wass ‘er neem…”

“Miss Tiddles,” Janica said with another sigh.

“Aye, Mess Teddles,” Debs nodded. “She reckons tha’ et was the Aes Sedai channeled first.”

Janica frowned. “If they attacked Seanchan … and the Seanchan, the Salidar Aes Sedai and Nynaeve’s crowd are all supposed to be sworn to the Dark One … why are they not working together?”

“Et’s th’ Ferseeken,” Debs pointed out. “They never work taegether.”

“That’s true,” Janica allowed. “Or at least, it used to be.”

“Es thes et?”

“That’s your aen helmet.”

“Ach.”

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The Path of Blaggers, Part 3

There hadn’t been much time to search for survivors or get organised after the disaster retrieving the Bowl of the Winds, and Nynaeve insisted on getting as much distance as possible between themselves and possible pursuit. Neither Chucky nor Dr. Nick really had a problem with that, so they’d helped gather up as many injured-looking people from the general area as possible, and then headed for the hills.

Literally.

“Do you reckon the Rhannon Hills were named after some dude who called himself ‘He Who Is Rhannon’?” Chucky asked, in a slightly demented-sounding attempt to lighten the mood.

Dr. Nick clearly deemed this unworthy of a response, and went back to fussing over the comatose woman beside him.

They were part of a small wagon train – a very minor part, at the back, designated for wounded people and those who were, in Nynaeve’s own words, a burden but not worth killing quite yet. They’d been thrown in with a catatonic woman suffering from several injuries clearly related to the fight with the Green Man, and all its allied destruction of property. They’d argued about it a little, but had so far avoided calling for a channeler to Heal the woman, for two important reasons.

Firstly, Healing was a closely-guarded commodity at the moment, as they fled Ebou Dar like the Devil Himself were on their heels. Nobody in the back of the wagon train was remotely worthy of such attention. If they were, they’d be in the front of the wagon train. Secondly, and most importantly, the woman – once they had cleaned off some of the dust and blood and corrected for various facial injuries – turned out to be Nynaeve.

Or, at least as far as their low-voiced argument had managed to establish, she looked exactly the same as the haughty young woman leading their caravan. Either Nynaeve had a long-lost twin that they’d never read about in the books, or at least one of them was an impostor.

“Is she coming around?” Chucky asked.

“No.”

“What is it, a coma? Brain damage? Internal injuries?” Chucky plumbed the depths of his memory. “Lupus?”

“Look,” Dr. Nick snapped. “You do realise that the ‘doctor’ in my name is just a joke? Like the ‘saint’ in yours?”

“Hey,” Chucky squinted. “What are you trying to say? You got your doctorate from the Church of Modern Misconceptions?”

I don’t know what’s wrong with her! If I had to guess, I’d say she got whanged on the head by a falling brick when those Seanchan started blowing shit up, and she’s in … I don’t know, shock or something.”

“I have the feeling she might end up suffering from more than shock if Nynaeve comes back here and sees her,” Chucky suggested.

“But is she Nynaeve?” Dr. Nick brooded. “If one of them’s an enemy in disguise, the other one is probably a Forsaken.”

“Kill ’em both,” Chucky said cheerfully, “and let the Creator sort ’em out.”

“Yeah,” Dr. Nick said, “except how are we supposed to do that, again?”

“You’re wearing enough One Power-deflecting ter’angreal to make your ears turn blue when somebody tries to channel near you,” Chucky pointed out. “Plus, you’re an Aiel ninja master. You could walk up to her and wedgie her to death,” he paused, then added judiciously, “except Lan could probably take you.”

“I’ll have you know that I kicked the ass of-”

“Wait,” Chucky interrupted, “I have a better idea. If one of them is a Forsaken in disguise, your ter’angreal would ruin their disguise, right?” he pointed. “And you’ve been copping a feel of this chick for the past couple of hours.”

“I have not been copping a-”

“And her face hasn’t changed to somebody else’s,” Chucky concluded, “which means she really is Nynaeve.”

“But the other Nynaeve’s face hasn’t changed either,” Dr. Nick replied.

“Doesn’t matter. She’s hardly let you get close enough to affect her.”

“What if they’ve thought of some other way of disguising people as other people?”

“Then you’ll walk up to her, give her a wedgie, and die as my all-time greatest fucking hero.”

There was a disturbance towards the head of the column, and the entire caravan slowed to a halt. Chucky shuffled to the front of the wagon and peered out across the horse’s back.

“Have the Seanchan caught up with us?” Dr. Nick asked. Chucky looked back, and nodded.

“They don’t seem to be blowing each other up yet, though,” he said, “they’re just talking.”

“Talking? I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Me neither. Wait,” Chucky replied, then gave a sigh as a loud splattering sound and a shriek rang back along the wagon train, spooking the horses. “It’s okay,” he went on, “they’re blowing each other up.”

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The Path of Blaggers, Part 2

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.”

“Really?”

“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?”

“My mother.”

“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.”

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Festival of the Horn, 2028

A couple of years ago, as I was attempting to organise and invite people to my 40th birthday bash, I jokingly created a Facebook event for my 50th birthday party in the hopes that some of my more hopeless and cancellation-happy friends might just be able to plan around something happening more than a decade in advance. With due appreciation of the fact that nobody can really plan that far ahead.

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It started as a joke, and rapidly expanded into a test to see who could read a God damn invitation properly before responding.

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I even put a pinned notice.

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I mean, obviously Contro failed to get it.
And then there was this guy…

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…who did it two years in a row, which I don’t believe can be a coincidence.

It took a turn for the amusing when my friends (who are indeed mighty) took the opportunity to make movie references.

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I mean, oof.

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And couldn’t be complete without a flux capacitor joke.

And then it became a very weird dystopian sci-fi story told in a medium uniquely suited to construction of a future history. And, I think, has never been done before although I would be very surprised.

And let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’d created using social media.

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Now it is the year 2020 and this doesn’t seem anywhere near as far in the future as it seemed in 2018.

See you there!

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The Path of Blaggers, Part 1

The Wheel of time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in a featureless little room without doors or windows. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning. It was not, however, entirely logical.

Moridin found the vacuole strangely comforting. There was a sort of office-cubicle-meets-womb claustrophobia to it, with all the same associations of security and sudden, destructive ejection. In all cases, ejection might be the nicest alternative. In fact, Moridin had to admit, it was an eminently satisfactory comparison all round.

The game board set out in front of him was, apparently, called sha’rah. He was forever getting it mixed up with Shara, which was a country somewhere in the far east of Chaggabaggawoggaland. He wasn’t cut out for this sort of roleplaying, which was why he had palm-cards.

“Mindtraps,” he muttered to himself, and looked down. The little boxes were hanging around his neck. “Check. Random musings about the past, and the Fisher piece … well, let’s just say check,” he looked down at the board and assumed the most important-looking figurine was the Fisher. Then he glanced at his palmcards again. “Flashback leading to random destructive outburst, nearly crushing Fisher piece and mindtraps … check.”

He scowled and gritted his teeth, glad there was nobody around to see him making such a fool of himself. The Fisher piece, and all the other pieces on the board, trembled and rattled around in their places. He tightened his grip on the mindtraps that were hanging around his neck like a pair of fuzzy dice. When the True Power roared through him in an unaccustomed burst, one of the mindtraps went pop and shattered into a million tiny pieces that vanished before they hit the floor.

“Oops,” Moridin murmured.

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A Crown of Frauds, Part 19

Lord Gregorin den Lushenos lost the game of rock-paper-broadsword that took place among the Council of Nine, and was nominated to venture through the mysterious dark portal that had appeared in the Square of Tammaz.

He had been, naturally, terrified of what he might encounter, his mind running wild and fed by all the stories the Council had been hearing in recent months, and all the terrible things that had been happening in Illian itself. Therefore, when he stepped through the gateway – banging his shins on half a coffee table and tripping over some sort of invisible blockage in the process – and was immediately set upon by a group of angry male channelers, this was only about halfway up his nightmare-list.

“Who are you?” one of the men pushed past the others and hauled den Lushenos to his feet with a great invisible fist of iron. Den Lushenos could feel the Dark One’s evil crawling over his skin at the very touch of saidin.

“It’s Lord Gregorin,” another voice said, and a smaller man pushed his way to the front. Den Lushenos was relieved to see the at least slightly-familiar face of Davram Bashere. He’d met the over-intelligent little fellow a few months back, when he was travelling around calling in favours to help in the search for his daughter. So far, nothing had shown up. “Put him down, Taim.”

Gregorin gulped, and when the iron fist loosened its grip he almost collapsed to his knees. “You’re … my Lord, are you Puddin Taim, the Dragon Reborn?”

“Not quite,” the terrifying man in the black coat said. “I’m his brother.”

“We, er, that is, the Council of Nine do think we should offer the throne of Illian to the Dragon Reborn,” Gregorin said. “Mattin Stepaneos disappeared, we do not know what happened, there have been a lot of strange happenings in Illian recently, people blame the Forsaken, but it seemed … uh … well, we panicked. I do have the crown with me.”

“Let’s see it,” Mazrim Taim said.

“Actually, it, er, it seems to have … when you picked me up just now, the crown actually, uh, did embed itself in my thigh,” Gregorin tugged aside his cloak to reveal the soft velvet pouch in which he’d been carrying the crown. It was damp with blood where the little swords had been pressed through the velvet and through his trousers, into his leg. He had already been in shock at the time, of course, so he didn’t really feel any pain. He pulled the bag loose with a plop, and produced the crown with shaking hands. “There you do go.”

“Thanks,” Taim said, peering at the crown and then handing it to Bashere. “We’ll give it to the Dragon as soon as he gets back.”

“Gets back?” Lord Gregorin asked. “Where is he?”

“Funny thing,” Bashere replied. “We were sort of hoping you could tell us.”

 


 

There once was a man name of Puddin

In Aridhol he lost his footin’,

He got left behind there,

and then lost his mind there,

And wound up a lover most wooden.

– From How Many Dragons Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb? – Lord Mangore “Bloody” Kiramin, Sword-bard of Aramaelle and Warder to Caraighan Maconar, translated into what was then called the vulgar tongue (circa 300 AB).

 

The End

of the Seventh Book of

The Steal of Time

 

 

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