|Long Live Insanity #14: Where The Shadow Flees, or,
The Boat People
The city - dark and deserted save for the small party standing in the middle of the main street. Ruined buildings loom all around them. The sun has set.
A thin tendril of mist drifts from one of the buildings.
A slim woman standing slightly apart from the others holds out her hand, palm up. “Come on, then,” she calls softly. A faint smile crosses her face. “Come to Shani.”
The tendril pauses, detecting something strange in its surroundings.
“Come on now.” Shani beckons to it. “We’re here. We’re helpless. We’re food for the taking...”
Somebody snickers. Somebody else hushes him. The tendril drifts gradually closer to her upraised hand.
“Good,” the Aes Sedai croons. “Good little Mashadar. Come and feed...”
The tendril of mist touches her hand. A sudden, unhuman shriek of pain echoes from all around them. The mist pulls back from her and flees. Scattered applause comes from the rest of the party.
“We’re just too mad for it,” Shadar says smugly.
“Stupid mist,” Snarg says equally smugly.
“I wonder if a similar principle might apply to Machin Shin,” Someone muses. The Ogier’s voice, as always, resembles nothing more than the buzzing of an immense bumblebee. “It would be very useful if there was a safe way through the Ways. Um. I wonder if...” He starts scribbling in the inevitable notebook.
“It very likely does.” Shani smiles brightly at them all. “We’ll remember to try that. Right now, though, we have something else to do.”
“What?” Sycho frowns. “I don’t remember you saying anything about this earlier.”
“That,” Shani explains patiently, “is because I didn’t. Run!”
“What?” It isn’t just Sycho this time.
“I said, run! Hurry!” Shani darts off down the street, followed by Shadar and, after a confused moment, everyone else.
“Why are we running?” Sycho pants out.
“Because I told you to.”
“Yes, but why -”
“No time for that! Hurry up!”
Five minutes later they stop by the river, breathless and gasping for air. Well, except for Shaiel, since everyone knows how fast Maidens can run. And not Someone, because all Ogier have plenty of stamina, or Snarg, for much the same reason. And not Shadar or Shani, of course, because they’re insane and don’t see the need to follow the normal rules anyway, which leaves...
“Why,” Sycho demands, breathless and gasping for air, “did we have to run?”
“I saw no danger,” Shaiel asserts.
“Hmm?” Shani glances back at them. “Oh, no, no danger. Nothing like that. I just didn’t want to miss our boat.”
“That one right there - ” She points. A boat is, indeed, sailing rapidly toward them, with a man standing on deck shouting. “- and that -”
“Fortune prick me if that do be not a Trolloc! I do not be giving passage to people who do be being chased by Trollocs! Everyone do be knowing that bad things do be coming of it!”
“- must be our captain.”
Someone blinks. “For some strange reason...” He produces a book and starts flipping through it. “I have this odd feeling of déja vu...”
“Shh, don’t tell anyone. Your turn, Shadar.”
“It’s all right, Captain,” Shadar calls to the shouting Illianer, “we’re not being chased by Trollocs. This one’s with us. Actually, we’re being chased by Tairens.”
“But you said -” Sycho begins, before catching a look from Shani. “Sorry.”
“You know what Tairens are like.” Shadar sighs theatrically. “They see a group like ours and they’re suspicious right away. They refuse to believe we’re just minding our own business and not causing anyone any trouble.”
“Why, those Tairen pigs!” The captain’s beard bristles. “Always prying into other people’s business! Never letting a Light-fearing Trolloc live his life in peace! Come right aboard, friends! No Tairen contaminates my decks!”
The boat stops, and a plank is laid from deck to bank for them. With a grin, Shadar offers his arm to Shani and the pair of them cross to the deck. The other four look at each other, shrug, and follow them.
“Captain Dayle Bomon at your service,” the Illianer announces, bowing. “I do be glad to meet you all. How does it be that you do all be together, then?”
“Well -” Shadar begins, and as the boat carries them downriver, launches into a long, involved, fantastic tale of adventures strange and exotic and utterly implausible...
...and completely true. Who needs gleemen?