Trouble with Trollocs

It was another one of those days in the Blight. The sun shown red upon the Blasted Lands, highlighting the dismal clouds crowding around the slopes of Shayol Ghul. Again, the jumara frolicked across the waste, playfully chasing down and eating whatever they came across. The forgers were at work, hammering away. And crowding a stone’s throw away from the entrance to the Pit of Doom, virulently painted signs clasped in hairy fists, stood a stand of protesting trollocs.

For the na´ve, it should be known that a pleasant day in the Blight is not a good thing. Enjoyable by the jumara and other similar breeds of Shadowspawn, they nonetheless seem designed to cause the protagonist as much psychological pain as possible without slapping a Restricted rating onto the storyline.

Had Shaidar Haran known that it was a pleasant day in the Blight, he would have run as quickly away from the Pit of Doom as was possible. To the Land of Madmen, perhaps, or Mount Olympus or Ringworld or Flatland or the Country of the Houyhnhnms or Xanth or the monastery of Melk or maybe he’d just go and get chased around a bit by Cerberus or… to be short, to Shaidar Haran anything was preferable to a pleasant day in the Blight. For you see, Shaidar Haran is the protagonist. Everybody else takes turns being the antagonist.

However, Shaidar Haran did not at the moment know that it was a temperately pleasant day in the Blight. Indeed, at the moment Shaidar Haran was not aware of anything. For you see, Shaidar Haran had been out all night having a keg party with some of his old drinking buddies, namely Karldin, Dain Bornhald, Loial, Mat Cauthon and Birgette, who sniffed at him less then the other women did, not to say that hers was a small amount. Ishamael had joined in, providing a sho-wing, and …need it be said?… they had spent many enjoyable hours buzzing over the Plains of Maradon and dropping silvers from the top of the White Tower until Semirhage and Graendal had come to pick them up so they did not disgrace themselves further.

From there they had ended up in a small bar in the outskirts of the Mountains of Dhoom, drinking pitchers of Satare and Comolad until Shaidar Haran had decided that he needed to get back home and had offered Semirhage a ride back. Upon waking, he would have nothing more of a vague memory of the entire night, but let it be said that there had been a very wry comment about riding shadows.

But enough digression. From a corner of the shadows within a cavern, one can see a doorknob being turned, a door pushing open. A Draghkar entering. This Draghkar was a wise Draghkar; for rather than attempting to walk into the room, it fluttered inside, noting that even the smallest foot couldn’t find space to stand.

Shaidar Haran’s room looked like the Wheel Serpent was getting a bit senile. An eighteenth century French chest-of-drawers that had one of those unpronounceable names crouched dismally in one corner next to a 1970’s orange plastic chair who appeared to be begging for mercy at the foot of an armless sculpture of Athena who had a plus-sized black cloak wrapped around her shoulders. The Goddess of War was clearly begging to share Prometheus’s fate as long as it meant she wouldn’t have to stare at the Les Miserables advertisement on the far wall with the katana hanging next to it and that horribly tacky Medieval Western European mural that contrasted so horribly with that tasteful Neolithic obelisk! However, her plea went unheard because if she could look around the rest of the room she would have realized it was even worse, with a gorgeous red Ottoman-era rug suffocating under mounds of cheese-whiz cans and beer-bottles and forgotten computer games and magazines that probably shouldn’t be studied too closely, since their center-folds certainly did not contain geographical maps or cultural diagrams, unless the cultural diagrams were covering the history of play-draghkar magazine throughout the world of the wheel. The far wall had shards of Minoan pottery taped between They Might Be Giants CDs and Mayan glyphs, while part of the floor had gold bricks reputedly from Timbuktu stuck into the floor, although they were mostly hidden from eyesight by a series of spears from various continents that had silkscreen tapestries set up between them. Purple sparklers and a Styrofoam model of a Klingon Bird of Prey hung from the ceiling amidst Arabic scrolls that, when translated, read something along the lines of peace, love and kindness, cosmic irony.

There was a bed in the middle of the room, a king-sized four-poster with gilt running down the oaken posts. A chenille cover was supposed to fall gracefully down three sides and the top of the bed, but it had been pulled to so it only covered maybe one and a third sides and possibly three quarters of the top, and maybe a fifth of the floor. In the middle of that bed, talking in his sleep, was the infamous Shaidar Haran.

The Draghkar fluttered awkwardly in midair, not wanting to do the most obvious method of waking, which would be to bounce up and down rather violently on the chest of the Hand of the Shadow while wearing spiked shoes. Instead, wishing to be courteous, he leapt a bit higher into the air and shrilled at the top of his lungs. This created quite a bit of commotion outside, causing trollocs to cover their ears, jumara to galumph happily towards Shayol Ghul as if the Draghkar had just set off a jumara-whistle (which in fact he had), and to make the Dark One wince and send bubbles of lava spewing out of the Pit of Doom.

Shaidar Haran just groaned and rolled over.

The Draghkar sat back, looking rather distressed. If that hadn’t worked… Wincing slightly, it realized that the Hand of the Shadow must be really under. He discarded all ideas of sonar, hypnotic binary codes and electrical shocks, deciding instead to use the one thing he knew would work. Fluttered upward until his head bashed into the Bird of Prey and sent him veering into an upside-down threnological head with a gilt-encrusted turban haphazardly balanced upon it. The head fell, knocking into a Chinese statue of a soldier that tipped to upset a tall silver-wire stand that had held a black-and-red psanka egg which dove six feet to land miraculously unharmed into the wired skeletal hands of a tiny winged imp. Whose wing was upset just enough to set off a series of dominos that circled around the room.

The Draghkar flinched. Then opened both eyes, found a subtly safer place to flap, and mouthed the words “fish paste glue” in a tone so quiet even he hadn’t heard it.

Shaidar Haran woke immediately, fell out of bed to knock over an ancient clay amphora from Mohenjo-Daro, and leapt frantically to his feet, pulling shirt and armor out of the chaotic mess of floor and pulling into them while shouting various things in the Trolloc Tongue that cannot be presented before any audience regardless of the rating. As it was, he had to coax the Draghkar out of a quivering heap on the floor, where it had fallen after being subjected to the first legion of curses.

After force-feeding it enough raw brandy to rouse even the most comatose gholam, Shaidar Haran paced anxiously around the room, impatiently waiting for the Draghkar (temporarily rendered mute by shock and drink) to write out something on a piece of paper. As he stood over the remains of the vase –and fingered the welt on his head- he noticed a black wire-and-lace contraption that was hanging from one bedpost, and reached for it just as the Draghkar handed him the piece of paper. Shaidar Haran dropped the contraption and squinted at the page, which was, for those who are interested in such, torn from the cover page of the first written copy of Beowulf, which had the author’s nom de plume* written on it, now illegible due to coffee stains and blockish Draghkar handwriting.

Now, for those who are not interested in such, there will be a description on how myrddraal squint. This is a difficult task, since squinting is most commonly done with the eyes, but it is possible if the myrddraal wrinkles their forehead while drawing their cheek-muscles up at the same time. It is not, however, the most intelligent of expressions known to myrddraal. “The trollops are revolting? Why is anyone looking at them then?” He asked, and wondered for one absurd moment what that had to do with fish paste before all the combined liquor of the night before crashed down upon him.

The Draghkar, about to leave the room, paused for a moment, studying the lengthy shape stretched over a few dozen cans of cheese whiz, then tried in vain to remember Nynaeve al’Meara’s cure for hangovers. He ended up forcing a six-pack of something labeled ‘Dha’vol’s Dead-Dog Beer’ and some chicken vindaloo down the throat of a barely conscious and groaning Shaidar Haran, then fluttered off southward, feeling that he hadn’t solved that problem in quite the same manner as that particularly feared Yellow Sister.

It was a little while later that Shaidar Haran stumbled down the hill in search of Trollocs, a black lacy object clutched in one hand, only to find that there were some very happy jumara batting around some rather suspicious-looking skulls. Rubbing where his eyes ought to be, he meandered into the chamber where the Pit of Doom was, wondering if something had been slipped into his drink and exactly what the black thing he held in his hand was. Prostrating himself rather by accident on the ground before the Pit of Doom, he ducked his head and opened his mouth to mutter a few greetings. He never had a chance to speak, for “WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING, SENDING THOSE JUMARA AFTER THOSE TROLLOCS! THE REST OF THE TROLLOC UNION IS UP AT ARMS NOW!!!!!!!”

Shaidar Haran could have blinked. He most assuredly would have, had he had eyes. However, he only succeeded in another rather foolish-looking squint. “What jumara? Trollocs? Where are all the trollops?” he asked rather vaguely. Had something been going on? Fumbling about in his pocket, he couldn’t find any spare change. A vague memory tickled his mind, of watching shiny things fall from a height and thinking how pretty they were.

“YOU INCOMPETENT FOOL!” The Dark One’s bellow was loud enough to bounce rocks even without the use of His Power. To Shaidar Haran, who was, after all, still recovering from the busy night before, the sound was catastrophic. If he hadn’t been on his knees before, he certainly would have been now.

Several more words were said by the Creator’s Shadowy counterpart, ones that would have made any village Wisdom reach for something foul-tasting. Shaidar Haran’s headache was so evil, however, that rather then the curses causing extreme pain and convulsions, it merely sobered him –slightly- and gave the world a bit more clarity. It should be said of Shaidar Haran that this is much comparable to giving a computer-illiterate glasses with which to better see the programming of the Matrix. It still doesn’t make any sense. However, one thing became clear: the Dark One was infuriated. With him. More then infuriated, he realized when a cour’souvra appeared out of nowhere and hit him in the forehead. Realized even more clearly when a series of flaming boy band (eek!) records, caltrops, chocolate-covered ants, cherubic sculptures and crashed modems began to radiate outwards from the Pit of Doom. NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shaidar Haran tried to bury himself into the stone at his feet, flinching every time a plump little cherub made contact and then bounced off into Darkness.

“Oh, stop it.” A voice spoke up, sensually. Astonished, Shaidar Haran spun around, saw a woman approaching. Hair the color of midnight swirled around a tall body that was all soft golden angles highlighted by serpentine armor, a myrddraal’s if myrddraal wore copper and had green eyes…

Somewhere to the left, there was a clicking sound and the projection fizzled, cut short. There was a loud string of profanities, nearly as vivid as the Dark One’s, then another female darted out from behind a column of rough-hewn stone. This one was short –very short- and dressed in dark baggy clothing, with hair that was either brown or blond or red or maybe even greenish, skin that could put a myrddraal to shame for pallor if it didn’t have all the veins and freckles showing, colourless eyes that squinted even through glasses. “What did you think you were doing?” She demanded, turning towards the Pit of Doom and ignoring Shaidar Haran entirely.

The Dark One actually sounded sulky. “I WAS GIVING HIM WHAT HE DESERVED FOR HIS TRESPASSES.”

The girl rolled her eyes. It was a very extravagant eye roll, because it consisted of widening them and lifting her hairline as well. “Well, you can’t do that.”

“WHY NOT? HE DESERVES IT.”

“Because I am writing this story, not you, and I think that he should get away with it.”

“WELL, I THINK HE SHOULDN’T.”

An eyebrow raised. “Are you planning a mutiny, o Dark One? I don’t think I’ll allow that.”

“I THINK THAT IF YOU HAD ANY CONTROL WHATSOEVER ON THE OUTCOME OF THIS STORY, YOU WOULD HAVE JUST NOT ALLOWED THIS DIALOGUE ENTIRELY AND HAD SOMETHING SENSIBLE OCCUR INSTEAD.”

Another eyebrow raised, but was accompanied by silence.

“YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? NOW, O AUTHOR” Shaidar winced at the sound of sarcasm in his Master’s voice. “WILL YOU EXPLAIN WHY THE SEALS BROKE AT THE END OF YOUR LAST STORY, BUT I AM NOT YET FREE?”

Another eyebrow raised, and eyes blinked. “I thought that was quite obvious. I put that in for an ironic twist.” She sniffed. “You can’t actually think I would let you loose to wreck havoc, do you? That would completely obliterate any hope of decent plots.” A pause, then a very small voice admitted. “It got in the way of what I was writing. Otherwise, I most assuredly would have let you free, Great Lo- er, O Dark One.”

“YOU CALL THIS A DECENT PLOT?” The Dark One demanded, amazement in its booming voice.

“YeS!” The girl shouted, and Shaidar Haran did blink as her voice squeaked up into capitals. “WeLL… nO, NOt ReALLy. BuT, tHis IS mY sToRy, aND thErEFOre YoU HavE tO Do aS I SaY.”

The Dark One sounded skeptical. “BUT YOU DIDN’T CREATE US TO BEGIN WITH, WHY SHOULD WE HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU?”

A forth eyebrow raised, and Shaidar Haran stared with interest at the attempted author before him. How did anyone raise that many eyebrows?

“I aM SiCK of ThIs!” The girl shouted. “We ARe nOW GeTTIng bACK To tHE StORYliNe! NoNE oF ThiS hAS hAPPeNed, ReMEMbER ThAT!” Whirling around, she GLARED at Shaidar Haran. And sniffed. “BlOOd aNd BloODy AshES! aM I AcTUaLLY mAKiNg YoU CaRRy ThaT ThING ArOUNd?” She pointed, and a bunch of cherubs danced up to seize the black contraption and drag it off into the Pit of Doom. Everything littering the floor vanished, as well, carried off by the cherubs. The girl went pale. “ThAT… tHAt wAS SUpPoSED tO Be fIREbALlS. FiReBaLLs tHAt CoNSUMED eVERyThING, nOt AnIMATeD CheRuBS CarRYiNG iT AlL OFf!” She shuddered visibly, and stared at her finger as if in unimaginable pain.

Shaidar Haran decided that if he had to suffer through this entire thing, he might as well try to earn a few points with the author, such as she was. “I think we could just say they were fireballs,” He said amiably. The girl turned and smiled at him, revealing metal bars stretched over her teeth.

“We could, couldn’t we! Thank you!” She ran over and hugged Shaidar Haran, then stepped back, looking embarrassed. “ThAT iS To sAY tHAt iT sHAll bE So. NoW, tHE PlOt MUSt Go oN.”

Shaidar Haran woke up. That is to say, he clawed himself out from under a large, velvet curtain with the words SCENE CHANGE embroidered in extremely flowery Gothic script across the border, and found himself sitting in a nicely sized steel chair. The steel chair was situated in a small forest of Trolloc dignitaries, who sat in equally nice sized chairs of various ores. None of them seemed to see the red velvet curtain, so Shaidar Haran pretended that he could act as if it wasn’t there, as well.

“You have worms, killed Clan. Clans angry.” The Trolloc nearest him was saying, in the Common Tongue, a gesture educated Trollocs use when trying to be polite to those who are irritating them. Speak their language, and hope they understand you better. Unfortunately, the Trolloc Tongue loses many intricate nuances in translation. The actuality of what he had said in the Trolloc Tongue was something approaching this:

“Collected evidence brings us to presume that through some uncalled-for course of action you summoned a host of Jumara and sent them, using irreprehensible surprise methods, to annihilate a small party of peacefully protesting blue-collar Trollocs. These Trollocs composed most of the working force of the Clan Ghou’lash, and the remainders of this unfortunate, tiny Clan have been forced to request aide from the Clans Hash’ish and Suc’cotash. These Clans have joined in the labor strike and are now requesting serious investigation by an uninvolved party to determine whether the Trolloc Code of Labor Rights is being violated by the Dark One and various white-collar Shadowspawn.”

Shaidar Haran stared at the Trolloc. White-collar Shadowspawn?

“Big boss, little bosses.” Which translates as….

“Those in the management business, such as Myrddraal. And the Dark One itself, and the assortment of Chosen and Dreadlords.”

Shaidar Haran was flabbergasted. The Trolloc had read his mind… no, wait, he’d spoken aloud. “Oh.” He said, trying to save face. “Umm…to avoid confusion, could we just call them all black-collar Shadowspawn?”

“Me not know.”

Shaidar Haran nodded, hearing that only as “The point you wish to achieve by referring to those of the upper-management levels as such is unknown, but currently we shall not digress from the main purpose of today’s conference and shall instead concentrate on solving the matter at hand.”

“Um…” How exactly did a single person up against a small army of irritable Trolloc dignitaries explain that they did not do whatever they were being accused of? To be frank, he wasn’t that fond of Jumara… he remembered too well being chased around the Blasted Lands by one as a small child. “What is the matter at hand?”

The Trolloc in front of him raised a goatish eyebrow and spoke. “It seems obvious to us all that it is the unfair treatment of our fellow Trollocs and your parent race.”***

This translates back into Trolloc Tongue as “You idiot.”

Shaidar Haran blushed, decided to ignore the insult. One tends to do that when one is surrounded by twenty dignitaries with a small army waiting just around the hill a bit. He realized rather hazily that he had never been around the hill before, or even seen the hill, and that there was no reason for him to suspect that there was an army behind the hill, but for some reason the concept just made sense. “What Clans do you have in that army behind the hill?” He asked, too casually. A pig-headed Trolloc off to one side blinked.

“Gaz’pacho, Suc’cotash, Hag’gis, Hash’ish, greasy blood-hungry Gou’lash. Where know?”

This translated as “Gathered behind the hill are the honorable Gaz’pacho, the suffering Suc’cotah, the dignified Hag’gis, the elder Hash’ish and the poor, starving remnants of the Gou’lash. From what source of information did you learn this?”

Shaidar Haran coughed. His head was hurting again. “I…ah…guessed.”

A heavy-set Trolloc matron, her horrifically plus-sized bosom (all three sets) restrained by strips of human leather and iron links that could hold back a team of horses, appeared from the back of the gathering of dignitaries. Her crest lifted into a tight curl and her eyes glistened dangerously as she loomed over the seated Hand of the Shadow, her beak tightening as she studied him as an innkeeper would the mess her patrons made of her best room. Her sausage-like fingers tightened on her tall, skull-tipped wooden staff as she threateningly fingered the loops of herbs strung around the linen belt she wore. A Trolloc Wisdom. Shaidar Haran slumped down in his chair as far as he could go and tried to refrain from slipping into the safety of the shadows under the chair. He watched in stunned horror as the monstrous beak clacked open and shut, twice. What would she accuse him of; sending her children off to war or getting her man out of his job? Or putting her into her own job? Or…. The beak shut again, with a gesture of finality, followed by a sharp sniff. Shaidar Haran shuddered as if someone had just poked him in the back with a cattle prod. Then…big surprise… he realized that he had been poked in the back with a cattle prod. Or at least the WoT equivalent of a cattle prod.

Leane was sitting seductively in a chair that had appeared out of air, a veritable throne of golden cherubs cavorting around sapphire dolphins. There was a tapered glowing rod grasped in one of her coppery hands, and the smile on her face made him try to flinch in two opposing directions simultaneously. There was a tiny flash of pink light, and then Shaidar Haran found himself sitting on one end of a silver-and-sapphire cherubs-and-dolphins loveseat, with Leane attempting to slip herself into his armor while he was still wearing it. “Stop that!” He protested, throwing himself out of the chair and back into his own, which he had thought vanished until a moment ago. The former Keeper smiled enticingly at him.

“But you seemed to enjoy it last night,” She protested, flowing towards where Shaidar Haran had run.

“What do you mean, last night? I got drunk with Mat and Dain and…” She kept following him around the chair. Couldn’t she just stay a few hundred miles away?

“Who else joined you last night?” Leane practically cooed, climbing over the chair, whose twisted iron arms were taking on the appearance of cherubs and dolphins.

“Semirhage and Graendal. What-” He was going to demand what in the Light Leane was doing to his chair, but she intercepted him again. Not in words, but by suddenly changing her form from tall, copper-skinned Domani to an equally dark-haired but pale-skinned woman clothed in a severe dress of ebony.

Shaidar Haran’s nonexistent eyes widened. “Semirhage!” He gasped, trying to distance himself a little further.

There was a disappointed sigh from the figure. “Not Semirhage,” The woman said clearly, sounding a bit irritated. “Me, borrowing Semirhage’s…appearance. She said it was okay,” She added earnestly, slipping back to copper skin and plunging neckline. “As long as I made you regret it horribly. I think I have,” She added, making a gesture. “Or will.” A black lacy object appeared in her hands. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen something like this? I…misplaced it… in your room last night. Since we were so busy,” She added, her smile deepening. Cat-like. No, Semirhage-like. The implications of the matter struck Shaidar Haran rather harshly, and he tried sneaking back a bit further. The Trolloc Wisdom gave him a disapproving glance and shook her stick threateningly, muttering about how if anyone did that in her Clan they’d find themselves…. wed.****

A sniff made him spin around, pulling out his scythe and dropping into a crouch…. wait, wrong story. Death comes in later. Shaidar Haran unsheathed his sword and stumbled into a fighting stance, only to find himself staring into the eyes of a very self-satisfied group of women in shawls. Egwene al’Vere, Nynaeve al’Meara, Elayne Trakand…Siuan Sanche, Sorilea, Verin –here Shaidar Haran shivered even more violently- and Aviendha. A list of sniffers, Aes Sedai and Aiel to make even the most strong-hearted male shudder.

Shaidar Haran, never the most strong-hearted male, shuddered violently and fell backwards into his chair. “What,” he squeaked, “Are you doing here?”

The Amyrlin Seat smiled in a decidedly self-satisfactory manner and seated herself in the Amyrlin Seat, which had appeared as soon as she moved to Seat herself. “These wise Trollocs came to us requesting impartial territory upon which they could conduct the authorship of a treaty firmly stating out the rights of each party in the Shadow.”

Shaidar Haran choked. “They asked AES SEDAI to do that?” Spinning around, he glared at the Trollocs ambassadors. “What in the Pit of Doom did you think you were doing? I know as well as you do that at least half of all Aes Sedai are connected to the Shadow in positive manner, but…I mean…. They’ll try to manipulate us all anyway! What if they set back the deadline for the Last Battle again?”

A variety of animal-like faces met him quietly. Shaidar Haran grimaced and turned back, just in time to see another Aes Sedai in a Brown shawl join those already gathered. “Who is he?” She asked, pointing at Shaidar Haran.

Siuan turned around. “Don’t you know that already, Nameless Brown Sister?” She demanded. “I mean…”

“Is he a political figure of the past Age?” The Nameless Brown Sister asked quietly. “Because if he is that is far too modern for me to be concerned with it.”

The collective group of human and Trolloc females murmured quietly amidst themselves. Then Verin leaned over and spoke softly into the Nameless Brown Sister’s ear. “That’s the beetle.” She said. A tiny lightbulb dawned over the Nameless Brown Sister’s head, and Shaidar Haran began to wonder why the Nameless Brown Sister was called the Nameless Brown Sister. Upon reflection, he realized that, considering the direction of puns in the strange world he occupied, he did not want to know. And on the other hand…

“Impartial territory?” He squeaked.

“Tel’aran’rhoid, of course.” Egwene said briskly.

“That’s not IMPARTIAL! There’s half a thousand Aiel Dreamwalkers and…and…”

“It has been proclaimed impartial by no less than the Amyrlin Seat,” Elayne spoke snidely, accompanying her words with a sharp sniff and the tilting of her slender nose upwards. “It is said that the Amyrlin Seat is Aes Sedai, and Aes Sedai, we all know, cannot lie because of the Three Oaths. Now, we took the liberty of aiding the Trollocs in writing up a treaty. Due to the known instability of certain powers in this parody, we have written in parts entirely beneficial to us, which will hopefully disable Sightblinder from any chance of taking over….”

Shaidar Haran felt his face turning an unhealthy shade of gray. He couldn’t refute that… “I insist,” He said slowly. “That this gathering be held elsewhere. If my request is declined I will refuse any current efforts of negotiation on grounds of intimidation.”

Elayne gave vent to a most unlady-like snort. The Trolloc Wisdom raised one eyebrow critically.

“Very well, then.” It was Nynaeve al’Meara, apparently making a baffling effort to be diplomatic. “If you refuse our next proffered place of diplomatic neutrality, we will declare all negotiations absolved on the grounds of your being contrary.”

“I… is that legal?”

“The Amyrlin Seat says it is,” Nynaeve continued smugly, ignoring the startled look and ‘I did!’ that came from the direction of Egwene. “Now… Elayne, do you know the way to Cadsuane’s house? The one in Ghealdan, with all the roses? She gave me the directions there, so Lan and I could stop at the little bed-and-breakfast she made out of the front before things got interesting again, but I misplaced them.”

Elayne began a steady search through all of her pouches, pockets, and hems. Then she went through her luggage, which appeared on a pack horse from no where. Apparently not finding it, she glanced up to speak to Aviendha, when…

Shaidar Haran woke up. That is to say, he clawed himself out from under a large, velvet curtain with the words SCENE CHANGE embroidered in extremely flowery Gothic script across the border, and found himself sprawled on his back in a small clearing. All the other remarkable figures from the conversation in Tel’aran’rhiod were gathered there as well, conversing as if nothing had happened. Elayne’s packhorse was being chased up a path by a dish and a spoon. Around the clearing, which was covered in grass that was a not quite realistic shade of green, roses bloomed in abundance. They were very healthy roses, untouched by pestilence or insects, and none of them were pink. None of them were the thornless variety either, as Shaidar Haran had the misfortune of finding out.

He wandered at a loss for a small while, plodding around the garden and into the kitchen where a woman with moons in her hair served him a rather overdone rhubarb tart. Perched on the edge of the counter he watched as she rolled dough, occasionally stopping to stir a pot of chilli and throwing a fit and telling him her life story whenever he offered to help. She was Cadsuane’s little sister, it turned out, not Cadsuane; Cadsuane would have had him cooking and cleaning the floor with his tongue besides.

Finishing the slice of tart, Shaidar Haran rose and turned, only to bump into the tiered bosom of the Trolloc Wisdom. She stood three inches taller then he, the height of Trolloc beauty –which meant that the Shaidar Haran backed away quickly and turned his face away from her gaze.

“Proposal.” She snorted. “You sign, me make sign.” Or, we have drafted this proposal after many hours of consideration and will have you sign it or face such consequences as within the jurisdiction of the Trolloc Wisdom Nynaetzxgh of the Clan Tofu*****.

The Shaidar Haran automatically reached out to sign the paper. Then, a voice shrilled “contract Void!”

Shaidar Haran took the opportunity of the interruption to stick his head out the window. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, the Prince of Morning and King of Troublemakers, was standing on the grass amidst a field of red-striated white roses. In his hand he held a copy of the treaty Shaidar Haran had yet to sign.

“Why not?” Elayne spoke with great dignity as she reached out to touch Rand’s face. He, of course, promptly began to stutter.

“I…because…because…”

“Because your plot to stop the Last Battle before it ever begins has been declared null and Void not only by the Great Lord Herself but by the person writing this bizarre thing!” Moridin strolled out from under a rose-tree, discarding his fancloth cloak as he walked.

Elayne shrieked in the most amazingly fake method the Shaidar Haran had ever heard. “Don’t let him stop my plotting, Rand!” And then began at length to threaten him with such things as no male should ever be faced with though they most often are. Mat, who had appeared out of nowhere, suddenly ran into the arms of the nearest Eelfinn and began to beg for mercy. They both vanished. Rand himself was turning as florid as the flowers about him.

Shaidar Haran was on the verge of doing that himself. But something stopped him… he abandoned the Trolloc Wisdom and the parchment for Moridin’s side. “Perhaps we should…” The Nae’blis gave him an astonishingly droll look, apparently unaffected by the dastardly arrangement of threats that Elayne Trakand was coming up with.

The Dragon Reborn paced over with utmost arrogance… from the rod-straightness of his spine he rather looked as if he was being propelled along with flows of Wind. Indeed, Shaidar rather thought he sensed channelling… “women.” He muttered, accompanied by Moridin.

The Dragon Reborn nodded agreeably, but gave Death an extremely hostile look. “If you even think I am going to allow your Master hold over this earth you are wrong,” He spoke with great dignity for a man being forced across a path of thorns, and then proceeded to dress Moridin down for being many things, among them a fool and the Dark One’s backside, which the Shaidar Haran had previously believed to be a slight applicable only to him.

Moridin himself began to turn an astonishing shade of what the Shaidar Haran would call decay, truly fitting to his title as Death. He in turn began to chew the Dragon Reborn out, calling him a series of names that made the Trolloc Wisdom Nynaetzxgh stalk out of the bed-and-breakfast complex with a bar of dishsoap.

Then someone hurled some lightning.

It was very pretty lightning, bright white with a bluish purply tint. Whoever hadn’t thrown the first bolt returned the challenge, which was taken up by the other who had thrown the first. Shaidar studied them with a fascination that was shared by all the onlookers, as that first bluish purply electrical phenomenon was accompanied by a reddish blackish bolt. That in turn was followed up by a pale silver and yellow zigzag which was accompanied by a jewel-like green spiral which was followed by a magnificent neon orange star-shaped firework which was followed by a heart-shaped burst of pink that had been thrown by a rather vengeful looking cherub.

Shaidar Haran chose take up residence in the relative safety of the house roof. At least there neither thorns nor cherubs nor champions of conflicting sides resided. Of course, he himself could be considered a champion of a conflicting side, but when one is attempting to avoid a fierce duel one tends to push such concerns aside. So, loyal to the shadow though he might be, the Shaidar Haran found himself perched up on some rather hot clay tiles with his legs dangling around the sides of a merlot (or is it a merlon?). From their own place a bit higher up, Nynaeve, complete with her consort, glowered down at him.

The two combatants (who happened to be Death and the King of Trouble-makers) had stopped to stare at the vengeful cherub. It glowered at them and began to screech in a banshee-like fashion. Rand covered his ears. Moridin did not, and the shock of the noise caused him to lose consciousness. He fell, rather theatrically or so Shaidar Haran thought, into a body-shaped clearing which had been marked out in white paint.

Rand immediately fell on his knees, moaning about his lost love as he beat his breast and tore his hair. The cherub fluttered about, sprinkling ashes over his prone form.

Elayne, Min and Aviendha began to mutter amongst themselves, something about ‘lost love? He can’t be in love with someone else.’ They had reached the decision to stab him… something Shaidar Haran was fully behind although impaling a grieving person isn’t exactly chivalric, when a large book entitled ‘Oracle’s book on Quasi-Divine Intervention and Plot- Specific Details on Dramatic Irony’ dropped onto Elayne’s toes.

Aviendha immediately let out a screech of outrage and moved forward to wreck toe****** upon the insolent book. But with a pained murmur, Elayne stopped her.

“It’s okay,” Min said. “Read this paragraph, here.” She pointed, and began to mutter about Herid Fel’s books. Shaidar Haran leaned forward with intent to listen closely, riding shadows as he did so, so he could actually hear what she was saying. However, as he appeared Min shut up and looked to Elayne and Aviendha, who nodded in satisfaction and turned to watch Rand’s antics.

The Dragon Reborn had finished moaning about empty tigers and roaring seas, not to mention lean amorous death. Or rather, he had not finished but had simply collapsed beside Death, having been beaned over the head by the vengeful cherub, who was now tossing shiny left-over-from-last-year-so-they’re-rock-hard Valentine’s Day candies upon the audience at random, which meant that a great deal of other people had lost consciousness.

Is he dead? Shaidar Haran wondered, leaning forward to better view the situation, muttering something along the lines of ‘good riddance ______’ (filtered for the writer’s, and reader’s, sake). Verin casually stabbed him with her pen, in the arm, and then proceeded to scold him on his language and bad conduct in a motherly voice that made the extremely provocative profanities she had researched sound even worse then they already were.

While Shaidar Haran was thus occupied, Moridin took advantage of the situation to groggily rouse himself. His eyes, in which the saa ran heavily, alighted on Rand and then a tragic moan escaped his lips.

“Lo,” He whispered brokenly, drawing himself to his knees. “Ah, dear Dragon, Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe That unsubstantial Death is amorous, And that the lean abhorred monster keeps Thee here in Dark to be his paramour? For fear of that, I still will stay with thee; And never from this palace of dim night Depart again: here, here will I remain With jumara that are thy chamber-maids; O, here Will I set up my everlasting rest, And shake the yoke of inauspicious wheels From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last! Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss A dateless bargain to engrossing death! Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide! Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark! Here's to my love!

So saying, he fell onto a rosebush and promptly died, impaled on the thorns.

Elayne turned to Min. “Weren’t those the wrong lines? Wasn’t he supposed to natter on about poison and how churlish Rand was to drink all of it? And where was County Paris?”

Min frowned. “Yah, the script says they’re wrong. But it’s a really lame script too, and Rand didn’t die of poison, he got beaten over the head by a cherub. But nobody cares as long as we get to the next plot.” She hissed. “It’s our turn!”

The Shaidar Haran stared. Their turn for what?

“Oh Rand,” Elayne, Min and Aviendha managed to breathe as one, sinking down beside the dead Dragon Reborn and rubbing his hands, buffing his feet and stroking his forehead. “I know you’re not dead,” They breathed in unison. “I’m not afraid anymore. I know you can't be dead, because the Oracle said I would fall in love and he would be the one. So I know you aren't dead, you can't be - because I love you."

Around that point, Shaidar Haran began to think the three of them were slightly mad. Shortly after, as the Dragon Reborn groaned and opened his eyes, Shaidar Haran decided that it was he who was crazed.

“What happened?” Rand grunted.

“You died.” Elayne, Min and Aviendha chorused. “But we brought you back.”

“Really? I thought Healing couldn’t cure Death.”

“It can’t,” Shaidar Haran muttered. This was… very, very odd.

“You have vanquished the Bush of Thorns.” A series of Lords intoned, coming up behind Rand and pointing towards Moridin, who was currently splayed across a rather angry looking bush.

“Don’t you mean the Crown of Swords? Or the Path of Daggers?” The Dragon Reborn looked rather foolish, for a moment.

One of the Lords snorted. “Of course not. We are of the Order of the Rose, and you vanquished the unconquerable Bush of Thorns.”

“I… see.” Rand stood, clutching his head.

“He sees.” The Lords intoned.

Rand gave them a strange look. “That’s right, I see…. Speaking of seeing…” His eyes turned even more foggy than normal. “For a moment I thought I could see beyond the Pattern, down to all the little pieces that make it up. They look like numbers. Bunches of ones and zeroes and stuff.”

“You’re mad, sheepherder.” Min said.

“That’s right,” Elayne and Aviendha intoned sagely. And sniffed.

Shaidar Haran groaned. And faded back into the shadows, to report to the Great Lord and maybe lobby for that vacation he had been wanting a while back.

*the nom de plume was bob.
**None of that unfortunate scene in the Pit of Doom actually happened. In fact, it is not in the story line. If you are reading this, you should know that this hasn’t happened either, and that you are not reading it or the scene from the Pit of Doom. Okay? Thank you for your time and have an insane day…night…time.
***Note that this story was not planned to have anything to do with anything serious, such as Trolloc Rights. It is simply a mass of insanity….
**** Yes, for those MPS-obsessed, they did do that. However, this does not indicate that the writer of the story is in any way supportive of MPS. It just happened.
***** Not connected in any way with the Stedding Tofu.
****** toe is part of jinx’each’toe, which is the other, less common branch of the Aiel system of honour and obligation.

ha!

Raina's Hold / Raina's Library / Raina's Library - Other People's Humour

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