“Yes,” Rand said softly. He heard Egwene gasp. I should have guessed. Burn me, I should have, as soon as I recognized him.

“Did he bring any here?” Mat asked. He looked at the stone walls around them and shivered. Rand thought he was remembering the Myrddraal more than Trollocs; walls had not stopped the Fade at Baerlon, or at Whitebridge.


“If he did” — Agelmar laughed — “they'll break their teeth on the walls of Fal Dara. Many others have before.” He was speaking to everyone, but obviously addressing his words to Egwene and Nynaeve, from the glances he gave them. “And do not worry yourself about Halfmen, either.” Mat's face reddened. “Every street and alley in Fal Dara is lit by night. And no man may hide his face inside the walls.”

“Why would Master Fain do that?” Egwene asked.

“Three years ago ...” With a heavy sigh Moiraine sat down, folding up as if what she had done with Fain had drained her. “Three years, this summer. As far back as that. The Light surely favors us, else the Father of Lies would have triumphed while I still sat planning in Tar Valon. Three years, Fain has been hunting you for the Dark One.”

“That's crazy!” Rand said. “He's come into the Two Rivers every spring as regular as a clock. Three years? We've been right there in front of him, and he never looked at any of us twice before last year.” The Aes Sedai pointed a finger at him, fixing him.

“Fain told me everything, Rand. Or almost everything. I believe he managed to hold back something, something important, despite all I could do, but he said enough. Three years ago, a Halfman came for him in a town in Murandy. Fain was terrified, of course, but it is considered a very great honor among Darkfriends to be so summoned. Fain believed he had been chosen for great things, and he had, though not in the manner he believed. He was brought north to the Blight, to the Blasted Lands. To Shayol Ghul. Where he met a man with eyes of fire, who named himself Ba'alzamon.”

Mat shifted uneasily, and Rand swallowed hard. It had to have been that way, of course, but that did not make it any easier to accept. Only Perrin looked at the Aes Sedai as if nothing could surprise him any longer.

“The Light protect us,” Agelmar said fervently.

“Fain did not like what was done to him at Shayol Ghul,” Moiraine continued calmly. “While we talked, he screamed often of fire and burning. It almost killed him, bringing it all out from where he had it hidden. Even with my Healing he is a shattered ruin. It will take much to make him whole again. I will make the effort, though, if for no other reason than to learn what more he still hides. He had been chosen because of where he did his peddling. No,” she said quickly when they stirred, "not the Two Rivers only, not then. The Father of Lies knew roughly where to find what he sought, but not much better than we in Tar Valon.

“Fain said he has been made the Dark One's hound, and in a way he is right. The Father of Lies set Fain to hunt, first changing him so he could carry out that hunt. It is the things done to bring about those changes that Fain fears to remember; he hates his master for them as much as he fears him. So Fain was sent sniffing and hunting through all the villages around Baerlon, and all the way to the Mountains of Mist, and down to the Taren and across into the Two Rivers.”

-- Advertisement --

“Three springs ago?” Perrin said slowly. “I remember that spring. Fain came later than usual, but what was strange was that he lingered on. A whole week he remained, idle and gnashing his teeth about laying out money for a room at the Winespring Inn. Fain likes his money.”

“I remember, now,” Mat said. “Everybody was wondering was he sick, or had he fallen for a local woman? Not that any of them would marry a peddler, of course. As well marry one of the Traveling People.” Egwene raised an eyebrow at him, and he shut his mouth.

“After that, Fain was taken to Shayol Ghul again, and his mind was — distilled.” Rand's stomach turned over at the tone in the Aes Sedai's voice; it told more of what she meant than the grimace that flashed across her face. “What he had ... sensed ... was concentrated and fed back. When he entered the Two Rivers the next year, he was able to choose his targets out more clearly. Indeed, more clearly even than the Dark One had expected. Fain knew for a certainty that the one he sought was one of three in Emond's Field.”

Perrin grunted, and Mat began cursing in a soft monotone that even Nynaeve's glare did not stop. Agelmar looked at them curiously. Rand felt only the faintest chill, and wondered at it. Three years the Dark One had been hunting him ... hunting them. He was sure it should have made his teeth chatter.

Moiraine did not allow Mat to interrupt her. She raised her voice enough to be heard over him. “When Fain returned to Lugard, Ba'alzamon came to him in a dream. Fain abased himself and performed rites that would strike you deaf to hear the half of them, binding himself even more tightly to the Dark One. What is done in dreams can be more dangerous than what is done awake.” Rand stirred at the sharp, warning look, but she did not pause. “He was promised great rewards, power over kingdoms after Ba'alzamon's victory, and told that when he returned to Emond's Field he was to mark the three he had found. A Halfman would be there, waiting for him with Trollocs. We know now how the Trollocs came to the Two Rivers. There must have been an Ogier grove and a Waygate at Manetheren.”

“The most beautiful of all,” Loial said, “except for Tar Valon.” He had been listening as intently as everyone else. “Manetheren is remembered fondly by the Ogier.” Agelmar formed the name silently, his eyebrows raised in wonder. Manetheren.

“Lord Agelmar,” Moiraine said, “I will tell you how to find the Waygate of Mafal Dadaranell. It must be walled up and a guard set, and none allowed near. The Halfmen have not learned all of the Ways yet, but that Waygate is to the south and only hours from Fal Dara.”

The Lord of Fal Dara gave himself a shake, as if he were coming out of a trance. “South? Peace! We don't need that, the Light shine on us. It shall be done.”

“Did Fain follow us through the Ways?” Perrin asked. “He must have done.”

Moiraine nodded. "Fain would follow you three into the grave, because he must. When the Myrddraal failed at Emond's Field, it brought Fain with the Trollocs on our trail. The Fade would not let Fain ride with him; although he thought he should have the best horse in the Two Rivers and ride at the head of the band, the Myrddraal forced him to run with the Trollocs, and the Trollocs to carry him when his feet gave out. They talked so that he could understand, arguing about the best way to cook him when his usefulness was done. Fain claims he turned against the Dark One before they reached the Taren. But sometimes his greed for his promised rewards seeps into the open.

"When we had escaped across the Taren the Myrddraal took the Trollocs back to the closest Waygate, in the Mountains of Mist, and sent Fain across alone. He thought he was free then, but before he reached Baerlon another Fade found him, and that one was not so kind. It made him sleep doubled up on himself in a Trolloc kettle at night, to remind him of the price of failure. That one used him as far as Shadar Logoth. By then Fain was willing to give the Myrddraal his mother if it would free him, but the Dark One never willingly loosens a hold he has gained.

“What I did there, sending an illusion of our tracks and smell off toward the mountains, fooled the Myrddraal, but not Fain. The Halfmen did not believe him; afterward, they dragged him behind them on a leash. Only when we seemed to keep always just ahead, no matter how hard they pressed, did some begin to credit him. Those were the four who returned to Shadar Logoth. Fain claims it was Ba'alzamon himself who drove the Myrddraal. ”

Agelmar shook his head contemptuously. “The Dark One? Pah! The man's lying or mad. If Heartsbane were loose, we'd all of us be dead by now, or worse.”

“Fain spoke the truth as he saw it,” Moiraine said. “He could not lie to me, though he hid much. His words. 'Ba'alzamon appeared like a flickering candle flame, vanishing and reappearing, never in the same place twice. His eyes seared the Myrddraal, and the fires of his mouth scourged us.'”

“Something,” Lan said, “drove four Fades to where they feared to go — a place they fear almost as much as they fear the wrath of the Dark One.”

Agelmar grunted as if he had been kicked; he looked sick.

“It was evil against evil in the ruins of Shadar Logoth,” Moiraine continued, "foul fighting vile. When Fain spoke of it, his teeth chattered and he whimpered. Many Trollocs were slain, consumed by Mashadar and other things, including the Trolloc that held Fain's leash. He fled the city as if it were the Pit of Doom, at Shayol Ghul.

“Fain believed he was free at last. He intended to run until Ba'alzamon could never find him again, to the ends of the earth if necessary. Imagine his horror when he discovered that the compulsion to hunt did not lessen. Instead, it grew stronger and sharper with every day that passed. He could not eat, except what he could scavenge while he hunted you—beetles and lizards snatched while he ran, halfrotten refuse dug from midden heaps in the dark of night—nor could he stop until exhaustion collapsed him like an empty sack. And as soon as he had strength to stand again, he was driven on. By the time he reached Caemlyn he could feel his quarry even when it was a mile away. Here, in the cells below, he would sometimes look up without realizing what he was doing. He was looking in the dire

-- Advertisement --