Pedron Niall regarded Jaret Byar with a kindly expression of disbelief.
“Logain?” he said again.
Byar nodded. “My Lord Captain Commander, I saw it with my own eyes. It was like a madness. Thousands have sworn to him. There was battle raging across Almoth Plain and Toman Head – Taraboner, Domani, Darkfriends crying for the Dragon – until winter damped it down. Come spring, it will burn once more.”
“Geofram Bornhald and a thousand Children dead, and Aes Sedai did the work. You have no doubt of this?”
“No doubt, my Lord Captain Commander,” Byar said fervently. “The ground erupted under our feet. Lights in the sky-”
“I believe you,” Niall said. “You have my leave to carry word of Geofram Bornhald’s death to his son. Dain Bornhald is with Eamon Valda – near Tar Valon at last report. You may join them.”
Byar saluted and left the room, and Questioner Jaichim Carridin entered in his wake.
“I can explain everything,” he said immediately.
“Silence!” Niall shouted. “You had a job to do! You were to seize Almoth Plain, and you bunged it up! And you did it on purpose! You fool! If it was up to me, I’d hand you over to your own Questioners – they’re looking for somebody to blame.”
“My Lord Captain Commander,” Carridin stammered, “I didn’t … I never … Aes Sedai … false Dragon … Darkfriends with savage beasts … people fighting in the air…”
“Shut up! Listen to me very carefully. There is only one way you will get out of this alive,” Niall paused, and then continued assertively. “You will make sure this false Dragon survives. If any of these Aes Sedai coming out of Tar Valon try to kill him, you will show me how good you are at your craft.”
Carridin’s mouth dropped open. “My Lord Captain Commander,” he babbled. “Killing Aes Sedai is our duty, but a false Dragon … surely such a one cannot be allowed to live.”
“Do you know how to unite people behind you, Child Carridin?” Niall said softly. “Loose a rabid lion in the streets, and when they panic, tell them that you will deal with it. Then you kill the lion, and hang its carcass in the town square.”
“This is a metaphor, isn’t it?”
“Sharp as a rack today, aren’t you?”
Carridin bowed his reluctant acquiescence, and Niall was glad when the Questioner turned and hurried from the room. He gained a little satisfaction from the wobble in his walk. The Lord Captain Commander looked back at the scrolls on his desk.
On one of them, the false Dragon Logain battled the Dark One with a sword of fire, high in the sky above Falme.
Jaichim Carridin rushed to his rooms, not pausing in the corridors to exchange banter and news with his fellow Hands of the Light. He closed the doors behind him, locked and barred them, and leaned back with his eyes closed. He tried to slow his breathing, which was ragged and desperate.
Carridin gave a scream, and stared at the myrddraal sitting at ease in his armchair. The myrddraal smiled at him like a snake.
“There is a problem,” he babbled incoherently. “Forgive me, things have become a lot more complicated, I do not think I have the control I once did – over events I mean, I do not think it will be possible to…”
He trailed off. The myrddraal was making hushing gestures with its long, pallid hands. It looked a bit annoyed, then spoke in a soft hiss.
“If it were up to me, I would end you here and now. But Ba’alzamon has other plans for you, and has given strict orders. We are not to punish you for things that are not your fault, for some reason that completely escapes me. And we are not to give you orders that are blatantly impossible. It’s all a mystery as far as I am concerned, but this is what the Heart of Dark has commanded. Something about you being more useful, if you have a more agreeable and easy working environment,” the myrddraal shrugged, somehow managing to make it snakelike even though snakes just didn’t shrug. “Anyway, I have new instructions. You are to get close to this Logain, this new Dragon of whom everybody is speaking, and you will protect him. Gain his confidence. I take it that will be simple enough, given your latest orders?”
Carridin’s heart soared. “Yes, very easy. Thank you – and please, pass on my reaffirmed loyalty to the Great Lord.”
“Yes yes,” the myrddraal grumbled. “I also … mph, I also brought a gift for you.”
“A gift?” Carridin looked down at the head-sized box on the floor, and his stomach rolled over. He knew it had all been too good to be true. “Who … who is it?”
The myrddraal growled, and opened the box. “It is a gift for your youngest sister, Dealda,” it said. “I understand she is to be wed in a few months,” it lifted a fine, pale blue platter out of the box. “Cuendillar crockery, from the High Lady Suroth of Seanchan,” he went on. “A bridal gift. I know, I know, I’d have brought your sister’s husband, sans manhood, so to speak. But the Heart is the Heart.”
The myrddraal dropped the box carelessly, and with a great crash and clatter the plates and cups tumbled onto the floor. It stood up and walked over them, demonstrating their invincibility and pricelessness. Then it fixed Carridin with a final, chilling, eyeless stare, and one last little growl of frustration. It turned sideways, and vanished.
Carridin was alone in his office with a fortune in heartstone and an enormous grin.