Winter's Heart Page 177

“Fain is here,” Rand whispered. As if saying the name were a trigger, the twin wounds in his side began throbbing, the older like a disc of ice, the newer a bar of fire across it. “It was him sent the letter.”

Lan gestured toward the trapdoor with his sword, but Rand shook his head. He had wanted to kill the renegades with his own hands, yet now that Torval and Gedwyn were dead — and almost certainly Kisman, too; there was that swollen corpse mentioned by the merchant at The Golden Wheel — now, he realized he did not care who killed them so long as they were dead. If a stranger finished Dashiva, it would not matter. Fain was another matter. Fain had harrowed the Two Rivers with Trollocs, and given him a second wound that would not heal. If Fain was within reach, Rand would not allow him to escape. He motioned for Lan to do as they had in the attic, and set himself in front of the door with his sword in both hands. When the other man pulled the door open, he darted into a large lamplit room with a posted bed against the far wall and a fire crackling in a small fireplace.

Only the speed of his movement saved him. A flicker of movement caught the corner of his eye, something tugged at the cloak billowing behind him, and he spun awkwardly to fend off slashes of a curved dagger. Every movement was an effort of will. The wounds in his side no longer throbbed; they clawed at him, molten iron and the very soul of ice warring to rip him open. Lews Therin howled. It was all Rand could do to think, with the agony.

“I told you he’s mine!” the bony man screamed, dancing away from Rand’s cut. With his face contorted in fury, his big nose and ears that stuck out made him seem something contrived to frighten children, but his eyes held murder. Teeth bared in a snarl, he looked like a weasel wild with killing fury. A rabid weasel, ready to savage even a leopard. With that dagger, he could kill any number of leopards. “Mine!” Padan Fain shrieked, leaping back again as Lan rushed into the room. “Kill the ugly one!”

Only when Lan turned away from Fain did Rand realize someone else was in the room, a tall pale man who came almost eagerly to meet the Warder blade to blade. Toram Riatin’s face was haggard, but he flowed into the dance of swords with the grace of the blademaster he was. Lan met him with an equal grace, a dance of steel and death.

Startled as Rand was to see the man who had tried to claim the throne of Cairhien in a worn coat in Far Madding, he kept his eyes on Fain and his sword toward the one time peddler. Darkfriend and worse, Moiraine had called him long ago. The blinding pain in Rand’s side made him stumble as he advanced on Fain, ignoring the stamp of boots and the ring of steel on steel behind him as he ignored Lews Therin’s groans in his head. Fain danced and darted, trying to get close enough to use the dagger that had made the never-healing slash in Rand’s side, growling curses in a low voice as Rand’s blade forced him back. Abruptly he turned and ran, toward the back of the building.

The torment tearing at Rand faded to mere throbbing as Fain vanished from the room, but he followed cautiously even so. At the doorway, though, he saw that Fain was not trying to hide. The man stood waiting for him at the head of stairs leading down, the curved dagger in one hand. The large ruby capping the hilt glittered, catching the light of the lamps set on tables about the windowless room. As soon as Rand stepped into the room, fire and ice raged in his side till he could feel his heart shuddering. Staying upright was an effort of iron will. Taking a step forward made that effort seem pale, but he took that step, and the next.

“I want him to know who is killing him,” Fain whined petulantly. He was glaring straight at Rand, but he seemed to talking to himself. “I want him to know! But if he’s dead, then he will stop haunting my dreams. Yes. He will stop, then.” With a smile, he raised his free hand.

Torval and Gedwyn came up the stairs with their cloaks over their arms.

“I say we aren’t going near him until I know where the others are,” Gedwyn growled. “The M’Hael will kill us if. . . .”

Without thought, Rand twisted his wrists in Cutting the Wind and immediately followed with Unfolding the Fan.

The illusion of dead men come back to life vanished, and Fain leaped back with a shriek, blood streaming down the side of his face. Suddenly he tilted his head as though listening, and a moment later, aiming a scream of wordless fury at Rand, he fled down the stairs.

Wondering, Rand moved to follow the descending thumps of Pain’s boots, but Lan caught his arm.

“The street out front is filling up with Guards, sheepherder.” A dark wetness stained the left side of Lan’s coat, but his sword was sheathed, proof of who had danced that dance the better. “Time we were on the roof, if we’re going.”

“A man can’t even walk down an alley with a sword in this city,” Rand muttered, sheathing his own blade. Lan did not laugh, but then, he seldom did except for Nynaeve. Shouts and screams rose up the stairwell from below. Maybe the Street Guards would capture Fain. Maybe he would hang for the corpses up here. It was not enough, but it would have to do. Rand was tired of what would have to do.

In the attic, Lan leapt to catch the coping of the trapdoor in the roof and pull himself up and out. Rand was not sure he could make that leap. The agony was gone with Fain, but his side felt as if it had been beaten with axehandles. As he was gathering himself to try, Lan put his head back through the trapdoor and extended a hand.

“They may not come up right away, sheepherder, but is there any point in waiting to see?”

Rand caught Lan’s hand and let himself be drawn up to where he could catch the coping and pull himself out onto the roof. Crouching low, they moved along the damp slates to the back of the building, then began the short climb to the peak. There might be Guards in the street, but there was still a chance to get away unseen, especially if they could signal Nynaeve to make a distraction.

Rand reached for the roof peak, and behind him, Lan’s boot slipped on the slates with a screech. Twisting around, Rand seized the other man’s wrist, but Lan’s weight pulled him down the slick gray slope. Vainly they scrabbled with their free hands for any hold, the edge of a slate, anything. Neither uttered a word. Lan’s legs went over the edge, and then the rest of him. Rand’s gloved fingers caught on something; he did not know what, and he did not care. His head and one shoulder stuck over the edge of the roof, and Lan was dangling from his grip above the ten-pace drop to the al

Prev Next