Welcome back to "WoT If?". As promised last week, this is my take on the possible outcomes of Padan Fain's presence in the last book.
First, let's start with a quote from Robert Jordan:
Question: What is Padan Fain's overall role in the Wheel Of Time (besides hating Rand with a passion)?
Robert Jordan: Read and find out ...except you should be able to figure out most of it by now. Think a little bit—it's all there, really.
So, according to this, it'll be easy to sort it all out.
Now, what the HECK is Fain? He was a Darkfriend for forty years before the story started. When the Seals began to weaken, he was picked to become a Hound for the Dark One, sniffing out the Dragon Reborn. He had his memories "distilled" (The Eye of the World, Chapter 47, "More Tellings of the Wheel") and fed back to him. Then, ordered by Ba'alzamon (Ishamael), he began his hunt for the three ta'veren. Along this chase, he encountered Mordeth in Shadar Logoth and merged with him, becoming a combination of their two personalities (The Great Hunt, Chapter 49, "What Was Meant to Be").
To understand more of Fain's current state, we need to find out more about Mordeth. Mordeth, according to the glossary in The Great Hunt, was a councilor for the king of Aridhol. Obsessed with his hatred for the Shadow, Mordeth sought ways in which to conquer the Dark One once and for all. He wanted to accomplish this by any means necessary. This is important because to Mordeth, the end justifies the means; that is, he's not concerned about who is harmed as long as he achieves his goals. This principle led to the city of Aridhol using methods as evil as the Shadow's.
An interview with Brandon Sanderson shows Mordeth's obsession with finding something that could beat the Shadow:
Matt Hatch: Ok. You mentioned that Mordeth was a man that had "power". You are reported as saying that his power was that "which he got by seeking out all of the evil things that weren’t related to the Shadow"...
Brandon Sanderson: He was seeking things that were related to the Shadow. I think that that might be a misquote. He was looking into the power of the Shadow in order to defeat it, was his goal. He was looking into everything. He was looking into things that were not necessarily related to the Dark One as well. He was looking for everything that he could get...
Matt Hatch: ..previous to him arriving to Aridhol?
Brandon Sanderson: ...Yeah...
Matt Hatch: ...before he went to the King and became the counselor, Mordeth was this guy that went around searching for Power?
Brandon Sanderson: Yeah, he wanted to defeat the Dark One and he felt that he could find other ways to do it [...] He originally was good. He did not...he wasn’t this terrible person to begin with but he was looking to defeat the Dark One, to find a way to defeat the Shadow. And he looked into a lot of things he shouldn’t have looked into. There are evils that are not necessarily directly related to the Dark One, though everything evil kind of has...just as there are goods that are not related necessarily to the One Power...we are talking much as Perrin runs with wolves. This is a thing older than...there are other evils things that are old in a similar way...
Matt Hatch: ...is the assumption then that he found one of these?
Brandon Sanderson: He did.
Matt Hatch: He found one or multiple?
Brandon Sanderson: He found many things of darkness. There is one in specific that is driving him but he knew too much. He found things he should not have gotten into and that is what turned him into...when he got there he was already corrupt. He still thought he was doing a good work. He still thought we are going to raise this Kingdom up and it is going to become this bastion against the Shadow, but he was already by then corrupted.
Matt Hatch: Is this same corrupting influence that corrupts everyone through the dagger itself?
Brandon Sanderson: Yeah. Through him, yes. And even through his presence.
Another interview speculates about what choices Mordeth made in his battle against the Shadow:
Ted Herman: Did Mordeth go to the Finns?
Brandon Sanderson: YES.
Which of the Finns did Mordeth see? My guess would be both. So, he had three answers and three gifts. What would they have been? There's a lot of room for interesting speculation here. I won't go too much into it, but it seems like the Aelfinn gave him good answers—since he did go through with his plans—and he did receive something, from the Eelfinn or elsewhere, that made him gain these unnatural, evil powers.
Hypothetically, one of those questions might have been how to defeat the Dark One. As we know, the Aelfinn give riddles for answers, so Mordeth probably acted on their advice the wrong way, leading to his, and Aridhol's, downfall. Personally, I'd guess that his actions will still aid Rand in re-sealing the Dark One, which would fulfill the riddle given by the Aelfinn, but probably not in the way Mordeth expected. Just a guess.
The combination of Fain and Mordeth—we'll still call him Fain—gains some incredible powers, which increase as the story continues. Those powers include, but are not limited to, creating illusions. In fact, I was surprised to stumble upon an interview that said Fain was responsible for the visions Rand saw of Trollocs attacking a family (The Great Hunt, Chapter 10, "The Hunt Begins"). I always credited this to the "woman in white" (Lanfear). However, we see in the prologue of Towers of Midnight that Fain's illusion abilities have morphed into a sort of zombie-creating mist. I think this is an evolved version of Mashadar. Besides the illusion and Mashadar, I don't think we have a clear understanding of what kind of powers Fain has.
That leads us to the heart of the discussion: what will Fain's role be in the Last Battle? There are many theories out there already; I've found five that seem plausible. And on a side note, I'm going to point out that Padan Fain is not going to have the same fate as Gollum. There's been a lot of comparison between the two, so here's Brandon Sanderson saying so:
Question: Is Padan Fain going to turn out like Gollum?
Brandon Sanderson: No, he is not going to be like that. I am aware of the comparisons, and I am trying to distance him from that. The scene in Towers of Midnight with Padan Fain was originally written differently, and when I submitted it to Harriet she said, "Oh no, he's much crazier than that!" So I changed it accordingly.
1. Fain will kill one (or some) of the Forsaken.
This one stems from Fain's line in Winter's Heart where he said, "He [Rand] belongs to me" (Chapter 22, "Out of Thin Air"). This theory suggests that Rand will be fighting the Forsaken, most likely Moridin, and Fain, in a jealous rage, will kill the Forsaken. This is very believable, and could easily happen. In all likelihood, the Forsaken will have all their attention focused on Rand. Fain could slip in unnoticed and easily do away with the Forsaken.
We know that Fain is heading to Shayol Ghul, in order to meet Rand there (Towers of Midnight, Prologue). However, how safe will Fain be near the presence of the Dark One? He's got powers to protect him—and his zombified Trollocs—but there are some pretty scary creatures on the slopes of Shayol Ghul. Also, with the price on his head, and assassins (Slayer) after him, Fain would be an easy target out in the Blight. How will he go about hiding until the Last Battle starts?
2. Fain will kill Rand.
This is the same as the one above, but substitute Rand for the Forsaken. Distracted by fighting, Rand could easily be killed by Fain in the same fashion.
There are a couple of arguments against this one. First is Alivia. She is supposed to help Rand die (Winter's Heart, Chapter 25, "Bonds"). So, if Fain kills Rand, Alivia doesn't. Unless, of course, she is a Darkfriend, or some other sort of evil creature, who has sided with Fain and helps lead him to Rand. Second, there's been a big Rand/Ishamael rivalry going on since book one. Having Fain turn up and kill Rand would be unexpected, but not in line with the rest of the flow in the series. Most of us believe it will come to a Moridin and Rand showdown.
3. Fain draws the Dark One.
I found this one on the Dragonmount forums, posted by bmunge.
Another theory would be around the effects of channeling the True Power at Fain. As we saw with the cleansing, the Taint was attracted to Shadar Logoth and once the reaction began it was sustaining. With the TP being the essence of the DO, what would happen if Rand through his link with Moridin channeled the TP at Fain? Would it create a similar reaction with the essence of the DO being drawn to Fain? It's going to be pretty interesting to see what happens to him.
I'll expand on this a bit and say that since we do see the Taint and Shadar Logoth's evil battling one another, there could be a connection, or attraction, between the two. If, after Rand breaks the Seals, the Dark One gets free, he could be drawn to the anti-Shadow evil of Shadar Logoth. All his negative effects and powers could shoot straight into Fain, rather than at Rand and the rest of the world.
That would be very interesting, and not at all expected, I think.
4. Fain breaks the Seals.
This came as a surprise to me. I naturally assumed Rand would break the rest of the Seals, because he told Egwene he would. But some argue that the Dark Prophecy at the end of Towers of Midnight might refer to Fain, not Rand. Here's the quote:
Towers of Midnight
In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith’s pride shall come.
From this format, we may think the One-Eyed Fool is Mat, the First Among Vermin is Rand, and the Fallen Blacksmith is Perrin. Since three people are listed, our first thought is of our three ta'veren. However, these phrases are a bit vague. There are plenty of men with one eye (Uno?), many who can fit the description of First (Galad and the Whitecloaks?), and tons of blacksmiths (Aiel?).
However, the logic of it being Fain who breaks the Seals stems from his overwhelming hatred for the Dark One: he'd unleash his anger and break the Seals. That seems almost counterproductive. If he hates the Dark One, wouldn’t he want to keep him sealed up?
5. Fain is the buffer against the Dark One.
This one sort of evolved from the theory that Fain will be a buffer against the Dark One's backlash. However, I think saidar and saidin working together will be enough to keep the backlash from taking effect, if there will even be a backlash. If I understand correctly, the Dark One struck out blindingly when he was sealed by Lews Therin. It happened to hit saidin and taint it. I don't think it was actually planned.
Fain being a buffer against the Dark One seems plausible. As I said before, the Shadow and the anti-Shadow evil of Shadar Logoth are enemies. The two wounds in Rand's side show that they battle against each other, almost negating the other's evil effects. If Fain could get close enough, he could negate the Dark One's power, allowing Rand to seal up the Bore.
To do this, Fain's hatred for the Dark One would need to be more than his hatred of Rand. This could only happen if Rand is already dead, or if Rand is able to convince Fain to fight the Dark One instead. Is Fain past reason? Can Rand talk him into a different course of action?
Brandon Sanderson did say this about Fain being sealed in with the Dark One:
Question: What do you think would happen if Rand managed to hurl Padan Fain through the Bore into the Dark One's prison?
Brandon Sanderson: The Dark One would spit him back out because he tastes bad.
However, that could just be Brandon trying to get us off the scent.
The best argument for this theory is Robert Jordan's insistence that Fain is unique to this age:
Question: Has the Padan Fain/Mordeth character been present in the previous Ages, or is he unique to this particular Age?
Robert Jordan: He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern.
If Fain is unique, that means something like him—and his counter-evil—hasn't been seen before. I think this piece of information could lead to the eradication of the Dark One completely. It could be the end to the battle, making this the Last Battle in truth. Ishamael has insisted that this battle happens every time the Wheel turns, but we do know that it's been called the Last Battle for a reason.
Are we actually going to have the ending, not an ending?
Out of all the five, I think the first and last (even without the ending of the Wheel) are most likely, though all could be possible. We'll conclude this week's edition there. Come back next time and we'll take a look at Dark Prophecy, among other things.