The White Prophet's premise seems simple. He wished to set the world in a different path than the one it had rolled on through so many circuits of time. According to him, time always repeats itself, and in every repetition, people make most of the same foolish mistakes they've always made. They live from day to day, giving in to appetites and desires, convinced that what they do does not matter in the larger scheme of things.

According to the White Prophet, nothing could be further from the truth. Every small, unselfish action nudges the world into a better path. An accumulation of small acts can change the world. The fate of the world can pivot on one man's death. Or turn a different way because of his survival. And who was I to the White Prophet? I was his Catalyst. The Changer. I was the stone he would set to bump time's wheels out of its rut. A small pebble can turn a wheel out of its path, he told me, but warned me that it was seldom a pleasant experience for the pebble.

The White Prophet claimed that he had seen, not just the future, but many possible futures, and most of them were drearily similar. But in a very few cases, there was a difference, and that difference led to a shining realm of new possibilities.

The first difference was the existence of a Farseer heir, one who survived. That was me. Forcing me to survive, dragging me away from the deaths that constantly tried to eliminate me so that time's wheels could jolt back into their comfortable ruts, became his life's work. Death and near-death swallowed me, time after time, and each time he dragged me, battered and bruised, back from the brink to follow him again. He used me relentlessly, but not without regret.

And he succeeded in diverting fate from its preordained path into one that would be better for the world. So he said. But there were people who did not share his opinion, people who envisioned a future without a Farseer heir and without dragons. One of them decided to ensure that future by ridding herself of the fool who stood in her way.

Sometimes it seems unfair that events so old can reach forward through the years, sinking claws into one's life and twisting all that follows it. Yet perhaps that is the ultimate justice: we are the sum of all we have done added to the sum of all that has been done to us. There is no escaping that, not for any of us.

So it was that everything that the Fool had ever said to me and all the things he'd left unsaid combined. And the sum was that I betrayed him. Yet I believed that I acted in his best interests, and mine. He had foretold that if we went to Aslevjal Island, he would die and Death might make another snap of his jaws at me. He promised to do all in his power to see that I survived, for his grand scheme to change the future required it. But with my latest brush with death still fresh in my memory, I found his promises more threatening than reassuring. He had also blithely informed me that once we were on the island, I would have to choose between our friendship and my loyalty to Prince Dutiful.

Perhaps I could have faced one of those things and stood strong before it, but I doubt it. Any one of those things was enough to unman me, and facing the sum of them was simply beyond my strength.

So I went to Chade. I told him what the Fool had said. And my old mentor arranged that when we sailed for the Out Islands, the Fool would not go with us.

Spring had come to Buckkeep Castle. The grim black stone edifice still crouched suspiciously on the steep cliffs above Buckkeep Town, but on the rolling hills behind the keep, new green grass was pushing optimistically up through the standing brown straw of last year's growth. The bare-limbed forests were hazed with tiny green leaves unfurling on every tree branch. The wintry mounds of dead kelp on the black beaches at the foot of the cliffs had been swept away by the tides. Migratory birds had returned, and their songs rang challenges in the forested hills and along the beaches where seabirds battled for choice nesting nooks in the cliffs. Spring had even invaded the dim halls and high-ceilinged chambers of the keep, for blossoming branches and early-blooming flowers graced every alcove and framed the entries of the gathering rooms.

The warmer winds seemed to sweep my gloom away. None of my problems and concerns had vanished, but spring can dismiss a multitude of worries. My physical state had improved; I felt more youthful than I had in my twenties. Not only was I building flesh and muscle again, but I suddenly possessed the body that a fit man of my years should have. The harsh healing I had undergone at the inexperienced hands of the coterie had inadvertently undone old damage as well. Abuse I had suffered at Galen's hands in the course of his teaching me the Skill, injuries I had taken as a warrior, and the deep scars from my torture in Regal's dungeons had been erased. My headaches had nearly ceased, my vision no longer blurred when I was weary, and I did not ache in the chill of early morning. I lived now in the body of a strong and healthy animal. Few things are so exhilarating as good health on a clear spring morning.