“You trained me to report well to you, to give you the whole of what I learned. After we had all the facts laid out, then we’d build our assumptions. Yet you’ve sprung this on me with no warning and less explanation, and expect me to humbly accept it without questions. What are you about, old man? What do you want? And don’t pretend that this youngster becoming my daughter’s protector is the sum of this.”
“Very well.” He leaned back in his chair and looked from me to Shun, and then at Riddle.
Riddle returned his gaze. “Am I supposed to leave now?” he asked. There was a chill edge to his voice.
Chade considered it so quickly that it seemed as if he answered without a pause. “Little point to that. I’ve seen that you’ve put it together.”
Riddle flicked a glance at me and hazarded an interpretation. “You’d like to put this girl with Tom, so he can protect her for you.”
The muscles at the corner of Chade’s mouth twitched. “That’s a fairly accurate summation.”
I looked at Shun. She was dismayed. Evidently she hadn’t seen things from that vantage, and had been preening herself that she was being sent out on her first real assignment, only to discover that actually she was being banished from Buckkeep, possibly because she had grown into a phase where it would be next to impossible for anyone to miss that she was a Farseer. No. Not Buckkeep. If she’d been anywhere in the castle, Riddle would have known of her. Then where? I watched her straighten in her chair. Little sparks of anger lit in her gaze. She opened her mouth to speak but I was quicker.
“I’d like to know who she is before I take her on,” I said bluntly.
“You’ve seen her lineage. I saw you recognize it.”
“How did it happen?” I demanded, baffled.
“The usual way,” Chade muttered; he looked uncomfortable. That triggered the girl.
She shook her head, making her auburn curls dance. A chill note, almost accusatory, came into her voice. “My mother was nineteen when she visited Buckkeep Castle with her parents for a Springfest. She went home, where it was discovered she was with child. She had me. A couple of years after I was born, her parents managed to find her a husband. My grandparents kept me to raise. Which they did, until my grandfather died two years ago, and my grandmother died six months later. At which time I went to live with my mother for the first time in my life. Except that her husband did not feel in a fatherly fashion toward me. And instead of being furious with him for his wandering eyes and grasping hands on her child, my mother became angry and jealous. And she packed me off with a sealed note to the old Queen at Buckkeep.”
“And she gave you over into Lord Chade’s keeping?” That didn’t sound like Kettricken to me.
“No.” She cast a glance at Chade. He had steepled his hands. His firmly pinched lips indicated he did not enjoy her accounting, but realized that any attempt to interrupt it would be futile.
Shun leaned one elbow on the table, feigning a casualness she did not feel. I saw her tension in the muscles of her throat and in how one hand gripped the table’s edge. “I and my note were intercepted very shortly after I left my mother’s home. Both were delivered to Lord Chade. He took charge of me and placed me in a supposedly safe haven. And he has been my protector ever since.” There was resentment, but for what? I made note of her use of “supposedly.” Were we getting closer to the bone of why she was here? Yet I was no closer to knowing her parentage. Did her Farseer looks come from her mother’s side? Or her father’s? How many generations back was the connection?
Riddle shifted slightly in his seat. He was not the one who had intercepted the girl. Did he know who had? But I sensed that he was gathering and sorting facts as much as I was. And this was his first encounter with Shun? Where had Lord Chade been keeping her? The sour twist of Chade’s mouth showed that he was not especially pleased that Shun was sharing these details.
“How old are you?” I demanded.
“Does it matter?” she retorted.
“She’s nineteen now,” Chade said quietly, and scowled as Riddle and I exchanged a glance. “And as you have guessed, her resemblance to her forebears means that bringing her to court is a bad idea. For now!” he added hastily as her countenance darkened. Caution flared in me. She seemed a snippy thing to me, arrogant for her years. I wondered whose she was, and who she thought she was. She was giving herself an air of importance that I didn’t comprehend.
I wondered. Shun. I pointed the thought at her, Skilling strongly. She didn’t even twitch. That answered at least one of my questions. Even untrained, she should have felt something. So she had no predilection for the Skill. I wondered if that disappointed Chade or if he was glad she could not be used that way. He was watching me, well aware of what I’d just done. I shifted my focus.