I watched her face as she slowly realized that he was telling her that she was limited to the choices he would offer her. I wasn’t surprised. That was the life of a Farseer bastard. He and I had both known the constraints of being an unrecognized sprout of that family tree. One could be a danger to the family and be eliminated, or one could be useful to the family in a defined role. One could not choose not to be part of the family. Chade was loyal to his family. He would keep her safe and guide her, and in the process he would protect the throne. And I found I agreed with him. He was right. But to Shun it must have felt like a net being drawn tight around her. He read her face as he spoke. “I can well understand your bitterness toward me. I have done all I could to ameliorate it. You still have a right to be bitter toward all the people who created the situation in which you must now live. Later, perhaps, you will understand that I am doing the best I can by you. You can, if you choose, make a home at Withywoods, at least for a time. It’s a lovely place in a gentle valley. It may not be Buckkeep, but neither is it a crude backwater town. You will have opportunities there for entertainment and refined socializing. You’ll be treated well and given an allowance of your own.” He flickered a glance at me and saw my doubts. The plea in his expression deepened, and I looked away. Sparks were kindling in Shun’s eyes.
Relentlessly, he continued. “Indeed, initially, Withywoods is where you must go. But if you find yourself unhappy there, I will make other arrangements for you. You may choose an appropriate location beyond Buck Duchy, and I will arrange for your lodging there. You will receive an allowance sufficient for a comfortable life, with up to two servants. That allowance will continue as long as you live quietly. That is for your safety.”
She lifted her head. “And if I don’t? If I get up and walk out that door right now?”
Chade gave a small, defeated sigh. He shook his head. “You’d be putting yourself beyond the pale. I’d do what I could to protect you, but it wouldn’t be enough. You would be penniless. Your family would regard you as a renegade and a social liability. You would be discovered.” He spoke the words I knew he would. “You’re like a double-edged blade with no handle, my dear. Dangerous to hold, and dangerous to set down. Someone would find you and either kill you or use you against the Farseers.”
“How? What could they possibly use me to do to the King? What danger am I to him?”
I spoke before Chade could. “They could threaten Lord Chade if they had you as a hostage. Send him an ear or a lip to prove they were serious.”
She lifted a hand to her face, covering her mouth. She spoke through her spread fingers, suddenly a frightened child. “Can’t I just go back? You could demand they do more to protect me. I could stay where I was at—”
“No.” He cut her off sharply before she could betray where he’d been keeping her. An interesting puzzle for me. Somewhere close enough to Buckkeep Castle for him to visit often, yet far enough away that Riddle had never glimpsed her. His words stopped my musing. “Use your mind, Shun.” Eyes wide, she shook her head at him.
My heart sank. I knew. “Someone has already forced Chade’s hand. That’s why this is all happening so suddenly.”
She gave me a hateful look and turned back at her mentor. Chade was watching me. “For which I’m sorry. But you can see the situation I’m in. Fitz. It was not her father’s family who sought to kill her. She has enemies of her own. I need to place her somewhere safe. And the only place I have is with you.” He looked at me with pleading sincerity. It was a look he had once made me practice in front of a looking glass for several hours. I did not laugh. We did not bare our tricks before others. I met it with a look of my own.
“You have not told me who she is, nor who her enemies are. How can I guard her when I do not know whence the danger comes? Who are these enemies she has?”
The mask fell from his face. The desperation in his eyes was real, now. “Please. Trust me and do this for me. Those who stand against her are ones I am not ready yet to discuss. You should know that before I ask this of you. That this favor will involve you taking a risk for me. My boy, I have no one else I can ask. Will you take her and keep her safe? For me?”
And there it was. Any thoughts of refusing melted away. This was not a mere favor he was asking of me. It was a confirmation of who we were to each other. There was no one else he could ask this favor. No one who would understand her danger as I would, no one who would know how to protect her and still keep her from harming us. No one else could sheath this double-edged sword. This was not a request I could refuse. He knew that and he hated to ask it of me. Just as Chade drew a breath, I took control of the situation.