“Not here. Not now. And you are wrong. Kitchen first.” This time I was able to seize her narrow shoulder and despite her effort to squirm away from me, I marched her to the kitchen. I tersely informed Tavia of Riddle’s requirements, and left as abruptly as I had arrived, taking Bee with me.
“Your room,” I said in a low voice. “Now. Stay close to me. And no talking until we are there.”
“Is there danger?”
“What about Shun?”
“Riddle is with her and he is far more capable than most folks credit him. You are my first concern, always. Be quiet!”
My tone finally silenced her and she actually slunk closer to me as we wended our way along the corridors and then up the stairs. When we reached the door of her room, I took her by both shoulders and stood her with her back against the wall. “Stay here,” I breathed. “Do not move unless I call you. If I call you, come quietly and immediately and stand just behind my left side. Understand?”
Her eyes were wide, her mouth hanging open as she gave a short nod. I nodded back.
I eased the door of her room open. Before I entered, I evaluated all I could see, the bed and hangings, the curtained windows, the hearth. All looked as I had left it. I stepped in silently and checked behind the door before I made a more thorough inspection of Bee’s room. There was no sign of an intruder. The untouched tray was on a stand by the bed. I stepped to the connecting door. It was ajar. I stepped back.
In a flash she was at my side.
“Did you leave that door open?”
She was plainly terrified as she shrugged and admitted in a breathless whisper, “I don’t remember. I think so. No. You did and I didn’t move it.”
I stepped to the door and opened it the rest of the way. The small room was dim, for it had no window of its own. Nothing there but the rumpled blanket on the bed. I ducked to glance under the bed. It was the only possible hiding place in the little room. No one was there. Of our guest, there was no sign save the ewer of water and the bedding pushed into a heap on the wall side of the narrow cot. I stepped back and shut the door. “She’s gone.”
“That’s what I told you!”
“And now I’m certain that she’s not in this room. And that’s all we really know.” I marshaled my thoughts. “Tell me exactly how you discovered she was gone.”
“I stayed in the room here. Tavia brought up the tray of food, and set it on the little table for me. I went in to the girl after Tavia was gone. She was barely awake. I tried to give her some broth, but it only seemed to make her cough. Then she closed her eyes and went back to sleep. I sat here for a time. Then I needed to use the garderobe. So I did. And when I came back here, I went to the room to check on her. But she was gone.”
“Gone.” I thought. “How long were you gone?”
“Only a few minutes.” Her eyes were very big.
“Bee. For the rest of this day, you are at my side. And if I tell you to do something, no matter how strange, you will do it instantly. Understand?”
She bobbed a nod. Her lips were red against the pallor of her face as she breathed through a half-open mouth. The terror in her eyes was an expression I had never wanted to see on my child’s face. “Why are we afraid?” she demanded.
“We don’t know if we need to be wary. So, until we do, it is safer for us to be afraid.”
White as ice. Eyes the same color. Hair the same color. They come but seldom, maybe once in every third generation. Or four. But we remember them. They walk among us, and choose one of us. Not as servant or friend, but as a tool to shape a future only that one can see. If (no idea how to translate this word) then they are all of one color.
Of a time, they breed upon (phrase obscured by stain) either a man or a woman, of their own kind or one of ours. But their offspring are not of a term that matches our own. So they may leave and it is years later that (this portion of the scroll so badly holed by insects that I can add only isolated words and phrases to it) elderly (a large gap) pale (a gap of I estimate seven lines of text followed by) older than its years. (Another large gap of at least two lines, ending with) more merciful to kill it. (The rest of the scroll scorched away.)
Partial translation from the desk of FitzChivalry Farseer
So in that one day and a night and the next, my life changed. I remember how angry I felt about all of it. So many changes, and they all affected me, yet no one asked me if I wanted any of them.