There had been times, over the years, when I had dwelled on it. I tried to excuse it. I had been missing when he passed through Buckkeep Town. Many had feared me dead. Had he? Over the years my answer to that had danced back and forth. He had left me a gift, the carved statue of him, Nighteyes, and me. Would he leave a gift that he never expected to be claimed? Well, what else would he have done with it? There were words hidden in the carved memory stone, a single sentence. “I have never been wise.” Did that mean he would be foolish enough to renew our friendship, even if it meant chancing the undoing of our work? Or did it mean that in his foolishness, he would set out on a dangerous quest without me?
Did it mean he had been a fool ever to care about me beyond my role as his Catalyst? Was it an apology that he had seemed to care for me and let me come to rely so deeply on our friendship? Had he ever truly cared about our friendship?
There are always those dark thoughts, I must believe, when a deep friendship ends so abruptly. But every wound becomes a scar, eventually. That one never entirely ceased being tender, but I had learned to live with it. It did not intrude on me every moment. I had a home, a family, a loving wife, and then a child to raise with her. And though Molly’s death had reawakened those echoes of loss and abandonment, I did not think I had been dwelling on it.
Then the messenger arrived. And a message so poorly conveyed or badly constructed that it made little sense. She had hinted that there had been other messengers who had not reached me. A memory stirred. All those years ago. A girl messenger, and three strangers. Blood on the floor, and bloody fingerprints on the Fool’s face. That scream …
I felt dizzied and sick. My heart hurt as if someone had squeezed it. What message had I missed, all those years ago? What death had that messenger endured that night?
The Fool had not forsaken or ignored me. Years ago, he had reached out for me. To warn me, or to beg for help? I’d missed his message, and let it go unanswered. Suddenly that hurt me more than all the years of thinking he had abandoned our friendship. The thought that he had vainly waited for years for some sort of response from me was a razor-edged pain.
But I did not know how to reach him now, or how to begin on this quest he had set for me. And I had no idea where to search for his son, or what sort of a person I would be seeking.
I pushed the thought from my mind. I needed sleep, at least a little sleep, before the dawn came.
But there was the killing. Ironic, that the one person who had understood how little I wanted to continue as an assassin had been involved in forcing my return to that profession. I did not regret my decision; I remained absolutely certain it had been the correct one. But I resented that I’d had to make such a decision, and was deeply agitated that my child had been forced to witness me disposing of a body, and to bear the burden of keeping that secret.
When Shun’s ghost hysteria was settled and after I had moved my sleeping child from Molly’s chair to a couch, I had fetched a blanket from my bed and the bit of writing, thinking to study it one more time. But it was worse than useless. I concealed it beneath some forgotten mending in Molly’s sewing basket and looked around her placid room. The fire was down to coals; I fed it. I took a pillow from her chair, and felt guilty about putting the pretty thing on the floor. I lay down in front of the fire and flipped and kicked at the blanket until it somewhat covered me. The stitches of Molly’s embroidery on the cushion pressed into my cheek. I resolved to put all questions and fears out of my head and just sleep. For now there was no immediate threat to me and mine, I had no idea what to do about the peculiar message, and there was nothing I could do about Shun’s dramatics. I closed my eyes and emptied my mind. Clean snow falling on a wooded hillside. I took a deep, steadying breath and told myself there was a hint of deer scent in the crisp wind. I smiled. Do not agonize about yesterday. Do not borrow tomorrow’s trouble. Let your heart hunt. Rest in the now. I filled my lungs slowly and as slowly let the air out. I drifted to a place, not sleeping, not waking. I was a wolf on a snowy hillside, taking in deer scent, and living only in the now.
Fitz? I know you’re awake.
I’m not, really. My mind drifted against Chade’s, a boat tethered to a dock. I more than wanted to be asleep. I needed to be asleep, to float freely away on that current.
I felt him sigh in annoyance. Very well. But tomorrow, remember this as more than a dream. I’m sending the lad to you. They beat him badly, and if the city guard hadn’t chanced upon the scene and chased them off, it’s likely they would have killed him. But he’s well enough to ride, or will be in a few more days, and I think my best course is to send him away from Buckkeep as soon as possible.