The windswept winter forest had vanished. I opened my eyes. There was the smell of smoke and burning flesh on my hands and shirt. I should have washed. And found a nightshirt instead of sleeping in my clothes. I was too tired, too tired of all of it to do any of it right. If I’d reported to you like that when I was twelve, you’d have called me an idiot and hit me with something.
That’s probably true. But I’ve been trying to reach you for hours. What made you put up your walls so stoutly? I began to think you’d taken my advice and sealed yourself against the Skill whenever you were sleeping.
Probably something I should do. I hadn’t even been aware I’d put my walls up, but suddenly knew when I’d done it. Keeping my walls up around Bee was a habit, but I’d always left a chink for deliberate Skilling. I suppose it had been old instinct to raise them to full resistance during the kill. I’d wanted no chance witnesses to that. Easing into sleep must have lowered them. I told him half a truth. I was preoccupied with Shun. She believes in ghosts and thought her room was haunted by some unfortunate child from her past. Evidently he got the poison that had been meant for her. Not her fault, but when she hears a strange noise at night, it’s hard to convince her of that.
Is she all right? Anxiety thrummed in his Skilling.
Much better than the beaten lad, whoever he is.
FitzVigilant. Who else might I be sending to you to save him from being murdered?
I don’t know. Anyone who it pleased you to send my way, I suspect. My weariness was making me testy. And it was coming to me now, in pieces, that this news meant I was about to have another orphan on my doorstep. Another addition to my household, one that would be underfoot for years rather than days or months. Another room to prepare. Another horse in my stable, another plate on my table, another person speaking to me when I wanted to be left alone. I tried to muster some sympathy for the poor bastard. So his legitimate brothers have come to court, and his mother wishes to do away with their father’s by-blow?
Not exactly. She seems to be a woman who plans ahead. Her boys will not come to court until next spring and so I thought I might safely keep him here for a time longer. Evidently she decided to be rid of him sooner rather than later, and is clever enough to attempt it in a way that will not make other folk think her sons were involved. The men she set on him were common ruffians, native to Buckkeep Town. They waylaid him outside a tavern.
Are you sure then that this wasn’t just a random robbery?
I’m sure. The drubbing was too thorough and too violent. He was down and they could have easily taken his purse and run. They went past knocking him down, past knocking the fight out of him. This was personal, Fitz.
Cold seethed through his voice. Personal. The lady had made it personal, attempting to kill a boy under Lord Chade’s protection. There would be some sort of repercussion for her, I did not doubt. I would not ask what it would be or who would carry it out. Would she enter her bedchamber to find it ransacked and her most precious jewelry stolen? Or would it be crueler? I suspected she should keep a tight watch on her sons, or she might find out how it felt to have someone under her protection take a bad beating. Chade could be that cold. I could not. Tonight had brought back all my distaste for killing. Call it vengeance or justice; no matter how it was named, I wanted none of it. Never again.
A bit of true sympathy for FitzVigilant invaded my soul. Beaten past his ability to fight back. I didn’t like to dwell on that; I had too many memories of situations of that sort. Is anyone accompanying him? To see he gets here safely?
He hasn’t left yet. I’ve hidden him. And when I send him he will have to travel alone. But I would not have decided to send him if I hadn’t thought he’d be well enough to ride. He had three days of convalescing out of sight of any who might wish to harm him. He has vanished to other eyes. My hope is to make his father’s wife believe she has terrified him enough to make him flee from Buckkeep Castle. She may be content with that. But I need to keep him past the time when she might have people watching for him to flee.
And if she has not given up by then? If she has watchers and they follow?
She will first have a task to find him. And those she sends to look may well find something else entirely. A pause in his thoughts and a small hum of cat pleasure.
I filled it in for him. And if she finds where you have sent him, she will still have to get past me.
Exactly. So much satisfaction. I was so tired that even the tingle of pride I felt at his confidence in me was annoying. Are you sure that you have not overestimated my ability to shepherd these lost lambs you are sending me?