Riddle seemed oblivious of the currents sweeping past him as he smiled and said, “And a visit from you would please your sister more than anything, I think. Especially when she sees how well you speak.”
“Did she used to stutter then? Or lisp?” If Shun was trying to disguise her disdain for me, she was doing a poor job of it.
Riddle looked at her directly, his face solemn and his voice grave. “She spoke little. That was all.”
“If Bee wishes you to teach her to ride, I’m sure I’m pleased,” my father said. “There is a horse in the stables, not a pony, but a small horse. I chose her for Bee when she was five, when I thought I might persuade her to try riding, but she refused. She’s a mare, a dapple-gray. With one white hoof.”
I looked at him but he was hidden behind his eyes. He had chosen a horse for me, all those years ago, and when I had wriggled and squirmed when he tried to put me in the saddle, he had given up that plan with no rebuke for me. Why had he kept the mare? Because he had kept the hope. I had not meant to hurt him. “One white hoof, try him,” I said quietly. “I am sorry that I did not try her, all those years ago. I’m ready now.”
He nodded but did not smile. “I will be pleased to see you learn, Bee, regardless of who teaches you. But there will be no visits to Buckkeep Castle just yet. Very early this morning, I received word that your new tutor will soon begin his journey to join us here. It would be peculiar indeed if he left Buckkeep Castle and arrived here to find you gone to Buckkeep.”
“My new tutor? What news is this? When was this decided?” I felt as if the room tilted around me.
“Years ago.” My father spoke tersely now. “His name is FitzVigilant. This has been planned for some time. He will arrive within the next ten days.” He suddenly looked as if something pained him. “And a room must be readied for him as well.”
“FitzVigilant,” Riddle said quietly. He did not shoot my father an odd look or raise his brows, but I heard an affirming note in his voice and knew that he was letting my father know that he knew more than he had been told. “I had heard that Lord Vigilant thought his younger sons were old enough to come to court.”
“Indeed, that is the case,” my father confirmed. “Though I am told it was more his wife’s decision than his. Indeed, I have heard that Lord Vigilant was surprised to hear of it.”
Lady Shun’s gaze was darting from one to the other. Did she guess that more was being conveyed than she was privileged to know? In that moment I scarcely cared. I was caught in a daze.
The memories from my earliest babyhood, like the memories I have from within my mother, are floating memories. They exist, but they are not anchored to my daily life. Only when a scent or a sound or a taste wakens one does it cascade to the front of my mind. In this case it was a name.
The name had rung in my ears like a bell, and suddenly my awareness was flooded with a memory. It came with a scent of my mother’s milk and a fire of applewood and cedar logs and for a long moment I was an infant in a cradle, hearing that name spoken in a youth’s sullen voice. It is one thing to have a vague memory from one’s childhood. It is quite another for the aware mind to put that memory into context and offer it back. He had crept into my cradle room when I was a baby. My father had stopped him from touching me. My father had spoken of poisons. And threatened to kill him if he came near me again.
And now he was to be my tutor?
My mind boiled with questions. The new servant whisked back into the room and set before me a bowl of porridge, two boiled eggs, and a small dish of stewed apples. A touch of cinnamon on the apples fragranced the room. Had Tavia done this especially for me, or was it for everyone? I lifted my gaze. They were all looking at me. I was in a quandary. Had my father forgotten the name of the boy who had come to my cradle that night? Did he think he had changed? Why would he be my tutor? I took a spoonful of the apples and thought before I asked, “And you think FitzVigilant will teach me well?”
Shun had been sipping her tea. She clattered her cup onto the saucer. She looked at Riddle as she shook her head in consternation. In a conspiratorial voice, as if she did not intend my father and me to overhear, she opined, “Never have I heard a child question her father’s decisions! Had I objected to even one of my grandmother’s plans for me, I am sure she would have slapped me and dismissed me to my room.”
It was neatly done. I could not defend myself without appearing more spoiled and petulant than she had already painted me. I drank some milk, looking at my father over the rim of my cup. He was angry. His face had not changed at all and perhaps, I thought, only I could tell that he had been provoked. By Shun or by me, I wondered. Even his voice was normal as he said, “My relationship with Bee is different, then, from what you had with your grandparents. I have always encouraged her to think, and to discuss with me our plans for her.” He took a sip of his own tea and added, “I cannot imagine slapping her. Ever.”