He chose to pretend we had never met before. I heard his wheeze as he forced himself to grant me a stiff bow before he introduced himself as, “FitzVigilant, sent by Lady Nettle to be tutor to her sister, Lady Bee, and to scribe as is needed for her estate.”
I accepted his greeting gravely. “We’ve been expecting you. Our household is in a bit of disarray as long-delayed repairs are being made to Withywoods, but I think you will find your chamber comfortable. I’ll let Bulen show you to your rooms. If you wish a warm bath after your travels let him know and he’ll arrange for water and a tub for you in the steams. You are welcome to join us for the evening meal, but if you are too wearied from your journey, food will be sent up for you.”
“I thank you,” he amended, and I sensed something unsaid. I wondered if he felt insulted that I had offered him an excuse to soak his aching body and then rest, but I had learned long ago that a warm bath and deep rest were better healers than all the unguents and restorative drinks ever concocted.
He gestured vaguely toward the door. “The mule carries my possessions, and scrolls and supplies for teaching Lady Bee.”
“I’ll have Bulen bring them to the schoolroom and your chambers, and find a stable boy to see to your animals.” I glanced at our recently hired man. He was probably of an age with FitzVigilant and was looking at him with open dismay and sympathy. The farmer’s son was wearing a cut-down set of Revel’s old livery. He still looked a country boy despite Revel’s best efforts, but he had an open, honest face and a ready smile. I could do far worse for a servant. I nodded to myself. “Tutor FitzVigilant, consider Bulen your man in our household. Bulen, for the time being, make yourself useful and available to our new tutor.” It would keep them both busy, and allow me time to quietly inspect everything FitzVigilant had on his mule.
“Sir,” Bulen agreed, and turned at once to FitzVigilant. “If you would follow me, sir?”
“One moment,” I interrupted them. “Scribe FitzVigilant, if you would not mind the extra duty, I would ask if you would also be willing to teach the other youngsters of Withywoods estate. There are not many at present, perhaps as few as six …”
“Six?” he asked faintly. His dismay was plain. Then, if it were possible, he stood even straighter and managed a tight nod. “Of course. It is what I am here to do. Teach children.”
“Excellent. Of course, you will need a day or so to settle yourself in. Let me know when you think you are ready to begin. And if you find your schoolroom lacking in anything, inform Bulen and he will bring your requests to me.”
“It is adjacent to your chambers, and already has a collection of useful scrolls, maps, and perhaps even some charts. It was stocked by Lady Patience near two score years ago, so you may find it a bit dated, but I do not think the geography of the Six Duchies has much changed.”
He nodded. “Thank you. I will examine what is already there before I ask for anything more from you.”
And so FitzVigilant joined our household. In less than a fortnight, the size of the staff of Withywoods had tripled and my own household had doubled in size. I found Revel and informed him that I had given Bulen to the tutor. The tall man looked down on me mournfully and I had to add that if he needed to replace Bulen, he could hire another man.
“Perhaps two,” he requested gravely.
I didn’t even want to know why. “Two, then,” I said, and added, “He has a mule outside, laden with his belongings and scribe supplies. If those things can be brought to his room immediately I am sure he will greatly appreciate it, as will I.”
“Immediately, then,” Revel agreed, and I hurried on my way.
When I was certain that Bulen had escorted FitzVigilant to the steams, I visited his quarters. His baggage from the mule was there, awaiting Bulen’s attention. There is an art to going through a man’s personal possessions and yet leaving no trace of having done so. It takes time, and a clear memory of exactly how every item had been packed. FitzVigilant’s living quarters were adjacent to his schoolroom. I latched the doors and was very thorough. Most of what he had was what one would expect a young man to possess, but in a far larger quantity than I had ever found necessary at his age. All of his many shirts were of very good quality. He had earrings of both silver and gold, some with small gems, all neatly stored in a roll of soft leather. I made a note that none of his garments showed the sort of wear one would associate with physical labor; indeed, very little of it looked appropriate for an ordinary day at Withywoods teaching children or totting up accounts. I had expected to find at least one sturdy and serviceable pair of trousers, but no, all were of fabrics I would have thought more suitable to a lady’s gown. Had the court at Buckkeep Castle changed that much?