Another silence. He was containing his Skill so tightly he felt almost as blank as Cook Nutmeg. I had found a scroll about this and read it. Now I knew that was what it was called. Containing his Skill or keeping up his walls meant that I felt like I could breathe when he was in the room. And it also meant he would try to hide something from me.
“He was sent by your sister. And by Lord Chade. To teach you. Do you think they would send someone to kill you?”
“Nettle might send him, if she didn’t know he was an assassin.” I said nothing of what I thought Lord Chade might do.
He sat down heavily in the chair behind his desk. “Bee, why would anyone want to kill you?”
I looked up at the sword hanging on the wall and over his head. Maybe truth from me would win truth from him. “For being a Farseer,” I said slowly. “One they didn’t need. Or want.”
My father looked away from me. Then he turned slowly in his chair and looked up at the sword with me. I listened to more distant sounds in the house. Someone was hammering. A door opened and shut.
“I didn’t think we’d be having this discussion so soon.” He drummed his fingers along the edges of his desk and then looked back at me. He was so sad. So guilty for making this part of my life. “How much do you know?” he asked gently.
I came closer to his desk and set my own fingers along the edge on my side. “I know who you are. Whose son you are. And that I’m your daughter.”
He closed his eyes for a moment and let out a short breath. Without opening them, he asked me, “Who told you? Not your mother.”
“No. Not my mother. I put it together myself. From bits of things. You never really hid it from me. When I was little, before I was talking much, you and Mama often spoke over my head, about many things. Stories about Patience. How much she wanted a child, and why she wanted you to have Withywoods. There are bits of my family history everywhere in the manor. My grandfather’s portrait is on the wall upstairs.”
His fingers moved more slowly on the desktop. He opened his eyes and looked past me, staring intently at the panel of the door. I saw I would have to put it together for him.
“Mother sometimes called you Fitz. And Nettle did, too. You look like Chivalry. And in the south wing, there is an old portrait of King Shrewd and his first Queen. My great-grandmother. I suppose they sent it here when he married Queen Desire and she didn’t want to be reminded of the first wife. I look like Queen Constance, I think. A little bit.”
“Do you?” He spoke faintly, breathing out the word.
“I think I do. My nose.”
“Come here,” he said, and when I went to him, he pulled me up on his lap. I was able to sit there. He was so contained, it was almost like sitting on a chair. He put his arms around me and held me close. It was odd to feel so separate and yet so close to him. Like Mother, I suddenly realized. She had been able to hold me close like this. I leaned my forehead against my father’s shoulder. I felt his arm around me, a hard-muscled arm that could protect me. He spoke by my ear. “No matter what name they call us by, you will always be mine. And I am yours, Bee. And I will always do everything in my power to protect you. Do you understand that?”
I nodded my head against him.
“I will always need you. I will always want you to be part of my life. Do you understand that?”
I nodded again.
“Now, this scribe who has come to stay with us? FitzVigilant? Well. Chade sends him here to us because he needs my protection, too. He is a bastard. Like me. Unlike you, his family would like to get rid of him. They don’t need him or want him. So, to keep him safe, Chade has sent him here.”
“Like Shun,” I suggested quietly.
I listened to my father’s heart beating. “Worked that out, too, did you? Yes. Like Shun exactly. But unlike Shun he has had some training both as a, well, a protector himself, and as a tutor. Chade’s thought was that he could be a guard for you as well as a teacher. And Nettle agreed.”
“And he’s illegitimate?”
“Yes. That’s why his given name has a Fitz at the start. His father acknowledged him.”
“But his father doesn’t protect him?”
“He doesn’t. Can’t or won’t, I do not know. I suppose it makes no difference. His father’s wife and his brothers do not like him or want him. Sometimes things like that happen in families. But not in the family of you and me. And FitzVigilant is no danger to you. Especially now.”
“He was badly beaten. By people sent by his own family. Probably his stepmother. He ran away to be here so they couldn’t find him and kill him. It’s going to take him time to recover enough to teach you.”