He didn’t meet my eyes as he bobbed his head. “If that would please you, sir, I shall begin doing so.”
“We would enjoy your company. It will give not only Bee but the rest of the household staff an opportunity to know you better.”
He bowed again. “If it would please you, sir—”
“It would,” I interrupted. “But only if you are comfortable also.”
For a time our eyes met, and he was a boy standing naked by a hearth as a trained assassin ripped through his clothes. Yes. A bit of awkwardness to the beginning of our relationship. One we would have to overcome. The silence held, and something changed in him as determination set on his face.
“Yes. I shall be there, Holder Badgerlock.”
A dream from a winter night when I was six years old.
In a market square, a blind beggar sat in his rags. No one was giving him anything, for he was more frightening than pathetic with his cruelly scarred face and crumpled hands. He took a little puppet out of his ragged clothes; it was made of sticks and string with only an acorn for a head, but he made it dance as if it were alive. A small sullen boy watched from the crowd. Slowly he was drawn forward to watch the puppet’s dance. When he was close, the beggar turned his clouded eyes on the boy. They began to clear, like silt settling to the bottom of a puddle. Suddenly the beggar dropped his puppet.
This dream ends in blood and I am afraid to recall it. Does the boy become the puppet, with strings attached to his hands and feet, his knees and elbows and bobbing head? Or does the beggar seize the boy with hard and bony hands? Perhaps both things happen. It all ends in blood and screaming. It is the dream I hate most of all the dreams I have ever had. It is the end dream for me. Or perhaps the beginning dream. I know that after this event, the world as I know it is never the same.
Dream journal of Bee Farseer
My first dinner with my new tutor was the worst meal of my life. I was dressed in one of my new tunics. It itched. It had not yet been taken in to fit me, so I felt as if I were walking about in a small woolen tent. My new leggings were not yet finished, so my old ones were both too short and baggy about the knees. I felt like some peculiar wading bird, with my legs sticking out the bottom of my ample clothes. I told myself that once I was seated at the table, no one could tell, but my plan to be first there failed.
Shun had preceded me, sweeping into the dining room like a Queen entering her throne room. Her hair had been dressed on top of her head; her new maid had a gift for hair, and every auburn curl shone. Silver pins twinkled against that sleek mahogany like stars in a night sky. She was beyond beautiful; she was striking. Even I had to admit that. Her gown was green and some trick of the cut lifted her breasts away from her chest as if she were offering them to us, demanding we look at them. She had painted her lips and dusted her face with a pale powder so that her dark lashes and green eyes looked at us as if from a mask. A kiss of rouge at the top of each cheek made her appear animated and lively. I was doomed to hate her all the more for her beauty. I followed her into the room. Before I could reach my seat, she turned to regard me and smiled a cat’s smile.
Worse was to come. My tutor was behind me.
FitzVigilant could not take his eyes off Shun. His beautiful face had healed, the swelling gone and the greens and purples of his bruises faded. His skin was not weathered as were my father’s and Riddle’s. He had the complexion of a court gentleman. He had shaved his high-boned cheeks and strong chin as smooth as could be, but the shadow of what would doubtless be a grand mustache was showing on his upper lip. I had worried that he would scoff at my ill-fitting clothes—a useless fear. He halted in the door, his eyes widening as he saw Shun. Both she and I saw him catch his breath. Then he came slowly to take his place at the table. He apologized to my father for being late, but as he spoke, he looked at Shun.
He took his place at the table last, and he apologized to my father for coming late.
In that moment of his carefully worded courtesy with his court accent, I fell in love.
People make mock of a girl or boy’s first love, calling it puppyish infatuation. But why should not a young person love just as wildly or deeply as any other? I looked at my tutor and knew that he must see me as just a child, small for my age and provincial, scarcely worthy of his attention. But I will not lie about what I felt. I burned to distinguish myself in his company. I longed to say something charming, or to make him laugh. I wished that something would happen that would make him see me as important.
But there was nothing about me. I was a little girl, dressed in very ordinary garb, with no exciting tale to tell. I could not even enter the conversation that Shun began and then guided so carefully to herself and her sophisticated upbringing. She spoke of her childhood in the grandparents’ home, telling stories of the various well-known minstrels who had performed there, and nobles who had come to visit. Often enough, FitzVigilant would exclaim that he, too, had heard that minstrel perform, or that he knew Lady This-and-So from a visit to Buckkeep Castle. When he mentioned a minstrel named Hap, she set down her fork and exclaimed that she had heard he was the most amusing of minstrels, knowing every humorous song that one could sing. I longed to open my mouth and say he was like an elder brother to me and once had given me a doll. But they were talking to each other, not me, and if I had spoken it would have seemed I eavesdropped. In that moment, though, how I longed that Hap would suddenly drop in on one of his random visits and greet me as kin.