“You can’t die. Not like this.”
A thin smile curved his lips. “Can’t die? No, Fitzy, I can’t live. Would that I could, but I can’t.” His eyelids, as dark as if they had been bruised, closed uselessly over his clouded eyes. I lifted my gaze. Time had passed. How much, I could not tell, but the light had changed. Some of the village folk had fallen back into a wondering circle, but as many had decided there was little to see; the beginnings of Winterfest beckoned, and they had gone on their ways. Riddle still stood there, a dazed Bee in his arms, flanked by Shun and FitzVigilant. Shun huddled shivering in her wraps, her face a mask of righteous anger. FitzVigilant looked completely confused. I looked directly at Riddle and spoke heedless of who might hear or wonder.
“I must take him to Buckkeep Castle. To the Skill-coterie for healing. Through the pillars. Will you help me?”
Riddle looked down at Bee in his arms and then back at me. “She’s fine,” he said, and I heard his rebuke that I had not even asked about that. But surely, if she were not, he would have told me that instantly? I felt a twinge of anger at him that faded immediately. I didn’t have the right to be angry at him, nor the time to be anything but desperate. I stared at him. He shook his head, denying me, but said, “I’ll help you however I can. As always I have.”
I gathered my feet under me and stood with little effort. The Fool weighed nothing, nothing at all. He had always been slight and limber but now he was skeletal and bound with scars and rags. The gawkers were staring at me intensely. I could not afford to care about that. I advanced toward Riddle. He stood his ground but both Shun and FitzVigilant retreated from what they thought was the body of a smelly old beggar.
I darted my eyes at FitzVigilant. “Get our team and wagon. Bring it here. “
Shun began with, “But what about the green—?”
I just looked at her and she closed her lips. “Go!” I reminded FitzVigilant, and he went. When he was two steps away, Shun decided to go with him. Good.
“Bee. Bee, look at me. Please.”
She had had her face buried in Riddle’s neck. Now she slowly lifted it and stared at me. Blue eyes of ice in a pale face; the red in her shawl was a shocking contrast. “Bee, this man didn’t mean to frighten you. I told you about him once. Remember? He’s an old friend of mine, someone I have not seen in many years. Riddle knew him as Lord Golden. I knew him as the Fool when we were children together. One thing I am certain of: He would never, ever hurt a child. I know you were frightened, but he meant you no harm.”
“I wasn’t frightened,” she said softly. “Not until you killed him.”
“He’s not dead, Bee.” I hoped I sounded comforting. “But he is hurt, and badly. I need to take him to Buckkeep Castle right away. I think he can be healed there.”
I heard the creak and rumble of the wagon, and the remaining gawkers made way for it. There were going to be some strange stories told that night in the tavern. No help for that. I carried the Fool to the tail of the wagon. Shun was already ensconced in the corner of the bed closest to the seat. “Bring some of those robes and make a pallet for him.”
She stared at me, unmoving.
FitzVigilant set the brake, wrapped the reins, turned, and stepped over the back of the seat into the bed of the wagon. He gathered an armful of the unused wraps and tossed them toward me. Riddle had come to stand beside me. He set Bee down in the wagon bed, wrapped her warmly, and then arranged the other blankets. I set the Fool down as carefully as I could. He made a gasping sound. “We’re taking you to get help. Just keep breathing.” I kept my hand on his chest as I spoke, reaching for him, trying to hold his life in his body. As always I could not sense him with my Wit, and the Skill-bond he had put on me was something he had taken back decades ago. But there was something there still, something that linked us, and I tried desperately to feed strength to him. I clambered awkwardly into the wagon bed, never breaking my touch on him. With my free hand, I reached out and pulled Bee toward me so that she leaned against me. “Riddle, you drive. The stones on Gallows Hill.”
“I know them,” he said briefly. He walked away, a thousand conversations in his silence. He clambered up to the seat and FitzVigilant conceded it to him, climbing into the back of the wagon to sit with Shun. They were both regarding me as if I had loaded a rabid dog into the wagon with them. I didn’t care. The wagon started with a lurch, and I didn’t look back at the people who stared after us. I closed my eyes and reached out for Nettle. There was no time for subtlety.