I supposed he had a right to his annoyance. I tried to temper my reply with patience, not to provoke him to any greater anger than he was already feeling. I had to leave my daughter in his care. At his mercy. It took me a moment to sort what I would share.
“He’s an old friend. I mistook his actions, didn’t recognize him, and attacked him. He needs healing, far more healing than we can do at Withywoods. I’m sure you’ve heard of the magic of the Skill. We intend to use the Skill to travel through a stone pillar to Buckkeep Castle. There my old friend can get the healing he needs. I must go with him. I hope I will not be gone more than a day or two.”
Neither one of them said anything. I chewed my pride and swallowed it. I would have to ask this of him, at least. I looked at my Bee. For her, I would do anything. I spoke more softly. “In the tavern I told you that I doubted your abilities, not only to teach but to protect my child. Fate has given you a chance to prove me wrong. Do this, and do it well, and I will reconsider my opinion of you. I expect you to step up and assume the responsibility I’m giving you. Watch over my child.” I hoped he would find the meaning in my words that I dared not say aloud. Guard her with your life.
Shun spoke abruptly, with the confidence born of supreme ignorance. “The Skill-magic only belongs to the royal Farseer line. How can you possibly use—”
“Be silent.” Riddle spoke the command in a tone I’d never heard him use. I doubt that Shun had ever had anyone speak to her so, but for a miracle she did as she was told. With a wriggle like a nesting hen, she settled back in the robes next to FitzVigilant. I watched them exchange a look of shared outrage at how they were being treated. The team plodded on. The snow on the road was deepening, clinging to the wheels. For a moment I sensed how the horses strained, smelled their sweat in the cold air. I restrained my Wit and cleared my throat. I squeezed her hand softly.
“Bee is a capable child. I trust that you will recognize that she needs very little supervision in her daily tasks. Her lessons will go on, as I assume they will for all the children of the estate. In my absence, let her set her own routine. If she requires help from either of you, I am sure she will seek you out. If she does not, then you need not be concerned for her. She has her maid Careful and Revel, in addition to you. Will you be comfortable with that, Bee?”
My little daughter gave me a rare direct look. “Yes. Thank you, Papa, for trusting me to mind myself. I will do my best to be responsible.” Her mouth was set in a solemn line. She squeezed my hand in response. We were both putting a brave face on the situation.
“I know you will.”
“Nearly there,” Riddle called back to me. “Will they be ready?”
“Yes.” I hoped Nettle had taken my message seriously. No. I knew she would. I had not bothered to mask my emotions. She would have sensed my desperation. They would be waiting for us.
Again I saw Lady Shun and FitzVigilant exchange a look of mutual offense at being excluded from our cryptic exchange. I cared not at all. The track up to Gallows Hill was not well tended. The wagon jounced and slid in the ruts and I gritted my teeth at the pain it must cause the Fool. As soon as the horses halted, I was out of the wagon. I staggered sideways, the world spun, and then I found my balance. I leaned on the wagon and pointed up at FitzVigilant. “Take Bee home. And I am counting on you that she will be safe and content in my absence. Are we clear?” Even as he nodded, I knew this was not the best way to handle the man, let alone Shun. They would both be resentful and confused. It could not be helped. There was no time to do better.
I took both Bee’s hands in mine. With her sitting on the open tail of the wagon, we were nearly on a level. She looked up at me, her fair skin whiter in contrast with the gray-and-red shawl that now covered most of her golden hair. I spoke softly, only to her. “Listen to me. Mind FitzVigilant, and if you have any needs, make them known to him, or Lady Shun, or Revel. I am sorry, so sorry, that our day was disrupted. When I return, I promise that we will have a whole day, all to ourselves, and that things will come out well. Can you trust me for that?”
She looked up at me. Her gaze now was tranquil and accepting, almost lethargic. “I think I will go first to Steward Revel. He knows me best. And I know that you will try your best to keep your promise,” she said softly. “I see that.”
“I’m glad that you do.” I kissed her on top of her head. “Be brave,” I whispered.
Riddle was clambering down from the wagon seat. “Where are you going?” Shun demanded of him.
“I’m going with Fitz,” he told her. “Through the stone and back to Buckkeep. We are trusting Lady Nettle’s small sister into your care.” I more felt than saw how he turned his eyes on FitzVigilant. I was staring at my child, wondering how I could risk this and how I could not. “Lant, we’ve known each other a long time. I know the man you are capable of being. Never have I trusted you with more than I am entrusting you with now. Watch over Bee with kindness. Nettle and I will hold you responsible for her well-being.” He spoke softly but there were teeth in his words. If FitzVigilant replied, I did not hear it.