“It is,” I confirmed.
He nodded, brows drawn. “Riddle managed a partial report before Nettle chased me off. He’ll be all right, Fitz, small thanks to you. This is an example of where your ignorance can hurt us. If you had returned to Buckkeep to study with the rest of the King’s Own Coterie, you would have had better control of your Skill-use of him.”
It was the last thing I wished to discuss just then. “You’re right,” I said, and in his shocked silence that followed my capitulation, I added, “The Fool would like to be lodged in our old study room. Can that be arranged? A fire built, clean linens, a fresh robe, a warm bath, and simple, hot food?”
He did not flinch at my list. “And salves. And herbs for restorative teas. Give me a bit of time. I’ve an evening of diplomacy and negotiation to dance through yet. And I must ask Kettricken to return with me to that. When I send a page, carry him up to Lady Thyme’s old room, via the servants’ stair. You’ll find the wardrobe there has a false back now. Enter there. I’m afraid I must return to the welcoming festivities right away. But I’ll see you either very late tonight or very early tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” I said. He nodded gravely.
Even in my gratitude, I knew that there would eventually be a price for Chade’s favors. There always was.
Kettricken rose with a rustling of skirts. “I, too, must return to the feasting hall.” I turned my head and for the first time that night, I really looked at her. She was dressed in shades of blue silk, with white lace drapery over her kirtle and skirts. Her earrings were blue and silver, and the silver coronet she wore include a network of pale topazes over her brow. My astonishment must have shown, for she smiled deprecatingly. “They are our trading partners; they are gratified to see me wearing the products of that trade, and the compliment to them makes my King’s negotiations with them easier.” She smiled as she added, “And I assure you, Fitz, my adornments are simple compared with what our young Queen wears tonight!”
I smiled at her. “I know you favor simpler garb, but in truth, its beauty does you great justice.”
The Fool spoke softly. “Would that I could see you.” He clutched the empty soup bowl. Without a word, Kettricken wiped broth from the corner of his mouth.
I wanted to tell him that we would heal him and he would see again. In truth, I was wishing that I had taken Chade up on his repeated offers of learning more about the Skill. I looked at the Fool and wondered if we could straighten bones healed crooked, return light to his eyes, and lift the gray pallor from his skin. How much of his health could we restore?
“I do wish it,” he said suddenly. “The Skill-healing. I do not desire it. I dread it. But I wish for it to be done. As quickly as possible.”
I spoke the truth reluctantly. “Right now, we would be as likely to kill you as heal you. There is so much … damage. And you are weakened by all that has been done to you. Despite the strength I stole for you.” Kettricken was looking at me, the question in her eyes. It was time to tell them both I didn’t know the answer. “I do not know how much the Skill can restore you. It is a magic that ultimately obeys your body. It can prompt your body to repair what is wrong, much faster than your body would do if left alone. But things that your body has already repaired, a broken bone for example—well, I do not know if it will straighten an old break.”
Kettricken spoke quietly. “When the coterie healed you, I understood that many old hurts were healed as well. Scars vanished.”
I didn’t want to remind her that such an unrestrained healing had nearly killed me. “I think we will have to take this in stages. And I don’t want the Fool to lift his hopes too high.”
“I need to see,” he said suddenly. “Above all else, I need to see, Fitz.”
“I can’t promise you that,” I said.
Kettricken stepped back from the bed. Her eyes were bright with tears but her voice was steady as she said, “I fear I must return to the trade negotiations.” She glanced at the entrance to the infirmary. Chade awaited her there.
“I thought it was a feast, with minstrels singing, and then dancing?”
“So it might appear, but it is all a negotiation. And tonight, I am still the Queen of the Mountain Kingdom and hence a player in all the Six Duchies wishes to win. Fool, I cannot tell you how I feel. Full of joy to see you again, and full of sorrow to see all that has befallen you.”
He smiled, stretching his cracked lips. “I am much the same, my Queen.” He pursed his smile ruefully and added, “Except for the seeing part.”