Not so late at night for you, old man. But I spent hours on the record keeping for Withywoods tonight, and tomorrow I have to be up at dawn to go to the market at Oaksbywater to speak to a wool buyer.
Ridiculous. What do you know of wool and sheep? Send one of your sheep tenders to speak to him.
I can’t. It’s my task, not theirs. And actually, I’ve learned a great deal about sheep and wool in my time here. I drew my body carefully away from Molly’s before I eased out from under our blankets and groped with a foot for the robe I had discarded on the floor. I found it, kicked it up, caught it, and pulled it on over my head. I crossed the darkened room on soundless feet.
Even if I wasn’t speaking aloud, I did not want to take the chance of disturbing Molly. She had not been sleeping well of late, and several times I had caught her regarding me with a speculative smile on her face. Something occupied her thoughts by day and left her restless at night. I longed to know her secret, but knew better than to press her. When she was ready, she would share it with me. Tonight, at least, she slept deeply and I was grateful. Life was harder for my Molly than it was for me; the aches and pains of aging took a toll on her that I did not have to pay. Unfair, I thought to myself and then, as I slipped from our bedroom into the corridor, I banished the thought.
Molly is not well?
She isn’t ill. Just our years catching up with us.
Chade seemed surprised. She need not feel those pains. The coterie would be glad to assist with a small reordering of her body. Not a major change, just …
She would not welcome that sort of interference, Chade. We’ve spoken of it and that was her decision. She deals with aging on her own terms.
As you wish. I could feel that he thought I was foolish for not intervening.
No. As she wishes. The Skill could indeed have banished a lot of her aches. I knew that I went to bed with twinges that were gone by morning. The price of those tiny healings was that I ate like a longshoreman, with impunity. No cost at all, really. But Molly’s health is not why you woke me out of a sound sleep. Are you well?
Well enough. Still regaining flesh since my Skill-healing. But as that healing seems to have set right a host of other small ailments, I judge it a good bargain.
I padded through the wood-paneled corridors in the dark, leaving our comfortable chambers in the main house and making my way to the little-used west wing. With the shrinking of our household, Molly and I felt that the main house and the north wing were more than ample space for the two of us and our rare guests. The west wing was the oldest part of the house, chilly in winter and cool in summer. Since we had closed most of it, it had become a last refuge for creaking chairs and wobbly tables and anything else that Revel considered too worn for daily use but still too good to discard. I shivered as I hurried down a dark corridor. I opened a narrow door and in the blackness descended one flight of servant stairs. Down a much narrower hall I went, my fingertips lightly brushing the wall, and then I opened the door to my private study. A few embers still winked on the hearth. I wended my way through the scroll racks and knelt by the fire to light a candle from it. I carried the flame to my desk and one after another lit some half-spent tapers in their holders. My last evening’s translation work was still spread on my desk. I sat down in my chair and yawned hugely. Come to the point, old man!
No, I didn’t wake you to discuss Molly, though I do care for her health as it affects your happiness and Nettle’s focus. I woke you to ask you a question. All your journals and diaries, written through the years … have you ever regretted all the writing you’ve done?
I pondered it very briefly. The light from the flickering candles danced teasingly along the edges of the laden scroll racks behind me. Many of the spindled scrolls were old, some almost ancient. Their edges were tattered, the vellum stained. My copies of them were made onto fine paper these days, often bound together with my translations. Preserving what was written on the tattering vellums was a work I enjoyed and, according to Chade, still my duty to him.
But those were not the writings that Chade referred to. He meant my numerous attempts to chronicle the days of my own life. I had seen many changes in the Six Duchies since I had come to Buckkeep Castle as a royal bastard. I had seen us change from an isolated and, some would say, backward kingdom to a powerful trading destination. In the years between, I had witnessed treachery born of evil, and loyalty paid for in blood. I had seen a king assassinated, and as an assassin I had sought my own vengeance. I sacrificed my life and my death for my family, more than once. I had seen friends die.
At intervals throughout my life, I had tried to record all I had seen and done. And often enough I’d had to hastily destroy those accounts when I feared they would fall into the wrong hands. I winced as I thought of it. I only regret the time I spent writing them when I had to burn them. I always think of all the time I spent carefully writing, only to have it burn to ash in a matter of minutes.