But you always began again. Writing it down.
I almost laughed aloud. I did. And each time I’ve done so, I’ve found that the story changed as my perspective on life changed. There were a few years where I fancied myself quite the hero, and other times when I saw myself as star-crossed and unjustly oppressed by my life. My thoughts wandered for a moment. Before the whole court I had chased my King’s killers through Buckkeep Castle. Brave. Foolish. Stupid. Necessary. I could not count the ways I had thought of that incident through the years.
Young, Chade suggested. Young and full of righteous fury.
Hurt and heartbroken, I suggested. So tired of being thwarted. Tired of being bound by rules that no one else had to follow.
That, too, he agreed.
Abruptly, I didn’t want to think about that day, not who I had been or what I had done, and most of all not why I had done it. It was from a different life, one that could no longer touch me. Old pain could not hurt me now. Could it? I turned the question back on him. Why do you ask? Are you thinking of writing down your life’s memories?
Perhaps. It is something to do during my recovery time. I think I understand a bit better now why you have warned us about the judicious use of Skill-healings. El’s balls, but it has taken me far too long to feel like myself. My clothing hangs on me so that I am almost shamed to be seen. I totter about like a man made of sticks. Abruptly, I felt him shift the conversation away from himself, almost as if he had turned his back on me. He never cared to admit any weakness. When you wrote things down, why did you begin it? You were always writing things down.
An easy question. It was Fedwren. And Lady Patience. The scribe who had taught me and the woman who had longed to be my mother. Both of them said often that someone should write an orderly history of the Six Duchies. I took their words to mean that I should do it. But every time I tried to write about the kingdom, I ended up writing about myself.
Who did you think would read it? Your daughter?
Another old bruise. I answered honestly. At first I didn’t think about who might read it. I wrote it for myself, as if by doing so I could make sense of it. All the old tales I had ever heard made sense; good triumphed, or perhaps the hero died tragically, but he accomplished something with his death. So I wrote down my life as if it were a tale, and I searched for the happy ending. Or the sense of it.
My mind wandered for a time. Back through the years I went, back to the boy who had been apprenticed to an assassin so that he might serve the family who would never acknowledge him as a son. Back to the warrior, fighting with an axe, against ships full of invaders. Back to the spy, to a man serving his missing King while all descended into chaos around him. Was that me? I wondered. So many lives lived. So many names I’d borne. And always, always, I had longed for a different life.
I reached toward Chade again. For all the years when I couldn’t speak to Nettle or Molly, I sometimes told myself that someday they might read it and understand why I had not been with them. Even if I never came back to them, perhaps one day they would know that I had always wanted to. So at first, yes, it was like a long letter to them, explaining all that had kept me from them. I tightened my walls, not wanting Chade to sense my private thought that perhaps I had not been as honest in those early attempts as I might have been. I had been young, I excused myself, and who does not put himself in the best possible light when he presents his tale to someone he loves? Or his excuses to someone he has wronged. I thrust that thought away and pushed a question back at Chade.
Who would you write your memoir for?
His answer shocked me. Perhaps it’s the same for me. He paused, and when he spoke again, I felt he had changed his mind about telling me something. Perhaps I write for you. You’re as close to being my son as makes no difference to me. Perhaps I want you to know who I was when I was a young man. Perhaps I want to explain to you why I shaped your life as I did. Maybe I want to justify to you decisions that I’ve made.
The idea shocked me, and not that he would speak of me as a son. Did he sincerely believe that I did not know and understand his motives for what he had taught me, for all he had asked of me? Did I want him to explain himself? I thought not. I warded my thoughts, trying to think of a response. Then I felt his amusement. Gentle amusement. Had it been an object lesson?
You think I underestimate Nettle. That she would not need or want me to reveal myself completely to her.
I do. But I also understand the urge to explain yourself. What is harder for me to understand is how you make yourself sit down and do it. I’ve tried, because I think it’s something I need to do, more for myself than anyone else who might come after me. Perhaps, as you say, to impose some sort of order or sense on my past. But it’s hard. What do I put in, what do I leave out? Where does my tale begin? What should come first?