Fool's Assassin / Page 38

Page 38

I smiled and leaned back in my chair. I usually start trying to write about something else, and end up writing about myself. A sudden insight came to me. Chade, I would like it if you wrote it down. Not to explain it, but just because there is so much I’ve always wondered about you. You’ve told me some bits of your life. But … who decided you’d become a royal assassin? Who taught you?

A cold wind blew through me, and for a moment, I felt as if I were being choked mercilessly. As abruptly as it had begun, it stopped, but I felt the wall that Chade had quickly erected. There were dark, harsh memories back there. Was it possible he’d had a tutor whom he had dreaded and feared as much as I had Galen? Galen had been more interested in trying to kill me quietly than teaching me how to Skill. And the so-called Skillmaster had almost succeeded. Under the guise of creating a new Skill-coterie to aid King Verity in his efforts against the Red-Ship Raiders, Galen had battered and humiliated me and almost extinguished my talent for the magic. And he had corrupted the coterie’s loyalty to the true Farseer monarch. Galen had been Queen Desire’s tool and then Prince Regal’s as they had tried to rid themselves of the Farseer bastard and put Regal upon the throne. Dark days. I knew Chade could tell where my thoughts had gone. I admitted it to him, hoping to draw him out a bit. Well. There’s an “old friend” I hadn’t thought about in years.

Scarcely a friend. But speaking of old friends, have you heard from your old companion lately? The Fool?

Did he deliberately change the topic so abruptly, to try to catch me off guard? It worked. As I blocked him from my reaction, I knew that my defensive impulse told him just as much as all I tried to hide from him. The Fool. I had not heard from the Fool in years.

I found I was staring at the Fool’s last gift to me, the carving of the three of us, him, me, and my wolf Nighteyes. I lifted a hand toward it, and then pulled it back. I never again wanted to see his expression change from that half-quirked smile it wore. Let me remember him that way. We had journeyed through life together for many years, endured hardships and near-death together. More than one death, I thought to myself. My wolf had died, and my friend had parted from me without a farewell, and with never a message since. I wondered if he thought I was dead. I refused to wonder if he was dead. He couldn’t be. Often he’d told me that he was far older than I knew, and expected to live much longer than I would. He had cited that as one reason for leaving. He had warned me that he was going away before we last parted. He had believed he was freeing me of bond and obligation, setting me loose finally to pursue my own inclinations. But the unfinished parting had left a wound, and over the years the wound had become the sort of scar that ached at the change of the seasons. Where was he now? Why had he never sent as much as a missive? If he had believed me dead, why had he left a gift for me? If he had believed I would appear again, why had he never contacted me? I pulled my eyes away from the carving.

I haven’t seen him or received a message from him since I left Aslevjal. That’s been, what, fourteen years? Fifteen? Why do you ask now?

I thought as much. You will recall that I was interested in the tales of the White Prophet long before the Fool declared himself as such.

I do. I first heard the term from you. I kept my curiosity on a tight leash, refusing to ask any more questions. When Chade had first begun to show me writings about the White Prophet, I had regarded them as yet another odd religion from a faraway place. Eda and El I understood well enough. El, the sea god, was a god best left alone, merciless and demanding. Eda, the goddess of the farmlands and the pastures, was generous and maternal. But even for those Six Duchies gods, Chade had taught me small reverence, and even less for Sa, the two-faced and double-gendered god of Jamaillia. So his fascination with the legends of the White Prophet had mystified me. The scrolls foretold that to every generation was born a colorless child who would be gifted with prescience and the ability to influence the course of the world by the manipulation of events great and small. Chade had been intrigued by the idea, and with the legendary accounts of White Prophets who had prevented wars or toppled kings by triggering tiny events that cascaded into great ones. One account claimed a White Prophet had lived thirty years by a river simply so he could warn a single traveler on a certain night that the bridge would give way if he tried to cross it during a storm. The traveler, it revealed, went on to be the father of a great general who was instrumental in winning a battle in some distant country. I had believed it all charming nonsense until I met the Fool.

When he had declared himself a White Prophet, I had been skeptical, and even more so when he declared that I would be his Catalyst who would change the course of history. And yet undoubtedly we had done so. Had he not been at Buckkeep during my lifetime, I would have died. More than once, some intervention of his had preserved my life. In the Mountains, when I lay fevered and dying in the snow, he had carried me to his cottage there and nursed me back to health. He had kept me alive so that dragons might be restored to their rightful place in the world. I was still not sure that was beneficial to humanity, but there was no denying that without him, it would not have happened.

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