“I like the slippers,” I said cautiously. They were red, with black bead embroidery and very pointed toes.
Molly laughed. “Nettle brought these clothes for me. It’s a Jamaillian style, now favored at Buckkeep.” She turned slowly, inviting me to admire the garments. “It’s very comfortable. Nettle begged me to wear it, so I would not look too provincial. And you know, Fitz, I think I shall.”
I myself wore a simple jerkin of brown over a shirt of Buckkeep blue, brown trousers, and black knee-boots. The fox pin that Kettricken had given me still sparkled at my collar. For a moment I wondered if I looked provincial, then decided I did not care.
Nettle came into the room, smiled, and lifted her brows at her mother, well pleased with her appearance. She was similarly garbed in rich browns and amber yellow. Then she glanced down into Bee’s cradle and visibly startled. Blunt as she ever was, she said, “Even though the other clothes were too big, they made her look larger. Mother, she is so tiny, she’s almost … grotesque.” Despite her words, she picked up her sister and held Bee in her arms, looking into her face. The baby gazed past her shoulder. Yet as Nettle studied her, Bee suddenly began to toss her little hands. Then her mouth opened wide, she drew a deep breath, and she began a shrill wail of protest.
At her first wail, Molly went to take her. “What’s wrong, my little Bee? What’s wrong?” The moment Molly took her from Nettle, the child went limp in her hands and her wailing became a snuffling sobbing. Molly held her and patted her and she quickly quieted. She looked at Nettle apologetically. “Don’t be hurt. She does the same thing to her father. I think she’s just old enough to realize I’m her mother and to think that I should always be holding her.”
I gave Nettle a small, rueful smile. “I’m almost relieved. I was beginning to think it was just me she disliked.”
Molly and Nettle shot me twin looks of outrage. “Bee does not dislike Nettle!” Molly insisted. “She just …” Her words dwindled away and her eyes widened slightly. Then, as direct as Nettle herself, she looked at her elder daughter and asked, “Did you do something to her? With your mind?”
“I … no! Well, not intentionally. Sometimes …” She let her words trail off. “It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have it. I touch people when I’m close to them. Not always on purpose. It’s like …” She groped for a comparison. “Like smelling someone. Even if it might seem rude, I can’t really help it. I’ve become aware of people in that way.”
Molly weighed her words as she began the slow shifting of her weight from foot to foot that she always affected when she held the child. “Then your sister is Skilled? As you are?”
Nettle laughed and shook her head. “I couldn’t tell something like that just from holding her. Besides, she’s a baby.” Her words trailed off slightly as she reflected on her own talent for Skill and how early it had wakened in her. She glanced over at me, and I felt her send a seeking tendril of Skill toward the baby. I caught my breath. Should I stop her? I watched as Bee curled more tightly against her mother and buried her face in Molly’s neck. Did she sense her sister reaching for her? I watched Nettle’s face. Puzzlement and then resignation. She didn’t sense any Skill in the baby.
My curiosity piqued, I sent a thread of Skill toward Bee, moving with utmost caution, but all I found was Molly. She had no Skill at all, but reaching toward her filled my senses with her. I found myself smiling fondly at her.
Then Nettle cleared her throat and I became aware of the room and my daughters and wife again. Molly drew a deeper breath and squared her shoulders. “Well. I will go to meet Kettricken and welcome her. Do you think I should bring Bee with me?”
Nettle shook her head hastily. “No. No, I think it is best that you choose the moment for the Mountain Queen to meet her, and that it be private at first. Can her wet nurse stay with her while we—” And then her voice ran down. She laughed. “I’ve been too long at court, haven’t I? A whole day here and of course I’ve seen no one tend her except you. Does she have a wet nurse? Or a nurse or a caretaker of any kind?”
Molly made an amused sound in her throat and shook her head. “No more than you had,” she replied.
“Could you ask one of the kitchen girls? Or one of the maids?” Nettle was well aware that her mother kept no personal servant. “I’d never have enough tasks to keep her busy,” she had always told her daughter.
Molly shook her head. “They are busy with their proper tasks. No. She will be fine here in her nursery. She’s a placid child.” She returned Bee to her cradle and covered her warmly.