“My thoughts exactly.”
“I don’t like how that woman looked at Bee.”
Molly was silent, seething now. She knew I wanted to be assured that she had taken no offense at Kettricken’s comment, but she would not give me that. She had been offended by Lady Solace, and as Kettricken had brought her into our home, she extended her affront to the former Queen. She knew it divided my loyalty, but offered me no relief. She walked briskly down the hall and then up the wide steps to our bedchamber on the next floor. I followed her more slowly, the cradle weighing more with every step. By the time I set it down in our bedchamber, Molly had settled Bee in the center of our bed, and I knew she would sleep between us. Ah, just as well. I moved swiftly around the room, pretending to close the hangings tighter and build the fire higher, but actually checking alcoves and draperies for intruders. I kept my peace while she freed Bee of her finery and clothed her in a soft little nightshirt. It dwarfed her. As Molly folded the excess length around her feet, I asked her quietly, “You’ll be all right here if I go back down to our guests?”
“I’m latching the door behind you,” she told me.
I met her gaze. My mate’s stare assured me that our cub would be safe with her. “That would be wise,” I agreed. “I’ll knock and speak through the door when I come up to bed.”
“Well. That’s reassuring,” she said quietly, and then, despite ourselves, we both laughed.
“I’m sure I’m being silly to worry so,” I lied to her.
“I’m sure you’re being silly to think I’d believe you,” she responded, and followed me to the door. After it closed behind me, I heard Molly struggle a moment with a stiff, seldom-used bolt. Then I heard it slide home, metal against metal. It was a good sound.
Kettricken and her companions stayed only a night. We did not bring Bee in to breakfast the next morning, and no one asked to see her. The minstrel was never summoned to look on her, in public or in private. Kettricken never mentioned that Bee should be documented as the true child of FitzChivalry Farseer. She was never entered into the formal lineage of possible heirs to the throne. Her life would not be like her sister’s; that was clear enough. Kettricken had evaluated my child and found her wanting. I could not decide if I felt angered by her dismissal of Bee or deeply grateful.
For there was another side to that coin. If Kettricken had acknowledged my child, even privately, it would have been a veil of protection around her. That she had not claimed Bee as part of the Farseer dynasty put her outside the circle and left her as I had been left for so many years: a Farseer who was both an asset and a liability to the throne.
Kettricken announced that she must leave shortly after noon, and that her friends were also traveling on to their home. The looks she gave me were deeply sympathetic. I think she assumed Molly and I wished to be left in privacy with our dwindling baby, to have what time we could with her before she was gone. It would have been a kind gesture, if Bee were truly failing. As it was, it was hard to bid her a fond farewell, for her departure almost seemed as if she were wishing a swift death on my daughter.
Nettle stayed on for a week. She saw Bee daily, and I think she slowly realized that although Bee was not thriving and growing, neither was she dwindling. She stayed as she was, eating and drinking, her blue eyes taking in everything, her Wit-spark strong in my awareness. At last, Nettle announced she must return to Buckkeep and her duties there. Before she left, she found a quiet moment to berate me for not telling her sooner of Bee’s birth, and to plead that if there was any change in the health of child or Molly, I Skill to her immediately. I promised her that without difficulty.
I did not Skill to Chade about his failed spy. I needed time to think. Bee was safe. Jest or test or threat, whatever it was, it was over. I had seen little of young Lant during Kettricken’s stay, but I did stand outside to be sure he was with her when she rode away. In the days that followed, I heard nothing from Chade about him.
In the weeks that followed, Molly’s sons came and went in ones and twos, some with wife and children, others alone. They inspected Bee with the fond and accepting equanimity of much older siblings. There she was, another baby, very small, but their mother seemed happy and Tom Badgerlock seemed content with his lot, so there was nothing for them to fret about here, and a great deal to worry about at their respective homes. The house seemed to grow quieter after the company had left, as if winter had truly settled into the bones of the land.
I enjoyed my lady wife and my child.