Chade gave a huff of disdain. “Well. There was a time when you were not so severe when a prank had been played upon you.” He crossed the room, his carriage a bit stiff. I suspected a binding beneath that shirt, helping him look fit and easing his old back. He reached the hearth and looked about distractedly. “Where has my chair gotten to?”
Rosemary gave a small sigh of exasperation. “It has been months since you’ve been up here, and you told me I might arrange things to suit myself.”
He scowled. “That doesn’t mean that you can arrange things to discomfort me.”
She pursed her lips and shook her head, but motioned at FitzVigilant. “The old chair is in the corner, with the other rubbish that hasn’t gone out yet. Fetch it, please.”
“Rubbish?” Chade repeated indignantly. “What rubbish? I had no rubbish up here!”
She crossed her arms on her chest. “Cracked bowls and chipped cups. A small cauldron with a broken bail. Flasks of old oil, gone nearly to shellac. And all the rest of the litter you had pushed to the end of the table.”
Chade’s scowl deepened but he only grunted in response. FitzVigilant brought his old chair back to its place by the hearth. Without rising, I slid Rosemary’s chair over to make room for it. For the first time in decades, I looked at Chade’s seat. The scrolled woodwork was scarred. The joints were loose, and the cushion still showed where I had mended it after Slink the ferret had had a tremendous battle with it one night. I looked around the room. “No ferret?” I asked.
“And no ferret droppings,” Rosemary replied acerbically.
Chade rolled his eyes at me. With a sigh, he lowered himself into the chair. It creaked under him. He looked at me. “Well, Fitz. How have you been?”
I would not allow him to dismiss my mission so lightly. “Annoyed. Offended. And wary, ever since I found an assassin creeping about my baby’s cradle.”
Chade gave a dismissive snort of laughter. “An assassin? Scarcely. He’s barely even a spy yet.”
“Well, that’s so comforting,” I responded.
“Ah, Fitz, where else should I send him to cut his teeth? It’s not like when you were a boy and we had a simmering war and a treacherous little pretender to the throne simpering and plotting here at Buckkeep. I had a dozen ways to measure your progress right here within the castle walls. But FitzVigilant isn’t so fortunate. I have to send him farther afield to test him. I try to choose his tasks carefully. I knew you wouldn’t hurt him. And I thought it might be a good way to test his mettle.”
“Not to test me, then?”
He lifted his hand from the chair’s arm and waved it vaguely. “Perhaps a bit. It never hurts to be sure a man hasn’t lost his edge.” He looked around. “Is that wine?”
“Yes.” I refilled my glass and offered it to him. He received it, took a sip, and set it down. When he did, I asked, “So. Why do I need an edge still?”
He stared at me, his green eyes piercing. “You bring another Farseer into the world, and ask me that?”
I kept my temper. “No Farseer. Bee Badgerlock is her name.” I bit back that my little girl would never be a danger to anyone.
Elbow on the arm of his chair, he rested his chin in his hand. “You have lost your edge if you think a shield that thin can protect her.”
“Protect her from what?” I glanced past him to where Rosemary and FitzVigilant were standing. “The only danger I’ve seen has come from people I should be able to trust. People I thought would protect her.”
“It wasn’t danger. It was a reminder that you need to be watchful. From the beginning. By the time you discover there’s a danger it’s too late to put your wards in place.” He bristled his eyebrows at me. “Tell me, Fitz, what have you planned for this child? What education, what training? What will you dower her with, and where do you hope she will wed?”
I stared at him. “She’s a baby, Chade!” And probably ever would be. Even if she began to grow and show a clever mind, there was plenty of time for me to think of such things. Still, it smote me that I had given no thought to any of that. What would become of her when Molly and I were gone? Especially if she was an idiot?
Chade turned in his chair, and the outline of his binding showed briefly beneath his shirt. He glared at our audience. “Haven’t you two some lessons to complete?”
“Yes, but …”
“Somewhere else,” he added authoritatively.
Rosemary folded her lips for a moment. “Tomorrow,” she said to FitzVigilant, and the boy’s eyes grew round to be so hastily dismissed. He sketched a bow to her, then turned to us and halted, plainly confused as to how to bid us farewell.