Chade was watching the dying fire. He nodded slowly. “He’s quick with languages, and has almost the memory of a minstrel. In the guise of a tutor, he could be placed in your household, to the benefit of both of them.”
The pieces were beginning to fit together. Oh, Chade. Why was it so hard for you to ask a direct favor? I put it into words for him. “You like the boy. But if you keep him here, sooner or later, when his legitimate younger brothers come to Buckkeep, it will cause problems. Especially if he has made friends among the nobility here.”
Chade nodded. “He’s very charismatic. He likes people. He likes to be around them, and they like him. He quickly becomes too visible to be a good spy. And he doesn’t have … whatever it is that we have that makes us able to kill.” He drew a breath as if he would say more and then sighed it out. We were both silent, thinking. I wondered if that ability was something we both had, or if we both lacked something, and thereby could do the sorts of things we had done. The silence was not a comfortable one. Yet it wasn’t guilt we shared. I’m not sure a word exists for whatever it was.
“I’d have to talk to Molly about it.”
He sent me a quick sideways glance. “You’d tell her … what?”
I bit my lip. “The truth. That he’s a bastard like me, that he will eventually have difficulties because of it, possibly life-threatening difficulties. That he’s well educated, and would be a good tutor for a little girl.”
“The truth with holes in it,” Chade amended for me.
“What holes?” I demanded.
“Indeed. What holes?” Chade agreed dryly. “And you need not talk to her yet. We have years, I suspect, before I must send him off to you. I’ll educate him in all he must know to be a tutor. And a bodyguard. Until he is ready, I know a nursemaid I could send you for the child. Face like a hare and the arm of a smith. Not the brightest of servants, but formidable as a guard.”
“No. Thank you. I think that, for now, I can protect my daughter.”
“Oh, Fitz. I don’t agree but I know when it’s useless to argue with you. Riddle and I have agreed that you need door soldiers, but you won’t listen. How many times have I suggested that you should host one of our Skill-journeymen at Withywoods so that even in your absence messages could be swiftly passed? You should have a man of your own, to watch your back and mingle with the servants and bring you the news that you otherwise would not hear about your holdings.” He shifted in his chair, the old wood creaking under him. His gaze met my stubborn look. I prevailed. “Well. It’s late. Or it’s early, depending on what part of the day you work in. Either way, I’m off to bed.” Furtively he tugged at the top edge of the girdle. I suspected it was cutting into him. He pulled himself to his feet. With one hand he made a vague gesture at the bed. “You can sleep here, if you wish. I don’t think Rosemary ever uses that bed. She just likes to make things pretty, when she can.”
“I may.” To my surprise, I realized my anger had vanished. I knew Chade. He’d meant no harm to Bee. Perhaps his whole aim had been to provoke this visit from me. Perhaps he missed me more than I’d realized. And perhaps I should have taken under advisement some of his suggestions …
He nodded. “I’ll have FitzVigilant bring some food up for you. Get to know him, Fitz. He’s a good lad. Tractable and anxious to please. Not like you were.”
I cleared my throat and asked, “Are you getting softhearted in your old age?”
He shook his head. “No. Practical. I need to set him aside so Rosemary and I can find a more fitting apprentice. He knows too much of our inner workings for us to just let him go. I have to put him somewhere that will keep him safe.”
“Keep him safe or keep you safe?”
He cracked a smile. “It’s the same thing, don’t you see? People who are dangerous to me seldom flourish for long.” The smile he gave me was crooked with sadness. I saw his dilemma more clearly as he handed the half-emptied glass to me.
I made my suggestion quietly. “Start to move him out of your circle, Chade. Less time with you or Rosemary, more time with the scribes and minstrels. You can’t make him forget what he has seen and what he knows, but you can lessen its importance. Make him grateful. And when you can no longer keep him here, send him to me. I’ll keep him for you.” I tried not to realize what I had just agreed to do. This was not a promise that would last a year or two. So long as FitzVigilant lived and remembered the secret ways of Buckkeep Castle, I would be responsible for seeing that he remained loyal to the Farseers. Loyal. Or dead. Chade had just handed me a dirty task that he did not want to do. I sipped the wine, covering the bitterness of that knowledge with the too-sweet vintage.