“Are you certain when you say, ‘You can’t make him forget’?”
That jerked my attention back to the old man. “What are you thinking?” I countered.
“That we are still deciphering the old Skill-scrolls. They hint that you can make a man, well, change his mind about things.”
He shocked me into an appalled silence. To be able to make a man forget something: what a horrifying power. I found breath. “And that worked so very well when my father decided to make Skillmaster Galen forget his dislike of him and love him. His hate didn’t vanish; it just found another target. As I recall, it was me.” He’d nearly managed to kill me.
“Your father did not have the benefit of complete instruction in the Skill. I doubt that Galen did. So much was lost, Fitz! So much. I work on the scrolls almost every evening, but it’s not the same as being instructed by a knowledgeable Skillmaster. Deducing what they mean is laborious. It doesn’t go as fast as I wish it would. Nettle has no time to help me. The information they contain is not to be shared with just anyone, and the fragility of the scrolls themselves is another consideration. I myself have far less time for late-night studies than I used to. So the scrolls are neglected, and with them, who knows what secrets?”
Another favor couched as a question. “Select the ones you consider most interesting. I’ll take them back to Withywoods with me.”
He scowled. “Couldn’t you come here to work on them? One week out of each month? I’m loath to send them away from Buckkeep Castle.”
“Chade, I’ve a wife and a child and a manor to take care of. I can’t spend my time gallivanting back and forth to Buckkeep Castle.”
“The Skill-pillars would make your ‘gallivant’ the matter of a few moments.”
“I won’t do it, and you know why.”
“I know that years ago, against all advice, you used the pillars repeatedly over a very short period. I’m not talking about your coming and going each day. I’m suggesting that once a month you could come to take some scrolls and drop off what you had translated. From what I’ve read, there were Skilled messengers who used the pillars at least that frequently, and possibly more often.”
“No.” I put finality in the word.
He cocked his head to the other side. “Then why don’t you and Molly come live in Buckkeep, and bring the baby? Easy enough for us to find a competent manager for Withywoods. And Bee would have all the advantages that we earlier spoke about. You could help me with the translations and other tasks, get to know young Lant, and I’m sure Molly would enjoy seeing Nettle more frequently and—”
“No.” I said it again, firmly. I had no desire to take up the “other tasks” he might pass back to me. Nor for him to see my simple child. “I’m happy where I am, Chade. I’m at peace, and I intend to remain so.”
He sighed noisily. “Very well, then. Very well.” He suddenly sounded elderly and petulant. It was unnerving when he added, “I will miss you, my boy. There is no one left with whom I can speak as freely as I do with you. I suspect we are a dying breed.”
“I suspect you are right,” I agreed, and did not add that perhaps that was a good thing.
Chade and I left our discussion there. I think he finally accepted that I had stepped away from the inner politics of Buckkeep Court. I would come when there was urgent need, but I would never again live in the castle and be a party to his inner counsels. Rosemary would have to step up to that role, and behind her must come whatever apprentice they chose. It would not be FitzVigilant. I wondered if the lad would be disappointed or relieved.
In the months that followed, I both dreaded and expected that Chade would try again to draw me back. He did not. Scrolls were delivered for translation and my work was carried away from me five or six times a year. Twice his couriers were journeymen Skill-students who arrived and departed through the pillars. I refused to allow him to provoke me. The second time it happened, I confirmed with Nettle that she knew of it. She said little, but after that his messengers arrived on horseback.
Although Nettle often touched minds with me, and Dutiful sometimes, Chade seemed to have decided to set me free. And sometimes, at odd wakeful moments, I wondered if I was disappointed or relieved to be finally clear of the darker side of Farseer politics.
It is as I feared for young Lant. He is completely unsuitable for quiet work. When I first told him that I would be ending his apprenticeship and finding him a more suitable post, I was unprepared for how dramatically upset he would be. He begged both Rosemary and me to give him a second chance. Against my own better judgment, I agreed. I must be becoming both softer of heart and feebler of mind, for of course it was not a kindness. We continued to train him in the physical skills and the requisite knowledge. He is very nimble of finger and hand, excellent at sleight, but not as quick to remember the recipes that one must master for use in an instant. Still, I confess that I had hope that the lad would follow in my footsteps.