Rosemary had less doubt of him and proposed that we give him a challenge. I set him a theft, and he accomplished it. Rosemary proposed a minor poisoning. His target was but a guardsman. We told him the man had taken bribes and was actively spying for a Chalcedean nobleman. Nonetheless, over the course of three days and ample opportunities, Lant was unable to achieve his task. He returned to us shamed and despondent. He simply could not bring himself to end a life. I refrained from telling him that the “poison” was merely a finely ground spice and would have done the man no harm. I am glad we tested him on a subject that was not truly a threat to anyone.
The result is that Lant now realizes he is unsuited to this profession. He has, to my surprise, said that he does not mind if he cannot be my apprentice so long as he does not lose my friendship! And so, to ease his transition, I think I shall keep him here in Buckkeep for a time longer. I will see that he receives sufficient education to be a tutor, and weapons training that will fit him as a bodyguard as well.
Only to you will I admit that I am sadly disappointed in him. I was so certain I had found a worthy successor. Fortunately, a second candidate has been located and her training begun. She seems to show an aptitude, but then, so did Lant. We shall see. I tell you all this, of course, in the greatest confidence in your discretion. Strange, where once I taught you never to entrust such things to paper, now it is the only way I can be certain that no one else in our coterie shall be privy to my thoughts. How times change.
Unsigned and unaddressed scroll
Oh, the things we discover and the things we learn, much too late. Worse are the secrets that are not secrets, the sorrows we live with but do not admit to one another.
Bee was not the child we had both hoped for. I hid my disappointment from Molly, and I think she did the same for me. The slow months and then the year ticked past, and I saw little change in our daughter’s abilities. It aged Molly, taking a toll on both her body and her spirit as she allowed no one else to care for the child, and silently contained her growing sorrow. I wanted to help her, but the child clearly avoided my touch. For a time I sank into a darkness of spirit, losing appetite and the will to do anything. My days always seemed to end with thunderous headaches and a sour belly. I woke at night and could not find sleep again, only anxiety over the child. Our baby remained a baby, small and passive. Chade’s eagerness to plan for her education and eventual marriage became a sour-sweet memory. Once, there had been a time when we could hope for such things. But the passing year stole all such dreams from us.
I do not recall how old Bee was the first time Molly broke down and wept in my arms. “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry,” she said, and it took me some time to understand that she blamed herself for our simple child. “I was too old,” she told me through her tears. “And she will never be right. Never, never, never.”
“Let’s not be hasty,” I told her, with a calmness I did not feel. Why had we hidden our fears from each other? Perhaps because sharing them, as we did now, made them more real. I tried to deny them. “She’s healthy,” I told my Molly as she sobbed in my arms. I bent to whisper the words by her ear. “She eats well. She sleeps. Her skin is smooth, her eyes are clear. She’s small and perhaps slow to do things, but she will grow and—”
“Stop,” she begged me in a dull little voice. “Stop, Fitz.” She pulled a little away from me and looked up at me. Her hair clung to her wet face like a widow’s veil. She sniffed once. “Pretending won’t change it. She’s simple. And not just simple, but weak in her body. She doesn’t roll over, or hold her head strongly. She doesn’t even try. She just lies in her cradle and stares. She hardly even cries.”
And what was there for me to say to that? She was a woman who had birthed seven healthy children. Bee was the first baby I’d ever experienced.
“Is she truly so different from what she should be?” I asked helplessly.
Molly nodded slowly. “And ever will be.”
“But she’s ours,” I objected softly. “She’s our Bee. Perhaps she is what she’s meant to be.”
I don’t recall how I intended her to hear those words. I knew I did not deserve it when she gave a sudden sob and then hugged me tightly, asking my chest, “Then you are not bitterly disappointed and shamed by her? You can still love her? You still love me?”
“Of course,” I said. “Of course and always.” And even though I had comforted her by chance rather than by intent, I was glad I had done so.
Yet we had opened a door that could not be closed. Once we had admitted that our little girl would likely be always as she was now, we had to talk about it. Yet we did not speak of it before the servants, nor in the light of day, but at night, in our bed, with the child that had so wounded us sleeping nearby in a cradle. For though we could admit it, we could not accept it. Molly faulted her milk, and tried to coax the tiny thing to sip cow’s milk and then goat’s milk, with very little success.