“You dip just the pointed end of the quill into the inkpot …” I began. I stopped. I had ceased to exist in Bee’s world. Her entire focus was on the pen that she carefully inked and then set to her page. I froze and watched the child. Obviously she had been observing me for some time. I had expected her to dunk the quill and smear ink across the page. Instead her little hand moved with precision.
Her effort was not without blotches and drips. No one uses a pen correctly the very first time. But the image that emerged onto the page was intricately and intimately drawn. In silence, she filched my pen wipe, cleaned the quill. She blew on the black ink to dry it and claimed the yellow and then the orange ink. I watched in rapt silence, scarce aware when Molly drew near. A bee, exactly the scale of a live one, emerged from the pen onto the paper. There came a moment when our Bee heaved a huge sigh of satisfaction, as if she had consumed the perfect meal, and stood back from her work. I examined it without moving closer to her, the delicate antennae, the panes of the wings, and the bright bands of yellow shaded to orange.
“It’s her name, isn’t it?” I said quietly to Molly.
Bee shot me a rare look that met my eyes and then skated away. Her annoyance with me was plain. She drew the paper closer as if to protect it from me and hunched over it. The pen once more visited the black well and then scratched carefully over the paper. I glanced at Molly, who wore a proud and secretive smile. I watched in growing suspense until Bee leaned back from the page. There, in careful characters that mirrored Molly’s hand, was lettered “Bee.”
I was not aware my mouth was hanging open until Molly put her fingers under my chin and pushed it shut. Tears welled in my eyes. “She can write?”
I took a breath and carefully capped my excitement. “But only her name. Does she understand they are letters? That they mean something?”
Molly made a small sound of exasperation. “Of course she does. Fitz, did you think I would neglect her education as mine was? She reads along with me. So she recognizes the letters. But this is the first time she has taken pen in hand and written.” Her smile trembled a little. “In truth, I am almost as surprised as you to see her do so. To know the shape of a letter on the page is so different from reproducing it on paper. Truly, I did not do as well as she has the first time I tried to write.”
Bee was now ignoring both of us as a twining vine of honeysuckle began to emerge from her pen.
I wrote no more that night. I ceded all my inks and my best quills to my little daughter, and allowed her to fill page after page of my best paper with illustrations of flowers, herbs, butterflies, and insects. I would have needed to study the live plant to capture it well; she drew it forth from her memory and captured it on the page.
I went to bed that night a grateful man. I was not at all convinced that Bee understood the concepts of letters or writing or reading. What I had seen was someone who could duplicate on paper what she had seen, even if she did not have the model before her. It was a rare enough talent that it gave me hope for her. It put me in mind of Thick, a man prodigiously strong in the Skill even if he could not fully grasp the concept of what he was doing when he used it.
That night, in bed with Molly warm beside me, I had the rare pleasure of reaching out with the Skill and rousing Chade from a sound sleep. What? he demanded of me in a tone of reproach.
Do you remember the herbal scrolls from that Spice Island trader that we set aside as beyond my skill to copy? The tattered ones that might be of Elderling origin?
Of course. What of them?
Send them to me. With a good supply of paper. Oh, and a set of rabbit-hair brushes. And have you any of that purple ink from the Spice Islands?
Do you know how much that costs, boy?
Yes. And I know that you can afford it, if it’s used well. Send me two bottles of that, as well.
I smiled as I closed my mind to his hailstorm of questions. They were still rattling against my walls as I sank into sleep.
My Own Voice
This is the dream I love the best. I had it once. I’ve tried to make it come back, but it does not.
Two wolves are running.
That is all. They run by moonlight across an open hillside and then into an oak forest. There is little underbrush and they do not slow. They are not even hunting. They are just running, taking joy in the stretch of their muscles and the cool air flowing into their open jaws. They owe nothing to no one. They have no decisions, no duties, and no king. They have the night and the running, and it is enough for them.
I long to be that complete.
Dream journal of Bee Farseer