Fool's Assassin / Page 100

Page 100


Chapter Eleven

The Last Chance

You are correct in your surmise. I haven’t told everything I know about that event but in some ways I have shared as much as I believe is safe to share with Chade. Hence, what I will repeat here is for the eyes of the Skillmistress only. Fond as we both are of the old man, we know that he is inclined to risk himself in the pursuit of knowledge.

The first thing to remember is that I was never truly there, myself. I dreamed, and in that dream I Skill-walked. But as one highly gifted in Skill-dreams, you of all people will know that what I saw there, I saw through the eyes of King Verity.

In my dream, we were in a broken city. It held its memories still, as we now understand that some Elderling cities do. I saw it as it had been, full of delicate soaring towers and graceful bridges and thronged by exotic people in bright clothing. And I saw it as Verity experienced it, cold and dark, the streets uneven and every fallen wall a hazard he must negotiate. Sand blew in a vicious wind; he bowed his head to it and trudged toward a river.

As a river I perceived it. But it was not water. It was Skill, as a liquid, as molten gold or even running red iron. To me, it seemed to have a black luminescence then. But in my dream, it was night and winter. Did it have a color at all? I cannot tell you.

I do recall how my King, wasted to a scarecrow of a man, knelt on that bank and relentlessly plunged his hands and arms into the stuff. I shared his pain, for I swear it ate the flesh and muscles from his bones. But when he pulled back from that current, his hands and arms were silvered with pure Skill, with magic in its strongest and most powerful form.

I will also tell you that I helped him refrain from throwing himself into that flow. I lent him the strength to step back from it. Had I truly been there, in my own flesh, I do not think I would have had the strength of will to resist the temptation to drown myself in it.

So, for myself, I am grateful that I do not know the way to that place. I do not know how Verity got there; I do not know how he went from there to the quarry. I suspect he used Skill-pillars, but which ones and what emblem they bore, I do not know and I do not wish to know. A number of years ago, Chade asked me to travel through pillars with him, to go back to the Stone Dragons and from there to the quarry, to discover what pillars King Verity might have used. I refused him then, and I have continued to refuse him.

For the safety of all, I beg that you keep this knowledge only to yourself. Destroy this scroll, if you will, or conceal it where only you can find it. I truly hope that the site is far, far away, reached only by a series of pillar journeys that none of us ever undertakes. The small amount of Skill-magic that we have learned to manipulate should be enough for us. Let us not seek power that exceeds our wisdom to use it.

Unsent scroll from FitzChivalry Farseer to Skillmistress Nettle

There are endings. There are beginnings. Sometimes they coincide, with the ending of one thing marking the beginning of another. But sometimes there is simply a long space after an ending, a time when it seems everything has ended and nothing else can ever begin. When my Molly, the keeper of my heart since I was a boy, died it was like that. She ended, but nothing else began. There was nothing to take my mind from that void, nothing to redeem my pain, nothing that made sense of her death. Instead her death made every other ending I had ever known a fresh wound.

In the days that followed, I was useless. Nettle came quickly, arriving before the first night had passed, bringing Steady and Riddle with her. I am sure she traveled by the stones, and they as well. Molly and Burrich’s sons and their wives and children were there as swiftly as they might come. Other mourners arrived, people I should have greeted, people I should have thanked for their thoughtfulness. Perhaps I did. I’ve no idea what I did in those long days. Time did not seem to pass, but dragged on and on. The house was full of people, talking and eating together, eating and talking together, weeping and laughing and sharing memories of times when I had not been part of Molly’s life, until my only solitude was to retreat to my bedchamber and bolt the door. Yet Molly’s absence was greater than anyone’s presence. Each of her grown children mourned her. Chivalry wept unashamed. Swift went about with his eyes blank while Nimble simply sat. Steady and Hearth seemed to drink a great deal, something that would have grieved Molly to see. Just had become a solemn young man, and a dark aura of aloneness, very reminiscent of Burrich, hung about him. Nonetheless, he was the one who busied himself taking care of his brothers and sister. Riddle was there as well, ghosting about in the background. We spoke once, late at night, and with good intention he tried to say that my sorrow would pass eventually and my life begin again. I wanted to strike him and I think it showed on my face. After that, we avoided each other.

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