Fool's Assassin / Page 136

Page 136


Chapter Fourteen


This is the dream from the end of my time. I have dreamed it six different ways, but I will only write what always stays the same. There is a wolf as big as a horse. He is black and stands still as stone and stares. My father is as gray as dust, and old, so old. “I’m just so tired,” he says in two of the dreams. In three he says, “I’m sorry, Bee.” In one of the dreams, he says nothing at all, but his silence means everything. I would like to stop having this dream. It feels so strong, as if it must happen, no matter the path I choose. Every time I wake from it, it feels as if I have taken a step closer to a cold and dangerous place.

Dream journal of Bee Farseer

I refuse to believe I slept. How could such abject terror lend itself to falling asleep? Instead I huddled there, behind my closed eyelids, trembling with terror.

And Wolf-Father came. That was the first time.

I’d had dreams before, dreams that I knew were portentous, dreams that I committed to memory upon waking. I had begun writing my dreams down, the ones that I knew meant something. So I knew what dreams were.

That was not a dream.

The smells of dust and mice droppings blew away before the brisk scents of new snow and spruce needles. Then came a warm, clean smell of healthy animal. He was close. I curled my hands into the fur of his ruff and held tight, feeling my fingers warm there. His muzzle was by my ear, his breath warm there. Stop your whining. If you are frightened, be silent. Whining is for prey. It attracts predators. And you are not prey.

I caught my breath. My throat was sore and my mouth dry. I had been keening, without realizing it. I stopped, shamed by his disapproval.

That’s better. Now, what is your problem?

“It’s dark. The doors won’t open and I’m trapped here. I want to get home, back to my bed.”

Didn’t your father tell you to stay safe in the den? Why did you leave it?

“I was curious.”

And curious cubs have been getting into trouble since the world began. No, don’t start whining again. Tell me. What are you afraid of?

“I want to be back in my bed.”

That is what you want. And you are wise to return to the den where your father left you, and remember not to leave it again without his permission. So why don’t you do that? What makes you afraid to do that?

“I’m afraid of the rats. And I can’t find my way back. I’m trapped here.” I tried to draw a breath. “I can’t get out.”

And why is that?

“It’s dark. And I’m lost. I can’t find my way back.” I was beginning to be angry with the calm, implacable voice even as I cherished the warmth and feeling of safety he gave me. Perhaps even then I realized that I only felt irritation with him because I now felt safe. Slowly it came to me that I was no longer afraid, just perplexed.

Why can’t you find your way back?

Now he was just being stupid. Or mean. “It’s dark. I can’t see. And even if I could see, I can’t remember which way to go.”

The voice never lost its patience. You can’t see, perhaps. Perhaps you can’t remember because you are so frightened. But you can smell. Get up.

Uncurling myself was hard. I was cold all over now, shaking with the chill. I stood up.

Lead the way. Follow your nose. Follow the scent of your mother’s candle.

“I can’t smell anything.”

Blow out through your nose. Then breathe in slowly.

“All I smell is dust.”

Try again. Inexorable.

I growled low.

So. You are finding your courage. Now find your wits. Sniff your way home, cub.

I wanted him to be wrong. I wanted to be justified in my fear and hopelessness. I took a breath to tell him how stupid he was and tasted my mother’s scent. Loneliness welled in me and hunger for she who had loved me so. My heart drew me toward the smell, and my feet followed.

It was so faint. Twice I paused, thinking I had lost it. I must have walked in blackness but I recall that I moved slowly through the summer garden toward the honeysuckle that tangled and sprawled along a stone wall in the herb garden.

I came to a place where a draft of air touched my face. The moving air confused the scent and suddenly I was in darkness again. My heart jammed against my throat and I reached out blindly, touching nothing. A sob of terror fought with my hammering heart to see which could leap first from my mouth.

Steady. Use your nose. Fear is useless now.

I sniffled, thinking him heartless. And caught the scent again. I turned toward it, only to have it get fainter. Turned my head back the other way, more slowly. I walked toward the smell that now felt like my mother’s hands on my cheeks. I leaned my face forward, breathing my mother’s love. There was a slight bend in the corner and then a gradual ascent. The scent grew stronger. And then I bumped the little shelf. That jolted my eyes open; I wasn’t aware I had closed them.

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