Fool's Assassin / Page 138

Page 138



Yet as I climbed into it and put my head on the pillow, I again felt the reluctance to sleep. Sleep brought dreams, and since my mother’s death they seemed to come almost every night. I was tired of them, and tired of the labor of remembering them and writing them into my book each day. Some of the most frightening ones were recurrent. I hated the one with the snake boat. And the one where I had no mouth and could not close my eyes to avoid what I was seeing. I helped a rat to hide inside my heart. There was a fog, and a white rabbit and a black rabbit ran side by side from terrible ravening creatures. The white rabbit was pierced with a living arrow. The black rabbit screamed as it died.

I hated the dreams, and yet every time they came back to my sleep I added a detail, a note, a curse to my journal.

This storm of dreams was something new, but not the dreaming. I had been dreaming for longer than I had been outside my mother’s womb. Sometimes I thought that the dreams went back beyond my existence, that they were the fragments of someone else’s life, but somehow bound to me. As an infant, I dreamed, and as a very small child. Some of the dreams were pleasant, others weirdly beautiful. Some frightened me. I never forgot my dreams, as some people say they do. Each was a complete and separate memory, as much a part of my life as remembering the day we took honey from the hives, or the time I slipped on the stairs and scraped all the skin off both shins. When I was small, it was almost as if I had two lives, one by day and one by night. Some dreams seemed more important than others, but none of them seemed trivial.

But after Wolf-Father came to me, that very night, I had a dream that when I woke I knew was no ordinary dream. And suddenly I realized there were two categories to my old dreams. There were dreams and then there were Dreams. And I was seized by a compulsion to begin anew and record my real Dreams in great detail and keep them safely collected. It was as if I had discovered the difference between river pebbles and gemstones, and realized that I had left jewels scattered haphazardly about for the past nine years.

I woke in my curtained bed and lay still for a time in the winter darkness, thinking of what I must do. It had been good to record all my dreams, but now that I knew the difference between them, all of them must be recopied. I would need ink, good pens, and decent paper. I knew where to get those. I wanted vellum, but that would be missed, and I did not think I could persuade my father that my endeavor merited vellum. Perhaps later I would be able to acquire the quality of paper that my Dreams merited. For now I would be content with recording them and keeping them safe. It suddenly seemed to me that there was only one place in the world for either of those activities. And that presented another problem.

For I was sure that after my nocturnal exploration, my father would limit my access to the spy-network in the walls of Withywoods. As I lay in bed and became convinced of this, it also became unthinkable.

I had told him little of my explorations in the corridors last night. He had deduced I had been in the spy-network, and that I had frightened myself. Perhaps he would think that enough to put an end to my explorations. But he might check for himself. He would find my cached candle, I did not doubt, and perhaps where I had dropped the end stub of the finished taper. Would he be alert enough to follow my footprints in the dusty passages to see how far I had explored? I could not know. Last night he had been extremely alarmed to discover I was not where he had left me. Perhaps my relief at his homecoming would have reassured him.

I got up and dressed myself much more quickly than usual. The room was chill; I got the lid of my winter clothing chest opened, wedged it so with my shoe, and then climbed halfway in to find woolen leggings and a quilted tunic and my belt with the bird-shaped clasp. I had grown. Both leggings and tunic were short on me. I should tell my mother …

When I had finished weeping, I added some kindling to the embers in my hearth. Once, I would have wakened to my mother building up the fire in my room, and she would have set out my clothing for me. She’d continued to do that for me long after I was old enough to do it for myself. I did not think she had pitied me for my small size, but had enjoyed the rituals of having a small child and prolonged them.

I’d loved that ritual as much as she did. I missed it still. But gone was gone and done was done, I told myself. And life would go on.

I resolved to locate the other entrance in the pantry and devise a way to make it accessible. Yet even that was not a satisfactory solution. I wished again that my room had access to the corridors. The spyhole had shown me that the passage passed right behind my walls. Was it possible there was an access not even my father knew about?

I moved slowly along the walls, searching again. I could see where the spyhole was, but only because I knew to look for it. One knothole in the paneling looked just a bit too convenient. I tapped cautiously on the wall panels, low at first and then as high as I could reach. The sounds told me only that whoever had built the corridors in the walls had done an excellent job of concealing them.


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