Fool's Assassin / Page 178

Page 178


Not at all. I regard your ability as second only to my own.

I stifled the thought that Shun had nearly been poisoned and FitzVigilant had been severely beaten in Chade’s care. Second only to his own. Oh, yes. I yawned widely enough that my jaw cracked. I tried to keep my mind on what he was telling me. And what does Lord Vigilant think of this, of his lady trying to eliminate his bastard eldest?

There was just the briefest hesitation. The man has no honor. He is not as attached to the lad as the boy deserves. He would, I think, be relieved. If, indeed, he knows of his lady’s plotting. If he does not, I intend to see that he is fully informed. He will be made to care for the boy’s safety, before I have finished with either of them.

So. Chade had that end of the situation well in hand. At least that had not been maneuvered into my area of responsibility. I’ll let you know when he gets here. And now I have to sleep.

Fitz. Are you all right? The Skill conveys emotion as well as thought when one is careless. Genuine concern. He was reading my pain.

I pushed him gently away. I didn’t want to answer the question. I was emphatically not all right, and he was the last person I wished to discuss that with. I’m very tired. Houseguests. House repairs. And it’s not the time of year when we should be doing these repairs. I should have done them last summer.

Well, yes, that will teach you not to put things off. And the little one? How is she adapting?

Bee is fine, Chade. Just fine. And I’m going to sleep. Now.

I pushed him firmly out of my mind, forming my walls up behind him.

There was no returning to sleep, and all peace had fled. I watched the shadows from the fire on the ceiling of the room. I tried to think about Molly, without the sadness, but that wound was still too fresh. I refused to think about the messenger or puzzle any more on her message.

But refusing to think about a thing only brings it more strongly to mind. I thought of the Fool. I tried to pretend I wasn’t angry at him for sending such a cryptic message. I couldn’t, so I stopped thinking about him.

I rolled to my side and looked at my little girl. Her hair stuck up at all angles. She was huddled into a ball, like a sleeping cub. Her blanket had twisted away from her and I could see that even her little toes were curled in tight to her feet. Sleeping small, hoping to stay hidden. Oh, little one. So small, but not as young as anyone else thought. Especially not after tonight. I’d done that to her. Without thinking, I’d made her my accomplice. Just as Chade had done with me. Years from now, would I be reaching out to her as Chade did to me? Was I repeating yet another cycle, raising an apprentice assassin? Was it the only sort of fathering I knew how to do?

The Fool had always asserted that time moved in a great circle, but a decaying one, where at every turning humanity repeated mistakes, making them ever graver. He had believed he could use me as his Catalyst to set that great wheel into a better track. He’d had visions of the futures, and out of all the possible futures he could see there had been one, a future in which I survived and together we changed the world.

And I was back to thinking of the Fool again. I shifted, shifted again, and got up. I built up the fire, tucked the blanket more closely around Bee, and then left as silently as a stalking assassin. Amazing how adept I was at that talent.

I moved through Withywoods, carrying a branch of candles. I inspected the work that had been done so far in the Yellow Suite, and once more wondered at the temerity of someone who would come as a desperate guest to someone’s home and then complain endlessly about the accommodations. But these rooms, at least, she must love. Earlier in the day, a fire of applewood and cedar had been kindled in the hearth to freshen the room. The fragrance lingered. In the candlelight the yellow walls were a warm gold. When the newly freshened hangings were restored to the bed and the curtains rehung, it would be a cozy retreat for any young woman. Surely she could not imagine a ghost in this warm and welcoming room. I shut the heavy wooden door behind me, comforted that at least this must go right tomorrow. Today, I amended. Today. Dawn was a broken dream away.

Beyond the Yellow Suite was the Green Suite. I could not recall the last time I had been in those rooms. I opened the door and looked into dimness. Draped furniture breathed dust. Shuttered windows. The hearth was swept clean and had been cold for years. The bed frame was a skeleton, the hanging stored in a cedar chest at its foot. The room had an unused air, but I saw no rodent droppings. I would put the servants to making it habitable tomorrow. By the time FitzVigilant arrived, the rooms would have warmed through. It was not as spacious as the Yellow Suite. There was a little study off the bedchamber and a small room for a servant attached to it; I wondered if he would require one. Was I supposed to supply one? So much I did not know about having a scribe. I would ask Revel. Perhaps he would know. But yes, these rooms would do for FitzVigilant. One more matter solved.

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