Fool's Assassin / Page 193

Page 193


He sat down outside the entrance and stared at me with stubborn patience. I waited. But he was content to sit there and exist until I was tired of waiting. At last I said, “Just this first time, I’ll leave it open more than a crack. Until you trust me.” I crawled back inside, he followed, and I left the door ajar. I seldom shut it all the way, as I’d never discovered how to open it from the other side. As I moved slowly away from it, I more felt than saw that he was following.

Much as I wanted the mice and rats banished from my domain, I wished he had not come today. I had things to do. My black-and-white shadow dogged my steps as I threaded the maze within the walls. I traveled by touch and memory now, and he seemed to have no qualms about ghosting after me in the darkness.

When we reached my den, I put my cloak in its hiding place. I had wrapped biscuits stored in a bowl on my shelf. I took them out of the bowl, and filled it with water from the stoppered bottle I now kept there. “Here is water,” I told him. “Whatever you do, you must not meow, nor make much noise of any kind. And I’ve left the pantry door ajar, so if you wish to go back out, you’ll be able to do so. But don’t let Cook or any of the kitchen girls catch you in the meat pantry. They’ll take a broom to you!”

He was so motionless that I wondered if he had followed me this far. Then I felt a head bump against me, and then he wound himself past my legs. I reached down, and his fur sleeked by under my touch. I crouched down, and on his second pass he allowed me to stroke his sides. He was a lean barn cat, half-grown and ribby and long. He turned and suddenly pressed his bared teeth against my hand. “I’ll bring you fish and meat, too,” I promised him. “So you don’t get tired of eating mice.”

He head-bumped his agreement to my offer. I suddenly felt he had honored me somehow. I stayed crouched in the darkness, thinking. “You’ll need a name,” I told him.

Not really.

I nodded silently, understanding that if he decided he wanted me to give him a name, he’d let me know. Very cautiously, he set a paw on my knee. As if I were a tree that might not be sturdy enough to climb, he ventured onto my lap. I sat perfectly still. He put his front paws on my chest and then sniffed my face, particularly my mouth. I thought it was rude but I sat still for it. After a few annoying moments, he climbed down, curled into a circle, and began to purr himself to sleep.

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Tutor

The first time I met Chade Fallstar I was but a boy. In the middle of the night, I woke to a light shining in my face and a pock-scarred old man in a cobweb-covered gray wool robe standing over my bed. A previously concealed door in the corner of my bedchamber now stood open. It yawned at me, dark and daunting, and cobwebs fluttered at the edges of it. It was so like a nightmare that for a time I simply stared at it. Yet when he commanded me to get out of bed and follow him, I did.

Sometimes I think of the momentous meetings in my life. My first encounter with Verity. Then Burrich. Discovering that the Fool was not the vapid jester I had believed, but possessed a keen intelligence and a deep desire to influence the politics of Buckkeep Castle. There are moments that change the course of one’s lifetime, and often we don’t realize how significant those initial meetings may be until years pass.

— Journal entry

My scribe arrived as expected, save that my overtasked mind did not expect him that day. When one of the newly hired serving men came running to tell me that there was a battered traveler at my door, my first impulse was to direct him to the kitchen for food and wish him well on his way. It was only when Bulen belatedly added that the stranger claimed to be the new scribe that I left off my mediation between a painter and a carpenter and turned my steps toward the front hall.

FitzVigilant awaited me there. He had grown taller, with a man’s jaw and shoulders, but it was his battered face that took all the rest of my attention.

Both Chade and Nettle had said he had taken a beating. I had expected some bruises and perhaps a blackened eye. Looking at him, I knew the blows he had taken had probably loosened teeth if not knocked some out. His nose was still swollen broad, and there was a split along the top of one cheekbone. His excessively upright posture spoke of bound ribs, and his careful way of stepping betrayed his pain. Chade and Nettle were right to be concerned for him: Healing of broken bones is not promoted by the joggling of horseback riding. Clearly he had fled Buckkeep, and possibly only just in time. The beating had not been a warning, but an attempt on his life.

I had been angry at Chade for sending him to me, and had resolved to keep my guard firmly in place against either Chade’s manipulation of my household or the boy’s own intentions. The sight of him, gray-faced and walking like a gaffer, dispersed my resolution and left me fighting the sympathy that welled up in me. And as I gazed at him, I had the eerie sense that he reminded me of someone. I tried to see past the swelling and bruises, and I suppose I stared at him in dismay. It made him wary. He cast a gaze toward the new serving man before he spoke.

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