Fool's Assassin / Page 195

Page 195



Chade seemed to have weaned him from his assassin’s training. I found no extra pockets in his garments, no hidden vials of poisons or sleeping drafts. He did appear to have more small knives than a young nobleman might ordinarily require. For a time, I thought I had uncovered a secret cache of poisons, only to realize that these were Chade’s most common mixtures for pain relief and wound treatments. I recognized Chade’s writing on several of the labels; the others I thought had been prepared by Rosemary. Interesting that FitzVigilant did not even compound his own remedies. What, then, did this young man do with his time?

His tutoring supplies were beyond what I would have expected. He had maps of an excellent quality, of every duchy, including the Mountain Kingdom. He had a copy of Shortlegs’s History of Buck, a book of herbs with lovely illustrations, tally rods for reckoning, chalk in plenty, and a good supply of coarse paper and ink and another soft leather roll, this one containing pens with tips of copper. In short, I found nothing in his belongings to suggest that he was anything other than a tutor and scribe. And nothing to suggest he would be a competent bodyguard for Bee.

That thought made me realize that I had hoped he would be relatively skilled in that area. The pale messenger had warned us that hunters might follow her. So far, there had been no sign of any strangers in the area, but I had not relaxed my guard. They had hunted her companion to death, and condemned her to long agony. That did not speak of people who easily gave up a chase.

Well, Bee had me. I would stand between my daughter and any dangers that might come.

I surveyed the room quickly, making sure all was exactly as Bulen and FitzVigilant had left it, and quietly let myself out.

It was time to have a talk with my daughter about her new teacher.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Settling In

Among the first lessons for a young Skill-student to master is that of containing herself. She must be made to realize that a container not only holds that which is within it, but prevents that which is outside it from entering, that is, to put it more clearly, a wineskin not only contains wine within it but keeps out rain and dirt. So it is with the mind of the Skill-student. She must learn to keep her own thoughts to herself, and also to keep the thoughts of others from intruding. If she does not master this twofold wall of protection, she will soon fall prey to the musings of others, be they but idle thoughts or lechery or foolishness. Herewith follows an exercise that will teach the student not only to keep her thoughts to herself, but to keep from her quiet center the thoughts of others.

On the Instructing of Skill-Students, Skillmistress Solicity

I held perfectly still, wondering if he knew I was there. My father had entered his den, and he now stared at my peephole. But he knew where it was, so of course if he suspected I was there, that was where he would look. I waited. If he turned and went away, it meant he didn’t know.

He spoke in a conversational tone. “Bee, I’ve been looking for you. If you are going to seemingly vanish from the manor, you had best let me know. Please come out. I need to discuss something with you.”

I sat still. The cat was asleep against me.

“Now, Bee,” he warned me. He turned and shut the door of the study, observing, “When I trigger this panel, you had best be standing right there, waiting to come out.”

He meant it.

I left the dozing black cat and scurried down the narrow spy-way. When he opened the door, I stepped out, brushing at cobwebs. “Are you taking me to meet my tutor?”

My father looked me up and down. “No. But I did come to talk to you about him. He has arrived, but he is not in the best of health. I think it may be several days before he is ready to teach you.”

“I don’t mind,” I said quietly. The relief I felt clarified my mixed feelings. It had been exciting to spy upon the young man as he arrived; it had made me feel a bit more in control of the situation to know that I had seen him before he had seen me. But I found I wanted time to become accustomed to the idea of a tutor. Until I knew more about this man, I would avoid him as much as I could.

My father cocked his head at me and gave me a measuring glance. Then he asked me, “Are you afraid to meet your teacher?”

I wanted to ask him how he had known that. Instead I chose another question. “Do you think he has come here to kill me?”

For an instant my father’s face went slack. It was less than a moment and he recovered quickly, looking at me with pretend consternation and asking me sharply, “Whatever put such a thing in your head?”

How should I answer that? I came as close to the truth as I could without making him think I was a freak. “I dreamed that he was coming to kill me. That he was sent to kill me, a long time ago, but you stopped him. And that now perhaps he was coming to try again.”


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