Fool's Assassin / Page 209

Page 209


To a pile of ash in the sheep pens. “I don’t know. But I am more curious as to where she came from and who pursued her. I’d be as interested in what you might discover of her and those who hunted her before she came here as after she left.”

“I’ll keep an ear open. I suspect she would have come up the Buck River. I’ll make some inquiries on my way back to Buckkeep.”

“And I take that to mean that you wish to leave here soon.”

“My task is done, and then some. I delivered my package safely to you, as I was ordered. I didn’t mind helping for a time, but I do have things I must get back to.”

I nodded slowly, feeling hollow. I hadn’t realized how much I’d slipped into depending on him until he spoke of leaving. Riddle was someone who knew the man I once had been, someone I could speak openly to; that had been a comfort. I’d miss him. My voice did not betray that. “How soon must you leave?”

“Three days from now.”

I nodded again, knowing that he was allowing me time to adapt to his absence. He added, “By then Lant should be up and around, so you’ll have at least one man at your back.”

“He did not watch his own back very well. I doubt I shall trust him with mine.”

Riddle nodded and admitted, “He does not have the edge you and I do. But that does not make him completely incompetent. He’s young yet. You should get to know him better.”

“I will. As soon as he feels better. I thought he might want some privacy to heal.”

He cocked his head slightly. “Not everyone is as solitary as you are, Tom. Lant can be very social. Being away from Buckkeep Castle is going to be hard on him. You should know that he actually welcomed Shun’s visit. And that when he is healed, if she needs a dancing partner for practice, he’s excellent. He’s a very witty conversationalist, well educated and affable. He was very popular with the ladies of the court, despite his low birth.”

“I should visit him.”

“Yes, you should. He is a bit in awe of you. Whatever you did to him the first time he met you, the effect has not worn off. It took a great deal of courage for him to come here, not only to seek permission to teach your daughter, but to hope for your protection. It was a bit … humiliating. But Chade told him it was really his only choice.”

I hadn’t seen it in that light before. And it was interesting to know that Riddle knew of my first encounter with FitzVigilant. Still Chade’s man, in some ways. I said nothing of that, but observed, “He thinks I’m still angry with him.”

Riddle nodded. “He’s well enough to come to table and move about Withywoods. But he’s been behaving as if you confined him to his rooms.”

“I see. I’ll take care of that this afternoon.”

“Tom, he’s a youngster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a friend to you. Get to know him. I think you’ll like him.”

“I’m sure I will,” I lied. Time to end this conversation. Bee had heard enough.

Riddle’s ability to understand what I didn’t say sometimes made me uncomfortable. He looked at me almost sadly. He spoke more quietly. “Tom. You need a friend. Lant is young, I know, and your first introduction was … poorly considered. Begin again. Give him a chance.”

And so that afternoon I tapped on the door of FitzVigilant’s chambers. Bulen opened the door immediately. I saw Revel’s hand in the improved fit of his livery and tamed hair. I surveyed the tutor’s room unobtrusively, and found him to be a man of tidy habits, but not overly so. The medicinal unguents that Chade had prepared for him were neatly arrayed on the mantel. The smell of arnica oil flavored the room. FitzVigilant himself was seated at a worktable, writing a letter. Two pens were at the ready, and a pot of ink and small blotter. On the other end of the table, a gaming cloth was laid out with a Stones puzzle on it. I wondered who had taught him the game. Then I reined my thoughts sharply and kept my focus on my target.

He came to his feet immediately and bowed, then stood silently, regarding me with trepidation. There is a way that a man stands when he does not wish to appear aggressive but is ready to defend himself. FitzVigilant stood like that, but when coupled with the defeated look on his face he was almost cowering. I felt sick. I recalled what it was to have lost all confidence in my body. This was a man already subdued. I wondered how broken he was, if he would ever recover enough to be any sort of a man-at-arms. I tried to keep pity from my face.

“Scribe FitzVigilant, I am pleased to see you up and about. I came to ask if you were well enough to begin joining us for meals.”

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