Fool's Assassin / Page 232

Page 232


Chapter Twenty-Eight

Things Bought

If a few students come reluctantly to their studies, then let them go. If all students come reluctantly to their studies, then let your scribe be dismissed and find another. For once students have been taught that learning is tedious, difficult, and useless, they will never learn another lesson.

On the Necessity of Education, Scribe Fedwren

How often does a man know, without question, that he has done well? I do not think it happens often in anyone’s life, and it become even rarer once one has a child. Ever since I had become a parent, I had questioned every decision I’d ever made for any child I was responsible for, from Nettle to Hap and even Dutiful. Certainly with Bee, I seemed to stumble from one disastrous action to another. I had never wished her to see the facet of myself that she had seen killing the dog. I’d washed the blood from my face and hands with the icy snow, but could not cleanse the deep shame I’d felt as we walked toward the tavern. Then my child had looked up at me and thanked me. She’d not only claimed to understand but had tried to smooth my rift with Riddle. Her words did not free me of my guilt; Riddle had been right. I’d completely disregarded that I might be putting her into danger when the waves of the dog’s agony had struck me. The old bitch’s utter faith that by doing exactly as her master commanded she would finally please him had been too great a cruelty for me to endure. Should I have endured it for the sake of protecting her?

Bee evidently thought not. Another time, I promised myself, I would be wiser. I tried to think of what I could have done differently and found no answers. But at least this time my daughter seemed to have taken no harm from my rashness.

The food was good, my brief clash with Riddle seemed settled, and my daughter wanted to be exactly where she was. Behind us, the inn door was opening and closing almost as regularly as if it were a bellows pumping hungry folk into the tavern. Suddenly two of them were Shun and FitzVigilant. His arms were laden with packages. He stooped and set them carefully on the floor beside us before they abruptly joined us, sitting down on either end of our bench. “I’ve found some green stockings I truly must have for Winterfest. We will celebrate it at Withywoods, won’t we? Of course we must, and there will be dancing! There are many minstrels in town and I am sure you can hire some to come to Withywoods. But first, before we seek them out, I must go purchase the stockings. I am sure that if you loan me the coin, Lord Chade will be good for it!” Shun announced breathlessly.

Before I could even turn my head in her direction, from the other end FitzVigilant added, “And I have found wax tablets at a merchant who specializes in the newest items! He has them in hinged pairs, so that a student can close them and protect his work. Such a clever idea! He does not have many of them, but any we can purchase will help my students.”

I looked at my earnest scribe in consternation. His spirits and confidence had quickly revived. I was pleased he was no longer so cowed by my presence, but a bit appalled that he seemed as avaricious for unnecessary trinkets as Shun was. I recalled my earliest writing efforts. Paper had been considered far too valuable for younger students. With a wet finger, I had formed letters on the flagstones of the great hall. Sometimes we used burned sticks. I recalled ink made from soot. I did not mention this. I knew that many marveled at how backward Buckkeep and, indeed, all the Six Duchies had been in those years. The isolation of war and several kings who had been determined to insulate us from foreign customs had kept us bound in older traditions. Kettricken had been the Queen who had first introduced us to her Mountain ways of doing things, and then encouraged us to import not only goods from distant lands but their ideas and techniques as well. I was still not sure it had been an improvement. Did Lant’s students truly need hinged wax tablets in order to learn their letters? I felt my resistance rising. Then I recalled that I had heard Revel muttering in dismay that I clothed Bee as children had dressed two score years ago. Perhaps I was the one who was clinging unreasonably to the old ways now. Was it time to give way to change? Time to put my little daughter into long skirts before she was a woman?

I glanced at her. I loved her in her little brown tunics and leggings, free to run and tumble. Next to me, Bee wriggled with boredom. I stifled a sigh and pulled my mind back to the present. “Tablets for the students first, and then I will come round to see these stockings that have so impressed Shun.”

I lifted my bread and Shun broke out in a storm of arguments as to why I must first see what she coveted, ranging from a fear that the merchant would close his doors to someone else purchasing them and winding up with her fear that I might spend all my coin on tablets and have none left to buy her green stockings and whatever else it was that had caught her eye. I felt as if I were being relentlessly pelted with small stones, for FitzVigilant spoke at the same time, saying the tablets were not, truly, that essential and that of course I should see to Lady Shun’s needs first.

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