Fool's Assassin / Page 236

Page 236


Alarm pierced me. I stood in the tight space between the bench and table. “She hasn’t come back. It’s been too long. I’ll go find her.”

“My cider’s barely warm!” I heard Shun exclaim as I stepped over the bench and away.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mist and Light

Then, from the gleaming mists that surrounded us, there burst a wolf, all black and silver. He was covered in scars and death clung to him like water clings to a dog’s coat after he has plunged through a river. My father was with him and in him and around him, and never had I realized him as he was. He bled from dozens of unhealable wounds and yet at the core of him, life burned like molten gold in a furnace.

Dream journal of Bee Farseer

It had all been ruined when the door of the tavern opened and banged shut again, and suddenly Shun and FitzVigilant were there. The way FitzVigilant looked at my father, I knew he had already heard the tale of what had happened in the town commons. I did not want him to speak of it to my father. We were past it now, and if he brought it up Riddle would have to think about it again. Riddle and my father were behaving as if all were well now, but I knew that my father’s actions would gnaw at Riddle’s heart like a worm. My father was his friend, but he gave his ultimate loyalty to Nettle, and he dreaded telling her this story and revealing to her his part in it.

But Shun, if she knew of it, made nothing of it, but only began to natter on about she-must-have-this and she-must-have-that, and if my father had coin, perhaps they could go get it right now, or perhaps she would eat first. She sat down beside my father and FitzVigilant sat on the other side of Riddle, and they reminded me of red-mouthed fledglings squawking in a nest as they spoke of needing this and wanting that. My father turned away from me to speak to Shun. I couldn’t stand it. I was suddenly too warm and the press of the myriad conversations felt like hands over my ears. I tugged on Riddle’s sleeve. “I need to go outside.”

“What? Oh. It’s behind the inn. And come right back, you hear me?” He twisted away to reply to something FitzVigilant had said to him. Odd, how I must never interrupt, but my tutor saw no reason to observe the same courtesy to me. “It’s country food, Lant. Different from what you’d find in a Buckkeep Town tavern, but not bad. Try the soup.”

I had to wiggle to turn on the bench and then get down from it. I do not think my father had even noticed me leaving. On my way to the door, a large woman nearly stepped on me, but I darted round her. The door was so heavy I had to wait until someone was coming in before I could slip out. The cooler air greeted me; it seemed as if the bustle of the street and merry atmosphere had increased as evening drew closer. I stepped just slightly away from the door so that I would not be hit if it opened, and then I had to move out of the way again because a man needed to unload a cart of firewood for the tavern next door. So I crossed the street and watched a man juggling three potatoes and an apple. He sang a merry little song as he juggled. When he was finished, I twisted to reach past my new market bag and dug deep into my new little pouch. In the bottom I found my half-copper. When I gave it to him, he smiled and gave me the apple to keep.

It was definitely time for me to go back to the tavern and find my father, much as I dreaded being dragged about on Shun’s errands now. But perhaps my father would send Riddle with her or just give her money to waste. A wagon full of cider kegs with a team of four horses had stopped in the street, so I had to go around it. To get back to the tavern, I must walk past the gray beggar.

I stopped to look at him. He was so empty. Not just his dirty pleading hand on his knee, but all of him, as if he were a plum skin hanging on a tree after wasps had stolen all its sweet flesh and left only an empty shell. I looked at his empty hand, but I desperately wanted to keep my two coppers. So I said, “I’ve an apple. Would you like an apple, beggar?”

He shifted his eyes toward me as if he could see me. They were terrible, dead and clouded. I did not want him to look at me with such eyes. “You are kind,” he said, and I bravely stooped to set the apple in his hand.

Just then the door of the spice shop opened and the thin little woman who owned it stepped out. “You!” she exclaimed. “Are you still squatting here? Away! I told you, get away! A street full of customers and my shop is empty because no one wants to step over your smelly bones and rags. Away! Or my husband comes with his stick to teach you how to dance!”

“I go, I go,” the beggar said softly. His gray hand had closed on the red apple. He tucked the fruit into the breast of his ragged tunic and began the slow struggle to rise. The woman was glaring at him. I stooped, found the staff he was groping for, and put it into his hand. “You are kind,” he said again. He gripped the stick tight, one hand above the other, and levered himself to his feet. He swayed and turned his face slowly from side to side. “Is the street clear?” he asked piteously. “If I step out now, is the street clear?”

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