Fool's Assassin / Page 238

Page 238



He clutched me tighter and spoke by my ear. “Stop. Stop. You must not! Not without great thought and then … even then … there is so much danger. So much danger!”

He turned my eyes, and the threads splintered into a thousand more threads. It was not as simple as I had thought. For every thread I tried to follow became a multitude, and the moment I chose one thread from that multitude, it shattered again into yet more possibilities. She might say the wrong word to him and he would murder her this afternoon. She told her father she had kissed him and her father blessed them. Or cursed them. Or drove her from her home into the storm, to die of cold in the night.

Some are far more likely than others, but each has at least one chance to be real. So each path must be studied so carefully before any path is chosen. The path you observed, where they both must die? If we were dedicated to this creation of the Oaksby Guard, we would look and look. There are, always, other time paths that lead to the same end. There will be some more destructive and ugly, and some less so.

I had thought he was speaking aloud to me. I became aware that his thoughts were seeping into me through the bond we shared. He poured knowledge from his mind to mine as if he were a pitcher and I the cup. Or the thirsty garden that only been waiting, all this time, for this nourishment.

And the paths change, they change constantly. Some vanish, impossible now, and others grow more likely. That is why the training takes so many years. So many years. One studies, and one pays attention to the dreams. Because the dreams are like guideposts for the most significant moments. The most significant moments.…

He took his attention from me, and it was as if someone had torn a warm cloak from me in the midst of an ice storm. He stared with his blind eyes, terror and joy stamped on his scarred face. “The wolf comes,” he recited. “His teeth are a knife, and the flying drops of blood are his tears.”

Then my vision faded to the same sort of sight one has in deep twilight before the last light of the day fades. All colors were muted and shadows prevailed, hiding all detail from me. I thought I would die. All possibility was hidden, masked and limited to a single instant of time. I felt I could not move. Life was stiff and limited and slow. Time had been a limitless ocean, spreading out in every direction, and I had been a seabird, free to wheel and flit from one moment to a thousand other possibilities. Now I was mired in a tiny puddle, struggling to experience even one second fully, blinded to the future consequences of any action I might take. I stopped and stood and let life happen around me.

Chapter Thirty

Collision

My wolf taught me as much as I ever taught him. But strive as he might, he never completely succeeded in teaching me to exist in the now as he did. When we spent quiet snowy nights sprawled on the hearth before a comfortable fire, the wolf had no need of conversation or a scroll to read. He simply enjoyed the comfort of warmth and resting. When I would rise to pace the small room, or pull a burnt stick from the embers to scratch idly on the hearthstones or take up paper and pen, he would lift his head, sigh, and then put it back down and resume his enjoyment of the evening.

When we hunted together, I would move nearly as silently as he did, watching, always watching for the flick of an ear or the shift of a hoof, that tiny motion that would betray a deer standing poised in the brush, waiting for us to pass by. I would flatter myself that I was completely in the now, tuned exclusively to the hunt. And so intent would I be on that watch that I would startle when, with a pounce and a shake, Nighteyes would kill a crouched rabbit or huddled grouse that I had walked right past. I always envied him that. He was open to all the information that the world offered him, a scent, a sound, a tiny movement, or just the brush of life against his Wit-sense. I never achieved his ability to open himself to everything, to be aware of all that was happening, all at once.

Unsigned journal entry

I hadn’t taken more than a step before Riddle was up and beside me. He caught at my arm. His mouth was a flat line as I turned to him. He spoke quietly, almost without inflection, as if he himself had no idea how to feel about his words. “I need to say this before we go fetch Bee. Fitz, it isn’t working. In fact, it’s exactly what Nettle feared. You’re a good man. And my friend. I hope you can remember that I’m your friend as I say this. You’re not a good … you aren’t able to be a good father. I have to take her back to Buckkeep with me. I promised Nettle that I would see how things were going for both of you. She didn’t trust herself to decide; she was afraid she’d be too critical.”

I pushed down my sudden flare of anger. “Riddle. Not now. And not here.” Later, I’d think about his words and what they meant. I shrugged free of his hand on my arm. “I need to find Bee. She’s been gone too long.”


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