Fool's Assassin / Page 270

Page 270


Years before I knew that a man’s memories could be pressed into stone and waken as a dragon, I still trembled before their power, and hid from them. Oh, the memories I denied and concealed from myself, for they were too fraught with pain for me to consider, as a child or as a man. And the memories I bled away from myself into a dragon, thinking that I freed myself of a poison that would weaken me. For years I walked, dulled to my life, unaware of what I had stripped away from myself. The day the Fool restored those memories to me it was like blood pulsing through a numbed limb, wakening it, yes, but bringing with it tingling pain and debilitating cramps.

Memories of joy etch just as deeply into a man’s heart as those of pain or terror. And they, too, soak and pervade his awareness of the world. And so the memories of my first day with Molly, and our first night together, and the day we vowed ourselves to each other have flavored my life and in my darkest days they gave me a light to remember. In times of sickness or sorrow or bleakness of spirit, I could recall how I ran with the wolf through the snowy twilight with no thought beyond the game we pursued. There are cherished memories of firelight, and brandy, and a friend who knew me, perhaps, better than any other could. Those are the memories from which a man builds the fortress that protects his heart. They are the touchstones that tell him he is worthy of respect, and his life has a meaning beyond mere existence. I have all those memories still, the ones of hurt and the ones of comfort and the ones of exultation. I can touch them still, even if they are faded now like a tapestry left to harsh light and dust.

But one day I will carry forward as if it were tattooed with sharp needles of both pleasure and pain into the very core of my being. There is a day I recall with colors so bright and scents so strong that I have only to close my eyes and be there again. It is a bright winter day, a day of blue sky and glistening white snow and the wrinkled gray sea beyond the roofs and roads of Buckkeep Town. Always that day will be the day before Winterfest eve. Always I will hear merry greetings and the luring calls of peddlers and tinkers and the gulls high overhead crying, crying in the wind. The crisp breeze carried the scents of hot cooked foods both sweet and savory mixed with the iodine and rot of the low tide. I walked the streets alone, buying small gifts for the daughter I had left behind at Withywoods and necessary things for my injured friend, herbs to make the salves Burrich had taught me and clean clothing and a warm cloak and shoes for his crippled, frostbitten feet.

The gulls wheel and cry, the merchants beseech me to buy, the wind whispers of the changing tide, and below in the slight bay, the ships creak and tug restively at their lines. It is a choice day, a lapis day in a silver setting.

It is the day my life changed forever. It is the day my child was stolen, and flames and smoke and the screams of horses rose to the skies over Withywoods, unheard, unseen by me. Neither my Wit nor my Skill told me of snow melted scarlet there, of women with bruised faces and men with pierced bodies. Nothing warned me on that bright day that the darkest time of my life had begun.