Fool's Assassin / Page 69

Page 69



It took me a few moments to realize she was asking to be reassured that our baby was all right. I didn’t know. My words were cautious. “I don’t think Burrich ever brought a blue-eyed horse into the stables. Or a dog with one odd eye. Did he tell you something about it?”

“Oh, no. Let’s not be silly, Fitz. She’s a girl, not a horse or a puppy. And blue-eyed Queen Kettricken seems to have your trust.”

“That’s so,” I agreed. I poured a tiny bit of tea from the pot. Too pale. I put it down to let it brew some more. “I don’t think she likes me,” I ventured softly.

Molly blew out an annoyed breath. “My love, must you ever and always find something to worry about? She hardly knows you yet. Babies cry. That’s all. She’s fine now.”

“She won’t look at me.”

“Fitz, I’m not going to indulge you in this! So stop. Besides, we have more important things to think about. She needs a name.”

“I was just thinking the same thing myself.” I edged over to sit more closely to them, and reached for the teapot again.

Molly stopped me. “Patience! It needs to brew a bit longer.”

I halted and raised my brows at her. “Patience?”

“I’ve considered it. But she’s so tiny …”

“So … she needs a small name?” I was completely confused.

“Well, her name has to fit her. I had thought …” She hesitated, but I waited to hear what she would say. She spoke at last. “Bee. Because she’s so small.”

“Bee?” I asked her. I had to smile. Bee. Of course. “It’s a lovely name.”

“Bee,” she asserted firmly. Her next question surprised me. “Will you seal her name to her?” Molly was referring to the old custom of the royal family. When a Farseer Prince or Princess was named, there was a public ceremony with all the nobility called to witness. The custom was to pass the child through flame, sprinkle him with soil, and then plunge the infant into water to seal the name to the babe by fire, earth, and water. But such babies were given names such as Verity or Chivalry or Regal. Or Dutiful. And when the name was sealed to the child, it was hoped that he would develop an affinity for the virtue.

“I think not,” I said quietly, reflecting that such a ceremony would draw to her the very sort of Farseer attention I sought to avoid. Even then, I was still hoping to keep her existence quiet.

Such hopes vanished when Nettle arrived five days later. She had left Buckkeep as quickly as she could make arrangements and ridden horseback to make the trip as swiftly as possible. Two of her guardsmen had ridden with her, the minimum escort expected for the King’s Skillmistress. One was a gray-haired old man, the other a willowy girl, but both looked more exhausted than my daughter did. I had only a glimpse of them from my study window when I pushed aside the drapes and peered out after I heard horses whinnying outside.

I took a deep breath to steel myself. I let the curtain fall and left my study, striding hastily through the manor to intersect with her. Before I had reached the front entrance, I heard the door open, the sound of her clear voice lifted in a hasty greeting to Revel, and then the clatter of her boots as she ran down the hall. I stepped from the connecting corridor and she nearly caromed into me. I caught her by the shoulders and looked down into her face.

Nettle’s dark curling hair had pulled free of its tie to fall to her shoulders. Her cheeks and brow were reddened from chill. She still wore her cloak and had been pulling off her gloves as she ran. “Tom!” she greeted me, and then, “Where is my mother?”

I pointed down the hall to the door of the nursery; she shrugged free of me and was gone. I glanced back. In the entrance Revel was greeting her retinue. Our steward had things well in hand. The guardsmen who had ridden with her looked weary and cold and desirous of nothing so much as rest; Revel could deal with them. I turned and followed Nettle.

By the time I caught up with her, she stood in the open door of the nursery. She gripped the door frame and seemed frozen there. “You really had a baby? A baby?” she demanded of her mother. Molly laughed. I halted where I was. As Nettle stepped cautiously into the room, I ghosted up and stood where I could watch them but not be seen. Nettle had halted by the empty cradle set near the fire. Abject penitence was in her voice as she cried out, “Mother, I’m so sorry I doubted you. Where is she? Are you well?”

Molly sat, an image of calm, but I felt her anxiety. Did Nettle see, as I did, how carefully she had arranged herself to meet her elder daughter? Molly’s hair looked recently smoothed, and her shawl was evenly spread on her shoulders. The baby was swaddled in a soft cover of palest pink; a matching cap hid her tiny face. Molly did not waste time or effort in answering Nettle but offered the child to her. I could not see Nettle’s face but I saw the set of her shoulders change. The bundle her mother offered was too small to be a baby, even a newborn. She crossed the room as cautiously as a wolf walking into unknown territory. She still feared madness. When she accepted the baby, I saw her muscles adjust for the lightness of the infant. She looked into Bee’s face, startled to find her really there and even more shocked at her blue gaze, and then she lifted her eyes to look at her mother. “She’s blind, isn’t she? Oh, Ma, I’m so sorry. Will she live long, do you think?” In her words I heard all I had feared—that not only the world but even her sister would perceive our Bee as peculiar.


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