Fool's Assassin / Page 75

Page 75


Ice encased my heart. I gestured at the assassin with my knife, moving him farther away from the cradle. I moved with him, keeping the same distance. Whatever was in the packet, I would not chance opening it near Bee. I brought it to a small table touched by firelight.

It was a little packet of good paper. I sliced the side carefully with my blade, then tipped it. A very fine chain slid out of it first. I tapped it and the rest emerged. “A very pretty necklace. And expensive, I’d hazard.” I held up the chain. Firelight glinted red from it. “It’s the Farseer buck, in silver. But he has his head lowered to charge. Interesting.” I watched the boy’s face as it dangled from his hand. Did he know what it was? The sigil of FitzChivalry Farseer, the long-dead bastard of the royal family.

He didn’t. “It’s a gift for her. From Lord Chade Fallstar.”

“Of course it is.” My voice was flat. I returned to his garments, hooked my toe under the heap, and kicked them to him. “You can get dressed.”

“And my things?” the youngster asked sullenly. He spoke over his shoulder as he tugged on his underthings. I stooped to the floor, and the tools of his trade disappeared up my sleeve. I heard the rustle of fabric as he pulled on his shirt and trousers.

“What things?” I asked pleasantly. “Your boots and stockings? There on the floor. Put them on. Then get out of this room. And stay out of this wing of my home. Or I’ll kill you.”

“I wasn’t sent to do the baby harm. Only to see it, to leave the gift, and to report back what I’d seen. Lord Chade warned her that you’d catch me but Lady Rosemary insisted. It was a test. One I’ve failed.”

“Failed twice, I assume. I doubt they gave you permission to name their names to anyone.”

The boy was quiet. “They said it was just a test.” His voice broke on the words. “And I’ve failed it. Twice.”

“You’re assuming that you were the one they were testing. Dressed? Good. Get out. No. Wait. What’s your name?”

He held his tongue. I sighed and took a step toward him.


I waited.

The boy took a breath that was half a sob. “FitzVigilant.”

I pondered a moment, sifting names of minor nobility. “Of Farrow?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And how old are you?”

The boy drew himself up straighter. “Twelve, sir.”

“Twelve? Eleven, I might have believed. But ten is more likely, isn’t it?”

The lad’s dark eyes flashed fury. The tears were running freely down his cheeks. Oh, Chade. Is this your future assassin? He looked down and said simply, “Sir.”

I sighed. Had I ever been that young? “Go, boy. Now.”

The spy fled with no pretense at stealth. He did not quite slam the door behind him, but he shut it quite firmly. I listened to the sound of his pattering steps as he fled. When they became softer, I stepped to the door, listened, opened it, and stepped out. Then I closed the door again, retrieved my boots, and came to Bee’s cradle. “For now, he’s gone,” I told my child and shook my head. “Chade, you old spider, what are you playing at? Was that truly the best you could send my way? Or was he the decoy?”

I moved efficiently about the room, checking the window latch and looking everywhere an assassin might conceivably hide. When I had made that round, I returned to the cradle and lifted the lacy drapery away. I found a lamp, lit it, and moved it to the stand by the cradle. I worked as if my staring baby were made of spun sugar as I lifted each blanket away and carefully shook it. Her garments looked untouched. Would I chance that? I had begun removing her clothing to check for anything that this spy or a previous one might have been able to put on her when Molly entered the room.

“There you are! I’ve half a dozen serving boys scouring Withywoods for you. Our guests are waiting to go in for a meal. You’ve missed their minstrel singing a very long song to thank us for our welcome.”

“Glad of that,” I admitted. The tiny ribbons on Bee’s gown were defying me.

“Fitz?” Molly swept into the room. “What are you doing? Didn’t you hear me? The meal is nearly ready.”

I lied to her. Again. “I came in to be sure she was fine and she was crying. I thought she might be wet.”

“Crying? And I didn’t hear her?”

“It wasn’t loud. I wouldn’t have heard her except that I was passing the door.”

Molly immediately took charge of her. I clenched my teeth, fearing that there might still be something hidden in her garments that could hurt either her or her mother. Molly expertly opened her clothes, checked her napkin, and then looked at me in consternation. “She’s fine.” I watched intently as Molly refastened the ribbon ties I had loosened.

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