Royal Assassin

Page 148


"I am convinced I can make her decide she does not want me."
"How? By being an oaf? And shaming Shrewd?"
I felt caged. I tried to think of solutions, but found only one answer in me. "I will marry no one except Molly." I felt better simply by saying it aloud. I met Chade's eyes.
He shook his head. "Then you will marry no one," he pointed out.
"Perhaps not," I acceded. "Perhaps we shall never be married in name. But we shall have a life together-"
"And little bastards of your own."
I stood convulsively, my fists knotting of their own accord. "Don't say that," I warned Chade. I turned away from him to glare into his fire.
"I wouldn't. But everyone else will." He sighed. "Fitz, Fitz, Fitz." He came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. Very, very gently, he said, "It might be best to let her go."
The touch and the gentleness had disarmed me of my anger. I lifted my hands to cover my face. "I cannot," I said through my fingers. "I need her."
"What does Molly need?"
A little chandlery with beehives in the backyard of it. Children. A legitimate husband. "You are doing this for Shrewd. To make me do as he wishes," I accused Chade.
He lifted his hands from my shoulders. I listened to him walk away, to wine being poured into a single cup. He brought his wine with him to his chair and sat down before his fire.
"I'm sorry."
He looked at me. "Someday, FitzChivalry," he warned me, "those words will not be enough. Sometimes it is easier to pull a knife out of a man than to ask him to forget words you have uttered. Even words uttered in anger."
"I am sorry," I repeated.
"So am I," he said shortly.
After a time I asked humbly, "Why did you wish to see me tonight?"
He sighed. "Forged ones. Southwest of Buckkeep."
I felt ill. "I had thought I would not have to do that anymore," I said quietly. "When Verity put me on a ship to Skill for him, he said that perhaps-"
"This does not come from Verity. It was reported to Shrewd, and he wishes it taken care of. Verity is already … overtaxed. We do not wish to trouble him with anything else just now."
I put my head back into my hands. "Is there no one else who can do this?" I begged him.
"Only you and I are trained for this."
"I did not mean you," I said wearily. "I do not expect you to do that sort of work anymore ."
"Don't you?" I looked up to find the anger back in his eyes. "You arrogant pup! Who do you think kept them from Buckkeep all summer, Fitz, while you were out on the Rurisk? Did you think that because you wished to avoid a task, the need for such work ceased?"
I was as shamed then as I have ever been. I looked aside from his anger. "Oh, Chade. I am sorry."
"Sorry that you avoided it? Or sorry that you thought me incapable of doing it anymore?"
"Both. Everything." I conceded it all suddenly. "Please, Chade, if one more person I care about becomes angry with me, I don't think I shall be able to bear it." I lifted my head and looked at him steadily until he was forced to meet my eyes.
He lifted a hand to scratch at his beard. "It has been a long summer for both of us. Pray El for storms to drive the Red-Ships away forever."
We sat a time in silence.
"Sometimes," Chade observed, "it would be much easier to die for one's king than to give one's life to him."
I bowed my head in assent. The rest of the night we spent preparing the poisons I would need in order to begin killing for my king again.
THE AUTUMN OF the third year of the Red-Ship War was a bitter one for King-in-Waiting Verity. His warships had been his dream. He had founded all his hopes on them. He had believed he could rid his own coast of Raiders, and be so successful at it that he could send forth raiders against the hostile Outisland coasts even during the worst of the winter storms. Despite early victories, the ships never achieved the command of the coast that he had hoped they would. Early winter found him with a fleet of five ships, two of which had recently sustained severe damage. One intact was the captured Red-Ship vessel, which had been refitted and sent out with a crew to assist in patrols and escorting of merchant vessels. When the winds of autumn finally arrived, only one of his ships' masters expressed enough confidence in his crew's skills and his vessel to be willing to undertake a raid against the Outislander coasts. The other masters argued for at least one winter of practicing seamanship along our own rough coast, and another summer of practicing tactics, before undertaking such an ambitious goal.

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