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It was childish of me. I pointed it out anyway. “You would probably have brought her here with us, for the sake of mustering strength for the Prince.”

He sighed, as if confronting a stubborn pupil who refused to concede a point. Which he was, I suppose. “As you will have it, Fitz. But, I beg you, do not charge into this development like a bull harried by bees. Let her settle at Buckkeep for a few days, while the Prince and I consult on how much she should know of who she is and how best to approach her through Thick. It may require some preparation of Thick as well.”

Relief flowed through me. I had feared that Chade would be the one to charge in like a bull. “I will do as you say. Go slowly.”

“There's a good lad,” Chade replied absently. I knew that his thoughts had already wandered afar to how these new playing pieces could be deployed on the game board.

And so we parted for the night.

Chapter 15

CIVIL

Hoquin was the White Prophet and Wild Eye his Catalyst in the years that Sardus Chif held power in the Edge Lands. Famine had ruled there even longer than Sardus Chif, and some said it was a punishment on the land because Sardus Prex, mother of Sardus Chif, had burned every sacred grove in wild mourning and fury at the Leaf God when her consort, Slevm, died of pox. Since then, the rains had all but ceased, and that was because there were no sacred leaves for the rains to wash. For the rains only fall for holy duty, not to slake the thirst of men or their children.

Hoquin believed that his call as White Prophet was to restore the fertility of the Edge Lands, and he believed that to do this, water must come. So he made his Catalyst to study water and how it might be brought to the Edge Lands, from deep wells or dug canals or prayers and offerings for rainfall. Often he asked her what she would change to bring water to her people's lands, but never did she have an answer to please him.

Wild Eye had no care for water. She had been born in the dry years and lived in the dry years and knew only the dry years and their ways. What she cared for were thippi-fruits, the little soft-fleshed many-seeded pomes that grow low to the earth in the shelter of the claw brambles in the ravines of the foothills. When she was supposed to be at her chores, she would slip away up to the foothills and go to the bramble thickets, returning with her skirts and hair thick with claw seed and her mouth purple from thippi-fruit. This angered Hoquin the White, and often he beat her for her inattention to her duties.

Then, around their cottage, where had been only dusty earth, the claw brambles began to grow. Their tangling thorns sheltered the soil from the sun and beneath them came in the thippi-fruit vines. In the season when the thippi-fruit died back, greygrass grew, and rabbits came to live beneath the brambles and eat the greygrass. Then Wild Eye caught and cooked the rabbits for the White Prophet.

— SCRIBE CATEREN, OF THE WHITE PROPHET HOQUIN

Despite Chade's suggestion, I did not go immediately to my blankets. I returned to the fire, where Thick sat staring at the remaining embers and shivering as the cold of the glacier crept up into him. I rousted him from there and saw him off to bed in the tent we would share with Riddle and Hest. The tight quarters were welcome for the body warmth that would be shared. He settled in, gave a huge sigh that ended in a coughing fit, then sighed again and dropped into sleep. I wondered if he would be conversing with Nettle tonight. Perhaps in the morning I'd have the courage to ask him. For now, I'd be content knowing she was safe at Buckkeep.

I left the tent and went out under the stars. The fires had died out almost completely. Longwick would keep a few coals going in a firepot but we didn't have enough fuel to keep them burning constantly. There was a dim light from Dutiful's tent; probably a small lantern still burned in there. The Fool's tent was likewise illuminated, glowing like a jewel in the night. I walked quietly over the snow to it.

I halted outside it when I heard soft voices from within. I could not make out the words, but I recognized the speakers. Swift said something, and the Fool replied teasingly. The boy chuckled. It sounded peaceful and friendly. I felt a strange twinge of exclusion, and almost retreated to my tent. Then I rebuked myself for jealousy. So the Fool had befriended the boy. Very likely, it was the best thing that could happen to Swift. As I could not knock to announce myself, I cleared my throat loudly, and then stooped to lift the tent flap. A slice of light fell on the snow. “May I come in?”

There was the tiniest of pauses, and then, “If you wish. Try to leave the snow and ice outside.”

He knew me too well. I brushed the damp snow from my leggings, and then shook it from my feet. Crouching, I entered and let the tent flap fall closed behind me.

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