“And Amber?” I asked quietly. Then I wondered that I dared venture the question.
He met my gaze levelly. “She is a facet of me. No more than that. And no less.”
I wished I had not brought it up. I levered the conversation back into its old direction. “Well. That solves nothing for me, as far as finding someone to watch over Hap for me.”
He nodded, and again there was a stiff little silence. I hated that we had become so self-conscious with one another but could not think how to change it. The Fool was still my old friend from my boyhood days. And he wasn't. Knowing that he had other “facets” reordered all my ideas of him. I felt trapped, wanting to stay and ease our friendship back into its old channel, yet also wanting to flee. He sensed it and excused me.
“Well, I regret that I came at a bad time. I know you have to meet Swift soon. Perhaps we shall have a chance to speak again before we sail.”
“He can wait for me,” I heard myself say suddenly. “It won't hurt him a bit.”
“Thank you,” he said.
And then again our conversation lapsed. He saved it by picking up one of the furled charts. “Is this Aslevjal?” he asked as he unrolled it on the table.
“No. That's Skyrene. Our first port of call is at Zylig.”
“What's this over here?” He pointed to a curling bit of scrollwork on one shore of the island.
“Outislander ornamentation. I think. Or maybe it means a whirlpool, or a switching current or seaweed beds. I don't know. I think they see things differently from us.”
“Undoubtedly so. Have you a chart of Aslevjal?”
“The smaller one, with the brown stain at one end.”
He unrolled it next to the first, and glanced from one to the other. “I see what you mean,” he murmured, tracing an impossibly lacy edge on the shoreline. “What do you think that is?”
“Melting glacier. At least, that is what Chade thinks.”
“I wonder why he didn't give you my message.”
I feigned ignorance. “As I said, perhaps he forgot. When I see him today, I'll ask him.”
“Actually, I'd like to speak to him, as well. Privately. Perhaps I could come with you to your Skill-lesson today.”
I felt extremely uncomfortable yet I could think of no way to wriggle out of inviting him. “That's not scheduled until afternoon today, after Swift's lessons and weapons practice.”
He nodded, unconcerned. “That would be fine. I've things to tidy up in my chamber below.” As if inviting me to ask why, he added, “I've nearly moved out of those rooms completely. There won't be much left for anyone to trouble about.”
“So you intend to move to the Silver Key permanently?” I asked.
For a moment, his face went blank. I had surprised him. Then he shook his head slowly at me, smiling gently. “You never believe a thing I tell you, do you, Fitz? Ah, well, perhaps that has sheltered us both through many a storm. No, my friend. I will leave my Buckkeep chambers empty when I go. And most of the wonderful possessions and furnishings in the Silver Key belong to others already, accepted as collateral for my debts. Which I don't intend to pay, of course. Once I leave Buckkeep Town, my creditors will descend like crows and pick those quarters bare. And that will be the end of Lord Golden. I won't be returning to Buckkeep. I won't be returning anywhere.”
His voice did not quaver or shake. He spoke calmly and his eyes met mine. Yet his words left me feeling as if a horse had kicked me. He spoke like a man who knew he was going to die, a man tidying up all the loose ends of his life. I experienced a shift in perception. My awkwardness with him was because of our recent quarrel, and because I knew I deceived him. I did not fear his death, because I knew I had already prevented it. But his discomfort had a different root. He spoke to me as a man who knew he faced death would speak to an old friend who seemed indifferent to that fact. How callous I must have seemed to him, avoiding him all those days. Perhaps he had thought I was carefully severing the contact between us before his death could do it suddenly and painfully. The words burst from me, the only completely true thing I'd said to him that day. “Don't be stupid! I'm not going to let you die, Fool!” My throat suddenly closed. I picked up my cooling cup of tea and gulped from it hastily.
He caught his breath and then laughed, a sound like glass breaking. Tears stood in his eyes. “You believe that so thoroughly, don't you? Ah, Beloved. Of all the things I must bid farewell to, you are the one most difficult to lose. Forgive me that I have avoided you. Better, perhaps, that we make a space between us and become accustomed to it before fate forces that upon us.”