“We didn't kill the dragon.”
“No. We didn't.”
There was a long pause and I hoped he had gone back to sleep. Then he asked me quietly, “Are we going home on a boat?”
I sighed. His childish concern was the only thing that could have weighed me heavier. I tried to find sympathy for him. It was difficult. “It's the only way we can go home, Thick. You know that.”
“I don't want to.”
“I don't blame you.”
“Me, neither.” He sighed heavily. After a time he said, “So this was our adventure. And the prince and the princess get married and live happily ever after, with many children to warm them in their old age.”
He had probably heard that phrase thousands of times in his life. It was a common way for a minstrel to end a hero tale.
“Perhaps,” I said cautiously. “Perhaps.”
“What happens to the rest of us?”
Longwick came into the tent. Quietly he began to make up his bed. From the way he moved, I suspected he had finished his brandy.
“The rest of us go on with our lives, Thick. You'll go back to Buckkeep and serve the Prince. When he becomes the King, you'll be at his side.” I reached to find his happy ending. “And you'll live well, with pink sugar cakes and new clothes whenever you need them.”
“And Nettle,” he said with satisfaction. “Nettle is at Buckkeep now. She's going to teach me how to make good dreams. At least, that's what she said. Before the dragon and all.”
“Did she? That's good.”
With that, he seemed to settle for the night. In a short time, his breathing took on the slower rhythm of sleep. I closed my eyes and wondered if Nettle could teach me how to make good dreams. I wondered if I'd ever have the courage to meet her. I didn't want to think about her right now. If I thought about her, then I had to think about telling her about Burrich.
“What will you do, Lord FitzChivalry?” Longwick's question in the dark was like a voice out of the sky.
“That isn't me,” I said quietly. “I'll go back to the Six Duchies and be Tom Badgerlock.”
“Seems like a lot of people know your secret now.”
“I think they are all men who know how to hold their tongues. And will do so, at Prince Dutiful's request.”
He shifted in his blankets. “Some might do so merely at Lord FitzChivalry's request.”
I laughed in spite of myself, then managed to say, “Lord FitzChivalry would greatly appreciate that.”
“Very well. But I think it's a shame. You deserve better. What of glory? What of men knowing what you have done and who you are, and giving you the acclaim you deserve for your success? Don't you want to be remembered for what you've done?”
I didn't need to think long. What man has not played that game, late at night, staring into the fire's embers? I had been down the road of what might have been so often that I knew every crossroad and pitfall in it. “I'd rather be forgotten for the things people think I've done. And I'd give it all if I could forget the things I failed to do.”
And there we left it.
I suppose I must have slept at some point, because I awoke in the predawn gray. I crawled from my blankets to keep from disturbing Thick and went immediately to Burrich's bedside. Swift slept curled beside him, holding his father's hand. My Wit-sense of the Stablemaster told me that he was sinking away from us. He was going to die.
I went to Chade and Dutiful and woke them. “I want something from you,” I told them. Dutiful peered at me blearily from his blankets. Chade sat up slowly in his bedding, alerted by my voice that this was a serious matter.
“I want the coterie to try to heal Burrich.” When no one spoke, I added, “Now. Before he slips any further away.”
“The others are going to realize that you and Thick are more than what you seem,” Chade pointed out to me. “It is why I have left my own injury alone. Not that it compares to Burrich's.”
“All my secrets seem to have spilled out on this island anyway. If I must live with those consequences, then I'd like to have something to show for it. For all I've lost here. I'd like to send Swift home to Molly with his father.”
“Her husband,” Chade reminded me quietly.
“Don't you think I know that, don't you think I see all the possible consequences?”
“Go wake Thick,” the Prince suggested as he threw back his blankets. “I know you want to hurry, but I suggest you get him a good breakfast before we try this. He can't focus on anything when he's hungry. And mornings are not his best time. So let's at least feed him.”