Assassins quest, p.96
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       Assassins Quest, p.96

         Part #3 of Farseer Trilogy series by Robin Hobb

  We have been north to the Near Islands, where the wolves are as white as the bears. We have been south to Chalced, and even beyond Bingtown. We have walked up the banks of the Rain River and ridden a raft back down. We have discovered that Nighteyes does not like traveling by ship, and I do not like lands that have no winters. We have walked beyond the edges of Verity’s maps.

  I had thought I would never return to Buck again. But we did. The autumn winds brought us here one year, and we have not left since. The cottage we claimed as ours once belonged to a charcoal burner. It is not far from Forge, or rather where Forge used to be. The sea and the winters have devoured that town and drowned the evil memories of it. Someday, perhaps, men will come again to seek the rich iron ore. But not soon.

  When Starling comes, she chides me, and tells me I am a young man yet. What, she demands of me, became of all my insistence that one day I would have a life of my own? I tell her I have found it. Here, in my cottage, with my writing and my wolf and my boy. Sometimes, when she beds with me and I lie awake afterward listening to her slow breathing, I think I will rise on the morrow and find some new meaning to my life. But most mornings, when I awake aching and stiff, I think I am not a young man at all. I am an old man, trapped in a young man’s scarred body.

  The Skill does not sleep easily in me. In summers especially, when I walk along the sea cliffs and look out over the water, I am tempted to reach forth as Verity once did. And sometimes I do, and I know for a time, of the fisherwoman’s catch, or the domestic worries of the mate of the passing merchant ship. The torment of it, as Verity once told me, is that no one ever reaches back. Once, when the Skill-hunger was on me to the point of madness, I even reached for Verity-as-Dragon, imploring him to hear me and answer.

  He did not.

  Regal’s coteries long ago disbanded for lack of a Skillmaster to teach them. Even on the nights when I Skill out in despair as lonely as a wolf’s howling, begging anyone, anyone to respond, I feel nothing. Not even an echo. Then I sit by my window and look out through the mists past the tip of Antler Island. I grip my hands to keep them from trembling and I refuse to plunge myself whole into the Skill river that is waiting, always waiting to sweep me away. It would be so easy. Sometimes all that holds me back is the touch of a wolf’s mind against mine.

  My boy has learned what that look means, and he measures the elfbark carefully to deaden me. Carryme he adds that I may sleep, and ginger to mask the elfbark’s bitterness. Then he brings me paper and quill and ink and leaves me to my writing. He knows that when morning comes, he will find me, head on my desk, sleeping amidst my scattered papers, Nighteyes sprawled at my feet.

  We dream of carving our dragon.

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