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Fitz and the Fool: New Adventures

Chapter Text

‘The seed is the flower and the flower the seed

All life is to become

White is the flower, white is the seed

The catalyst is the path to become’

Translation from a White Prophet Scroll, Clerres Monastery

Chapter 1- REGRETS

Six years had passed since I had last seen the Fool. Six long, lonely years. It felt like a lifetime. How could he vanish from my life so completely? In my darkest moments I wondered if he were real at all, or just a will 'o' the wisp I followed blindly. When we parted I had chosen to seek out and win back the heart of Molly, my childhood sweetheart. I believed I could claim what I had long been denied- to have an ordinary life, a wife and family to care for. But that life was never meant for me. It took me years to comprehend this. It took parting from the Fool and the intervening years to make stark what I had allowed to leave, and what my heart truly wanted. The Fool had let me go because he believed he could never possess the whole of my heart. I had loved Molly and spent sixteen years trying to get back to her. I had not paused to think how I had changed in that time, how she would have changed. No longer the playful girl in the red skirts running from me on the beach at Buck. Molly was a grown woman, strong and self reliant, a mother to seven children. She was happy with her lot before Burrich died. She would have gone on and lived a contented life, should I have chosen to remain dead to her. I should have remained dead to her.

My study had become my sanctuary at Withywoods. No one was permitted to enter the room, not even Molly. Like Verity’s map room at Buck keep, my study was a place where I could scribe, think, plan and skill without chance of disturbance. In this room I thought about the Fool a great deal. I imagined him seated by the hearth with a glass of his favourite Apricot Brandy. I opened the bottle on my side table; I inhaled the scent, remembered him fondly and berated myself for how we ended. We shared a connection so immense. I am aghast at my actions on the last day I saw him. I was being pulled in so many different directions on that day. The skill sendings from Prince Dutiful and Chade were like buzzing bees in my head. I wanted time with the fool, I wanted to stop and be in the moment, and work through the life changing events that we had shared. But no, I tried to be everything for everyone, and in that confusion, lost myself. The Fool let me go, as if it were a kindness on his part. He took back his silvered skill finger prints from my forearm, severing our skill bond. He believed he had envisioned my future, I would go on and live free from the weight that his love would have on my relationship with Molly. I disagreed, but did not make the time to challenge and question him. I did not fight for him, and this shames me deeply. For, if any soul was deserving of his love being reciprocated, if anyone truly deserved the whole of my heart, it was the Fool. I was too blind and afraid to see that. Each night that I reach for a true sleep, dreams of him torment me. I can see him, but he cannot see me. I follow him down long white stone hallways, into vast scroll libraries, through verdant gardens. He cannot hear me pleading ‘Beloved, please… come to me’. This is my punishment. More painful than any fist from Regal’s guards, arrow piercing or sword thrust. I want what I cannot have, and what I thought I wanted leaves me cold, magnifying my emptiness. I ask myself why I had not fought for him. The only answer I can find is that I was afraid of surrendering, afraid of what my heart truly wanted. Again, lessons learned too late.

I succeeded in winning back Molly’s heart as Tom Badgerlock. Using my true name of Fitzchivalry Farseer would still see me hung, drawn and burned in some corners of the six Duchies. We courted in secret for 3 years and were wed by the witness stones in at Buck keep. The Fool had foreseen this much. The rest was up to me. In the following years I was kept busy by the Farseer court and as skill master. But in my quiet times, when I put up my skill walls to ensure I was completely alone, the thought I would never see the Fool again devastated me. In promising myself by the witness stones, I knew I had made the right choice for Molly and the children. I kept my word to Burrich, to look after his family. But, the gnawing emptiness I felt told me I had made the wrong choice for my own heart. I had no right to promise Molly what I did not have to give. Within a busy, bustling family, I found I was lonely. My daughter Nettle and I had come to an understanding, but I would never be her Papa. I could not share my secret life and work with Molly. I could not share my feelings for the Fool and my growing agony in missing him with another living soul. So after nearly three years of being wedded, Molly and I lived separate lives.

Our private situation did not appear to vex Molly, she would not bare child again. She was strong, independent and contented with being the lady of Withywoods. The chandlery took up her days. The children were growing fast, and spent most of their time in Buck Keep, with lessons. I would come and go from Withywoods, Molly never asked what I did, and I never offered it. In secret, I searched obsessively for word of the Fool, a mention in a scroll, by word of mouth at inns and taverns on the road, and on many of my forays around the six Duchies. I could find not a mention of a tawny man, or a white prophet. I kept my secret from Molly; I’m sure she believed I was on errands for the Queen and after each journey to find the Fool ended in failure, my melancholy deepened. My only comfort found in the fact I knew he was alive, somewhere, for I had walked with him in my dreams.

Melancholy hung over me like an angry cloud. I became insufferable to live with and, I’m ashamed to admit, I took to drinking too much, too often. I knew it would hurt Molly, who had grown up with an abusive drunkard for a father. We argued ferociously. She said 'she would not tolerate the drunkard in Burrich and will not tolerate it in me. I was not to set foot in the house if I was drunk.' I hated myself. To push down my pain I had become an odious self pitying drunk. Did the Fool foresee this? I wondered darkly. I decided time apart from me would be best for Molly.

I set out on a quest overland, through Chalced to Bingtown disguised as a merchant. In Bingtown, tied up at the loading dock, to my delight, I happened upon a familiar face. I met and spoke with Paragon, the wizardwood liveship hewn so lovingly in my own image. He called me Beloved, he had not known my true name. Had I ever been that handsome? I could see the Fool’s love for me in every chisel mark. I was humbled, and flooded with shame. Seeing myself through his eyes, made my heart ache. I knew I had let him down. My supposed happiness did not take precedence over his. I was not happy, his martyrdom was for nothing. I had to find him and right that wrong. I believe I used the complete supply of messenger birds from Bingtown, Trehaug, Cassarick and Jamallia. I sent out the same missive in each, with the offer of reward for recovery of the White prophet. But again, my efforts came to naught; there was no word of the White prophet.


A knock at my study door made me start, black Ink splashing in jagged dots across the scroll I had been transcribing. I cursed. So immersed had I been in transcribing a skill scroll, that my wit had not detected the presence of a ladies maid, approaching my door. ‘Yes’, I called sharply, in annoyance at her tentative knock. ‘Begging your pardon sir, but a gentleman is at the door seeking word with you’. She simpered through the closed door. ‘Did he give you his name?’ I queried. ‘No sir, he said no name would be required, you will know him’. Furious at this unwarranted interruption, I laid down my quill and sanded the ink on my transcription. On arriving at the large oak front door I spied a tall richly dressed gentleman with his back to me. Long blonde hair cascaded down the back of his forest green and gold embroidered riding cloak. ‘Good day, sir, how may I assist you?’ I asked abruptly. The man was silent. ‘Sir! I do not have all day, what business do we have?’ I barked. ‘You were looking for me’ a velveteen voice said. ‘I was?’ I puzzled. He turned to me, a wry smile formed on the man’s face. In that moment of recognition and astonishment, I gasped and leapt at him. White skinned once more, but with green eyes and blonde hair, I gathered up the Fool in my arms, and this time I could not let him go. We stood at the door of the home I shared with my wife, wrapped in one another’s arms, sobbing like children. ‘Oh Fitz,’ he whispered at my ear, ‘I heard you were looking for me’. I clasped his lithe frame to me, gasping for air as the tears of joy subsided. I lifted my head from his chest and, looked into his now green eyes; we knew one another more intimately than lovers. My heart swelled to bursting as in unison we leaned in and touched brows, renewing our bond of old.

‘FITZ’ a sharp reproachful shout from behind made me pull away liked a scolded child. I turned to see Molly with her hands on her hips, a puzzled look on her face. How long had she been there? The fervour of the intimacy she must have witnessed was something I would rather she had not seen. ‘Ah Molly,’ I paused grasping for words to explain. ‘This is my long lost friend,’ I stuttered ’ The Fool. Do you not recall, he was King Shrewd’s jester and my childhood friend at Buck keep?’ The Fool swept past me and bowed graciously to Molly. ‘A pleasure to meet you again Lady Badgerlock, Please forgive this intrusion, I did not intend to startle you or your husband’. She stared at him, puzzled, and as recognition dawned ‘Ah yes, YES’ Molly cried with delight ‘You are Fitz’s fool, of course, of course.’ She began a giddy laugh and continued. ‘Fool, I owe you an apology, for I believed I saw my husband in the arms of a woman at my door’. The Fool turned to me, winked and raised a salacious eyebrow in jest. ‘Come in, come in’ Molly hooked her arm in his and swept him through to the drawing room. ‘Have you come far? I’m sure my husband will be good company while I arrange some tea. Are you hungry? You must be hungry after your journey?’ the questions tumbled out. The Fool removed his travelling cloak, let his bag drop to the floor and was seated ‘I would be grateful for any hospitality you could offer, Lady Badgerlock’ he replied courteously. ‘My name is Molly, Fool, enough with this Lady Badgerlock nonsense’. He smiled and nodded. I stood in the doorway to the drawing room, bewildered at this vision. As Molly moved past me to leave the room, she stopped suddenly and pulled me to kiss me hard on the mouth, with a forced affection we had not shared in many years. I felt like she was marking me, stating that I was her possession. It unnerved me, could she really know this man was her competition? She left and I swiftly closed the door. I stood for a time, my back to the door, in silence. All of the things I had wanted to say had vanished from my mind. I was trembling, terrified and elated. The white prophet was sitting at my hearth.

’Fitz’, his gentle naming woke me from my daze ‘Come sit with me’. I moved to sit in the cushioned chair opposite him by the hearth. A low fire burned taking the spring chill from the room. We sat awkwardly staring at one another, both lost for words. I was now shy of my forty fifth year, but with my increased understanding of the skill, had been able to dramatically slow my aging and appeared ten years younger than my true age. The Fool, as always, had the appearance of a dandy of a man in his late twenties, his whitened skin highlighting his sharp aristocratic features, making his new green eyes and long Blonde hair even more startling to gaze upon. He was beatific, beautiful. He waited patiently for me to speak. I gathered my thoughts, and leaned forward to take his gloved hands in mine. ‘Beloved’ I breathed, ‘I have missed you so’. His eyes caressed my face with such tenderness, his mouth flourished a smile. ‘Beloved, I have missed you so’ he mirrored. Tears welled in my eyes, reflecting his teary smile. ‘Look at us, soppy old things ‘he said, playfully snatching back his hands. We laughed, his lilting cadence was a balm to my heart, and this sharing, like easing into a favourite chair. ‘Where have you been, Fool?’ I quizzed. ‘Our parting was… wrong, so...wrong. ‘I paused for breath. ‘It shames me that we parted like that. I had so much to say to you. I could not live with the though of never seeing you again. I have searched for you these past six years Fool, through the six duchies, Bingtown, down to Jamallia’. He calmly interrupted my venting. ‘I told you where I would be, I was in my homeland, at Clerres- my school, trawling through the scrolls and righting all of the wrongs written’ He paused, raising a bemused eyebrow. ‘Did you not think to seek me out there? I felt like I had been punched in the chest. I sat incredulous at my stupidity. ‘But…’ I stuttered ‘You have talked in riddles for as long as I have known you, Fool. How was I to know that you actually told me where you would be? How was I to know that you were not lost at sea or consumed by a dragon? You disappeared so completely, not a word have I found of the white Prophet’ I replied aghast. ‘How did you know I sought you? I added timidly. ‘Ahhh, I took passage on the Paragon from Jamallia, he told me my beloved was searching for me’. I smiled, relieved that word found him somehow. The door to the drawing room swung open, and a bustle of maids entered with the tea things. Molly followed with a large tray of breads, cold meats, cheeses and pastries. She set out the repast on the large dining table and bid us to join her. ‘Where are the children? ’ the Fool inquired ’Oh, they have all been shipped off to Buck Keep for lessons. The Queen has insisted they received their education, and to be plain, we are grateful for the peace and quiet for a time’ replied Molly. ‘Chivalry is now stable master’ she added proudly while pouring the tea. ‘There is a beautiful circularity that Burrich’s son is following in his footsteps’. The Fool observed. ‘And what of Lady Nettle?’ he continued conversationally. ‘She is still at Buck keep’ I interjected. ‘She is advisor to Prince Dutiful and Princess Elianna, and a well regarded member of the coterie. Her skill strength astounds me on a daily basis.’ I enthused. ‘We have learned much from the recovered skill scrolls and the power we possess as a coterie is far greater than I could ever imagine’ The Fool sat up, eyes widened at hearing this, I glanced at Molly, she gave me a look of distain. I was chastised. ‘Another time’ I appeased. ‘I will report in full when I do not have to bore my dear lady wife’. ‘Of course’ he nodded courteously. We took tea, ate and spoke of the recent court gossip for a time. The Fool and I stealing knowing glances during our conversation. We both wanted to be away from here, alone. Like a gift from the gods, a maid knocked and entered with a missive for Molly. She begged her pardon and left deal with a problem at the chandlery. The moment the door clicked shut, our eyes met, with amused glances. The Fool and I would take the opportunity to make good our escape. ‘Sir, the day is young, would you enjoy a tour of the estate?’ I questioned formally, in case any prying maids should have their ear to the door. We rose; I pulled the food laden plates to me. Depositing all of the food in cloth napkins, I handed the packages to the Fool, who raised a puzzled brow. I bid him come with me and I retrieved a bottle of Apricot brandy from my study. The Fool collected his travelling cloak, shouldered his bag and followed me to the courtyard, bemused. I called for the boy, and requested My black- the horse the Fool had given me, and Malta, his own ride he had gifted to Burrich. The sheer joy of recognition I saw on his face when Malta was walked out to him, swelled my heart. She tossed her mane, playfully, whining recognition of her old master. ’Hello my old friend’ he said embracing her, softly stroking her back. I stowed the food and brandy in my saddlebag, and informed my boy, that should Lady Molly be seeking us, I am giving my friend a tour of the estate. We will be a day or two, she need not worry. Keen to be away, we rode at a racing dash down the tree lined roadway leading from Withywoods.

Galloping on for miles, we revelled in the exhilaration of riding together again. My black and Malta raced one another, delighting in the chance to stretch their legs. We reached an open hillside, laughing at the invigoration of the ride, and slowed to take in the view and a breath. The vista before us showed the patchwork of lands down to the sea, with a dark silhouette of Buck keep on the black coast in the far, far distance. Our breath restored, we continued in silence, our horses trotting slowly in unison, breathing heavily from the jaunt. Unusually silent, the Fool glanced over at me coquettishly, when our eyes met, his darted away. I let go of my bridle and put out my hand to clasp the Fool’s ungloved hand, as I did so I gasped. ‘Your skill fingers, they are silvered again’. He smiled knowingly, ‘The magic is renewed, as I am renewed Fitz’ he said melodically. I turned my hand to show my bare forearm, where his prints had once marked me. Our eyes locked, ‘Please’ I beseeched him. Without pause or question, the Fool laid his fingertips upon my skin. The silver imprint flowed like liquid moonlight from him to me, renewing the threads of our skill link. I closed my eyes and held him, protected inside my walls. I breathed out the deep sigh I had been holding in for six years. We are one again.

‘Where are we going Fitz?’ the fool queried. ‘I have a secret place in the woods near here,’ I suggested. ‘It used to be a game keepers cottage. It’s my workroom now!’ ‘Ah’ said the fool in his jesters lilt ‘What would the Fitz be without his secrets!’. I lead him on through the woods, even this far from the house, these were still estate lands. We left the trail and followed the trees I had marked with notches and clipped branches, so I could find my way here, even after dark. The small secluded cottage rested against the black rock of the hillside, surrounded by trees and scrub. It looked abandoned and uninhabitable from afar, as I intended. We dismounted and lead our horses on foot to the tumbled stone cottage. Apart from three standing walls and a half a roof, the cottage had little to impress a visitor. The Fool looked at me, puzzled. ‘Surely there is more to this place than meets the eye’ he perused. I grinned ‘You know me so well’. We tied up the horses inside the walls of the cottage, removed the saddles, gave them water from the near by stream and what hay we could find. There was a door on the far wall of the tumbledown cottage, disguised with fallen boughs and vines. I pulled the vines aside, took a key from around my throat and opened the door. ‘My Lord’ I said, bowing mockingly to the Fool, guiding him into the darkness. On stepping through the door, a dulled floating globe illuminated above, showing the interior of a vast cavern cut into the hillside. ‘An elderling globe’ he gasped. ’Where did you get it?’ I glanced at him with a secret smile. We entered the cavern placing our saddlebags on the table. The Fool stood and gazed around the room. ‘Well, you have got yourself a nice hidey hole here Fitzy Fitz, I’m impressed’. There was a hearth cut into the rock to the right, my work table was in the centre of the room. Cupboards containing all an assassin could need and racks of scrolls and maps lined the cold stone walls. ‘I have never allowed anyone to come here, no one knows of this place’ I explained. ‘Apart from me and you’ the Fool added with a grin. ‘Please, make yourself at home; as ever, what is mine is yours Fool.’ We removed our travelling cloaks and began to move around the room readying the space for an evening of warmth, friendship and comfort to come. It always astonished me how well we worked together. It gave warmth to my heart to once again be with the Fool, wordlessly going about our chores. I lit the fire and put a kettle on for tea, while the Fool searched my shelves for plates, cups and cutlery, for the table. Then, emptying the saddlebags of the food and apricot brandy we had stowed, we were quickly ready to relax and talk by the fire. There were two comfortable cushioned chairs in front of the hearth. ‘Two chairs?’ the Fool quizzed, ‘I thought you said no one else had ever been here’. I was struck silent at his observation. ‘That is your chair’ I explained, somewhat abashed. ‘I would imagine you here with me… I would… talk to you ’ I added quietly. ‘Oh Fitz ‘He whispered, moving gracefully to gather me up in a hug. Nothing more needed to be said. In his arms, I was home. The whistle of the kettle startled us from our embrace. We parted, fleeting looks cooling our growing intimacy. ‘Tea?’ I interjected. ’ Yes, yes, of course’ he said ’I have a delightful concoction from Jamaillia in my pack’. The ritual of making tea with the Fool was like a well rehearsed dance. We moved together with simplicity and grace. He put the pot to brew, and we filled our plates with bread, cheese and pastries and settled in the chairs by the fire. ‘Report’ he said an excellent mimic of Chade. ‘Where shall I start?’ I asked. He pondered. ‘How is life with Molly and the children? Is it all you dreamed of? Are you happy Fitz?’ He asked earnestly. ‘Start with the hard questions!’ I grinned, pausing to take a bite of bread and cheese, and to think of an honest reply. We sat I silence for a time listening to the crackling of the fire. Fool poured the tea, adding a spoonful of honey to each cup. ‘I cannot keep anything from you Fool, and the one time I did, near shattered my heart’ I recalled. We exchanged knowing glances.

He had known his fate was to die on Aslevjal Island at the hand of the pale woman. I had sought to circumvent this, betraying him by telling Chade, thus preventing him gaining passage with the other nobles to the out islands. This ruse failed and the ever ingenious fool fulfilled his fate in spite of my efforts.

‘Fitz, you know that is in the past and I have forgiven you, just as you have forgiven me for my betrayal. Let it be’ he urged. ‘Very well’ I said thoughtfully ‘Am I happy? The honest answer to that is yes and no’ I riddled. He arched his brows and glared at me. ‘I am happy now, here with you fool. But home...home is not happy’ I admitted. This truth had been hidden for so long, I feared it’s telling as much as I needed to share it. ‘Its not what I expected Fool...Married life.’ I paused to consider the precise words I should say. ‘Half of my life was shrouded in secret, half of my life I cannot share with Molly. She fears the skill and what it is doing to her daughter. I cannot talk to her of my work, of my travels. I ask myself what do we have in common? Other than the memories of each other as children In Buck town, and the lustful secret nights at Buck keep. We never really knew one another when Molly got with child. We were young and flighty. She never knew I was an Assassin. When I tried to be honest and explain she was horrified and bid me stop. She would rather live in ignorance and pretend all is well. She runs her chandlery and I come and go from Withywoods. We put on a united front when the children return, and part again when they leave. It is a sorry state of affairs Fool. I thought I was doing the right thing, I thought I loved Molly, but realise now I loved a fantasy of a time passed, and no matter how I have tried I cannot find a way to unite my heart with hers. We live in the same house, but lead separate lives. We have not bedded together for a long, long time’. I took a deep breath, the ferocity of my honesty startled me, and the fool. He gave me a fleeting, sympathetic look. ‘I’m so sorry Fitz’ he said softly. ‘Sorry you did not get your hearts desire’. I winced, regretting the fervour of my words, and feeling a shard of guilt for speaking ill of Molly. ‘And what of you Fool, did you find love?’ I asked, in an attempt to change the subject. ‘Yes, I found love’ he stated plainly. My bowels writhed, as if I had consumed serpents. My blood ran cold. ‘Oh ‘ I said with a gasp, unable to disguise my disappointment. He reached over and laid his hand on my knee. ‘Beloved, You are here, I have found you’. The flood of relief I felt set my heart beating again. ‘You are the only one Fitz, there never has been anyone else, and there never will be anyone else. How many times do I have to say that before it sinks in?’ Our eyes grazed in fleeting intimacy. My heart pounding in my chest.

‘What are we to do Fool?’ I left the question hanging in the air.

Moments of silence passed, both of us gazing at the hearth fire. ‘Apricot Brandy’ he declared suddenly, jumping up from his chair. ‘Do you have more cups somewhere? With a grin, I waved a lazy hand toward a cupboard. ‘See what you can find’. He returned with two odd chipped cups and the brandy bottle. On opening the bottle he put it to this nose. ‘Ah, sweet summer days’ he mused fondly. Pouring for both of us, he handed me a cup. He rose and stood erect, a jester with cup aloft, and announced to the room. ‘A toast… to reunited friends and new adventures’. I stood. ‘Reunited friends and new adventures’ I echoed, tossing off the brandy. Its warmth invaded my body. We looked at each other, knowingly, and reclaimed our seats. ‘More?’ he enquired. I nodded, put out my cup and he poured again. ‘Tell me Fool, why have you lost your colour?, you are as white as you were as a child’ I quizzed. ‘When I returned to my school with Prilkop, and we made our telling to the scribes, there was great upheaval.’ He explained
‘Those who believed the pale woman was the white prophet were banished, and all traces of her prophecies were removed from the scroll library. I was anointed as the true white prophet for this age and permitted to bathe in the sacred waters that bubble up from the earth there- much like in Jaampe. So I bathed, and meditated each day for three years and at my next changing time, the skin that was revealed was white. It was expected. My hair colour and eyes were a marvellous surprise though!
I smiled. The new colour did suit him. ‘Its taken five years for my visions to return. I went though such times of doubt Fitz, I have regretted leaving you every single day. I missed you so completely. Then a year ago my visions returned and my path has led me back to you, my catalyst.’

The skill thread to my heart resonated to hear him call me that, some long dormant part of me ached to be tangled in his web of time and possible futures. My life had become stale and lonely. I was in my middle years, but still surprisingly young and healthy. I had so much more life to lead. ‘And what do your visions tell you White prophet? What use must you put your catalyst to this time? I asked with wry amusement. ‘My visions told me to find you Fitz, that is all’ he stated. ‘What? No great adventure, no dragons, or battles?’ I queried. ‘Fitz, to truly love IS a great adventure.’ He stole my gaze for a moment longer than was comfortable, and then I looked away. His honesty disarmed me. I was mute, so much turmoil was bubbling under the surface. I picked up another log and set it in the fire. It took immediately throwing light into the dark recesses of the cave. ‘Where do you sleep here?’ He enquired. ‘There is a pallet made up in the far corner. I can make beds for us here by the fire.’ I suggested. ’The cave gets cold quickly when the fire dies down, so we will have to keep one another warm.’ I stood, and began to search for blankets. Fool set to tidying the dishes from our meal and moved the chairs from the hearth, making space for our pallets. I pulled the pallet for the Fool beside the fire, knowing how he hates the cold, and rolled out a spare straw mattress and to lie beside him. I layered on skins, blankets and our cloaks to cover us. ‘I’ll go and check the horses’ I said, recalling the Fool’s need for privacy to ready for bed.

Outside the cave It was a fresh starlit night, a good night for hunting. I relieved myself, and then quested with the wit to check there were no poachers in the surrounding forest. The forest was still and clear, the horses whinnied a greeting. I could sense a fox, some foraging deer and two owls. I could find no human’s near. I felt a dread and anticipation for what was to come to pass. Like two opposite poles, the Fool and I were being pulled together. It was inevitable; I had fought for so long to be the man everyone else had wanted me to be. This night I wanted to surrender. I made strong my skill walls, for I could bare no interruptions tonight. Breathing deeply of the sweet night air I returned to the cavern, to face my fear.

The Fool had already taken his pallet by the fire. He lay, long and lithe, in a brilliant blue elderling robe, his loose hair and fine hands thrown back behind his head. He glanced hungrily at me as I removed my tunic and boots, leaving on my billowing white cotton shirt and leather trousers for warmth. I lay on my side on my pallet, covering myself with the thick woollen travelling cloak and turned to face him. We lay there, silent, but for the crackling of the fire and our trembling breath. ‘Are you asleep fool?’ I whispered. The flickering shadows of the fire danced around the cavern walls. He rolled over to face me. We lay looking at one another. He was as beautiful as ever I saw. My eyes searched the sharp angles of his face and sculpted lips. How many times had we lain like this over the years? What sweet torture it must have been for the Fool to be so close to me, yet denied. I had been so blind, so oblivious to what I had put him through. This time I allowed the kindling heat in my loins to grow; my fingers ached to touch him, not as a friend, but as a lover. Did I deserve a love as wonderful as him? My heart thudded in my chest, ‘I must do this’ I commanded myself. Dismissing my fears and self doubt I reached tentatively, and caressed his porcelain cheek. He did not pull away, instead placing his own hand on mine, and moving my hand down to lay a soft kiss on the palm. His lips were cool, and the kiss sent tingles of pleasure through my body. I let out an involuntary gasp. He smiled with satisfaction. ‘Fool, I need to tell you something, something important’. He sat up facing me, his knees pulled up to his chest. I pushed the heavy cloak covering me away and followed his lead. Taking his hands in mine I began in earnest. ‘Do you recall our falling out, at Buck keep all those years ago, when I said I would never bed with you?’ He cringed ‘Fitz’ he said uncomfortably, as if to halt my flow. ’I lied’ I said abruptly. His eyes widened in bewilderment. ‘Oh’, was all he could say. A sickening look began to flood his face. ‘No Fool, do not fear, please do not fear. ’ I rallied. ‘I must say this. I was so afraid of my feelings then. I was young and stupid. I thought I knew everything, but I knew nothing of love. I was confused about who you were, who I was, I should never have said those words. They have eaten me up inside Fool, just as you said they would. You deserved so much more from me. I’m so sorry I put you through that .’ ‘Fitz, this is all ancient history!’ he replied, almost annoyed that we were treading on this ground again. I took a deep breath, and moved to cup his face in my hands. Our eyes locked tenderly.

‘Beloved, I offer you the whole of my heart, my body, my soul. I place no limits on my love for you’.

There, I said it. The words were free at last. He gasped and stared at me in silent amazement. Before he could say a word I leaned, and kissed him gently on the lips. He responded, with open mouthed hunger, our moist tongues mingled, tasting of honey and apricots. We kissed deeply with a passion that startled me. No woman had ever kissed me like that. We pulled apart from the kiss and stared at one another in wonder. Time seemed to have ceased. ‘Are you sure, Fitz; really sure?’ he queried in a whisper. ‘You know that if this comes to pass it will change our friendship. If we do this, we cannot take it back. I could not bear to have your heart for one night and never again, I could not bear another taste of you to then be denied’ he paused. I waited patiently for him to speak. His eyes brimmed with sorrow. ‘I have never...done this before, Fitz,’ he admitted. ‘I have never been bedded, man or woman. I’m…frightened.’ He looked up at me with such fragility. ’Lord Golden’s flirtations were all but jest, I have never let anyone this close to me’. I moved closer, wrapping my legs either side of his slender hips, claiming his body between my thighs. I pulled up his chin to lock his eyes with mine.

‘Beloved, understand this‘. I whispered ‘We journey together. I have never lain with any man before. I had never wanted to. You are not any man. You are the white prophet and I am the catalyst. We are bound, we are one. I want to give you all I denied you for so long, the whole of my heart, my body, my soul… Please fool, let me love you.’ I caressed his face again, to see tears cascading down his flawless skin. ‘No limits?’ he questioned. ‘No limits’ I said and he gathered me up in a tearful embrace.

Fool pushed me back on the pallet. His butterfly kisses flowed from my lips, down my throat to my chest, pulling apart my white cotton shirt as he did so. Slender knowing fingers revelled in the contours of my muscles. He paused to trace the pale scars that littered my chest. The Fool was the only one who knew how I had come upon each one. He playfully sucked and bit my nipples, glancing up to see the rapture on my face, as my hardness grew against his leg. I pulled his face to mine, kissing greedily and flipped him onto his back, pressing my full weight to claim him. We kissed sensually and moved against one another’s straining passion, laughing and playfully wrestling for the upper hand. Such a fire was beyond my imagining. Pausing for breath, the Fool rose and reached for the Apricot brandy, he took a swig from the bottle and watched me as I stood and removed my shirt. ‘I have always loved watching you undress’ he purred knowingly. I shook my head and tutted playfully. Unbuckling my leather trousers, I stared directly at him, and let them fall to the cold cave floor; freeing a straining hardness that delighted us both. ‘Look what you’ve done to me Fool! ‘I said in mock protest. ‘Impressive’ he jested with a raised eye brow. He took another swig of brandy. Naked, I knelt down in front of him and pulled the elderling robe up over his head, placing it on the pile of clothes I had discarded. ‘A drop of courage?’ he mused as he offered me the brandy bottle. There was no going back; I never wanted to go back. I had made love to only four women in my life, Molly, Starling, Jinna and kettriken. Although Verity had usurped my body for that coupling. I was filled with a curious trepidation. Could bedding a man be so different? Every inch of my body screamed with the rightness of what we were about to do. I took the Apricot brandy and tossed off a mouthful. ‘Are you ok?’ I asked him. ‘We won’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable Fool. Tell me what you need from me, and tell me if you want us to stop’. He nodded meekly. I returned the stopper to the bottle and rolled it away under the table. He stared at me with frozen watchfulness. I reached out, my fingers grazing his slender white torso, unsullied by man or woman. His skin had and inhuman glow in the firelight. With satisfaction, I smiled to see his slender manhood twitching to life at my caress. He was trembling. In fear or passion I know not. ‘I will keep you safe Beloved, I will treat your heart with the gentleness you deserve’. He lay down on his side, facing me. I joined him, my fingers slowly tracing the outline of his form. His sharp jutting hip, leading to taut hairless belly and long athletic thigh. He reciprocated, stroking my muscled rump, moving over my tight belly and down to the proof of my arousal. A light slender fingertip caresses its length. He looked at my face, cautiously watching my reaction as he stroked rhythmically. My manhood twitched like a puppet, at his touch. I lay back and closed my eyes, feeling his warm breath, then his supple tongue flicking over the tip. He took me deep in his mouth, my hips rose to meet him. ‘Oh Fool’ I groaned. A thrill of joy ran through my pounding veins. My hands moved down into his loose blonde hair, splayed over my stomach. I gathered it up and twisted it around my hand to see my hardness moving in and out of his yielding lips. While his lips worked wonders his hands roamed. He knew exactly how to touch me. No woman had ever known my body so. I let him get lost in the salty taste of me for a long, long time, moaning my appreciation. ‘Come here’ I begged, encouraging him to position himself so I could match him. He stopped, and with amazing suppleness, snaked his cool body on top of me, then continued with his meditative sucking. I pulled his smooth white buttocks down, and guided his slender shaft into my mouth. In what I can only excuse as inexperience, he thrust his sweetness down sharply, and I gagged. He stopped ‘Oh sorry’ he said breathlessly. I turned him onto his side, so we could share control. His physical strength still stunned me for one so slender. We moved rhythmically, timing our thrusts, like waves, one after the other. The taste and shape of him in my mouth delighted my tongue. My mouth was alive with new sensations. I had never known it could be this sweet. He moaned with ecstasy and hearing his pleasure in turn increased my own. Our hands caressed and explored as we copulated. We had created a perfect circle of giving and receiving pleasure. I willed myself to prevent completion, such all encompassing ecstasy; I never wanted us to stop. We immersed ourselves in each others physical bodies He was athletic and soft and sensual. His skin cooled mine and I gave him my heat. I surrendered myself to him as we writhed ceaselessly, pumping into each others mouths. ‘Beloved’ he gasped, as my mouth enjoyed the sweet hardness of him. ‘Oh beloved’ I moaned. He tasted so good. I was shocked at the wasted years I had spent keeping such a delightful creature at arms length. ‘I’m close’, he breathed. I found a breath and gasped ‘Me too’. Shuddering and arching I increased the rhythm, to meet his waiting lips. He responded, matching me with powerful thrusts. He took me deep as I came, spilling my seed inside him. I pulled him to me, gripping his buttocks, stilling his thrusts. He twitched wildly, crying out ‘Yes, yes’ convulsing to completion. Satiated, we lay panting, euphoric, Smiling.

Chapter 3- BECOMING

I awoke, from a restful sleep. My head on the Fools cool chest. Our bodies were entwined and his green cloak covered us. I sighed, deeply satisfied, remembering the pleasures we had shared. I glanced up at him. He slept so peacefully. I would refrain from waking him if I could, but the urgency of my bladder took priority. I slowly tried to untie my legs from our tangle, and gently lifted his arm from across my body. I moved thinking I has successfully extricated myself, he stirred sleepily. ‘Where are you going?’ he croaked. ‘Call of nature, give me a minute’. He turned from me and curled into a ball, reclaimed by sleep. I grabbed my discarded cloak to cover my nakedness, and opened the cavern door to a fresh awakening spring dawn. The air had that after rain sweetness, I breathed in deeply, letting its chill burn my lungs. The horses whinnied a greeting as I passed to answer the call. That task completed, I collected some sticks to rekindle the fire and returned to the cavern. Swiftly back in our bed I moved my body to curl into the Fool’s form. ‘You’re cold’ he muttered. ‘Then warm me’ I challenged. He rolled over and curled into my chest like a pup. I wrapped my arms and the cloak around him, and stroking his hair we dozed on.

A distant whinny from the horses woke me with a start. I had no idea how long we had slept. I lay for a time, listening to my body. My heart beat its slow and steady rhythm. How do I feel? I asked myself. The Fool was still curled up at my chest, deeply asleep. The sight of him gave me such a warm fluttering sensation in my belly, it made me smile widely. I felt such peace, I felt elated. So this is love, I mused. The being in my arms was certainly not human; no human could give as much as he had given. The Fool’s acrobatic prowess was certainly put to good use in our love making! Four times... I grinned at flashes of remembrance. My muscles ached pleasingly from our exertions. I peered over at the hearth to see the fire was completely out. Levering myself gently out of the bed, this time he did not stir. I recalled I had not asked him how far he had travelled, or from whence he had come that day. How thoughtless of me. Fool needed his sleep, in fact demanded his sleep. Never have I met a man more moody when he has been denied a good nights sleep! I dressed quickly and quietly, throwing on my white shirt, and leather trousers, deciding to partake of all outdoor chores before doing anything that would wake him prematurely. I left the cavern door a jar and went about my errands.

On seeing me the horses shook their manes and whinnied in complaint at being ignored. I untied them, lead them down to the stream to drink and forage. I undressed, a passing glance down at my chest revealed bite marks littered there and blossoming bruises around my nipples. I ran my hands over my skin; the wounds of love were tender to the touch. I wore these wounds with pride. I washed in the stream, listening to the sounds of nature around me. I realised that my wit sense had doubled. All life was here, humming and resonating, as if I had regained my hearing after a time of deafness. Untying my warrior’s tail, I immersed my head in the cold stream then shook my hair wolfishly. In that moment I thought of Nighteyes, what he would have though of me and the Fool. ‘He is pack’ a distant echo came into my mind. Nighteyes had believed the Fool and I were one being. He was right. I felt like I had at last been aligned onto the correct path. The Fool was my path, and I would follow him until I took my final breath.
Washed and dressed, I lead the horses back to the tumbledown cottage, retrieved a bucket for fresh water and made my way back to the stream. A full bucket and four ticked trout returned with me to the cave. I walked towards the cottage, lost in my memories of our passion when I heard a loud whoop from the direction of the cavern. My hackles up, I quested with the wit, but apart from the horses, sensed no intruder. I put down the bucket, hurried to the wide open cavern door, and laughed at the sight I saw. The Fool, naked as a child, tumbling and cart wheeling the length of the cavern floor. I applauded his acrobatics, he paused, spying me. With an exhilarated smile he cart wheeled to land two strides away from me. Standing naked in front of me, in true daylight, his beauty took my breath away. He returned my gaze in admiring silence.
‘Did it really happen Fitz?’ he queried softly. ‘It wasn’t just some fanciful dream’. I pulled up my shirt to reveal the bites and bruises he had given me. He gasped. ‘It happened Beloved’ I reassured. He beamed. ‘So, I can do this, without fear of reproach’ he said as he stepped forward. He grasped the front of my shirt, and pulled me roughly to his greedy mouth, his tongue probing deeply. ‘Yes’ I gasped when he released me, ‘A thousand times, yes’ I added. ‘Only a thousand times?’ he retorted. I lurched at him, tickling and playfully wrestling him towards the bed. He whooped and giggled, being driven down on the blankets. ‘Ah, so I have found out your secret, Fool’ I declared. ’You have? ‘he quizzed. ‘You are ticklish!’. We wrestled and writhed joyfully, ending with the Fool astride my hips, pinning my arms to the bed. ‘No more tickles’ said sternly. ‘I surrender’. He looked in to my eyes with such painful tenderness and said in a near piteous whisper. ‘Thirty years Fitz, thirty years I have longed for you, thirty years I have ached to reach out and pull you to my lips…. I stayed away because I could not bare being near you and denied.’ I was stunned, my passions doused with the cold reality of what I had done. The memories and weight of the years shamed me. ‘I ...I had no idea Fool’ I stuttered. ‘Ah Fitz you did, I of all people know you did. You couldn’t admit it to yourself. I came to accept that you would never be mine, I would not ask for what was not offered. So I buried my desires to be able to stay near you, my catalyst’. I searched his face, I had no words, sorry was not big enough to forgive this. The silence stretched painfully, to be broken just as swiftly. ‘A thousand stolen kisses?’ he queried. ‘Is that per day?’ I rolled him over and held him tightly ‘I’ll never let you go again’ I whispered.

He lay soft and naked in my arms. We need not ever move again, I thought. I sensed a flutter against my skill walls, with annoyance I lowered them just enough to listen. It was Chade. ‘Where are you?’ he demanded. ‘I need time alone Chade. I’m busy with something, you will have to deal with whatever crisis without me this time, I’m sorry.’ I stated sternly. ‘Fitz this will not do’ he replied, angered at my brush off. ‘It will have to do Chade’ I retorted. ‘Are you alright?’ he queried. ‘Yes, yes I’m fine. Now please leave me be, I will be in touch’. He receded from my mind and my walls were reset. The Fool stirred. ‘You were skilling?’ he asked. ‘Yes, Chade buzzing around in my head again. I have swatted him away’. ‘Our skill link is growing stronger’ he observed. ‘Fool, we are so entwined we will be breathing for one another soon!’ He chuckled with satisfaction and nestled into the warm pocket of my chest. ‘Are you hungry? ‘I asked. ‘Ravenous, but food would mean I would have to leave the place I want to be!’ he sang. ‘Fool, I’m not going anywhere without you again, now, come on, we need to eat’. ‘Very well’ he conceded. He rolled out of the arc of my warmth and threw the brilliant blue elderling robe over his head, then set to rekindling the fire. I searched my cupboards for any food I had stowed. I had not been here in weeks, but found a pot of preserve, some ships biscuits, and we had the stale remnants of last nights supper. ‘Oh the fish!’ I exclaimed. I rushed out of the cave to retrieve the bucket of fresh water and four fish. The Fool followed me out and I directed him to the stream to wash.

I glanced up and smiled on his return. He came to the fire, and looked down at the fish I had set to cook. ‘Ah, they should satisfy one of our appetites!’ he exclaimed salaciously. I wrapped my arms around him from behind, nuzzling the nape of his neck. ‘I know exactly what you hunger for’. I said. He shuddered with delight, and pressed himself agreeably to my awakening arousal. ‘Tea! ‘I exclaimed, slapping his taut rump. We ate at the table, stealing glances and grinning like naughty children between bites. A flutter of love moving back and forth on our skill thread. ‘Do we have a plan? Fool questioned. I knew exactly what he meant. I am the changer, our love was a change. Now that we were united, body and soul, our lives could never return to what once was. I could never live at Withywoods again, I could never return as husband to Molly. I would have to extract myself from all of my responsibilities to be with him. Just as Night eyes had to deny a wolf pack to be with me, this was all or nothing, and I would surrender all to him. ‘What do you suggest?’ I queried. ‘Do you recall the dead Elderling city in the mountains you visited, while searching for Verity? My eyes widened at this. ‘Yes, I have had word that dragons reside there now’ I enthused conversationally. ‘Dragons AND elderlings Fitz, the city, Kelsingra is alive once more. Dragons and elderlings live together, something we helped achieve. I have been there, on my way back to you. It was where I renewed my silvered fingers.’ He put down his cup and effortlessly flowed atop the bench. ‘We have the favour of dragons. The white prophet and the catalyst’ he declared grandly. I laughed at his display. He re seated himself with a flourish. ‘They know of all we have done to aid their kind. OH Fitz, you should see the city alive, it is breath taking’ he enthused. I burned with a sudden curiosity to see the city again. ‘Ok, I pondered. ‘Another night here, and I will set to severing all of my responsibilities. Then we have a quest, Fool, we shall journey to kelsingra’. He nodded in agreement. ‘It won’t be easy Fitz, ending with Molly’ ‘I know, I know, I said with dread. ‘But since when has anything worth having been easy? We are testament to that!’ I mused. ‘Another night here is an excellent idea.’ Fool interjected ‘We have thirty years of lovemaking to catch up on!’. ‘When you are finished eating Fool, I’m sure we can make a start!’ I grinned. He jumped up suddenly; I raised an eyebrow. ‘Someone is keen!’ I said with amusement. He gazed at me, green eyes as large as the moon, and just as captivating. I stood and moved slowly around the table stalking him as prey, while removing my clothing. ‘Oh help, help, a wolf is after me’ he shrieked in false distress, never loosing eye contact. He stepped backwards towards the bedding, pulling the elderling robe over his head. I saw his arousal was immediate, and revelled in the effect my desire had on him. With a woman, it was unseen, and could easily be false, but a man’s body cannot lie! I continued to watch my prey with wolf’s eyes. My snarl bought him to bay, and I leapt for his flawless white throat. We landed in a tumble on the bed, biting and kissing. The ferocity of lust coursing through our bodies, astounded me once more. We rolled and tumbled for an age, before the Fool pleaded. ‘Take me like a wolf’ in a whisper. ‘Are you sure?’. I pulled away, watching as he rolled over and presented, graceful as a hunting cat, rear in the air. He gathered his long blonde hair to one side, revealing his smooth white throat and shot me a look of unbridled lust. That was my answer, had any lover ever looked so inviting? On all fours, I pawed toward him. My hardness pulsed in anticipation. I howled, a warning of what was to come. I pounced, my weight pinning him on his belly, biting and kissing while my hands roamed his flawless back. My fingers moved round, under his taut chest, where I offered sharp pinches to his nipples. I knew he loved that. He released a long throaty growl. The desired response I thought pleasingly!. I continued exploring him, with my fingers and mouth. I bit and kissed down his spine to his buttocks. I had allowed the fool to take me , with my promise of ‘No limits’ but I had never been inside a man before. I was sure it must be like mating with a woman, but with no chance of pregnancy! I was concerned it might be painful, it was the Fool’s first time, and I didn’t want to hurt him. ‘Are you ready, are you sure you want me to do this? I asked with passionate urgency. ‘Butter’, he said, ‘Use butter from the pot to grease the rod’. I reached over for the butter pot on the table, took a generous finger full and massaged it on myself. The butter melted down my hand, I ran my greasy fingers down his cleft. He trembled. ‘Take me now’ he begged impatiently. He was tight, a buttered finger eased him. I gripped his sharp hips and guided myself into him for the first time. He shrieked in pain as I entered him. I paused with concern, ‘Are you ok Fool?’ ‘Don’t stop now Fitz’ he pleaded. So I slowly, gently, pushed on. He moved his hips, responding to my gentle thrusts. Then rose up on his elbows and looked back at me, the passion and pain mingling in his eyes. ‘Harder’ he demanded, and I bucked at his command. Much like the battle frenzy that overcomes me, I was in the moment, one action, nothing else mattered but satisfying his desire. He cried out wordlessly as I thrust on, again and again. The passionate escaping sounds of long denied lust echoed around our cave. My guiding hands on his shoulders, I pulled him up to me. He wrapped his arms backwards around my neck, and hung on, opening himself to me completely. My fingers trailed up and down his cool hairless torso, he turned his head to meet my mouth, continuing the pulsing movement of our hips. After an exquisite age of thrusting into him, I pulled out and lay on my back. He straddled, facing me, and impaled himself with a moan. Leaning forwards, his hands either side of my chest, he began moving on top of me with growing ferocity. I feared I would damage him inside. He began panting, as if he were running for his life, head thrown back, long blonde hair flaying wildly. His eyes began flickering alarmingly. ’Fool?’ I called in concern, there was no response. ‘Fool’ I called again sharply, but he was gone, lost in the throes of passion. I took his skill fingers and laid them on the imprint on my forearm.

I was in the skill stream, panicking, searching for him. The wisp of a breeze attracted my attention, I followed it. There I found him as weightless as a feather floating in the stream. Radiant and delighted at his soul’s completion. He turned to me, welcomed me. I pulled him close. ‘Do we have to go back?’ he queried with ethereal grace. ’Yes…YES’ I begged him. I gathered him up and returned him to his body.

Back in our bodies, my hand was roughly massaging his manhood, as he moved with me deep inside him. We arched and bucked to shuddering fruition. The Fool slumped forwards on to my chest, limp as a rag doll.

We slept as if intoxicated. I edged to awareness once, twice to check on the Fool, and then surrendered to sleep. When I finally woke the cavern was dark, apart from the dull illumination of the elderling globe. The fire was out. With sudden terror I reached out for the Fool. Relief flooded in as he stirred beside me. I rolled and enfolded him in my protection. Kissing his shoulder to rouse him. ’Beloved’ I whispered. He rolled and snuggled into my chest. ‘You kept me safe’ he sighed with a satiated smile. I would have to talk to him about this when he awakens. I could not comprehend what had happened during our love making. I feared I nearly lost him.

I stirred again to the dark cold cavern. The Fool had moved out of my embrace and was asleep on his belly. I covered him with my cloak and set to relighting the fire. It was night outside the door, we had been making love the whole day. A bright moon illuminated the forest and a soft wind set the leaves to rustling. The horses were frustrated at their long imprisonment; I petted them both and promised we would move on in the morning. Naked and unshod, I moved around the forest floor collecting wood for the fire. It was good to feel the air at my skin and earth at my feet. What had happened to the Fool during our mating? It sickened me how close we came to loosing one another. Fire lit and tea in my hand, I returned to sit in our bed. Sleep had deserted me. I watched the Fool. I wondered where he was, what he dreamt of. The past two days with him had been monumental. The expanse of love we had found had magnified my fear of loosing it. The though of being parted from him again gnawed at me. I would not let it happen, not again! I lay back on the pallet and enfolded him in my warmth.

I awoke to a cool breeze tickling my skin. I was alone in bed. I rolled and stretched sleepily. The cavern door was wide open to the day. The Fool was busying himself by the hearth. ‘I found some flour and oats, I’m making hearth cakes’ he chirped ‘Luckily you left us some butter, they might be palatable’ he mused wryly. ‘Good Morning Fool!’ I sat up, and ruffled up my unkempt hair. He looked over at me. ‘Ever the wolf’ he laughed affectionately. I combed my fingers through and re tied my warrior’s tail. Then reached for my leather trousers and slid them on, joining the fool by the hearth. I kissed his brow tenderly and pressed his head to my heart. ’Good morning Beloved’ he cooed. I realised that I felt giddy flutters each time he called me that now. Beloved, the naming did not mean the same as before. Now I lived it, we shared it. I could drown in that name. Beloved. I was ready to break my fast, ravenous after our energetic love making. We had travelled here with no preparation, little food or idea of what would come to pass. We would return to Withywoods this day and stay for a time so we could prepare for our quest. We would have to cool our ardour while in my home. There will be scandal enough when we leave forever. I would rather not leave Molly as a betrayed wife. I would find a way to make good with her before I left. I would be honest with her, she deserved that much. There were far too many secrets in my life. Those who needed to know will be told the truth, I decided. The hearth cakes, preserves and tea were a well needed start to the day. The Fool had always been able to conjure an edible meal out of thin air. ‘Are we leaving after this?’ Fool asked. ‘If it pleases you, I would like to return to withywoods for a time, you will stay with me and we can make preparations for our quest’ I explained. He nodded. ‘Very well Fitz. We are well used to travelling light, I’m sure we will need only a span of days to prepare’. ‘We will have to cool our passions while in my home’ I said awkwardly. ‘I can reign myself in for a few days.’ He retorted. ‘But only a few!’ I observed him eating for a moment, the question on the tip of my tongue. He looked at me confused. ‘What happened last night Fool?.’ Silence hung in the air. ‘You found me and kept me safe’ he replied. ‘Fool, I nearly lost you!’ I exclaimed. He grimaced, trying to find the words. ‘I think, I nearly ‘became’ Fitz’. He said awkwardly. ‘Became what? I quizzed. ‘I’m not certain, you anchored me, you found me and bought me back’ he explained. ‘No more riddles, Fool, please’ I urged. He took a deep breath. ‘I discovered a passage in a scroll at my school. I didn’t know if I had translated correctly. It stated that the white prophet is destined to become. It didn’t say what.

‘The seed is the flower and the flower the seed
All life is to become
White is the flower, white is the seed
The catalyst is the path to become’

‘There is only one true white prophet at a time, so I have no one to ask. Prilkop was denied the knowledge. He was on Aslevjal for more than a thousand years fitz. His catalyst died, and he was denied. I searched the scrolls for years and I have pieced together that pure love makes the white, blossom, like a flower, I guess. I think we ascend to a higher state of being.’ My blood ran cold. It pricked a memory I had not considered in a long time, of when I was lost in the skill pillar. ‘Fool, when I left you on Aslevjal, Do you remember? You came to Buck keep to deliver the memory stone block and poem, but I was missing.’ His eyes widened at the painful memory. ’Did you never find out what happened to me?... I was lost in the skill pillar, for a month Fool. I was held in the regard of bodiless white light beings. Like stars they were. It was beautiful, peaceful. A mother voice told me I was incomplete and must go back. I was consciousness, I was incomplete. It warned me to never use the pillars again, for I would not be returned.' His hand flew to his mouth aghast, he stared at me trying to comprehend all I had shared. ‘Are they the whites, fool?’ I asked. He was silent in contemplation for a long time. ‘That is a possibility.’ He replied tremulously. ‘The white prophet and the catalyst become, together, in love. I didn’t understand it Fitz. I had never been bedded, I had no understanding of the power that would be unleashed when we made love. But this was not supposed to happen so soon. It’s supposed to take hundreds of years.’’
I was mute, and drained. His words were like a sword to my guts. I would loose him again. I arose from the table and moved around. I dropped to my knees and laid my head on his lap. ‘I cannot loose you again’ I sobbed. He placed his hand on my head, like a blessing and stroked my hair. ‘You will not loose me Beloved… I need you to be my anchor to this world. I need you to hold me steady and not let me float away’. My thoughts were swimming. ‘So do I deny you, to keep you safe?’ I asked. ‘NO!’ the terror in his voice alarmed me. ‘Fitz, no, I could not bear that, please do not deny me.’ He exclaimed sobbing. ‘We can work through this, you are strong in the skill, and you can tether me to you, we will just have to be.. careful’ he added meekly. I pulled him off the bench, he straddled my lap and I enveloped him, rocking for comfort. We sat for a time, brows touching, entwined on the cold stone floor, an extra weight added our hearts. ‘Come on Fitz’ Fool said softly, kissing me on the brow, then my cheek and lingering at my mouth. ‘Let’s leave this place’. He cupped my face and wiped my eyes. We rose and gathered up the remnants of our meal for the journey. I may never come to this cave again. ‘Fool, it is unlikely I will be here again, I need to take some things with me, and just leave the bare essentials behind.’ The Fool removed the bedding from the hearth floor, we exchanged longing glances, recalling the pleasures we had shared in that place. We had created our own small world here in these two days. He tidied away the spare blankets and remade the pallet. I searched through my scrolls and shelves. I would not be caught wanting again, leaving clues of my true identity around the countryside! I filled a scroll bag and saddled the horses. Fool doused the fire and, dressed for the road, he mounted his steed. I locked the cavern door and re laid the vines and bows to disguise the entrance. The key would not be needed again, but in the eventuality, I dug small hole five paces from the door and stowed the key, re covering it with earth and leaves. I took hold of my black and lead her through the forest, the Fool following behind.

We reached the roadway back to Withywoods. I could see not a traveller, on foot or horseback. I mounted my horse; she reeled and cantered eager to be at the gallop. I calmed her and moved beside the well behaved Malta. As the wide world began to seep in we knew it would be a time before we would find this intimacy again. I held out my hand and the Fool took it, pulling me in for a series of deep hungry final kisses. It was time to face the world once more.