“Are you sure there’s no way I can convince you not to go?” I asked quietly. I refused to look at him, afraid of what my question might damage. It was bad enough that no matter what he might say, Chade would still make sure he was left behind. The trust between us was so fragile. If I came back, I knew he would be gone.
But if I let him go -
I refused to think about it. Everything I had tried with the Fool before had failed. And I couldn’t bear to spend these last few weeks with him the way the last few months had moved. As Tom Badgerlock and Lord Golden.
I had not expected the total stillness in our room to the question. I looked up.
Lord Golden was staring at me, erect, proud, and angry. I sighed.
“Fool, I don’t mean to hurt you.”
“Such presumption, Tom Badgerlock! To think a servant could ever hurt me!” He walked to the doorway of his chamber and I sighed.
“Please, wait, Fool.” I didn’t have the time or the energy for this.
He turned back to me and I could see the eyes of the Fool on me. “A bitter fool, yes, and a sweet fool, yes. But I won’t let you play me for a fool.”
“It’s not that.”
“With you, Fitz, one can never tell.”
“Please.” I sighed and sat down in a nearby chair. Everything seemed to be rushing so quickly to an end: Dutiful’s quest, Chade’s training, Thick, the coterie, Happ. All of it, growing too large, too fast. The same way it grew too large, too fast when Verity left fifteen years ago.
I missed Nighteyes.
“Why don’t you want me to go? Why are you asking?”
I swallowed around the lump in my throat. “I couldn’t bear it. If what you say is true -” I broke off.
“Beloved,” I looked up at the name, expecting more, but the Fool was silent. Just staring. “What’s changed?”
“What?” The Fool laughed but refused to elaborate. “Fool.” I snorted. “Of the two of us, sometimes I think I’m the one more suited to the name.”
He sighed before coming to kneel in front of me. “Nighteyes called you Changer.” I nodded, feeling that lump grow larger but waited for him to continue. “You’re my Catalyst. You don’t ask, Fitz, you do, and in doing change the world.” He took my arm and exposed my wrist, where his silver fingertips were. Nighteyes had been wrong, I wasn’t the Changer, I was the Changed. Everyone I met: the Fool, Nighteyes, Burrich, Molly, Patience, Kettricken, Chade, Happ, Starling, Verity, Regal. All of them enacted upon me, not the other way around.
The Fool gently placed his fingers on my wrist, laying them over his marks. Not the only outward sign of those changes, but perhaps the only one I remembered fondly. “Perhaps you can change this.”
I laughed bitterly. “I can’t change anything, Fool. But I can ask.”
“We’re connected, Beloved. Nighteyes would call us Pack, wouldn’t he? Changer, the Scentless One and him.”
“It’s bigger than that now,” I shook my head, rejecting what he was trying to tell me. “Before you all healed me,” I couldn’t completely keep my irritation at that out of my voice and the Fool winced but didn’t let go, “that’s what we were. Now, we’re not Pack. We’re a coterie. And we’re broken before we even get started.”
The Fool sighed and stood, I could see him assuming the facade of Lord Golden again. “As a servant, Tom Badgerlock, you leave much to be desired.”
I clasped my hands together and said nothing. Once again, I had failed. “Have I made you a bitter fool?”
He turned around and looked at me with Lord Golden’s stare. “We have only what we’re born with, Tom Badgerlock.” He gestured toward his room. “Now make yourself useful and prepare my pack for our journey.”
I nodded. “Yes.”
This much, at least, I could do for him. Even if I failed everything else.