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Shrewd's Fool

Chapter Text

By now, most have heard of the enormous love I bear for my Catalyst. Not even my Beloved knows of the first time I fell in love, however. There exist many parallels between my first love and the situation in which I now find myself, so, having recently read over several of Fitz's musings, I have decided to set this story into words in an attempt to decide what I will do. I do not know if anyone will ever find this, but if you do, and you choose to continue to read, please be kind. Fewer things are as frightening as experiencing love for the first time, and it was particularly difficult for me, given my background. But, then, I'm getting ahead of myself...

When I first caught sight of Buckkeep, I shivered as if I had just stepped away from a warm hearth into the freezing cold outdoors. The Keep, clinging like an overlarge mussel to the rock, was nearly as familiar to me by then as the back of my hand--I had dreamed of it so often I thought I could probably walk through it blindfolded, despite the fact that I had never stepped foot in it. I knew I would one day find my Catalyst there, and in the meantime needed to ingratiate myself with those in power. I shivered again at this thought, for by now I knew much more than I wanted to of the ways of powerful people, thanks to the Four in general, and Capra in particular. I had already endured...much...during my journey north, and wanted nothing more than to disappear into obscurity until my Catalyst came and it was time for us to jostle the great wheel of time.

Of course, that was not to be my fate, though I had engineered a method of disappearing while in plain sight, thanks to a little trial and error during my voyage. Speaking of which, my companion had just said something--inane, I'm sure; the man could not manage to spot a witticism if it danced in front of him naked. I gave him my most vacant of smiles, then mumbled something unintelligible and made an obtuse gesture at the keep. The wagon driver smiled at me condescendingly and nodded, saying, 'Yes, that is right, clown,' while over-enunciating and speaking twice as loudly as he would to a normal person. A part of me hated him for it, but a part of me blamed myself for taking on the role I had chosen, that of a simpleton.

I have always liked being underestimated. Well, liked is perhaps too strong a turn of phrase. Time and again I have been able to use being underestimated to my advantage, but sometimes I have to suppress the urge to scream at my audience and tell them what fools they are, or to announce that I am the true White Prophet and they should be listening to my counsel, not laughing at my strangeness or my antics. I have never been wise, but at least I have that much control of myself, even if that control was taught to me by the end of a whip.

Richard, the so-called 'leader' of our travelling troupe, reined in his horse some distance in front of the wagon and inspected the area critically. "This would be a good place to set up," he declared. Richard never just 'said' anything; he would declare or announce or elucidate or proclaim, but never do anything as ordinary as say. His gift for elocution served him well when he collected the entry fees to our show, though it never seemed to serve him as well with the ladies as he might like. "I shall go discuss arrangements with the landowner!" It was typical for us to stay some distance outside of town. Frequently, this was due to the fact that strangers are ever blamed for any trouble that happens in a town while they are present, but it was easier to get the wagons and such in and out of a fallow field than the center of town--particularly in a place like Buckkeep town, where the roads in the town itself were steep and difficult to navigate on a horse, let alone a wagon.

I sat smiling my secret smile to myself while Richard negotiated the use of the land from the landowner, a process which took an hour or so and the promise of free entry. I cared not for the arrangements, for I planned to be away from the caravan that night. I could not easily travel through a town in daylight by myself, with my pale skin and eyes--demon eyes, a man told me once, while making a sign to ward off evil. Come the end of the performance tonight, the troupe would be missing one of its clowns. I wondered if they would bother to search for me. Even if they did, I would not have felt guilty; they never bothered to give me a share of the coin they earned, since I was but a fool. They considered their moral obligation toward me met as long as I was fed enough to stave off starvation. Still, they were far from the worst companions I had had on my journey north, and I would miss Elinor, the woman who made most of the costumes. She had been kind to me when I journeyed with the group, making sure that all of my motleys fit and occasionally sharing sweets, tea, and gossip with me, even when I feigned a complete lack of understanding. I always pretended to enjoy our talks, however, for I felt that she was another lonely soul and was glad of any company, even mine.

I wondered suddenly what I would have to feign when I arrived at the Keep. I had dreamed enough to know that they would take me in and I would become the Keep's jester. I knew that some few would treat me with kindness, and that the majority of people I met would fear, and therefore hate, me. This I knew, however, more from my previous experiences in the world than from any particular dream. I hoped--desperately--that the reigning monarch, one Shrewd by name, would have more of a sense of humor than his name implied. I was not certain how I would fare if I were not actually able to make people laugh, for that was the mask I intended to hide behind, standing in plain sight where no one in the world knew me.

Finally, the negotiations finished, and it was time for me to climb out of the wagon and help to set up the tent. Before we left the road, I took one last look at the castle which was soon to become my home, and I shivered once more. In dread or anticipation or both, I could not tell.