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datatime: 2022-09-25 16:35:02 Author:LxfaFgYc

Chade and I sat on the bench in front of the hut and talked. We did not speak of portentous things, nor the significant events of the past. We did not discuss my return from the grave or the current political situation. Instead, he spoke of our small shared things as if I had been gone on a long journey. Slink the weasel was getting old; the past winter had stiffened him, and even the coming of spring had not enlivened him. Chade feared he would not last another year. Chade had finally managed to dry pennant plant leaves without them mildewing, but had found the dried herb to have little potency. We both missed Cook Sara's pastries. Chade asked if there was anything from my room that I wanted. Regal had had it searched, and had left it in disarray, but he did not think much had been taken, nor would be missed if I chose to have it now. I asked him if he recalled the tapestry of King Wisdom treating with the Elderlings. He replied that he did, but that it was far too bulky for him to drag up here. I gave him such a stricken look that he immediately relented and said he supposed he could find a way.

I was kind to the old man. I did not tell him that they had.

For a time I watched him come. The winter had aged him, in the lines of his face and the gray of his hair. But he walked more strongly than I remembered, as if privation had toughened him. At last I went to meet him, feeling strangely shy and embarrassed. When he looked up and saw me, he halted and stood in the trail. I continued toward him. "Boy?" he asked cautiously when I was near. I managed a nod and a smile. The answering smile that broke forth on his face humbled me. He dropped his staff to hug me, and then pressed his cheek to mine as if I were a child. "Oh, Fitz, Fitz, my boy," he said in a voice full of relief. "I thought we had lost you. I thought we'd done something worse than let you die." His old arms were tight and strong about me.

His announced plan had been to move the ailing King Shrewd, and the widowed and pregnant Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken, inland to Tradeford, that they might be safer from the Red-Ship raids that plagued the Coastal Duchies. This, too, was the excuse for the looting of furnishings and valuables from Buckkeep. But with the death of Shrewd and the disappearance of Kettricken, even this flimsy reason vanished. Nonetheless he left Buckkeep as soon after his coronation as he could. The tale has been told that when his Council of Nobles questioned his decision, he told them that the Coastal Duchies represented only war and expense to him, that they had always been a leech upon the resources of the Inland Duchies and he wished the Outlslanders the joy of taking such a rocky and cheerless place. Regal was later to deny having ever uttered such words.

It was a bitter time for the small folk of Buck. Abandoned by their king and defended only by a small force of poorly provisioned soldiers, the common folk were left rudderless on a stormy sea. What the Raiders did not steal or destroy, Lord Bright's men seized for taxes. The roads became plagued with robbers, for when an honest man cannot make a living, folk will do what they must. Small crofters gave up any hope of making a living and fled the coast, to become beggars, thieves, and whores in the inland cities. Trade died, for ships sent out seldom came back at all.

His announced plan had been to move the ailing King Shrewd, and the widowed and pregnant Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken, inland to Tradeford, that they might be safer from the Red-Ship raids that plagued the Coastal Duchies. This, too, was the excuse for the looting of furnishings and valuables from Buckkeep. But with the death of Shrewd and the disappearance of Kettricken, even this flimsy reason vanished. Nonetheless he left Buckkeep as soon after his coronation as he could. The tale has been told that when his Council of Nobles questioned his decision, he told them that the Coastal Duchies represented only war and expense to him, that they had always been a leech upon the resources of the Inland Duchies and he wished the Outlslanders the joy of taking such a rocky and cheerless place. Regal was later to deny having ever uttered such words.

"I was fearful you would not understand it."

Even after his coronation, Regal remained jealous of his title. He sent messengers far and wide, seeking word of where Queen Kettricken and the unborn heir might be. His suspicions that she might have sought shelter with her father, King Eyod of the Mountain Kingdom, led him to demand her return of him. When Eyod replied that the whereabouts of the Queen of the Six Duchies was no concern for the Mountain folk, Regal angrily severed ties with the Mountain Kingdom, cutting off trade and attempting to block even common travelers from crossing the boundaries. At the same time, rumors that almost certainly began at Regal's behest began to circulate that the child Kettricken carried was not of Verity's getting and hence had no legitimate claim to the Six Duchies throne.

I sat thinking for a moment. The sword Verity had given me. The silver ring King Eyod had given me, that had been Rurisk's. A pin from Lady Grace. Patience's sea-pipes had been in my room-I hoped she had got them back. My paints and papers. A little box I had carved to hold my poisons. Between Molly and me there had never been any tokens. She would never allow me to give her any gifts, and I had never thought to steal a ribbon from her hair. If I had ...

"Hate you? No. They liked you well enough, those that knew you. But if you came back, a man who had died and been buried, again walking among them, they'd fear you. It's not a thing you could explain away as a trick.. The Wit is not a magic that is well thought of. When a man is accused of it and then dies and is buried, well, in order for them to remember you fondly, you'd have to stay dead. If they saw you walking about, they'd take it as proof that Regal was right; that you were practicing Beast magic, and used it to kill the King. They'd have to kill you again. More thoroughly the second time." Burrich stood suddenly, and paced the room twice. "Damn me, but I could use a drink," he said.

I squinted at him in the sunlight. "Really?"

AFTER CROWNING HIMSELF King of the Six Duchies, Prince Regal Farseer essentially abandoned the Coastal Duchies to their own devices. He had stripped Buckkeep itself and a good part of Buck Duchy of as much coin as he could wring from it. From Buckkeep, horses and stock had been sold off, with the very best taken inland to Regal's new residence at Tradeford. The furnishings and library of the traditional royal seat had been plundered as well, some to feather the new nest, some divvied out to his Inland dukes and nobles as favors or sold outright to them. Grain warehouses, wine cellars, the armories, all had been plundered and the loot carried off inland.

"I'm still surprised that Regal's guard didn't rob your body. I suppose the Wit has such an evil reputation they feared you dead as well as alive."

The command of the ancient keep was foisted off on his eldest nephew, heir to the title Duke of Farrow. Lord Bright, at twenty-five, had grown restless waiting for his father to pass power to him. He was more than willing to assume authority over Buckkeep and Buck, but had little experience to draw on. Regal took himself inland to Tradeford Castle on the Vin River in Farrow, while young Lord Bright remained at Buckkeep with a picked guard of Farrow men. It is not reported that Regal left him any funds to operate from, so the young man endeavored to wring what he needed from the merchants of Buckkeep Town, and the already embattled farmers and shepherds of surrounding Buck Duchy. While there is no indication that he felt any malice toward the folk of Buck or the other Coastal Duchies, neither did he have any loyalty toward them.

It was a bitter time for the small folk of Buck. Abandoned by their king and defended only by a small force of poorly provisioned soldiers, the common folk were left rudderless on a stormy sea. What the Raiders did not steal or destroy, Lord Bright's men seized for taxes. The roads became plagued with robbers, for when an honest man cannot make a living, folk will do what they must. Small crofters gave up any hope of making a living and fled the coast, to become beggars, thieves, and whores in the inland cities. Trade died, for ships sent out seldom came back at all.

His announced plan had been to move the ailing King Shrewd, and the widowed and pregnant Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken, inland to Tradeford, that they might be safer from the Red-Ship raids that plagued the Coastal Duchies. This, too, was the excuse for the looting of furnishings and valuables from Buckkeep. But with the death of Shrewd and the disappearance of Kettricken, even this flimsy reason vanished. Nonetheless he left Buckkeep as soon after his coronation as he could. The tale has been told that when his Council of Nobles questioned his decision, he told them that the Coastal Duchies represented only war and expense to him, that they had always been a leech upon the resources of the Inland Duchies and he wished the Outlslanders the joy of taking such a rocky and cheerless place. Regal was later to deny having ever uttered such words.

Even after his coronation, Regal remained jealous of his title. He sent messengers far and wide, seeking word of where Queen Kettricken and the unborn heir might be. His suspicions that she might have sought shelter with her father, King Eyod of the Mountain Kingdom, led him to demand her return of him. When Eyod replied that the whereabouts of the Queen of the Six Duchies was no concern for the Mountain folk, Regal angrily severed ties with the Mountain Kingdom, cutting off trade and attempting to block even common travelers from crossing the boundaries. At the same time, rumors that almost certainly began at Regal's behest began to circulate that the child Kettricken carried was not of Verity's getting and hence had no legitimate claim to the Six Duchies throne.

"Like a dog after a bone."

"I was fearful you would not understand it."

His announced plan had been to move the ailing King Shrewd, and the widowed and pregnant Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken, inland to Tradeford, that they might be safer from the Red-Ship raids that plagued the Coastal Duchies. This, too, was the excuse for the looting of furnishings and valuables from Buckkeep. But with the death of Shrewd and the disappearance of Kettricken, even this flimsy reason vanished. Nonetheless he left Buckkeep as soon after his coronation as he could. The tale has been told that when his Council of Nobles questioned his decision, he told them that the Coastal Duchies represented only war and expense to him, that they had always been a leech upon the resources of the Inland Duchies and he wished the Outlslanders the joy of taking such a rocky and cheerless place. Regal was later to deny having ever uttered such words.

It was a bitter time for the small folk of Buck. Abandoned by their king and defended only by a small force of poorly provisioned soldiers, the common folk were left rudderless on a stormy sea. What the Raiders did not steal or destroy, Lord Bright's men seized for taxes. The roads became plagued with robbers, for when an honest man cannot make a living, folk will do what they must. Small crofters gave up any hope of making a living and fled the coast, to become beggars, thieves, and whores in the inland cities. Trade died, for ships sent out seldom came back at all.

I grinned. "It was a joke, Chade. That thing has never done anything save give me nightmares when I was small. No. There's nothing in my room that's important to me now."

"Me, too," I said quietly.

"I was fearful you would not understand it."

I reached to finger the bridge of my nose where it had been broken. "They did not seem to fear me much at all, that I could tell."

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