Assassins Apprentice: The Illustrated Edition | Chapter 35 of 53

Author: Robin Hobb | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 247284 Views | Add a Review

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Those who flinched or wavered were accused of weakness. During the day he berated us with our unworthiness and repeated that he had only consented to try to teach us at the King’s behest. The women he ignored, and though he often spoke of past Princes and Kings who had wielded the Skill in defense of the realm, he never once mentioned the Queens and Princesses who had done likewise. Nor did he ever once give us an overview of what he was attempting to teach us. There was only the cold and the discomfort of his exercises, and the uncertainty of when we would be struck. Why we struggled to endure it, I don’t know. So quickly were we all made accomplices in our own degradation.

The sun finally ventured once again toward the horizon. But Galen had saved two final surprises for us that day. He let us stand, open our eyes, and stretch freely for a few moments. Then he gave us a final lecture, this one to warn us against those among us who would undermine the training of all by foolish self-indulgences. He walked slowly among us as he spoke, wending his way in and out of our rows, and I saw many a rolling eye and intake of breath as he passed. Then, for the first time that day, he ventured over to the women’s corner of the court.

“Some,” he cautioned us as he strolled, “think themselves above rules. They think themselves worthy of special attention and indulgences. Such illusions of superiority must be driven from you before you can learn anything. It is hardly worthy of my time for me to have to teach these lessons to such laggards and dolts as need them. It is a shame that they have even found their way into our gathering. But they are among us, and I will honor the will of my king, and attempt to teach them. Even though there is only one way I know to waken such lazy minds.”

To Merry he gave two quick cuts with the quirt. But Serene he shoved down onto one knee and struck four times. To my shame, I stood there with the rest, as each cut fell, and hoped only that she would not cry out and bring more punishment on herself.

But Serene rose, swayed once, and then stood again, still, looking out over the heads of the girls before her. I breathed a sigh of relief. But then Galen was back, circling like a shark around a fishing boat, speaking now of those who thought themselves too good to share the discipline of the group, of ones who indulged in meat in plenty while the rest limited ourselves to wholesome grains and pure foods. I wondered uneasily who had been so foolish as to visit the kitchen after hours.

Then I felt the hot lick of the whip on my shoulders. If I had thought he was using the lash to his full capability before, he proved me wrong now.

“You thought to deceive me. You thought I would never know if Cook saved her precious pet a plate of tidbits, didn’t you? But I know all that happens in Buckkeep. Don’t deceive yourself about that.”

It dawned on me that he was speaking of the meat scraps I’d taken up to Smithy.

“That food wasn’t for me,” I protested, and then could have bitten my tongue out.

His eyes glittered coldly. “You’d lie to save yourself a little just pain. You’ll never master the Skill. You’ll never be worthy of it. But the King has commanded that I try to teach, and so I will try. Despite you or your low birth.”

In humiliation I took the welts he dealt me. He berated me as each fell, telling the others that the old rules against teaching the Skill to a bastard had been to prevent just such a thing as this.

Afterward, I stood, silent and shamed, as he went down the rows, dealing a perfunctory swat with the quirt to each of my fellows, explaining as he did so that we all must pay for the failures of the individuals. It did not matter that this statement made no sense, or that the whip fell lightly compared with what Galen had just inflicted on me. It was the idea that they were all paying for my transgression. I had never felt so shamed in my life.

Then he released us, to go down to another cheerless meal, much the same as yesterday’s. This time no one spoke on the stairs or at the meal. And afterward, I went straight up to my room.

Meat soon, I promised the hungry pup that waited for me. Despite my aching back and muscles, I forced myself to clean up the room, scrubbing up Smithy’s messes and then making a trip for fresh strewing reeds. Smithy was a bit sulky at being left alone all day, and I was troubled when I realized I had no idea how long this miserable training would last.

I waited until late, when all ordinary folk of the keep were in their beds, before venturing down to get Smithy’s food for him. I dreaded that Galen would find out, but what else was I to do? I was halfway down the big staircase when I saw the glimmering of a single candle being borne toward me. I shrank against the wall, suddenly sure it was Galen. But it was the Fool who came toward me, glowing as white and pale as the wax candle he carried. In his other hand was a pail of food and a beaker of water balanced atop it. Soundlessly he waved me back to my room.

Once inside, the door shut, he turned on me. “I can take care of the pup for you,” he told me dryly. “But I can’t take care of you. Use your head, boy. What can you possibly learn from what he’s doing to you?”

I shrugged, then winced. “It’s just to toughen us. I don’t think it will go on much longer before he gets down to actually teaching us. I can take it.” Then: “Wait,” I said as he fed bits of meat to Smithy from the pail. “How do you know what Galen’s been putting us through?”

“Ah, that would be telling,” he said blithely. “And I can’t do that. Tell, that is.” He dumped the rest of the pail out for Smithy, replenished his water, and stood.

“I’ll feed the puppy,” he told me. “I’ll even try to take him outside for a bit each day. But I won’t clean up his messes.” He paused at the door. “That’s where I draw the line. You’d better decide where you will draw the line. And soon. Very soon. The danger is greater than you know.”

And then he was gone, taking his candle and warnings with him. I lay down and fell asleep to the sounds of Smithy worrying a bone and making puppy growls to himself.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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