Save that their quills can be pulled out. What stabs you only goes deeper and festers. His deep eyes glanced past mine as he shared his pointed thoughts.
Why don't you go hunt a rabbit?
You've sent the boy and his bow away.
"You could run it down yourself, you know. Time was when you did that."
Time was when you went with me to hunt. Why don't we go and do that, instead of this fruitless seeking? When will you accept that there is no one out there who can hear you?
I just have to ... try.
Why? Is my companionship not enough for you?
It is enough for me. You are always enough for me. I opened myself wider to the Wit-bond we shared and tried to let him feel how the Skill tugged at me. It is the magic that wants this, not me.
Take it away. I do not want to see that. And when I had closed that part of myself to him, he asked piteously, Will it never leave us alone?
I had no answer to that. After a time, the wolf lay down, put his great head on his paws, and closed his eyes. I knew he would stay by me because he feared for me. Twice the winter before last, I had overindulged in Skilling, burning physical energy in that mental reaching until I had been unable even to totter back to the house on my own. Nighteyes had had to fetch Hap both times. This time we were alone.
I knew it was foolish and useless. I also knew I could not stop myself. Like a starving man who eats grass to appease the terrible emptiness in his belly, so I reached out with the Skill, touching the lives that passed within my reach. I could brush their thoughts and temporarily appease the great craving that filled me with emptiness. I could know a little of the family out for a windy day's fishing. I could know the worries of a captain whose cargo was just a bit heavier than his ship would carry well. The mate on the same ship was worried about the man her daughter wished to marry; he was a lazy fellow for all of his pretty ways. The ship's boy was cursing his luck; they'd get to Buckkeep Town too late for Springfest. There'd be nothing left but withered garlands browning in the gutters by the time he got there. It was always his luck.
There was a certain sparse distraction to these knowings. It restored to me the sense that the world was larger than the four walls of my house, larger even than the confines of my own garden. But it was not the same as true Skilling. It could not compare to that moment of completion when minds joined and one sensed the wholeness of the world as a great entity in which one's own body was no more than a mote of dust.
The wolf's firm teeth on my wrist had stirred me from my reaching. Come on. That's enough. If you collapse down here, you'll spend a cold wet night. I am not the boy, to drag you to your feet. Come on, now.
I had risen, seeing blackness at the edges of my vision when I first stood. It had passed, but not the blackness of spirit that came in its wake. I had followed the wolf back through the gathering dark beneath the dripping trees, back to where my fire had burned low in the hearth and the candles guttered on the table. I made myself elfbark tea, black and bitter, knowing it would only make my spirit more desolate, but knowing also that it would appease my aching head. I had burned away the nervous energy of the elfbark by working on a scroll describing the stone game and how it was played. I had tried several times before to complete such a treatise and each time given it up as hopeless. One could only learn to play it by playing it, I told myself. This time I was adding to the text a set of illustrations, to show how a typical game might progress. When I set it aside just before dawn was breaking, it seemed only the stupidest of my latest attempts. I went to bed more early than late.
Excerpted from Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb Copyright 2002 by Robin Hobb. Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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