'After I leave you here, will I ever see you again?'

'Probably not. It would not be wise.' He lifted my hand and tenderly kissed the sword-calloused palm of it, and then held it in both of his. It was farewell, and I knew it, and knew I could do nothing to stop it. I sat still, feeling as if I grew hollow and cold, as if Nighteyes were dying all over again. I was losing him. He was withdrawing from my life and I felt as though I were bleeding to death, my life trickling out of me. I suddenly realized how close to true that was.

'Stop!' I cried, but it was too late. He released my hand before I could snatch it back. My wrist was clean and bare. His fingerprints were gone. Somehow, he had taken them back, and our Skill-thread dangled, broken.

'I have to let you go,' he said in a cracked whisper. 'While I can. Leave me that, Fitz. That I broke the bond. That I did not take what was not mine.'

I groped for him. I could see him, but I could not feel him. No Wit, no Skill, no scent. No Fool. The companion of my childhood, the friend of my youth was gone. He had turned that facet of himself away from me. A brown-skinned man with hazel eyes looked at me sympathetically.

'You cannot do this to me,' I said.

'It is done,' he pointed out. 'Done.'

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