The next chapter, “Lessons,” opens with an in-milieu rumination on prior and then-contemporary practices of Skill instruction. It then pivots to Fitz’s resumed Skill lessons, in which he endures the hatred of his fellow students and surveys the healing injuries Galen had suffered. Fitz also notes his beginning suspicion that Galen’s instruction is nominal only and not sincere.
Fitz then goes out for a bit, taking Smithy on a walk and calling on Molly. Molly comments to Fitz on Verity’s upcoming nuptials, which Fitz had not been aware of. Regal is to select Verity’s bride, and Fitz muses on the disparities between the two men’s noted interests in women. He waxes philosophical on desirable traits, and he misses an opportunity to cement his love and Molly’s in his youthful folly.
After, Fitz begins to reintegrate himself into the life of Buckkeep outside of Galen’s harsh restrictions. He also considers the relative political merits of potential brides for Verity, listening to the castle’s occupants discuss such matters and feeling shame at having, with Galen, dismissed them as ignorant fools of little account.
Fitz continues in his lessons, finding his abilities in the Skill erratic and frustrating, though present. He also continues with Molly, doing just as well with her. And the Forgings of the Six Duchies’ population continue, too, keeping people afraid and less than in awe of their rulers.
At length, Galen announces a final test for his students. They will be taken out into the Duchies and left to await a summons through the Skill. Those who answer appropriately will become a new coterie; those who do not, will not. Fitz knows he will not be, and Galen attempts once again to compel him to suicide. Smithy saves him from it.
Being as I am, I find a comment on academe in the passage wherein Fitz ruminates on Galen’s disdain for working folk. Many of the prevailing impressions of academia are…less than pleasant. (Some comments I’ve made elsewhere come to mind, as do some others I’ve made here, as well as Timothy Carens’s “Serpents in the Garden,” from an issue of College English.) There are many who view those who choose to stand at the front of the classroom in higher grades and in higher education as joyless, sadistic, hateful people who disdain all that is not their own field of study. There are many who so stand who are so, of course; it is not for nothing that the tension between town and gown is traditional. I’ve been guilty of it myself; there’ve been places I’ve been where I was far from the friendliest person, if it can be believed.
I cannot help but read in Fitz’s post-fight interactions with Galen an echo of a teacher with no love for a particular student, one who happened to be gifted and with covert prestige but not the political connections often prized, one who ran afoul of a particular parent and who continued to take petty revenge against the student. And I feel like I’ve been the teacher and the student in the situation; I wonder how long it will be before I am the parent, as well…