The chapter that follows, “Journey,” opens with an in-milieu reflection on the general history and politics of the Mountain Kingdom, whence Verity’s chosen bride, Kettricken, hails. It is a harsh land with harsh ways that work well for it, if not for other places.
The chapter moves on to summarize the state of the Six Duchies–which is increasingly bad. Red-Ship raids and Forgings continue, with people carrying poison to kill themselves rather than being Forged. Discontent with Shrewd’s policies grows, both among the people and among the Dukes, themselves, with a schism growing between the coastal and inland Duchies. Shrewd seeks to quiet unrest with the royal wedding, and details of its arrangements–Regal traveling to Jhaampe, the seat of the Mountain Kingdom, to pledge for Verity, and Kettricken pledging at Buckkeep later–are noted. Galen leaves Buckkeep with Regal, stopping off in an inland Duchy, and Fitz finds himself at something of a loss.
To ease it, Fitz seeks the Fool, looking for him in his private chamber. The chamber is described in detail, as is its strange effect upon Fitz. So is the later summons Fitz receives from Chade. During their conference, Fitz asks Chade after his assignment to kill Rurisk; uncomfortable silence falls, broken by Chade’s note that Verity has interceded with Shrewd on Fitz’s behalf. Chade reminds Fitz that all are expendable against the need of the Six Duchies.
The next morning, Patience summons Fitz. He responds as bidden, and, after a brief and confusing exchange, Patience pierces his ear with an earring that had been Chivalry’s. She reminds him of his heritage and sends him off.
The following day sees Fitz line up for his part in the caravan to Jhaampe. The Fool offers him a purgative and a warning, and Fitz apologizes for having intruded into the Fool’s chamber. Fitz also receives new clothing for the journey, complete with a new crest assigned by Verity. Verity himself charges Fitz to speak well of him, and Fitz finds several of Regal’s men, Burrich, and Verity’s cousin, August, in the procession, as well.
Fitz glosses the progress of the caravan towards Jhaampe, noting its comforting familiarity. He also mulls over his coming mission. At length, the caravan is greeted by people from the Mountain Kingdom and sped in happiness to Jhaampe.
There is something a bit colonialist in the opening description of the Mountain Kingdom, an attitude that tacitly contributes to Tolkienian-tradition readings of the Elderlings corpus. Looking at a more itinerant people’s ways as “quaintly barbaric” speaks of an ethnocentrism that lines up with entirely too much of observed history. The reluctance of several members of the caravan to associate with the Mountain folks when they arrive at the Kingdom speaks similarly. It’s something I had not noticed in earlier readings of the novel, but something that comes across to me as I read now, and I think it speaks to some of the social changes that have marked nearly twenty-five years that the novel’s been in print and the personal changes of some twenty years of my reading it.
I wonder what will change in the next twenty to twenty-five.