A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 35: Royal Assassin, Chapter 10

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The chapter that follows, “Fool’s Errand,” opens with a discussion of the state of Skill practice leading up to Verity’s time. It moves to Fitz recounting his Wit experiences with the wolf cub and his waning denial of their growing bond.

Canis lupus occidentalis.jpg
Standing Wolf by Ellie Attebery on Flickr, image used for commentary

Of a morning, Fitz is asked by some of the guards at Buckkeep to put to Verity an idea that they had had to form an independent guard unit for Kettricken. Fitz presses them for a bit before agreeing to carry the idea to the king- and queen-in-waiting. Fitz also rehearses his continued longings for Molly, as well as the state of affairs in Buckkeep following the funeral proceedings. As he makes to attend on Kettricken, he is greeted by the Fool, who poses to him questions about the dearth of Skilled in the Six Duchies. Fitz contemplates the matter, finding difficulty in interpreting the Fool’s words; the Fool presses on, making mockery of Fitz and leaving him much to consider as he reaches Kettricken’s chambers.

When Fitz reaches them, Regal greets and insults him, provoking him to a rage that morphs into impolitic delight at seeing Molly. She excuses herself, and Fitz enters Kettricken’s chambers, finding her centered and more at ease than he has seen her for long. She notes that she has returned to herself, offering philosophical discussion and meditation. Fitz realizes, with some astonishment, that Kettricken is possessed of the Wit, and the wolf cub through him connects to her, exulting in it. Fitz, however, is wary; knowing that his own Wit-work can be detected by others, he realizes that others’ might, as well.

The chapter offers a bit more to support the idea that the Wit, at least in the Farseer novels, is a metaphor for homosexuality. That Kettricken is possessed of it, marking her as even more Other to the mainstream Six Duchies than her ethnic identity already does, poses the same kind of threat that being a closeted member of a minority population in the United States in the mid-1990s did; the revelation, even then and there, could well be fatal, as is noted here, here, and elsewhere. And Fitz already knows he has enemies that would not scruple to use a perceived usurping outsider as an avenue of attack against him.

There is also an interesting bit about meditation in the chapter. The philosophical approach Kettricken voices is somewhat fatalistic, something of a “the world will happen as it happens, despite what you do,” and the machinations of fate do form a major motif in the series, filled as it is with prophecy and the like. But the meditative aspect of Kettricken’s approach to life, juxtaposed with Fitz’s inability to participate in it, seems it could be read as a comment about the accessibility of such practice. Fitz, while not exactly among the lower classes, is not among the elite; he has to work, and abundantly, while Kettricken sees herself as unoccupied in her role as queen-in-waiting. For her to meditate, when Fitz cannot, could be taken as a rebuke of the practice as something set aside from the working world. But that might be going further than can be sustained by the text as a whole; in the Mountain Kindgom, it is asserted, Kettricken would have had and did have much work to do. She is not depicted as having meditated there, though she seems to report it in the present chapter, so…

I shall still thank you for your support.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 34: Royal Assassin, Chapter 9

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Guards and Bonds,” opens with a brief rumination on the differences between lived experience and careful study. It moves on to track the night after Fitz leaves Molly’s chamber and the following day, when he calls upon Patience once again. He is somewhat surprised to hear her warn him against court intrigues–and moved at her sincerity in doing so, when it is not to her advantage or even, seemingly, in her interest. Fitz is also shown a bit of his folly by Lacey, who pointedly demonstrates that she is not only a lady’s attendant.

Fitz and Cub (Nighteyes) Playing in the Snow from Royal Assassin, taken from facelessfrey’s Tumblr page, used for commentary

After he leaves Patience, Fitz calls on Kettricken. He finds that she is absent, and he goes in search of her. The search leads him out to the stables, where he is informed that Burrich is at work on a funeral pyre for his old hound, Vixen. He is also informed that Kettricken has left Buckkeep afoot, and Fitz moves to pursue her. When he overtakes her, she expresses a desire to attend on Verity and a dissatisfaction that he seems uninterested in her. She also marks the wolf cub that Fitz has been tending, though she does not connect it to him.

Fitz is able to persuade Kettricken to return to Buckkeep for the time, conversing through the Wit with the wolf cub along the way. Molly marks their return, and Fitz goes off to pay his respects to Vixen before gathering meat and bones to take to the cub. They play together for a time, and Fitz feels himself slipping into their bond. When he breaks the connection, it is only with regret, and he is reluctant as he returns to Buckkeep.

Much of the chapter focuses on depicting women, from Patience’s assertions about the historically strong Farseer queens to Patience and Lacey to Kettricken. To my mind, Hobb makes a point of subverting the kinds of typing that pervades Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature in the depictions; none of the women seem to adhere to one trope or another, even if Patience lampshades her in-milieu presentation. Rather, they come off as having the kinds of contradictory motivations and behaviors that people, rather than caricatures, do. Patience is flighty, yes, but evidently more capable and aware than she is commonly credited. Lacey seems demure but is clearly a threat. Kettricken is strong and noble in many ways, although she is clearly affected by her interpersonal relationships. Given how many other novels, and more popular, have so much trouble depicting women, it is a pleasure to see one that does not. To see it come from twenty years ago (as of this writing), when so many pieces of contemporary fiction–and all too many people who are all too real–still cannot do better than they do…whether it should be read as praise for Hobb or a lamentation of the state of the world is not yet clear to me.

I shall thank you for your support.

A Rumination on Jury Service

photo by john n. lavender
The Kerr County Courthouse,
Image by Constable John N. Lavender on the Kerr County website,
used for commentary

I was recently called up for jury duty, and not for the first time; I seem to attract jury summonses, having gotten at least one in each place I’ve lived since I got married–and two since moving back to the Texas Hill Country. I don’t mind showing up for it, not least because the alternatives available to me aren’t good ones (I can’t afford a $1,000 fine, for example). Also, I don’t want to be in the position of having to rely on people who don’t want to be there if I am ever in front of a jury, so I try to model the behavior I hope to see. How much it might matter is unclear, but it cannot hurt.

As I sat in the benches waiting to find out whether I would be empaneled, waiting once I was empaneled to find out whether or not I would be selected (I was not), I was reminded of one of the standbys of humanisitic education, that study of the academic humanities helps suit people to such acts of engaged citizenship as jury service. I am minded in particular of Amy Wan’s 2011 College English piece, “In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship,” which I read in those heady times when I thought I might be teaching college English as a full-time, continuing thing–which is not the case, obviously, but I had hopes, then. While definitions of citizenship and duty can certainly be argued, and unfortunately often disingenuously and/or with an eye to removing the one from and enforcing the other upon those who can least endure the changes, the basic idea seems a sound one from my experience of the classroom and the courtroom: humanistic education has particular valence in jury service.

For one thing, I did note what might be called rhetorical effects of the setting. The courtroom I reported to does much to focus attention on the judge’s bench while removing its occupant from common access; the judge (whom I will note I found personally pleasant) is the representative of law, present and commanding but remote, or so those called into the courtroom are pushed to believe. Standing upon the judge’s entrance reinforces that those in the courtroom are at the judge’s whim, enforced by armed bailiffs–at least one of whom made a point of calling out people dressed “inappropriately” for the occasion and loudly chastising a very junior staffer with a promise to “tell [her] boss about it, too.” Even though much was made through jingoistic, propagandistic statements about jury service being something “that can only be done by a free people,” and even though the judge commanded those in the court to rise for the entrance and exit of the jury panel, the disparity of power in the room was clear, with particular speech acts compelled under threat of force. (The bailiffs’ hands rested on the handles of their sidearms an awful lot, to my eye.) Would I have noticed it had I not the training and experience I do? Would I perhaps have read it as comfort in a system that stands above people, rather than as a show that may or may not have any substance to it–because law and justice are far from being the same thing–had I not? I could not say; I do not know who I would be without. As it is, I scarcely know who I am with it.

More importantly to me, I think, having been trained in the academic humanities helped me understand better the process of voir dire, when the prosecuting and defending attorneys pressed the members of the jury panel for information to facilitate their selection of a trial jury. I recognized from one attorney many of the same tactics I had seen deployed by professors I have had–and which I have, in turn, deployed–to lead students along to a conclusion the professors desired. I know that the attorney’s job is, in fact, to persuade the jury to the argument s/he makes, that the defendant is or is not guilty of the charge/s pressed, but I do not know that many or most of the others on the jury panel with me were aware that the attorneys were doing their work even at that point, prior to the presentation of any evidence or testimony to bolster their cases. The ability to identify my own biases came up, as well, though I hesitate to state more explicitly, both out of professional concerns and out of a desire to keep the specific case relatively anonymous. And the ability to recognize others’ biases made me a bit sad; I was not the only one with pre-existing opinions that touched upon the kinds of things the case appeared ready to treat, but not as many voiced their concerns or took them into account as perhaps ought to have for the sake of giving the defendant as close to fair a trial as could be.

As I note above, I was not selected to sit on the jury. Evidently, my case for my own biases and their potential negative impact on proceedings was convincing to the attorneys and the presiding judge. Had I been, though, the obvious things would have come to bear for me: the ability to understand dense, often arcane wording and the principles it articulates, and the ability to apply that understanding to evidence presented and the explanations of that evidence offered to the court in the hopes of reaching a true and accurate determination of guilt or innocence of the charges pressed. Such things, absent the guilt or innocence issue, are the core of what study of the academic humanities does–but that’s an old assertion and one that seems not to be nearly so important as might be hoped.

If ever I am on trial, give me a jury of English majors.

Jury duty doesn’t pay much here; care to help offset some of it?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 33: Royal Assassin, Chapter 8

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “The Queen Awakens,” opens with two stanzas from the in-milieu “The Vixen Queen’s Hunt” before moving to detail preparations at Buckkeep for a large hunt. Fitz reports to Verity of the events in the keep, and Verity dithers about how he will proceed and his own ineptitude. He does send Fitz to observe in his stead, keeping himself aloof, and Fitz rushes thence, delayed slightly by Regal.

Queen Awakes   “This is not a hunt. Let your hearts be solemn. We do not go to hunt, but to claim our casualties. We go to lay to rest those the Red Ships have stolen from us. Those we put down today are of the Six Duchies - our own”.-Kettricken,...
Queen Awakes by Jemina Malkki on the artist’s Tumblr page,
image used for commentary

Fitz arrives in time to see Kettricken dispel the festive atmosphere that has cropped up, reminding the hunters that they are riding to put their fellow Duchies-folk to rest rather than to garner any acclaim or claim any trophies. The hunters divest themselves of their joyful trappings, and they prepare to depart somberly. Regal is incensed by the whole affair, and Verity, who has descended to take stock of the situation, is strangely emboldened. Fitz moves off to help ensure that matters are made ready for Kettricken’s return.

When she does return, it is at the head of a funeral procession. Fitz assists in preparing the bodies for cremation and identifying the dead–they include one of his childhood friends. A solemn feast follows the funeral proceedings, with Shrewd unexpectedly presiding, and Fitz marks the unity promoted by the event.

Chade also remarks upon it when he summons Fitz to his hidden chambers that night. The old man waxes eloquent upon the unexpected asset Kettricken has become. Fitz is drawn into somewhat dangerous talk by the open mood, and Chade rebukes him for it before announcing that he is to be dispatched on a mission of his own. He does not share the details with Fitz, and Fitz is soon dismissed.

After leaving Chade, Fitz makes his way to Molly’s chambers, opening her door latch ineptly. There is a tense encounter between them, but it ends up with them admitting their love for one another and kissing.

In the chapter, as Verity dithers, Fitz remarks on the unsettling humanity of the man who seems poised to be the next King of the Six Duchies. He had remarked earlier on noticing some of the incapacities Verity displays, notably in his handling of people when he is surprised, and the narrative earlier notes Verity’s confession that he was not raised to rule, but to aid a ruler he trusts. So that much is not new.

What is new, though, is that Fitz seems taken aback by it. Whether the reader is to take this as a sign that Fitz is becoming disillusioned or as a comment against blind trust in a ruler is not clear–and it ultimately matters little, since both readings work. Fitz is growing, and growing stronger, as his interactions with Regal and Chade, in particular, show. Those who rule are themselves but people, subject to the same flaws and failings as any others, and while they may be trusted to a large extent, they will err, and it is likely that others will pay for the mistakes. It is a lesson that seems to need reiteration far more often than offers comfort.

Nothing witty this time, just a request for a bit of funding.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 32: Royal Assassin, Chapter 7

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The following chapter, “Encounters,” opens with a brief rumination of Kettricken’s unusual isolation when she arrived at court in Buckkeep. It moves thence to Fitz confronting his growing and deepening connection to the wolf he had rescued.

 Fir Snow Winter Evening - Free Stock Photo, Image, Wallpaper
Pretty as it is, this is the kind of thing that can lead to trouble, as Kettricken finds.
Fir Snow Winter Evening from Red Wallpapers, image used for commentary

After, Fitz calls on Patience, having an awkward encounter with Molly along the way. There, he surreptitiously leaves a gift for Molly, and he plies his father’s widow and her maidservant for gossip. The gossip depicts Shrewd as an invalid under the care of Wallace, and Fitz makes to report to his king. When he does, the aforementioned Wallace attempts to interdict him; Fitz finds himself suddenly and unexpectedly supported by the Fool, and the latter manages to provoke an appropriate reaction from Shrewd.

Shrewd takes Fitz’s report, but he repeats himself oddly as he does so, causing Fitz some concern. The Fool confers with him briefly about it, and Fitz goes about his duties in the Keep and outside it during the next few days.

Fitz is about such duties on a later day when he finds Kettricken out riding, beset by Forged Ones. He rushes to her aid, and they manage to fight their way free. In the wake of it, they confer about the situation, and Fitz realizes that it had been contrived by Regal–though there is no way he can prove it to any others.

Then encounter a search party led by Verity not much later, and though the party members are reverent of Kettricken, Verity is not, and openly, publicly rebukes her. He takes her back to Buckkeep, leaving Fitz and the search party to follow–and there is something approaching grumbling from them. There is something similar from Burrich after the horses that had been taken are returned to his stables, though it ranges to include Regal, as well.

That night, Verity summons Fitz to him; Fitz’s talents with the Skill have left Verity with some particularly detailed dreams, to his vexation, Their conversation turns to Kettricken and the situation with the Forged Ones in the area of Buckkeep, and Verity dismisses Fitz back to his own bed.

Verity’s muddling and uncomfortable attitude toward Kettricken noted in the previous chapter carry forward into the present one. Fitz comments upon it, though not openly, and it cannot but be assumed that others in the milieu make similar remarks. Similarly, the issue of unfitness for rule emerges in the present chapter; Shrewd appears to be having mental difficulties, though whether those are inherent to him or a result of the herbs with which Wallace doses him is not clear. Most likely, it is a combination of the two, which has unfortunate implications for the Six Duchies and their stability as matters move forward–and which reaffirms some of the assertions that Hobb’s background and her presumed primary audience’s might well have, that the ruler is much less to be trusted and served than the realm.

I’d still love to say I have your support. Care to send a little help my way?

Another Rumination on Leaving Academe

There is something of a firestorm going on in part of academe really close to that into which I once sought admission–close enough that I would have been expected to teach in it had I been able to secure the kind of tenure-line job I ultimately unsuccessfully tried to secure. I’ll not comment on specifics here; I do not need to, as the discussion is going on publicly and at great length online (and it might well be ended by the time this reaches public view). It will suffice that I acknowledge the “rebel” forces are correct and that the “traditional” parts of the “old guard” are wrong, though those in the right do not need my acknowledgement to know they are right and those in the wrong will likely look down upon me as a lapsed or apostate member of such church as they purport to be priests of.

Graduation Gown With Mortarboard On Retaining Wall : Stock Photo
It’s as good a place for a robe as any.
Graduation Gown with Mortarboard on Retaining Wall by Danial Najmi / EyeEm,
used for commentary

The issues on which the fracas touches and into which it delves are well worth considering, well worth applying to the world outside the ivory tower, and I have been working to consider my own complicity in the problems cited, both in my lingering academic work and in the work I do to lead a small nonprofit agency to help people who struggle against substance abuse issues. But the fracas itself lays bare some of the problems of academe to audiences that might not previously have seen them, which is a good thing in itself, and it serves as a reminder that I am better off for not having to be embroiled in them at this point. Because I am not seeking full-time, continuing employment in academe, I am not facing the kinds of struggles that others are and that are being posed against them unfairly and unjustly. And because I have some distance from the pursuit of that kind of job now, I can acknowledge that I did not “deserve” the jobs I did not get. It may not be the case that they went in all or even most cases to people who do deserve to have them–if “deserving” has anything to do with it, really–but I know I damned well ought not to have gotten them. The folks who have them and are struggling as they are–again, unfairly and unjustly–are far better at the work of academe than I. Those who array against them are lucky and privileged and do poorly in acknowledging neither; they do less well to stand in opposition as they do.

It is not an easy thing to admit to being wrong, certainly, the more so when so much of the work that gets done and the idea of self that gets bound up in doing that work depends upon being right. I well understand the impulse to resist it. But that I understand it does not mean I condone it; the opposite is true. Those invested in being right need to be right, not to assert that they are right. That they refuse to do so (again, as I write this; it might have changed by the time this gets seen) is a disservice to all, and I am glad to have as little part in it as I still have.

But I have to confess to lingering complicity. I still accept teaching assignments, and I still work within predetermined curricula that continue to transmit ideas that are problematic. I do so because I still feel the need to bring in the money, and I do still manage to make some small connections to people who would otherwise not have any access to the ennobling parts of continued study. They are still there, and they may be worth preserving, but there’s a damned lot that isn’t, and I’m glad I’m more or less quit of it.

Any support would be appreciated.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 31: Royal Assassin, Chapter 6

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Forged Ones,” opens with a brief rumination on Shrewd’s three sons, the close relationship between Chivalry and Verity, and the special status accorded to Regal. It pivots to Fitz’s return to Buckkeep and his shock at seeing Regal riding with Kettricken. He has opportunity to ask Burrich about it briefly before answering a Skill-summons from Verity.

Kettricken by Ptolemie
Kettricken by Ptolemie on DeviantArt,
image used for commentary

When Fitz attends upon Verity, he is bidden eat while he is informed of the presence of Forged Ones in the area of Buckkeep. The two confer about the problem, and Fitz realizes that the Forged Ones appear to be converging on Buckkeep. Verity tasks Fitz with learning more about the converging Forged Ones and to put down those he can eliminate quietly. And Fitz broaches the issue of Regal’s attentions toward Kettricken with Verity, which Verity acknowledges but sets aside in favor of his own concerns before Fitz offers him a strange sort of comfort.

The chapter is brief, fewer than ten pages in the edition of the book I’ve long used for pleasure reading and for scholarly work. (I look forward to the illustrated anniversary editions of the Farseer books that appear to be forthcoming and have pre-ordered a copy of the first one.) That does not mean there is not material upon which to comment, however; it might be noted that Verity, for all the virtues he has as a character in the series, comes across as something of an ass in his attitude toward Kettricken, for example. While it may not be the case that an arranged marriage would be expected to be a happy one, and while a ruler-to-be could reasonably expect subjects to be of service to them, Verity does appear to view Kettricken as supposed to be what Fitz calls in his own father’s marriage to Patience “an escape,” rather than as a person in her own right who views herself as in service to the nation rather than to its leader.

It is something of a tension in the series as a whole, though, between service to the realm and service to its ruler. Some traditional theories of kingship, particularly medieval models that the Farseer novels might be thought to use because of their seeming medievalism (though, as I’ve asserted, it’s not the best reading), hold that the two, ruler and realm, are as one. Service to one is therefore service to the other. At the same time, it is also clear that at least one of the potential rulers of the Six Duchies is not suited to rule; Verity seems to muddle about, though with the thought of preserving the nation foremost in his mind, while Regal seems focused on himself. The theory clearly does not hold when it is clear that the ruler might well be bad for the realm–but that shows as much its writer’s background and presumed primary audience as much as anything else.

Support for the Series, please?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 30: Royal Assassin, Chapter 5

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The following chapter, “Gambit,” opens with a brief rumination of older-in-milieu codes of conduct. It pivots into a gloss of some time, during which Buckkeep slides into winter and Fitz attends to his then-few assigned duties. He also moons after Molly, for which Burrich gently chides him. The older man offers what seems some useful advice, but he is stricken when Fitz relates the way in which Patience cautioned him against pursuing Molly.

Elderlings Tarot - Temperance by cottontofu
Elderlings Tarot – Temperance, by cottontofu on DeviantArt
Image used for commentary.

Fitz takes Burrich’s advice and amends his behavior. He also finds himself being drawn more and more closely to the wolf cub he had rescued as he works to rehabilitate him. And he finds himself growing closer to Kettricken, who is effectively alone at what remains, for her, a foreign court whose customs are opaque to her. As he converses with her, overly boldly, Fitz realizes that he has been manipulated by Chade into becoming her de facto adviser, a role he continues to ply among also calling on Patience daily.

Fitz also finds himself summoned to Shrewd, and he encounters Regal as he answers the summons. After a tense exchange, Regal moves on, and Fitz attends on his king. He finds the King’s chambers strangely secluded and Shrewd himself somewhat addled–until the new chamber servant, Wallace, leaves. After he does, Shrewd tasks Fitz with a mission to a northern Duchy, Bearns, where there are rumors of budding unrest and rebellion surrounding a self-styled Virago.

As he departs from his king, Fitz encounters Serene, alongside whom he had studied the Skill. She had succeeded Galen, and she had taken on his hatred of Fitz. The encounter worries him as he prepares for and heads off to his errand.

In the end, the errand runs smoothly. Fitz provokes a challenge from Virago he needs not fight; his more clandestine training ensures that she presents the symptoms associated with oathbreaking, and she flees. The Duke and his daughter offer strange familiarity that leaves Fitz entirely uneasy.

Early in the chapter, Burrich makes a comment, with “bitterness in his voice,” regarding being unwed and, to his knowledge, childless. The comment and its delivery suggest that the homoerotic overtones between him and Chivalry (previously noted here, here, and here) may not sound as clearly as the earlier novel had implied–which would reflect continued conceptual development as Hobb continued work on the series. Or it could imply that the relationship, being one along uneven power dynamics, was more coercive than the earlier novel implied, which has an entirely different set of resonances.

The gloss on the events of Fitz’s mission to Bearns is perhaps more telling. His target’s name is telling; the Six Duchies tend towards emblematic names, and “Virago” fits in the archaic sense of “woman who does manly, heroic deeds” and the more common current sense of “unpleasant and ill-tempered woman.” (And it might be argued that many traditionally masculinized virtues are unpleasant and of ill temper, as well.) She evidently thinks herself more the former and shows herself more the latter. Fitz’s handling of the situation is remarkably good; he not only eliminates Virago, but he does so in a way that leaves her unable to be a rallying point for further action, shaming her without lifting his blade. He is, ultimately, good at his job, and if he were to confine himself to doing that job, things might be otherwise than they turn out. But that’s material for later parts of the write-up.

More help is always welcome–and appreciated!

One More Office Piece

I have made something of a practice of writing about the office spaces I have inhabited, ranging from a 2012 CCC piece through four samples of work for student use (here, here, here, and here) and a few more reflective pieces (here, here, and here). I still inhabit some of that office space; I’ve not relocated my home office yet, since I still live where I did, and I still have a part-time teaching position, even if I’ve not been assigned a class for the current session. But not all of that office space is still mine; I’ve lost jobs, and one of the schools I’ve taught for has closed since I left it. (There’s another I think might before terribly wrong, if things continue as they have been for a while, now.) In one case, I’ve moved from one office to another, not because anything wrong has happened where I work, but because I have assumed a new position that has a private office among its trappings–and, since I’m in a new office, it’s time to write one more office piece.

The new office, which is mine, just as the photo of it is.

It was not a long move to get from the most recent former office to the current one; I am now in a large private office just off of the lobby where my former desk–ably staffed by a new hire–sits. Most of what I had at that desk remains there or near there; it was tied to the position rather than to me, and I inherited a fair amount of material from my predecessor in my present position. I also brought a fair amount of stuff from home that I had had for previous office spaces and had packed away against not having a private office of my own to post it in. (Yes, I have the home office, but there is only so much space on its walls, and much of that is taken up with shelving.) Having arrayed it as I have, I do run into the problem I address in my 2012 CCC piece, that the honors and awards I have on display can be read as evidence of my insecurity.

At the same time, the people who have seen my office have commented favorably on it; they like the way it looks (and smells), describing it as “professional” and “homey,” among other pleasant terms. It does not read for them as covering my fears (though, just over a week into the job as I write this, I have a fair number of fears to cover; I am not certain I am ready, though I trained for this for years). Instead, it reads for them as justifying the trust that has been placed in me by awarding me the position I hold. It helps them to know that they are in good hands–and I hope that I can, indeed, wield such hands for them.

The privacy of the office is itself an indication of that trust. Even more than before, I am in a position to handle sensitive, confidential information; not only do I still deal with treatment matters, but I also attend to concerns of the agency’s finances and personnel, things that even those who can handle the clients’ data well cannot be privy to. And I may, in time, have to deal with disciplinary matters I would rather not have to address, though I will do so as the need arises; privacy is good for that, as well, and that I am afforded that privacy is, again, a mark of trust.

I hope to be worthy of it, and for quite some time to come.

Furnishing a new office ain’t cheap. I could still use some help.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 29: Royal Assassin, Chapter 4

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

A chapter titled “Dilemmas” follows and opens with a brief rumination on the Wit and the Skill before portraying Fitz waking alone in his room and staggering off to make ablutions. He returns to bed and to a fitful sleep.

Fitz and Nighteyes by Manweri
Michelle Tolo / Manweri’s Fitz and Nighteyes on DeviantArt: image used for commentary

When he wakes again, he finds his chamber has been tended to. As he avails himself of it, the Fool enters and checks on him, bantering with him acerbically before leaving just ahead of Patience and Lacey bustling in to check on Fitz. They fuss over him, and Patience presses upon him the folly of his putative attempts to woo Molly, citing the entanglements of his royal–if bastard–blood and Molly’s own potential prospects. Fitz protests to no avail, and Patience and Lacey leave him to rest.

After contemplating the decor in his chamber again, Fitz dozes off to be wakened by a summons from Chade. Answering it, he finds the old man considering a scroll. He is also clearly considering political implications, as he walks Fitz through a general idea of a way people might seek to exploit him. They exchange news, with Chade offering detailed information on the problems Verity and Kettricken face. Chade also offers some rebuke to Fitz for his conduct with Molly, echoing Patience’s warnings about the political ramifications. He offers some commentary about his relationship with Chivalry and Verity before returning to the topic of Fitz and Molly, urging him to heed Patience’s advice in the matter He also reiterates his warnings to Fitz for his own safety.

After their meeting, Fitz makes his way into Buckkeep Town, walking idly and taking in the gossip the place offers. Along his route, he encounters a vendor selling animals to be used for sport–including a young wolf. Fitz haggles for the wolf, purchasing him and taking him outside of the town, purposing to get him strong enough to fend for himself.

The wolf is of paramount importance in the series, and the level of engagement between Fitz and the wolf cub in the chapter makes that importance clear. Earlier events–the episodes with Nosy and Smithy in Assassin’s Apprentice–make clear that Fitz bonds to animals swiftly and deeply, and he already seems to share a particular affinity for the wolf he has found in a cage in Buckkeep Town. There will be more to come for the two of them, as is clear even without knowing from prior readings what will happen in the novel.

Less significant to the overall narrative, perhaps, is something that I noticed as I read the chapter this time and that I do not recall having noted before. Fitz wants to disregard Patience’s advice (and the emblematic name makes a bit of a joke) regarding Molly, and, having been an adolescent boy in the throes of lust that might have had something of love in it, I can well understand that desire and the recklessness that informs it. That is not what I note, though; what I note in this reading is that Chade’s reaffirmation of Patience’s advice seems, if not to persuade Fitz, at least to mollify him. Admittedly, Chade has a particular authority over Fitz, but there is still something of the “guys will only listen to ideas when other guys say them” about the matter. How to read it–a reflection of the prevailing standards surrounding the composition, a yoking of such behavior to immaturity, or something else–is not necessarily clear to me as I write this, but it is something that might stand some investigation moving forward.

It’s one of the things that I have loved about Hobb’s works. There’s a lot to unpack in them.

Any chance you could send some help my way?