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.
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.