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.
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.