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.
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.