The next chapter, “Tasks,” opens with Fitz’s later musings on the winter and the state of the Six Duchies during it–not good, in the event. It moves to Fitz departing Verity’s chambers and reporting to Kettricken with Verity’s message for her to take the Queen’s Gardens. Kettricken leaps eagerly to the task, her ladies following her despite the cold, and Fitz muses on the quiet deception he is facilitating in the event.
After, Fitz takes a meal in strange solitude and goes out to Nighteyes. He proceeds thence to review the documents with which Verity had entrusted him, regarding them amid his chamber for a time in frustration before calling on Patience. There, he encounters Molly and makes something of a fool of himself to her–in front of Patience and Lacey. Patience chides him gently for the outburst after Molly makes her excuses and departs, and Fitz unburdens himself of some of his cares to her. He also conveys to her that she might go to Kettricken and help her with the Queen’s Garden.
Once he leaves Patience, he purposes to call upon Molly once again, doing so by climbing down to her window. She reluctantly admits him into her chambers as tells him that Regal has pressed upon her that a relationship would be ill-advised. In something of a rush, they consummate their love, and they part in the throes of teenaged romance the next morning.
I’m not sure, at this point, how to read the intimate interlude. Hobb does well to elide the more salacious details, certainly; a passage of erotica or outright pornography would seem out of place against the rest of the narrative. And it is the case that there has been motion throughout the series to have Fitz and Molly come together; it is not necessarily a sudden thing that they do. But Fitz does seem to force the issue a bit, which seems…squicky to my reading, anymore. (And, no, I did not always find the passage problematic. I am still not the person I should be, but I am better than I was, and I keep trying to be better, thanks.) Fitz is hardly an honorable character–being an assassin more or less precludes that, and I’ve discussed the topic at some length elsewhere–so a less-than-upright action may be in character, but I do not want to defend even a fictional offender. So there is that.
I suppose my…unease with the passage now is a sign of the ways in which I *have* changed, partly as a result of getting older, partly as a result of having had the exposures I had in graduate school and in life after. I’ll not deny there is a certain ironic orthodoxy that affected me (ironic in that it is predictably heterodoxical), but having the time to think about things that higher education offers did much to help make me more humane. Carrying that into the world outside the ivory tower is not always an easy thing, to be sure, but it does little enough good staying inside it–especially in the windowless basement rooms thereof that I shared with many, many others.