Coming after, “Verity’s Ships” opens with a gloss of early military actions against the Red-Ship Raiders. It moves on to Fitz glossing the shape of his days for the rest of the season, which keep him quite busy. They also begin to include postings to the Rurisk, the first of Verity’s warships, where he learns seacraft and some of the language of the Outislanders.
At length, Fitz is able to find a private moment with Shrewd, during which he broaches the topic of marrying, thinking to wed Molly. Shrewd, however, has been approached by Celerity of Bearns and her father, Duke Brawndy, whom Fitz met earlier in the novel and seems to have impressed. Fitz attempts to speak out, but Shrewd harshly rebukes him, conflating him with his father for a moment.
Noting his heartsickness, Fitz continues relating the passage of the season, laying out the disposition of the Skilled with whom he had trained under Galen and their arrangement on the warships of the chapter’s title. It ranges to a training exercise that is ostensibly Skill-assisted, and that is interrupted by Skilled orders from Verity that direct the Rurisk to Antler Island, where a Red-Ship raid is in progress. The crew of the Rurisk joins the melee, and Fitz makes quite a showing for himself in a berserk rage that falls upon him. He does not comport himself as well in the wake of the battle as in the midst of it, and he has little time to rest; more fights follow in the succeeding days and weeks. During one such, Fitz glimpses a white-hulled ship that affects him oddly. It is not present after the battle, and others do not recall seeing it, but it remains disquieting.
Fitz continues to work the Skill with Verity, and he learns him in doing so. He also has something of a sour patch with Molly, and not because he relates Shrewd’s words to her; he does not. And when he calls on Kettricken, he finds he mulling over some thought to bring an end to the realm’s troubles.
I’ve argued before that there is a tendency, owing to Tolkien, to read fantasy novels as borrowing largely from the European medieval–particularly Celtic and Germanic Europe, and that tendency ranges to Hobb’s Elderlings novels. Such chapters as the present one help prompt reading Hobb as European medievalist fantasy, with the single-sailed clinker-built ships and some of the geographical descriptions, as well as other such tropes long present in the series.
It may be the case that the Realm of the Elderlings moves away from the European in the author’s mind as more work gets done on it. Hobb notes her own grounding in Tolkien, and Tolkien’s influence is…substantial, as many, including Luke Shelton, argue and attest. And it makes sense that earlier compositions will cleave more clearly to established patterns, both for the author’s own ease (deliberate or not) and for the audience’s. So there is some cause, even if other interpretations come out better as the series goes on.