Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.
The following chapter, “Messages,” opens with a gloss of Verity’s expedition–ostensibly to seek military aid from the Mountain Kingdom, but in truth to seek the Elderlings of old–setting out. It moves to Fitz considering the time between Verity being given permission for the quest and setting out on it; having a task enlivens Verity, as many notice with no small approval. Verity sets tasks for Fitz, as well, and remarks upon the ineptitude of the other Skill-users that are set to his service.
After Verity’s party departs, Fitz has a few good days, though he marks the potential for problems that emerges almost immediately upon Verity’s departure. He also notes that word of Verity’s true mission spread quickly, and Regal has turned it to ridicule. Fitz also marks that Chade is unusually distant, perhaps as a result of aging working upon him.
The wary peace in Fitz’s life is broken by news of another Forging, one that should have been prevented by forces that were supposed to be in place but had been reallocated due to a putative lack of funds. At Verity’s Skilled suggestion, Fitz returns to Verity’s chambers, finding they have already been searched to an uncertain end; while Fitz retrieves items at Verity’s bidding, Kettricken enters, and they confer about his absence. They also confer about the irregularities in messaging, and Kettricken arrives quickly at both the conclusion of Regal’s perfidy and a burning desire to redress it directly. Fitz manages to dissuade her from rash action, and Kettricken departs to see to what she can.
After she does, Fitz goes to the stables, thinking to find ease in his old childhood haunt. He comes across a scene in which an inland noble is attempting to buy horses from Regal, who has no authority to sell them. Fitz manages to defuse the situation, but it reveals to him just how quickly Regal is acting to undercut and usurp authority.
Fitz makes to return to his chambers, but he is intercepted by a message from Kettricken, who bids him attend on her. After freshening up a bit, he does so, and Kettricken bids him call upon Shrewd before noting her own experience with doing so. Regal had claimed that Verity withdrew forces from Bearns, effectively ceding territory to the Red-Ship Raiders; Fitz denies the idea, but he hears Kettricken when she notes that Shrewd is effectively in Regal’s thrall.
It is damned hard not to read the chapter against present political circumstances, and I have to caution myself that there is corruption in all groups, in all times, and in all places; the only thing special about the times in which I live is that I live in them, and that is not so special as such a statement might make it seem. But there do seem to be parallels between the present chapter and the surrounding realities, and I cannot help but notice them–or comment on them, as should be obvious.
One of them that comes out as I think on it is the issue of the improper sale at the stables. It is clear that a power-play is in progress, and the solution of papering it over by following forms and procedures seems…unsatisfactory, in the novel as in the enfolding world. But “legal” and “right” are not often the same, and they never have been, so it should not be a surprise to see it in fiction.