The next chapter, “Threats,” opens with a gloss of the declining state of Bearns Duchy and the Six Duchies, generally, following Brawndy’s visit to Buckkeep. It moves to Fitz seeing to Burrich’s billeting amid the too-empty stables. When Fitz checks up on Burrich later, he finds Molly tending to him–with some annoyance, as he has been drinking–at Patience’s request.
After Molly leaves, Fitz and Burrich confer about the present states of their affairs. Burrich purposes to guard Kettricken’s door against the news that she is with child; Fitz resists for a bit, but relents and secures Kettricken’s permission for it. When he makes to return to his chambers after, he finds Serene and Justin, Skill-users who revile him, emerging from it. Fitz confronts them, forcing them to back down from him, but he realizes they are looking for Chade.
Fitz purposes to head to Buckkeep Town afterwards, but he is stopped at the gate by guards who have been ordered to deny him passage. They continue to do so when Molly comes back up the road, exhausted and frightened, but others gather her in. She tells Fitz of her assault, and he realizes that the warnings he has been given about her are entirely accurate. When he proposes separation to help keep her safe, she reacts angrily, pushing him away and berating him for a coward before she stalks off.
Early in the chapter, the issue of Molly’s abuse at the hands of her drunkard father is brought to attention again. In my current position, I work at a substance abuse treatment center, and the substance we most commonly have reported as a problem is, in fact, alcohol. (Marijuana and methamphetamine are the next in order, if you’re curious.) No few of the clients we see come in are referred to us because they have, in their drunkenness, struck their loved ones, or driven on the rural Texas roads that lace across the Hill Country–dangerous at times on their own, and more so when drink is added to them. I have seen the lingering problems of such drunkenness in scores of people, and I am somewhat taken aback by Burrich’s reaction to Fitz’s revelation of Molly’s history.
Burrich is not presented as a genteel man, to be sure; there is a rough brusqueness about him throughout the novels. But he is also generally presented as a good person, solid and reliable. For him to be so dismissive of Molly’s reactions towards him in the chapter strikes me as odd. Burrich does seem, though, to embody a traditional Western masculinity that may be good in the main but clearly has toxic elements to it; his “resolution” with Galen in Assassin’s Apprentice is but one example, while his denial of how his actions could reinscribe trauma is another. Of course, one of the virtues of Hobb’s writing is exactly that she presents flawed, nuanced characters, and it is always useful to remember that even a good person can be yet better.