The next chapter, “Neatbay,” begins with a reminder of the Six Duchies figure of the Pocked Man. It moves swiftly to a gloss of events through more of the winter, and Fitz finds himself decidedly isolated and in foul humor. Burrich fares little better. Buckkeep follows in kind, its provisions sent to the Inland Duchies while the Coastal Duchies languish.
Fitz seeks to drown his sorrows in bad brandy one night–a night Chade sees fit to summon him to aid nearby Neatbay. Fitz rushes off to summon official assistance, and while it goes well with Kettricken, it goes less well with Shrewd, who still struggles against ailment and enforced intoxication. Fitz is able to deliver his message, but Regal soon intervenes and orders him bundled out. Kettricken intercedes in turn, and Shrewd finally manages to assert himself and order Neatbay defended; Kettricken makes to join the efforts, bringing Fitz along. There is some dispute at the gate about Fitz leaving Buckkeep, but he is released to go.
The issue of Fitz’s Wit-bond with Nighteyes arises again as Fitz and Burrich ride to accompany Kettricken. It takes them two days to reach Neatbay, and when they do, they find the town besieged but still defended, and they move to besiege the besiegers. An uncomfortable wait ensues, broken by a nighttime raid from the Red-Ships crews that have invaded. Fitz falls again into a savage berserker state, from which he only emerges fully long after the battle has ended. He debriefs with Burrich after the battle, and they note the oddity of the Raiders’ deployment. In the end, though, the action was a success, even if there is still a sense of foreboding about things.
The present chapter makes much of calling back to an early incident in the previous novel, and the characters involved–Lady Grace and Fitz–seem to reminisce comfortably about it and about the changes to their lives that followed. It is good to see that ideas are carried forward in works, that the changes characters make in the lives of others within the milieu are not elided or ignored–and that the changes that happen away from the “main” action of the plot carry forward as much as do those in the main line of action. Having such helps enrich the narrative world, making it more compelling because it comes across as more authentic.
As to the scare-quotes about the “main” action, while it is the case that the narrative of the Farseer novels focuses on Fitz and his doings, there is a sense that what would traditionally be the focal action is elsewhere–namely, with Verity, who pursues a quest to invoke the aid of ancients that is reminiscent of Tolkien’s Eärendil and his mission to Valinor. Like that antecedent, though, Verity’s mission is largely known in glimpses rather than in detail, which is an interesting bit of Tolkienian tradition to pass forward.