The next chapter, “Buckkeep,” opens with a brief note on the inland town of Tradeford. It moves thence to the return trip from Neatbay, during which Nighteyes is noticed by some in the contingent. Burrich warns Fitz against the occurrence and rebukes both wolf and man sharply. That night, Fitz dreams of Molly.
Along the way, the contingent is greeted by messengers from Buckkeep. They deliver a missive that Verity is dead, and they return to the castle solemnly. In the ensuing fuss, Fitz learns that the news of Kettricken’s pregnancy has spread, and he and Burrich confer about the possibility that the news is a forgery by Regal. Implications follow, chilling Fitz. Burrich bids him confer with Shrewd and offer to Skill with him; Fitz attempts to demur, but relents.
As Fitz goes about the castle after, he learns that Regal’s takeover is more or less complete; Shrewd is written off as effectively a dotard, with Regal seen as governing in his stead and name.
Later, Fitz is visited by the Fool, who echoes Fitz’s conceit that Verity is not dead and presses him not to kill Shrewd. Fitz is aghast at the comment, but he again follows the implications and recognizes that he cannot stand aside as the Fool asks him to do.
A feast follows that evening, highlighting Regal’s mastery of political theater and Kettricken’s honesty. Regal uses it to undercut Kettricken further and to announce a transfer of the Six Duchies’ seat of power to Tradeford. A chance comment from an addled Shrewd confirms that Kettricken will accompany them, and it appears entirely that Regal has his desires ready to hand.
I am not able at this point not to read the text in light of current circumstances, somewhat anachronistic as such a reading must be. I cannot but read Regal as grossly misogynistic and exhibiting unfettered, unchecked privilege in his manipulations of the court and his treatment of both Shrewd and Kettricken. It points to the kind of thing I’ve discussed about Regal elsewhere, and if it is the case that none of the royals are exactly “good,” some of them at least try to be so, and most have a sense of obligation to their nations as a whole–while Regal seems either not to or, at best (and entirely unlikely), a much more restricted sense of who his nation is than his brothers and kin.
Surely, surely there are more parallels to a spoiled manchild scheming his way to power so that he can get his way, taking credit for others’ work, and mocking those who actually do the work as somehow fools than what is going on in the world even now. Surely, too, there are other parallels to the hangers-on who cling to such schemers in the hopes of finding some fortune before they, too, are cast aside as being no longer of use. And surely, there is some resolution in this world as in the narrative Hobb writes…