A chapter titled “Confrontations” follows. It begins with a brief rumination on the reciprocal nature of the Wit before moving to Fitz describing fretful sleep and uncomfortable dreams. He wakes to an offer from one of the minstrels of intimate company, which he rejects; Fitz returns to sleep and dreams of being watched by Will, then of being the victim of Red-Ship raids in progress. Verity joins him in the dream and sends Fitz back to himself.
Fitz wakes in pain from his Skill exertions and sets about brewing elfbark tea to ease himself; the work occasions rebuke from the minstrels, who note its use in suppressing slaves in other countries. At length, the group heads out, failing to make the next town before nightfall. They make an uneasy camp that is soon relaxed as Fitz cannot help but betray some of his skill-set once again. The betrayal earns an invitation to join the group more permanently, which Fitz ineptly refuses.
The next day, the group sets out again. Through the Wit, Nighteyes warns Fitz of Forged Ones nearby. There is little time to brace for the attack that comes, and Fitz has trouble defending himself, as do his companions. Nighteyes takes injury, as do the minstrels, though the Forged Ones are defeated. In the wake of the battle, however, Fitz is rebuked for what appears to have been his cowardice, since he had moved off to engage Nighteyes’s opponent amid the fight.
Fitz sleeps and dreams again, and in those dreams, Will assails him through the Skill. Through the Wit, Nighteyes defends Fitz, and Fitz wakes in a sweat from what he explains as a nightmare. Through the Wit, Nighteyes signals his understanding that they must kill Regal and his inner circle, lest they be forever pursued.
I’ve not hidden that I work in addiction treatment at the moment (and am likely to do so for some time), although I am not a counselor. Inexpert though I am in such matters, and suspect as any diagnosis of a literary character must be, it does seem that Fitz is indeed addicted to elfbark; his swift recourse to that remedy is but one sign of it. The US NIH, among others, notes that fatigue and depression are observed aftereffects of certain illicit stimulants. While it is the case that elfbark is a fictional plant, it does bear some superficial similarities to the coca plant; it is not an exact analogue, but it is evocative. And it does have some explanatory power, offering another layer of verisimilitude to Hobb’s work; the fictional stimulant acts much like observed real ones, making it more believable for readers who do not have access to it. In a world that admits of magic, having a touchstone, even an unfortunate one, to the reader’s world is an aid to understanding and engagement, as Hobb herself notes.