A chapter titled “Assassin” follows, opening with a passage about the recent Skillmasters of the Six Duchies and the strange manner in which Galen, the last of those, formed a coterie. It moves thence to track Fitz’s reconnaissance of Regal’s palace. He is able to exploit gossip and the largesse of a few sympathetic people to gain entrance, and, when within and safely concealed, makes ready to carry out his assassin’s work.
Thinking himself ready, Fitz proceeds, noting the grandeur of the halls through which he creeps as he goes along. One of his former tormentors spots him but does not recognize him until after Fitz has killed him.
After disposing of the body as best he can, Fitz continues on his errand, still creeping and marveling. The efforts of Regal’s Skilled servants break upon him, and Verity steadies him through a hint of that magic; Fitz hides and forces himself to calm before proceeding and marveling yet further.
At length, Fitz finds Regal’s chambers and sets to work poisoning his possessions. Verity queries him through another touch of Skill, and Fitz responds in kind. But as Fitz is about that task, he is spotted by a guard; though he kills the guard, another of his tormentors, he realizes that Will had been using the guard’s senses–he has been found out. Fitz makes to flee, only to fall further into Will’s power, and he realizes that death is once again his only option. Verity then reaches out through the Skill in anger and power, binding Fitz to come to him and leaving him room to flee.
Fitz makes his escape, stealing a horse along the way, but he is recognized as himself as he does so. As he flees, he comes through the King’s Circle and is revolted by the depredations he knows transpire therein. He eventually gets clear of Tradeford, sending the stolen horse back to its stable with the Wit, and begins another journey–this time, to join Verity, wherever he may be.
The present chapter occasions a sharp change in the direction of the novel. Leading up to and into it, Fitz had had the goal of killing Regal–though he was often distracted from it by idle thoughts of the life he had once led and the possibility of leading other lives yet, whether among the Old Blood or among the more “normal” people of the Six Duchies. Leaving the chapter, however, he has the burning command imposed upon him, not just by the king he acknowledges as rightful, but by force of magic; it does not leave his mind as the desire to kill Regal appeared to have done on occasion.
I suppose, as I consider the chapter I have reread again, that the command inscribes another trauma onto Fitz, who has already suffered many (and who does not deal well with several of them–as is to be expected in a milieu that admits of no therapies for such). It is one that Verity himself has acknowledged is a thing wrongly done, even if done without intent. Again, my understanding of and training in trauma theory are sharply limited, so I would not venture to say much–but I will remark that it seems Fitz is being set up for yet more pain to come.
As is usual.