The next chapter, “Shepherd,” opens with a brief note about Chade’s activities after the death of Shrewd and Regal’s removal to Tradeford. It moves thence to Fitz’s description of the convening caravan. He dreams that night of Molly, realizing she had left him to protect their child–a daughter whom she is delivering even then, aided by Burrich. Fitz almost leaves off what he is doing to go to them, only to be forestalled by the echoes of Verity’s Skill-driven command.
Fitz considers the command upon him even as he cannot resist it, and he spends the next few days in a daze, plodding along with the caravan and attending to his assigned tasks with it. A minstrel traveling with the caravan, Starling, sometimes seeks his company, and guards in local livery give Fitz pause, but the journey is long dull. Fitz considers the possibility of raising his daughter with Molly once his work for Verity is done.
The tedium is interrupted by the apprentice of one of the performers traveling with the caravan. Fitz makes to tend to an injury she has incurred, and she propositions him. He refuses her offer, knowing that it would be no comfort to him to accept it, and she grows angry, indeed.
I find myself reading affectively once again, particularly as I read Fitz’s consideration of being a father. Certainly, father-figures feature in the Farseer novels; Fitz is marked by separation from Chivalry, Chivalry is separated from his father by his own fatherhood, and the surrogates that come into Fitz’s life–Burrich and Chade–clearly love him but regard him other than as a son. That he would turn over the idea of fatherhood in his head would not be wondered at even were he a more “normal” son and father. The Six Duchies clearly expects that a child’s parents will be present and in a relationship with each other (something answering to the putatively prevailing expectations of Hobb’s presumed primary audience), and, being in such a situation myself, I note that I still have thoughts in that line–and my daughter was born in 2014.
And I share, perhaps, with Fitz (again, I know I am reading with affect, and I ought to know better, but still…) an eagerness to be part of my child’s life–though I doubt it is to the extent that a young man who grew up without a father would. Knowing what is coming–this is a reread–gives me pause as I consider it, and I am reminded that I am fortunate to have been with my child as much as I have been. I am also reminded that I need to give my kid a hug, telling her once again that I love her, next time I see her–and I am glad it won’t be too long…