The next chapter, “Suspicions,” opens with a brief note on the addictive ecstasy of the Skill. It moves swiftly thence to the caravan’s travel the next day. Fitz, having a clear head from not having drunk to excess the previous night, works along the way; when he refreshes himself, Starling pulls him aside to warn him that Regal’s guards have been looking for a man who looks very much like him.
That night, Starling sings a song about Fitz’s martial exploits. Members of the caravan discuss it and its implications as Starling expounds on the history. An uneasy night passes for Fitz before the caravan continues, and the young woman whom Fitz had refused previously tumbles to the idea that Fitz is himself and pursued by Regal’s forces. Starling speaks with him after, intimating a desire to follow him on his path to Verity. He tries to set it aside and deflect her interest, to little avail.
A few more days pass before Regal’s forces come upon the caravan. One of the guards had been among Fitz’s tormentors. They do not recognize Fitz at first, but in the night, they seek to come upon him unawares. The Wit prevents it from happening, and, after an inspection that confirms his identity, Fitz tries unsuccessfully to flee.
Fitz wakes once again to pain, and his captors take him off. They soon begin to experience no small gastrointestinal trouble, results of Fitz’s surreptitious poisoning of them. The trouble worsens, and guards begin to die; none of them survive past the next midday. Fitz frees and resupplies himself, and he is bolstered by a faint touch of Nighteyes’s mind upon his through the Wit.
It is hard to be aghast at Fitz’s reactions in the chapter, although he does kill several people in a particularly unpleasant way. Still, they are taking him to be killed–again–in public agony, so it is difficult to feel sorry for his slain captors–even aside from the one who had worked upon Fitz in the previous novel. Hobb does point out through the last of the guards to die that some people simply get swept up in things there is no way they can recognize the overtones or implications of, but, particularly in the present climate, it must be recognized that simply going along and following orders does not absolve a person of responsibility for the aid and support of evil. Not all who are, to follow Arendt, banal in their evil are punished for their complicity as overtly as the unfortunate final captor in this chapter, but some are.
It is another reminder that more people need to heed than do. It is another reminder that evil needs to be opposed–and that what many think evil is not.