The next chapter, “Blue Lake,” opens with a brief description of the titular lake and town. It moves thence to Fitz walking through the night and into day back towards the watering hole where he had been captured. He takes some time to rest, eat, and clean his wounds; when he sleeps again, he dreams of Burrich and Molly once again. The dream reaffirms to him, painfully, that those in his old life think him dead.
At length, Fitz reaches Blue Lake and considers his situation. He describes the town as he reaches it, noting its low and sprawling nature. He also resupplies as best as he is able with his limited resources. He is stymied, though, when he tries to book passage across the lake, and finds a place in an inn for the duration. Lodging there allows him to learn the local gossip, which eases his apprehensions about being captured–at first. Fitz learns not long after that Regal himself is out on the search for him.
Fitz makes to surveil the lodgings Regal is reported to have secured. He also plots how he will make another attempt on the usurper. As he moves to enact that plan, a weasel, sent to him by the final urgings of its bonded Old Blood partner, warns Fitz of a trap awaiting him–one in which Will is involved. Fitz thanks the weasel for the warning and speeds him on his way to his own vengeance.
When Fitz returns to his inn after aborting his mission, the minstrel Starling greets him, offering to share a meal and tidings with him. Fitz apprehensively agrees; she reiterates to him that she seeks a song that will survive her, and he once again tries to put her off. She persists, however, and lets him know that there are still smugglers working to move people and goods between the Six Duchies and the Mountain Kingdom, despite Regal’s decree of a closed border. Starling offers to take him to them, and she notes that his actions in Buck had saved her brother. It eases him.
Once again, it is difficult not to read the chapter against current politics, with ostensible hardening of borders at the behest of corrupt leadership juxtaposed with the continued permeability of those borders. The last part of the chapter, in which Starling tells Fitz that his actions had done some good in the world, is a welcome bit of respite. Hobb makes a habit of putting Fitz into less-than-pleasant situations, and he does not respond optimally to them, in the main. (I am not claiming I could do better, of course, but one need not be able to do a thing to know that a thing can be done. How many coaches train people to perform better than they themselves ever did?) To have outside acknowledgement that the things he has done were helpful, even if only in small ways and only temporarily, seems a particular blessing. It is something I have occasionally enjoyed; every so often, a former student lets me know they’re doing well or thanks me, and it is gratifying.
In Hobb, though, it promises that worse is yet to come…