The following chapter, “Kettle,” opens with an account of Kettricken’s removal to Jhaampe and her searches for Verity in the Mountain Kingdom. It moves thence to Fitz joining the smuggling party’s preparations for departure. More have joined, and Fitz replaces one of the regular cart-drivers who has fallen ill. He finds himself charged with driving an old woman who complains of the changes.
The party sets out through the snowstorm, and Fitz attempts to chat with his passenger. She is generally quiet, however, though she does identify herself to him as Kettle; he recognizes her as being from Buck Duchy, which she does not deny. They do warm towards one another as the day goes on and the party makes camp for the night. The disposition of the smugglers in the camp eases Fitz somewhat, and Starling eases the rest with her music.
Fitz is disturbed from his following rest by the return of Nighteyes, who glosses his adventures with a far-away wolf-pack. They confer, and Nighteyes reveals that he is bound by Verity’s command no less than Fitz is; they depth of their connection startles Fitz. He finds, too, that he must account for Nighteyes to the party, which he does–though clever phrasing is needed to quiet Starling’s questions before they form.
Later in the night, Fitz feels the touch of Regal’s mind through the Skill. It unnerves him, though he realizes it is not directed towards him. He is more disturbed when he sees what Regal is able to do through the Skill, and he learns that Regal still searches for him along the paths to the Mountain Kingdom. Nighteyes offers some small reassurance.
Yet again, I find myself pressed not to read a novel written decades ago against current political events. In the chapter, Hobb, through Fitz, describes Regal as parasitic, “as a tick or leech [that] bites into its victim and clings and sucks life from” that victim–Will, in the present case. It is a particularly vivid image, apt enough for a despotic and illegitimate ruler. It is also one that seems to be something at odds with what such an awareness as the Wit provides would suggest. I comment in another webspace about the recognition of a (presumably non-Old Blood) falconer that such creatures as vultures and cockroaches serve useful purposes in the world despite their unsavory presentation; something similar would seem to be called for here. Fitz, however, uses parasites as similes for Regal, whom he hates
To borrow from Malory, the parasites “but did their kind” and do not deserve opprobrium for it–the more so because it is implied that such creatures do not really register to the Wit. That is, the milieu suggests that within it, although wolves and bears and eagles and weasels are sentient enough to conduct conversations through the Wit, smaller invertebrates are not. If they are not sentient, as other creatures–to include Regal–are, then they cannot be held to account for their actions, as such, and it seems…out of keeping with the milieu for one of the Old Blood to look down upon natural processes so.