The following chapter, “Bolthole,” opens with brief comments about the bleedover of mannerisms between Old Blood and their Wit-partners. It moves swiftly to the resumption of the smuggling party’s journey–early in the morning. Fitz is put in mind of Molly and their child, and Nighteyes queries about it before heading off to hunt. Fitz secures Kettle, and they head off.
Along the way, Kettle discusses her reason for the journey: visiting a prophet rumored to be in the Mountain Kingdom. She describes the veneration of such prophets–the White Prophets–and Fitz puzzles over the words. She also notes Nighteyes’s presence, which Fitz tries unsuccessfully to explain away.
The party camps in an established bolthole–described in the chapter as such–for the night, not necessarily to the joy of all concerned. Kettle quizzes Fitz somewhat sharply, though she shares provisions with him, and they discuss the other travelers before Fitz excuses himself.
Later, Starling wakes Fitz while the others sleep. She quizzes him about himself, and he confirms his possession of the Wit–and other bits of his past. She reveals, in turn, her apprehensions about her future, worrying that her skills are not themselves good enough to secure her later life–but the song she means to make about Fitz will do so. She also rebukes him for his failure to understand Molly and how her life must proceed under the assumption–justified–of his death. And she offers intimate comfort to him that he refuses.
The smuggling party presses on, and Kettle manages to unsettle Fitz with some of what she knows. In the night, he dreams of another Red-Ships raid, sleeping uneasily.
The present chapter is, if memory serves, the first mention of the White Prophets as such. It is something that becomes important again and again later in the Elderlings corpus, so its appearance herein is something to mark.
Something also worth noting is Starling’s rebuke of Fitz for his misunderstanding of Molly. She comments with aspersion on his having blithely assumed that Molly would wait for him despite thinking him dead. To be fair, Fitz has been dead and come back from it, but it seems strange to think that he would think it a blase occurrence–the more so since Burrich, who occasioned the resurrection, thinks him slain again, and as a man gone feral. It is a pointed bit of self-centeredness on Fitz’s part, one that bespeaks his continuing assumption that he is the most important person in the Six Duchies. (Although it is likely true, and it is certainly true that Fitz is the protagonist of the novel, it does not excuse the blithe arrogance.)
Reading affectively, as I seem unable to avoid despite “knowing better,” I think I need to see to my own family for a bit. I can hope they will be waiting for me, largely because I’m not writing this from beyond the grave…