The next chapter, “Confrontations,” opens with a brief musing on diplomacy. It transitions to Fitz’s convalescence amid the Fool having to handle those who seek to approach him as a sort of religious figure–and Starling, whom he rebuffs adroitly.
Amid the disjointed conversations, Fitz learns that Kettricken knows of his daughter and is moving towards legitimizing her as a Farseer heir. Fitz lies to the Fool to disclaim the child in the interest of preserving her from the internecine politics of the family. He determines to see Chade and Kettricken, though with regrets.
Fitz dreams strangely and wakes at least once to see Kettle watching him. He wakes later at Starling’s intrusion, and he learns that Starling has seen Kettricken and told her of Fitz’s child. Fitz’s lie to the Fool comes unraveled, but following the implications of the unraveling is interrupted by the entrance of Kettricken in anger. Chade enters also, and is overjoyed to see Fitz alive. Fitz has to challenge him over the child, however, and Chade replies as he must. Nighteyes inserts himself and offers through the Wit to kill the lot of them, and Fitz, overwhelmed, confesses his compulsion to go to Verity. All save the Fool, whose house it is, leave.
After more odd dreaming, Fitz wakes under the Fool’s care again. They talk together, not entirely comfortably in the wake of Fitz’s lie. Fitz apologizes as best he can, and the Fool lays out what he knows and has reasoned out of the situation. The Fool also lays out some of his prophetic powers reasonably plainly.
The next day sees Fitz suffer having the arrowhead removed from his back. His convalescence continues, perforce, and slowly; he uses it as an excuse to delay doing what he knows he must. He also reconciles with the Fool, as well as handling visits from Starling and Kettle; during a visit form Starling, he learns a fair bit about Chade’s activities. Thoughts of what will come beset him, and it is clear he is not yet recovered.
As I reread the chapter, I find myself amused by the way in which the Fool lampshades existence within a world governed by fate–and a world in which prophecy is possible is one that is thus governed. The wry humor in the Fool turning to puppet-making seems in line with the Fool’s literary antecedents, certainly, and something that fan-artists such as Michelle Tolo, above, take advantage of in their depictions of the Fool. It is an easy enough image to access and understand, that of being puppets on strings, even if it begs the question of who pulls those strings. (Hobb’s treatment of religion in the Elderlings corpus is something about which I spoke at the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies; I imagine I’ll be working on that paper a bit more as I move further through the reread–and, indeed, working on the conference paper helped spur the project.)
Another note, though: Chade’s cruelty. I have noted before the unsettling expectation of loyalty to an oath that passes beyond death. To have it reaffirmed and reinforced…it is not a comfortable thought.