The next chapter, “The Mountains,” opens with a gloss of the legended early history of the Mountain Kingdom. It moves thence to Fitz’s account of how Kettricken supplied her intended expedition to find Verity–or his fate. Starling will accompany them; Chade will not, but must return to Buck. He leaves gifts for his sullen former pupil, about which Fitz complains somewhat when the Fool presents them; the Fool forces Fitz to consider Chade’s perspective on things, as well.
The Fool also offhandedly notes an intent to accompany Fitz, despite the cold and peril. Kettle is more pointed in her assertion that she will also go along. But they are rushed to depart by news of a messenger from Regal that has asked for a goodwill gesture to deescalate hostilities: the return of the fugitive Fitz. And they depart in that haste, taking the already-packed supplies, but themselves and no others; Starling catches up slightly after, somewhat angry, but quickly silenced by Kettricken’s terse manner. When Nighteyes rejoins them somewhat later, he notes that Kettle is following, slowly but in high dudgeon; when, at length, she arrives, she and Kettricken quickly arrive at what seems a prickly understanding.
They proceed thus for several days until Kettricken queries Fitz about Verity’s likely earlier actions. When she asks him to reach out to Verity through the Skill, he refuses, citing the danger posed by Regal’s Skilled servants and their abilities. He also notes their likely earlier interference in the defense of the Six Duchies, which rouses cold ire in Kettricken. And he feels the powerful pull of the Skill upon him, more than is normal for him.
I have argued before that the Realm of the Elderlings, despite clear parallels to the Tolkienian-tradition fantasy milieu of an analogue to the Western Europe of the High Middle Ages, reads better as derived from North America. Part of the argument has to do with the fauna described in the region. The present chapter amends that conclusion somewhat; the Realm of the Elderlings borrows from the Americas more generally, though the emphasis remains on the Pacific Northwest for reasons I elaborate on in Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms.
The amendment comes in the form of the jeppas, the beasts of burden Kettricken determines to employ despite Fitz’s objections. They are described as like “long-necked goats with paws instead of hooves,” a description that brings to mind the llama. Domesticated animals used primarily to haul some loads up the steep slopes of the Andes, yielding hair and, at need, meat, they seem to be a solid parallel to the jeppas–something that ties the milieu more to the Western Hemisphere than the Eastern, even if they are somewhat displaced even within that analogy. Still, it is a bit more a remove from the Tolkienian tradition, a bit more an association with not-as-commonly-depicted-in-fantasy places, and that is and remains good to see.
Imaginings should be broad.