The following chapter, “The City,” opens with comments about a reported old road in the Mountain Kingdom. It moves thence to Fitz’s addled stumblings through a strange city that befuddles his senses–mundane and otherwise. It takes him some time to regain his bearings and begin to puzzle out what surrounds him, and even then, what he encounters confuses him.
The day draws on, and Fitz finds himself growing chill; he builds a fire to warm himself, and its light reveals the decrepitude of his actual surroundings, different from the bustling city that presents itself to him from the past in images excited by his touch. At length, he begins to sleep and to dream in the Skill; he first sees Molly and Nettle, their daughter. He then sees Chade conferring with a lover and ally about Regal’s actions against the Mountain Kingdom; they seem to make little sense.
When morning comes, Fitz begins to explore again, moving through the recollected city in some awe. Among the images are dragons, and Fitz proceeds to find a position to survey his surroundings more thoroughly. The survey reveals the aftereffects of a cataclysm, as well as a map that Fitz realizes Verity will have used and copied. He scrambles to make his own copy before falling into Skill-visions again. Bewildered and frantic, he staggers back to where he had entered the city: a stone pillar. Passing through it, he emerges to find Nighteyes happily greeting his return.
This was another chapter where I found myself having difficulty following along. I begin to worry about it; I am supposed to be a damned good reader, and having challenges in rereading something I have read several times before–more than several times, really–does not suggest itself as a good thing. Admittedly, the action in the chapter is described as being confusing in itself, with Fitz shifting frames of perception from his present circumstances to those recorded and re-presented by the construction of the city without much obvious transition; my earlier comments that the reading should follow the action still obtain. I’m just taken a bit aback that I’m not used to it again by this point, is all.
Maybe that is more revelatory of me than of the text. I’ve noted, perhaps too often, that I am out of academe, moving from trying to earn citizenship in that strange country to being an expatriate from it to being now only an occasional vacationer therein. (I do still list as an “academic expatriate” in conference registrations, though perhaps “intellectual vacationer” might be a better label to use henceforth.) As I am farther and farther removed from daily work of reading and thinking and writing, it makes sense that my abilities to do such things fade. I am less than I was in those ways; I wonder what I have earned from the exchange.