A chapter titled “The Stone Garden” follows. It begins with a note about a lost keep in the Six Duchies. It moves then to the party’s continued travel–off of the Skill road and onto a normal, now-overgrown track that occasions complaint from all save Fitz and Nighteyes. Fitz puts the matter of Starling to the Fool; the Fool, in turn, deflects the conversation with accustomed mockery. It does not help matters.
As they press on, Fitz ruminates about Molly and Burrich. And, as a surprise, they come to a statue of a dragon. Described in detail, it unnerves Fitz; his Wit reads it and the other dragon statues as living. His warnings do not dissuade the other members of the party from investigating the statues further. Fitz and Kettricken confer about their surroundings, and Kettricken purposes to search for Verity in the one place shown on their map that they have yet to reach.
As they make camp, Fitz purposes to go off hunting. Starling offers to accompany him, which surprises him, but he does not refuse her. She proves something of a distraction to Fitz as he works with the wolf, the more so as she tries to explain herself and her stance to him. Fitz is taken aback by it, and they confer with unaccustomed frankness. In the wake of the talk, Starling offers herself to Fitz; he ineptly deflects the offer. And that night, he dreams strange dreams once again.
As I read the chapter again, I remembered that the text is presented as if composed by Fitz many years after the events being depicted. I do not question the character’s recall; enough things are glossed over, and enough is made of his training in various mental disciplines, that it does not pass credulity. But I am struck by the degree to which he recalls his dreams; I rarely if ever do, and certainly not for long after I have them. That is, I occasionally remember that I have dreamt, and I remember waking with the memory of a dream in mind, but I almost never remember the content of my dreams with any detail. I know I am not necessarily representative in this; a lot of people remember their dreams vividly. But it is something that stands out to me.
Too, Fitz’s sudden insight into Starling’s situation resonated with me. It is clear to me that part of the way in which Fitz subverts expectations of common fantasy protagonists (about which I write somewhat ineptly here) is in treating such concerns; protagonists typically either need not treat them or never know they need to do so. Fitz may belatedly realize others have the perspectives that they do, but he does come to realize so much, and that marks him as rare among his kindred–both in the milieu and in the genre.