The next chapter, “Feeding the Dragon,” opens with a note about the progress of the Red-Ship raids against the Six Duchies, with raids striking into the central regions of the kingdom while few troops remained to repel them. It continues with Verity and Fitz returning to the party, which has anxiously awaited them. Nighteyes exults in Fitz’s return and in being able to convey need to Kettricken. Kettle reveals that Verity had taken her to the Skill-river to enhance her power, at which Fitz grows jealous and protests his treatment.
Reports of events and findings are exchanged, and the party deploys itself in response to the new information. Fitz tries to get more information from Verity and Kettle about the dragon, and they answer as they are able, but words do not suffice, and Skilling is too perilous in the circumstances to attempt. Kettle does note to Fitz, though, that Verity refuses to give him to the dragon, despite Fitz’s offer and Verity’s ability.
Less comfortably for Fitz, she also notes to him that he does have memories of his mother, despite his protestations. She also notes to him that Molly is beyond his reach, now, and ever after, the time in their lives when they could have loved as they did having passed. Fitz grows angry with the news and moves to confront Verity, who takes the anger from him and puts it into the dragon. Fitz is left with a better understanding of things in the wake of it. Verity also thanks Fitz for helping him to feel again, to have food for the dragon he carves with Kettle.
Stymied, Fitz retires for the night. The next day, he hunts with little success with Nighteyes and Kettricken, though they fish successfully. After, realizing that Verity has stopped work, Fitz rushes to his king’s side, the rest of the party joining. But though the carving is done, the dragon does not quicken, and Verity despairs. He and Kettle soon fall to sleep, exhausted by their work, leaving Fitz and the others to tend to them.
The comments in the present chapter about the insufficiency of words are interesting to read, coming from an author, whose craft depends entirely on the appropriate arrangement of words. Hobb writes in other places about the importance of getting words right, as I have discussed elsewhere, so it is perhaps surprising to have the admission that words are not enough.
But that it is a surprise does not mean it is untrue, of course. Words are slippery, for one thing. Back when I had students to teach and thought I could do well at that work, I would talk with them about such things, looking at the word “blue” and noting the many meanings it has even when restricted to color. That there is so much variation in so simple a word shows that there is space within words as between them, and much lingers in those spaces.
And there is this, too: Hobb writes in a milieu that admits of forces and powers not present in the readers’ world. We who read her work do not have access to the phenomena at work in the Six Duchies; we do not have the experience of things that would allow us to understand words that fit them. It works well, thus, that there are not words given for what happens.