The next chapter, “The Wit and the Sword,” opens with a gloss of the history between the Six Duchies and the Out Islands, naming the leader of the Forging Red-Ship Raiders: Kebal Rawbread. It moves into Verity’s refusal of Fitz’s assistance in carving the dragon; Verity knows Fitz does not know what he offers and refuses him on those grounds. A following exchange leaves Fitz ashamed as Verity and Kettle leave off work for the day.
As Fitz checks up on the rest of the party, he finds himself drawn to check in on Molly and Burrich through the Skill. He finds them in the midst of an attack, and while Burrich defends them as adeptly as could be hoped, he is one man against many. Molly, however, uses her knowledge of bees and their ways to drive off the attackers in fear, saving Burrich and Nettle. Verity pulls Fitz away from the unintended Skilling with more words of caution.
The next morning sees Fitz and the Fool confer before they, Nighteyes, and Kettricken go out into the surrounding woods to gather supplies. When they return with fish and firewood, they find that Verity and Kettle have made progress on the dragon, and Verity summons Fitz to him to begin a task. He is to return through the standing stones–Skill-pillars–to the garden where the other carved dragons rest, there to attempt to rouse them.
Fitz goes, and he finds that the dragons seem more to have alighted where they rest than to have been carved in place. While he is about that work, he spies some of Regal’s forces and realizes his peril and Verity’s. Fitz makes to eliminate the immediate peril, setting a trap for the soldiers that have come. One falls to his machinations, and another to a suddenly arrived Verity, who accepts the surrender of the third, tasking him to herald is imminent return. The soldier, Tag, flees on the errand, and Fitz and Verity return to the quarry.
There are another few instances of deus ex machina in the chapter, both occasioned by Verity–his emergence from the Skill-pillar and his resharpening of his sword. The latter, at least, receives some lampshading in Verity’s comment that he “should have known [he] could do that,” so it does not rankle as much as might otherwise be expected, even aside from the issues about the device noted in the previous entry in this series.
Perhaps more important is the reconnection to the greater narrative milieu the chapter presents. Much of the discourse of Hobb’s novels hinges on foreshadowing and precognition, and both the names Kebal Rawbread and Tag, son of Reaver, first noted in the present chapter, factor into future novels in the series. It might be remarked, somewhat cynically but not without merit, that Hobb is setting up for sequels to a trilogy that should be bounded and contained (and the Farseer trilogy does work well as an isolated thing), but it is something that makes sense within the greater context of the narrative milieu.
And it is good to have more to read.