The next chapter, “The Tawny Man,” opens with what seem to be Fitz’s later recorded musings on the Old Blood and its presence in the lands claimed by the Six Duchies. It turns to Fitz rehearsing the passage of time while Hap is away, things going generally well despite Fitz longing for something else, for which Nighteyes chides him.
They are interrupted by the sudden arrival of a mounted visitor, whom they are surprised and elated to see is the Fool, almost unrecognizable for his golden hue. They begin reconnecting almost immediately, returning swiftly to their old friendship, and the Fool makes a brief loan of his fine horse, Malta, to Fitz, who delights in the brief ride he takes upon her and returns to his home to find the Fool preparing dinner. They sit to eat and confer, the Fool noting that he has returned to Fitz to employ him again towards creating a better future. The Fool also notes being exceedingly wealthy from adventures near Bingtown amid their conversations, and they give each other broad information about their years apart. The Fool presses for more, noting that he will be staying, and they go to bed, the Fool offering his old teasing once again as they do.
I do note with some amusement that the Fool named his horse Malta. It’s another clue about something that emerges, as memory serves, more fully and explicitly in the text of the present novel; the book’s old enough that spoiler warnings don’t really apply, but I’ll still hold off on the discussion–even if it should be pretty obvious at this point.
I’m taken more by the depiction of the friendship between Fitz and the Fool that presents itself in the present chapter. It seems to me an enviable thing, even if I am not entirely sure how I ought to read it. After all, it is a work of fiction, and fiction focuses and accentuates by its very nature; done well, it gives the appearance of truth without pretending to be the truth, denying that it is the truth in its very name, but that does force the question of whether any or all of what it depicts is, in fact, a lie. Can such friendships only exist between such as the Fool and Fitz, neither of them beings that could exist in the readers’ world? Or is the friendship one of the most human things about them, the impossible characters made to seem more true because they have something which some share and to which others aspire? It goes to the very value of fiction as a practice; it is a question with which I grappled and will soon help others to grapple with as I continue to ponder what focus my classes will have, generally and in this instructional year…