The following chapter, “Dead Man’s Regrets,” starts with an in-milieu musing on the decline of instruction in the Skill in the Six Duchies in the generations leading up to King Shrewd and the Red Ships War. It turns to Fitz waking in the night, concerned with the Fool’s horse, Malta. He rises to bring her in, finds her without difficulty, and takes his time in leading her back to shelter. He reaches out with and muses on his Wit-sense, considering his communion with the broader world as he does so.
As he reaches out, he becomes aware of another Wit-communion, one shared between a boy and a cat. He sets the images aside, takes Malta back in, and retires again for the night.
The next morning, Fitz wakes refreshed; Nighteyes continues to rest and heal, and the Fool attends to some morning chores, marking Fitz’s appearance. They confer about Fitz’s life and circumstances, Fitz musing on the absent Hap and the Fool grousing about Starling, whom he dislikes. He lapses into his fey prophetic mood, and Fitz busies himself with tasks that bring him pleasure. So does the Fool, and Fitz finds himself waxing pensive again as he is prompted to resume his accounts.
His travels took him and Nighteyes to Bingtown and the Rain Wild River, and his Skilling took him to Burrich and Molly and Nettle. Driven by what he sees, he rushes to them, finding them well but older when he arrives, and stopping short of presenting himself to them. He also balks at considering Dutiful, who is the son of his body. The Fool prods him some more, and he begrudgingly acknowledges possibilities before they begin to make their way in to dinner.
I note with some interest that Fitz ascribes a sentient Wit-sense even to some of the trees around him. In that, I read an echo of the Tolkien whom Hobb is on record as prizing. The Prince of Fantasists’ fascination with and appreciation for trees is amply attested by many scholars of far more skill and erudition than I–Luke Shelton among them; for Hobb to point out the Wit-presence of a solid tree, when throughout the previous novels she had not done so, stands out, and the marked occasion invites attention. But it is not to be wondered at that an English-language fantasy author would echo Tolkien; there is a reason the Tales after Tolkien Society has its name, after all…