A chapter titled “Bargains” follows, opening with a brief in-milieu commentary on hunting cats before turning to Fitz receiving a clandestine evening summons to the Queen. As he answers it, he rehearses his progress through the day, including an extended musing on weapons practice with Prince Dutiful’s training partner and his assessment of the boy as a solitary figure. He also notes having infiltrated and inspected Dutiful’s suite, as well as his old castle room–which is largely unchanged and untended. When he returns to Lord Golden’s chambers, he accidentally stumbles into a magical experiment the Fool had been conducting, which unsettles him badly, and the Fool passes along the message that Chade wants to see him.
Chade conducts Fitz to the Queen through hidden passages, commenting on their construction along the way. She welcomes Fitz warmly, and after a remarkably friendly exchange, their talk turns to the recovery of Dutiful. Fitz reports that he has no information to offer, and Kettricken affords him two more days to make progress before she will make public the prince’s disappearance. She also grants him full access to the spy tunnels, Fitz musing on what that access will cost him and what it has likely cost Chade. And he agrees to ply his Skill to the extent of his ability, despite knowing what will come afterwards.
Afterward, Chade conducts Fitz back to his hidden chambers, and they confer. The source of the gift of a hunting cat to Dutiful is noted: the Bresingas of Galeton. Fitz advances the idea that a Wit-bond has been offered to the prince without his knowledge or understanding, used to lure him in. At length, Fitz begins to ply his Skill again, and though he does not find Dutiful, he does suffer the deleterious effects of working that magic. Chade eases him as best he can without elfbark, and Fitz suffers the pain poorly. Amid it and Chade’s questions, he notes needing to gather coin for Hap’s apprenticeship; Chade is offended that Fitz thought he must bargain himself so, that he has trusted so few. He sets aside his offense, however, and sends Fitz off to rest as best he can. And as Fitz’s mind slips between wakefulness and sleep, he becomes aware of Dutiful and his location: Galeton.
Fitz’s experience in Skilling rings true for me, not because I have such powers, and not because I am an addict as he is depicted as being, but because I worked with addicts for some time. His rage at having been robbed of his elfbark and his carryme–something of a narcotic, as described–read to me very much like the reactions of addicts to the loss of their preferred substance. So is his swift repentance; I’ve seen no few snap and apologize immediately, and while some might follow Chade and note that “sorry” only works so many times, others might recognize the changes to brain structures and chemistries that chemical dependencies cause. I, at least, tend to be more sympathetic–but that’s me; again, I’ve not been an addict or suffered at the hands of one, so I know my opinions come from places of privilege. Others’ experiences differ; so, too, will their readings.