The next chapter, “Fool’s Kiss,” opens with another in-milieu commentary from Badgerlock’s Old Blood Tales before pivoting into Fitz following Nighteyes, finding him at length and offering some small treatment. The two confer briefly about how they will proceed, Fitz worried for the wolf as he returns uneasily to the Bresinga household. There, he resumes his role as Badgerlock to the Fool’s Golden, and the latter works along a plot to effect their speedy departure, if at the cost of some scandal.
Badgerlock accompanies Golden, with Fitz musing ruefully upon it, as the latter returns to the Bresingas’ great hall, where he flirts audaciously with another guest, making himself the happy center of her willing intentions. Badgerlock watches with a strained equanimity as Golden continues to press his flirtation, noting the reactions of others present. They confirm to him that no few present are of the Old Blood, and he begins to reason through implications thereof. He is prevented for further observation by Golden’s dismissal of him, but he learns no small amount through listening to servants’ talk as he scrounges his own meal from the leftovers.
Some time later, after he has managed to slip back to his quarters, Badgerlock is summoned to attend to Golden, who is clearly suffering the ill effects of too much strong drink. Once he has retrieved Golden, he asks what has happened; the Fool replies that he kissed the Bresingas’ son, Civil, which event will occasion their shamefaced departure the next morning. And when that morning comes, Fitz emerges to find the Fool making himself look all the worse, so as to ease their leave-taking; the formalities are accomplished, and Golden, Laurel, and Badgerlock depart the Bresingas’ household in their continued search for Dutiful. Bidden, Badgerlock rushes off ahead to where Nighteyes has continued to track the Prince; they continue their pursuit, joined at length by Laurel and Golden. Matters grow tense with Laurel, who has suffered social pains at the hands of the Old Blood, and who has not been wholly honest with Badgerlock. And in the night, Fitz reaches out with the Skill, not finding Dutiful but instead a sense of simple peace.
Ah, here it is: the place where the idea that the Wit is a metaphor for homosexuality begins to get…frustrated. Here, Hobb begins to bring in overt homoeroticism–a tacit had been possible early in the Farseer novels, as well as afterwards–and, to my eye at least, it is difficult for a thing to be made a metaphor for something present and direct in the text. A hint is not an open statement, after all. I do not know yet, because I have not gotten to a place where I can think about it yet, whether or not the presentation of homoeroticism here–which becomes somewhat more later–is homophobic, as such; certainly there are homophobic characters, but I do not recall as I write this if they are depicted…well, anyway, it will be something to consider as I look at the novel again, as I keep looking, as I keep wanting to do.