The next chapter, “Lessons,” opens with in-milieu comments regarding training in the Skill before pivoting to Dutiful’s convalescence following the trauma of his bonded beast’s loss–and Fitz’s numbed endurance of his own bereavement. They are in foul mood and not much better form as they make their way back to Buckkeep, somewhat circuitously. At one stop, Fitz-as-Badgerlock is obliged to call on the performing minstrel, Starling Birdsong, despite misgivings. She offers to take him back into her bed for the night; he refuses again, meeting her harsh rebuke.
After, while the Fool-as-Golden is out, Dutiful and Badgerlock confer about his true origins, the Prince guessing at Badgerlock’s Farseer blood but utterly misidentifying its source. They also commiserate over the losses of their bonded beasts, and Fitz ponders deeply until he falls asleep. He wakes to find the Fool back in their rooms–despite the door having been locked from the inside. The two confer briefly before Dutiful wakes, and Golden excuses himself so that Dutiful and Badgerlock can confer. Dutiful asks Badgerlock to be his teacher for both his magics, and Badgerlock reluctantly and partially agrees; he recognizes that the Prince has been remarkably isolated, which facilitated the Piebalds’ efforts against him. Further conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Laurel, who marks the resumption by the Prince of his dignity, and, upon Golden’s return with the news that matters are arranged, Dutiful bids the group be off, and Golden pledges himself to Dutiful as he had to Verity and Shrewd before.
The present chapter does much to mark out the homoerotic tensions between Fitz and the Fool that scholars have commented upon; several of them are noted here, their works far more erudite than anything I do and therefore all the more worthy of consideration. The last passage, particularly, does so, with the detailed descriptions of intertwining hands and touch-driven magics at work. The passage also runs to homosocial bonding, with Fitz noting the particular lack of it in Dutiful; given the Prince’s report of his upbringing and his noted status as an only child, it makes sense enough that he would feel isolated. There is certainly peril in such isolation, not only in making Dutiful susceptible to the influence of the Piebalds, but also in creating such figures as Regal, whose jealousy of Chivalry and Verity a generation back occasioned so much harm. And while it is to be expected that a ruler will be alone in some ways–leadership always imposes some distance–to have had no close contact has to have been a heavy burden for the boy.
Yes, I’m reading affectively again. But I’m reading, still.