The penultimate chapter in the novel, “Homecoming,” begins with in-milieu comments from Fedwren about the relationships between the Six Duchies and the Out Islands before turning to Dutiful’s party arriving at Buckkeep Town. Fitz-as-Badgerlock notes the shifting social arrangements among the party as they make their return, feeling some pique that Laurel only speaks to him because the Fool-as-Golden is occupying the Prince’s attentions.
As they approach the capital, Badgerlock notes that the town seems to be decked out for revelry; he learns that the expected arrival from the Out Islands of a delegation–including Dutiful’s intended–has come early. Golden and Laurel ride ahead, and Badgerlock takes Dutiful aside to a clandestine entrance to the castle so that the ruse of his private meditations may be maintained. Rain begins to fall, and Chade uses the cover of it to spirit Dutiful into the castle, leaving Badgerlock to conduct their horses through more normal means back into Buckkeep proper. He watches the procession from the Out Islands along the way, and he sees to the horses once he is finally in the keep itself.
So much done, Fitz takes himself circuitously up to Chade’s tower, where a meal and a bath await him. He indulges in both and falls asleep, only to be woken later by Chade. The two confer about events, exchanging reports, and Fitz is shocked to note that Chade has ceded a position to him.
I don’t normally make much of the hero’s journey paradigm. I know it’s often used in teaching, and it does provide a convenient entry into looking at plots, but it is also not as applicable as many of its proponents claim it is. One former colleague of mine–former because I left the institution, not because she did–was notable for trying to read all works through that lens, something that even a number of undergraduate students recognized was not especially helpful. In the present chapter, there is perhaps something of the hero’s return and accommodation to a changed world; Fitz is taking a new position, and he is changed in advance of his taking that position. But he does not return to (public) accolade, and he is very much not a hero, although he is clearly the protagonist of the current novel. At best, the paradigm is an imperfect fit; it would be better, perhaps, to say that Hobb’s rendition is a more nuanced and authentic one than much of the escapist fantasy that is published and read.