The succeeding chapter, “Lessons,” is introduced with an in-milieu commentary regarding the formation of coteries–groups of allied Skill-users. It proceeds thence to Dutiful raging at Fitz-as-Badgerlock for his perceived delinquency; Fitz takes the boy in hand and muses over the contents of the chamber in which he conducts Dutiful’s Skill lessons, rehearsing some of the history of the Skill scrolls within. He lays out his background and training in the Skill, glossing what details he can. Fitz also notes his training in the Wit, which is even scantier than his formal study of the Skill.
Fitz and Dutiful also discuss Civil Bresinga, whom Dutiful notes is trained in the Wit. Dutiful also lays out why he continues to trust the other youth, despite his family’s involvement in his kidnapping. Fitz mulls over matters, and the two of them proceed in the Skill instruction, Fitz somewhat hesitant, Dutiful willingly. They hear Thick’s Skilled music and Dutiful finds himself swept up by the Skill, Fitz plunging into the magic after him. He retrieves the Prince and steadies him in his body as he considers his own experiences with the magic.
After admonishing Dutiful not to stray back into the Skill, Fitz ends the lesson. On his way out, Dutiful asks about Fitz’s entanglement with Golden, citing Civil’s assertion of Golden’s homosexuality. Fitz sets aside the Prince’s concerns and, as Dutiful leaves, considers other adjustments that need to be made. He also mulls over reports exchanged with Chade, as well as the ferret–Gilly–that he now has. Their talk ranges to current events and trade arrangements before returning to the Skill and Skill pillars, Fitz urging Chade to caution.
Following the conference with Chade, Fitz spies out Civil, musing on the dullness of the subject, and returns to the hidden tower room. There, he encounters Thick, with whom he attempts some rapprochement. There is limited progress on that front, and Fitz falls asleep after Thick departs.
I note Fitz’s comment that “it seemed to me that someone else almost spoke to me, in a distant echo of thought” as he retrieves Dutiful from the Skill. Such things have been mentioned before, spectral figures glimpsed only in passing through the eldritch veils of magic. There is some suggestion in the text as to what they are, but memory does not serve at present to bring up any specific identification–something that might frustrate many fantasy readers, who often like to have things spelled out, but I recall something of Tolkien’s comments about unattainable vistas and the bones from which the soup is made. I am curious, of course, but I accept that not all things can be revealed or need to be.
I note, too, Dutiful’s clear distaste for homosexuality when he asks Fitz about Golden. Once again, other scholars have spoken to the queerness of the Fool and the overall Realm of the Elderlings narrative, far more eloquently and eruditely than is mine to do; their works are attested here, and I encourage exploration of them. I note again, however, that the explicit inclusion of homosexuality and tensions surrounding it frustrates the assertion that the Wit is primarily a metaphor for homosexuality–one that was always somewhat fraught, really. I’ve remarked on it repeatedly before, so I’ll not belabor the point–save to note that it is once again there to make.