The next chapter, “Stone Wager,” begins with an in-milieu note about Skill training before moving into the approach of winter and Fitz’s gloss of tasks and progress. He continues to serve the Fool-as-Golden in his role as Badgerlock, passing information along to Chade, and he continues his assignations with Jinna, settling into a predictable routine that he knows is perilous. Still, with no action from the Piebalds or Laudwine, and few items of note from his continued espionage, Fitz flags in his vigilance.
The state of affairs in the Six Duchies appears fairly settled. While animus against those with the Wit remains in place, actions against them are quieted. Fitz takes the time to seek out Hap, learning that he frequents the Stuck Pig with Svanja but finding Laurel drinking there instead. They confer, and Laurel notes that she has been messaged by the Piebalds in the form of killing her horse. Fitz-as-Badgerlock attempts to console her, just as Jinna enters; the hedge-witch leaves in vexation, and Badgerlock is caught in an uncomfortable misunderstanding. He escorts Laurel back to Buckkeep Castle and calls on Chade, with whom he discusses what he has learned.
Fitz is left to consider matters as the winter progresses and he continues on his duties. Starling makes much of her happy marriage, and Fitz finds himself visited in dreams by Nettle. Skill-lessons with Dutiful continue, as well, and Dutiful reports a social gaffe he has made. Fitz offers such advice as he can, though he notes such matters lie outside his expertise.
After Dutiful leaves, Fitz reports to Chade again, finding Think has been summoned. Thick speaks of Dutiful and Nettle, something Chade uses as a rebuke to his erstwhile apprentice and prod him about his daughter and her training. Fitz rejects the idea, though Chade continues to press it. Fitz notes that Black Rolf might be a candidate for training in the Skill instead of Nettle, and Chade reports that Rolf is several years dead from fever. The two reach an accord, and Chade departs.
There’s clearly a lot going on in the chapter, and of the sort that leaves me once again feeling pity for Fitz. It is perhaps a keener thing this time than in previous readings and iterations, because what’s happening with him is more authentic that the higher-fantasy shenanigans that he does get into across the novels where he features. Yes, of course, I expect to see magic and action in a fantasy series, and Hobb does not disappoint in those regards, but it is the tensions of being a parent and in shifting relationships with his own parent-figures, the unfortunately timed misunderstandings surrounding coworkers and something that approaches romance, and trying to make sense of things while working multiple jobs for agencies that would see him to his grave (again) without hesitation if it suited their interests that make Fitz a realized character, one accessible to readers.
I think I just ran myself into the idea that Fitz is a millennial. I’m not sure how to regard that assertion, really, although it does seem to check out. I’ll have to think on it some more, I suppose. But that’s hardly a bad thing,
having getting to think about what I read…