The subsequent chapter, “Tidings from Bingtown,” begins with an in-milieu commentary regarding the perils of trading along the Cursed Shores, from Chalced down to Bingtown. It pivots to Fitz-as-Badgerlock arriving at the shop where Hap is apprenticing and confronting the youth about his assignations with Svanja. Recalling his folly with Molly, he rebukes Hap for his incaution, to no avail as the teenager stalks off to his apprenticeship. Chewing on his regrets, Fitz returns to Buckkeep Castle and to the Fool-as-Golden, learning from the Fool that Chade expects the two of them to observe a meeting from the Bingtown Traders and Kettricken in which an alliance between Bingtown and the Six Duchies against Chalced will be up for discussion.
After some preparation and some difficulties in navigation, Fitz and the Fool take up a position to observe the reception of Bingtown’s embassy. Fitz Skills a warning to Dutiful, noting the reaction of one of the embassy’s members to the use of the magic, and the two listen to the presentations and speeches being made. The thrust of the matter is presented: Bingtown seeks a military alliance with the Six Duchies–perhaps to include the Mountain Kingdom, as well–against Chalced. One of the ambassadors, Selden Vestrit, announces himself and his mission from Tintaglia, speaking of “true dragons” in a way that scandalizes the court and deeply offends Kettricken. Chade manages to call for a recess, and Fitz and the Fool make their way to Chade’s hidden chambers.
Secreted away, and over brandy, the two confer, Fitz musing bitterly on his old follies and the Fool offering such philosophical comfort as there is for the pain of nostalgia. Fitz recalls an earlier conversation the two had had and asks about Bingtown’s dragons, at which prompting, the Fool offers a reasonably straightforward discussion of the creatures and a gloss of their history. When Fitz asks about why the information had not been given to Chade and Kettricken, the Fool cites his existence as the Prophet, rather than the Catalyst, which vexes Fitz, again.
Chade arrives at the chamber shortly after. He notes that, in the wake of the recess with the Bingtowners, Elliania and Peottre “required” an audience with Kettricken, in which they argued against “any sort of alliance with ‘those dragon-breeders'” and occasioned a sharp retort from Kettricken. Fitz asks for a conference with Kettricken, Dutiful, and Chade to present information.
Doing the write-up for this chapter began to feel like a little bit of a research project–which is a good thing for me, as might be imagined. (I kept going back to school for more such things, after all.) The chapter calls back to several other points in the series, as is entirely sensible; it helps the verisimilitude of a novel or series of them to be internally consistent, and one way of promoting that consistency is to make reference, overt or tacit, back to previous events. Pulling up the references, while perhaps a bit of tedium for many, tickles my nerdy fancy. It’s like piecing a puzzle together, really, although I enjoy doing it more than I do solving jigsaw puzzles (on my own; they’re more fun with others).
I do see some strain in the current chapter, though, related to the callbacks. The tension centers on the dragons–the biological and constructed ones. In some ways, the present chapter reads as an attempt at canon welding, with concomitant problems. Certainly, ideas can and should evolve over time, and writers’ work will necessarily shift as the writer does. That doesn’t mean things are always harmonious, however, and attempts to sing those chords sometimes result in dissonances–productive, perhaps, but not necessarily always so. I’ve not always regarded it kindly, myself; how it might change as I continue to reread, I do not know. Yet.