The next chapter, “Jek,” opens with an in-milieu translated commentary regarding the violent removal by Tintaglia of Chalcedean forces from Bingtown Harbor. It pivots, then, to Fitz returning wearily to his assigned chambers from his audience with Chade and Kettricken, rehearsing how it had gone–which was not entirely well for him.
When he returns to the chamber, Fitz finds Jek present, which disconcerts him. After an increasingly tense exchange, during which Fitz introduces himself as Tom Badgerlock, the Fool-as-Golden returns, recognizing Jek immediately and leading to some awkwardness all around. Badgerlock is dismissed, but Fitz spies out the reunion of the two and muses bitterly on the performative aspects of the Fool’s identity. Jek reports events down the Cursed Shores and in the Pirate Isles, noting what is said of Kennit’s child and of Althea and Brashen Trell.
Fitz fumes at the revelation, withdrawing and rebuking himself as he stalks through the hidden corridors of Buckkeep Castle. He spies out the Narcheska, finding her assailed magically via intricate tattoos of dragons and Peottre doing what he can to ease the girl’s sufferings. Fitz ascends to Chade’s tower room, grumbles about the lack of attention paid it by Thick, and writes out a report for the old assassin.
Descending, Badgerlock goes out into the common areas, where he is confronted by Selden. The Vestrit youth plies him for information, which questioning Badgerlock deflects through his servant’s manner. It is a near thing, though, and he stalks off in some haste, thinking about what will happen and purposing to see about Hap. Along the way, Starling confronts him, and an angry exchange ensues that leaves Fitz hollow. He proceeds to drink too much, and he goes to Jinna to apologize to her. At length, and after rebuking him for his many follies, she accepts the apology, and they return to some accord.
A couple things pop out to me in the present chapter. One is a bit of internal inconsistency that annoys; Althea’s sister is repeatedly identified as Malta–her niece–rather than as Keffria. It’s a small bit of editing mishap that might’ve been corrected in subsequent printings–I hope it has been–but I can only read the copy of the novel I have…
The other is something about which several of the entries in the Fedwren Project concern themselves: the Fool’s performed gender-fluidity. I’ll note here, as I have in many other situations, that those who have applied themselves to that study have done so with far greater insight and skill than is mine to employ, certainly at this point in my life, when I am so far away from academe as I am. I’ll note, too, that many people deal with similar situations, if not presented as forcefully as with the Fool. How many of us, as children, were shocked to learn that our teachers existed outside the classroom when we ran into them at the grocery store or the gas station? How many of us, upon finding out that our parents are people, felt they had failed us? How many of us, seeing our children grow away from us, are stunned by the realization that they are separate little people?
Something to consider.