The succeeding chapter, “Scrolls,” begins with part of an in-milieu folk tale before marking the departure of the Outislanders from Buckkeep. Fitz rehearses some of the fallout from the challenges Elliania and Dutiful had put to one another, as well as arrangements for Dutiful’s coming trip to the Outislands and his itinerary therein. He notes that many Six Duchies nobles also began to depart, but that the Bingtown delegation did not. This includes Jek, around whom Fitz continues to be markedly uncomfortable.
Fitz also notes that Laurel is gone. Chade has precious little information to offer, only noting that the Queen gave her permission to go out and agreed to keep the nature of the errand a secret. Rumor reports that Laudwine is returning to power among the Pieblads, and Fitz mulls over developments with Dutiful and Thick, both. He also notes his certainty of a Wit-using spy in Buckkeep (other than himself), one that had possibly compromised Chade’s hidden chambers. When Chade and Thick arrive in those chambers, Fitz is distracted from his intent to discuss that concern by Chade’s own worries. And Kettricken’s command that a dedicated search for Skill-users be conducted, which includes Nettle.
Fitz balks at the idea and muses on his insufficiencies. He manages to get Chade to agree to request of Kettricken that she leave Nettle out of things, albeit begrudgingly. And he does report his suspicion of the Wit-using spy, providing evidence to support the conjecture. Chade notes worsening affairs among the Bresingas at Galekeep, positing that the Piebalds are using the estate to regroup and reorganize. The old assassin provides some additional documents to Fitz and leaves Thick in his care. Fitz finds himself comparing his attitude towards Thick to Galen‘s toward himself, and he begins to soften towards him. He finds himself empathizing with Thick more and more, seeing himself in the other.
A couple of things stand out to me as I reread the chapter this time. One is that Nettle is strangely back in play as a bargaining item among the Farseers. If memory serves, Fitz had already successfully secured agreement, and more than once, that Nettle would not be roped into service to the Farseer throne, particularly with the Skill; that matters have shifted to require another negotiation…I’m not sure if it was an authorial / editorial nodding-off (quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus–aut Robin) or a retraction from Kettricken or what. Still, it invites attention, and not necessarily good attention, either.
The other is the strange position Fitz takes with Thick. It is not until he begins to see himself in Thick that he begins to treat him kindly, really. I know that much of the appeal of the Fitz-centric novels–of the Elderlings novels, generally–is that their protagonists are flawed, and Fitz does have reason to dislike Thick; he is something of an ass to him. But it still smacks of…problems that Fitz does not react well until he can begin to equate Thick to himself. After all, a person shouldn’t need to experience mistreatment to believe it happens, or to know that it’s wrong…