The next chapter, “Laudwine,” opens with an in-milieu commentary about a former King of the Six Duchies, Shield, and the formation of his coterie. It turns to Fitz intercepted by Starling as he heads into Buckkeep Town. A difficult exchange follows that returns the two to friendship although not to intimacy–though Fitz intuits that Chade has been at work again.
After Starling goes on her way–also into town, where she purposes to mend her relationship with Hap–Fitz proceeds, noting Civil Bresinga’s rapid overtaking of him along the way. In town, Fitz picks up some goods for Thick, and he manages to determine the location of the Piebalds in the town. As he does, he overhears Civil bracing up against the Piebalds, who have held his mother hostage, and he hears them begin to kill Civil as Dutiful Skills to him in a panic. Fitz charges in, and melee ensues. He slays Laudwine and the rest of the present Piebalds, rescuing Civil and bidding him flee, but he suffers substantial injury in the process. Local forces arrive and try to question Fitz as he collapses into unconsciousness.
I recall a comment made about Fitz, namely that “the most distinctive part of [his] fighting style is the incredible way [he has] of surviving it.” It rings true in the present chapter, certainly, with Fitz being stabbed low in the back and losing consciousness at the end of it. Admittedly, Fitz has endured several substantial injuries previously in Hobb’s narration, and that he has functioned as well as he has in their wake does, perhaps, strain credulity to some extent–but Hobb does work with standard fantasy tropes, and superhuman endurance is a commonplace in the genre. The tensions between verisimilitude and the fantastic are persistent in the Elderling corpus, and while I’ve spoken to them previously, there’s doubtlessly more that can be said on the matter–and more than I’m currently positioned to be able to say.