The final chapter of the novel, “Spring Sailing,” opens with a kind of creation story recounted in Badgerlock’s Old Blood Tales before offering something akin to a reverdie that summarizes developments in Buckkeep at the approach of spring. Preparations for Dutiful’s trip to the Out Islands progress, and the party to accompany him on that trip is determined. Civil and Web, Chade and Thick, are set to go, and Fitz is “randomly” chosen as part of Dutiful’s guard complement. Others make their own arrangements to go along. Lessons of various sorts go on, and Swift finds his way back to court, entering Kettricken’s service as a page, evidently turned out by Burrich.
Fitz finds himself in mind of Nettle, and they Skill together. They are interrupted by the intrusion of a blue dragon, from which Nettle forcefully extricates them. Fitz ponders the event and continues about his preparations, including calling on Hap, who now makes good progress in his apprenticeship. The quiet interdiction of the Fool proceeds, as well, although the Fool still clearly intends on taking ship for Aslevjal to face doom. Fitz and Chade confer on that point and several others, including Chade’s continued progress in the Skill and Fitz’s preferred armaments for what they expect to face as they head to the Out Islands and Aslevjal. Fitz is also tasked with tutoring Swift, surprising him.
Later, Fitz calls in on the Fool, the two reaching some reconciliation, even as both acknowledge that things cannot go back to how they had been before their falling out. And in the brief epilogue, Fitz reflects on his writing efforts and the seeming cycles of life, commenting finally that “Perhaps having the courage to find a better path is having the courage to risk making new mistakes.”
It feels as if it’s taken forever for me to get to this point in the rereading–and there’s more to do yet, with another novel in this series, two more series and some scattered other works in the Elderlings corpus, a whole ‘nother series, and some assorted other works to treat. It’s good to have a project, though, and I’m not complaining at all about doing this. Really, it’s a treat to read the work again; I’ve not been able to do such things much for a while, and it’s a pleasure.
More on the present passage, though: I note with some interest the reported development of the Stones game Fitz had learned from Kettle and passed on to Dutiful as part of his Skill training. Having become a seeming pastime of the heir apparent to the Six Duchies, the game has become a preoccupation of the nobility at court, and consequently a focus of conspicuous consumption as well as what might well be thought some kind of organized play. That speaks powerfully to the verisimilitude Hobb identifies as a major component of her writing, because it is the case that people will find things to occupy such hours of leisure as they can find, it is the case that those who vie for favor will attempt to emulate the tastes and patterns of those whose favor they seek, and it is the case that those who seek to elevate themselves will often make a show of what they already have as a means of displaying that they deserve to have more. Yet such concerns are overlooked in many works of speculative fiction, or they are only glancingly treated. That Hobb attends to them–and that she does so consistently across novels and series, not only with the “Prince’s Stones,” but also with particular recreational intoxicants–is one of the things that makes her narrative milieu so compelling.