In the brief prologue, “Battling Fate,” Fitz opines briefly on the White Prophet religion before pivoting to his own place in it. His repeated encounters with death are glossed as part of the Fool’s efforts to force the world into a better course, and Fitz notes the presence of an opposing force targeting the Fool.
The first chapter, “Lizards,” opens with a brief comment from Fitz that notes the Fool’s assertion that death awaits him on Aslevjal and his request that Chade ensure the Fool would not travel to the Out Islands with Dutiful to fulfill the betrothal challenges the Prince and the Narcheska had exchanged. It moves then to the return of spring to Buckkeep and the lightening of Fitz’s mood as he prepares to meet with Swift in the Queen’s Garden. The boy arrives and presents himself as he has been directed, and the two begin to feel one another out. Swift discloses skill with a bow, and he notes having made a sharp break with his past, which Fitz–as Badgerlock–takes in stride. Swift’s near-belligerence about the Wit, however, earns him some chastisement, and he is dismissed sullenly so that FItz can clandestinely meet with Dutiful, Chade, and Thick for their Skill instruction.
Fitz’s tutees are described as the four sit to practice their magic together. They report minimal success with a practice assignment, but Thick and Dutiful both report having dreamt of a blue dragon in the night. Fitz elucidates Dutiful’s report to Chade, Thick contributing some information, as well, and Fitz notes his supposition that the dragon in question is Tintaglia. They converse further, FItz and Chade speaking at some length after the training session ends. Chade notes his worries for his intelligence efforts, and the continuing threat of the Piebalds is noted. Fitz offers aid, and Chade makes another play for Nettle, despite Kettricken’s earlier words on the matter.
I write this in the wake of Winter Storm Landon (#TexasFreeze) having frightened those of us who remember Uri’s visit to Texas. The thought of returning spring is a welcome one; like Gandalf as “The Ring Goes South,” I could stand to have warmer feet. The thought of dealing with a surly teenager is…less welcome, much less one who seems bound to press the spirit of things with the letter of them; I find myself feeling for Fitz once again. Too, being pressed by many tasks…once again, I know I should not be reading with affect, but I seem unable to help myself. Perhaps it is the pleasure of being able sit and read again…