The succeeding chapter, “Wuislington,” opens with commentary about Outisland social structures from Fedwren before turning to Fitz’s gloss of Dutiful’s party’s stay in Wuislington. He notes Thick’s convalescence and displeasure with him, which Chade notes he must endure. He notes, too, his continued tutelage of Swift, as well as the omnipresence of observation, And he notes a strange camaraderie growing between himself and Peottre over their mutual work to chaperone Dutiful and Elliania.
Fitz also becomes aware of the agricultural underpinning of the Narwhal Clan’s wealth, the geography that enables it described in some detail. But as he follows Dutiful and Elliania on an excursion out into that farming country, he uncovers Henja spying on the pair, though he cannot pursue her. It informs his report to Chade later, as well as their discussion.
That night, Fitz is drawn into a dream where Nettle and Tintaglia confer. The dragon demands information from him, but Nettle manages to cast the dragon out of her dream and chides Fitz for his timorousness. Dutiful interrupts via the Skill, but he is also cast aside after a heated exchange through that magic. Nettle absents Fitz from her dream, as well, and he wakes suddenly to Dutiful’s insistent Skilling; the prince is angry at having Nettle concealed from him, and summons Fitz to account.
When Fitz, Thick trailing, answers the summons, he finds himself bidden through the Skill to stand and wait. He watches Dutiful and Elliania confer about sex until they are interrupted by Peottre. Peottre dismisses the Narcheska, and Dutiful expounds his situation to him, earning some respect from Elliania’s uncle. The exchange leaves Fitz and Thick both homesick, though Fitz knows the home he seeks no longer exists.
Dutiful’s comment that “I am a man but…I am a man” has long resonated with me. Reading it now, I acknowledge the heteronormativity in the comment, but I also note the clear tensions under which Dutiful operates. I have been an allosexual teenage boy, and though it was many years ago, it was not so many years ago that I do not recall the discomfort of its associated urges–or the tensions surrounding multiple ideas of what should be. And I have to wonder if that is not somehow an indication of the expected primary (or perhaps secondary) readership of the series, that it does depict such things as it does, and from the perspectives that it does. Yet another paper project idea that I may never develop…seems I have a lot of those, really. Too many.