The following chapter, “Aslevjal,” begins with an in-milieu comment from Fedwren about Forging. It turns thence to the approach to the titular island and to the Fool who waits upon it for the Six Duchies’ party to arrive. Fitz is tasked with assisting Thick, Chade contriving thus to keep Fitz and the Fool apart. Ships are unloaded and camps set up, the voyagers’ arrangements described.
Taking advantage of Riddle’s offer to attend to Thick for a while, Fitz, scouts out the campground, noting the presence of memory stone in the area, as well as signs of work done upon it and with it. He finds a partly-sculpted stone dragon and summons Chade and Dutiful to examine it; Akron remarks that it is not the dragon they seek, but “one of the Pale Woman’s follies,” before Peottre silences him.
After, Fitz confers with Chade and Dutiful via the Skill about the Fool, and Fitz is charged with caution as he gathers more information. The memory stone receives more examination, and Fitz perceives a number of memories contained within it, linking the work done on Aslevjal’s shores to the work Verity and others had done carving their dragons. Fitz notes the problems that would inhere in a dragon thus made, and he reports his findings to Chade, who considers a strange repatriation.
Fitz returns to Thick, who asks for honey. Fitz takes the opportunity to call on the Fool, visiting the Fool’s tent and finding it empty; he avails himself of the honey he finds there, being sure to leave clear sign of his presence so as not to present himself as attempting deceit. Returning with the honey mollifies Thick, and he notes to Fitz Nettle’s anger at him, spurred by Burrich’s departure and her own obliged relocation to Kettricken’s court. The news offers Fitz some comfort, although he frets somewhat as he muses on his daughter’s situation and his own.
From the vantage of rereading, I can affirm the foreshadowing in the present chapter; there are signs here of what is to come. Even among them, though, I find links back to earlier parts of the Realm of the Elderlings series that I appreciate; I noted to students when I had them, and I reaffirm in the lesson plans I write for contract work, that one of the things that argues in favor of artistic quality is the way a given work hangs together. It’s not much of a stretch, if any at all, to read a series of novels as a single work rather than as separate entities (particularly as concerns fantasy literature in the Tolkienian tradition, which the Realm of the Elderlings is despite making abundant use of other sources and backgrounds). As such, it is not out of line to apply the same artistic standards to a series as to an entry in it–not obligatory, certainly, and not without the caveat, for logical and other reasons (I am aware of the fallacy of composition, thank you), that some parts can be better than others, but not impossibly or even without good cause. And the work done to unify the Realm of the Elderlings novels as they proceed, although not without flaw, helps with that. At least for me, anyway…