The following chapter, “Civil,” opens with a passage detailing the White Prophet Hoquin and his Catalyst, Wild Eye, before moving to Fitz calling on the Fool in the evening. He finds Swift with him, entertained by the Fool’s puppetry, and realizes he has made a gaffe by entering, but he cannot find a way to extricate himself politely or with discretion. The Fool opines on his tent and possessions, remarking at some length on Tintaglia and his need to save dragons. Swift rebels at the idea that the Fool, whom he knows as Lord Golden, would oppose Dutiful’s mission.
Conversation is interrupted by the intrusion of Civil Bresinga, who believes an unseemly assignation is soon to commence. That conversation is interrupted by the call of a guard, challenging a passer-by whom Peottre remarks is the Black Man, occasioning unease. After it is settled, Civil challenges the Fool, still upset about Golden’s earlier manipulations. The Fool is not blameless, and Fitz recognizes his own complicity in what has become the shame of Civil’s former fiancée. Melee ensues, with the Fool swiftly gaining control of the fight and restraining Civil with little evident effort. Amid his assertion that the matter is and should be closed, the Fool claims his status as White Prophet and Fitz’s as Catalyst, and Dutiful calls an end to proceedings.
Fitz tends to the Fool after, and the two confer quietly about Civil’s former intended and Piebald entanglement. Talk turns to the Black Man, the Fool noting the pronounced portentousness about him. Talk pivots to fate, and Fitz asserts that he cannot be as he is and stand by while the Fool faces death. And, at the Fool’s request, Fitz bunks in his tent that night.
I find myself once again, yet again, still, reading affectively as I reread the current chapter. I note with some concern the accusations of grooming voiced in the chapter, given prevailing public discourse as I write this; yet another reactionary drive to boycott Disney is but one symptom of a larger problem in the world, and I admit that there is something somewhat silly about my continuing this project as if it matters in any way against the troubles of the world. But that’s been something of a concern for me for some time; it’s nothing new, really, and I should be more accustomed to it at this point than it seems I am. And in any event, the accusations are false in the book; there is that much, at least, though those in the readers’ world cannot be so easily addressed as are Civil’s against the Fool.
I am minded of one of the truisms about fantasy fiction: it is escapist. And I’m minded that there’s nothing wrong with that, in itself; I’m reminded of Tolkien asking in “On Fairy-stories” “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” I may not be in a prison such as eats too many people, and in the United States, disproportionately people of color, and I acknowledge that I occupy a number of positions of privilege–there’s a lot in my life that makes it easier, and a lot more that doesn’t make it harder. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair bit wrong, and it is pleasant at times to see visions that, even in a fallen world and with flawed characters, a better resolution is possible.