The following chapter, appropriately titled “Below the Ice,” starts with in-milieu historical comments from Fedwren before returning to the excavation work. Dutiful, Elliania, and Peottre all join in the heavy work, as do the Witted who have accompanied Dutiful, the Fool, and the Hetgurd representatives. Chade sends for more supplies, although Peottre is dubious about the errand, and Fitz notes the striated layers that indicate annual snowfalls, pondering the ancientry of the dragon in question.
Fitz also considers relative strengths in the Wit, as well as Thick’s infatuation with the dragon. The perils of Skill use are recalled, and Fitz’s own talent with the magic remains quiet. Dutiful makes contact with Nettle through the Skill, and Fitz is given more reason to regret his decisions to keep her away from Buckkeep earlier in her life. His lessons in the Wit with Web also continue, if quietly.
Chade expresses his worries about the pair sent to retrieve supplies and decides to dispatch Fitz, Thick, and the Fool to retrieve the pair and the supplies. Fitz agrees, and he persuades the Fool to accompany him along the way. Their trip goes pleasantly enough at first, with Fitz noting Thick’s improvement–done via the Skill–and that they are observed. The group does encounter difficulty with their trail, the glacier opening before them, and Fitz and the Fool are swallowed into it.
Fitz and the Fool find themselves in an icy cavern that they begin to search out. At some length, they come into ice-caves that have been worked; signs of occupation are clear to Fitz. The Fool grows apprehensive as they proceed and come “to the first dungeon” as the chapter ends.
There’s nothing ominous about that ending at all, is there?
It is, of course, time for this kind of thing to be happening. The present chapter is in the last half of the final book of the trilogy; the final conflict that has been foreshadowed–and how!–for quite a while, even going back to an early chapter in the second Elderlings novel, is imminent from the genre (which remains Tolkienian epic fantasy even if there are some adjustments in sourcing from North America and focus on a less-noble character) and the position in the book. Dropping the deuteragonists down a hole may seem something of a deus ex machina, I admit, but I have opined about the utility of the device, and, well, the books that involve the Fool do tend to center around questions of predestination (even if translation and gender studies seem to be the dominant threads in criticism at this point), so perhaps some machination will necessarily be at work in them. (Maybe, someday, I’ll develop the project. But this isn’t the day for it; I’ve got too much other work to do.)
Maybe I can do some of that work for you?