“Reunion,” the following chapter, begins with an excerpt from a letter from Queen Desire detailing her reaction to the introduction of Fitz to Buckkeep at Shrewd’s behest. It moves on to follow Fitz’s progress from the Pale Woman’s caverns to Dutiful’s encampment, beleagured by the cold and guided briefly by the Black Man. He is brought back in and treated as he is debriefed, and he learns how Thick had been found–both by Dutiful’s company and by Burrich, whose own arrival is detailed.
The Witted coterie joins the throng with food and further aid, and Web marvels at Burrich’s use of the Wit to help treat Fitz; his comments provoke the other man, and Web leaves. Conference about what has been learned and its implications commences, and Dutiful summons Peottre and Elliania. When they arrive, Peottre flatly begs for aid, joined by Elliania, and more of the Pale Woman’s perfidy is laid bare. Plans for how to proceed with killing Icefyre and destroying the Pale Woman are noted, involving Chade’s blasting powder, Fitz volunteering to spare Dutiful and despite Burrich’s protests. And as Fitz goes about his work, Burrich takes him aside and says words to him that he has long needed to say, that Fitz has needed to hear–with a promise of more to come.
The rush I noted earlier seems to be accelerating, pieces being slotted into place in evident haste because they need to be in place. I continue to be somewhat put off by it, even all these years later–because I have been reading this novel for years, since it was published, and hungrily though I did so and do so, this morsel is not necessarily to my taste.
And I am not sure how to regard the content of the chapter in light of what has happened in the world recently. I know that it is not “fair” to assess a given work by the standards of times other than its own, and even eighteen years (the book was published in 2004, and I reread it for the present writing in 2022) occasions quite a bit of change. But I also know that one of the ways in which a work’s quality is borne out is that it continues to speak to audiences well after it emerges into the world, and while it may be the case that I read the work with nostalgic longing–my later undergraduate years were not bad ones, though they were not as good for me as grad school was–I cannot help but think that it would still show up well even had I not the prior experience with it. I am a different reader now than I was then, though, and not only because I have much, much more in the way of formal training; the eighteen years of lived experience has a lot to do with it, as well, and the reading now…I do not know.
How much longer the world in which I live will allow for such things is unclear. I fear it will be less long than might be liked.