There is some discussion of suicide in what follows.
The next chapter, “Mind of a Dragon,” opens with brief in-milieu commentary from Fedwren about the Elderlings before pivoting to Fitz setting to work with Chade’s blasting powder. At Dutiful’s direction, he proceeds to the location appointed for the blast, his thoughts turning to Burrich, Molly, and Nettle as he goes, and he begins to lay out the required materials. The pair struggle to get the required fire started, and Fitz sends Dutiful away to help Burrich. His mind wanders, and Icefyre communes with him through his magics.
The dragon conveys his long-held intent to die in the wake of the undoing of his species (about which some here and here). Fitz understands that Icefyre had come to Aslevjal for a quiet, dignified death, from which human efforts and his own flesh prevent him. In the wake of the revelation and the retreat of Icefyre’s mind from his own, Fitz assesses the situation, thinking through implications as he has long been taught how to do. The assessment convinces him to turn away from killing Icefyre, and he reaches for the dragon through the Skill, calling out to Nettle for aid and holding Chade at bay in his mind. Nettle is overwhelmed by the dragon, as is Fitz, and Thick’s power in the Skill recovers them both.
Fitz returns to himself to find chaos. The dragon is beginning to rouse, Dutiful’s party is in a frenzy, and the Pale Woman announces through the Skill that she will begin to work her worst upon the Fool.
A couple of things come to mind as I reread the chapter this time. One is that the time scales involved in the Elderlings novels are…substantial. Geologic change and the progress of glaciation are not rapid things, and even if such cataclysms as befell the Realm of the Elderlings themselves work quickly, the erasure of so much as is noted to have been lost suggests an even longer time than does the linguistic drift suggested in a number of the prefatory comments in Fitz’s narrative. (I’m sure there’s some paper to be written there, honestly. Maybe I will be the one to write it.)
The other is a return to something that I’ve noted in the Elderlings novels previously. Hobb once again motions towards circumstances in which suicide would be an acceptable outcome. Fitz had earlier been involved in such considerations, as had the liveship Paragon. Icefyre, facing what seems to be a lingering existence as the only member of his species, would seem to have good reason to give up. But then, the dragon’s understanding of circumstances is incomplete–as had been that of Fitz and others. So maybe there is something to consider there, too…
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