The subsequent chapter, “Tintaglia’s Command,” opens with an in-milieu story about the enchantment of dragons before turning to Fitz returning to Dutiful and his company, where he is upbraided for his choice to preserve and even awaken Icefyre. In his upset at the event, Chade lets slip that Fitz is himself, rather than Tom Badgerlock, and questions are threatened but delayed. Reports of events are exchanged, and work to free the dragon begins–spurred on by the titular draconic demand. Dutiful assesses the power of the command upon his mind, but most of the rest of his company rush to free Icefyre.
Chade takes charge of the excavation efforts, leaving Fitz to consider the consequences of his actions for the Fool, as well as to confer with Burrich. The latter reveals his intentions, having thought mostly to assuage his daughter’s fears but having been wrapped up in events. The absence of Peottre and Elliania is marked, and conference about the ramifications thereof undertaken. And Fitz and Burrich confer privately as it all goes on, easing many of the long pains between them; Burrich’s relation of the underpinnings of his personal hate of the Wit are detailed.
Preparations are completed, and Chade and Fitz make to place the blasting powder, Fitz and Burrich still conferring about events. Fitz lights the charges, and after a misfire, explosions begin to go off in earnest. Icefyre panics in the tumult, and Tintaglia rages as Dutiful’s group reassembles, injured from the concussions and debris. More efforts to free Icefyre get underway, and Web presses Burrich towards reconciliation with Swift. A final charge explodes, and Icefyre emerges, emaciated, into the free air.
Fitz is forced to reassess his place in the world, faced with a greater predator, and his considerations are disrupted by the revelation that the Pale Woman’s ice-hold is crumbling under the strain of the explosions and the dragon’s struggles. And to make matters worse, the Pale Woman’s stone dragon emerges, ravening and raging, and attacks.
There is a lot going on in the chapter–fittingly enough, given its location in the book and in the series; it’s time for things to begin wrapping up. Of interest to me as I reread this time is the expression of generational trauma surrounding Burrich in regards to the Wit. His animus against the magic he himself possesses is attested throughout both the present series and the Farseer novels, beginning early on, and it can be explained as Burrich aligning firmly with a prevailing attitude in the Six Duchies. The present chapter makes it more personal for him, though, with the story of his family’s enslavement and the note that it came about “Because the man who should have made his primary bond to his wife instead chose a horse over her and his children” (408); it becomes much harder to condemn Burrich for his attitudes in that light, although it does not necessarily excuse him in his perpetration of that trauma on Fitz and on Swift.
Fitz has long internalized that trauma and Burrich’s reaction thereto, while Swift seems to resist it as social changes occur in the Six Duchies–and the changing attitude does lend itself to interpreting the Wit, again, as a metaphor for homosexuality in the United States, even as the direct presentation of homosexuality in the novels tends to undermine the metaphor. (I continue to contend that reference doesn’t work with what is actually present.) As I’ve noted at several points earlier in this series, though, others do far better at attesting and explaining so much than I; even absent that, though, the chapter points to a lot of work that needs doing, because we all carry the burdens of our pasts and the pasts of those around us.