The following chapter, “Dragons,” begins with brief in-milieu commentary regarding the depredations of Kebal Rawbread on his own people before turning to the ongoing conflict on Aslevjal, which is joined by Tintaglia. Icefyre struggles to go aloft, and Rawbread, as a dragon, heeds the Pale Woman’s instructions to focus his attentions on a single dragon, attacking Tintaglia. Fitz urges flight for Dutiful and his party, and Dutiful spies the returning Elliania and Peottre–and her mother and sister, Forged. Dutiful rushes to aid them, bringing Fitz into melee–which the others of their party soon find thrust upon them as the Pale Woman’s forces attack.
The melee continues, with Tintaglia falling and Rawbread advancing upon her, goaded on by the Pale Woman. Burrich and Swift interpose themselves between the two, Burrich attempting to attend to the dragon, Swift standing guard with bow and arrows. Burrich moves to defend his son, assailing Rawbread with a massive outpouring of the Wit and being struck down in return. Swift looses a wizardwood arrow at Rawbread, killing him, and those who had been Forged into the dragon that yet live begin to be restored. Reunions begin, and the dragons begin a mating flight. Fitz realizes that the Fool might yet live, but he is called away to Burrich’s side for his final moments.
I admit to beginning to tear up as I reread the chapter this time, whether from relief at so much of the narrative tension easing or in sadness at once again seeing a character I’ve read over decades take his deathblow in the service of fatherhood. And it occurs to me, now or again, that one of the glories of a book is that it allows engagement across years, that the characters and their thoughts and words and deeds are on the page every time the book is opened, that they can be lingered over again and again, a cologne that never fades; but one of the things that is part of that, too, is that their sorrows afflict the heart again and again, a stink in the nose that, once first encountered, remains a wisp in the cologne ever afterwards.
Clearly, I put on the cologne again and again, breathing deeply of it and sighing in pleasure. Sometimes, though, that little bit of lingering stink chokes me, and my eyes water from it. But it is good to feel, sadness no less than joy, even if it is for ink upon a page only.