The following chapter, “Catalyst,” begins with a note about wizardwood before turning to Fitz’s efforts to reenter the Pale Woman’s domain. He finds a path inward, if with some difficulty, and makes his way through the labyrinthine facility. Among others, he finds the flayed skin of the Fool’s back, and he swoons; when he comes to, he leaves the marred skin behind, although he takes the piece of the Rooster Crown he finds.
Pressing on, Fitz finds scrolls and records that had been sold away from Buckkeep, musing on it but leaving it behind as he continues to search for the Fool. He finds one of his erstwhile companions along the way and makes a pyre for him, and then he finds the Fool, dead among filth. Fitz attempts to Skill into the body to bring it back to life, but even with the help of the whole Skill coterie, he cannot do so. Chade and Dutiful offer such comfort as they can, little enough in the wake of the Fool’s death and the announcement to him of Burrich’s.
Fitz closes off Skill contact and recovers the Fool’s body, mulling over where to bear it when interrupted by the maimed Pale Woman. She taunts him, seeking to provoke him into killing her, and he refuses; she attempts to negotiate with him, and he walks away.
Wandering, he comes to a room with a map detailing the geographical extent of the Realm of the Elderlings and marking Skill-pillars. Another room contains a Skill-pillar, and Fitz takes the Fool through it to a plaza in a ruined city. There, he lays the Fool out and tends to the body, repairing the broken Rooster Crown and inserting the wizardwood feathers into it. Before placing it on the Fool’s head, Fitz hesitates, placing the crown upon his own head in an attempt to change what has happened.
I note with some interest the exchange of names mentioned by the Pale Woman as a custom of the Fool’s native people. The significance of the custom is noted explicitly, if in mockery, as the Pale Woman asks Fitz “Did you ever call [the Fool] by your name, to show hum that he was as dear to you as your own life?” It joins the comments about hair-cutting as mourning that appear at intervals in the novels treating the Six Duchies to increase the verisimilitude of the milieu; such small things pepper lived experience, and having them appear in fiction adds richness to the fictional worlds in which they appear. And in the case of Hobb’s Fool, the recollection of how many times the character called Fitz “Beloved” becomes all the more poignant…