The following chapter, “Whole,” opens with a personal letter from Kettricken to Molly. It moves thence to Fitz and the Fool as the latter continues to convalesce from the trauma of resurrection, beginning to explore the uncertainty of having outlived his prophecies. Fitz continues to care for his friend as they confer about what the Fool should do, moving forward, and the Fool determines to leave the stone city where Fitz had brought them.
As the two prepare to depart, they confer further, talking of their history with Girl-on-a-Dragon as they come to her. The Fool explicates some of what he has learned of the carving–Realder’s Dragon–including parallels between those involved, and he notes his purpose for the Rooster Crown–a thing to be given in exchange for the return of that part of Fitz he had rashly put into the carving years ago. The exchange is made, the Fool taking that part of Fitz back from the dragon and returning it to Fitz with difficulty for them both.
Fitz suffers through the onrush of returned memories, returning to himself only slowly and spending the evening considering what he has regained. The next day, he and the Fool return to Aslevjal, where they survey what had been the Pale Woman’s facility and confer about the nature of the Skill as Fitz recognizes a way home.
The present chapter makes much of the contrast between youthful passion and settled stolidity. I find myself reading with affect yet again, considering my own unexciting nature as I come ever closer to my forties and the ways in which I used to be excited about things. But I have no repository into which I poured my youthful feelings, no stone cellar from which they may be withdrawn by a kiss–and so I will not need to feel again what I felt then, for which I am likely the better.
Let’s be honest. I’m the kind of person who does this, now, and I was not much more active in my youth than now. So much shows in the habits that kept my belly flabby when I did exercise, and I do not do as much of that now as previously–not by quite a bit. I am staid now, and I was then, more concerned with avoiding the consequences of failure than with enjoying the results of success and therefore reluctant to engage with anything. The tendency has left me more timorous than not, and the fatigue and ennui of years spent failing at my goals has not helped.
Fantasy fiction serves as escapism, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I know I would not be fit to abscond from such confinement as constrains me; I am the architect of my own prison and my jailer, and the judge who spoke the lifelong sentence. There is no appeal in it.