The next chamber, “Commitments,” opens with a brief in-milieu directive from an old Skillmaster before turning to Fitz considering the shift in his situation and preparing to return to the Fool and Prilkop on Aslevjal. He returns to the Witness Stones and contemplates them before passing through the Skill-pillars once again and making his way to the Fool. The two confer, exchanging news, and the Fool affirms a determination to absent himself from Fitz’s life. The risk of occasioning change is too great, and the Fool withdraws the marks of Skill-sharing from Fitz, leaving the two sundered and Fitz considering what has been given to him by those whom he has loved.
In the wake of the loss, Fitz follows Chade’s bidding and makes to retrieve some of the purloined Skill-texts that the Pale Woman had had, aided by Prilkop. They find the corpse of the Pale Woman, and Prilkop notes that he and the Fool will return to their shared school–in Clerres–to address some concerns they have there. Prilkop also urges Fitz to remain with him for a short span before returning through the Skill-pillars, which urging Fitz, being called by Chade and Thick back to Buckkeep, politely refuses.
Some things present themselves as of interest in the present chapter. One of them is a bit of foreshadowing that I do not think will be a spoiler to point out (aside from the novel being nearly twenty years in print as I write this): Fitz refuses a polite warning from a knowledgeable figure, and that has never worked out well for him in the preceding texts. Never.
Another point is that the present chapter is, I believe, the first mention of Clerres, the center of power of the White Prophet religion. I offer some discussion of it here, in “Manifestations of Medieval Religion in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings Corpus,” and I have the idle thought that I might revisit the project at some future point, expanding the conference paper with quotations and, maybe, further analysis. It’s not like I was going to place it in a journal in any event, after all; I still do some of The Work, but I am decisively out of academe. Still, the name might well be a bit of sequel-planting for Hobb, which would not be out of line–but even if it is not, the detail is not a throwaway thing as much as it is an enrichment of the milieu. After all, people give names to places, and everybody’s from somewhere.
One more, before I close, is the discussion of responsibility and authority at work in the chapter. It does note receive much space, admittedly, but there is something of an undercurrent of the issue throughout the Six Duchies books. Much of the action in them, and certainly the bulk of the political intrigues, result from the abdication of FitzChivalry’s father, King-in-Waiting Chivalry Farseer, from that position and his self-removal from the line of succession to the throne of the Six Duchies. Would matters in the Red-Ship War have gone as they did, had Chivalry remained present in government? Certainly, Verity would not have done as he did…but I am not a fan-fiction writer, and certainly not in the Six Duchies. That way lies opprobrium, and I have faced enough such in my life already.