At the end of Royal Assassin, FitzChivalry had been exhumed from his grave, after taking a concoction that Chade mixed up that slowed his body down to make it look dead, and had spent his time being dead hunting with Nighteyes, the wolf he had bonded with. It took weeks for him to come back to himself, and Burrich had to force him to act like a human instead of a wolf, but eventually he recovered his sense of self. When Burrich told him his duty was to seek out his King (Verity), Fitz got angry and asked what good had serving his king gotten Burrich? He had lost Lady Patience, his master told him to stay at Buckkeep and raise his bastard, and at Buckkeep, Regal had taken everything he had worked for away from him. And now he was trying to take Fitz’s life from him. Then he had hard words with Chade, who told him that he made decisions like a boy (“you don’t understand, so you get angry”) but even worse, lived life like an animal, with no thought other than for the now. It became clear to Chade that they could not rely on Fitz for their plans, and he said so. Fitz had intended to drive them off, but ended up poisoning the relationship. But at least now he was free to do what he wanted: kill Regal.
Burrich and Chade left him the cabin, and he spent several weeks preparing for his journey: drying meat that he hunted with the wolf, finding and drying herbs for his poisons, and carving a wooden case for the scribe tools as a cover story. (He was partially trained as a scribe, but had been reassigned as an assassin, so was only moderately good at it.) He lost track of time with the wolf, and then was surprised by Forged ones attacking him. Burrich had come while he had been lost with the wolf and left some new clothes, which he gave to one of the Forged ones to be able to exit the cabin where he was trapped. He and Nighteyes managed to kill them with difficulty. He did not remember the pin that King Shrewd had given him as a token that Fitz was his that was still on the shirt that the Forged one was wearing until many days later. He knew Burrich would find the body, decayed, and see the pin, and conclude that Fitz had died.
During King Shrewd’s reign the roads had been safe for travelling, but Regal had abandoned any interest in the coastal Duchies, and between Forged ones and robbers the roads were unsafe. A minstrel asked if Fitz would travel with him and his two daughters for protection; Fitz agreed. The fourteen year old daughter liked him, and tried to get him to sleep with her, but her way of flirting by insulting Fitz was not attractive, and besides, Fitz considered Molly his wife, even though she had left, thought him dead, and there was no possibility of anything with her. (He certainly could not come back from the dead, that would be even more proof of his Witcraftiness to the people, and they would hang him for sure.) They were attacked by Forged ones on the road. These were trained in weapons, and even though their humanity had been Forged out of them, they still retained their intellect and skill. Fitz and Nighteyes managed to defeat them, but not before the family had been injured and their harps destroyed. Fitz realized that his presence would tend to attract Forged ones, plus he wanted to be alone, so he said he could not accompany them farther than the next town.
In town he witness the town guards beating up a drunk who was singing ribald songs about King Regal. A number of changes strongly suggested that Regal’s reign was a cruel one. He received a Wit message asking him to help the drunk, which he eventually did. It turned out that the man was one of the Old Blood, who had incorporated the Wit into their lives from long ago. He was bonded to a she-bear, and his wife to a hawk. Regal had apparently learned that Fitz was dead, and he was hunting Old Blood to find one willing to track him down. So far all had refused and had been killed. The man and his wife did not want to turn Fitz in, but wanted to train him; he and the wolf broadcast their thoughts so broadly that anyone with the Wit nearby would surely hear them. He also mentioned that Forged ones are drawn by the Wit. Fitz could not wait and risk Will hunting him down, so he refused their offer.
Fitz and Nighteyes left the road and traveled/hunted in the woods, where they learned to work well together. Then one day, they heard a pack of wolves howling, and now it was Nighteyes’ turn to tell Fitz that he had to leave for a while (at Buckkeep Fitz was always telling Nighteyes that he would come hunt later). Fitz sensed him warily joining the pack and as time progressing, becoming one of the pack. He was on his own now.
He came to Tradesford, the capital of Regal’s Duchy, and Fitz was amazed at the luxury and wealth of the city, and it made Buckkeep seem like a wasteland. The palace was more like an English country estate, a mansion surrounded with gardens. He spent the day walking around the grounds looking at all the ways in and out. Regal was apparently putting of a feast that night, and Fitz heard rumors that Regal had loudly decried the quality of the yellow silks that had been brought to him. So he purchased some yellow fabric, and some new clothes so that he did not look like a beggar, and went in to the servants entrance claiming to be bringing fabrics for the King. When asked why the master didn’t come, he said sullenly that the master said that rods would befit the servant’s back more than the masters, which got him in with a laugh by the guard. Inside he plied his assassin trade, looking for an entrance into the great hall. A guard turned him back and he was forced to kill the guard, disposing of the body in a nearby room. But the blood on the floor alerted people, and Fitz could feel Will Skilling for him.
Fitz went up to the second floor, where Regal’s chambers were. He found his dressing chamber, and put poisons on the shirts, but needed to find Regal himself. He began to be a little confused, but soon enough found the big doors that would be where Regal slept. Only then did he realize that Will had been clouding his mind with the Skill, when he saw Will and the two remaining members of the coterie. He was only saved by Verity awakening the Skill link, and he attacked those in the room via the Skill channel that Will made with Fitz, and then Verity commanded him, “Come to me!” He jumped out the window, expecting to fall at least a story but hit the ground immediately, and knew the full extent of how much Will had clouded his mind.
The cry was out immediately, so he went to the stables, where Regal’s horse remembered his scent, and rode off on Regal’s horse, easily outdistancing his pursuers, and going up the road towards the Mountain Kingdom as he obeyed Verity’s command. He traded his clothes for less rich ones at the next town, and took off the earring Burrich gave him when a woman offered him gold for it, telling him that it was a freedman’s marker from the Chalced States; surely that would be in the description of him. He traveled to the wild grasslands where he would need to join a caravan, so he found work as a shepherd. (Sheep are too flighty to heed the Wit very well, but it was not a job that demanded much skill.)
The night before they left two things happened. The first was that the people in the camp gave a description of Fitz the Bastard who had tried to kill King Regal that matched his appearance quite well, and he huddled down with his hat well over his head. The second was a Skill dream of Molly, who was giving birth to a child—his daughter. When Fitz had left, Burrich had gone to help her, and now he helped her give birth to her child, albeit reluctantly, only after she said that it couldn’t be much different than helping horses give birth. When he woke up he started off down to road to find her, to risk everything to be a father to his daughter and a husband for his wife. But he could not. Verity’s command was burned into him, and he must obey, whether he will or not. Then he understood Galen’s coterie. Verity had Skill-burned loyalty to Chivalry his brother after some insult Galen made. He would have undone it if he knew how. So Galen was fiercely loyal to Chivalry, but that did not mean that he chose Chivalry. When Galen made his coterie, he Skill-burned loyalty to Regal into them. Whether they liked Regal or thought he was good for the kingdom did not matter; they must serve Regal.
So Fitz went with the caravan. Midway through, the puppet master sent one of his female apprentices back to the cart after yelling at her about her bad practice and hitting her. She was crying and Fitz bandaged the wound on her face. Everyone else was away at a town for the night, and she wanted to sleep with him. He wanted to, but then realized that it was not really what he wanted, and he wanted to be with Molly. Later, the minstrel Starling who was also traveling with the caravan found him. She did not believe he had not slept with the apprentice—everyone else in the caravan had, and she tried to extort money out of them saying she was carrying their child—but she did not push the point. And she told Fitz to dye his hair; an even more exact description of him had been cried in the town, along with a reward of 1000 gold for his capture alive. He denied being the person described, but she refused to believe it. She said that she had no interest in turning him in, rather, she was going to follow him, because wherever he went great things followed, and she wanted to write a song about a great event that she had witnessed.
Fitz poisoned the food of the entire guard that had come to check the caravan for Fitz, but it was unnecessary, as he managed to avoid inspection. But that night, the apprentice girl sold him out, and the guard came for him in the middle of the night. The apprentice girl of course did not get the gold, the guard would make sure they got it. But they beat up Fitz (the head guard was a man that enjoyed giving pain) and shackled him and took him back towards Tradesford. Within a day the guard started feeling sick and vomiting. Within two they were all dead. The last man tried to trade the key to the shackles in exchange for lifting his Wit-curse, but when Fitz said it was poison, he angrily threw the key into the sand. Fitz eventually recovered it, and started walking to the end of the caravan route.
He reached Blue Lake, the town next to the large lake that had to be crossed to enter into the Mountain Kingdom. The weather was bad this time of year, and all the captains refused to sail until spring. King Regal came to town and commandeered a big hotel for himself and his staff. Fitz figured out the room he was staying in, climbed up to the roof of the hotel, and was about to lower himself down to the room, when a small ferret Witted to him that it was a trap, that Will was there. Fitz knew he could not match Will, so he gave up. Fitz tried to persuade the ferret to join him, but the ferret’s bond-human had apparently died, and now his only thought was to kill the hunter of the Old Blood (that is, Regal). When Fitz asked how, the ferret demonstrated by running up to his neck and putting his teeth on the vein there. Fitz thanked him and climbed down, with some small comfort in knowing that he was not alone in wanting to kill Regal.
Starling found him at dinner. She invited him to stay in her room—he was a little to obvious here. And she said that she knew of a party that was going around the lake via a smuggler’s path, if she could go with him, as she surmised he was going, to the mountains. Fitz did not like it much, but it was really his only option. Finding the smuggler took a little finesse on his part, and bargaining took her skills. The price was high and their money was low, so they eventually had to settle on Burrich’s earring. Fitz was assigned as a driver for an old woman who was seeking the White Prophet in Jhaampe; the others were pilgrims going to a shrine there.
That Nighteyes showed up. Nighteyes had tried to become leader of the pack, but while he was larger than the leader, the leader knew more tricks. And Nighteyes had discovered that Verity’s Call to Fitz had bound him as well. Fitz thought that Verity had not intended to bind him, and definitely not his wolf, but there they were. And come they must.
As they journeyed Fitz shared with Starling, who seemed to have an interest in him beyond just a song, that he was Witted, and about Molly. Starling wanted him to sleep with her, scoffing that she would be waiting for him, especially after Starling learned that she thought he was dead, but Fitz persisted in his constancy for Molly.
They came to the river and ferried people across the raging torrent with an unsteady raft and pulley system. Fitz, his cart, and Nighteyes were last, and when they were in the middle of the river, the guards attacked them. Nighteyes ended up floating down the river, and Fitz managed to dispatch the rest of the guards. Once they were on the other side of the river, Burl, one of the coterie, directed guards to seize them all, ignoring the arrangement the guard had made with the smugglers. Burl broke two of the minstrel’s fingers—something that shocked everyone, as minstrel’s were sacrosanct. They even acted as notary publics, as they tended to be witnesses of many events, and in any case, theirs was job of transmitting history. They were taken to the town on the border of the Mountain Kingdom—where Fitz’s mother’s father had dumped him on Verity who happened to be there, those many years ago. Fitz was put in a cell. Nighteyes managed to get out the river with Wit encouragement from Fitz.
Starling started a fire as a diversion, but it soon got out of control. She came for Fitz, but the jailors were willing to have him burn. Nighteyes got the keys from the old man who was carrying them, and they escaped just as the wooden jailhouse was engulfed in flame. Fitz, Starling, and Kettle (the old woman Fitz was driving in the cart) fled unnoticed up the road in the cart into the Mountain Kingdom. At a fork in the road, Fitz sent Starling and Kettle off on the road to Jhaampe while he took the other path. Starling was quite unhappy, but Kettle agreed with Fitz that if they were separated, the coterie would be hunting only for him and ignore them.
Fitz Skilled out to the coterie, finding Regal inflicting pain on Burl via Will for failing him again. Fitz announced himself to them so that they would be sure to try to find him, and he and Nighteyes fled up the snowy ridge. Regal had found an Old Blood, bonded to a hound, and they chased them into a dead-end ravine. They managed to scale the cliff, and Nighteyes flipped the hound off the cliff to his death below, but not before Fitz got an arrow in the back. Nighteyes forced Fitz to eat and make a fire, and he realized that he did not want to be Fitz, that while they were together, yet they were different and distinct. Nighteyes pushed and cajoled and encouraged Fitz and they managed to make it to Jhaampe, where Fitz collapsed in the first house.
It turned out to be the house of the Fool. He and Kettricken had successfully fled Buckkeep the night King Shrewd died, despite Kettricken’s maid betraying their plans to Regal. He had taken up making toys for a living, and they had made it to Jhaampe. Kettricken carried Verity’s heir, but it was birthed stillborn. Chade had become quite the dashing old man, going on missions here and there and attracting the ladies. At the moment he was back in Jhaampe. Chade and the Fool tended to Fitz, and Starling tried to see him as well, but the Fool did not like her. Fitz took a long time to recover. Long enough for Nighteyes to make friends with the children of Jhaampe.
Kettricken, summoned Fitz for a report. Chade and Kettricken decided that Kettricken would Molly’s child as her own, for she was royalty (via Fitz) and no one in Buckkeep in knew that she was not Kettricken’s. In fact, the minstrel Starling had sworn to it, in such a way that she did not even have to lie. Fitz was angry with Chade, because he wanted to raise his child. Kettle quoted prophecies saying that the Catalyst—presumably Fitz—would have a child but not raise it, and would raise someone else’s child. (She also had quoted that the Catalyst would desire blood, but it would be denied him.) Fitz was forced to agree, as Kettricken was his Queen, but it further damaged his relationship with Chade.
Knowing that Fitz sought Verity, Kettricken was organizing a party to go find him. She felt she had failed him by delivering a stillborn child, and she desired his love. If he was still alive, she wanted to find him and she wanted to join him in his quest to find the Elderlings and save their kingdom from the Raiders. Fitz knew that he was alive, but very weak, especially after his strong use of Skill in saving Fitz from Will. Fitz had periodic Skill-dreams, where he saw Verity along a road that flowed with Skill, then in an ancient city of strange towers, then kneeling by a river of skill, dipping his hands in it, and having to be pulled out of the river via Fitz’s Skill. Always Verity was glad of his presence, and always he was weary. But he obviously still sought the Elderlings.
Kettricken lead the Fool, Fitz, Nighteyes, Starling, and Kettle towards the path to the three locations indicated on Verity’s map and on an old map at Jhaampe. They journeyed for many days. The Fool and Fitz had grown to love each other, and Starling was jealous. She said the Fool was really a woman and in love with Fitz, although the Fool assured him that he was definitely male. But the Fool definitely was not normal. For one thing, he was quite White, but his view of things was unusual to. Kettle appeared to know a great deal more about things than an old woman should know, and had surprising stamina.
They found the Skill-road, which ran straight across the landscape, carved below the level of the ground. No snow was on it, and no animal seemed to touch it. Nighteyes considered it dangerous and did not think Fitz should walk on it, but it was a lot easier than walking on the side. Fitz began to see people on the road, and started following them, once out over a cliff, where the road had once run. Kettle was hard-put to keep him from running after them, and after that they decided he should walk on the side.
Fitz was trying to calm a distraught Kettricken outside one evening, when he was distracted by a strangely carved column, and drawn toward it. He was in the city that Verity had been in, and he could see the people that had once lived in the city walking by him and talking. He slept in a ruined shop, and then looked for a high place the next day. He saw a tower, which had an administrative look about it. He went in and found his way to the top. There were people from the past standing around a table and arguing, but he ignored them and looked at the glass dome, which was carved with maps. One was broken, and a fire had been lit below it. He knew that Verity had been here, and he made notes from the glass to reconstruct the piece of the glass that Verity had taken, and where he had probably gone. One his way back he saw a dragon fly into the lake, bathe in the Skill there, and then walk up the broad street to the fountain there. The people of the city moved aside and watched the dragon as he took a drink of Skill and then flew off. Fitz found his way back to the column, where Nighteyes was waiting for him. Wherever he had gone, Nighteyes could not sense him, but had been sure that he would return.
A few days later, as they came to an unstable avalanche that had fallen across the road, Nighteyes warned Fitz that there were people behind him. It was the coterie, come to find him. They crossed over the avalanche very carefully, with Kettricken showing them how, then Fitz went back, with Kettle who insisted an accompanying him with the crossbow. The coterie were gone, but they killed the men-at-arms and the horses, took what was useful from the packs and tossed them over the cliff. They would have no food or shelter now, in the cold of the mountains.
Soon their path went down hill, and they emerged into a warmer climate, where it was beginning to be spring. They had gone to the first location on Kettricken’s map, which turned out to be the city, but Verity was not there. The second location turned out to be the stone garden, which they found several days later. It was full of dragons, of many different shapes, all carved in such exquisite detail that they looked real. Fitz recognized the dragon with antlers as King Wisdom’s dragon. Strangely, Fitz could sense them with his Wit, but they appeared to be stone. They were sort of the opposite of Forged ones, who were bodies that lived but had no emotions and no sense of life. Here was cold stone, without life, but his Wit could sense the life within them. Perhaps this was where King Wisdom had awakened the Elderlings, but Fitz could not waken them with either his Wit or Skill.
So the left and sought the last location on Kettricken’s map. It was not far away. They crossed over an ancient bridge, and the Skill-road ended at a quarry. Nighteyes scented something horrible, and they found one of the coterie there, decomposing. The quarry had a mostly-finished dragon with a girl on her back. The dragon had a sneer, but what was most disturbing was that the Wit-sense it gave off was one of despair. At the far end of the quarry the found a dragon in its beginning stages, and besides it, chipping away at it with a worn-down sword, was Verity. Fitz had to put himself between them to keep Kettricken from embracing him, because his arms had been dipped in the Skill river and would not be safe for her to touch. As always, Verity was consumed with his mission, and they had to practically drag him from the dragon and make him eat. But he did, and it strengthened him.
Verity touched the Fool by accident, leaving three silver marks on his skin, which became unusually sensitive to everything that touched them. Later that day Fitz made an official report to Verity, in the hearing of everyone, leaving nothing out, including all his feelings and his Wit experiences. Verity remained mostly emotionless, as he listened while he continued work on the dragon, despite Fitz’s attempts at using Wit and Skill to wake him up. At the end, Verity thanked him and said that he thought that Regal was using the Fool against Fitz. The Fool convulsed, and the Skill-bond with the coterie was withdrawn. Fitz had shared with the Fool the location of Molly; the Fool had betrayed the one he loved best, as he himself had prophesied. The Fool told Fitz of the scrolls about the Skill that Galen had and that Regal had gotten after he died, telling about the dragons. Regal believed that domination of the dragons was his birthright, that Fitz was stealing from him.
The next day the Fool and Fitz went to Girl-on-a-dragon (the two were one carving, one essence). He touched her with the Skill fingerprints on his skin, and there was a loud Skill-scream of pain. Kettle was angry with them, asking why they had to add pain to her misery of being trapped alone forever. Fitz was angry in return, saying that all she did was tell him how ignorant he was, but the whole trip she had refused to offer any insight. She responded that she cannot meddle with the prophecy, that the Catalyst must figure it out on his own. He shot back that maybe the reason she was here was to be a part of the prophecy. She relented, and named herself Kestrel, of a coterie from over two hundred years prior. She had used skill on her body to retain her youth, and it had led a long life. But she had killed a member of her coterie over jealousy of a man, and as punishment her Skill had been burned from her.
Verity had gone to wake the dragons and spent much of his Skill trying to do so. When he failed, he decided he had to make his own dragon. Kestrel was shocked that he was doing it on his own, saying that usually a whole coterie had made a dragon. King Wisdom certainly had one. Verity realized that she could aid him, but he no longer had enough Skill due to his battle with the now-rotting member of the coterie, and Kestrel’s had been burned from her. Kestrel realized that they had a sword to cut through the knot—the Catalyst—so Verity told him to undo what the coterie had done. Fitz protested that he didn’t know how, but Verity said that he knew enough.
The Fool touched Fitz with his fingers and they were joined in Skill or Wit. Fitz experienced the love that the Fool had for him, that he had assumed to be pity before. And he realized that together they were the Catalyst, not him separate, but he and the Fool were the two pieces that made up the Catalyst. And the Fool experienced the Wit connection with Nighteyes, and wondered at his noble heart. Then Fitz Skilled Kestrel, and found that she was a prisoner of self-hatred for having killed her twin sister. Fitz helped her forgive herself, and Kestrel was free with her Skill again. Then she helped Verity, and together the two of them began finishing the dragon.
One day Verity sent Fitz to wake the dragons in the garden. It was a wild goose chase, so that he and Verity could go to the Skill river and renew their Skill. Fitz would have wanted to come, so Verity sent him off. He was attacked, and Nighteyes communicated it to Kettricken, who had Wit but was unskilled with it, and she had Verity go after him. The man recognized Verity, and swore that he thought he was dead. Verity told him to go back to the duchy of Buck and announce that he was coming back. But the soldier had news: Regal’s men were coming.
Making a dragon involves putting all of your emotions in the dragon, and then chipping away the pieces of rock that are not dragon. They put themselves in the dragon (Kestrel had many years to give, which was good, as Verity was out of life to give), and Verity even took some of Fitz’s anger and put it in the dragon, and they finished the dragon quickly. Just as Fitz life was partly in the wolf, so their lives were partly in the rock of the dragon. They become dulled in their emotions as a result, which hurt Kettricken terribly. On the last night, Fitz and Verity made a bargain, and Fitz gave him his youth for the night. Verity spent one night loving Kettricken, and came back to Fitz saying that she had Verity’s heir. Fitz wasn’t entirely sure that he liked the bargain.
The next day Verity and Kestrel finished the dragon and their bodies vanished inside of it and it took flight, off to take Kettricken back to Buckkeep and then to fight the Raiders. The Fool went to Girl-on-a-dragon, where Burl attacked him. Nighteyes killed him, and his blood trickled onto the stone, where it burned out the feet of the dragon from within the stone and the dragon took wings and flew, taking the Fool with it. Will attacked Fitz, who fled with Nighteyes through the carved stone columns (which use Skill as a doorway to another location) to the garden. There he found Regal’s men, waiting. He lead to where the dragons were, and he and Nighteyes picked them off. Then everything came together: Verity had felt a surge of skill power when Fitz was there the first time, as a man died against one of the dragons, he had seen the Fool’s dragon come to life, and he had seen Verity and Kestrel give their lives to become the dragon. He Witted to the dragon he was nearest to wake up, they had brought food. The dragon came to life, and ate the nearest man attacking Fitz. Only it ate him by sucking the life experience out of him with a bit and he vanished. Fitz went to all the dragons doing the same thing, and they finished off Regal’s men. The Fool on Girl-on-a-dragon had arrived by now, and Fitz told them that he would lead them to a great feed.
As Fitz went to leave, he found Will, wounded. Since Will was near death he was able to overpower him with the Skill, even given him strength as he tried to die. Fitz rode Will’s skill-bond back to Regal. And then he understood Regal, what made him do the heinous things he did. He Skill-burned Regal with a loyalty to Kettricken. Then he waited while Will died, even giving him a blanket when he said he was cold.
Verity took Kettricken back to Buckkeep, where Lady Patience had competently taken charge. She was honored as Queen. Regal came up from Tradesford full of admiration for his Queen and expressing his devotion to her. He brought with him much of what had been taken from Buckkeep, including the scrolls about Skilling that he had gotten after Galen’s death. However, he did not live long; the vein in his throat was cut one night, and there were bloody little footprints around his chest. The dragons followed Verity, and attacked the Raiders, driving them from the sea. They continued the attack back to their land, as Verity had dreamed of doing.
The secret of Forging was discovered, it was the same as making dragons and had roots in the previous time the Raiders had attacked and King Wisdom had come with the dragons. As dragons fly overhead, the shadow of their wings steals memories, and some of the people in the Raiders’ land had been under the shadow so many times that all memories were taken. Eventually the melting ice revealed some of the same stone as was in the dragon-quarry in the mountains. The white ships hidden in the mists contained these stones, which sucked the life out of people. And now, the dragons flew overhead again, and probably in another turn this would happen again.
During his travels Fitz had more skill dreams about Molly. Burrich occasionally got drunk, and Molly refused to have him in the house, as her father had been a drunkard. Burrich taught her how to raise a child, as she thought that punishment was how you trained children. Burrich was kind to her. When Regal’s men came to take them away, she opened a box of her bees (she was a candlemaker and beekeeper) and said they were Wit-bees, which scared the men away. Burrich had to admire that. In his final, Verity-enabled, vision he saw Molly suggest to Burrich that they go to minstrel and swear that the child was theirs. Burrich protested, but Molly said they could say she slept with him before the wedding, which she was willing to be true. Burrich was surprised that she would be willing to marry a man as old as he and with his history. Fitz could see that he did truly love her and would take care of the child well, but it did hurt.
Fitz ended up living by himself in Buck. He kept his life a secret from Burrich and Molly and did not contact them. He did not talk with Chade, but they did trade information about herbs. Starling continued a minstrel, but she did bed with Fitz from time to time. And she brought him a foundling to raise. Fitz spent much of his time writing, to occupy his mind and distract from the Skill-hunger. He wanted to provide clear information to future generations about the Skill, the Elderlings, and what he learned beyond the Mountain Kingdom. But at the same time he hesitated, because the Skill was too powerful to be used in the wrong hands. And he and Nighteyes dreamed of making their own dragon.
Assassin’s Quest is a fitting conclusion to the series, and it clear up mysteries while producing more mysteries. As always, the characters are unique and well fleshed-out, and we learn the disappointments and dreams of the characters. It is an intimate book, as well as a tiring journey. It continues the themes of love and sacrifice, but here is my one complaint about the series. The main characters get what they were seeking, but they do not really get what they were seeking. Verity saves the people of his kingdom, but at the cost of his crown, his queen, and his humanity. Kettricken gets Verity’s heir, but he is never able to love her in the way she longs for. Fitz finally learns that he is loved, and is able to accept that both Verity and the Fool love him deeply (as well as Chade and Burrich, but he was not able to understand that), but in the end, he is forced to live alone because he is dead and dead people cannot live among the living. He does not get that which he wanted the most, to love Molly. Instead, he gets Starling, who still wanders, and while she stays with him at times, it is not clear that either of them have that devotion to each other that he was looking for. Ironically, Burrich, who was not seeking love finds it, and Molly does find love, but not how she expected it. So it is hard to rejoice in the conclusion, because by this time you are invested in the characters, and with each victory comes great sorrow. Perhaps that is the theme of sacrifice that also runs through it, of characters willing to sacrifice what they desire to achieve the greater goal, but it ends up with the reader feeling sad for the loss. Perhaps this is due to the Buddhist philosophy that seems to underpin the book, which is made visible when Kestrel explains that the world is going through cycles, and if it goes through lighter and lighter cycles, then humanity will be freed from time. According to my understanding of Buddhism, life is pain, and so perhaps this is why everyone loses something dear. But if so, as a reader I much prefer C. S. Lewis’ journey through pain into fulfillment. Regardless of philosophy, this is a rich book that consume you.