Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy)

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9780007562275: Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy)

As this epic trilogy reaches its unforgettable conclusion, young FitzChivalry faces his toughest opponent ever: himself. Embittered and broken, his body reclaimed from the grave and his spirit from the care of his bond-wolf Nighteyes, Fitz awakens to a world where everything he once held dear is in ruins. King Shrewd is dead; Prince Regal has claimed the throne and rules the kingdom with a cruel and selfish negligence. Molly has deserted him for parts unknown. Queen Kettricken and her unborn child have fled to the mountains with the Fool, Verity is lost seeking the elusive Elderlings, and Fitz's presumed death forever bars him from Buckkeep. The only companions he had left in his solitude are Chade and Burrich, who wrestle him reluctantly back to humanity after his sojourn in Nighteyes' mind.
But angry with the lot Fate has cast him, Fitz drives away even these loyal companions, and for the first time faces his life on his own, without anyone to guide or lead him. And what he most desires is revenge against Regal, for everything the usurper has cost him. So, preparing his assassin's kit, he sets out for Regal's new capital at Tradeford, determined to murder the treacherous "king." Without guidance, though, he botches the attempt, and an urgent sending by Verity to save him leaves Fitz imprinted with the burning imperative to find and aid his true king in his quest to aid the land.
Eventually fighting his way through to the mountains, he rejoins Kettricken and the Fool in a quest for Verity--and there in the Skill-shadowed hills, he discovers an ancient power and a mysterious riddle, whose answer may well change the fate of the Six Duchies forever....

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About the Author:

Robin Hobb is the author of the Farseer Trilogy and the Liveship Traders Trilogy. She has also written as Megan Lindholm. She is a native of Washington State.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

After crowning himself King of the Six Duchies, Prince Regal Farseer essentially abandoned the Coastal Duchies to their own devices.  He had stripped Buckkeep itself and a good part of Buck Duchy of as much coin as he could wring from it.  From Buckkeep, horses and stock had been sold off, with the very best taken inland to Regal's new residence at Tradeford.  The furnishings and library of the traditional royal seat had been plundered as well, some to feather the new nest, some divvied out to his Inland dukes and nobles as favors or sold outright to them.  Grain warehouses, wine cellars, the armories, all had been plundered and the loot carried off inland.

His announced plan had been to move the ailing King Shrewd, and the widowed and pregnant Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken, inland to Tradeford, that they might be safer from the Red Ship raids that plagued the Coastal Duchies.  This, too, was the excuse for the looting of furnishings and valuables from Buckkeep.  But with the death of Shrewd and the disappearance of Kettricken, even this flimsy reason vanished.  Nonetheless he left Buckkeep as soon after his coronation as he could.  The tale has been told that when his Council of Nobles questioned his decision, he told them that the Coastal Duchies represented only war and expense to him, that they had always been a leech upon the resources of the Inland Duchies and he wished the OutIslanders the joy of taking such a rocky and cheerless place.  Regal was later to deny having ever uttered such words.

When Kettricken vanished, King Regal was left in a position for which there was no historical precedent.  The child Kettricken carried had obviously been next in line for the crown.  But both Queen and unborn child had vanished, under very suspicious circumstances.  Not all were certain that Regal himself had not engineered it.  Even if the Queen had remained at Buckkeep, the child could not assume even the title of King-in-Waiting for at least seventeen years.  Regal became very anxious to assume the title of King as swiftly as possible, but by law he needed the recognition of all Six Duchies to claim it.  He bought the crown with a number of concessions to his Coastal Dukes.  The major one was Regal's promise that Buckkeep would remain manned and ready to defend the coast.

The command of the ancient keep was foisted off on his eldest nephew, heir to the title Duke of Farrow.  Lord Bright, at twenty-five, had grown restless waiting for his father to pass power to him.  He was more than willing to assume authority over Buckkeep and Buck, but had little experience to draw on. Regal took himself inland to Tradeford Castle on the Vin River in Farrow, while young Lord Bright remained at Buckkeep with a picked guard of Farrow men.  It is not reported that Regal left him any funds to operate from, so the young man endeavored to wring what he needed from the merchants of Buckkeep Town, and the already embattled farmers and shepherds of surrounding Buck Duchy.  While there is no indication that he felt any malice toward the folk of Buck or the other Coastal Duchies, neither did he have any loyalty toward them.

Also in residence at Buckkeep at this time were a handful of minor Buck nobility.  Most landholders of Buck were at their own lesser keeps, doing what little they could to protect their local folk.  The most notable to remain at Buckkeep was Lady Patience, she who had been Queen-in-Waiting until her husband Prince Chivalry abdicated the throne to his younger brother Verity.  Manning Buckkeep were the Buck soldiers, as well as Queen Kettricken's personal guard, and the few men who remained of King Shrewd's guard.  Morale was poor among the soldiers, for wages were intermittent and the rations poor.  Lord Bright had brought his own personal guard with him to Buckkeep, and obviously preferred them to the Buck men.  The situation was further complicated by a muddled chain of command.  Ostensibly the Buck troops were to report to Captain Keffel of the Farrow men, the commander of Lord Bright's guard.  In reality, Foxglove of the Queen's Guard, Kerf of the Buckkeep Guard, and old Red of King Shrewd's guard banded together and kept their own counsel.  If they reported regularly to anyone, it was Lady Patience.  In time the Buck soldiers came to speak of her as the Lady of Buckkeep.

Even after his coronation, Regal remained jealous of his title.  He sent messengers far and wide, seeking word of where Queen Kettricken and the unborn heir might be.  His suspicions that she might have sought shelter with her father, King Eyod of the Mountain Kingdom, led him to demand her return of him. When Eyod replied that the whereabouts of the Queen of the Six Duchies was no concern for the Mountain folk, Regal angrily severed ties with the Mountain Kingdom, cutting off trade and attempting to block even common travelers from crossing the boundaries.  At the same time, rumors that almost certainly began at Regal's behest began to circulate that the child Kettricken carried was not of Verity's getting and hence had no legitimate claim to the Six Duchies throne.

It was a bitter time for the small folk of Buck.  Abandoned by their king and defended only by a small force of poorly provisioned soldiers, the common folk were left rudderless on a stormy sea.  What the Raiders did not steal or destroy, Lord Bright's men seized for taxes.  The roads became plagued with robbers, for when an honest man cannot make a living, folk will do what they must.  Small crofters gave up any hope of making a living and fled the coast, to become beggars, thieves, and whores in the inland cities.  Trade died, for ships sent out seldom came back at all.

***

Chade and I sat on the bench in front of the hut and talked.  We did not speak of portentous things, nor the significant events of the past.  We did not discuss my return from the grave or the current political situation.  Instead, he spoke of our small shared things as if I had been gone on a long journey. Slink the weasel was getting old; the past winter had stiffened him, and even the coming of spring had not enlivened him.  Chade feared he would not last another year.  Chade had finally managed to dry pennant plant leaves without them mildewing, but had found the dried herb to have little potency.  We both missed Cook Sara's pastries.  Chade asked if there was anything from my room that I wanted.  Regal had had it searched, and had left it in disarray, but he did not think much had been taken, nor would be missed if I chose to have it now.  I asked him if he recalled the tapestry of King Wisdom treating with the Elderlings.  He replied that he did, but that it was far too bulky for him to drag up here.  I gave him such a stricken look that he immediately relented and said he supposed he could find a way.

I grinned.  "It was a joke, Chade.  That thing has never done anything save give me nightmares when I was small.  No.  There's nothing in my room that's important to me now."

Chade looked at me, almost sadly.  "You leave behind a life, with what, the clothes on your back and an earring?  And you say there's nothing there you'd wish brought to you.  Does that not strike you as strange?"

I sat thinking for a moment.  The sword Verity had given me.  The silver ring King Eyod had given me, that had been Rurisk's.  A pin from Lady Grace. Patience's sea-pipes had been in my room I hoped she had got them back.  My paints and papers.  A little box I had carved to hold my poisons.  Between Molly and me there had never been any tokens.  She would never allow me to give her any gifts, and I had never thought to steal a ribbon from her hair.  If I had...

"No.  A clean break is best, perhaps.  Though you've forgotten one item." I turned the collar of my rough shirt to show him the tiny ruby nestled in silver.  "The stickpin Shrewd gave me, to mark me as his.  I still have that." Patience had used it to secure the grave cloth that had wrapped me.  I set aside that thought.

"I'm still surprised that Regal's guard didn't rob your body.  I suppose the Wit has such an evil reputation they feared you dead as well as alive."

I reached to finger the bridge of my nose where it had been broken.  "They did not seem to fear me much at all, that I could tell."

Chade smiled crookedly at me.  "The nose bothers you, does it? I think it gives your face more character."

I squinted at him in the sunlight.  "Really?"

"No.  But it's the polite thing to say.  It's not so bad, really.  It almost looks as if someone tried to set it."

I shuddered at the jagged tip of a memory.  "I don't want to think about it," I told him honestly.

Pain for me clouded his face suddenly.  I looked away from it, unable to bear his pity.  The recollections of the beatings I had endured were more bearable if I could pretend that no one else had known of them.  I felt shamed at what Regal had done to me.  I leaned my head back against the sun-soaked wood of the cabin wall and took a long breath.  "So.  What is happening down there where people are still alive?"

Chade cleared his throat, accepting the change in topic.  "Wel...

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