30 Day Book Challenge – Day 24
I realise that this is going to sound sort of bizarre, but I’m nothing if not eccentric in my ways.
I recently finished reading Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand (I know, I know, I’m still stuck in the Robin Hobb love bubble), and I was on a plane when I read this particular scene. Now, I’m not usually prone to public displays of relative instability and unsoundness, but I honest to God was crying like a baby when I read this scene. I mentioned I was on a plane at the time, right?
I then arrived at my destination, hopped in the shower and booed again. A week later I was walking through town with my mum, explaining how I had teared up on the plane AND in the shower, and as I related the scene to her I choked up again. Mum was a little concerned, but once I managed to get it out through the sobs, she understood.
So my favourite scene is one that has me wailing like a banshee? Yes, it is.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so emotionally connected to a character/s and his/their quest, as I have with Fitz and co. in both The Farseer Trilogy and now The Tawny Man Trilogy. I think the sheer fact that I got so upset by this scene is a testament to the author and her writing. When I’m reading these books, I’m there and the characters are real. I experience their joys and their sorrows, their desires and their concerns.
The scene in question is at the end of the book after the final battle, when the protagonist, Fitz, lays down by his wolf, Nighteyes, with whom he can communicate with and is essentially bonded to in mind, heart and soul. Those who have this ‘magic’ are known as Witted, or as having the Wit. In this book, Fitz and Nighteyes undertake a quest to save their Prince Dutiful from a band of Witted folk with evil intentions. Throughout the story it becomes apparent that Fitz and Nighteyes are not the youthful heroes they once were, with Nighteyes in particular showing signs of fatigue and aging. As they fall asleep after the final fight, exhausted, they share thoughts and dreams.
I could not sort out which thoughts were mine and which were the wolf’s. I didn’t need to. I sank into his dreams with him and we dreamed well together. Perhaps it was Dutiful’s loss that put us so much in mind of all we still possessed, and all we had had. We dreamed of a cub hunting mice beneath the rotting floor of an old outbuilding, and we dreamed of a man and a wolf pulling down a great boar between them. We dreamed of stalking one another in deep snow, tussling and yelping and shouting. Deer blood, hot in the mouth, and the rich soft liver to squabble over. And then we sank past those ancient memories into perfect rest and comfort. Healing begins in deep sleep such as that.
He stirred first. I nearly woke as he rose, gingerly shook himself, and then stretched more bravely. His superior sense of smell told me that the edge of dawn was in the air. The weak sun had just begun to touch the dew-wet grasses, waking the smells of the earth. Game would be stirring. The hunting would be good.
I’m so tired, I complained. I can’t believe you’re getting up. Rest for a while longer. We’ll hunt later.
You’re tired? I’m so tired that rest won’t ease me. Only the hunt. I felt his wet nose poke my cheek. It was cold. Aren’t you coming? I was sure you’d want to come with me.
I do. I do. But not just yet. Give me just a bit longer.
Very well, little brother. Just a bit longer. Follow me when you will.
But my mind rode with his, as it had so many times. We left the cave, thick with man-stink, and walked past the cat’s new cairn. We smelled her death, and the musk of a fox who had come to the scent, but turned aside at the smell of the campfire’s smoke. Swiftly we left the camp behind. Nighteyes chose the open hillside instead of the wooded vale. The sky overhead was blue and deep, and the last star fading in the sky. The night had been colder than I had realised. Frost tipped some of the grasses still, but as the rising sun touched it, it smoked briefly and was gone. The crisp edge of the air remained, each scent as sharp as a clean knife-edge. With a wolf’s nose, I scented all and knew all. The world was ours. The turning time, I said to him.
Exactly. Time to change, Changer.
There were fat mice hastily harvesting seedheads in the tall grass, but we passed them by. At the top of the hill we paused. We walked the spine of the hill, smelling the morning, tasting the lip of the day to come. There would be deer in the forested creek bottoms. They would be healthy and strong and fat, a challenge to any pack let alone a single wolf. He would need me at his side to hunt those. He would have to come back for them later. Nevertheless, he halted on top of the ridge. The morning wind riffled his fur and his ears were perked as he looked down to where we knew they must be.
Good hunting. I’m going now brother. He spoke with great determination.
Alone? You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation. Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.
Wait for you? Not likely! I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.
Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows. My connection to him frayed away as he went scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind. Instead of small and secret, I felt our bond go wide and open, as if he had invited all the Witted creatures in the world in to share our joining. All the web of life on the whole hillside suddenly swelled within my heart, linked and meshed and woven through with one another. It was too glorious to contain. I had to go with him; a morning this wondrous must be shared.
‘Wait!’ I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself. Nearby, the Fool sat up, his hair tousled. I blinked. My mouth was full of salve and wolf-hair, my fingers buried deep in his coat. I clutched him to me, and my grip sighed his last stilled breath out of his lungs. But Nighteyes was gone.
Robin Hobb Fool’s Errand pp.604-606
And yes, typing this out had me in tears yet again! It’s so sad, and yet so beautiful. I think Robin Hobb is a truly wonderful writer.