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In hardcover for the first time ever! A richly illustrated anniversary edition from the beloved Farseer Trilogy, hailed by George R. R. Martin as “fantasy as it ought to be written,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda as “an incredible series.”
FitzChivalry Farseer and the Fool are back again in book two of the beloved saga, full of adventure, magic, and sinister plots. A quarter-century after the original publication of the Farseer Trilogy, these special editions present Robin Hobb’s modern classics as never before: in gorgeous hardcover editions, with ten beautiful full-color illustrations by Magali Villeneuve.
As Royal Assassin begins, Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd and to remain in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.
Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Royal Assassin (The Illustrated Edition)
To be the King-in-Waiting, or the Queen-in-Waiting, is to firmly straddle the fence between responsibility and authority. It is said the position was created to satisfy the ambitions of an heir for power, while schooling him in the exercising of it. The eldest child in the royal family assumes this position upon the sixteenth birthday. From that day on, the King-or Queen-in-Waiting assumes a full share of responsibility for the running of the Six Duchies. Generally, he immediately assumes such duties as the ruling monarch cares least for, and these have varied greatly from reign to reign.
Under King Shrewd, Prince Chivalry first became king-in-waiting. To him, King Shrewd ceded over all that had to do with the borders and frontiers: warfare, negotiations and diplomacy, the discomforts of extended travel and the miserable conditions often encountered on the campaigns. When Chivalry abdicated and Prince Verity became king-in-waiting, he inherited all the uncertainties of the war with the Outislanders, and the civil unrest this situation created between the Inland and Coastal Duchies. All of these tasks were rendered more difficult in that, at any time, his decisions could be overridden by the King. Often he was left to cope with a situation not of his creating, armed only with options not of his choosing.
Even less tenable, perhaps, was the position of Queen-in-Waiting Kettricken. Her Mountain ways marked her as a foreigner in the Six Duchies court. In peaceful times, perhaps she would have been received with more tolerance. But the court at Buckkeep seethed with the general unrest of the Six Duchies. The Red-Ships from the Outislands harried our shoreline as they had not for generations, destroying far more than they stole. The first winter of Kettricken’s reign as queen-in-waiting saw also the first winter raiding we had ever experienced. The constant threat of raids, and the lingering torment of Forged ones in our midst, rocked the foundations of the Six Duchies. Confidence in the monarchy was low, and Kettricken had the unenviable position of being an unadmired king-in-waiting’s outlandish queen.
Civil unrest divided the court as the Inland Duchies voiced their resentment at taxes to protect a coastline they did not share. The Coastal Duchies cried out for warships and soldiers and an effective way to battle the Raiders that always struck where we were least prepared. Inland-bred Prince Regal sought to gather power to himself by courting the Inland Dukes with gifts and social attentions. King-in-Waiting Verity, convinced that his Skill was no longer sufficient to hold the Raiders at bay, put his attentions to building warships to guard the Coastal Duchies, with little time for his new queen. Over all, King Shrewd crouched like a great spider, endeavoring to keep power spread among himself and his sons, to keep all in balance and the Six Duchies intact.
I awakened to someone touching my forehead. With an annoyed grunt, I turned my head aside from the touch. My blankets were weltered around me; I fought my way clear of their restraint and then sat up to see who had dared disturb me. King Shrewd’s fool perched anxiously on a chair beside my bed. I stared at him wildly, and he drew back from my look. Uneasiness assailed me.
The Fool should have been back in Buckkeep, with the King, many miles and days from here. I had never known him to leave the King’s side for more than a few hours or a night’s rest. That he was here boded no good. The Fool was my friend, as much as his strangeness allowed him to be friends with anyone. But a visit from him always had a purpose, and such purposes were seldom trivial or pleasant. He looked as weary as I had ever seen him. He wore an unfamiliar motley of greens and reds and carried a fool’s scepter with a rat’s head on it. The gay garments contrasted too strongly with his colorless skin. They made him a translucent candle wreathed in holly. His clothing seemed more substantial than he did. His fine pale hair floated from the confines of his cap like a drowned man’s hair in seawater, while the dancing flames of the fireplace shone in his eyes. I rubbed my gritty eyes and pushed some of the hair back from my face. My hair was damp; I’d been sweating in my sleep.
“Hello,” I managed. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” My mouth felt dry, my tongue thick and sour. I’d been sick, I recalled. The details seemed hazy.
“Where else?” He looked at me woefully. “For every hour you’ve slept, the less rested you seem. Lie back, my lord. Let me make you comfortable.” He plucked at my pillows fussily, but I waved him away. Something was wrong here. Never had he spoken me so fair. Friends we were, but the Fool’s words to me were always as pithy and sour as half-ripened fruit. If this sudden kindness was a show of pity, I wanted none of it.
I glanced down at my embroidered nightshirt, at the rich bedcovers. Something seemed odd about them. I was too tired and weak to puzzle it out. “What are you doing here?” I asked him.
He took a breath and sighed. “I am tending you. Watching over you while you sleep. I know you think it foolish, but then, I am the Fool. You know then that I must be foolish. Yet you ask me this same thing every time you awake. Let me then propose something wiser. I beg you, my lord, let me send for another healer.”
I leaned back against my pillows. They were sweat damp, and smelled sour to me. I knew I could ask the Fool to change them and he would. But I would just sweat anew if he did. It was useless. I clutched at my covers with gnarled fingers. I asked him bluntly, “Why have you come here?”
He took my hand in his and patted it. “My lord, I mistrust this sudden weakness. You seem to take no good from this healer’s ministrations. I fear that his knowledge is much smaller than his opinion of it.”
“Burrich?” I asked incredulously.
“Burrich? Would that he were here, my lord! He may be the stablemaster, but for all that, I warrant he is more of a healer than this Wallace who doses and sweats you.”
“Wallace? Burrich is not here?”
The Fool’s face grew graver. “No, my king. He remained in the Mountains, as well you know.”
“Your king,” I said, and attempted to laugh. “Such mockery.”
“Never, my lord,” he said gently. “Never.” His tenderness confused me. This was not the Fool I knew, full of twisting words and riddles, of sly jabs and puns and cunning insults. I felt suddenly stretched thin as old rope, and as frayed. Still, I tried to piece things together. “Then I am in Buckkeep?”
He nodded slowly. “Of course you are.” Worry pinched his mouth.
I was silent, plumbing the full depth of my betrayal. Somehow I had been returned to Buckkeep. Against my will. Burrich had not even seen fit to accompany me.
“Let me get you some food,” the Fool begged me. “You always feel better after you have eaten.” He rose. “I brought it up hours ago. I’ve kept it warm by the hearth.”
My eyes followed him wearily. At the big hearth he crouched, to coach a covered tureen away from the edge of the fire. He lifted the lid and I smelled rich beef stew. He began to ladle it into a bowl. It had been months since I’d had beef. In the Mountains, it was all venison and mutton and goat’s flesh. My eyes wandered wearily about the room. The heavy tapestries, the massive wooden chairs. The heavy stones of the fireplace, the richly worked bed hangings. I knew this place. This was the King’s bedchamber at Buckkeep. Why was I here, in the King’s own bed? I tried to ask the Fool, but another spoke with my lips. “I know too many things, Fool. I can no longer stop myself from knowing them. Sometimes it is as if another controlled my will, and pushed my mind where I would rather it did not go. My walls are breached. It all pours in like a tide.” I drew a deep breath, but I could not stave it off. First a chill tingling, then as if I were immersed in a swift flowing of cold water. “A rising tide,” I gasped. “Bearing ships. Red-keeled ships . . .”
The Fool’s eyes widened in alarm. “In this season, Your Majesty? Surely not! Not in winter!”
My breath was pressed tight in my chest. I struggled to speak. “The winter has crept in too softly. She has spared us both her storms and her protection. Look. Look out there, across the water. See? They come. They come from the fog.”
I lifted my arm to point. The Fool came hastily, to stand beside me. He crouched to peer where I pointed, but I knew he could not see. Still, he loyally placed a hesitant hand on my thin shoulder, and stared as if he could will away the walls and the miles that stood between him and my vision. I longed to be as blind as he. I clasped the long-fingered pale hand that rested on my shoulder. For a moment I looked down at my withered hand, at the royal signet ring that clung to a bony finger behind a swollen knuckle. Then my reluctant gaze was drawn up and my vision taken afar.
Robin Hobb is the author of the Farseer Trilogy, the Liveship Traders Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy, the Soldier Son Trilogy, and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. She has also written as Megan Lindholm. She is a native of Washington State.
Magali Villeneuve has been an illustrator for well over a decade, and started by painting book covers in France, her home country. She now works for many different companies and publishing houses around the world, including Wizards of the Coast, Titan Publishing, Dynamite Comics, Valve Corporation, and Fantasy Flight Games. Her work has been featured in role-playing games, video games, collectible cards games, magazines, and book covers. She has done work in the universes of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and more. She is also the author of the dark fantasy book series La Dernière Terre in France.