Who the fuck is driving this bus? is the worst feeling in the whole world, that Dolores Umbridge feeling. I can't think of anything scarier or more crushing -- slicing -- than being trapped like that, under the authority of somebody who doesn't deserve it. There's nobody to back you up, there's no higher level to jump to, there's no getting around it: You are subject to this, whatever unfair horrible thing is going on, you are abject before it. This is how terrorism happens, because of this feeling; this is why people set themselves on fire. I hate it, I hate even thinking about it. She nailed it.
"When your father came to Defiance, you and your brother were small boys. Christie was just a baby. Your mother Pilar was sick. In the Old World, the name for it was bipolar, but that's meaningless here. When the world fell apart, they stopped making her medicine... I was a quartermaster in the war and knew how to procure, well, challenging items. With the help of Datak Tarr, we were able to keep poor, fragile Pilar on the straight and narrow..."
Quentin doesn't talk, just stares. All these conspiracies, she sits in the middle of them.
"Gradually, over time and inevitably, the medicine stopped working. It's not surprising, it was more than a decade old. I don't need to tell you that in this world we live in, there's no place for the fragile. Pilar got worse and worse..."
It's a queasy bit of parallel, this Beloved sort of idea of motherhood turning in on itself: You don't want your children living in a world you can't see yourself living in. The circumstances are different, between Amanda's choice and Pilar's, the politics are different -- one is a woman's right, the other one was just being crazy -- but in the context of Irisa and the Irath it starts to look a little different: Like the only thing worse than being on a bus driven by somebody evil would be to have your kids with you.
So Rafe, according to Nicky, came pretty close to murdering his wife for trying to take their kids out of the equation. But Nicky calmed him down -- they were lovers, she mentions in passing, by this point -- and to save him and their relationship, she took control of the situation: Sent Pilar off to Mendocino and ended up losing him anyway.
In return for a map to his mother, all she asks Quentin for is his key to the mines, and the artifact. It doesn't seem like a big trade, to him. Because now he has that feeling too: That if the people you rely on can lie to your face like that, take a living woman and make her a dead one, then there's not a lot keeping you here. He can't be expected to understand that all three of them, in their various ways, were trying to protect him from the end of the world, because now that world has ended. They can't be expected to understand that he, that all of their children, live in the world that exists.