A chapter titled “The Quickening of the Vivacia” follows, opening with Ephron being brought aboard the ship on a litter, as if cargo rather than the long-time captain of the vessel, while Brashen watches in pain. He helps Althea lay the man directly on the deck, and he springs to Ephron’s order to aid Althea in retrieving the peg from the figurehead, the older man praising him. They are able to return the peg to Ephron just in time to give it him before he dies, choking, and amid the revelation that the Vivacia will go to Keffira rather than to Althea.
Althea is soon wrapped up again in her grief at the loss of both her father and what she had thought was her birthright. The family fracas continues, with Kyle ranting about the incapacity of his elder son and Althea returning the peg to its hole to quicken the Vivacia, aided by Brashen. After she briefly confers with the now-wakened ship, she hears Brashen put off her decks, and, after another small fracas, she follows.
For his own part, Brashen pulls his discharge pay and tries, without success, to get a ship’s ticket–a reference for his skills at sea. He plots his next course of action with no eagerness, regretting earlier lack of thrift, but he is interrupted by Althea storming by, and he follows her once again.
I am minded as I read the chapter again of funerals I have attended, in which I have participated or to the foci of which I have been close. There have been more than a few, if less than there have been for all too many of my age, who reached adulthood just before 9/11 and the jingoistic fervor that followed it, dragging many into service and into early graves or worse. It has often been the case for me that I have acted…badly…at such events and in the days and weeks surrounding them. I am given to understand that it is not uncommon, that many people are at their worst when dealing with the deaths of others, particularly those who had been close to them as an indulgent father is to a beloved daughter. (My daughter is beloved; I do not know how indulgent I am.)
I have asserted before, I think, that one of the strengths of Hobb’s writing is its nuanced authenticity. Her characters act like people rather than like roles, and even the protagonists of her novels display behaviors and attitudes that are other than optimal. They are certainly on display in the present chapter, with the family fracas surrounding Ephron Vestrit’s death showing most of the Vestrit family other than at their best. It is still clear that readerly sympathy is directed away from Kyle Haven–the slut-shaming in which he indulges after Althea re-seats the figurehead peg is hardly a valorization–but even with that, he is not the only one acting badly.
Avoiding Mary Sue is a good thing.