The next chapter, “Family Matters,” opens with Kennit and Sorcor taking their captured slaveship, the Fortune, into port with a crew largely taken from the former slaves. When they are in port, Kennit reviews the charts from the captured ship as he lets it be known that he is taking offers on her. The ship’s status is rehearsed; it shows the stains of its service, and Kennit is struck by the condition of the former slaves as he tours it. The assigned captain, Rafo, notes the likely histories of the former slaves, and they misinterpret the reflexive eye-watering as tears shed for their condition.
When Kennit goes ashore, he finds his crew strangely eager. He also finds himself the center of an impromptu celebration, lauded as a savior by the freed people and the port town. He takes the chance to expand his influence, effectively bringing the town under his willing command. His empire has begun to form.
In Bingtow, Kyle and Keffria dine in advance of his shipping out. She asks to see Wintrow again, but is denied. Althea has still not returned to the Vestrit home, and Kyle is convinced she will return penniless; he presses Keffira to take her in hand when she does. He also presses for heartless economic decisions about family holdings, and their daughter, Malta, interrupts with questions about preparations for an upcoming social event. Keffria protests her suggestions, but Kyle sides with his daughter against her mother. When, afterward, Keffria voices her objections to Kyle’s permissions, he rebukes her angrily.
After Kyle storms off, Keffria muses on the changes in their relationship. Her reverie is broken by Ronica coming in. They confer about Kyle, Ronica casting aspersion on the idea of the Vivacia becoming a slaveship, rehearsing what she has learned of the conditions in them. She also notes the shifts to local government that have occurred, with new interests beginning to have a sizable voice. The threat to the Rain Wild River and the Traders upon it is also noted, and Keffria realizes that Kyle’s ignorance of Trader matters is a threat to them all.
Hobb goes to great pains to depict the evils of slavery in the chapter, both among the pirates and in Bingtown. She also goes to some pains to note the dehumanizing aspects of enslaving people, emphasizing that the system is destructive for all involved in it (though clearly more so for the people put into bondage than for those who put them into it). Keffira serves as an embodiment of the consumer who benefits from slave labor, able to justify it only insofar as she is able to avoid thinking about the practice. And, like many who are now in similar situations, she is unable to divest herself of entanglement in a corrupt system, certainly at a single stroke.
It is something which more people need to consider, certainly.