The following chapter, “Rain Wild Traders,” opens with Ronica in a foul mood and Keffria attempting to negotiate it as Malta looks on and plots her own affairs, rehearsing what she knows of upcoming events. A major Trader social function is in the offering, and Malta seeks to impress at it; her family’s situation hinders her prospects of doing so.
The three ride to the event with Davad Restart, who muses on the benefits of slavery as they ride along together. Malta notes mentally and with some aspersion Ronica’s handling of the conversation, and she acts something of an ass as the Vestrits enter the darkened venue for the event. Malta muses on the reasons for the darkening as she, Keffria, and Ronica make to enter. While they wait to be announced, Malta is introduced to the Rain Wild Trader Jani Khuprus. She makes a slight faux pas with her, though the older woman takes it in stride.
When the Vestrits are seated, Malta continues to muse aspersively on their surroundings and the event as it gets underway. It is something of a legal convocation, and Trader Khuprus addresses the assembled Bingtown Traders on behalf of the Rain Wild group, calling for their intercession with the Satrap in Jamaillia, to whom they owe nominal allegiance and from whom they claim exclusive legal privileges that are being infringed upon.
A tumult arises in the wake of Khuprus’s plea, the Traders present growing fractious and argumentative. Khuprus calls for unity, and discussion continues as Malta excuses herself. Along the way, she encounters another Rain Wild Trader, with whom she converses for some minutes before realizing that he is not what he seems and that there is potential for scandal. She gives him her name before she makes her way back to her family.
Elsewhere, a group of serpents proceeds northward, if uncertainly. They press forward, striving towards something of which they are unsure.
I forget if I have noted another one of Hobb’s meaningful names: Davad Restart. The surname seems a fairly obvious bit of foreshadowing, promising to be the source of a renewal in the book–and it can be argued that he does, in his approval of chattel slavery and alliance with the New Traders whose landed presence violates the promises of Bingtown’s founding, look towards a new beginning for his home. That does not mean it is a pleasant or desirable one, however, for many or most who would be affected by it.
I note also that the focus on Malta offers insight into her still-childish character, and it is also not a pleasant or desirable one. Frankly, the girl is spoiled. She has been allowed to be, which is not her fault, but not all of her unpleasantness is a result of easy circumstances. There is this to consider, however; her character is not alone in being thus unpleasant, and there is room for her to grow from where she is in the present chapter…