The following chapter, “Ships and Serpents,” begins with Wintrow and the Vivacia conferring about their respective perspectives. The ship notes that, in the absence of Wintrow, she had begun to become aware of something she cannot put into words, some sense of identity other than that of herself as a liveship awakened by the blood of Wintrow’s kin. They are disturbed by the captain’s approach to the foredeck.
Said captain rails against a crew that struggles to maintain order and good form while the ship they sail is unwilling to cooperate. Mentally, he rails against his son for not meeting his expectations, as well as against his wife and her family for the same. The ship and the trailing serpent also attract his ire, and he assaults Wintrow, making to pitch his still-fettered son overboard to the waiting sea-creature.
The serpents themselves are confused by the Vivacia as they follow her out of Jamaillia Bay and on her northward journey. One follows her as a food source; Maulkin and others follow her as a sort of echo of a pivotal figure. But they do so with hesitation, uncertainty.
Aboard the ship, a fracas ensues as Gantry answers the ship’s summons and tries to calm matters. Gantry works to put matters to rights as the captain considers what he had been about to do and the ship herself tries to puzzle out what she felt when she slapped at one of the trailing serpents. The captain looks on with patriarchal disgust as the mate tries to restore some semblance of calm and order to the ship, and he rails at the lot of them before stalking back to his cabin.
After, Wintrow considers matters as the ship makes what progress she can, given her cargo and crew. He and the ship fall into an angry existential argument, from which they emerge suddenly into an uneasy self-questioning and contemplation.
Aboard the Ophelia, Althea finds herself confronted by the liveship; her disguise is of no avail to her. The ship plays with her regarding her secret, winning far more than she gives up, and Althea learns something of the liveships’ community. She muses on what she has lost from not having asked for aid, and the ship presses on.
If there is a central theme to the chapter, it is encapsulated in the passage aboard the Ophelia, and it is the theme spoken to by the old adages of carpe diem and memento mori. It is the reminder that the present is of value, that being present is of value. Things are lost by absence, never to be reclaimed, even if the absence is needful or helpful–and especially when it is not, and not asking for aid often makes for absences that are not needed or helpful. As someone who has been away, perhaps too much, I find the reminder…uncomfortable, but I also know that being made uncomfortable is a good thing every now and again. Reactions to it are not always so, as the world shows far more often than could be hoped. But perhaps such discomforts can lead to better ends.