The following chapter, “Interlude,” begins with the serpent Shreever musing on the status of Mauklin’s group. She, Mauklin, and Sessurea alone remain of their original gathering; they are joined by other serpents gone feral as they press northward. Maulkin weakens and grows depressed. One of the feral serpents rises above the water and sings, and Maulklin suddenly grapples therewith, finding that a core of consciousness remains within.
Through more struggle, the three are able to reawaken that consciousness; the serpent recalls his name, Tellur. Slowly, the other feral serpents also return to consciousness, naming themselves–Kelaro and Sylic. After orienting themselves, they agree to align themselves to Maulkin and to press on in search of a serpent who actually remembers what it is they are supposed to do to do more than simply survive in the flesh.
The chapters that focus on the serpents tend to be shorter than those that focus on more human characters. There is sense in this; the minds of non-human sentients would necessarily be less accessible, their actions less understandable, than those of humans to human readers. At the same time, the non-human intelligences are at work in Hobb’s literary world, and it is not good to disregard them. Showing their workings in brief serves to remind readers that there is more going on than the social upheavals clearly at work in Bingtown, in Jamaillia, and between them, while not going so far afield from them that readers lose a sense of narrative and understanding.
More people would do well to recognize that other minds are at work in the world.