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The next chapter, “Taking Charge,” begins with Althea retreating from Brashen’s exit from the Vestrit home. She muses on their shared circumstances and the paths that have led Brashen back to his home port, noting the changes that have occurred in herself and positing that similar amounts of change are likely to have befallen the Vivacia. And she watches from a window as Brashen departs.
In the middle of that night, Malta sneaks from her room to meet with Brashen’s younger siblings, Cerwin and Delo. She mulls over the family’s situation and purposes, filled with romantic ideas, to enlist the aid of others, beginning with Cerwin. She rehearses to them the situation of the captured Vivacia, even as her opinion of Cerwin falls against what she has learned of his brother, and as she blatantly manipulates him (above Delo’s objections, it must be noted) towards aligning with her family in the coming Traders’ Council meeting. He agrees, but the form of his agreement surprises Malta, to the disappointment of her romantic ideas. As the three return to their homes, Malta considers what she perceives as Cerwin’s deficiencies against Brashen–and Brashen’s evident interest in Althea.
For his own part, Brashen exits the tavern where he had found dinner and considers his situation. He decides to abandon the Springeve, and he mulls over his experience with the Vestrit women–including Malta. His thoughts, predictably, are most on Althea, and his feet take him back to the Paragon, where Amber stands ready to the ship’s defense. The ship recognizes Brashen, though, and introduces the sailor and carver to each other. After a brief argument, Amber informs Brashen of changes that have occurred in his absence, and Brashen rehearses his news of the Vivacia. The talk sends the Paragon into a strange, painful episode, and Brashen and Amber withdraw to continue conversing. Amber waxes philosophical, and Brashen retreats–toward Bingtown and away from the ship.
When she returns to her room, Malta seeks to reach out to Reyn again. The effort is futile, and she longs for her father’s return. Reyn, however, struggles in his own dreams against a voice in his mind that pleads for release. He considers what he knows of wizardwood and its origins as cocoons for strange beings: dragons. His thoughts turn at length to Malta, and they join in dream at last. She relates the news about her father and the Vivacia, imploring his help; he demurs, and the dragon that has harangued Reyn interjects, prompting Reyn to explain much, but not all, before the dream fades–and the dragon’s voice in Reyn’s mind does not.
One thing that the chapter points out–and there are other things to take from the text–is that the expectations a person may have of people from attending to tales are not apt to be fulfilled. This is something of an interesting message to receive from an author who focuses on verisimilitude in her fantastic writing; the in-text and out-of-text comments seem to be at odds with one another. That does not mean it the in-text message is without precedent, however; Don Quixote, for example, is a warning against overindulgence in genre fiction and romantic ideas, and there are many others to be found. And it must be remembered that Malta, despite her protestations of womanhood, remains an adolescent, and one who has led a relatively sheltered, certainly upper-class life; inexperience in the young is excusable, particularly as it falls away.
2 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 154: Mad Ship, Chapter 16”
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