The succeeding chapter, “The Storm,” opens with Keffria retrieving Malta and Delo for their formal presentations; the girls had been gossiping amiably as more of the preliminaries of the ball went on. Malta purposes to reflect well on her absent and elided father as she is announced and formally presented to the Bingtown Traders. She does well enough until Restart ostentatiously signals her over as the music, set to begin, waits, and Malta finds herself being presented by Restart to Satrap Cosgo–and she is humiliated to be associated with him thus.
After a brief, somewhat barbed exchange, the Satrap descends from his dais to dance with Malta; she is struck by his differences from her and from what she has known, and she is taken aback by the innuendo he voices as they dance together. But as he withdraws and she casts about afterward, Reyn encounters her; after a brief query, he escorts her back to Keffria at her own insistence. As they confer about what has just happened, Reyn threatens to kill Cosgo, and Malta rebukes him sharply. After a moment, Reyn offers a considered apology for his overreach; it is not accepted, and Malta finds herself in mind of her father again, thinking about the lapsing opportunities before her. As attention accrues to them, they spin off into the next dance, and they are almost at accord when Reyn offers what Malta recognizes as “patronizing words”; she extricates herself from him and fumes briefly before Delo’s brother, Cerwin, sweeps her into another dance.
Cerwin suffers in comparison to Reyn, and Malta continues to fume internally about the affair as she pays compliment to her dance partner, watching Reyn confer closely with his own–Serilla. She accepts a glass of wine and finds a seat.
Reyn, for his part, had been advised by the disguised Grag Tenira that a conspiracy brews against Cosgo, one in which the Chalcedean mercenaries are complicit and which will be used as a pretext to assail Bingtown and bring it under not just its current economic colonization, but under overt dominion. As Reyn dances with Serilla, he is briefed on such details as she has puzzled out; she suggests that he take Cosgo, herself, and the other Companion hostage as a way to thwart the coup. After, Reyn tries to convince Malta to leave the ball as he begins to make his way out to see to the abduction; she refuses, not understanding the reason for his urgency, and he departs, not without effort.
Malta continues on at the ball, dancing repeatedly with Cerwin before Keffria recalls her. Keffria presses for departure, noting that many of the Bingtown and all of the Rain Wild Traders have left. Restart hinders their departure, in part by requiring a formal farewell to the Satrap, which leads to the Satrap inviting himself to depart along with the Vestrit family. The ensuing departure is cramped and awkward, with Cosgo treading the line of boorishness all too closely until the party is beset by attackers.
In the fracas, Restart is killed, and Ronica struggles for her family. Keffria is injured but present and alive; Selden is in shock at the event. Malta is alive, as well, though others have died; the carriage in which they had been riding had rolled at least twice as a result of the attack.
It is only as I look back to compose this entry that I recall the title of the preceding chapter and the joke embedded therein; it was the calm before the storm. I delight in such things, of course, but I am somewhat annoyed not to have recognized or recalled the joke sooner. Then again, it has been an interesting few days, so…
Far less humorously, the promise of the previous chapter that the narrative climax was coming is fulfilled–and emphatically. The outbreak of violence, begun and not hindered, is a clear marker of the shift in power going on. The fallout therefrom cannot help but be severe; how much it will be, and for whom, will be seen.
I should note that I write this as more-than-winter conditions prevail across the part of the world where I live; the Hill Country is far, far from accustomed to such snowfall as I see from my window today, and I even had to abandon a car. (“Don’t go out unless you have to” still leaves “have to,” after all.) I hope to have another post up as scheduled on Monday, 22 February 2021, but I cannot make such a promise…it’s a hell of a way to mark my daughter’s seventh birthday, to be sure.