A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 173: Mad Ship, Chapter 35

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


T he following chapter, “Trehaug,” opens with Keffria, Malta, and Selden in the titular city on the Rain Wild River, Selden exulting in the new location and what it offers. Malta is less sanguine, musing on the political situation–Bingtown is under a blockade–and environmental hazards–serpents cluster around the mouth of the Rain Wild River. She notes that her skin is changing, but the healer who calls in on her bids her be up and about to recover. Malta voices agreement but muses on her inward refusal and rehearses recent events, assessing her surroundings. Trehaug is described in some detail, some of it sinister.

Trehaug sketch
A view of the titular city…
Trehaug sketch by liara-renard on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Malta is roused by the touch of a gloved hand on her face; it is Reyn, and she is not pleased. He pleads his case with her, and she rails at him. He takes a knee and apologizes for his error, frankly and without evasion; it takes her aback, and she avers her forgiveness of him as she reassesses him. At her insistence, he offers information about the status of Bingtown–it is not good–and she cuts him off as she recalls her trip form Bingtown to Trehaug through a fog of injury and memory. After a pause, conversation resumes, with Reyn offering more details about how things are going and what preparations are being made against the attack that is expected to come. In effect, the Rain Wilds and Bingtown are caught in an internal Jamaillian conflict.

The pair are interrupted by the intrusion of the healer’s assistant, who had come to ensure that Malta rose and walked. Reyn noted that he would address the matter, acknowledging the scandal that would attend on his doing so–and his having intruded upon Malta’s convalescence. He proposes to her anew, and she defers. She asks him about his “drowning in memories,” which takes him aback; he explains why, linking it to the dragon Malta also heard in her dreams and noting the arrangement he has made as a result–which frees the Vestrits from their debt for the Vivacia. Malta finds herself continuing to reassess Reyn and accompanies him on a walk.

Elsewhere in Trehaug, Traders confer about the fate of the Satrap, whom they hold hostage. Keffria is among them, internally questioning her inclusion, and she speaks up in support of the Khuprus position amid the ongoing arguments about what to do with Cosgo: trade him soon, chastise him before trading him, or send him back to Jamaillia and let the nobles there fight over him. As discussion continues, Keffria volunteers to be an emissary and scout for the Rain Wild Traders in Bingtown, citing her situation as useful cover. After some more discussion, her plan is approved, with some minor modifications.

That evening, Malta prevails upon Selden to take her into the underground parts of Trehaug; he hesitates but agrees. She soon passes him up, pressing further underground than he dares, and she is soon separated from him, alone in the damp darkness.

Early in the chapter, the idea of urinating on wood to protect it against the water of the Rain Wild River is noted. It is an interesting detail, not least because of the scatological humor it necessarily provokes (and, indeed, is seen in the chapter as being, among other things). It suggests that the waters of the Rain Wild River are exceptionally acidic; urine tends to be more alkaline than acid, so it would neutralize acids and mitigate their corrosive effects more than would be the case if the Rain Wild was corrosively alkaline. While water is often slightly acidic naturally, and there are areas where life has adapted to relatively high levels of acidity (here, for example), more acidic water tends to be worse for life. That said, peculiarly acidic water can be found in an area that might generously be included within the Pacific Northwest, the coincidence helping to align the Realm of the Elderlings with North America rather than more “typical” fantasy milieux. So there is that.

New month, new need for support.

2 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 173: Mad Ship, Chapter 35

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