The next chapter, “Dragon and Satrap,” begins with Malta languishing in the damp underground cold. She calms herself, pressing onward to follow a sound she is uncertain she hears and a light she is uncertain she sees, soon coming past the cave-in that had trapped her and igniting magic lights that show her the fallen glory from which the Rain Wilds derive their wealth. The setting is familiar to her from dreams with Reyn (here, here, and elsewhere), and she finds herself confused by both the motion of the ground and the fleeting visions of others she sees around her. Pressing on, Malta comes to a chamber carrying the crowned rooster of the Khuprus family; sounds of merriment reach her from behind it. The sounds are illusory, though, as Malta finds when she breaches the chamber, accidentally lays her hands on wizardwood, and hears the voice of the dragon in her mind again.
Elsewhere in Trehaug, Jani and Bendir Khuprus confer about Reyn and the wizardwood log they do not realize Malta has found. His status and scandal are remarked upon, and Bendir offers to send him back to work in the city; Jani refuses, and the two head to Reyn’s chambers. They find him frantic and restrain him as he raves that the dragon has Malta and has abandoned him. Jani manages to calm him, along with the effects of sleeplessness and drink, and she and Bendir steal out of his chamber.
Meanwhile, Malta has been dickering with the dragon for noninterference after retrieving her father. She manages to wrangle the dragon’s name, Tintaglia, and a solemn promise to do the things named. Tintaglia communicates the need for her release and conveys a method for effecting it, sharing memories with Malta and guiding her to yet others. The input overwhelms her until the dragon drags her back into herself, and Malta attempts to open the chamber to the outside world. The initial effort is unsuccessful, and Tintaglia dispatches Malta to retrieve Selden to assist; as Malta makes to obey, she encounters the Satrap and his Companion, Kekki. In disdain, they move off; Malta corrects their course, bringing them with her as she begins to effect her own escape from the unstable city.
Among the other things going on in the present chapter is reference to the Farseer books, namely the stone garden where Verity carves his dragon (here and following). In earlier readings, I had seen the matter as something of a retcon, evidently having glossed over the present chapter in memory when I did the earlier reading; the present chapter bids me reconsider that somewhat. If nothing else, Hobb noted the divergent dragons earlier than I had remembered, which is my problem and not the author’s. I am not pleased to have been wrong, as such, although I do appreciate the opportunities afforded by rereading; getting more things right is always a pleasure.
The comments from Tintaglia about the inadequacies of males of her species and Malta’s are of interest, especially against the ongoing feminist critique the Liveship Traders novels offer. The assertion that “Males are timorous creatures at best. They think only to feed and breed….Males will quiver in the shadows, fearing their own deaths. [Females] know that the only thing to be feared is the end of the race” presents an entertainingly divergent perspective that puts me in mind of LeGuin’s later Earthsea materials–although I do not recall them well enough to be able to speak to more direct connections than my having read both. Others who know more would doubtlessly have somewhat to say about it, and I would happily listen.