The following chapter, “Paragon‘s Captain,” begins with matters returning to normal aboard the Paragon in the wake of the encounter with the serpent. With some caveats: Brashen calls for combat training to begin among the crew, and the ship is strangely pensive–almost mourning–following the encounter. After some tense discussion, in which Lavoy is embarrassed, Brashen’s status as captain is absolutely affirmed, and he puts Lavoy, Althea, and Amber to tasks to assist in the search for the Vivacia. Amber also discusses her work on the figurehead, repairing the scar that mars the figure’s chest; Brashen is a bit put off by it but bids the work continue–carefully. After dismissing Amber, Brashen has a few words for Althea, as well, before she is dismissed, in turn, and Brashen wonders if things will ease.
Amber continues her work with the Paragon, the figurehead noting to her its dual nature. They discuss questions of identity as the ship muses on her fragility, and Amber remarks upon self-determination. The ship frightens Amber and Althea, who keeps watch, for a moment, but Amber asserts that things are well with the Paragon and with her.
The chapter serves, appropriately enough, as something of a denouement, following after the falling action of the Paragon storyline in the present novel. And it does serve to help set up the next volume in the series–fittingly enough, since but one chapter and a numbered epilogue remain in the present one. It also presents an interesting irony, one that becomes clearer in a rereading and that requires knowledge confirmed in other places to make sense; as such, I’ll not detail it, only to point out that it is present. In truth, as I reread the chapter this time, I have to wonder if ideas about Amber’s origin and the friend she reports having and conversing with in absentia were forming as Hobb wrote it, if they had not been before–or if, perhaps, they had been, and she realized more needed to be done to bring out such a connection.
Such considerations do range outside what can be ascertained, of course; at best, reports of process would be available, and there are always issues with reports. Even those filled out with an intention of honest transparency will necessarily omit details, recollection being imperfect and mediation always bringing about changes. But it is an interesting thing to think on, at least for a little while.