A content warning may well be in order.
The succeeding chapter, “Alliances,” begins with Brashen conferring with the Paragon, trying to elicit some reaction from the figurehead as the sentence of isolation relaxes. The ship tries to wound the captain with words, but fails; Brashen’s melancholy has already cut him. They reach an uneasy detente of sorts, though it seems to satisfy neither ship nor captain.
Elsewhere, Tintaglia soars about the waves, considering her situation, the need to find the last young of her species, and the changes to the geography from what she recalls in her ancestral memories. She muses with disgust on humanity before encountering a serpent that has gone almost completely feral, trapped in a backwater and raging at her as she tries to aid it. Her efforts are of no avail, and she performs a final mercy on the serpent, tasting the lingering despair of his existence as she does so. Departing, she begins to consider how humanity might be brought to the dragons’ aid.
Aboard the Paragon, Lavoy reports to Brashen. The captain issues a series of directives to the mate, most of which are not to the latter’s liking. After dismissing Lavoy, Brashen considers the coming conflict with Althea with trepidation and longing.
For her part, Althea manages her watch and muses on her situation with Brashen. She muses over the crew assigned to her, assessing their strengths and weaknesses evenly, and Brashen informs her of the imminent rescinding of the isolation order for the Paragon. Althea accepts the order and considers its likely impact on the sullen Amber before her thoughts turn toward the Vivacia and the plan to retake her. When Brashen issues his orders, including the change in watch-crews, Althea seethes but holds her peace; she seethes more when, as she comes off watch, Clef conveys a summons to the captain’s quarters.
Althea reports as ordered, and Brashen invites her to voice her complaints to him. After a bit of prodding, she does so, somewhat vehemently. Her complaint–that he had shamed her by ordering her back from battle–provokes an unexpected apology that shifts into an anguished declaration of love from Brashen. That, in turn, moves into an assignation that leaves Althea feeling nearly fulfilled.
On the foredeck, Amber confers with the ship, trying to explain the finality of death. The ship is aware of and confused by what Brashen and Althea do in the captain’s cabin, however, and is distracted from the conversation thereby.
I am aware that, as a reader, I am supposed to be in favor of Althea and Brashen re/beginning a romantic relationship. Certainly, the novels have thrust the two of them together repeatedly and given them opportunities to fall in and out and in again. But I cannot help but read the encounter between them in the current chapter as some combination of contrived–it’s a novel; of course it is–and harassive. Brashen is the captain of the Paragon; Althea is second mate and therefore under his direct command as an officer in the ship’s complement. She is not in a position to be able to refuse his advances, really, and a diminished capacity to refuse them necessarily makes for questions about their acceptance. Certainly, were I to act so in my leadership role, I would (potentially) provoke harassment proceedings; the lack of an analogous legal recourse within the milieu of the novel does not mean the act is less–questionable? Reprehensible? Illicit? Immoral? Wrong? I am not sure what word applies here, really, but I am sure that the passage in question is…uncomfortable reading, even for me. How it would strike people more directly touched by such acts in their own lives, I am not sure I am equipped to consider.