The next chapter, “Dragon Ship,” begins with Wintrow being forced back into consciousness by the dragon that underlies the Vivacia. His return to thought presents the ship with the revelation of what she truly is, and it breaks forcefully and painfully upon her. Wintrow staggers to the foredeck to try to comfort the ship and is rebuffed by the dragon, which contests psychically with the ship for control of the craft. Kennit is aware of the tumult and comes forward as well as the struggle continues, emerging into the physical world as the dragon tries to take over the figurehead and turn its arms against the ship. Suddenly, the figurehead loses all color and returns to being still wizardwood; the sight rattles Kennit, and, at Etta’s urging and Wintrow’s, he withdraws; Wintrow follows suit.
Below deck, Etta tends to both captain and boy, musing on the latter’s injuries and the former’s evident despair. Wintrow reports what he can of his experiences and understanding to Kennit, the captain reacting poorly and in some disbelief to the information provided. After more conference, though, Kennit regains his confidence and purposes to reawaken the ship. He also plies Wintrow with liquor and has him put to bed, after which he takes a tour of the ship, coming to talk with the figurehead–which surprises him by answering his words in the dragon’s upbraiding voice. A tense exchange follows, and a tentative agreement between the dragon and Kennit is struck; the charm at Kennit’s wrist notes approval. And, nearby, She-Who-Remembers sings to the ship, settling in to follow her onward.
Some of what occurs in the chapter, some of the ideas that come up elsewhere and tie into Wintrow’s discussion in the chapter, are matters it occurs to me to treat in my forthcoming paper for the Tales after Tolkien Society at the 2021 International Congress on Medieval Studies; they are worth treating (as I clearly think), but because I am promised to deliver original work, I cannot give that treatment here at the moment. Later, though, I may well do so; I’ve done such things before, after all…
Aside from such things, though, there’s not a lot that strikes me about the present chapter–unless it is that Etta seems uncommonly servile in it. I am not sure how to regard it, even having read the novel more than once before; I am not certain what attitudes are being depicted, really, and so I do not know as I write this what I should make of it. But fiction, even escapist fiction, does not need to resolve all things at all times; it is okay for there to be uncertainty in the reader. Maybe there even should be some of that; if nothing else, it leaves more room for other stories to follow.