The next chapter, “Battle,” begins with Althea fretting about the performance of the crew of the Paragon in battle drills. She ascends the rigging to join Amber on watch, conferring with her regarding her condition and recent events. Both of them voice distrust of Lavoy before their conversation is interrupted by the approach of pirates. Chaos ensues as the crew of the Paragon shambles towards readiness, Brashen having to direct crew that should already have known what they were about and noting Lavoy moving with a hand-picked force of his own.
The pirates begin to board, and battle is joined. The crew of the Paragon is able to repel the boarded, if with difficulty and the direct involvement of the liveship. In the wake of the fight, only one captive remains after Lavoy’s work; he is questioned on the foredeck, where the ship finds his answers upsetting and unsatisfying; the Paragon seizes upon the chained captive, pulling information from him before breaking his body and tossing it into the sea. Lavoy, who had been inveigling the ship for some time, feigns surprise and shock at the event; he is not believed as Brashen tries to reassert calm and control over the crew.
After, Brashen considers his injuries and the straitened situation in which he finds himself, caught by what he believes his duties as captain are. The ship muses similarly, if more sullenly amid contemplation of the spilled blood and course for Divvytown and Kennit to which Brashen has turned his attention.
I find myself once again reading with affect, with understanding coming from my own time and current circumstances, and as my eyes take in Lavoy’s protests that what the ship has done is not his fault–after he had spend long cultivating the ship and a select group of the crew–I cannot help but picture him with oranged skin and a poorly-done comb-over. I know, of course, that that’s not the specific comment being made in the chapter, but I also know that one of the things that makes a work of written art a better one is that it will take additional interpretations–the kind of thing described as “speaking to other times” when I was going through school. (Is that enough reason to keep using the phrasing? Maybe not. Hell, I’m not even sure the folks reading this have that frame of reference–which might be such a reason. Maybe.) So I (again?) think it’s not a bad thing that I read the chapter affectively. The emotional involvement’s what drives the initial interrogation, after all…