The next chapter, “Truces,” begins with Ronica musing lightly on her improved methods of skulking and spying on Serilla in what had been Restart’s home. The legal proceedings against the estate are settled, although Ronica wonders if coercion or bribery by Roed Caern is behind their end. Ronica overhears news of the Satrap’s escape from captivity in Trehaug–and that Malta is implicated in a conspiracy to effect that escape. She also overhears the evolving machinations of both Caern and Serilla, and she swiftly moves to retrieve Rache and make to flee.
As her conversation with Caern is interrupted by coffee service, Serilla considers her situation and the tensions in her uneasy alliance with him. Among others, she recognizes him as a threat not unlike the Satrap aboard the Chalcedean ship, an experience from which she has not recovered. She also believes she notes Ronica’s eavesdropping and is convinced she has given her a tacit warning. As conversation continues, Caern continues to rail against the Vestrits, even as Serilla is not convinced that they are traitors to Bingtown; as he rails, her perception of his threat grows, and she almost reflexively gives in to his demand for Ronica’s location, that he might seize her. She laments her action, unhelpfully.
Ronica and Rache, however, are striking out across the less-kept areas around Bingtown to try to get to a section of the city where Caern will have less sway and power. Rache notes that the difficult passage was the best route to take and attests to the many shantytowns that have sprung up in the area, refuges for the Tattooed who could not escape the city as a whole. Ronica is again taken by the numbers of people trafficked into Bingtown as she and Rache reach their destination: Sparse Kelter‘s home. They are welcomed and fed and lay out their situation, which is dire and threatens all the populations of Bingtown.
Caern comes across in the present chapter as the kind of figure–present in the United States in abundance as the novel was brought to publication, and unfortunately increasingly vociferous and violent since–who longs for a return to an idealized past that never was. “Send them back” is his battle-cry, “they can never really be like us” is his mantra, and they are all too familiar from the real world, and just as heartless and ultimately short-sighted in it as in the novel. That Serilla recognizes his folly and the threat it presents is a point in her favor, but it does not outweigh her reliance upon that folly to secure her own position; she is complicit, more than many, in its peril, something that many others would do well to note in their own lives and in a world that still too much devalues the lives of those who look different and who do not come from inherited positions of power within social structures designed to reaffirm and reassert that power, both with physical violence and with other forms of coercion.