The chapter that follows, “Strategies,” opens with Althea relocating into the first mate’s cabin aboard the Paragon, with Haff settling into the second mate’s berth, and Amber complaining bitterly about the oppressive humidity and fog. She rehearses a conversation she had had abed with Brashen the night before, noting their situation and inveighing against the former first mate. They also voice a vision of a future together, possibly despite their families’ desires and Bingtown’s disapproval. Althea sets the vision aside, turning instead to more practical matters of how to handle Kennit and attempt to reclaim the Vivacia. Pointed questions from Jek interrupt Althea’s reverie, and a tense conversation is soon diverted by laughter and consideration of how matters have fallen out in the wake of the attempted mutiny and successful desertion before Althea muses again on what they will do.
In Bingtown, Serilla confers with Mingsley over tea, reviewing their current situation and the fallout from the work to reconstitute Bingtown’s government. The Trader is aspersive, but Serilla retains control of matters, assuming a position for herself in the negotiations outside the various factions still present in Bingtown and articulating her expectations of the nascent political order. Mingsley rails against her, but she takes his imprecations as benedictions.
Also in Bingtown, Reyn watches the Kendry return to port with a shrunken crew; Tintaglia notes to him that the Ophelia is following soon after. He muses on the changes he has had a hand in enacting in the liveships and in the Traders’ society that relies upon them for its economic heft. He notes that he should be happy, but he is not, largely because Malta remains absent. Selden retrieves him from his perch, explaining as he does some of the cognitive differences between dragons and humans. Selden also asks if he is turning into a Rain Wilder, noting some fear of drowning in memories; Reyn offers the boy reassurance as he can.
It is a brief chapter, certainly, although not as brief as some. Even so, it manages to counterpoint the previous chapter well; I note again the parallels between Malta’s work and Serilla’s, as well as the ways in which they run askew of one another (discussed here and here, among others, and with a content warning). And I note the overt consideration of unintended consequences on Reyn’s part; reintroducing a powerful species to the world after it had been driven nearly to extinction cannot but alter things. Hobb is scarcely the first author to treat such ideas, of course; Crichton is perhaps the most prominent prior example, but he is not the only one. Still, it tends to be something treated less in fantasy fiction than in science fiction, and it makes for an interesting thought experiment, in any case.