The following chapter, “Paragon of the Ludlucks,” starts with Althea aloft aboard the Paragon, sighting the Vivacia. She reports the finding to Brashen, and the two confer about their plans before they make ready to confront Kennit–hopefully to talk and to reclaim the Vestrit family ship, but possibly to fight.
Aboard the Vivacia, Kennit receives a report of the Paragon‘s sighting that he does not seem to need. How he knows the ship is the Paragon confounds him, and the wizardwood charm at his wrist speaks ominously before Kennit orders a wary approach to the oncoming vessel, privately purposing to sink the Paragon for the liveship’s knowledge of his past. He joins Etta and Wintrow on the foredeck as the sight of the coming ship rattles him; Etta reports that Wintrow is torn, as he must be, by the situation, and Kennit orders him away with Etta as he tries to persuade Bolt. After he departs, having surprised them all with his swift insistence that his place is with Kennit, the pirate captain inquires if Bolt can have the serpents scuttle the Paragon; the ship answers in the affirmative but presses Kennit about the inquiry. She also calls in his debt to her, bidding him marshal his entire fleet to the escort of the serpents to the Rain Wilds and calling him by his full, true name–Kennit Ludluck–to bind him. He agrees once again and, after some discussion, the serpents swim off to assail the Paragon.
Brashen watches Althea and a boat crew make for the Vivacia, the time leading up to the expedition rehearsed; Amber had noted an imminence about the proceedings. Althea looks back to him and the ship before they proceed, and she is shocked by the attack of the serpents upon the liveship; she orders her crew to proceed to the Vivacia with all speed. Brashen orders his ship’s crew to brace for the attack and attempt to flee; the Paragon belays the orders and calls out to the serpents in turn, confusing them as Amber narrates what she can of events.
Shreever considers as the Paragon converses with the assembled serpents, prodding them away from Bolt. The white serpent Carrion upbraids the serpents for following orders that Bolt relays from Kennit, and She Who Remembers calls for a pause to gather more information. The call is not universally accepted, and a fracas ensues that catches the Paragon and the crew upon the ship up in it as collateral damage. Brashen orders such damage control as he can until Clef tells him that Althea’s boat has been seen to be capsized; he orders retrieval.
Kennit watches events from the Vivacia and orders an assault on the Paragon. Battle is joined and quickly won–by Kennit’s crew. Brashen surrenders to save his crew, and he is confined with them below decks as Kennit begins to tour the ship that should have been his. He finds the condition of the vessel agreeable–until the ship begins to speak to him, relating the sad story suffered long and beginning to rage as realization breaks. But the ship is persuaded to ancestral loyalty, and Kennit makes to burn what had been his family’s liveship–with the crew aboard.
Back aboard the Vivacia, Kennit is presented with the surviving boat crew–Althea and Jek. He bids them be taken aboard and has the ship set out for Divvytown–leaving Etta and Wintrow behind.
I am sure there are comments about competing masculinities that could–and perhaps should–be made, using the current chapter as explanatory material. Kennit’s seems to be toxic enough, to use a term that fits but that would not have been much employed when the novel was being written. (I say “much,” of course, because I am not as up on such discussions and their backgrounds as I perhaps ought to be; I do not know enough to say “not at all,” but I do know that the term was not part of mainstream discussion then as it often-wrongly is now.) Rather than trying to work through his trauma–and he does carry trauma, though that does not excuse his later actions–he seeks to eliminate what serves as the repository for it; rather than acknowledge and deal with his pain, he tries to deny it, the lives of others be damned. It is something that is all too common, of course–and the idea of sealing pain away is something that comes up elsewhere in the Elderlings novels; it is something of a theme in Hobb that might be worth untangling with further, careful reading…