The next chapter, “Family Reunions,” opens with a confused Wintrow accompanying Etta aboard the Marietta, the two conferring about their removal from the Vivacia and Wintrow trying to puzzle out his purpose and the reasons for recent events. She notes her pregnancy to him, and they continue to converse awkwardly, and he advises her to hold the news from Kennit for a time.
The Paragon withdraws inside himself as fire burns upon him. The ship is aware of the crew below deck, including Amber. The ship is also aware of serpents outside, in the waves, that press for the reawakening of the dragon memories within–and that the ship tries to reject.
Althea comes to aboard the Vivacia and takes stock of her situation. She reaches out to the ship and is rebuffed decisively and angrily; Kennit enters and cautions her against repeating the attempt, noting its sources. Althea asks about her crewmates and receives answers along with a spiced wine concoction; she is soon soundly intoxicated and lapses into unconsciousness. Kennit regards her avariciously, and the wizardwood charm on his wrist rebukes him sharply for his intentions.
Aboard the Paragon, Amber pleads for her own life and those of the crew. The personalities of the dragons within the ship reassert themselves forcefully, and Amber strives towards communion with them; the personality of the ship pleads for survival and is told to join or die. Realization of what she must do breaks upon her, and the dragons agree to share the body of the ship; Amber calls out raggedly to Clef, sending the boy to where Brashen commands a work crew with a message to try a hatch she had cut in the floor of the captain’s cabin while she dwelt aboard the beached ship earlier. Brashen redirects efforts to that end, reaching more of his crew and preparing to abandon ship. But the ship decides to live and closes the seams that had been allowed to spring open, the dragon-personalities deciding as Clef indicates.
Etta and Wintrow return to the Vivacia, finding Kennit angry at their return. He rebukes them and issues orders regarding Althea and Jek, and they accede to his manipulations as the ship sets out for Divvytown.
The issue of the mixed-plank construction of the Paragon comes up again in the present chapter, as does that of the torturous existence of dragon-personalities “beneath” the awakened liveships’. Certainly, the experience of integrating different personalities in the Paragon is an unpleasant experience for all involved, and it becomes easy to feel for the ship in the chapter; really, there seems there was never any chance for happiness for the vessel, even aside from the problems inherent in the origin of liveships, generally. This is not to discount the systemic problems of generational exploitation of genocide–because that is what happened, here. It is, though, to note that the Paragon was almost set up to directly experience failure and torment, not only from the oddity of construction, but also from being forced to bear witness to the traumas it saw early in life. And taking on Kennit’s burdens, as well…in many ways, Hobb is a sadist towards her characters. Authors must be so, of course; there is no story without conflict, and conflict necessarily inflicts upon those who undergo it. Text