The following chapter, “Dragon Dreams,” begins with Tintaglia landing badly with Reyn; he sends her off to hunt as he surveys their landing site, rehearses his routine, and reviews his present circumstances. He thinks of Malta, and, as he falls asleep near the dragon and a large fire, he dreams of her. In the dream, she hears his call, and Tintaglia starts awake with it. The dragon notes both the lowering barriers between them and his transformation into an Elderling.
Malta, still aboard the pirate ship, muses on thoughts of Reyn and considers her own circumstances–which she believes leave her socially ruined. She rehearses her plans for freedom, and she manages to convince the waning Satrap to go out on deck. He muses on his own background and circumstances, and he presses Malta for details about it. When they are forthcoming, they bode ill for them both; he realizes he is worth more dead than alive, as his death allows another to take the Satrapy. Malta presses him further, and they dicker over details of how to proceed; Malta comes out of the exchange with a fine deal and a finer idea.
The present chapter shows Malta well, certainly; she’s come a long way from being the vain and petty girl she was when her role in the series started, and, though done with difficulty, it is a good progression. She suffers, as characters must, from limited knowledge; it’s clear she is ignorant of events in Bingtown, for example. But, given what she knows, she is making excellent use of her situation and the resources available to her–and in ways that make sense from the character’s background and history. It’s a fairly rare thing, actually, and its presence–a consistent presence in Hobb’s writing, really–does much to bespeak the quality of the novel. More writers would do well to read such things.