The succeeding chapter, “Kennit’s Women,” starts with the serpent Shreever considering the tensions between She Who Remembers and Maulkin. Neither seems to have decided anything as the group follows Bolt through the waters, and Shreever voices some small criticism to Sessurea, and Maulkin inserts himself into the conversation. He notes the peril of the sex-imbalance among the serpents, noting Bolt’s reticence and pointing to Wintrow as a possible help to them all.
Kennit approaches Althea’s cabin aboard the Vivacia, contemplating both his assault upon her and resuming it; the exercise of power entices him. Althea assaults him as he enters her cabin, trying to escape; he has his crew restrain and return her to her quarters; Wintrow is one of the restraining crew and hears her allegations against Kennit as Etta makes to tend the pirate captain. An argument ensues, and Wintrow suffers his aunt’s imprecations as he sees to Kennit’s orders. Kennit realizes he is losing control of the situation, and he tries to reassert it as Bolt summons him; the wizardwood charm on his wrist mocks him and notes Kennit’s coming doom.
Not long after, Wintrow tries to comfort Etta, who is acting strangely to his understanding in the wake of the encounter with Althea. Etta rebukes his folly, and Kennit intrudes upon them, demanding service and ordering Etta to the Marietta. He also rebukes Wintrow, expounding on his control of matters aboard the Vivacia. They are interrupted by the outcry of the ship, to which Kennit responds at length. After he does, Wintrow tries to comfort Etta again, and she avers her belief of Althea’s accusation against Kennit, accepting her supplanting in Kennit’s affections by Wintrow’s aunt.
Kennit makes slow progress across his deck to the figurehead, and the ship demands to see Althea and Jek on the foredeck. Kennit demurs, and the ship accuses him of raping Althea; he deflects the accusation, turning discussion towards Etta before the Vivacia returns it to the destruction of the Paragon. Kennit deflects there, too, and the ship accepts his dissimulations as Kennit has Wintrow bring Althea and Jek on deck. The latter is angered as she tends to the former, who moves through a drug-induced haze to confer with the ship and be told that she is no longer needed. Wintrow tries to offer some comfort and is rejected, and Jek conducts Althea back to her quarters.
There, Jek and Alteha confer, Jek raising some doubts as to Althea’s story. Wintrow again attempts to offer comfort and aid, only to be rebuked; he chides her, in turn, and considers circumstances.
The gaslighting going on in the present chapter is astonishing, and Etta is right to rebuke Wintrow’s folly. Honestly, it’s infuriating and distressing to read the chapter this time around, knowing what I know now that I did not in many of my earlier readings; I suppose it marks me as having grown as a person that I react to events in the book the way I do now. And I suppose that they’re to my chagrin both that it took me so long to arrive at such reactions and that I do not react more forcefully and emphatically to such things in real life.
It’s one of the values of literature and of literary study that reading the stories others tell helps us to reflect upon ourselves and our understandings of and place within the world. Literature is, among many other things, a means of self-examination; what we read and how we read it show parts of who and what we are. What I see in its particular mirror is not necessarily to my liking, and I know I will be taking some time and expending some effort to improve the image by improving the thing reflected.