The next chapter, “Bargaining Chips,” opens with all on the Vivacia‘s foredeck paying rapt attention to the figurehead. Malta balks at having been addressed, at having attention called to herself, as she assesses the others and finds Kennit perilous. The Satrap responds in her place, speaking to the ship as though he had been addressed; he also greets Kennit, who responds in kind, and several of them depart.
After being left on the foredeck, Althea wonders aloud about the arrival of her niece aboard the ship; Jek’s swift reply is unhelpful, but conversation with the ship takes an unsettling turn. What can be offered to secure Kennit’s aid is unclear–save for Althea.
Kennit sends Wintrow ahead to prepare a room for discussion; Sorcor accompanies Wintrow. The pirate considers Malta and the Satrap, rehearsing what he knows of those involved and their offers as negotiations commence–and Kennit understands himself to be in control.
Aboard the Paragon, Brashen dozes as he considers his situation along the approach to Divvytown. He is roused by the ship’s singing, and when he approaches the figurehead, he is informed that the ship has decided to support efforts enthusiastically; he questions it internally, but does not voice his concerns. He also receives a report from Clef that Jamaillian ships are in sight, which he confirms by going aloft; rumors about tensions between Jamaillia and Bingtown are noted, as are some of Brashen’s fears.
Wintrow muses over the progress of negotiations as they drag on, wearying all present save Kennit. He notes pride in Malta as he rehearses events, most of which involve the Satrap ceding more in anger than would have been advised by a calmer head. Wintrow longs to confer closely with his sister, and he sees a chance to do so in the tumult that accompanies the sighting of a number of Jamaillian ships by the Vivacia‘s crew.
I’m uncertain how to parse the chapter as I read it this time, honestly. It’s written well, as is the rest of the novel, and the events that make for…uncomfortable reading for me are not as present, but that doesn’t mean I really know what to make of things going on. Maybe I’m falling victim to the peril of having spent so much of my life in literary study as I have, trying to pull from a passage messages that may not really be there. A closer reading than I can do at the moment might yield more; as I used to tell students, back when I had them, every word on the page is a choice made, and not only by the author, so there is something to find. But, being accustomed to finding things easily, I sometimes balk at not doing so; I am being a lazy reader this time, I guess.
I’m not sure that that’s necessarily bad, though. As I’ve had occasion to reflect on recently, I got into doing this because I enjoy it; I moved into the studies I did from love of and appreciation for the things studied. Letting that be enough for now…it should be fine. Right?