The succeeding chapter, “Hard Decisions,” opens with Malta trying to persuade the Satrap to go belowdecks for medical attention; he demurs in favor of taunting the Jamaillian lords who have turned against him. Reyn rebukes him, but the Satrap presses ahead until Malta shakes him from his tirade. She and Reyn cozen him with embroidered accounts of things to come.
Aboard the Paragon, Amber makes to lay out a shroud for Kennit, to which Brashen agrees. In the dying battle, the Paragon begins to make for open water, to leave the fray; before the ship can do so, the Vivacia calls out and tosses Althea from herself to Brashen’s ship, where she is caught safely. Amid a brief exchange, she relays Wintrow’s plan–make for Divvytown, with its defensible harbor–and the Paragon avows a desire to keep the crew alive.
Wintrow offers the Jamaillian nobles a chance to come aboard the Vivacia to safety, if they will risk themselves on a tossed line. They take the opportunity, with some assistance, and there is a tense exchange between them and the Satrap aboard Wintrow’s ship. Wintrow orders the captives secured abovedecks, where they can be seen by the Jamaillian fleet, a warning against further attacks. Malta accepts the necessity.
Aboard the Paragon, Althea goes aloft, in part to escape, and surveys matters; she notes the changed status of her ship’s crew. The battle continues, with the piratical forces getting the worse of the exchange. Amber’s call to descend breaks her reverie, and she is taken by news that her brother-in-law is aboard, complaining. He rants on the deck, and Althea deflects his tirade long enough to allow sailors to tend to Kennit’s body; Etta offers cold thanks along the way, both women burdened with Kennit’s actions against Althea. And Amber gives Althea more about which to think.
Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow considers his command decisions and what steps to take next. The ship encourages him, and he picks a course, bringing the ship to bear upon it and making to break away; the Paragon follows, and more violence ensues as they work to free the Motley. Some of it comes from the Paragon, and both Motley and Marietta are able to escape in the carnage. Kyle Haven is slain in the exchange, and Etta cries out to the Paragon to flee for the sake of Kennit’s unborn child; the ship accedes thereto.
I am taken by the last sentence of the chapter: “On the deck, Kyle Haven’s blood pooled in standing puddles.” Throughout the novels, the liveships take in blood that falls upon their decks, absorbing the memories and spirits of those who die aboard. For Haven to be decisively rejected is saying something, especially given Kennit’s acceptance by the Paragon. Admittedly, Kennit was a Ludluck, a member of the family that had purchased and quickened the vessel; there was reason he would be taken in, in particular. But how many of the crews who had died aboard the ship were taken in, similarly, while Kyle Haven is not? Surely it is a significant thing; what significance it holds is subject to interpretation, of course, as are all things written. Perhaps it is a sign that the order Haven represents is fading away; perhaps it is the Paragon repudiating (more) madness. Perhaps it is something else, entirely?