The final full chapter, “The Rain Wild River,” starts with Althea considering the progress of the Paragon as the ship and a small crew continue to work on behalf of the nascent dragons. The crew’s dispersal is noted, as is Amber’s work to further decorate the figurehead in a motif of charging bucks. The two review their progress towards the ancient spawning grounds, including the loss of serpents and the moodiness of the liveship. The serpents’ arrival and cocooning are glossed, and Althea muses on her younger nephew, Selden, whose connection to the dragons is noted, as is Clef’s progress learning to read and write.
The Paragon calls out to be run aground in a clear channel of one of the Rain Wild’s tributaries. The ship notes they are at the site where an older pirate had stashed his largest prize, a treasure ship bound for Jamaillia with annual tribute. The history of the hoard is noted, and it is given to the crew’s claim. Work to retrieve the hoard proceeds, with materials and labors described; Brashen is taken with Althea and begins plotting out with her how they will employ their shares of the take. Brashen considers Althea as he calls a halt to the retrieval efforts against the oncoming evening and storm.
Later, Amber approaches the figurehead with a request for a specific item from the take, a wizardwood crown. The ship remembers the crown, although not in great detail, and Amber appropriates it. The ship guesses that she is soon to leave, which she confirms, noting a need to head north to friends long unseen. The ship also notes how one of the former crews died, as well as that Kennit died twice, saved by the ship–at some cost to Kennit. Amber waxes philosophical, and they part in peace.
Althea dreams badly, and in the dream, the ship visits her, calling her to the foredeck. She arrives there, and the ship demands the hurt that had been caused her–not the memory, which is hers, but the continuing pain of it, which the ship draws from her. She wakes fully on the foredeck, Brashen rushing to her amid the storm and takes her below decks. There, she reports her violation to him and pleads with him for a continued relationship; they reconcile, the effects of which are felt throughout the ship as Amber takes her leave with the ship’s blessing.
It makes sense to some degree, of course, that the lingering narrative thread of Althea’s trauma resolving would receive attention in the final chapter–even if it is something of a deus ex machina at work. From the vantage of re-reading, of course, it makes sense in the broader context; even without that, reading through the Elderlings novels in order of publication offers some clues about the mechanism at work. That, combined with the overt foreshadowing of future work in Amber’s discussions, not only ties up the plot of the Liveship Traders novels, buy integrates them more fully with the other novels in the milieu–it serves a structural function, even if perhaps at the cost of the narrative.
The novel’s not done, of course; there is an eplilogue. And then the reread moves on to the Tawny Man novels, including the last paperback Hobb I’ve bought…