The next chapter, “Thymara’s Decision,” follows more of the message-exchange between Bingtown and Trehaug, in which plans for Selden are discussed and in which one bird-keeper writes in support of the other’s nephew’s romantic pursuits. The chapter opens with Thymara returning home to news that “an offer” has been made for her, surprising her for reasons that are noted. Thymara’s mother notes that the offer is not one of marriage, which would be surprising, but of employment by the local government.
Thymara considers the implications of the offer and the context in which it is offered as her mother relates more details about it. Her father speaks against the offer, noting that Thymara already has a trade and that her parents will need her help as they get older. Upset is occasioned thereby, and Thymara finds herself curious about the offer and more detail not forthcoming.
Ill contented, Thymara reflects on her limited experience of dragons and the efforts of the Traders to see to the creatures that had hatched at Cassarick. She also notes the mating of Tintaglia and Icefyre, assisted by “Some prince of the far Six Duchies” and the concomitant imminent return of dragons in abundance. The economic implications of the continued presence of dragons at Cassarick is also noted, and Thymara heads out to be alone for a time.
Thymara is soon joined by Tats, one of the Tattooed, who is described along with his personal situation and that of his people. The two confer, Thymara openly disclosing the practice among the Rain Wild Traders of abandoning children born with too much physical deviation to the elements to die by exposure or being eaten by one predator or another. Thymara also notes her mother’s reticence, and Tats remarks that he knows about the offer of work, having heard the same thing her mother had. The offer–from the local Traders’ Council–is for workers to help tend to the dragons at Cassarick and facilitate their relocation, by hunting and by other means. And it is directed at those deemed expendable.
Thymara is summoned home by her mother, answering the summons reluctantly, her housing situation described as she goes. She notes her family’s situation to Tats, reflecting on her relative penury and the loss of funds and access. Moving faster at her mother’s insistence, Thymara surprises Tats with her agility, and the two agree to meet the next day.
When she reaches her mother, Thymara is bawled out for her delay in answering and for speaking at length with Tats in public. She goes back out after the dressing-down, though, and considers falling through the trees, recalling an early incident in which she had fallen from the trees, nearly but not quite to her death. Her father’s approach breaks her reverie, and he explicates the job offer to her again, as well as the politics surrounding it. Thymara surprises him by avowing her desire to join the work, and, if reluctantly, her father accedes.
It’s a long chapter, the present one, and another of a number of chapters in the Elderlings novels that I find it difficult not to read against events current to the reading rather than to the composition. (I am aware of the difference, yes, thank you. I suppose I might see about presenting some updated version of my old lecture notes on the topic…) The job being presented, and which Thymara accepts, is what would be considered a “bad” one, and one that needs doing as much to sate the greed of the already-wealthy as to ensure domestic stability–but even that is problematic, for reasons that should be clear not only from the broader context already established for the Traders’ society, but also from the content of the current chapter. Although, as I think on it, the reproductive rights issue that is hinted at in the chapter is…fraught within the text and its contexts, not only as I read the chapter again, but also as the text presumably was drafted…
There’s a lot to think on, and that’s a good thing. Right?