After another reported exchange of messengers, in which arrangements to relocate the young dragons are noted, “Journey” begins with Leftrin watching in some annoyance as passengers and their luggage approach the Tarman. He mulls over the dealings with Brashen Trell that have brought about the disruption to his schedule, and he views his incoming passengers with some disdain.
Leftrin welcomes his passengers aboard, greeting Alise with some grace and Sedric with some aspersion as the latter dithers and complains. He is somewhat taken by Alise’s appearance, finding her attractive, and sees to their billeting; Alise gets his cabin, while Leftrin and Sedric get bunks with the crew.
The Tarman sets out, and Sedric muses upon the indignities of travel aboard the old liveship as he assesses the crew and his condition. His mind turns to the comforts of his home and his earlier rejection of work aboard ship. His tension with his father about gainful employment are noted, as are his mother’s warnings about Hest’s mercurial disposition. Sedric finds himself contemplating the same as he reflects on the arrangements he was obliged to make for Hest’s travel with other friends. And his thoughts turn to his own ambitions as he tends toward sleep.
Elsewhere, Thymara sits amid her companions in the dragon-relocation effort, conferring with Tats and others. One of those others, Greft, makes himself prominent amid the effort’s outfitting, and Thymara marvels at being among a group marked as she is. The members of the group are described in gloss, and Greft lays out a harsh philosophy that occasions objections from Tats. Greft seizes on the objection to isolate Tats from the others and assume a leadership role, which Thymara notices with some concern. That concern is not eased by the implications with which Greft leaves her staring at the fire near which she sits.
I find myself noting Hobb’s reflections on social classes among the Traders. Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature, in which Hobb avowedly participates, tend to present solidly stratified societies, with nobles at various ranks and an amorphous peasantry in service thereto. In Tolkien, both Gondor and Rohan follow the model, as do the various Elven realms, and in Hobb’s own Six Duchies, there is a clear hierarchy in place. Even where the model does not wholly obtain–which includes Tolkien’s own corpus, as witness the Shire–there is a clear division based on birth. And so much seems to be the case, at least partially, among the Traders, where Trading families have outright power (although somewhat relatively lessened after a quiet revolution, secession, and reorganization)–and are as concerned with financial standings and “proper” behaviors as Tolkien’s hobbits tend to be with “respectability.”
There’s something of a parallel in my own experience; I’ve known a lot of people who are greatly concerned with keeping up appearances, which appearances emerge from the need to indicate having money. I’m not immune to it, either; I’m a product of my upbringing and the contexts in which it occurred, and I am necessarily influenced by those around me. Recognizing my own complicity, I am perhaps more apt to see it in others’ works, but even if it bespeaks some bias on my part, there is something in the books to uncover.