Following an exchange of messages in which one bird-keeper rebukes two others for carrying on private correspondence at public expense, “Cassarick” begins with the Tarman pulling into the docks of that city after nightfall. Leftrin advises Alise and Sedric to remain aboard until morning, and, overruling Sedric’s objections, Alise agrees. She muses over Leftrin’s treatment of her and Sedric’s annoyance thereat, considering the prospect of being found attractive.
Alise reflects on information Leftrin gives her about the state of the dragons at Cassarick and the proposal to help them move upriver, noting some misgivings about his disclosure but relishing the experience of the upstream journey. Sedric’s attitude is quite contrary thereto, voices with some emphasis to her amid his imprecations of Leftrin, and Alise works to soothe him somewhat as she retires to her cabin.
Elsewhere, Sintara wakes, thinking of Kelsingra again and musing over the dragons’ manipulation of the humans of Cassarick to aid them in journeying thereto. Malta’s involvement in the discussion and negotiation of the effort is noted, as well, as she knows that the local Traders intend and that it will likely work to the dragons’ detriment. Sintara muses once again on what she should have been and is not, determining to travel onwards despite the known futility of doing so.
Alise wakes the next morning as Leftrin calls at his cabin, noting that the local Traders are hastening their arrangements and have summoned him as part of it. She determines to accompany him and dresses to that end, and as they proceed after breakfast, Leftrin extolls the Tarman to her, and Alise marvels at their surroundings. She also notes the appearances of those among whom she moves, marked by the Rain Wilds to varying extents.
Alise and Leftrin arrive at the Traders’ meeting, where Malta continues to wrangle against the local government’s machinations regarding the dragons. The local Traders inform Leftrin that they seek to hire him to assist the relocation effort, and Leftrin immediately begins to find terms and conditions, to bargain for best effect. Alise, having been present when the initial arrangement between the dragons and Traders had been made, speaks up, and, at Malta’s prompting, gives something of a lecture on the topic at hand. Her discourse confirms the existence of Kelsingra for the local Traders, and she volunteers to accompany the relocation efforts–though she is aware of hindering machinations as she does so. Leftrin and Malta both affirm the suggestion.
This is not the first time I’ve been put in mind of romance novels by Hobb’s writing, and I do not know that it will be the last. But the present chapter certainly is a time I’ve been put in mind of what my late grandmother read (and abundantly!), and some of the other work I do–I’m available for hire!–reminds me that I ought not to fall into the trap of genre snobbery. It’s clear that such writing meets needs, somebody’s needs; it wouldn’t keep happening if it didn’t. Too, I like to feel appreciated, to feel like I’m important and desirable for a number of things, and it’s nice to see that presented. So let the romance novel be! That it’s there doesn’t mean the rest of it isn’t, and back when I had students, one of the lessons I tried to impart to them was that the ability to sustain multiple discourses is one of the marks of artistic success…