After another missive between bird-keepers in which one–Detozi–complains of earlier rebuke to the other–Erek–“Encounters” begins with Sintara struggling alongside the Rain Wild River, following along with the others with whom she hatched and musing in annoyance at her current status. Her attempts at grooming have been less successful than might be hoped, yet she persists in attending to herself as best she can.
Sintara regards the other dragons with whom she travels and forces a place among them. Soon, the group is distracted by the arrival of their new tenders with meat, and the dragons fall to feasting. As Sintara sates herself, she finds herself addressed by Thymara, who suddenly recognizes the enormity of the task she has undertaken. As other tenders meet with their dragons, Thymara and Sintara confer, the latter haughtily rebuking the former for human presumption, and gaps in knowledge and changes to local geography are discussed.
Continued conversation goes awkwardly, and Sintara finds herself wondering why Thymara is not enchanted by her, searching her faltering ancestral memories for information and parallels. Testing her abilities, Sintara–“Skymaw” to Thymara in the absence of her true name–manages to get some service from her.
Meanwhile, Alise looks on from the deck of the Tarman, Leftrin explaining the arrangements that have led to the current state of affairs. He also comments on the employment of the young to tend the dragons, noting the Rain Wild propensity to kill such children by exposure. Sedric’s acerbic interjections are met with equanimity and more explication, and Alise reflects on the justifications for his aspersion. She considers, too, the effects of exposure to dragons on the people of the Rain Wilds, including Malta and Selden Vestrit, mulling over the connections among humans, Elderlings, and dragons. Her agreement to bring information back to Malta is rehearsed, as well, as is the tour of Cassarick that followed her striking that agreement–in Leftrin’s company.
Arrangements for Alise’s continued travel are made, and Sedric’s objections to the same are noted. So is Alise’s forceful address of those objections, and as the Tarman proceeds, Alise finds herself in unexpected conversation with Sintara.
The present chapter, although well into the book, offers a fair amount of useful explication for the reader. And that makes sense; the Traders books make much of working at length with nonhuman intelligences, and it could hardly be the case that they would be understandable without extended efforts to lay out information overtly. That the dragons are recently returned from a long absence, long enough that records could decay, allows for an authentic setting for that explication, which is to the good.
The present chapter also returns once again to the issue of constraints on women’s behavior among the Traders, something with which the Liveship Traders novels are greatly concerned and which continue to be of no small moment not only in the presumed time of the novel’s composition but also of their ongoing reception. I remain convinced there’s quite a bit of work to do in pulling out an overall idea in this line, but I do still need to do more reading, so…