Following a message between bird-keepers, the final chapter of the novel, “Decisions,” begins with Leftrin glossing days of the journey upriver. His increasing infatuation with Alise receives some attention, and he notes the changes to both dragons and keepers that have occurred. To his eyes, the keepers are becoming a community, and he finds himself wondering whether he must enforce the Rain Wilds’ customs regarding romance.
Leftrin’s reverie is broken by Sedric’s approach, and his appearance is detailed. Sedric berates Leftrin for his conduct towards Alise, which accusations Leftrin denies, but Sedric’s explications of the social consequences takes him aback. Sedric presses on Leftrin to send him and Alise back downriver in haste, but their conversation is interrupted by a cry from shore, where the keeper Sylve notes the rapid decline of the copper dragon she had tended.
The other keepers attempt to comfort Sylve, and Mercor asserts the claim of the other dragons to the flesh of the soon-to-be dead copper. He urges the keepers other than Sylve to depart, and he tells Thymara Sintara’s true name. Sintara is displeased, but Mercor presses ahead.
Alise considers her situation in some distress, mulling over possibilities and her own growing infatuation with Leftrin. The paucity of her relationship with Hest contrasts with those possibilities, but she is shaken from her reverie by the tumult ashore. Setting aside Sedric’s protests, she makes to observe the proceedings, and Sedric is left to mull over his own fading possibilities. His continued attempts to take pieces of dragon for sale are noted, amid which, he tastes the dragon’s blood. Its effects begin to show upon him.
A frantic missive from Alise’s father and comments between bird-keepers about the same conclude the novel.
The romance novel tropes–at least, those of them I remember from my grandmother’s voluminous readings in the genre and the comments she made about them to me as I grew up–are out in full force in the present chapter, most notably the pull to act on forbidden loves and the distancing between love and higher social strata. Hest, as recalled by both Alise and Sedric, becomes less a stand-in for homosexuality, generally, and more an embodiment of the wealthy elite–although the associations between the two remain in place, certainly. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it, honestly; it needs more time for thought than I have been able to give it of late.
As I continue reading, though, moving into the next novel in the series, I imagine I’ll find more to say.