Following another exchange between bird-keepers (and one of a gossipy sort), the second chapter, “Tricky Currents,” begins with Hest regarding Sedric harshly, berating him for his timidity and turning to another lover. It is a dream, however, and Sedric startles awake, considering his situation and the likelihood that what he has dreamt will come to pass.
Soon after, Alise calls on him, finding him still abed. She expresses concern about his continued convalescence, and he attempts to deflect her conversation. Alise offers to take him back downriver, which offer he refuses, citing concerns about incoming seasonal changes. Sedric notes the changes to Alise’s appearance occasioned by their upriver trip and considers that Hest may not take her back, and Alise leaves him to rest and recover. After, Sedric mulls over their situation further, rehearsing the political and economic entanglements that ensnare him and turning aside from them mentally to confer with the copper dragon, Relpda, whose blood he has tasted. The implications of his ability to do so are not lost upon him.
After leaving Sedric’s bedside, Alise repairs to the galley aboard the Tarman, considering the workings of the liveship around her and musing on her distaste for the hunter, Jess. She reports Sedric’s condition to Leftrin, and their conversation turns to the local geography. Challenges posed by what is known of the geography are discussed, and Jess interrupts with complaints about pay. Leftrin is provoked, and Jess makes an exit, leaving Alise confused.
Leftrin considers the implications of the outburst and his eagerness to retain Alise’s regard. He embraces Alise before being able to stop himself, though she seems eager for it, and he forces himself to separate from her. Taking his leave of her, he strides out on deck and confers with his ship before lapsing into thought and ruminating on his entanglements with Chalced, realizing that Jess is a Chalcedean agent. His manipulation of Greft receives attention, as do its implications. So do the implications of Leftrin’s choices regarding the Tarman and the liveship’s crew, and he confers with Swarge briefly among considerations of the same before turning to thoughts of murdering Jess.
The Tarman alerts Leftrin to an incoming earthquake, and Leftrin calls out orders to secure the craft against it. Alise, joining him, asks after the event, and Leftrin lays out likely effects with which they will have to contend, as well as how to address them. Their talk turns to the possibilities of their mission’s failure and Leftrin’s motives for taking it on. And Leftrin finds himself again considering life with Alise.
The present chapter is another expository one, spending a large portion of its pages rehearsing events from the previous novel in the series and laying out context of the milieu in which it takes place. So much is to the good, of course; one of the challenges faced by readers of novels in series is coming into the series after its beginning, and getting caught up takes some doing. (As someone who has gotten to read a lot of novels other than the first in a series, I understand this concern well.) A good recap is therefore quite desirable, and it’s good to have seen one in the present novel.
The present chapter also lays out more major conflicts to come. It has been a while since I read the present novel, I admit, so my memory of events within the pages is faded, but it seems to me Jess is not well placed to make it into the next novel, while Alise, Sedric, and Leftrin are. Whether or not I am remembering well or guessing correctly, though, will be seen as the rereading progresses.