After another component of an exchange among bird-keepers, “First Kill” turns to the occurrence of an earthquake on the Rain Wild River as the dragons, their keepers, and the Tarman proceed upstream. Thymara considers the experience, and she notes changes among the dragons as they continue in the wake of the event, their order of travel described.
Matters are uneasy in the evening, Greft lashing out after his earlier embarrassment and Jerd joining him shortly after he stalks off into the night. Thymara funds herself musing on possibilities and the development of customs and social mores. Potentials captivate her, and she resolves not to act upon them without deliberation.
The next morning, Thymara wakes and considers her situation and that of her colleagues. Tending to her morning ablutions, she confers with Sintara and reflects upon what she has seen and understood. As she seeks food, Alise comes upon her, and the two confer, Alise admitting to doubts and asking Thymara to teach her rudimentary woodcraft. She also notes having stumbled upon Greft and Jerd’s intimacy, and abruptly shifts the topic back to fishing. Alise tries her hand at the task successfully, and the two talk of the dragons as they continue to fish.
Alise stumbles onto larger prey and subdues it while Thymara and others struggle to make the kill. Thymara is struck by Sintara’s wing and knocked into the river, from which Mercor retrieves her. She is tended, and she realizes Sintara’s total disdain for her, excusing herself quietly from the gathered dragons and keepers. Alise tracks her departure with sadness, and she listens as Mercor discusses the fish that she and Thymara secured.
After, Leftrin and Alise confer, the captain comforting the passenger. He also ensures that she has what she needs to sluice the acidic river water from herself. Sintara, for her part, stalks away and muses on human foolishness and whether or not she ought to make Thymara into an Elderling. The mental communion between the two irritates Sintara, and neither finds the other in high regard.
I appreciate that the present chapter does more to lay out the relationship between dragons and their keepers–nascent Elderlings. The contrasts among dragons’ attitudes are also worth attention, Mercor’s treatment of the keepers standing in sharp relief to Sintara’s frankly adolescent conduct. And Thymara’s rumination on the basis of social mores seems to be of a piece with the democratizing impulses at work in the later portions of the Liveship Traders novels (here and elsewhere). I note, though, that the Traders’ renegotiation of their position with respect to Jamaillia seems more an attempt by the privileged to retain their privilege than the dragon keepers’ contemplations of establishing their own heritage after having been outcasts from their own families. Power dynamics are decidedly different, and I’m sure there’s some historical parallel that escapes me as I write this. (That it does is my problem and not that of the parallel that I cannot bring to mind at the moment; that I am not informed about a thing does not mean that said thing in unworthy, despite the protestations of too many to that idea.)