Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.
A content warning regarding sexual assault is in order here.
The following chapter, “Consequences,” opens with Serilla rehearsing her recent circumstances. Her efforts to resist the depredations inflicted upon her had been futile, and she had been abused with seeming nonchalance by the Chalcedean captain upon whose vessel she and the Satrap had embarked.
At length, Serilla is returned to the Satrap. He is filthy and ill, and Serilla upbraids him bitterly. She contemplates killing him before he opines that his death will only occasion her total surrender to the ship’s crew. She also notes that his current political position is fragile; he is away from his seat of power, and others doubtlessly plot to place themselves upon it in his absence. When he comments that he assumes she will have to be bribed, she agrees and begins to lay out some means of securing her independence and future security, holding the Satrap’s care against his agreement to do as she bids him.
The blithe disdain Serilla reports of her Chalcedean rapist and abuser is telling, speaking to a theme present in the Liveship Traders novels and elsewhere in Hobb’s Elderlings corpus: the idea of people as property dehumanizes those who presume to hold the “property” more than those who are held. That is, those who are enslaved may be dehumanized by their conditions, but those who enslave are made even worse; the former may be pitied and should be aided, but the latter deserve no such consideration, save only (and not necessarily even) in extreme circumstances. Serilla responds to her assaults in ways that those better informed regarding trauma theory than I might more meaningfully address, but those responses are not to be scoffed at or rebuked; what should be, and in the context of the novels is, is the (largely patriarchal and misogynistic) attitude that allows for such assaults to take place. It manifests to some degree in the Haven household, as depicted in Ship of Magic, with Keffria’s husband expecting deference even in error and physically enforcing his will–only on those who could not resist the physical attack. And it is evidenced in the deplorable words of the Satrap that claim rape is no crime, since what is infinitely supplied cannot be stolen. Ultimately, it is a cowardly practice, rightly abjured even as it is still entirely too prevalent in the readers’ world–but it deserves no less rebuke and opposition outside the novel than inside.