I apologize for the quality of my reading in this week’s videos. For some reason I was tripping over my words and my bangs were constantly in my face. But hopefully you were able to get the gist.
There’s a lot to unpack in this chapter, so let’s do it section by section, shall we?
Penn’s Preparations for Departure
Last week Amer asked Penn directly about allowing her to come with Selendra to Benandi, hinting that she might be needed to see after Selendra’s color if something went wrong with the tea that restored it. Also implicit, I think, is the barest hint of possible blackmail, because the herb that Selendra took to make her maiden’s gold come back was clearly not sanctioned by the church, and it would hurt Selendra’s chances of marrying at all if it were found out that she might have blushed before marriage. Penn accepted, mostly out of concern for Selendra, but he also remembered that Amer had practically raised him as well. But taking on another servant was never part of the arrangements that were made in preparing for Bon’s death, so Penn writes to his wife Felin about how to handle it.
Penn, as a parson, is dependent upon his patroness for the living he and his family enjoys. Exalt Benandi, the mother of Penn’s friend Sher, oversees Benandi demense with an iron claw, and pays particular attention to making sure that people have only what they can afford. Penn makes arrangements to be picked up from Benandi Halt by a carriage that can take himself, Selendra and Amer as a sign to Exalt Benandi that Penn’s living is secure enough to take another servant. The Exalt would not generally approve of that either, however, so Penn is trying some pre-emptive damage control by asking Felin to explain things, and he gives his wife permission to side with the Exalt to soothe her feelings.
Penn and Selendra Leave
Understandably, Haner and Selendra are heartbroken and emotional on the day that they will be separated. When Daverak arrives to start his business as lord of Agornin and to take Haner back with him, he brings some surprising news. Berend is ready to lay her second clutch, just four years after the first. If you remember, Amer said that a female dragon could reasonably be expected to live long enough to see grandchildren if they had understanding husbands and time to space out their clutches. And Bon Agornin’s wife died after laying her third clutch. Basically, reproduction is a matter of life and death for female dragons, and all of the Agornin siblings aren’t exactly pleased to hear that Daverak has already knocked Berend up again. Selendra is verbal about her surprise, and of course Daverak looks down on her for it.
When Selendra and Haner go down to get all of Selendra’s gold together for the journey, Daverak makes an off-hand remark to Avan about how he had considered appointing him as bailiff for the Agornin demense, but then says that he offered it to a cousin instead. Avan, thinking about it, thinks that Daverak should have mentioned this earlier – if Avan could be provided with some measure of security under the larger dragon’s protection, he would have taken it and dropped the idea of the lawsuit. He could have provided a home for Selendra and Haner as well, but of course Daverak continues in his jerkitude and sticks with the cousin-as-bailiff plan.
Haner learns of this missed opportunity when she returns from seeing off Selendra and Penn at the train station, and is grateful to Avan for even considering it. When he brings up the lawsuit again, Haner tells him that she can’t add her name to it, not if she’s to live under Daverak’s roof. At first Avan doesn’t understand, but when Haner makes it clear that Daverak could make her life miserable, he even offers to take her to Irieth. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, as we’ll discover later, and Haner would need to work. But it was nice of him to offer. Haner declines, but is grateful to her brother yet again for thinking of her.
Among the complications that would be involved in bringing Haner to Irieth is Sebeth, Avan’s clerk and mistress. Sebeth must work for a living, even though she was nobly born, because a dragon kidnapped her when she was young and demanded that her father pay ransom. She endured what Selendra endured at the beginning of her captivity, being forced to blush in the presence of a male. But Sebeth’s father didn’t pay. He said he had “dragonets enough,” and basically wrote her off. That’s when Sebeth’s captor raped her, and after he tired of her, he forced her into prostitution and took all of the gold that she earned for himself.
Sebeth bade her time, carefully keeping track of the amount of gold that she earned, and that her captor took. She had been convinced that somehow, she owed this gold to him. But once it was paid off, she killed him and set out on her own. Being pink and yet unmarried, Sebeth could not ever be considered Respected, and therefore had to take what work she could find. Avan met her in a gambling house and became one of her lovers, and eventually she became his clerk.
I love Sebeth’s story so much, because she has clearly taken control of her life after enduring awful circumstances, and she keeps the details to herself. Avan doesn’t know the name of her true family, and she sees no reason to tell. She’s full of colorful stories and she and Avan have an open relationship that allows her to own her sexuality, as she couldn’t while she was in forced prostitution.
Avan tells his lover about the planned lawsuit, and Sebeth expresses doubt about how effective or fair the courts could ever be. Having been a sex worker, she probably understands that better than most.
The Perils of Consumption
Here is where this chapter gets even more depressing. Haner doesn’t fit easily into life at Daverak, and she is greeted by the news that little green Lamerak was deemed a weakling, and then consumed. The way that Daverak and Berend are acting is not exactly like grieving parents act, and Haner develops a suspicion (undoubtedly correct) that Daverak intended to impregnate Berend with her second clutch and merely prolonged Lamerak’s life to provide some nutrition for her.
Daverak and Berend’s other two dragonets are subdued and don’t understand what happened to their sibling, and Haner takes pity on them. She tries to cheer them up while Daverak and Berend eat breakfast, and Daverak suggests a visit to a very old farming family in his demense. Berend and Haner agree, and have a moment to talk before leaving. Berend is determined to see Haner marry well, fully aware that she had the lion’s share of Bon Agornin’s gold for her dowry. Haner, keeping the pledge she made to Selendra, claims sixteen thousand crowns for her dowry, and Berend promises that she will do what she can to get her some security.
The description of the beauty of the island farm as the three of them fly in to land is marred when Haner discovers the real reason Daverak wanted to visit. It turns out that the Majes have had a new clutch of hatchlings, two of which were outside to greet Daverak. The other two, as Haner sees, were hidden inside for fear that Daverak would spot them for weaklings. He asserts his privilege of rank and size over the protests of the farmers, and actually enters their home to drag out the little hatchlings. The Majes are distraught, and the mother of the dragonets keens her grief as Daverak casually kills and dismembers her children. Berend complains about the lower classes making too much of a fuss over the tradition of culling, and eats the portion of the hatchlings that Daverak offers her. Haner eats her small portion, too, uncomfortably aware of the farming family’s eyes on her.
Chapter 4, Video 1
Chapter 4, Video 2
Chapter 4, Video 3