Bored of games… board of life?
 

Bored games?

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A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
 

A Conjuring of Light

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Red Seas Under Red Skies – Read Along – Part 3

So, this month, after farrrrr too long waiting, The Republic of Thieves has been released. Yes, it has been a good few years since the release of Red Seas Under Red Skies, and we’re not ones who like to go into a book unprepared; so we at Fantasy-Faction thought a Read Along was very much in order.

If you missed part 1 or part 2 you can find them here.

Below, you will find a rather extensive re-read with notes and questions for Chapters 8-16 (including the epilogue) of Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies…. Enjoy!

Chapter 8

Locke and Jean are aboard The Red Messenger surrounded by a crew of prisoners who see Caldis’s sudden death as a bad omen. Locke is struggling to keep control of the boat during the storm and Jabril seems to have worked out that his knowledge and experience is lacking and has no problem slating them in front of the crew. Jabril also knows there are no cats onboard – and, again, announces this fact in front of the crew. As the hours go by the storm gets worse and the boat springs a minor leak that means the crew have to run caskets of water from the bilges and chuck them overboard. At points, Locke isn’t sure if he will get them through the storm, but with the help of Jean and Jabril he just about manages it with the loss of five men (three of whom are swept overboard, a cook who is crushed, and obviously Caldris). When the men asks for Locke, who as a Captain should be a priest of Iono, he doesn’t want to give them a ‘fake’ send-off (out of respect), so gives them a send-off as a priest of the Crooked Warden.

The next morning Locke’s actions during the storm, the lack of cats and his heresy result in a mutiny. Locke tells Jean that he needs to drag him out to the crew and keep his character at least. He tells Jean that he should still be able to pull this off. Jean is reluctant, but Locke says it is their only chance if they are to get the antidote. Jean doesn’t like the idea, so when the 32-strong crew – lead by Jabril – comes banging on the door, armed with weapons, Locke makes a deal with them to come out peacefully. During interrogation, Locke admits he is not a sea captain, but maintains that he was an Archon Officer (of intelligence, not navy). He tells the men that he stole a boat to get out of the Archon’s service and believed that it would have been easier than it was. Jabril tells Locke that what he has done has had this boat cursed – the lack of women and cats being pointed to as the main reason.

Locke is able to convince the men that he shouldn’t simply be killed or thrown overboard, because he did save them from Prison after all. Jabril decides this is a fair point and reluctantly tells them that he will give them the lifeboat and send them overboard – although he will give them no oars, for Iono Stormfather will decide their fate by ‘floating’ them to safety if he so wishes – Locke reckons all he has bargained for himself is a slower death. The men tell Jean he is welcome to stay aboard with them, but he says there is no chance he is leaving Locke’s side. Wasting no time the men lower the lifeboat, shove Locke and Jean aboard and said away. As Locke and Jean talk about how badly they’ve screwed this mission up they watch The Red Messenger be attacked and quickly boarded by a pirate vessel. Locke is furious, he was not even an hour away from making contact with pirates, but instead he is floating on a lifeboat watching it all take place.

Note: Jean had his Wicked Sisters stolen by the crew when he was forced off the ship. All they are left with is a small stiletto that Jabril gave Locke in case he wanted to take his own life.

Then, once the boat has taken The Red Messenger, it moves towards Locke and Jean. Jean thinks they are done for, but Locke is excited that he has a chance to get the game back by becoming a member of their crew. When the pirate ship arrives they ask Locke and Jean if they want to be rescued. They say they do and the female pirate, Lieutenant Ezri Delmastro, tells them they’ll need to strip naked, stand on one leg and dance first. Locke and Jean relent and do as she says – their manhoods are referred to as stilettos rather than sabers. Once the two have fallen overboard – due to the dancing and balancing acts they’ve been made to do – they are told to push the boat towards the pirate vessel. Once they are aboard, Ezri introduces Locke to her captain, another woman who has dark skin, a striking appearance and is in her early 30s. She has braided hair and, most impressively, an Elderglass vest – it is fashioned by joining tiny shards of Elderglass together with molten metal (I presume) – the kind rarely seen outside of the hands of royalty. The captain, Zamira Drakasha, tells Locke that she has never heard of an Orrin Ravelle. She tells her Lieutenant to get Locke and Jean dressed then chuck them into the cells below deck.

Chapter 9

After an hour in dark, cramped cells Ezri comes to collect the pair with eight of her men. She tells them that the Captain wants to see Locke, but Jean is to come too – she places manacles on the two of them. Locke is led towards the Captain’s room, but Jean is told to wait in the walkway. When Locke walks into the room the Captain is mothering her young daughter. She is showing her the ship she has just stolen and telling her that it will bring her a lot of gold. She then begins quizzing her about what the things that hold the sails are called (masts) and how many most ships have (two) and what else comes in twos (Zamira’s visible swords). After checking that The Red Messenger’s crew are still locked down, Zamira asks to be left alone with Locke and her daughter happily joins Ezri – it’s obvious they are close. Zamira asks who Kosca and de Ferra are – Locke tells her that they were aliases they used whilst working for the Archon. When Zamira asks about his past, Locke tells her that he used to work for the Priori, which is why Stragos was so interested in him. Zamira finds it strange that Locke didn’t know about her, if he was an intelligence office – he says that he had heard her name, but hadn’t seen any portraits or anything. She says she also finds it strange that he didn’t know about her two children, Paolo (four) and Cosetta (three). Locke says that most of his work was in-city. Zamira says that she knows there is a 5,000 solari bounty on her head and can’t imagine someone in Locke’s supposed position would be ignorant to that fact. Zamira then moves her attention to Jean, who Locke says is little more than a business accomplice who worked with him originally for the Priori and then the Archon. Zamira decides to test this by having a blade put to Jean’s throat. When Locke screams for her to stop she laughs and tells Locke she knew it. She has Locke and Jean taken aboard The Red Messenger and locked down with the rest of the crew.

Note: It is interesting how similar Captain Zamira’s drill-like questioning of her children is to what Chains would put Locke and Jean through.

Question: It is rare that you find an active mother in a fantasy novel that isn’t staying at home (providing a safe place to return) or being killed/captured by someone/something (starting the quest). Generally, mothers in Fantasy novels are weak and forgettable. Captain Zamira is a wonderful example of a strong, memorable character who is also a mother. What do you think of her?

The Captain asks for a report on the crew of The Red Messenger and is told that the crew is wretched. She goes over to address them and tells them that she is what they tried to be: a pirate. She tells them that to truly become a pirate they have to denounce everything, everyone and everywhere beyond their boat. Every man onboard will be allowed to leave once they arrive at Port Prodigal, but until then they are on ‘Scrub Watch’. Scrub Watch is the lowest of the low in terms of positions on the ship. They must obey every crew member, do the jobs no one else wants to do, eat last and go without if supplies run out. The Captain explains, though, that a man on Scrub Watch does stand a chance at becoming a full member of the pirating crew, but they need to prove themselves. If on the way to Port Prodigal they come across a ship, they will be expected to be the first people to cross onto it and face the blades, bolts, arrows and so on. If they survive, they will be welcomed to the crew. As a member of the crew they would receive an equal share of whatever is looted (after 30% has been put back for any possible repairs / upgrades to The Poison Orchid). The Captain says Locke and Jean are to be reintegrated into the crew as Scrub Watch (much to the disappointment of the rest of The Red Messenger’s crew). Before they are all let go, Ezri tells everyone that should they say even an unkind word to the younger Drakashas they will be killed – they are seen to her and the rest of the crew as family.

The first job the Scrub Watch is given is to raise the ship’s huge anchor. When they are finished the Scrub Watch are allowed to leave, but Ezri tells Locke and Jean to remain behind and sweep the deck. When the rest of the crew are gone Ezri says that by heaping a little extra punishment on them the crew’s resentment may lessen slightly.  There is a strange atmosphere when Locke and Jean do eventually make it below deck. Half the crew seems to be softening to them and starting to appreciate that Locke saved them from prison – Jabril even saves them a space near to him – whereas the other half still blame Locke for his foolish plan and ignorance of sailing tradition. A number of The Red Messenger’s men go as far to threaten Locke and Jean – telling them that they can’t stay awake forever – but Jabril tells them that if any harm comes to anyone onboard the perpetrator is likely to be killed by the Captain.

Note: 12 days have passed since they left Tal Verrar.

Chapter 10

Jean is finding life onboard a pirate ship very different to how he imagined. Everything is efficient and well looked after – Jean is amazed at how the boat seems to move all day, every day – work takes place, repairs are done, teams keep watch. When Jean tells Ezri this, that it is different to what he expected, he finds that the way he is talking to her – constantly quoting and bringing up books they’ve both read, for example – and looking at her is flirtatious and he realizes he is attracted to her. When he asks a bit about her she says she prefers to keep that a mystery. Jean says she knows a bit about him and she says that she does, but she is an officer and he, as Scrub Watch, is not even real yet. Instead, she tells Jean that the pirate ship runs like it does because their Captain is ex-navy (Syrune – an island race who have dark skin and whose naval origins go back to a time before the Therin Throne).

Ezri explains that ship Captains on Port Prodigal form a council and therefore have power both on and off the water. Some are elected as Captain and others just rule when it is time to rule. Zamira is different because the crew allows and wants her to rule, as they know she is their best chance. Ezri tells Jean that their boat isn’t actually ‘that’ regimented – it is more that the crew is prudent because they’ve served on other ships and seen the problems lapses cause. As the days go by Jean starts to enjoy the routine of things – keeping his head down, doing his work, not having to worry about a ruse falling through. That said, he is very aware, as is Locke, that the amount of time they have to acquire their antidote is running out.

Question: Is it about time we see a romance in this series? Other than short, mysterious mentions of Sabetha, there has been little love in Scott’s books.

Locke and Jean are doing their medial tasks when suddenly a Scrub Watch man, Mazucca, snaps – he grabs a bucket and slams it into the face of one of the pirates telling him what to do. He then grabs a baton from the unconscious pirate and hits him with it. Before anything else can happen, Captain Drakasha appears and asks Mazucca why he did what he did. Mazucca tells her that the pirate, Tomas, had been messing with him all day. Moving his stuff, following him around and making him do more than his fair share – even as a Scrub Watch member. Tomas says he was just having fun and Drakasha punches him in his nose – breaking it. She tells him not to play with the Scrub Watch. Then she turns to Mazucca and asks if he remembers what she said would happen to any Scrub Watch who touched weapons. He says he does but that he was angry. She quickly seizes him by the throat, drags him to the deck and flings him overboard.

Note: Locke says that Drakasha has the same ability to go from calm to deadly serious as Barsarvi had. He saw death in her eyes.

Locke is beneath deck when Drakasha suddenly shouts for him – there is obvious concern / anger in her voice. Locke arrives to find that her children were playing with cards that she took from him on the night he was captured. A number of cards have come into contact with liquor and turned into cement. The children have been playing with them and so Drakasha demands to know what they are and if they are dangerous. Locke says that they are not – they are incredibly expensive alchemical cards that turn into cement when they come into contact with liquor. When Drakasha says she wants them destroyed Locke begs her to save them in his chest with his papers. Drakasha eventually agrees when Locke promises to get the cement off her table.

Note: These cards obviously have something to do with the Sinspire plot.

The next day Locke is awoken by shouts that a ship has been spotted on the horizon. The Captain comes and says that now is the time for the Scrub Watch to either prove themselves by volunteering to be the first to board the ship or going below deck to hide – in which case they will be dropped off at the port and left to their own devices. Locke and Jean are first to volunteer and Locke goes as far to say he’d like to be at the front of the first boat to make up for the mistakes he has made over the last few days. Captain Drakasha agrees. The plan is that the Scrub Watch members will board one of the small boats with a single Poison Orchid member and pretend to be wealthy men and women whose boat has been set on fire (The Captain has a distress signal fired to attract the other ship’s attention).

Note: When Ezri hears Locke and Jean volunteer she asks to be the Poison member to lead their ship. She says it is because she has been bored and wants some action, but it is obvious she wants to take care of Jean. The Captain says she can, but warns Locke and Jean that they are the cannon fodder and that she must return alive.

When Locke and Jean get aboard the ship the first group of men they come across are Jeremite Redeemers – religious men who, when faced with violence, submit to either killing or being killed in the name of their God. Jean and Delmastro waste no time getting stuck in with fighting the men and quickly kill a vast number of them. Locke is saved a few times by the pair, but also – surprisingly – Locke coldly kills a good number of the Jeremites using tricks and unfair tactics. Once the Redeemers have been taken care of, Locke tracks down the captain of the ship and brings him to Ezri. Ezri asks him whether he surrenders – which he does – and what is on board – spices, wine and fine foods.

The rest of the crew comes up to Locke and Jean after things have settled down and can’t believe how many men Locke killed and the cold brutality he did it with – they are impressed. Jean is surprised and although Locke shrugs it off he is obviously concerned/amazed at the amount of blood he was able to shed. Jean then points out that these men – and all the pirates – are thieves that live by his and Locke’s exact mandate and so it wouldn’t be right to shop them in to Stragos. Locke says that would mean their death and Jean says that he knows that, but that they both know that Stragos doesn’t intend for them to live. Locke says that he intends to see Stragos’s downfall and if that means seeing the entire lot of pirates sunk, he’ll do it because he doesn’t know them – they are strangers to him. Jean is angered by Locke’s declaration and tells him that he will not follow him if he intends to screw these people over and – most surprisingly to us readers – he won’t stand by and let him do it either. Talk then turns to how Jean is only saying this because he has fallen for Ezri; Jean snaps back that just because Locke lost Sabetha Belacoros – who he lived with for 9 years – doesn’t mean Jean also has to be off women. Jean also shouts back that he can’t live in Locke’s shadow forever.

Note: We have learnt here that Locke and Jean lived with Sabetha for 9 years and that her surname was Belacoros.

Note: It is interesting here that Locke’s desire to get back at Stragos has seen him ignore the Robin Hood and greater purpose roles that Chains talked about with him about during the flashback earlier in the book.

Chapter 11

Locke and the old Messenger crew take part in a ritual that sees them cast overboard in nets. They are made to beg and swear service to the Orchid in front of the Gods before they are pulled from the water and named a member of the crew. Locke is the first to be cut free. Locke asks the Captain what she will do with the other ship now and she tells Locke that because she doesn’t like to have to manage two ships using two relatively unknown crews she will strip it of everything it is worth and then send the crew on their way. By doing this crews know that if they surrender – as this crew did, minus the Redeemers – they will be set free and the people who commission the voyages will continue treating the pirates as natural occurrences – like the weather. The final task left is for the Captain to work out where the Ship Master’s purse from the other boat is stored. There is usually one on each ship and it is typically the single thing the pirated ship’s captain will hold back. Locke comes up with a plan that will allow the Captain to get the purse without the painstaking torture she is used to. Locke says to bring the captain to the medical room and, once she does, make a show of ‘killing’ a man who is ‘beyond saving’, claiming that he is simply injured and that he can save them by revealing the purse’s location. The Kingfisher‘s Captain quickly gives up the location and the crew finish raiding the ship of all the fine food, drink, clothes and spices before keeping their word and leaving the ship with enough supplies to make it back safely.

That evening the new shipmates are all bonding. Locke spends time with the Captain who tells him about the time, as a Lieutenant’s Apprentice, she stole a bottle of wine from her Captain. The Captain found out and made them cut down the royalyard from the main mast and peel off the varnish: leaving them with a yard or so of thick wood. She and her fellow wine-stealing apprentices then had their swords taken away and told they would not be restored until they ate the whole thing. It took weeks, but eventually they ate it all. The message was that secrets between the crew are like chips of wood and need to be gotten rid of. She then shows Locke a shadow in the water, 40-50 feet behind the boat – the Captain admits she doesn’t know what it is and doesn’t want to find out either. Discussion then moves on to Locke, who the Captain says has proved himself useful and she is even beginning to consider it fate that she found him. Locke tries to maintain he is just an Archon Turncoat, but the Captain says that she has noticed Locke’s ability for improvised dishonesty and feels he is a double agent planted into the Archon by the Priori and the theft of the ship was to damage the Archon’s credibility. The Captain then tells Locke about how much she enjoys being out to sea – without the lines drawn by the rich and tax systems, etc. Locke asks what the war with Tal Verrar was about, then – where they seemed to be fighting for land and structure – and The Captain says that that was Bonnaire’s fault. Bonnaire told them it wouldn’t be a struggle to take Stragos and instead it almost cost them their livelihood. Now, without war, she is happy and everything seems to be going well. Locke thinks this fits his mandate – Thieves Prosper – and the inclination is that he will treat her as an ally rather than a target. Elsewhere Jean is flirting with Ezri who admits wanting to get to know him and so he cuts the messing around and asks if she fancies getting a drink. Whilst drinking, Ezri asks Jean about Locke and Jean says he doesn’t want to talk about Locke tonight. Ezri says that is OK and asks Jean to take her to her room.

When we get back to Locke and the Captain’s conversation Locke is telling her he wants to come clean about the secrets in his past. He tells the Captain he is not a fighter and only survived due to sneaky tactics, luck and Jean’s help. The Captain says Jean must be amazing and Locke says he is. Locke then tells Zamira everything: the fact he is under employment by Stragos, that he has been poisoned, that they are really thieves, that Ravelle was Stragos’s idea and that he wants to cause another war. At first Zamira dismisses that idea that it will affect her, even if Stragos was to launch a war on Port Prodigal; Locke says that although she says that, she does have ties there and needs the place. Locke then says that if she doesn’t help him stop Stragos now, he will get to the pirates some other way as he needs to win a war to oust the Priori. At that moment the ship’s scholar and physiker walks in to complain about the noise Jean and Ezri are making. They shattered a glass cage that housed a spider the size of a small dog in the next room. Zamira tells the physiker to leave them to it, so she heads away unhappy; Zamira tells Locke they saved her from a cage she was placed in to die for insolence to the Nicoran royal family. Once she is out of earshot the Captain tells Locke that she finds it hard to process and trust everything he has told her. She asks him to give her until they reach Port Prodigal and sell their wares to decide. Locke agrees.

Back in their room, Ezri is asking how Jean got a scar on his chest. Whilst kissing, Jean asks Ezri to call him by his real name (Jean). Ezri calls him Jean Estevan Tannen. Ezri then asks Jean to call her Ezriane Dastiri de la Mastron. Dame Ezriane of the House of Mastron. Nicora. Ezri says she is a spare daughter who ran away and is most likely disinherited.

Question: A lot of the motives in Scott Lynch’s work seem to be about characters drastically changing their pasts into a new, darker, but more enjoyable future. Why do you think this is?

The next morning Locke is woken up by a cat called Regal. Locke carries the cat outside and runs into Jean… He tells him about telling the Captain about the Stragos scenario and they both apologise for what they said – both agree they need to stop getting at each other.

Question: what do you think it is that is straining Locke and Jean’s relationship?

When the ship spots Port Prodigal on the horizon there is at first relief amongst the crew, but as they get closer Locke notices that everyone onboard the ship is getting more and more tense as they near it. When Locke and Jean ask Ezri what is going on they are told that the high winds are going to prevent them going through the normal port of entry, instead they will have to go the more dangerous route. Ezri is sketchy about the details, but Locke and Jean are told that something lives there – nothing that can board the ship, but something that is a risk to those without the right temperament. To get through this new port will require all hands on deck, so meals and rest are to be cut.

Chapter 12

When they arise, Jean runs into Ezri and the Captain, who is trying to feed her daughter milk of the poppy so that she will sleep when they go through the channel. Cosetta is refusing the drink, so Jean thinks about how Chains would get the young Bastards to do things they didn’t want to do (reverse psychology). Jean approaches and asks the Captain if he can have the delicious looking drink instead of Cosetta. Cosetta immediately gets upset that someone is trying to take her drink and so drinks it.

Note: More points for Locke and Jean with Captain Zamira.

When they reach the passing to Port Prodigal it is dark and foggy. The atmosphere alone is enough to strike fear into every one of the crew. Then a voice begins calling Locke and Jean by their real names; calling them into the water. The crew starts to sweat and itch and the voice promises them relief if they just shed their clothes and slip into the water. Time warps slightly in this area and it seems to take a good while to get through, but once they are out they find even longer than they thought has passed. Locke is sure he sees the outline of a human shape sitting on a reef before the voices finally stop and they are past.

There is a long beach on the northside of a vast, hilly island that is Port Prodigal. Miles of ancient rainforest lie behind that beach. The Poison Orchid moves towards the harbour, but the Captain lays anchor about half a mile from the shore. When Locke asks why she is nervous/cautious, the Captain replies that a large number of the Council are back at the same time, which is rare, and points four other boats out to him. The Captain forms a party of her four most deadly crew (plus herself) to scope out what’s going on on the shore. As they are about to leave Locke suggests to the Captain she also takes Jean. Jean then adds that Locke should also come along for ‘situations unforeseen’ – after a bit of strained discussion, the Captain eventually agrees they can come.

When they arrive on shore Jean quickly notices how like Camorr this place is. There are drunks falling over all about the place, ‘maintainers’ (who are guards that patrol the city) and a dangerous kind of atmosphere. They head straight towards a bar known as The Tattered Crimson and Zamira takes them upstairs to ‘the head table’ where she would usually sit. When she gets there an up-and-comer known as Chay is sat in her seat and it becomes evident that this is a kind of challenge for Zamira’s place in Port Prodigal’s hierarchy. An argument quickly breaks out, but each side is warned against drawing steel. So, Zamira proposes a drinking game where first on their arse heads back downstairs. The moment Chay agrees, the Captain throws a drink in her face and slams her mug against her temples… She falls on her arse and Zamira claims victory. Zamira kicks Chay and her crew back downstairs announcing that tomorrow there will be a Council meeting. Locke asks the Captain how long this and selling the goods will take and Zamira tells Locke maybe 2-3 days or maybe 7-8, but she hasn’t forgot about his ‘situation’. Ezri overhears and wants to know what ‘situation’ this is, it is evident Jean hasn’t told her about the poison, but Zamira tells her she will find out at the Council tomorrow. Zamira then adds that selling the ship to the ‘shipbreaker’ will be the hardest task. The man doesn’t sound very pleasant, he has seen all his competitors killed so that he can talk Captains down to rock-bottom prices. Upon hearing this Locke feels a plan brewing.

Captain Radanov, a man as big as any Locke has even seen, then joins the crew at their table and welcomes Zamira back with a couple of bottles of her favourite wine. Radanov asks Zamira how they got into Port and she tells him they went through the fog to which Radanov replies that a ship was recently lost there and that it is getting worse. Then, as he goes to leave, he quotes a play that Jean recognises and the two spar words over various poets. When Jean asks how the Captain has such a good knowledge of Literature, he tells him that an old College Professor, Barsarvi, taught him before having to flee the city due to running an illegal betting shop. Radanov also had to flee as he was one of the students who used to take bets and pass notes. Once Radanov has left Jean asks why he doesn’t make a play for the high table. Ezri tells him that not only is he a huge man but he has the largest ship and crew by far and everyone knows and respects that.

The Red Messenger and The Poison Orchid turn into a kind of floating market as the Captain tries to sell all her goods. When The Red Messenger’s crew arrive, many of them are surprised to see Locke still alive and amazed to see his high regard amongst the Captain and her crew. Locke shows his worth by running a scam past the shipbreaker…  Zamira wants to get a few hundred more for the ship and so Locke borrows some clothing to look wealthy and bid against him.

Note: The Shipbreaker is unused to having competition and gets angry quickly. Ezri points out that he will work out what happens eventually and Locke says that the beauty of the scam is that he will, but will be too embarrassed to say anything. Zamira tells Locke that he is confined to the ship in order to save him having his throat slit.

Note: The Captain is worried about how Ezri will take the news about Locke and Jean’s true reasons for being in the Ghostwinds. She considers how quickly she went from lowly crew member to lieutenant fondly.

Chapter 13

The next day Zamira meets with the rest of the Pirate Captains at Council. Their meeting place is on the jetty of an old ruined fortress that was once a place of power. Zamira wastes no time in telling the Captains about Stragos’s plan to war with them in order to get a step ahead of the Priori. Some of the Captains are more trusting of her word than others, but none of them are too keen on doing anything about it in fear that it will provoke Stragos; one even suggests killing Locke and Jean to halt the current threat. Zamira tells them that if they do nothing it is only a matter of time before he finds some kind of excuse or means to get to them. All she wants from them for now is to let her head to Tal Verrar and not show up, whatever they hear. She tells them that Locke and Jean provide a way to Stragos that they may not have again. Eventually the Captains relent and decide it is better that Zamira go now and have a go at stopping the problem than they having to risk their resources and lives in the near future.

Once the meeting is over Zamira calls Locke, Ezri and Jean to her chambers. Her two children are playing and amusing themselves by repeating swear words. Zamira tells Locke that she will take him back to Tal Verrar to kill Stragos, but that he must kill the man even if it means sacrificing himself to do so. Locke and Jean toast to that, but it is obvious that Ezri is bothered about the poison and Zamira dismisses them so that Jean and her can have some alone time.

Note: At the end of this scene Paolo tells his mother he’d like to learn to use a sword and Cosetta proclaims she will be King. Her mother has obviously conditioned them well.

When they reach Ezri’s room, Ezri slaps Jean and hits him a few times. Jean apologises but says that when he is with her everything feels calm and perfect and that he didn’t want to ruin that. Ezri breaks down and tells him that he is the only thing she considers hers in the whole world. Ezri then tells Jean she loves him and Jean says he loves her too. Ezri then tells Jean not to get killed and, even if he ends up in a position where he must die to kill Stragos, to find a way of surviving. Ezri tells Jean that once this is all done she’d like him to stay with her on the boat and Jean admits that he does like this way of life. He tells Ezri though that there is much for her to see on land.

Question: Would this series work if Locke was to go off on his own?

One of Captain Zamira’s most trusted men, Utgar, is talking with Radanov. Radanov is paying him a hefty sum to stash something heavy away onboard Zamira’s ship for future possible use. Radanov promises a large sum and a place aboard his ship should Utgar have to use it. Radanov is not happy about Zamira’s plans, he feels she may bring big trouble back with her to the Ghostwinds.

The Poison Orchid avoids the dark entrance to the Port and this time uses Traders’ Gate. Zamira gathers the crew on-board and tells them that they are headed for Tal Verrar. She doesn’t tell them why, but she tells them she has the blessing of the other Captains and that there will be substantial gain should they succeed. In order to ensure the pirate ship can approach Tal Verrar the crew will need to get on with decorating it and changing the name on its side. Once the crew have disbanded to get back on with their work Jean tells Locke about Ezri’s offer and asks if he would also stay. Locke doesn’t answer directly and Jean goes on to suggest maybe she could come with them. Locke again doesn’t answer, but says that Ezri is someone he can trust and that he is proud that Jean has taken something back from this dead-end situation: love. Locke tells Jean that when the time comes to decide he wants Jean to make the decision without considering him.

Note: Locke seems in two minds about whether he wants a third partner and his replies to Jean suggest that once they have become rich from the Sinspire Con he is split between going it alone and putting up with being the spare wheel.

When the Poison Orchid arrives in Tal Verrar disguised as a new ship, Locke asks the Captain for 250 solari so that he can continue his Sinspire con. She teases him a little, but eventually allows him to have it. Utgar seems to be taking a deep interest in what Locke and Jean are doing and makes a comment about unexpected things occurring with no notice. Locke and Jean board a small boat and make contact with the guard who they give a code in order to meet with Stragos. Stragos isn’t too happy to hear that Locke has lost The Red Messenger or that Caldris is dead. Locke tells him that those two things resulted in them being accepted into the pirate crew and that they have now earned Zamira’s trust. Stragos is familiar with Zamira and Locke tells him that he has come clean to her about the plot and that she is willing to launch a war in return for Stragos allowing her to stay here until he has killed the rest of the pirate captains. Once he has, she can return and rule (note: this is a lie). Stragos says that they can have more temporary antidote, but that he will keep them under his control for a bit longer.Locke says that unless he returns to the Poison Orchid it will sail away and lose Stragos his chance to start a war and so he agrees to let them go for now. Stragos leaves with Merrain to his own garden party.

Once Locke and Jean leave Stragos’s they head for the Sinspire and get into a tussle with the guards as they try to enter through the slave entrance. Selendri appears and tells her men to ignore Locke and Jean and gets them to Requin. Requin reveals that Selendri felt they’d never see them again, but Locke says it just took longer than they thought. Locke says he found the Lock Master, Callas, but that he was mad and that they couldn’t bring him back for he feared Priori Agents at every corner. Locke says that he needs something to take back to Callas and prove that he will be protected when he arrives in Tal Verrar and suggests Stragos uses his wax sigil and writes a short note. At first Stragos refuses saying he will implicate himself, but is convinced otherwise when Locke says just to make it non-specific. Locke says that when Callas comes back Requin will be amazed at the kinds of things he can do. Locke maintains that he wants a job with Requin when this is all done and gives him 250 solari as a consideration. Requin says he will consider it if Locke continues to be polite and succeeds with the Callas plan.

Later, Locke and Jean are walking towards the ship when they notice that they are being followed. Locke whispers that they should run suddenly then hide and catch them off guard. The two do just that, but when trying to constrain their two assailants they kill them by mistake and lose their chance to question them. Locke and Jean pick up the crossbows they dropped. Then, two more men appear with crossbows and we find ourselves at the book’s prelude where the two men point their crossbows at Locke and Jean so that they are at a stalemate and then Jean turns his and points it at Locke. Locke begs Jean not to do this, but Jean says he had no choice.

Question: how do your reactions reading this now compare to reading it at the start of the book?

Chapter 14

Two of the Captains, Radanov and Colvard, are talking. Colvard says she knows what Radanov is planning: that they shouldn’t have given their oaths to Drakasha and that he means to ensure she doesn’t give Stragos what he wants, even if that means Radanov has to kill her. Radanov wonders whether Colvard intends to side with him or against him, but she quickly answers by saying that she agrees that Stragos cannot be antagonised. Colvard says she knows he must have a man aboard the Poison Orchid because she knew he tried to place one aboard her ship (she killed him and made it look like an accident). Colvard adds that simply killing Zamira is a temporary solution and that they need instead to sate Stragos’s ambition. Rather than deny him a victory, they plan to give him one against thePoison Orchid. Their plan is to allow Zamira to cause enough damage to get the town’s attention and have them banging at Stragos’s door. Radanov will then deliver Zamira to Stragos so that he can place the notorious pirate in a cage and have the town see him as a hero again.

Back in the city, Jean instructs the two men to tie up Locke and as they go to do it, Jean shoots them both in the back of their heads. Locke is amazed and Jean is hurt that Locke thinks he planned to betray him. He tells Locke he used the lying hand sign, but Locke says he didn’t or at least he didn’t see it.

Note: the question here is, why didn’t the men kill Jean, unless their boss told them that someone had betrayed Locke? Were they idiots who were too trusting or did Jean make a deal and get cold feet?

When Locke and Jean make it back to the Orchid they tell Ezri and Zamira that other than their identity-less attackers things went to plan and that they should get started. Ezri has spotted a small ship not far from their location and the Captain agrees that scarring them a little would be a good place to start. Locke leads proceedings, shouting to the other boat that they are to hand over all their goods. The boat reply that they are just a hydrographic experimental vessel and that they have little to give… Locke says in that case they should just hand over their money, food and drink. Locke torments them for a while before telling them that when they get back to shore he wants them to tell all of Tal Verrar that Orrin Ravelle is near by and that they are all screwed.

The next day Locke and Jean paint the ship again and give it another name, but Zamira points out that doing things this way is going to take too long. Locke agrees and says he has an idea. Later that day the Poison Orchid ransacks an entire village in order to get Stragos’s attention and help secure Locke and Jean his audience so that they may bump into the Alchemist.

It works well, the next day they find themselves in front of Stragos as he reads them a list of the damage they’ve caused: two feluccas & forty-six yachts, pleasure barges and smaller crafts burned or sunk. Not to mention 118 slaves stolen, 19 guards slain and another 16 wounded. Then there is the fact that barely a single building remains standing and even the stadium is a wreck. Stragos estimates at very least 95,000 solari in damages! Despite all this, the village that the pirates attacked is too far away and too small to stir up much anxiety in the people of Tal Verrar. In addition, the fact it was land-based means that no one is really connecting it to Ravelle and the pirates. Stragos is annoyed at their failure and tells them they need to bring the pirate ships closer to Tal Verrar. Locke and Jean ask for antidote, which is refused. They also ask if Stragos knew anything about their most recent assassination attempt and he says he does not.

Jean is telling Ezri that they couldn’t get access to the Alchemist and that Stragos’s latest demands – to bring the boats close to Tal Verrar – may mean that he no longer needs them and that the next time they see him they will be taking daggers rather than antidotes. Ezri doesn’t want to hear it, so Jean asks if she has thought about coming with him and Locke when things are over. Jean says they intend to buy a yacht in Vel Virazzo and just float around for a bit. Ezri says that the amount they made from their recent raid means the crew will be drunk for months and that the Captain won’t miss her. Jean says she can be yacht captain and even name it and she says she may even stay with Jean for a year or two (before perhaps returning with him to The Poison Orchid).

Note: It seems Jean is trying to ensure he and Locke remain together at least for the time being. Luckily for him Ezri isn’t fighting the idea.

We are treated to a short scene where Radanov has arrived in Tal Verrar and spots theOrchid. Radanov’s crew suggests they fake parley, but Radanov says that if he is to kill a friend and break an oath he will do it uncloaked and with his weapons free.

Chapter 15

Radanov and his men begin their attack by unleashing three attack birds on the Poison Orchid. Although the birds are dealt with relatively quickly, they serve their purpose to scare and confuse the crew. Locke and Jean are assigned to ensuring that the men aboard the small boats leaving the Sovereign are not allowed to board the Orchid. Zamira and the rest of her crew intend to attack Radanov head on, board his boat and take him out. They know there is a small chance of success and they’d need to kill two men to each of their one to stand any chance. Locke and Jean take out a couple of boats with large rocks and get lucky when a sea monster is attracted to the blood in the water and takes out a few more. Suddenly, Radanov demands that everyone stops what they are doing – he has been shot with an arrow in the arm and is no longer looking to play games. Utgar calls Zamira’s name and when she looks at him she sees him holding Shipsbane – a black alchemical device that burns so hot that it will take out the entire ship if it touches the ground. After she yells at him for being a traitor, Radanov tells Zamira to hand over the ship. Then Treganne appears on deck with a crossbow and curses Utgar as a traitor and shoots him. The Shipsbane hits the deck and Jean tells Ezri he has to get rid of it. Ezri hits Jean and doubles him over. Jean watches in horror as Ezri is set alight by picking up the Shipsbane and throwing it at the Sovereign. Ezri falls to the ground and Treganne hands Jean a blade and says he needs to kill her quickly to halt her suffering. The Sovereign will now burn and so Radanov shouts that his men now need to take the Orchid, but he himself runs to the Sovereign‘s wheel. The Sovereign sinks – presumably with Radanov trying to save it – and Zamira’s men are able to kill any of Radanov’s men who managed to stay on-board.

Jean asks Locke why he didn’t try to stop Ezri. Locke says that he did but Ezri shoved him away. When Zamira next refers to Locke as Ravelle he says that his friends call him Locke and Jean, Jean. She asks for an update and is told that in addition to Ezri, Nasreen, Malakasti and Gwilem are also dead. Zamira asks Locke to look after the deck whilst she checks on her children. Locke agrees and considers all the dead on board once she is gone. Locke promises to do something about the bloodshed when he gets back to Tal Verrar…

Chapter 16

Locke is saying prayers for the fifty bodies he has seen tipped over the side of the boat and gives Ezri a longer one for she saved them and defeated Radanov. Locke considers how the first time he did this at thirteen it seemed magical and now it just feels sad and depressing.

Note: perhaps Locke is doubting his faith here.

Jean promises an almighty death offering for Ezri and tells Locke he doesn’t want him to come next time he goes to see Stragos. He intends to tell him Locke died and deal with him himself. Locke refuses of course, which sends Jean into one of his fits of rage. Zamira points out that Jean would not be able to row the boat to Tal Verrar on his own, which calms him. Locke and Jean tell Zamira about the Sinspire plan and how it now looks unlikely. Then Locke says they need a plan and that plan needs to involve the people who have been involved in this since the beginning but so far played no part: The Priori. Locke says they need to make contact and talk about Stragos with them. Locke seems to think he can locate one of the Inner Seven and then play the Requin scheme and get close enough to kill Stragos. Locke says they need a disguise to get ashore and they decide to go as Priests of the least supported God, Callo Androno, ruler of travel and languages.

Locke and Jean arrive on land and head straight to the manor of Marius Cordo, a Priori Inner Seven member. Once they’ve made their way past guards and servants – they are dressed in Callo Androno robes – they head to his chambers. As Cordo spots them he panics and says ‘Oh, gods protect me. It’s you!’ Evidently the Priori know who ‘Kosta’ is and the way Cordo immediately begins to offer Locke substantial loads of cash not to kill him confirms that he was the one sending assassins after them. He tells Locke that the Bondsmagi convinced him to do it after showing him Kosta’s picture in water. They told him that Kosta was a danger to the Priori. Locke tells Cordo that he is an idiot and that the Bondsmagi were playing games to make Locke’s life difficult. When Locke doesn’t kill Cordo, but instead tells him all this, he begins to believe him and trusts he is not an assassin after all. Locke then promises that he can deliver the Priori Stragos. Just then Cordo’s son, who is himself a lower tier Priori member, enters the room, but is quickly talked down by Locke and his father. Locke says that he is going to ask Stragos to have them arrested outside the Sinspire and that it is at this point that he intends to see him removed from power or possibly even life. Locke says to the Cordo’s to ready whatever plans they have in place to take the city from Stragos and hush his navy.

Locke and Jean talk their way into Stragos’s office and tell him that they’ve sunk more boats. Stragos says he hasn’t heard any talk of pirates and is obviously annoyed Locke and Jean have come to see him. Locke says that they are here to tell him that they intend to run their Sinspire plan tonight and demand he helps them do it. Stragos is furious, but Locke tells him that unless he helps him he will send the Orchid back to the Ghostwinds. Stragos eventually agrees to send men to arrest Locke and store whatever it is he intends to steal until after they have finished their work for him. Locke has told Stragos that the close relationship between the Priori and Requin has made him nervous and that he doesn’t want to risk losing all his money.

Note: Locke notices how tense and angry Jean is and considers that the person he releases their aggression on is really going to feel it. Locke is equally riled up and is ready to dish out payback on the scale they did to the Bondsmagi.

Question: How do you feel the death of Ezri compared to the death of the Bastards in the first book?

Locke and Jean arrive at the Sinspire and demand to talk to Requin. Selendri meets them and they tell her that the Archon knows everything and his men are on their way to arrest them. Selendri is furious and says she knew they were a bad investment. All the same she takes them up to Requin’s office. Requin is equally annoyed. Over the years he has managed to keep the Archon away from the Sinspire. He tells Locke and Jean to wait in his office whilst he deals with the Archon… He tells them that he will deal with them after (note: Locke predicts by seeing them thrown from his window). As soon as Requin leaves the room Jean takes out his two guards and, with Locke’s help, restrains Selendri. Locke then grabs a bottle of brandy and uses it to turn his cards into cement. Once the goo is made he pours it into the lock of the door and around the cracks of the small elevator. Locke feels fairly confident no one will be able to enter for quite some time. Locke then goes about smashing the chairs he gave Requin as a gift, within them are tools and plenty of that special demi-silk. They use some of it to tie up Selendri who screams at them and points out that now they are locked in the room they have no way of breaking into Requin’s vault. Locke says that he never planned to because it is impenetrable. Rather, it was a distraction – he is exactly where he needs to be because Requin has a huge collection of very expensive art hanging on his walls.

Note: I think this revelation – them having been after the paintings all along – was genius. However, I remain dubious that Requin would have fallen for the chair trick. I’d imagine he’d have them thoroughly checked out (maybe fearing explosives, etc) and probably wouldn’t have kept them in his room. Still, it’s a fantasy novel ;-)

A while later Locke and Jean are using demi-silk to abseil down the Sinspire’s walls. As they hit the bottom Stragos’s men arrest them and take them to his fortress. Stragos is waiting with them with Merrain in his garden.

Stragos kicks Locke in the chest and tells him that he has found the Orchid… In a short while he will dispatch his men and have it wiped out. Locke is no longer any use to him. He adds that the fact that Requin refused his men entrance to the Sinspire means he can soon arrest him and then use his testimony to discredit the Priori (who have been in his pocket for years). Locke cries that they had a deal and Stragos says that he would have honoured it had Locke and Jean not killed his officers on Windward Rock (it was actually Merrain). Locke is confused and denies killing them, but Stragos says if he didn’t do it, it was someone he was supposed to be watching. Suddenly, as Stragos takes out a blade, one of his men slams him in the face with the hilt of their blade.

Time then backs up and it is explained to us how Stragos went from being about to kill Locke and Jean to catching a sword hilt in the face. Turns out that when the Archon’s masked Eyes threw Locke and Jean into the iron carriage to transport them to the fortress they ran into a roadblock. Shortly after the Archon’s men were taken out and replaced by Lyonis Cordo’s men. They quickly changed into the clothing and masks of the Eyes and so it was actually Lyonis that struck Stragos in the face with the hilt of his sword.

Once the Archon is restrained Cordo tells Locke that he no longer needs him. He is about to kill him when Locke produces a letter from Requin – the non-specific one he asked for to give to the made-up Lock Master – and implies that should he be harmed the Priori will lose their ally and accounts. Cordo backs down and Locke also demands he be allowed to deal with Stragos and the Alchemist. The Alchemist reveals that he has only one full antidote, the other man will need the regular dosages. Locke says that in that case the Alchemist will be coming to sea with them. Then, Merrain makes her move. She intends to kill Stragos, the Alchemist and ensure neither Locke or Jean take the antidote so that none of them can work out that her employer works outside of Tal Verrar. She takes out the Alchemist first and kicks out at Locke who drops the bottle of antidote (luckily it doesn’t break). Merrain fails to kill Stragos and as men close in on her she bolts into the night. Jean tells Stragos that he shall be his death offering for Ezri and he knocks him out and throws him in a sack. Locke tells Cordo not to worry and that he won’t see the Archon ever again. Then, they disappear into the night.

Locke and Jean hand Stragos over to Zamira and she tells him that she intends to keep him alive, chained up in the pitch black below deck as long as she can. He screams that he will go mad and she says that that is the point. Zamira asks Locke and Jean of their plans and they tell her they’re heading for Vel Virazzo and that, as she said earlier, if someone tries to draw a line around them they will just keep moving. They asks if Zamira would like any of the money they will make when they get there, but she declines.

Requin is meeting with the Priori in his wreck of an office. It is evident that Requin wants to use the current situation to his advantage. He asks what has happened to the Eyes and is told that half are dead and half are in custody waiting to be disposed of. Requin says that the Eyes are too useful to dispose of and he demands that those loyal to Tal Verrar (as opposed to Stragos) are kept alive and allowed to be put to use. When the Priori try to argue Requin warns them that nearly everyone in the Priori stores funds with him and refusal may mean they never see them again.

Requin talks the Priori into giving him his own department in the Mon Magisteria once they have taken it over and are using in as their new administrative centre for their new Government. He also wants to be able to give a number of high up positions out at his own discretion; the highest of which he is going to give to Selendri. In addition to a VERY handsome salary he demands she has the best office, official carriages and an official residence too. Once the Priori have reluctantly agreed to Requin’s terms, he kisses Selendri and tells her that he can’t wait to see her create something that outdoes even his current operations. Selendri points out that Requin doesn’t seem too upset about recent events and it appears that Locke and Jean’s plans have helped him more than hinder him – they’ve made his grip on the Priori even tighter. Selendri says he must be upset about the paintings at least and Requin laughs. He asks if she wants to help him get the real ones – the ones Locke and Jean stole were reproductions.

Note: Thieves Prosper. Requin isn’t actually ‘that’ bad of a guy if you look at his life from Locke’s moral codes. I think Locke and Jean would be pretty impressed with Requin’s play here.

Question: Is Requin as smart as Locke?

Epilogue

Locke is told by Acastus Krell that his paintings are reproductions. Both Locke and Jean are shocked and can only manage 2,500 solari for the paintings that they were originally promised 50,000 for.

Locke and Jean arrive on their boat in Vel Virazzo as planned. They sit down to dinner and Jean says that whether Locke drinks the antidote willingly or Jean has to knock him out he (Locke) will be the one to take it. Locke tells Jean he can’t take it now as he slipped it into Jean’s wine. Jean is furious and tells Locke he now has to watch him die and Locke says he doesn’t mind. Jean asks what they will do next and Locke says they should just sail lazily up the coast until they find somewhere new.

Question: did you expect Locke to take the poison?

Question: How did Red Seas Under Red Skies compare to book 1?

What do you think will become of Zamira’s children?

Did the lack of Bondsmagi or Sabetha surprise / disappoint you?

What do you expect from Republic of Thieves?

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