kyle rote

A Study of Miniatures and Traders

She had a miniature of him. She had begged him to sit for it, shortly after they were married. He had told her it was a foolish notion, but she was his bride, and so he gave in. He had not been gracious about sitting for it. Pappas was too honest an artist to paint Kyle Haven with patient eyes, or to leave out the small fold of annoyance between his brows. So now as Keffria looked at Kyle’s portrait, he regarded her as it seemed he always had, with annoyance and impatience.

He’d commissioned the tiny portrait from one of the best painters of miniatures in Bingtown. The man had to be good; Hest had sat for him only twice, and was very ungracious about both appointments, acceding to the request only because Sedric had pleaded for it as a birthday gift. Hest had thought it overly sentimental, as well as dangerous. “I warn you, if anyone catches a glimpse of you wearing it, I shall deny all knowledge and leave you to their mockery.”

“As I expect,” Sedric had replied. Even then, he now saw, he had begun to accept that perhaps his feelings for Hest were deeper than any Hest had for him. Now he looked down into the supercilious smile and recognized the slight curl of his lip that the artist had caught so accurately. Not even for a portrait could Hest think of him with respect, let alone love.

Rereading Mad Ship again and having practically memorized Dragon Haven, I’m struck by this possible parallel. Two put-down, submissive people, both having lived through oppressive institutions (patriarchy for Keffria and homophobia for Sedric) and managed to fit themselves in their formal societal positions almost seamlessly, being poised and proper. 

Both initially defining themselves as dependent to their abusive, suffocating alphas, and, at first, enjoying the security and comfort they brought. Then, their partners slipped off their sophisticated, thin veneers to reveal their dominating, overbearing selves. Both sheltered Bingtown heirs unprepared for the heartbreaking revelations of their partners’ true nature.

Both having made miniatures of their ungracious loved ones, both bookmarking their arcs with their partners by seeing the truth in their portraits, finally glimpsing past their respective veneers. 

Both initially dependent on exploitative means (slavery for Keffria and dragon-harvesting for Sedric) to support their presumed futures. Both thrust into different arenas of struggle during their books, taking on more and more responsibilities, and growing, adapting with the times, despite finding them difficult and stressful in ways their prior life weren’t. Both moving forth to fight back against the exploitation they had perpetuated earlier.

Both building up their self-worth through taking and completing duties and moving forward from the holes their partners’ absences left behind. Two Traders realizing, no, they don’t need to take their partners’ dominating bullshit. They deserve self-worth. They can reach out for it and take it with their bare hands and their abusive partners can’t wrung that from them. 

Keffria and Sedric realizing respectively, no, Kyle and Hest aren’t worth the sacrifices made for them in the end.

Keffria bit her tongue to keep from telling her that Kyle wasn’t worth it.

The price was too high. Hest wasn’t worth it.