We’re setting the sun on a number of relationships here. The predictable thing to do with E-Merl’s time in this chapter would be to focus on his being told Rachel was dead, and then have the poor guy just break down and cease being able to interact with anyone. There are a couple of reasons why we went in another direction here, and I’ll get into one of them later. But the other is that this interaction with Bandit, which will basically conclude their relationship, struck us as far more interesting.

The dynamic between them has shifted. Bandit has always been above E-Merl, either as his field leader or as a more experienced Peacemaker. Now, for the first time, she’s below him. And because he is a good man, he immediately responds to that by trying to help her as she once helped him. Syr’Nj keeping Bandit jailed pending a discharge is its own problem, but right now, E-Merl’s job one is to get Bandit to give herself a break. He and Scipio have some survivor’s guilt about Pardo’s village too, but neither of them was the one in charge.

E-Merl even goes so far as to suggest he’s smarter than Syr’Nj in one limited context, which is really vaulting over his usual self-esteem issues.

Now, he’s not so good a man that she can’t provoke him a little with her teasing. The fact that she’s teasing him here, even for a moment, is a promising sign. She can be diverted from her problems. But of course it’s not going to be that easy: she’ll shift right back to them on the next page.