(by Silver Adept)
At our last stopping point, F’nor had been stabbed by another dragonrider while running an errand for Lessa, which may be a microcosm of bigger issues brewing…
Dragonquest, Chapter II: Content Notes: Misogyny, Patriarchy
Chapter II starts with an incandescent rage, courtesy F’lar, who is ready to do great violence in reprisal for his brother. Mnementh, sensing this, adjusts F’lar’s arrival point to give him a long runway to coast in on, hoping some of that anger will burn off on the way down and he won’t be goaded into a rash action, like he was when he killed Fax. F’lar concludes that he’s just as aggravated by the flagrant disregard for Weyr tradition (Traditiooon!) as he is by the act of violence, and enumerates the list of sins as he arrives.
- First, it’s obvious the timing of the meeting is meant to insult him, since it’s taking place in the middle of his night,
It was an absolute that a dragonrider did not take a green dragon or a queen from her Weyr when she was due to rise for mating….A mating female dragon broadcast her emotions on a wide band….Humans were susceptible, too, and innocent Hold youngsters often responded with embarrassing consequences. That particular aspect of dragon matings didn’t bother weyrfolk who had long since discarded sexual inhibitions.
Any disagreements between riders were settled in unarmed bouts, carefully refereed inside the Weyr….A berserk dragon was almost impossible to manage and a dragon’s death severely upset his entire Weyr. So armed dueling, which might injure or kill a dragon, was the most absolute proscription.
Well, that answered a question from before – apparently, because of the dragons, there’s very little taboo on how or who one partners with, and very likely, little expectation of monogamy, right? And since Lessa is Hold-born, that’s why she had these weird ideas about who would be able to fly her queen. Everyone else just takes it in stride.
F’lar’s thought process as he descends is to feel aggravated that his pragmatic suggestions have been systematically rejected by the time-skipped Weyrs, even with his clear evidence that things have gone well with his changes. He does take a smug satisfaction in being able to call out T’ton the Traditional (Traditioooooon!) on these giant breaches of conduct. With no trace of self-knowledge or self-reflection about what position he was in with regard to the Lords Holder one book ago, or making the connection between the time-skipped Weyrs now and how he was beset by R’gul from the last book. If his game plan is the same as how to deal with R’gul, F’lar is going to lose badly, because he lacks the leverage of actual Thread to convince everyone to go along with him. He’s going to have to play diplomacy (his weak suit) or find a way to gather strength and force the issue. F’lar wishes Lessa was with him, because of her Sith Mind Trick abilities, her general higher abilities in diplomacy overall, and being able to get answers from dragons. But Lessa can’t be here because there is apparently a three-way feud developing with the Weyrwomen.
Mardra’s friendship had gradually turned into an active hatred. Mardra was a handsome woman with a full, strong, figure, and while she was nowhere near as promiscuous with her favors as Kylara of Southern Weyr…By nature she was immensely possessive and not, F’lar realized, very intelligent….She seemed to feel that Lessa, the only survivor of that Bloodline, had no right to renounce her claim on Ruatha Hold to young Lord Jaxom. Not that any Weyrwoman could take Hold, or would want to….Lessa had no control over her beauty and had had no choice about taking Hold at Ruatha.
Cocowhat by depizan
Oh, fuck you, F’lar, you shit-eating asshole. I know the narrative is going to prove you right about Mardra being intensely jealous of Lessa being pretty and taking the focus off of her and not being very bright at all, but WHO was responsible for not giving Lessa a choice about whether she would be in charge at Ruatha or the Weyrwoman at Benden? Who decided that the laughable unserious claim of a tyrant would take precedence over someone of the correct lineage to run the place, all because the kid was boy? Who then kept her there with the queen, trying so very hard to get her to submit through abuse until she finally did? That’s right, you. So fuck you, your ego, and your unwillingness to admit that this situation was entirely your doing.
F’lar runs down an insult for any Weyrwoman not named Lessa, declares this a matter for men, and has a moment of empathy when he remembers that the time-skipped Weyrs have basically been fighting Thread nonstop for their lives. It’s a short-lived moment, soon squashed completely in favor of his outrage. And the meeting begins with a lot of posturing, sniping, veiled insults, and attempts by T’ton (now called T’ron) to chair the meeting according to his privilege of being the Weyrleader where it is being held, the age of the Weyr, and just about any other attempt he can muster. A flimsy pretext is offered about why the green is out (sudden heat! Totally inexplicable!), and F’lar users his best witness, the smith who was present, but T’ron dismisses him, saying that F’lar disgraces himself by taking the word of a “commoner” over that of a dragonrider. When F’lar presses his case that the knife being extorted was already promised, T’ron only becomes more condescending about who F’lar believes, and eventually, the other time-skipped Weyrleaders agree that the smith was at fault for not immediately giving up the knife to the rider that wanted it, which would have solved the issue by not having F’nor present to get stabbed for interference by someone whose dragon had inexplicably suddenly gone into heat. Meeting over, complaint heard, everyone says they’ll talk to their riders about making sure possible dragons in heat don’t leave. Outside the meeting, F’lar’s ally, T’bor, wonders why he didn’t put up more of a fight. F’lar exercises wisdom, for once.
“That such an incident could happen worries me far more than who was in the wrong and for what reason.”…Dragonriders don’t fight. Weyrleaders can’t. T’ron was hoping I’d be mad enough to lose control.
F’lar has apparently learned from when he was goaded into fighting Fax. Being on the receiving end of Lessa has apparently taken some of the edge off of F’lar’s hair-trigger temper… around other people, anyway. The chapter ends with F’lar going back to Benden.
So, again, we’ve had seven planetary revolutions for everyone to figure out how to get along with each other, to reach a new equilibrium of how Holds and Weyrs do their symbiotic dance, and we appear to have gone exactly nowhere, to the point where flimsy excuses are being used in naked power plays to avoid having to admit that things may have changed some in the interim. Seven Turns of this hasn’t apparently budged opinions about a dragonrider’s place in the world.
So, since the action is light for this chapter, let’s take stock right now of how the dragonriders see the world. Pern is organized somewhat loosely in a society reminiscent of the medieval period of Latin Christendom. The dragonriders see themselves primarily as an aristocratic military organization, and they occupy the mounted class niche in the society. (Yes, there are beast-mounted fighters, but they have basically nil military value in relation to a dragon.) T’ron consists himself the four (or five)-star officer, with all other Weyrleaders as three-star officers. (F’lar may dispute who, if anyone, has the fourth star, but he generally agrees with the structure.) Bronze riders make up the rest of the flag officers, with Wingleaders rounding out the star officers and the two colonel grades, and regular bronze riders as captains and majors. Brown riders compose the rest of the commissioned officer corps and some of the non-commissioned officers, with Wingseconds at captain rank and other brown riders as the two grades of lieutenant and likely many of the master sergeants. Blue and green riders compose the enlisted men and the bulk of the non-commissioned officers and airmen. The is nearly zero mobility of rank, it appears, outside of the normally set boundaries, because the choice of rider by a dragon is basically permanent. Therefore, social stratification is almost inevitable, leading to the current situation where change is nearly impossible to effect. Women hold almost no power in this structure, and can hope to be promoted to Weyrwoman by being selected by a gold dragon, but otherwise will be unable to rise in station in any martial capacity.
Outside the riders, civilians (derisively “commoners”, according to T’ron) have a parallel aristocratic structure that resembles Latin Christendom more closely, with Lords Holder at the top. Women are not permitted to hold actual temporal power, it appears. Presumably there have lesser lords and security forces and such, and the craft guilds generally locate in and work with the Holds, with some that also work with Weyrs. It’s not completely clear at this point who has more power, the aristocrats with the monopoly on non-dragon violence, or the craft halls that are largely responsible for the economic output of a Hold. Women may be allowed to join certain guilds, but it is unlikely that will be able to ascend to leadership roles.
These parallel tracks exist mostly because dragonriders are generally of the opinion that Holds and their outputs are useful, and that there are not enough dragonriders to be able to sustain living and keeping armed their weapons. So long as the Holds pay proper tribute, they will continue to exist. It’s not quite the Hunger Games, but there are probably quite a few parallels that could be drawn.