Dragon’s Kin: The Fine Art of Negotiation

Last time, Kindan was moved out of his family house for someone else, and came to reside with Master Zist, who has begun training him in the ways of the Harper, based on the recommendation from the previous Harper. There’s also some connection between the two that I’m hesitant to articulate yet, because there’s no evidence to support it, other than the way Zist has behaved this far about Kindan’s mother.

Dragon’s Kin, Chapter V: Content Notes:

A baby’s laugh, a mother’s sigh,
Sweet things make a day go by.

The action returns with Kindan telling Master Zist about the incoming trade caravan. Zist manages to avoid being caught out on his own ignorance of what this means by turning it into a task for Kindan to figure out how to get everything done so that the camp will be ready to welcome the traders. Kindan, for his part, succeeds admirably at the task by insinuating that he’s on orders from Zist to ask for the preparations, before heading to the mine to deliver the news to Natalon himself.

Zenor is the person working the air pumps that keep the miners from suffocating while they work, and he’s grumpy about not getting any action, at least until Kindan points out the position of trust he’s obtained by working the pumps. Zenor gives Kindan a sack of glows to take with him and lowers him down to the mine itself.

We might note that Kindan is not suffering any symptoms of PTSD, trauma, or terrible memories in any of this, nor is he having flashbacks or any other sign that being in the place that killed most of his family and the watch-wher is affecting him psychologically in any way. I find this highly improbable, given the magnitude of the trauma.

While he’s down there, Kindan studies the shoring of the mine shaft and reflects a bit that there aren’t enough people in the camp to cut trees to make more shoring. There’s no indication that Kindan has any feelings about whether more shoring would have saved anyone. Kindan delivers his message, puts the responsibility of assigning the new apprentices on Zist and Swanee (the camp supplier), using the same phrasing that Zist used to sidestep his own responsibility (“it would be an interesting challenge”), and goes to leave. Natalon offers to walk him back, and then asks Kindan pointedly how many coal drays (so it is the carts, and not the creatures, as was pointed out in the comments of an earlier post) the traders had with them. Kindan isn’t sure, and thinks it was four. Natalon says they have enough coal for five, almost six, and so if the traders came with six and not four, there’s a problem.

The camp could supply many of its own needs–lumber, coal, meat, some herbs and greens–but they needed flour, fabric, finished metal goods like pickaxes, spices, all the little incidentals that made living more than just drudgery.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me this mine camp doesn’t have a Smith on-site, despite the clear need for someone to do repair work, and that it doesn’t mine anything but coal for export? Despite also being in a remote location that traders only visit so often? There’s a supply chain assumption here that doesn’t make any sense at all. I would expect the mine to be much more self-sufficient and trade for luxuries and city-made stuff, not for basics like pickaxes.

Those goods had to be paid for, and coal was the way the camp paid for them. Traders preferred bagged coal, dry and ready to sell. They charged a penalty for wet coal, and another penalty for loose coal.

And where, praytell, is the camp getting the cloth / bags and the bindings for the coal so that the traders can have their ready-for-market material already set to make pure profit with? Probably from those same traders, so their “penalty” for coal that will dry by the time it gets to market and again for loose coal sounds much more like a company store line, with people taking advantage of the people who can’t get their goods except through trader caravans. I presume that money (in marks) is available at this point, but apparently the mine doesn’t get out have any of it?

If the caravan had only brought four coal drays, then the camp could only buy goods equal to that amount. But if the caravan brought six coal drays and Natalon only had enough for slightly more than five, there might be a bigger problem: No trader made a profit hauling half-filled wagons or, worse, empty ones. The trader could well decide to move on to another Camp in hopes of getting a full load. There’d be another caravan along soon that’d take what bagged coal Camp Natalon had, but it’d be at least another month.

[No, really, WHAT.]

In what universe does this even pretend to make sense? The setup presumes that there are other Camps nearby that can fill coal orders, and that Camp Natalon will be entirely passed by if they can’t fill everything up immediately. Like the traders move back to their base immediately after collecting a load and then set out again to the next camp to do the same thing. That’s extremely inefficient, as opposed to taking out the number of drays you need to visit a cluster of Camps and fill up and sell goods, and then maybe send the full ones back while the empty ones continue on to the next camp. The traders presumably should know about how much each camp will produce in the time between visits, and bring with them enough to haul what’s going to be available.

And this also assumes that each of the traders charges/barters the same as each of the others, which, unless all the traders are part of a guild or monopoly company, is ludicrous. Camp Natalon should know which trader companies will give them six drays worth of goods for six drays of coal, and which ones will give them five drays of goods for six drays of coal.

None of this makes sense. Which suggests nobody really thought about the economics of this whole they were writing it. *sigh*

As it is, Kindan and Natalon discuss what to do with regard to filling that sixth theoretical dray, which Natalon scolds Kindan for not actually counting, and they both conclude it will mean getting the trader to stay an extra day for enough coal to be bagged and loaded. Which Kindan also foists off on Zist to make happen. Zist, for his part, is happy Kindan set things in motion, is not happy at all that Kindan put Natalon’s problems in his lap, and realizes he’s going to have to bargain with the traders because Swanee is too honest to be effective.

“Traders are honest in their own way, too: They’ll always give you what you pay for, but they don’t go out of their way to be sure to give you their best price. That takes bargaining. Traders love to bargain.”
From the glint in Master Zist’s eyes, Kindan got the impression that the Harper enjoyed bargaining himself.

So Zist dumps responsibility for the entertainment of the night into Kindan’s lap, since Zist is no longer being Harper, but administrator.

This conversation also leads into a discussion about lies and secrets. Kindan feels like he lied to Natalon and the others because Zist didn’t give him explicit instructions for what he said. Zist suggests this is being a good subordinate by accomplishing the things that were desired, even without explicit phrasing and permission.

“A subordinate does walk a tender line between lies d truth. A subordinate is supposed to guess what his leader wants and guess correctly.” He wagged a finger at Kindan, eyebrows crunched together in warning. “You don’t want to be wrong when you’re my subordinate.”

I’d argue, at least from Kindan’s perspective, that he already guessed wrong three times while acting as a subordinate – the number of drays, the arrangements for the apprentices, and the trader negotiations, as all three have had negative consequences for Kindan, even if they might have been the right things to do in the broader narrative.

Kindan shrugged in weary acceptance. “But what about at the birthing? You didn’t ask me to see to it that Nuella was present, and we fooled Margit and Milla. If that’s not a lie, it’s certainly stretching the truth.”
“That was a difficult situation,” the Harper agreed. “You did well, by the way. Lies and secrets are related, Kindan. Secrets breed lies. Because Natalon wants to keep Nuella a secret, for reasons that I’m not allowed to tell you, you had to create some deceptions.”

Welcome to the world of grownups, Kindan. The world is not so black and white anymore.

Kindan offers possibilities as to why Natalon might want to hide Nuella, confirming that she’s both a girl and blind, but Zist sees through the ruse, offers no information, and tells Kindan to keep his conjectures to himself.

“So when is a secret a bad thing?”
“A secret’s a bad thing when it can be used to hurt others, or when it hides a hurt,” Master Zist said quickly. “You’ve an obligation, again as a harper, to expose a secret like that when you find it.”
“What sort of secret is that?” Kindan asked, mentally running through the small list of secrets he’d discovered about other people.
Master Zist made a sour face. “I once knew a man, who when he’d taken too much wine would lose his sense and temper. When he did that, he’d beat his children.” His lips tightened. “That’s that sort of secret.”
Kindan shivered at the thought. “So a bad secret is the sort of secret that when people know it, they can help?”
Master Zist considered his words before responding. “I suppose you could say that,” he replied.

I can feel the pull of the new author here, given that this is the first time that I’ve seen an explicit condemnation of child abuse. Even so, it’s couched in someone being an angry drunk. It’s progress, most definitely, but it’s a far cry away from a blanket condemnation of abuse of children (which the Masters of the Harper Hall have done with abandon, along with the seemingly accepted practice that beating your own child for disciplinary reasons is entirely okay) or a condemnation of abuse in general (which the dragonriders are definitely very guilty of on screen). It is better than it was. There’s still a long way to go.

Less heavily, Zist seems to have noted that Kindan has a tendency to use Exact Words and that he needs to be careful about what he tells Kindan, because the way he says it will be equally as important as the point he’s trying to make.

The traders arrive, with six drays, and Kindan ends up with the responsibility of fostering the apprentices for the mines that have come with the traders. He deftly foists four on Tarik’s house, having sweet-talked Dara with tales of the status she would gain in the camp, while knowing Tarik would be much less pleased, because he loved privacy. Two go with Toldur, and one with Norla when Kindan suggests that he’ll be working opposite shifts from Zenor, so Norla will always have an adult to talk to. (Norla, we recall, is managing the crèche and therefore might not have all that many opportunities to talk to someone that can converse back.)
Having settled the newcomers, Kindan returns to get ready for the party, to find Nuella crying in the study because Zist missed their scheduled lesson and she’s worried it means Zist isn’t happy with her. Kindan fills her in on what’s been going on in the camp today. Nuella is surprised the head of the trader group is a girl, and we can see the touches of the new author again.

Nuella sniffed. “I heard Milla say that a girl could be a baker or a mother, but that was all a girl was good for. She was complaining to Mother about it.”
“I can’t understand why Milla would complain,” Kindan said without thinking. “She’s a pretty good baker.”

That’s the first time I’ve heard gender stereotyping come out of the mouth of a woman, and the fact that Kindan’s reply is noted by the narrative as being thoughtless feels like the influence of at least one author trying to pull Pern closer to the sensibilities of the audience reading it by at least giving lip service to the idea that such stereotyping is wrong. Perhaps this is a reaction to the terrible way that Mirrim has been treated up to this point, even though this is set well before Mirrim?

Nuella details the worries everyone in the house has about whether or not the new child is going to turn out blind like Nuella is, as well as expressing her happiness that Master Zist keeps all the furniture in the same place. Kindan remarks that he gets yelled at when he moves the furniture (presumably without knowing the reason why until he deduced Nuella is blind and that she visits on the regular).

“He’s [Natalon] afraid we’ll be shunned,” she said bitterly.
“Shunned? But you’ve done nothing wrong,” Kindan said, wondering why the ultimate punishment–expulsion from society–could even be considered.
[…Nuella corrects Kindan’s assumption that it’s that kind of shunning, while indicating that Natalon’s mother was also blind…]
“My father’s afraid that people will wonder what’s wrong with him, if his children are blind. And they won’t trust him. And he’s afraid no one will marry Dalor.” With a catch in her voice, she added, “He doesn’t think I’ll ever get married.”
[…Kindan points out the absurdity of the plan to keep Nuella secret, and she agrees with him…]
“And what a choice bit of gossip she’d [Milla] make of you,” Kindan replied.
“She would, indeed,” Nuella agreed, adding bitterly, “And then Uncle Tarik would spread the word throughout the camp. ‘If he can’t make decent children, what sort of miner can he be?'”
Kindan considered her words carefully. He could see Tarik saying such spiteful things, and he could imagine there would be someone who would listen. Certainly Tarik’s cronies would. And they’d repeat the gossip. And, if anything went wrong, like the bad air in the hold, there’d always be some who would start believing the gossip.

Another strong case for why Natalon has all the excuse he needs to throw Tarik and all his cronies out for just the suspicion of sowing dissent and gossip in the camp, much less any of the other possible suspicions he could toss onto him.

But let’s unpack these statements about how Nuella’s blindness will somehow reflect terribly on Natalon, in contravention of every patriarchal impulse and reality that Pern has put forth. I sense the hand of our new author here, but he hasn’t done enough in text to set up the possibility that Natalon could be blamed 5 it, because the only two people that we know for certain have this blindness are Natalon’s mother and Nuella. The blindness seems to have skipped a generation, and we don’t know if any of Natalon’s sisters have the same affliction, or any brothers do. Based on the evidence we do have, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the blindness will only ever affect women in the bloodline. (I’m not sure how, if at all, the genetics for that would work, but in the three generations that we know, only women have been afflicted.)

Furthermore, given that Pern is supposed to model the time period and scientific advancements of Latin Christendom, there’s no way that I can think of where they would place the blame on Natalon. Given that it took a rather long time after Henry VIII kept killing his wives to figure out that whether a daughter or a son is born is based on the sperm and not the egg, I can’t see the toxic patriarchy of Pern suggesting in any way that a man’s genes might be the reason for a disabled child. It would be far more likely (and consistent) for all the blame to be laid on Natalon’s wife. I’m sure Tarik could find a way to spin that into something about Natalon’s ability to make good decisions (“He married a woman that produces defective children! He can’t be trusted to make life and death decisions about the rest of us!”) or some other way of calling into question Natalon’s ability to lead, but it would likely all be through Natalon’s wife, not Natalon himself. (At least where children are involved.)

In any case, Nuella was hoping to get to come out, but the cave-in happened. Here we finally acknowledge that it was traumatic for Kindan:

Kindan felt his throat tighten as he remembered all that had been lost in that cave-in. Master Zist had kept him so busy that it was only in his sleep–his nightmares–that he remembered the past, and his family.

I’m not sure this is also realistic, but I don’t have childhood trauma.

Kindan and Nuella discuss how Zenor came to make her acquaintance and how much Nuella has been helping them both out (her blindness has, naturally, enhanced her hearing and smell accordingly), and they both decide to make Nuella up to look like a trader girl so that she can go out among the Gather attendees for the evening. As it turns out, Nuella can also play pipes, so Kindan gets an extra person to play some songs when he goes to listen into the crowd.

It’s as he thought – everyone else thinks Dara did great by fostering the apprentices, but Tarik (and Dara, because Tarik is terrible) are not happy about the lack of privacy that comes with it.

There’s a small scare when Natalon enters, but he doesn’t stay long, and a longer conversation between Kindan and Zenor about exactly how daft Kindan is to put Nuella on the stage. Kindan asserts that the disguise will be enough to keep her safe. He’s wrong, as Natalon and Jenella have a strong impression about, if not outright recognize, Nuella on stage, but Kindan provides a convenient excuse to not have to acknowledge it by pretending the girl is a trader.

There’s singing from Kindan, accompanied by pipes from Nuella, that results in some thunderous applause, and then Kindan hands off Nuella to Zenor for dancing while Zist picks up his fiddle to provide music. The Master has an opinion on the dancing:

“They’re too young to match, and you’re too young to be matchmaker,” Master Zist whispered in Kindan’s ear when the song was over.
“They’re friends,” Kindan replied. “And at a Gather the only thing they can do together is dance.”

Kindan goes out to listen, and hears Panit, one of Tarik’s men, talking down watch-whers (despite having been saved by one) and not thinking it a big deal that the apprentice that had a watch-wher didn’t show up with the traders.

Afterward, we hear of the successful negotiations between Zist and the traders for the extra day, and the narrative teases about why Natalon doesn’t jettison Tarik, and why Tarik hates Natalon, but neither Kindan nor Zist had any insight into it, so nothing happens. Instead they talk about why the apprentice with the watch-wher didn’t come to Camp Natalon.

“From what I gather,” Zist continued, “and she [Trader Tarri] was very circumspect about it all, it seems the apprentice in question decided that his Master’s wrath was less troubling than life in this Camp.”
“The only thing I fear more than my Master’s wrath is death,” Kindan said with an apologetic look at the Harper.
Master Zist laughed. “Yes, and that was exactly Trader Tarri’s observation.”
“So you think the apprentice was afraid of dying in the mine?”
“Or losing his watch-wher,” Master Zist remarked.

I realize that this is supposed to be read as a bit of jokey exaggeration, except Kindan didn’t seem to be joking, Zist has already demonstrated he can be a terrible person, and by this point, we’ve already seen callous attitudes toward the lives of apprentices and watch-whers. If Zist’s laugh is anything but serious, he’s misread the situation entirely.

The chapter closes out with the presence of even more trader caravans, the new apprentices getting set to build a new mine entrance, Zenor grumbling that he still isn’t actually able to go into the mine, and Kindan realizing that he and Zenor are drifting apart because their lives and schedules have become radically different. He’s also spending and enjoying more time with Zist and Nuella as a Harper apprentice. And spending more time doing these things that makes him happy.

There is one bit that needs addressing:

Sevenday after sevenday, caravans rolled in at all hours of the day, loading up with coal and heading back out again to Crom Hold, or farther to Telgar, where the Smithcraft made the steel that rimmed the wheels of the drays, formed the bodies of the pot-bellied stoves and ovens that Milla so loved, was turned into plowshares, dragon’s tack, and countless other things that could only be made from steel.

And again, I don’t understand why there isn’t a Smith in the camp, because there’s clearly a need for steel for both miners and traders and someone to craft the steel into usable things. Coal-fired furnaces that can help forge steel are clearly a thing, but why is the nearest steel a caravan away in Crom or Telgar? I don’t think the miners can wait that long if their equipment breaks, especially not in winter.

It is nice seeing logistics being thought about, because the dragonriders were generally uncaring about the hows so long as the tribute arrived, but Camp Natalon doesn’t even seem to have all the necessary personnel.

More next week.

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Deconstruction Roundup for October 12th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is doing the best they can in the place they are to make the world around them less terrible.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are trying to ensure that the people who most deserve to hear the stories of your survival bear them unceasingly. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: What I Don’t Know Can’t Be Used To Hurt Me

Last chapter, Kindan was orphaned by a cave-in that claimed the lives of his father and several of his brothers. Dask died because Natalon chose to prioritize the rescue over keeping Dask alive long enough to be useful beyond the rescue. We learned through this that watch-whers aren’t so tightly bonded to their handlers that they immediately die if their handlers do.

And now, there is what happens afterward.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter IV: Content Notes: Grief, childbirth

I am too big to cry
And my voice is too shy
To sing my sad, sad song
Or say the words I long
To say to you–good-bye, good-bye.

You know what? Fuck the idea that there’s ever a time that someone is too big to cry, especially in boys and men. That’s toxic bullshit.

Chapter IV starts right after the funeral, with Kindan realizing that as the youngest of nine, neither his father nor his brothers were ever really all that intimate with him. Kindan thinks he should have done more, like the carving that Jakris did or the drawing Tofir did. Those two have been adopted by other families, Jakris to a woodworker’s family that will welcome an older child and his talent, and Tofir to Crom, where his drawing talents will possibly be put to use in cartography and mapping of mines.

Kindan has no noted talent, and therefore has not yet been adopted out. Zenor gets his father’s job in the mine. Because someone has to work to put food on the table, even if it’s a child, when you have no safety net. And that will essentially kill his studies, dooming Zenor to always be a miner until an accident or disease claims him.

(There’s part of an answer to the question of how Kindan would have to address Natalon, once the Mine becomes official – Natalon becomes a minor holder. But it still doesn’t say what titles should be used.)

Master Zist arrives to take Kindan to a meeting with Natalon and Tarik. They are entertaining the idea of letting Kindan stay in the camp and be fostered, rather than sending him to his sister.

Hang on a bit. There are at least three brothers still in the camp and the family. Yet they’re not kept together, even though there’s demonstrated talent enough there that both of them could apprentice to someone in the town (Jakris) or learn a useful trade to help in the mines (Tofir), and use that to keep their brother in the house? That seems suspect.

Tarik has eyes on Kindan’s house for his own growing family, however, and suddenly the picture starts sharpening. Even more so when Kindan asks about the investigation into the collapse, and Natalon says the best evidence they have is that Danil’s group dug into loose rock and that caused the slide.

Kindan points out that Dask said there was bad air, and he smelled something in the mine as well. Tarik says none of the people he talked to smelled anything, and is dismissive of the fact that it would be possible to have a small pocket explode and not be detected by the watch-whers beforehand.

Tarik turns to wanting to take the house.

“Well,” Natalon said slowly, “if Kindan doesn’t mind.”
“It’s not his house to give,” Tarik said sourly. “The house will have to be emptied when Thread comes, anyway.”
Kindan flushed at Tarik’s brusque manner.

Tell me again why Natalon hasn’t expelled Tarik already? He seems to be doing nothing more than being an asshole, undermining Natalon’s leadership, and causing trouble for others, at least when he isn’t ignoring safety regulations and getting watch-whers killed or driven away. Yes, they’re family, but there are a lot of very convincing reasons why Tarik should have long been given the hook. Much like Toric. And Tarik wants to move in as soon as possible, which makes him an even bigger asshole for displacing Kindan.

As to where he goes, apparently the rules for fostering are that kids need fostering should go to the person with the least amount of children, and as it turns out, there’s a Master Harper in the room with no kids of his own. Neither Zist or Kindan is keen on this, but Natalon decrees it, and Kindan gets help from other adults on the camp to move his stuff to the Harper’s cottage.

His stuff turns out to be his clothes, his bed, blankets, more clothes that he knows his sister will want, and a table of his mother’s that had old music inside. The rest, with Kindan’s agreement (although the narrative suggests Kindan isn’t fully cognizant of what he’s agreeing to) well be distributed to those who are in need.

The upshot, such that it is, is that Kindan gets his own room. And can have as much food as he needs, rather than the prospect of not getting anything to eat. (Sis always saved something for him, Kindan says.)

There’s also some insight into the complexity of people.

“You didn’t get along with Kaylek, did you?” Master Zist inquired gently.
Kindan shook his head. “No, not until just before–” He looked troubled. “Zenor, my friend, he told me that Kaylek saved his life.” Tears formed in Kindan’s eyes. “He was always mean to me, but he saved Zenor’s life.”
“It’s a bit hard to grasp, isn’t it?” Master Zist commented. “I have been surprised how often people who only seem to be bad have turned out to be selfless when it really matters.”
Kindan nodded in wordless agreement.

People behave differently around family than anyone else. And, often times, will push others out of the way when needed.

Zist goes into an explanation of what Harpers nominally do: music instruction and performance, gathering of information, assistance and smoothing ruffled feelings when needed. Also observation and keeping secrets (and letting others keep theirs). Zist instructs Kindan not to try and overhear conversations he has in the study or his kitchen, and that if Kindan wants to talk about something, Zist will tell him if that’s a secret to be kept.

All of this is prologue to Zist saying that Jofri had left notes that Kindan showed promise and aptitude toward Harpering, and that Zist will be teaching Kindan that trade starting tomorrow.

Which is in addition to things like being the oldest boy not in the mines, and thus in change of the children runner/watch squadron, or helping other kids trim branches cut down by adults.

Zenor is in the mines, and his mother is essentially the day care for all the working mothers doing gardening, planting fields, or cutting trees. Which has the useful consequence of making sure the widow whose son is in the mine has plenty of human contact. Zist suggested this arrangement for that reason, so it’s not really an accident.

Kindan overhears complaints from visitors about how the mine seems to be doing well now, but the future may not be great. And has to explain to Master Zist why people talking about “working the pillars” is a bad sign (because it means you’re either in a hurry and not going to be there long or you’re running out of coal and not going to be there long).

Zist, in return, trains him in the Harper craft, including grabbing Kindan by the ear when he trips Tarik’s son and wants to beat him for his taunts. Zist then assigns Kindan the chore of doing the laundry at Tarik’s house until he can list three virtues of Tarik’s son.

It takes Kindan two days. At which point, Zist tells him to describe the house. Not as he remembers it, but as it is. And Kindan can actually remember a lot of the details, when pressed.

Kindan turns out resourceful as well when he goes looking for Dalor after he misses a watch shift. Recognizing the smell of bad air suffusing Natalon’s house, Kindan raises a fire alarm with his voice, then gets Zist to do the same, and then dashes inside to open windows and let the gas out. Given that the bad air has a characteristic smell, it’s probably methane or hydrogen sulfide that’s the gas in question.

Now, since this is Natalon’s house, that means both Dalor and Nuella have to be pulled out, along with Natalon and his wife. Kindan notices the extra person, and swiftly gathers enough people and blanket cover to get all of the children to Zist’s, hopefully without anyone else noticing. Whereupon Kindan reveals that he knows Nuella’s name, but also that he knows to keep secrets.

It turns out the chimney of the house was blocked in, by accident, supposedly, but as Kindan hears while playing drums for the gathering,

there’d been minor accidents once or twice a week since the cave-in that had killed his father and Dask.

Along with other sentiments that things aren’t going great for the mine. Which culminates in Panit, identified as one of Tarik’s cronies by Kindan, questioning whether “the problem’s not watch-whers, but leadership.”

I’d say, at that point, it sounds like someone has been sabotaging the mine. Natalon already has excuse enough to send the most likely suspect on a very long vacation trip, not that anyone actually does those sorts of things, even with evidence. Does Natalon not feel like he has enough authority to throw someone out? There’s already someone openly questioning his leadership. For any other Lord, that would certainly be enough to give them the hook. Why not here?

When Dalor comes to the house and says that his mother’s in labor, Zist sends him to the Healer, Margit. Kindan says the Healer isn’t much for midwifery, and the two who did it most were Silstra and Harper Jofri. Neither of whom are here, but it turns out that Harpering is Zist’s second career, having taken up singing after being thrown out of the Healer Hall. Kindan and Zist engineer a plot to have Dalor and Nuella switch off every so often during the birthing, with each wearing identical clothing and cap so that none can tell the difference, although Margit is a bit suspicious that Dalor knows so well where baby things are kept, since that’s usually taught to daughters. Despite being a month premature, the new daughter is healthy and alive, and we learn that Zist, having done the actual baby catching, also had a daughter of his own once.

Having done the early morning delivery, everyone goes to their actual work, and this it’s Kindan who gets to spot a trader caravan coming. And that’s Chapter IV, which seems mostly to have been “strange, suspicious things keep happening at the mine, and also, a birth, and still no answers as to why Nuella can’t be acknowledged openly.”

Kindan does seem to be picking up the Harper Craft fairly quickly, though. Perhaps a bit scarily.

Deconstruction Roundup for October 5th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is watching the lovely falsehoods we tell ourselves about the functioning of government get shredded by the reality.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are trying to direct a bottomless font of rage in some direction that will do actual good. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: The Inevitable Tragedy, Again

Last week, a wedding! And some interesting backstory for the new Harper, and yet more about a girl who lives to sneak out but isn’t actually allowed out.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter III: Content Notes: Whatever the equivalent of fridging is for parents dying to make orphans, cave-ins, speciesism, dying animal companions,

Watch-wher, Watch-wher in the night,
Guard our Hold, keep it right,
When the morning sun does come,
Watch-wher, then your job is done.

Unless you’re in a mine, and then you might have quite a shift ahead of you.

Kindan is slowly adjusting to life without his sister – he’s become her, unofficially, in terms of waking everyone up and making breakfast and keeping the fire going. Danil is asking him to check in on Dask, as well. But otherwise, things continue as they have been. Well, except that Master Zist is a terrible teacher, berating his students for their shortcomings. Sula’s letters because she wants to bake, Kaylek’s maths because he’ll need to figure out how to prevent cave-ins. Only Kindan has apparently escaped, but it’s actually because he decided that he’s going to go all-in on trying to be the best student he can be at all times. Which paradoxically allows him to find diplomatic restraint and to help Kaylek with his maths.

The action slows down the first day that Kaylek is to join his brothers in the mine, in that Kindan accompanies his brothers to see them off, we see that Zenor is accompanying his father for today, and we are told that Dask has been very on edge recently, which makes nobody happy.

That’s your foreshadowing warning. It goes downhill from here.

The children in Master Zist’s class notice that something has gone wrong first, because it’s too quiet and the background sound they’re used to isn’t there. Then the children see coal dust coming from the mine shaft. Not too soon after that, the mine alarm sounds and every child old enough to be of help is running full-speed to the mine shaft, lessons forgotten. Zist, having not been informed by his predecessor about what to do in case of emergency (or much of anything at all about mining, it seems), keeps the younger children with him and starts to rehearse ballads with them to try and keep their minds off what is happening outside. The mine alarm sounding again crushes that hope, and then we shift over to Kindan, arriving at the mine to the sight of a very wounded Dask.

Kindan asks what happened, as Dask leads him into the shaft.

Dask gave him the sound for “bad air.”
“Why didn’t you warn them?” Kindan asked.
Dask made an annoyed bleek and then the sound for “fast.”
“It happened too fast?” Kindan repeated. The watch-wher nodded.

It sounds like anyone can learn to handle a watch-wher if they go through enough training to understand them and care for them. Which does make you wonder why they aren’t more widespread in later Passes, but that’s chronology questions that become thorny when your setting is chronologically earlier and your publication date is chronologically later.

Kindan concludes the cause was an explosion of gas, because that’s the only thing that could take Dask by surprise. Dask leads the rescue party to the right part of the cave-in be then begins furiously digging, ignoring his own wounds in an attempt to get to the trapped miners. Kindan can’t discourage Dask from this, and when he appeals to Natalon, we are fairly starkly reminded that watch-whers will never be seen as more than pets or equipment.

Natalon looked over at the watch-wher. “We need him here now, especially as he seems to know where our men are.”
“But…he could bleed to death,” Kindan cried, tugging at Natalon’s sleeve.
“Do what you can for him but don’t stop him, lad,” Natalon said. “Your father’s on the other side.
[…Kindan runs out and asks Margit, the healer, for bandages for Dask…]
“You want my good bandages for the watch-wher?” she demanded, affronted.
“If he bleeds to death before he finds your mate, it’ll be your fault!”
“Why, you impertinent little scut!” Margit responded, stopping at him with the towel she had in one hand.

Kindan swipes bandages anyway, and is trying to get Dask to slow down, but Dask hisses at him and digs harder until he breaks through to the trapped miners. Kindan is sent to shout for stretchers, and by the time he gets back, it’s too late for Dask.

Back in the shaft, Dask was lying in a lump, his big eyes fitfully gleaming. He didn’t even pick up his head as Kindan knelt beside him. The first of the rescued men was being hauled out on a stretcher as Kindan tried to staunch the ichor that streamed out of the neck gash.
“Oh, Dask, what have you done to yourself?” he keened as he felt the unsteady neck pulse.
Dask curled his neck, placing his head on Kindan’s lap and sighing sadly. Kindan began to scratch behind Dask’s ears, soothing the beast as well he could. And so, having led the rescuers to the trapped men, Dask finished his life.

Excuse me for a moment.

“We’ll get the dead ones out now,” Natalon said. He paused beside Kindan, patting his head kindly. “Your father’s neck was broken, lad. And your brothers are half buried under rubble. We’ll get their bodies before night falls.”
Kindan sat there a long time, holding the heavy head of the watch-wher, absently scratching ears that were turning stiff, his lap covered in green ichor, until Natalon returned for a final inspection.
“Still here, boy? Come, it’s nearly dark.”
“But Dask is dead, Natalon.”
Natalon crouched down beside the boy and saw his tear-streaked face. He mopped some of the tears from the coal-dust-smeared face and touched Kindan tenderly on the head.
“There’s a big hole not too far away from here where I will see he is buried, Kindan, but you must come with me now. It’s all over down here.”
Natalon had to help the grieving boy to his feet, ignoring Kindan’s repeated request to stay by the watch-wher.
“He made a good end, Kindan. He was a fine beast.”

Well, I can fairly clearly see the influence of the new writer, who has managed to convey the terrible disaster that happened, but also the utter callousness that everyone else seems to have toward Dask, and the way that Natalon is not helping with the grieving process, nor did he lift a hand when Kindan told him that his best hope for finding those trapped miners was bleeding out in his desperation to get back to them. So they’ve also earned this, too.

Zenor, we find out, survived. Because (to twist the knife) Kaylek shoved him out of the way of the rockfall. And Chapter III ends with Kindan holding Zenor’s hand all the way through the night, as they sleep. Margit, when she discovers this, covers Kindan with a blanket.

So, Natalon’s mine has no watch-wher, and has lost a significant amount of experienced hands to the disaster. Kindan has lost his family, except for his sister and a couple brothers. And because Pern has no social safety net, the mine will re-open soon and children far too young to be working that kind of job will have to.

I think this is the first time we’ve seen the details of the tragedies wrought by humans, and that our main character will become special not through his talents, but through his tragedies.

Well, I said I wanted a lower decks episode, didn’t I? Perhaps I am getting my wish, possibly with an author somewhat attuned to view terrible things are for the serfs of Pern.

Deconstruction Roundup for September 28th, 2018

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who made a decision and is riding out the part of their brain telling them they are making a grand mistake.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Elizabeth Sandifer: Eruditorium Press

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jen A. Blue

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are telling your brain that you are going to be okay because it believes very firmly you are going to be unprepared for the next disaster. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Kin: Goodbye Ally

Last week, we puzzled over why there aren’t more watch-whers in service for the mines, I got extremely mad that someone who wilfully disregarded safety protocols is still around, and the plot says there’s a wedding about to happen. Fun.

Dragon’s Kin: Chapter II: Content Notes: Weaponized Anger

New additions to the song mean what we have so far is:

In early morning light I see,
A distant dragon come to me.
Its skin is bronze, its eyes are green;
It’s the loveliest dragon I’ve ever seen.

The narrative itself stays with Kindan being rudely awakened by Sis (Silstra, who is getting married) and then dumped out of bed by Kaylek, who seems to have acquired the bully family member role for this story. Kindan was hoping for more sleep to remember his dream, because it had his mother in it. This is important because his mother died during his birth, and while Sis and his father don’t blame him for this, all of the other siblings in the family apparently do.

Is it just not a thing in these stories for people to have all of their parents alive and healthy?

The narrative then illustrates that Sis might be Kindan’s only ally among the siblings, as Jakris, an older brother, forces him to toss out the washwater and clean the basin it was in, since he used it last of all of them, which guarantees Kindan is the last to eat breakfast. Additionally, were it not for Sis turning them around and making them clean their own dishes, the other siblings would have left all the dishwashing for Kindan.

I would not be surprised at all if Kindan has very strong opinions about whether he wants his sister to marry.

Kindan is told to go see Janella for his chores, but habit (and wanting to avoid making Sis unhappy) takes him to the mine entrance, where he thinks it might be a good idea to change out the glowbaskets, even though the mine is closed. Hearing voices in the mine, he calls out and meets an old man who tells him he’s supposed to be at the Harper’s cottage. After Kindan leaves, a young girl who remains hidden from view offers to take the old man through a shortcut that will get him to the Harper’s cottage before Kindan, and who has the same sort of giggle as the unknown person who diverted Kaylek in the last chapter. But we follow Kindan instead, where Zenor tells him that they’re auditioning to sing at the wedding, and that Kaylek (who can’t stay in tune and apparently sounds like a gravel slide) has already been told he’s not suitable. He enjoys singing, the narrative tells us through Kindan, but he doesn’t have the talent.

When called in to the cottage, Kindan recognizes the old man’s voice and is ready to tell him off for entering without permission, only for his brain to catch up to him and realize the old man is a Harper and belongs there. Kindan gets chewed out for being rude, the Harper insults Kaylek, and then the audition begins in earnest, after the Harper notes his specialty and Mastery is in voice and uses his voice and projection to try and intimidate the two boys. Then we get his name, Master Zist.

Zist has faint echoes of Shonagar, in that he spends a significant amount of time yelling at the boys about their posture and breathing before they start singing, but he’s needlessly cruel to Kindan, having him practice a difficult song for the wedding through lunch and using the circumstances of Kindan’s birth against him.

“You are not listening to me! You do not pay the slightest attention. You can master this song, you just choose not to. Oh, you are such a waste! To think your mother died giving birth to you! You’re not worth it at all.”

Unsurprisingly, Kindan quits the cottage in a rage, and almost immediately runs into his sister, who is all starry-eyed about how the man who taught their mother her favorite song is here. Kindan gets an idea from this, goes back to the cottage, and sings back to Zist that same song. We only see the first four lines of it, which conveniently happen to be the four lines of song that we’ve collected so far from the beginning of the two chapters.

“In the end, he looked truculently at the Master and said” I can, too, sing. My sister says that I can sing as well as my mother. My sister says that I am worth it. And my father, too. And they should know–they were there when I was born.” Tears streaked down his face, but he didn’t care. “My sister said that my mother’s last words were that I wouldn’t need much caring but I’d be worth it.”
Master Zist was in shock. “That voice,” he muttered to himself. “You have her voice.” He looked up at Kindan and there were tears in his eyes, too. “Lad, I’m sorry. I get should have said…I had no right…Could you sing it again, please? You have the same lyric quality she had.”
[Kindan tries, but he’s still choked up with grief and anger, and Master Zist goes to get tea to help ease his throat.]
“I drove you too hard, lad. I have never driven a student so hard. I shouldn’t have done it to you, either. It’s just that–that I want this to be the best day for your sister and your father. I want to give them that.”
“So do I,” Kindan said.

And here I feel the influence of the new author as well. Students who talked back to the masters or flounced like that were likely to be beaten in the original run. Here, instead, Kindan manages to bowl over the Master (and who turns out to be the MasterHarper) and get him to apologize for treating Kindan like shit.

Based on this exchange, I also want to know what kind of relationship Master Zist had with Kindan’s mother, because I wouldn’t expect sounding like someone to reduce a Harper to tears if there wasn’t special significance to it.

With a proper relationship established, Zist abandons trying to force Kindan to sing what he wants and instead decides to work with what’s available and familiar, which is what he should have been ready to do as soon as he arrived. The two of them have a conversation about how Dask, the watch-wher, can fly at night and they conclude that perhaps the air is heavier at night and that helps Dask get aloft. Zist makes note to investigate it further when he gets back to the Harper Hall.

Given that we’ve already established watch-whers can use hyperspace and are bonded, likely telepathically, to a human, it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch for them to have or use the telekinetic abilities to augment their otherwise anatomically unhelpful wings and get themselves aloft. And they would fly at night because of the high photosensitivity of their eyes.

But since this is the Third Pass, and we haven’t recovered that scientific data yet, it’s entirely plausible to believe the “thicker air provides more buoyancy” suggestion, based on what is observable.

Kindan and Zist rehearse better, although Kindan learns the hard way that proper singing is exertion of the body and the muscles, before Danil arrives with a fresh suit of clothes. Zist has tea and pastries available. We learn there’s a trader custom for a bride and groom to spend their wedding night in a trader caravan, and that the MasterTrader of Crom insisted that tradition be followed.

Kindan is sent outside while Danil and Zist talk, and with nothing better to do, Kindan wanders and thinks about how the camp will change when it’s time for Thread. He not sure he actually wants to be a miner, nor is he particularly keen on the idea of being stuck under stone for fifty years. But he rationalizes it away by saying that firestone, coal, iron, tin, nickel, copper, and salt are all necessities of Pern, and by thinking about all the things that Dask can do now (a canary that can dig and haul ore, and a useful help for night shift miners) and the plans that Danil has for Dask. Even that, though, is mostly experience-based rather than any formal education, although there’s the possibility that Kindan might be considered to stand for a watch-wher egg (which sounds a lot like the Impression ceremony, just without the fanfare). Danil calls Kindan back for more rehearsal, Zist cryptically remarks that Danil is “quite a man” before beginning, and then we’re off to the wedding.

Kindan isn’t sure he looks anything more than silly, but Zist reassures him that he looks fine. We learn that traditionally, weddings are performed so that the sun rises as the vows are completed, but because Dask is part of the ceremony, it will be at sunset instead, with a bonfire lit as the vows are completed.

Dask can, indeed, fly, and like the fire lizards, sings with the music while using glows to illuminate both bride and groom as they make their entrances. The wedding goes off without a serious hitch (Zenor forgets his entrance because he’s still marveling at Dask, and Kindan has to improvise his song a little bit to accommodate Dask singing along), and as Kindan is headed back to change into his everyday clothes, he meets Nuella, who asks him to bring her to the party. Kindan recognizes her, but willingly helps her get to the party and get food to eat before going off to a spot where Nuella won’t have to worry about being seen.

Zenor is already there, and Nuella contrives a spilled cup to get Kindan to head back to the party and replace it. Nuella and Zenor talk, both about how Kindan thinks Nuella is a trader girl, rather than her real identity as Dalor’s twin (and therefore Natalon’s daughter). There’s an unstated reason as to why Nuella wants to stay hidden, but it involves a fear of Natalon’s. Zenor notes that Nuella can’t stay hidden forever. Nuella wants Zenor to teach her how to dance, at some point in the future.

Kindan, for his part, gets sent off to bed by Kaylek on his fourth trip for food, and wakes up cold (because a brother has stolen all the blankets) and then realizes the regular routine he’s accustomed to is no longer going to happen, because Sis will be gone. So he makes fire and breakfast and klah, and the oldest, Dakin, is happy to not have to do it himself, and accompanies Kindan to the trader caravan to bring klah to the happy couple and say his goodbyes. Journeyman Jofri is also going with the caravan, and gives Kindan advice about Master Zist, as well as an admonition that “He’s been through hard times” that I’m very interested in learning more about. The rest of the family and much of Natalon’s arrive to also say their goodbyes, and the trader caravan is off. Danil thanks Natalon for the wedding, and Natalon signals that it’s time to get back to work. That ends Chapter II.

Kindan is probably in for some changes.