Last time, despite not really having any need to inject themselves into it, Piemur and Sebell tried to infiltrate Jerrol’s group and get more information out of them about their plans to kill Jaxom. Piemur managed to get drunk, and in doing so, ended up getting kidnapped by the conspirators, along with Sebell. He’s escaped, using his strength and wits, and has sent Sebell’s Kimi to Menolly to get help so he can go rescue Sebell from whatever fate his torturers have in mind for him.
Dragon’s Code, Chapter Ten: Content Notes: torture, hangovers, abuse
Help arrives in the form of Menolly and her full fair of fire-lizards, as well as J’hon, all of whom Piemur is very glad to see. As he explains the situation to them, though, he wins himself back up a full-on panic state because he doesn’t know how much time he’s lost and whether or not Sebell is alive. Menolly sends out her fair to collect information from the local fire lizards while the humans try to find the door that Piemur came out of so they can get back in. Which is a much harder task than originally thought, because there are a lot of doors that are in the wall of Nabol Hold and Piemur is having thoughts of hopelessness.
(Also, I suspect he’s fighting a concussion, given how much his head and body hurt, how many times he’s taken head injuries, and how hard it is for him to put together coherent thoughts without significant effort.)
Piemur put his hands to his head, forgetting about the lumps above his ears. The sudden act made him wince in pain. He fell silent then, fighting back the mounting despair, too embarrassed to look at his friends and ashamed because he had failed Sebell
You can’t hide from this, Piemur, he thought and forced himself to look up. As he slowly searched the faces of Menolly and J’hon he knew he had failed to hide his distress. Menolly started to fidget, and J’hon looked at the ground; both were clearly worried, and Piemur realized that nothing could be done to help find Sebell until he pulled himself together.
This would be really good in a work that played up a lot more the idea of “Piemur is trying too hard to rush his puberty” instead of characterizing him as aimless and listless, adrift and really wanting to get back to the comfortable position he was in before. Because once Piemur slows down a bit, he remembers a key detail about the door he popped out of sounded when he slammed it behind him. And then rushes past the door before realizing its the right one in his haste, before recognizing the ping from his brain, going back, and examining it slowly and carefully. He realizes that the door doesn’t sit correctly, and that misalignment is what likely caused the off-kilter sound. Every time he stops and thinks in this entire escape and rescue sequence, Piemur pulls a useful bit of information out of his brain that helps move things forward. This could be one of those profound “Okay, I do know what I’m doing as a harper if I can not surrender to the fear. Fear is the mind killer” kinda of moments. But there wasn’t the build up before to make this be a useful realization point, at least not without squinting. Because, if I squint, I suppose all of those “Piemur has trouble keeping his cover” and the entire thing with blurting stuff out in front of Robinton and Toric would be stuff that could be attributed to “Piemur doesn’t stop and think and go forward after that,” but all of that is just as much evidence that Piemur might have a neurodivergence, not that anyone knows what that is on Pern, and therefore it’s not a matter of him lacking conscious control and more a matter of his coping mechanisms not working as well as they could, and that we should see those times where things do go according to plan as being something that takes conscious effort and energy to maintain (and that would be severely affected by drunkenness, heat, or other environmental factors).
Having tried to get in the door every which way they know, J’hon and Piemur get some help from above.
“Oy! Whadder you doin’?” a voice called.
Startled, Piemur and J’hon looked up but couldn’t locate the source of the voice. They searched all along the huge expanse of wall, but no one was visible.
“Up here, you thick two-wits!” the voice called again. Piemur and J’hon took another step backward and looked up once more. High up in the wall of the Hold they saw a head protruding from a tiny opening.
“Whadder you doin’?” the head repeated.
“Ah,” Piemur said, thinking quickly. “Lord Deckter wants us to check that all the doors are working from the inside and the outside.” He dare a big show of scratching his head, trying not to wince when he touched the sore spots. “But we can’t get in from this door, if you get what I mean.” He scratched his head again.
“You’ll never open that door from out there! Jackers, there ain’t any knob! Where did they find you two? I don’t know why he wants you to check ’em all when the whole passageway is going to be bricked up tight for good. But ne’er mind. Whadder I know?” the head yelled, shaking itself from side to side before continuing.” The Lord Holder knows best, I reckon. Listen here to me an’ I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to the rampart and in through the door; then go all the way down to the end of the passway. Take the second turn right, down two sets a’ steps, and to the passway at the very end. That’s where that door is.”
Having been suitably chastised, and with Piemur not feeling great at having to look up so much (concussion!), J’hon gives thanks and ushers Piemur and Menolly through the correct directions to get them to the cellars. Which involves a lot of Piemur feeling very unsteady, physically and mentally, and needing both a pep talk and nearly some physical bracing to get him through the crowds and to keep going. (Concussion!)
Also, can I say how much I would like to see how these imprecations came about? “Two-wits” and “Jackers” sound like things that have some fairly interesting etymologies, and unfortunately, we don’t get to know anything more about them. (And, I’ll admit, this entire scene played a lot like Adam West’s Batman climbing up the side of a building, and this person popping out of the small window is the guest star cameo for the episode portraying a citizen of Nabol, so it was a lot funnier than the narrative was going for. Unless this was supposed to be a pure comedy moment.)
Once in the cellars, Menolly vetoes Piemur’s suggestion to split the party, and they go to work trying to find the spot where Sebell is. After finding nothing in their search, Piemur stomps his foot in frustration and gets ready to search again, but he’s stayed by J’hon asking him to do it again. When J’hon demonstrates scary he wants, everyone gets to see that the dust doesn’t fall down, but instead like there’s a current of air in the room. Which leads them to throw aside a barrel that was covering a door, and behind that door is a pile of rags, which makes Piemur despair again, except Menolly spots inside the pile of rags a Sebell, and the crew works to get him free before the fire lizards arrive and Kimi scolds Sebell. Now that they have Sebell free, and have enough people-power to get him out, but before they’ve actually pulled him out of danger, the rescuers decide to have a chat about what Healer they’re going to bring him to.
“We need to get you to a Healer, Sebell,” he said.
“But we can’t bring him back to Fort—or the Harper Hall,” Menolly said, her voice breaking slightly. Tears ran down her face.
“You’re right, Menolly,” Piemur said, and he placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Too many questions will be asked, and I’m not sure how we can answer them.”
J’hon muttered an expletive through tight lips, and Piemur could see the dragonrider was doing his utmost to control his anger.
“Wherever we bring Sebell, his condition will provoke too much interest. And if we right accuse Jerrol, Jentis, and Serra—or anyone—of beating a harper, we’d have to explain why Sebell and I were here. Then the threat to Jaxom—which we’ve been trying so hard to keep secret—would become common knowledge.”
Sebell nodded as Piemur spoke.
“No, we can’t tell anyone what happened here, though I sorely wish we could,” Piemur spoke through clenched teeth.
Cocowhat by depizan
That does not logic at all, no matter how much everyone is sagely nodding along to it in the narrative. There’s enough evidence already obtained that Deckter could have had all of them arrested before the brew-ha-ha at Skal’s, and now that both harpers are safely recovered (or will be), Deckter really could just disappear the lot of them, as silently or loudly as he wants, with whatever charges, if any, he wants to put forward publicly as the reason for them facing his justice. We saw with Halla that the Lord’s court can be called anywhere, for any reason, and that nobody is entitled to an advocate for their position, and if they had one, it would likely be the harper, which would be an issue, since this is an offense against harpers and, oh yeah, there are no legists. If Deckter disappears the conspirators and puts up a public story that they were trying to kill or injure him, then the plot against Jaxom never comes out, and it’s not like there’s an independent press trying to get to the bottom of all of this that will keep digging and pushing against things until the truth comes out. They can take Sebell anywhere they like, and whatever story gets put out will be validated and become official. Even if it is “hey, we heard that people were trying to plot against another Lord, and when we tried to see if it was serious or not, they beat us up and tried to kill us.”
But because we’re stuck in another one of those situations where “discretion” apparently overrides any other concern, including logic and good sense, it takes them a while before Piemur hits on the solution of having J’hon fly all of them straight on to his house in Crom, and then calling a Healer to attend Sebell there, so that there’s nothing that happens that’s high profile. As they leave (and draw lots of attention to themselves, because it’s two really beat up people in the company of a harper and a dragonrider), the narrative tells us that Piemur spots someone who looks a lot like Fronna, who gasps at seeing their condition as they walk by. Which will become important later, so we mention it now. And then they fly to Crom, where Piemur gets a somewhat joyous welcome from everyone, at least until they notice Sebell, and Drina, one of the others who lives in the space, diagnoses Sebell with a separated shoulder that will need a Healer to put back in, even if she can handle most of the other stitching up and work done needed to help heal him. Eventually, the group decides on Meria, as she’s both Healer-trained and low-profile enough that J’hon can go get her from Southern, bring her here, have her keep silence, and send her back and nobody will know any wiser that harpers got beaten up while trying to suss out a plan against Jaxom. Which still doesn’t make any logical sense.
Meria is as good as her training, and re-sets Sebell’s shoulder back into the socket while she promises her silence on the matter. She also looks after Piemur’s bumps (and hopefully checks him out for a concussion, although the narrative doesn’t say any such thing) and eventually gives him a blanket and tells him to rest when he’s doing a bad job at staying awake. And the narrative advances to Sebell looking and feeling healthier, going to dinner, meeting Ama, the woman who raised Piemur as a mother, and Piemur admitting in front of everyone that he hasn’t sung since his voice cracked, which Ama takes in stride and doesn’t shame or pressure him about, and eventually, Piemur has had enough of his family and heads back to where Sebell and Meria are.
“Hm,” Meria replied, smiling in return, “it is a little puzzling, Sebell. The dislocation of your shoulder isn’t that uncommon an injury, but the bruising and lacerations on your legs make me more than a little curious, particularly since you asked for my help. Why didn’t you get someone from your own Crafthall?”
“I know we have your discretion, Meria,” Sebell said, searching her face for any hesitation on her part. When she nodded, Sebell sighed, puffing out his cheeks as he made a spur-of-the-moment decision. “We were trying to get more information about some men from Nabol who, we believe, are planning to act against Hold code.” At the look of alarm on Meria’s face, he stopped speaking. She pursed her lips and then gestured for him to continue, but her response piqued Piemur’s curiosity. Why should Meria be concerned about the men from Nabol?
[…Sebell explains the plot, and Meria asks what they plan to do about those men, further inflaming Piemur’s curiosity…]
“I’d honestly prefer to leave them to their Lord Holder,” Sebell replied. “He is, after all, their kinsman, whether they like it or not. But I don’t think punishing them would serve any purpose, not in their situation.”
“But look what they did to you, Sebell!” Piemur cried, outrage propelling him to his feet. He stood with his fists at his side and his body thrust forward, his face suffused with anger as he stared at his mentor. Sebell merely held out one hand, gesturing to Piemur to calm down.
“Yes, Sebell, why don’t they deserve to be punished?” Menolly asked, her brows furrowing deeply.
“They’re hard men, and hardhearted, from what I witnessed,” Sebell continued. “I know they were treated poorly by Lord Meron when he was alive, so it explains a great deal. What they need is for Lord Deckter to take them in hand instead of leaving them alone.”
“You’re amazing, after the threatment you received from them,” Menolly replied, a deep scowl darkening her face.
First of all things, that’s the second code that’s been pulled out of the aether and placed in here as if it were nothing worth looking at, after the dragon’s code. I suppose this could be sen as the logical extension of the insistence that everything was in the Charter, even though there obviously would have had to have been amendments to it, but things like a “Hold code” suggest a level of standardization of legal procedure, penalty, and crime that Pern has never had (except “Charter offenses”, and it’s only in the 2.0 timeline that those things were even thought of before the appearance of the AI and the recovery of the charter). So Sebell saying that people are acting against “Hold code,” as if the laws of any given Hold and its territory aren’t fully “whatever the Lord of the Hold decides is the law that day” and always have been is a very big revision for our 3.0 timeline.
Unless “Hold code”, in this case, means the sum total of obligations and rights taught to everyone by harpers in their Teaching Ballads, which is how things have been referrred to in every previous work but this one, but again, variant timeline. In any case, Meria has no reason to accept the idea of “Hold code” without remarking on it, unless dragonriders get taught hold code as well as dragonrider code (along with the understanding that dragonrider code is superior in every way to Hold code and Hold code is not to be followed unless it’s in the interest of the dragonrider to do so.)
Second, while Sebell is correct that what the right play for Lord Deckter would have been to provide some land for all of the disgruntled relatives, even if it wasn’t specifically the land they were promised by Lord Meron, and to let them sort it out amongst themselves what that land’s final configuration would be, Deckter is now caught in a bad position, because forgiving people who specifically plotted to kill a Lord and beat the people who were going to report on that plot is probably going to result in more plots against him, because Pern is the kind of place that would see that forgiveness as weakness and try to exploit it, possibly by arming some of those disgruntled relatives, providing them with people, and then setting them against Deckter in the hopes that Nabol destabilizes and a better puppet gets put on the throne. (Well, except for whatever magical compulsion there is in place that stops the Lords from plotting against each other and trying to take each other’s lands and people.) If what Sebell wants is a peaceful resolution where everyone is reconciled to one another, that’s not going to happen now, because any conciliatory item at this point sets the bar at “well, if we beat up some harpers as an act of terrorism, then the Lords will give us what we demand.” Or, at least, I would assume that’s what it would be seen as on Pern. Sebell is right that the correct call is to leave them in the hands of Deckter, because he’s the person with appropriate jurisdiction over the matter, and if Sebell wants to advocate for forgiveness and mercy, he’s welcome to, but ultimately the decision is Deckter’s, and I don’t see him as being forgiving of kinsfolk of his that have demonstrated a willingness to do violence and plot overthrows of Lords. You’re SOL, Sebell, even if it’s a noble goal you have in mind.
Now, if Pern had a real social safety net, where these conspirators could be housed, fed, given therapists, and allowed to contribute productively to society without having to scrabble for basic needs or be subjected to someone else’s caprice about their lives, then Sebell’s idea would probably be both correct and would work, because the infrastructure needed for restorative justice would be present. Of course, if that social safety net had been in place up to this point, there’s a good chance this plot would have never happened, because Meron wouldn’t be able to be so effective with his caprice and spite.
The plot proceeds with Meria revealing that back before the Great Leap Forward, she was from Nabol Hold, the niece of the Lord Holder, no less, got Searched, didn’t Impress, but did fall in love with S’han and stayed on in the Weyr. When the Weyrs jumped forward, S’han missed a jump and was lost, leaving Meria in an unfamiliar time without her anchor, but with familiar people, and she learned everything from Fort’s Weyr Healer, G’reff, eventually assuming the position when his health became too poor for him to continue. When exile came for the Southern Weyr, even though Meria disapproved of the inflexibility, she went South to stay with her friends. And now, she has a certain amount of guilt about how things turned out in the South.
“Life grew very difficult in Southern Weyr and the riders seemed to lose their sense of purpose, and so did their dragons. Eventually I felt I couldn’t remain there any longer, but I had nowhere else to go—being holdless is not a thing people from my time can adapt to.
“Toric had been trading supplies with Southern Weyr, and when I asked him for help he offered me a place in his Hold. T’kul was furious at my decision and made his feelings known throughout the Weyr. It’s with the deepest sense of regret that I’ve realized, all too late, that I did a selfish thing when I left the weyrfolk of Southern, because I was the only person among them who had an in-depth healer’s knowledge.” She paused, gathering her thoughts.
I mean, that sounds much more like Meria got the opportunity to flee an abusive relationship and T’kul confirmed for her that it was the right decision by flying into a rage about her decision. And besides, didn’t T’kul or someone else kill the Weyr Healer at Southern before Meria fled? Or was that after? Either way, it’s not Meria’s fault that Southern Weyr is a hostile work environment. Plus, it’s a pretty common abuser tactic to make the victim believe that leaving will cause far greater harm than staying does. It’s much harder to get away from an abuser if it appears clear to you that doing so will result in their being unable to care for themselves, or that the organization itself will collapse without you staying on. It’s usually an illusion, and the abuser is able to land on their feet just fine, or the organization is able to continue on without you, but it is hard to trust that reality, and to trust that you yourself will also be able to land on your feet and rebuild without them. (Even more so if you’ve been socialized into a role that insists you are responsible for taking care of others, or that you are responsible for the actions of others, and that no entity will take hold that person or organization accountable for their actions.)
And, even knowing all of that, it doesn’t get rid of the guilt and regret. Because the victim is almost always the person that ends the relationship, since they’re the one suffering from it. But all of the pressures put on them always suggest, if not demand, that there was some effort the victim could have made, maybe if they smiled more, maybe if they complained less, maybe if they contributed everything they had, maybe if they just went along more, maybe if they didn’t dress so provocatively, maybe, maybe, maybe if they had properly read the mind of their abuser and acted accordingly, then things would have turned out completely okay. Very rarely, except from advocacy groups and those who have been victimized, do we hear “Hey, maybe the abuser shouldn’t have been abusive. Maybe they could have recognized their own role in building this situation and worked to dismantle it. Maybe they could have gotten help for themselves to stop being an abuser. Maybe they could have listened more, not with an ear to weaponizing what they heard, but with intent and action to make the relationship equitable and fair. Maybe they could have fought back against their cultural conditioning. Maybe they could have found a way of curbing their outsized entitlement complex. Maybe, maybe, maybe it’s only the abuser’s fault there was abuse, and the entire world needs to shift from blaming the victim to blaming the abuser.”
And, of course, Pern still has no therapists.
“I know you’ve heard often enough how stubborn us [time-skipped] are,” Meria went on, and a rueful smile briefly played across her lips, “and how the Weyrs of my time hold on to their autonomy like a crutch, unable to ask for, or accept, help from any quarter outside the Weyr. So when our firestone sacks were completely depleted, the riders and dragons grew desperate, because they had nothing with which to flame Thread. The riders tried mining firestone themselves, but it was a disaster.
“I had left the Weyr at that point, and B’naj told me that almost the entire complement of dragons was at the mine to transport the stone back to the Weyr when the shafts gave way and caved in. He said the plume of dust that rose up from the mine must’ve been mixed with more than firestone dust, because it had a peculiar effect on everyone, although they didn’t know it at the time. Those who had been at the mine started to grow irritable, and a persistent cough plagued most of the dragons and some of the riders, too. Then they developed chronic aches and grew more lethargic as their health continued to decline.
“Of course, they no longer had a healer, and were too proud to ask anyone from outside the Weyr for help. The sad thing is I know I could have helped them. We have a root that grows in the north to help counter all sorts of woes. G’reff called it thujang, but I haven’t heard it mentioned in this Pass. Perhaps it’s vanished. I’ve been trying to find another root in the south that has the same healing properties.”
Piemur immediately thinks of the jango root tea that he had in Nabol, but despite the similarity of names, he dismisses the connection and keeps his attention on Meria’s story. Y’know, having learned the lesson about not running off on tangents properly so that he doesn’t pipe up with the correct thing at an inopportune moment.
That said, this firestone mine collapse is also the first time where dragonriders have tried to do something that isn’t being a dragonrider and utterly failed at it, (welcome to the 3.0 timeline) which I remember we remarked upon at the beginning, when we had first encountered this failure. All the same, the stubbornness that has them devising egg-napping plans rather than asking for help is the sort of thing that should reasonably have the Southern contingent die out. Meria may have the solution, but it’s not going to do a whit of good on the direct approach, as we saw. Instead, there’s going to have to be some sort of face-saving farce put in place to ensure that Southern survives with both their health and their pride. B’naj can probably act as go-between in this regard, since he seems flexible enough and friendly enough, and still on good terms with the Weyr enough to be able to “find” a useful cure lying around and distribute it. And possibly to “accidentally” mention in someone’s hearing how much they need that firestone mine repaired because there’s duty being shirked about supplying dragonriders with firestone so they can do their duty of roasting Thread. And then everybody hunkers down and waits for the old stubborn guard to finally die so that newer leadership can take over and have a better relationship that allows for mutual assistance and asking for aid. Or for enough people to leave Southern Weyr that it can safely be left to die on its own and then be repopulated with people who are more modern. At this point, Meria has probably done everything she can and more to help out her friends, short of finding the mystic root itself and bringing it back to the dragonriders.
Also, phosphine poisoning is a thing, and the symptoms described by Meria track consistently with inhalation of phosphine gas. So this jango root, if it is a supreme cure-all, has some serious kick to it to be able to both clear out the respiratory condition and the cardiac conditions that might follow from inhalation. Nice having magic alien plants to cure your serious conditions.
After some speculation about who might have returned the egg to Benden, we have a moment of empathy from the person who has been primed to be empathetic to the Southerners the entire book.
“I wish they’d listen to me,” Meria said wistfully. “I’m certain the poor health they’re suffering is due to the dust and fumes they inhaled at that firestone mine. I’m sure I could make them well again if they’d let me help.”
“I feel sorry for them,” Piemur said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Meria tilted her chin toward him, her expression one of curiosity. “Why is that?” she asked.
“They don’t fit in anymore. They’ve left their Weyr and fled their lives. And they’re sick, too. They haven’t lived in their old Weyrs up north for more than six Turns, and they don’t really seem to be living anywhere in this Pass. Shells, they’re nowhere! How bloody awful they must feel.”
And this is a situation of their own making, as well, Piemur. You can feel bad for them and how similar their situation is to your feelings of being adrift and without a home, but the people who got exiled, for the most part, it seems, made the decision to go into exile and be disconnected from their support networks. Or, at least the leaders did, and I’m assuming that B’naj and Meria went because they couldn’t contemplate giving up their entire social circle of known people for the rest of their lives. Others may have gone because they still believed that what the leaders did was right and true. It is a problem that people are hurting and suffering, and that their leaders are too stubborn to accept help, but until Meria finds something that will help with the health situations, there’s nothing that can be done through official channels, and the leaders have the power to change their positions on the matter any time they like.
And sometimes tragedies happen because the people in charge, who should know better, who should do better, who should be moved at the amount of human suffering going on under their watch, choose to stand aside and do nothing, because they think that tragedy is okay when it happens to the Other, to people who don’t support them and never will. Tragedy never stays contained to the Other, of course, but by the time it’s escaped the Other, it’s too late to contain it, and then the people who support the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party start screaming about how unfair and wrong it is that the leopards are eating their faces instead of knowing, somehow, that there are acceptable faces to eat and unacceptable faces to eat. Tragedy never works that way, and it is painful to ethical and empathetic people to watch the tragedy happen and feel powerless to do anything about it on the grand scale, even as they do their best to manage it on the scale they can influence.
The last sequence in this chapter is Piemur going through all the what-ifs that could have meant that Sebell was the victim of tragedy, instead of being safely rescued and on the mend. Unable to get to sleep because of the complexities of the timeline, eventually he and Sebell go outside to have a talk about what happened to Sebell and the inherent unfairness of the universe.
“They shouldn’t have done that to you, Sebell. Jerrol and his lot shouldn’t have beaten you half to death and then stuffed you like a useless old bundle of rags in a dark hole. They should pay for what they’ve done!”
“You’re absolutely right, my friend. What Jerrol and his lot did was unspeakable. And they should be punished for it. But you and I both know that the details of our little jaunt to Nabol must remain untold. That’s how it has to be,” Sebell said. “I know, Pie, that if we went to these men to mete out the punishment we think they deserve, we will have achieved only one thing.”
“Retribution. Revenge. Retaliation, call it what you wish, but it would do absolutely no good. We have to find a solution to their problem so they’ll never want to behave like that again. If we don’t we’ll simply be showing them the same treatment they’ve always known and they’ll never, ever have reason to want to change, or become more compassionate men.”
“Piemur, someone made those men into the people they are. They didn’t start their lives with such adverse and damaged viewpoints. They were pushed to the breaking point after Turns of manipulation at the hand of someone else.” Sebell leaned forward as he spoke, closing the distance between himself and Piemur, eager to make sure his point was understood.
“But they beat you! They bound you and then left you for dead, Sebell! That part of the cellars was going to be bricked up! What were they thinking?”
“They weren’t thinking, Piemur. They were reacting to Turns of mental torture that they shouldn’t have had to endure. They’ll never be able to change unless the chance to do so is given to them. I’ve been mulling this over, and I believe it’s the only course we can consider—otherwise we’re just fighting them. Perhaps turning into them.”
“That can’t be all that is done after what you’ve suffered, Sebell,” Piemur said. He knew he sounded belligerent—and probably looked it, too—but he didn’t care.
“Don’t you see, my friend? Dragons were prevented from fighting one another in the name of revenge! If everything that happened in Nabol came to light, the only outcome it would achieve would be to pit Craft gainst Hold. And we can’t let that happen—it would be like permitting dragon to fight dragon,” Sebell declared. “The only way this sickening behavior can be dealt with is at its root. If any of us were pitted against each other it would cut to the very heart of our way of life. We all fit together in a unique way, and if we allow our guardians—the dragonriders—or our protectors and custodians—the holders and crafters—to come to blows, then we’ll have undermined everyone’s safety. And Thread would win.”
Cocowhat by depizan
Cocowhat by depizan
How did this become a question of Craft-Hold warfare over people who plotted against a Lord and beat two Harpers? Clearly, the Harper Hall is within its right to demand that the Lord responsible for the people who attacked their harpers have the perpetrators arrested and punished for their act. And since Deckter is friendly to the Harpers, he shouldn’t have a trouble with it. Or because Deckter believes that people who assault others should suffer consequences for the assault, and he is willing to accept the testimony of the victims, an unaffiliated Healer, and any witnesses to the act itself as proof that Jerrol and company did what they are accused of and should be punished. The only situation where the accusation becomes an issue is if the Lord Holder is hostile to the Harper Hall. Demanding Fax’s men suffer for beating a harper in Fax’s territory would never fly, because Fax doesn’t respect harpers enough to grant them the freedom from violence. And we’ve seen what happens when a guild has an issue with the local Lord – they boycott the Lord. (What’s usually also implied in this is that other guilds will also boycott the Lord in solidarity with their fellow guilds, and by depriving the Lord of necessary goods and services, the Lord will come around to doing what they want.) So there’s a complete remedy available here.
And I still don’t understand why the details of this jaunt have to remain secret. If it’s “the harpers don’t want to admit publicly they do spying work,” then that’s something that needs to be said, not implied. And also, they may need to recalibrate that thought, anyway, as it seems like Jerrol and company know full well that harpers do espionage. So it’s probably one of those open secret things, like how most people should expect that if they have a group of a certain size and they occasionally criticize the government, there’s likely to be at least one informant for either local or federal police in the ranks. Or that, even though the Central Intelligence Agency is forbidden from spying inside the borders of the United States, they probably do it anyway and pass on the intelligence they receive to agencies that are empowered to act within the United States and nobody ever admits to it. And even then, since there’s no need to have a public trial, they can just tell Deckter the information that needs be told to him and he can handle it.
Sebell turned his head to watch Piemur closely as the younger man battled with his emotions. “Do you see what I mean? We have to be prevented from fighting one another,” he added, and then he leaned back.
“But it’s not the same thing!” Piemur cried, and all his anger was expressed in those six words.
Sebell sighed. “The [time-skipped] felt they were in a desperate situation, Piemur, and so they carried out a desperate act. In a way, I think that was their way of asking for help. Jerrol and his kin’s actions, though different, were born from the same feelings of hopelessness. Holdlessness,” Sebell said. It was Piemur’s turn to sigh.
“Shards, those three men were probably treated so badly all their lives they no longer know what’s right or wrong!” Sebell went on heatedly. “I remember when I was in Nabol for the Master, when Meron was alive. The way he baited his kin—it was nothing short of torture. He’d promise one nephew a patch of land, and the next day he’d renege on his offer and promise it to another kinsman. He used to laugh at their confusion and the anguish he put them through. It got so none of them could trust the other. Meron made them all hate one another. Their very own flesh and blood, too! And all because they feared they wouldn’t get what they should’ve been entitled to. It was appalling!”
“But what about the bricks, Sebell?” Piemur hissed; he couldn’t stop thinking about what would have happened if Sebell hadn’t been discovered.
“Don’t think about that, Piemur. You found me, and I’m going to be fine.”
Piemur stared at Sebell, the conflicting emotions welling up in him until he didn’t know what to think. He wondered if he’d ever be like Sebell or Master Robinton, wise enough to see what was right and wrong, and strong enough to see past his own emotions, to discern the best choices to make for the good of everyone.
And on that undeserved piece of praise, the chapter ends.
I get the part where Sebell correctly recognizes that Meron was an awful person and his torture and games caused trauma for everyone who is there, but the solutions that he is proposing are the kinds of things that would require a wholesale destruction and reconstruction of Pernese society, away from vassalage feudalism with despots that have absolute authority within their borders to at least some form of socialism, with goods and services fairly distributed and a social safety net in place to make sure that nobody ends up starving and homeless. I think Sebell is thinking of this as “the responsible Lord should look after his family and provide for them, so there aren’t people who want to cause social unrest running around,” but Thella disproves that this would work all the time. Then again, nobody would think of Thella as anything other than a woman who didn’t know her place, so I don’t think they would see her as the proof that “the responsible Lord looks after their family” doesn’t cover all the bases.
Additionally, there’s no guarantee that Deckter will be able to make everybody happy, especially since it appears that Meron promised the same piece(s) of land to different people on the regular, and none of the relatives got together between themselves and said, “Right, he’s just stringing us all along. So, regardless of whatever Meron says, the lands are going to be divided in this way when he’s dead. Now, who’s going to tell the harpers about the asshole we have in charge and see if they can’t help us depose him in favor of our power-sharing agreement?” So we still have a situation where the relatives could be arguing, bickering, and trying to unseat a nearby Lord because they’re unhappy with whatever piddling plot of land Deckter gave them and they want more. But at least it would be about greed rather than about the social system that allows someone to dick around their relatives like that and that gives the relatives no recourse to stop this from happening. Or at least to make Meron put it in a will and writing and to pay the appropriate witnessing fees and the like to change his desires so much.
Lead on to the socialist revolution, Sebell, even though I know full well that neither you nor your boss would actually want that to happen, because you’re all devoted to making sure that nothing ever changes, societally. And you’d have to fight all the Lords and all the dragonriders to bring about that change.