Dragon’s Code: An Artificial Plot Extension

Last time, Piemur observed an exchange between a dragonrider (T’reb), a Nabol man (Toolan), and an artist the man conned into creating some pictures of a space (Cramb), uncovering a little bit more detail about the plot hinted at in the first chapter. Apparently, the Nabolese help the dragonriders, the dragonriders help the Nabolese capture some land over their border and bring it under their control.

Piemur is also completely morose about his loss of singing voice and feeling aimless while he marks time doing things for Robinton.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter 3: Content Notes:

Also last time, Piemur had trouble hearing all of this because of the extremely loud background music of Yakkity Sax, as he continued to have all sorts of near-discoveries, culminating in his shock causing him to hit his head, get discovered, and have to flee both Toolan and Cramb. Which causes him to lose his hat and have to trudge back to Southern Hold in the hot sun. And it’s this plot-required decision that gets us going.

Toric says hello to Piemur and mentions his lack of hat at the beginning of this chapter, while Piemur leads Stupid to the trough and then starts splashing his own head with the water in the trough. So, y’know, the sort of thing that’s already a sign that Piemur is suffering from something and probably shouldn’t do anything but get cooled down. But because nobody knows this (and because Piemur isn’t going to say anything, which is something finally consistent with the characterization of the other Piemur from the original books), there will be yet more Yakkity Sax playing going on in this chapter. Before we get to that part, however, Toric has news for Piemur about Southern.

“The [time-skipped] sent word yesterday: They’re no longer permitting anyone from outside to enter their Weyr.”
Piemur jerked upright, sending droplets of water flying from his hair. He stared at Toric, his thirst forgotten, a frown creasing his burnt brow as he wondered if this latest development had anything to do with T’reb and the two men he’d been spying on.
“Can you believe it? Mardra and T’kul say that we’ve brought illness to their Weyr,” Toric spat, and Piemur had no toruble hearing the disgust in the Lord Holder’s tone. “Not a word from T’ron, though. His opinion on the matter is anyone’s guess.”

T’ron is still in charge, although Piemur notes that T’ron seems to be leaving most of the talking to T’kul.

It’s such a shame that these dragonriders don’t have any previous accounts of dragons getting sick and needing to be cared for to draw upon. Or, for that matter, any accounts of a raging pandemic and what the best options are for dragons and riders to keep safe from spreading the disease around. There aren’t any songs about heroic dragonriders who discovered vital information about their dragons, and how an entire communication system is built around encoding that information. Or a ballad of some sort about a heroic dragonrider who rushed to deliver inoculation serum to a wide area, seeming to break the boundaries of space and time itself with her speed because that was the best way to stop the disease in its tracks. These things are utterly, completely lost to these people, apparently, including to the people who are the nominal keepers of records and recorders of history in song. (Yes, I’m being harsher on this author than the others, but that’s because this author has had the benefit of having both previous authors available to pick, choose, and otherwise incorporate continuity from.)

“An illness is raging among the dragonriders, halp wat do?” is certainly a well-trod story decision for a Dragonriders of Pern novel, but because this is a Ninth Pass story, I feel like there should be some call-backs here.

Moving forward with the plot, after some physical description of Toric, Piemur voices his thought on Southern:

Even though the Southern Weyrfolk were no longer in favor with Benden Weyr, Piemur didn’t think they were all such a bad bunch. He reckoned only a small group of the Southern [time-skipped] were actually troublemakers, and that other members of the Weyr had stayed on with them out of loyalty.

I still don’t think it’s been fully explained why, other than reverence and awe for dragonriders that Anne’s Piemur never had nor obtained, why this Piemur is suddenly very willing to give the Southerners the benefit of the doubt. Also, the Piemur of Dragondrums, the one who was bullied severely and nearly killed by a “small group of…troublemakers” with either the collusion, assistance, or indifference of everyone else, seems like the last person who would be willing to say that it’s probably just a small group of troublemakers in the middle of a mostly-blameless whole.

Also, I think it’s clear enough for us in the 21st c. of Terra, in watching parliamentary politics, and the fact that we have specific language around bystanders and how they need to be trained to intervene, rather than look the other way, when things go, and especially now having seen the last decade of oppositions that work to obstruct everything when they are out of power, dismantle everything while they are in power, and provide cover for their own when they commit terrible acts, up to and including inciting and encouraging insurrection and violence against members of the government or deliberately withdrawing from international cooperation and accordances so their buddies can profit and the rest of us suffer, we might have a dim view of the idea that there’s only a few bad apples and the system behind them would simply vanish if all the bad individual actors were removed. Piemur was nearly killed by that attitude on Prime Universe Pern.

At this point, I’m willing to say this book is an Alternate Universe of Pern, a Ninth Pass that happened on some other timeline that looks like ours, that has a lot of the samely-named characters, and who might look mostly familiar to us, but are not the same people. Because otherwise we have to believe two mostly opposite Piemurs exist at the same time.

Back to the plot. Having digested the news, Piemur says that he’ll need to send a message with the additional development of the Southern closure of their borders, and Toric tells him not to bother, as he already did it and N’ton and Robintion are alreaedy inbound. Which they are, and Sebell is with them. When Lioth arrives, Piemur has managed to recover a hat, which is good, but there’s no indication that Piemur’s had a rest or recovered from everything he did in the sun.

Toric and N’ton both greet with “ ’Day”, which seems like an interesting contraction, and N’ton addresses both Toric and Piemur as “So’Holders,” so in this Pern AU, there’s a lot more contraction of language, it appears.

N’ton then does an acrobatic dive dismount off of Lioth, something that “filled him [Piemur] with awe even though he’d seen it dozens of times in the past,” proving that even in this alternate world, dragonriders still really enjoy taking risks with their life if they can show off to someone else. And then, from there, we get more of Piemur showcasing his awe of dragonriders, in this loving, almost purple, prose description of N’ton (compare to the significantly shorter description of Toric that I’ve left unquoted if you’re following along):

Standing almost two meters in height, N’ton, like most dragonriders, was supremely physically fit and carried his long, strong frame with a casualness that matched his easy manner and pleasant nature. All dragonriders had an indefinable presence, a strength akin to an electric force that radiated around them. Some folk attributed the dragonriders’ unique energy to the lifelong connection they shared with their dragons, or to their higher-than-average levels of empathy. Whatever its source, when dragonriders entered a room, they often charged the atmosphere with a buzz that could also infect others around them. N’ton, though relatively young, carried himself with an air of maturity as if he were much older than his Turns. His light-blue eyes had one or two creases at the cornersl his symmetric, handsome face bore a striaght nose and strong chin, and he seemed to be utterly unaware of how striking a figure he cut. Piemur had heard women gasp when they saw the Fort Weyrleader for the first time.

And, of course, after a few books where we were able to at least acknowledge the idea that dragonriders have the privilege of being able to be several of the identities on the queer spectrum, we have to remember that it’s the women who are gasping when they see N’ton. Certainly not any journeyman Harpers who spend significant and loving detail on the physique of the Fort Weyrleader.

The other possibility is that the energetic field that Piemur attributes to rumor, or dragons, or empathy, or some other thing might be the dragonriders themselves exuding the Shield of Sexiness, or whichever the relevant game trope is that gets people to do what you want and to listen to you because you’re hammering on their subconscious that you’re the sexiest, strongest, bestest person ever. Like a permanently on Charm Person status or something. Since, y’know, Pern is a world that explicitly acknowledges psi abilities and selects for dragonriders people who have high psi abilities with regard to telepathy and empathy, maybe it’s an unacknowledged, uninvestigated reality of Pern that every dragonrider has at least one rank in Memetic Sex God(dess), and that there are occasionally people like Lessa who have a lot more of it and the ability to control it a lot better, and those people become Weyrwomen, and usually Weyrwomen of legend, through their skill and power.

Which might actually resolve the problem I had about Masterharper Robinton being able to feel Lessa’s powers in Ninth Pass 2.0 – since he’s canonically able to inspire this same sort of sex god status in others, and he can talk to the dragons and they talk back to him, and the reason Robinton’s not a bronze rider himself is because Petiron would never let him go to do it, so basically, I guess we were supposed to conclude that Robinton would have been one of the best dragonriders that ever was, but instead gets to tbe the greatest and sexiest musician that ever way. Lucky for Robinton that he also happened to have perfect pitch and all the other musical talents that Petiron demanded of him in addition to all of this dragonrider power stuff. This would, now that I think about it, possibly also explain what the blue riders are looking for when they go on Search, and with a little worldbuilding, could also explain why the blue dragons and riders are the ones with the uncanny knack for finding candidates – maybe they’re the most sensitive to the Sexy field?

Robinton, a Mary Sue? Perish the thought. But also, this is a disturbingly effective underlying worldbuild and could explain a lot of things, if this were one of the core underlying assumptions that never actually gets expressed anywhere.

We’re getting off-track here, ever so slightly. I’m speculating that Piemur might have the hots for N’ton, if only slightly, and in the world of 2018, that should be a thing that can be said without worry that the readers are going to be upset about it. Or so I think. But instead we have this last line of “no homo, bro” and we have to sigh and grumble about representation again.

After some exposition about the architecture of the place and Toric calling for refreshments, Piemur takes a seat in the shade, only to recognize that he’s got a fierce headache, an upset stomach, and he’s still radiating heat. All of which sound like he should be venting his heat somewhere and trying to cool himself back down before he passes out from heatstroke, but that’s not going to happen because he still has to make his report to Robinton and Sebell before he can go get himself cooled off.

And then we get something like the Menolly-equivalent, but who ran away from the dragonriders, Meria.

Piemur had met Meria on the day she first arrived at Southern Hold. She had left Southern Weyr and, needing shelter—no one on Pern, even on the Southern Continent, would choose to live in the open, under the threat of Threadfall—had sought succor from Toric. As far as Piemur knew, Meria had never offered an explanation as to why she had left the Weyr, which was something Piemur often speculated about.

Except now I want to know how old Meria is, because if she’s old enough to have aged out of the queen candidacy system, she would be an excellent character or learning about what happens to queen candidates after they’re no longer being treated as potential dragonriders. Also, it’s a woman who left the Weyr. We already knew that the men supposedly can leave the Weyr and be Randian supermen wherever they go, but here it appears to be that women who leave have to immediately go find someone to protect them.

(Also, Prime Universe Piemur got Stupid by living through a Threadfall and then went, “Huh, maybe I can do this out here without needing to be in a Hold at all.” And also, Menolly managed it for a while herself. So maybe people don’t choose to do things this way, except Prime Universe Piemur, but there’s nothing in this section of Piemur remembering his own experiences out in the open during Threadfall.)

Toric, when explaining why he’s called the council says “As my message stated, the Oldtimers—my pardon, I meant the Southern Weyrleaders—formally closed their Weyr to us yesterday.” Which, I think this is the first time where anyone has begged a pardon for using that particular nickname. That it’s coming from Toric could be in character, but there’s no indication that Toric is being sarcastic or insincere with this correction, for this or for Toric following up with not being too concerned about the dragons not flaming Thread, because grubs will keep them protected, but he says he’s worried that he can’t send his tithes and there won’t be dragonriders flying over his skies. Robinton asks Toric if he’s informed Benden, and Toric says he hasn’t, not that it would be worth anything anyway.

Prime Universe Toric is a schemer who would be overjoyed to short the dragonriders their tithes for his own profits and tell nobody about it. I can’t imagine him being the kind of person who would willingly invite Robinton or N’ton to his place and give them the opportunity to sniff out any of his schemes while they are in action. So, yeah, this is still weird characterization world. Because there’s no noted insincerity or other kind of indication that Toric is anything other than serious about this, and the Toric I am used to might be brought up short because his rudeness is showing too much, but I can’t imagine Toric offering a sincere beg-pardon for anything involving dragonriders.

Robinton asks for Piemur’s report, but because he’s still heatstruck, he talks about the plot that he discovered and the people he shadowed, but he’s having trouble remembering the correct order of events, how long he spent chasing this thing, and why it relates to being asked about the Southern Weyr. It’s very broken sentence structure, and Piemur is very clearly making an effort to recall events correctly and tie them ogether in a coherent narrative. Sebell seems interested, but Robinton doesn’t, and during the subsequent conversation, Piemur interrupts to press his point, and gets subtly rebuked, apologized for, with the heat blamed, and led off by Sebell to get into the shade so he doesn’t embarrass himself further. A Piemur who hasn’t been heatstruck would be significantly more coherent and able to explain what’s going on to everyone, but instead, he loses his opportunity to convince Robinton and Sebell of the plot that’s afoot, whatever it might be. Because of the timelines and events yet to come in this book, this is because Piemur can’t be spoiling an extremely important event before it comes to pass, but it seems like a contrivance, in this case, meant mostly to make sure the book doesn’t end prematurely.

I am reminded, at this point, that stupid decisions are a regular part of our lives, and so it’s entirely plausible that Piemur brought this upon himself, but it still seems like all of these things are set up in a carefully-orchestrated domino chain meant to make sure that Piemur isn’t taken seriously prematurely and the book can proceed.

In the conference afterward, Piemur tries again to explain what’s going on, but it’s still not coming out any more coherently than it did in the initial conference, and Piemur believes that Sebell doesn’t believe him either. Sebell plays into that with the next assignment he has for Piemur.

Piemur, before N’ton fetched us this morning, the Master and I discussed your role as a scout. This new position the Southern Weyrleaders have taken has changed everything. The Master thinks it might be best if you concentrate on mapping again. You’ve done more than your fair share of scouting for now.”
[…Piemur presses his case, but Sebell asks whether T’reb actually said anything or whether it was Toolan and Cramb speculating, without explaining that making an accusation like that against a dragonrider, without proof, is suicidal…]
“You’ve done good work, Piemur, but I think you may have been out in the hot sun for longer than is healthy. It’s obvious to me that you’re not behaving like yourself. Why don’t you get out of the heat and rest? When you’re ready, the Master thinks you should map the terrain near that steep bluff to the west of here. You know where I mean, don’t you?” Piemur nodded. “You always talk about how much you like climbing, so this should be a welcome task.”

And Piemur gets a lift to the cliffside that he’s being asked to climb and map from N’ton, but it’s not enough to stop the bad feelings.

[…]Piemur had started his journey in an unnaturally foul humor, unable to shake the feeling that Master Robinton no longer valued him, that he’d made a fool of himself in front of Sebell, N’ton, and Toric. Ever since that afternoon it had been hard to keep his spirits on an even keel. He felt as if he didn’t fit in anywhere anymore. Throughout the last fourteen days he’d mentally argued with himself about returning to Southern Weyr to discover more of what the [time-skipped] were planning with the men from Nabol, and every time his better sense won out and he convinced himself not to act contrary to Master Robinton’s orders, he felt like a coward, willing to do anything in order to fit in. Where had his gumption gone? Had he lost so much of his strength of character along with his singing voice that he was no longer able to act on his own?

There’s also that thing where disobeying the direct orders of a superior is much more likely to get you canned or hurt than promoted, could worsen relationships that are already fragile, and could result in serious damage if an unfounded accusation were leveled against people who have the ability to make your life completely miserable. Piemur might be at least subconsciously recognizing that being wrong about this would make him an extremely attractive scapegoat if everything goes entirely pear-shaped, and his self-preservation instincts are kicking in.

That said, this particular train of thought is familiar, at least the part where messing up once means that everyone hates you and no longer wants to have anything to do with you. The bit of “and then I’ll hare off and Show Them All” is less familiar to me, but I understand the idea of desperately wanting to be proven right or at least get back into the good graces of others. This is still Alternate Universe Piemur, though, because he’s thinking about disobeying, rather than just going off and doing it. And we learn that he got advice from his foster-mother, Ama, to follow his instincts when he wasn’t sure what to do. And that the diminutive nickname form of his name is “Pie,” which means I’ve been pronouncing his name completely wrong in my head for this entire series.

As he’s climbing, Piemur hums a tune he used to sing, but one of the jumps doesn’t come easy, because puberty changes still give him an unsettled voice, which aggravates him. Yet again, he feels like he’s been discarded from his Hall because of his voice cracking, but eventually he starts climbing again. Farli appears to try and warn him of something, but the images are all jumbled and Piemur doesn’t get anything about it. Farli then projects a single image of Piemur climbing very quickly, before chittering loudly and disappearing, but Piemur doesn’t understand the import of it until something catches his attention in the periphery. Once he turns to see what it is, he proves Farli right by scrambling up to try and outrun the Thread that Farli was trying to warn him about.

So, we’re splitting Menolly’s origin story between two people, with Meria as the one who ran away from safety and then was brought to another place, and Piemur gets to do the fitting himself into a cave that’s barely big enough for himself. Since he already has a fire-lizard, however, he doesn’t have to try and feed a fair of just-hatched ones. And, as it turns out, Farli is interested in helping defend her bonded human and giving him some additional breathing room.

What was that sound? He could hear something like gushing liquid or rushing air—or maybe a combination of the two. It grew louder. Through his tightly-closed eyelids Piemur could sense an orange glow. His eyes snapped open just as flame spewed in front of the rock face, and Piemur wondered if he was dreaming. Then another burst of fire flared in front of his eyes and, hissing, Farli flew into the cave.
She must have flown off to find firestone when she first caught sight of the Threadfall, Piemur thought in amazement. He knew that fire-lizards, like dragons, could chew firestone in order to breathe flame, but he’d never seen it before.

And, unlike their bigger cousins who had their genes messed with according to someone with extreme views about gender roles, chewing firestone to flame doesn’t affect the fertility of the fire-lizards at all.

After flaming out, Piemur sends Farli to poke N’ton’s fire lizard and relay his location, which allows N’ton and Lioth to come out and otherwise flame a swath through the rain long enough for Piemur to jump from his hiding space and supposedly land on Lioth. Which he does, but Piemur is unable to stick the landing, so N’ton has to grab him by the tunic to keep him alive, and after a frantic quick warp (where we hear the communication between N’ton and Lioth, even though Piemur would not have), N’ton dumps Piemur into the local body of water, saving him from Thread and from falling to his death. Which ends the chapter, as Piemur asks for a moment to recover himself after all of that excitement.

So, yeah, other than also giving us many more reasons to believe this is an alternate Pern out of continuity (or at least out of characterization) with the original series, this particular chapter seems to be mostly there to make sure that the plot doesn’t get spoiled too early and to give Piemur some peril, as well as to continue hammering on the idea that Piemur is awkward and clumsy and all out of sorts with the person that he used to be before his voice cracked and everything changed. If there’s something useful later on in the story from this, that’s fantastic and will give this chapter some usefulness, but otherwise, this doesn’t appear to do a whole lot of lifting toward the narrative in any sort of way.

On the positive side, we’ve made it three chapters, a whole quarter of the story, without any sort of sexual violence done or threatened to anyone! Nor do we have any extraordinarily young characters being pressured into becoming dragonriders and/or young characters engaging in sexual behaviors because their dragons will compel it from them soon enough. (I think we’ve had exactly two women with speaking lines at this point, which is not so great.)

Deconstruction Roundup for February 26th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who hopes that rollouts of vaccinations happen sooner rather than later.)

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.

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 reading through someone else’s watch-through of a movie you enjoyed, even though you can see things that are either flaws or violations of Poe’s Law. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: Subterfuge!

Last time, we resigned ourselves to the idea that this story of Piemur in the South is yet another recasting of the Ninth Pass of Pern, this time transforming Piemur from a scamp who likes to keep secrets, get in trouble, and explore as his own man into a morose teenager who feels adrift and unmoored and still mourns the time when he had a fine singing voice and was the darling of the Harper Hall. You know, before there was a concerted effort to harm and kill him because the boys in the drumheights didn’t like him particularly much.

Dragon’s Code, Chapter Two: Content Notes:

When we last left Piemur, he was following Farli to a spot where a dragonrider and some other men were planning on meeting. The chapter starts with Piemur nearly blundering into the meeting site because he’s trying to follow Farli effectively. This kind of sequence of near-misses is going to follow Piemur through the entire chapter, and I think it’s supposed to either be comedic, or possibly meant as a foil of his awkwardness and feeling out of place in his current assignment.

In any case, having left Stupid and Farli together far enough back from the site of the meeting, Piemur creeps his way back to hear conversations going on between Cramb, who is an artist that is drawing portraits for T’reb, and Toolan, the person who hired Cramb and is acting as intermediary for the deal. After thinking he’s been spotted hiding in tall grasses, Piemur finds a tree to climb, which has a bird in it that draws attention to the area, but neither Cramb nor Toolan is curious enough to investigate what might have disturbed the bird. In proper villainous form, of course, there’s the obligatory part about people thinking when they’re not supposed to.

“I think it’s an odd choice, that’s all,” Cramb said. He licked his lips again, and Piemur suddenly caught himself licking his own lips, too.
“Well, don’t bother…to think, that is!” Toolan said loudly, and then paused before adding, “I know what’s wanted. You’re just here to make a sketch of it, so get to work,” he barked.

Which Cramb does, and Toolan decides to take a nap, because it’s hot and the heat irritates him. Cramb says he’ll have plenty of rest time, since he’s going to rough out something on a slate, then transfer the linework to vellum, and then color it and add detail, none of which sound like they’re going to be done quickly, and then the process will happen all over again when things are dark. So Cramb has been commissioned to make two landscapes for Toolan, who will then presumably deliver them to whomever it is that hired him.

Since there’s no action happening in front of him, Piemur, while trying to stay awake in his tree, reminisces about one of his good days in the Harper Hall, under the direction of Master Domick (who, as we recall, is one of the composers of the Hall and likes making things as technically difficult as he can, seeing the complexity as the proof of musicality), who is, as all the other masters of the hall, completely incapable of teaching without berating his students.

“No, no, no!” Domick had shouted, his voice rising on the last word as he simultaneously smacked his baton off the music stand. “You sound like a herd of shrieking runnerbeasts being devoured by Thread! Read the music score, for pity’s sake! Do not sing the last phrase like that!” The Mastercomposer’s face was turning a disturbing shade of red as he shouted, and the boys and the girls of the choir started to squirm in their places, which only added to their teacher’s obvious ire.

Definitely a revised Pern, here, where there are girls singing in the choir instead of the all-boys-until-Menolly affair that things were in the initial run. (At least, only boys would be in the space where Domick is trying to get them to sing his compositions. There were the girls there for the music lessons and the like, but that was for their marriageability, not for their singing ability.) Anyway, continuing on with this, Domick makes Piemur sing several parts and phrases by himself before passing them off to other singers, who, having heard what they were supposed to sound like, are able to replicate what Piemur sings together, and harmoniously, until the composition finally sounds like what Domick wants it to sound like, with Piemur singing the solo on top of it, until everything winds itself down to the end and the singers are really happy at what they had accomplished. Especially because they were singing in front of Robinton and Sebell, not that Piemur wants us to believe what happened was specifically for that.

Piemur would never forget that moment! He had barely noticed the looks of approval on the faces of the Masterharper and journeyman masterharper, though he was aware that they were pleased. No, Piemur knew his singing voice was perfect, not because of any vanity but because it had been meticulously trained to be just so, and nothing less. He knew, too, that for a little while during the rehearsal he had been the focus of everyone’s attention, but that wasn’t what had been most important to him as a singer. All he’d ever cared about was the satisfaction and inexpressible joy he experienced when singing in a group, joining in with other voices to create one single, superb orchestra of sound. That was what was most important to Piemur. When he sang with a group he felt as if the sound were actually amplifying from inside his body, tingling every cell, and filling him with pure delight.
But now, perched in the tree watching Cramb, he knew singing with a choir would never be the same for him. He wasn’t sure if anything could ever make him feel so passionate again. How time had changed everything!

How time has changed everything, indeed. I’m still trying to square this Piemur with the one we had at the end of Dragondrums, which is probably a lost cause, but I also find it interesting to see how much the narrative here is talking about the joy from performing together (which is, admittedly, pretty awesome), like there’s a point Piemur is trying desperately to refute about the idea that he’s somehow vain or stuck up or somehow that it’s all gone to his head. Perhaps the justification for the bullying once his voice broke ran around these lines, and Piemur is trying really hard not to let the brainweasels in, because they’d have an absolute feast with his current liminal state?

Music about music has allowed enough time to pass that Cramb is now getting to the point where he’s adding colors, and there’s fascination from Piemur at watching the artist work, adding colors to the scenes he’s sketched, not wasting any pigment to fill them both in. Unfortunately, Piemur’s not in a place where he can see the finished products, even though he’s looking at the place that’s being drawn. More plot passes, and eventually Cramb finishes, Toolan has set up the campsite for water, food, and light, and the two of them drop off to sleep, which allows Piemur to drop from his vantage point to go take a piss, and then get some sleep himself. In the morning, T’reb arrives to collect the drawings, with Piemur noting that Beth is not in a good condition, as well as having another near-miss with being discovered because birds come flying out of his chosen tree in a loud way.

T’reb behaves as a dragonrider who is used to being obeyed does, calling Toolan “Tortle,” and when Toolan corrects him on it politely, T’reb calls him “Toober” the next time he addresses him. It’s pretty clear that T’reb doesn’t give a shit about anything other than whether the pictures are accurate enough. He says they are, flings a pouch of coin into Toolan’s face and disappears. What tips Cramb off to the realization that what he was told and what reality is are different is that

Then, without any regard for creases or folds, T’reb roughly stuffed the two drawings into his flying jacket, ignoring the shocked intake of breath from Cramb.
[…why is this important? Well, you see…]
“You told me the dragonrider wanted a painting of this place because it held great sentimental memories for him. You said he wanted to put it someplace prominent in his weyr. Then you told me he wanted a nightscape of the same scene as well! Just what the shells have you gotten me mixed up in, Toolan?” Cramb’s voice was tight, and although he kept his anger under control it was obvious he was furious at the deception.
Toolan’s expression turned devious, and Cramb crossed his arms in front of his chest, glaring at his companion.
“He plans to use this place as a secure hide^mdash;from what I can guess,” Toolan said finally, with a smirk on his lips. “Probably more of the goods that he and that sorry group of [time-skipped] have been trading. It’s why he chose this particular cove, I reckon. It’s hard to reach and nestled among so many other coves that look exactly the same, it’d be easy to bypass or overlook.”

Piemur debates with himself about whether to report back with this information or stick around for more, because what he’s got so far is pretty scant. He sticks around and picks up some additional useful information.

“I can’t tell you any more, Cramb! My cousin sent me down here because I’ve done a few trades with T’reb before. Serra thinks the [time-skipped] should honor the connection they once had with our great-uncle. We all want land of our own, and Serra’s convinced the dragonriders can help us take what they want.”
“So you and your kin are going to hold land of your own?” Cramb asked, shaking his head. Piemur gasped and then quickly clapped a hand over his mouth. Cramb knew, Piemur thought, that lands fit for holding were not easy to come by. They were handed down from kin to kin or, in the rare case of Lord Toric of Southern Hold, [who will be mentioned as accepted but unconfirmed in the next chapter, but I suppose if it’s a formality between him and confirmation, Piemur might star using the title prematurely,] earned from many Turns of brutally hard work. He could only hazard a guess about Cramb, but he was full certain now that Toolan was from Nabol.
“And what are you giving the dragonriders in return?”
“That’s all I can tell you, Cramb, because that’s all I know,” Toolan said, a stubborn note creeping into his voice.
“I bet you know more, Toolan,” Cramb said slowly, his voice taking on a threatening edge as he stepped closer to Toolan. “Spit it out!”
“Serra thinks they can get land across the border from Nabol. That’s all they told me!” Toolan’s tone was final, his right hand cutting through the air like a flat blade.

Piemur is shocked at this, because Crom, the hold of his birth, is across the border from Nabol, and the possibility that people in Crom, possibly even kin, might be hurt causes him to sit up abruptly and bash his head on a tree branch, which finally attracts enough noise that he’s spotted, and then Piemur runs for it, losing his hat in the process. Once he’s gotten away, and realized he’s lost his hat, he goes to retrieve Stupid and go back to Southern. All in the heat and sunshine of the day, apparently, rather than trying to get some distance, find shade, wait things out until it’s cooler and less sunshiney to navigate his way back. He’s got Farli to guide the way, and assuming there aren’t that many runner-tripping hazards to deal with, travel by night should be much easier for everyone. But no, instead Piemur rides Stupid all the way back to Southern in the sun. Which we don’t fully realize until chapter three starts, as chapter two ends with Piemur orienting himself to find where he left Stupid and Farli and heading that way.

Piemur traveling in the sun becomes important for the next chapter, so there’s a plot reason for it, but it’s, well, a stupid reason. The Piemur of Pern from the original would have probably long since figured out that it’s a bad idea to travel during the heat of the day and found someplace to wait it out and move from there, and this Piemur makes a bad choice so that the plot can proceed according to the rails it’s been put on, instead of for reasons that would make sense.

We’re two chapters in, of twelve, and we haven’t had much of substance, just pieces being put into place. At the same time, we haven’t had anything that would be supremely objectionable about the treatment of anybody to this point. I can’t remember the last time we’d made it one-sixth of the way into a Pern book without something seriously problematic happening. If the worst I have to complain about this book is that the characterization of Piemur is wrong for the time that this book is supposedly taking place in, then this author will have done very well for herself.

More next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 19th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is once again giving the side-eye to entities talking about how something that was political has suddenly become political because the politics might start working against them instead.)

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.

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 have that thing in your head that refuses to leave you alone and needs to get out on paper, electronic or otherwise. Or for any other reason, really.

Dragon’s Code: The Anniversary Special

I honestly didn’t know I was going to get this far, and it’s been really neat having you along with me for the ride. This is the currently last known book in the Dragonriders of Pern, and reading some of the promotional material for this book, they’re styling it as the 50th anniversary work, which might suggest this is going to be a one-shot from Gigi, the third and final allowed author to write in Pern. Also, it’s a whole twelve chapters! One of the shortest offerings in the Pernese canon, as a way of letting us down gently, I guess.

Okay, so, it has been just about seven years since Anne died and six or so since Todd published Sky Dragons. In the interim, we’ve advanced all the way through the end of the Obama presidency and are sitting in the middle of the subsequent administration. We’re still a year and a couple months out from the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and the nightmare that will be, as well as the way in which the entire United States will watch the truth of racist policing played out in front of them, but things are still terrible in the United States and the United Kingdom, almost totally attributable to the politicians in charge and the oligarchs that support them. Let’s see if some actual feminism can permeate this book. Here we go.

Dragon’s Code: Prologue and Chapter 1: Content Notes:

We have a new prologue! This one acknowledges the existence of the Nathi war in the first line, and might be the most effective one of the lot, in terms of storytelling and setting up the understanding that we’ll need to go forward if, by some chance, this book ends up being the very first one that someone picks up as the introduction to Pern. It takes the style of the kind of story you tell children where everything is fine, until a disruption arrives and has to be solved. Once that disruption is solved, everything is fine, until the next disruption arrives, and so the entire prologue leapfrogs its way through the first arrival of Thread, the volcanic eruption, the great migration north, the establishment of the Weyr-Hold-Craft system, the Interval, the return of Thread, the Long Interval that has reduced the Weyrs from six to one, and the return of Thread. It does not mention the return of the time-skipped, although as soon as we get into Chapter 1, they will immediately be relevant, because our main character is Piemur, and the start point for the story appears to be a little bit before the part in the White Dragon where the queen egg gets stolen and Jaxom engages in a daring night raid to retrieve it. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. There’s a choice quote right up front in the Prologue that’s worth looking at:

Pern, as this world was named, was beautiful, habitable, and far enough from the standard trade routes that the colonists felt comfortable turning their backs on the past to build a new future.

And after the arrival of Thread, “Pern’s tenuous contact with the mother planet was broken.” There’s promise here already in the acknowledgment that the colonists were deliberately turning their backs on the future society they lived in to go play at an agrarian pastoral fantasy, and it would be a neat feather in this author’s cap if the wording about leaving the past to build a new future is deliberate, because from the reader’s perspective, Pern has left the future to play in the past instead, and the juxtaposition there is excellent.

Anyway,

even as dragonriders and their dragons fight the valiant war against Thread, dissatisfaction and dissent have begun to simmer in parts of the world…

…and Chapter 1 begins at Southern Weyr with Piemur covering his face and head against the sandstorm that gets kicked up by dragons taking off. Welcome to the Ninth Pass once again. It remains to be seen whether this is Ninth Pass 1.0, 2.0, or Gigi’s very own Ninth Pass 3.0, hopefully making sure that many of the really terrible things (and hopefully some of the more subtle things) about the first two things have been fixed for this run.

The dragons of Southern, however, are not well, and this sounds suspiciously familiar to anyone who suffered through the last author’s books.

Piemur heard the comments the dragonriders called to one another as they took flight; heard, too, the muffled sounds of dragons coughing as they rose higher off the ground. Listening, he wondered—not for the first time—what pernicious ailment still affected the dragons of Southern Weyr, and why the Weyr Healer couldn’t find a remedy to shift it from their lungs.

The last time we had dragons with a cough they couldn’t get rid of, it took Lorana swapping their genes to get rid of it and provide immunity. As I recall mentioning at the time, all that did was reset a clock and that organisms and other infectious agents would, eventually, start evolving a means of infecting the dragons again. Now, I would wonder whether those organisms would end up in a situation where they could infect dragons regardless of which gene combination was start and which one was end. Some other gene combination would be needed at that point, and even then, it’s still just buying time. At least, at this point in the universe. Once it’s been truly determined that there won’t be any more Thread, eventually the dragons will die out when something gets them that they can’t get rid of. As will the fire lizards, unless they’re able to adapt or develop immunity in the remaining time that they have. Which, I suspect they did, because I don’t think any of the fire-lizards ever received any vaccinations, and they’re still around in the Ninth Pass.

Still, we have an infection here in the exiled South that wasn’t there before, and that managed not to spread or deliberately be spread through contact with other dragons. Southern is also apparently a social experiment, if unintentionally:

The [time-skipped] dragonriders had cut ties with Benden, the premier Weyr in the northern hemisphere, effectively alienating themselves from their peers and, ultimately, everyone else. Never in living memory had any group broken free, seeking to go it alone in the hostile environment of Pern without the support of the other elements of their social structure.

This would be an issue, except Piemur said “living memory,” and therefore, neither Aleesa nor Halla gets the chance to stab Piemur repeatedly to remind him of their existence. I think we’re still before Thella, or at least before Thella becomes a notorious figure, so she doesn’t get to stab Piemur either, which I suspect she would really enjoy.

Since we still have the time-skipped present at Southern, the AI hasn’t been discovered yet, and so our most useful point of reference for this book is the end of the Harper Hall trilogy and The White Dragon.

Piemur was here at the behest of his mentor, Masterharper Robinton. He hadn’t started out as a spy. Three Turns earlier, Piemur had been virtually wrenched from his comfortable position in the Harper Hall and sent to the Southern Hold to teach the resident harper the new drum measures, vital for maintaining communications with neighboring smallholdings. But it hadn’t taken long for Saneter to memorize the new measures…and for the Masterharper to task Piemur with a seemingly endless stream of structureless chores, almost all of which were completely outside his training as a singer. If it weren’t for his deep-rooted sense of loyalty to his craft and his mentor, Piemur would have gladly foregone the exhausting and never-ending job of mapping Southern, a vast continent far larger than anyone had ever imagined and, in many areas, actually impassable.

This is not the Piemur I remember, Piemur of Pern, the one who really enjoys being there first and seeing things before others do, the one who would be entirely at ease just mapping and exploring and being by himself, where he doesn’t have to deal with the fact that he and Jaxom both have feelings for Sharra and that Jaxom is going to win eventually, because Jaxom’s a Lord and Piemur’s a Harper. Also, the Piemur I remember for this kind of space is one who enjoys keeping secrets and getting into mischief every now and then. And yet:

Piemur’s most unsatisfying task by far, and the one he found so disturbing to perform, was as a spy: observing and assessing the demeanor and welfare of the dragonriders of Southern Weyr. He gleaned no joy in snooping aroung the noble dragons and their riders, pretending to be someone he was not, visiting the Weyr on one pretense or another while trying to catch every snippet of conversation or grievance he could. It felt grossly wrong to Piemur to behave so duplicitously toward a group of dragons and riders who had spent a lifetime defending the planet. But the Masterharper, in his role as Pern’s custodian of culture and heritage, and the discreet harmonizer of her interconnected social relationships, was anxious to know how the outcasts were faring. He regularly stressed how important it was for Piemur to take note of any little details in the Weyr’s daily life that might be the slightest bit out of the ordinary, and report these. The most trivial snippet could be what helped to reunite Southern Weyr with the rest of dragonkind—and as a Harper, Piemur was trained to observe details.

Cocowhat by depizan

This is not the Piemur I remember, nor the one described in the books that have gone before this one. The Piemur I remember is fiercely loyal to Robinton, yes (and Robinton’s role as a manipulator is acknowledged and foregrounded), but he’s a hell of a scamp who has to repeatedly be told not to be so flippant with the titles of the peerage, even in his own head. This Piemur has suddenly developed reverence for the dragonriders. The goal of bringing the time-skipped back into the fold is certainly one that Robinton would want to have, so as to maintain the frozen state of Pernese society, but Dragondrums Piemur and White Dragon Piemur are a lot less reverent than this one, so we might yet have a Ninth Pass 3.0.

The plot proceeds to have Piemur eavesdrop on a conversation between T’reb and B’naj, where T’reb describes that Mardra is trying to coax Loranth, her queen, off the Hatching Grounds, while Loranth is making very large sounds of grief and Mardra is trying to get Loranth to forget her grief. This strikes Piemur as odd, because there aren’t any eggs available to Southern. So, perhaps we have to re-set our time marker to after Jaxom has already stole back the egg that Southern stole, if Loranth is having grief about a loss and is having trouble with leaving the Hatching Ground. It could also be that there weren’t any viable eggs from Loranth, and there haven’t been in a long while, and Loranth is grieving that she’s never going to get to raise a clutch again. There’s another disaster that might be the cause of the dragon cough mentioned.

“Youre right. Loranth has been off-color since that shaft collapsed when the Weyr was mining firestone. I’m glad I didn’t go with you and the others.”
“We should never have gone on that cursed venture—over half the Weyr was exposed to those noxious fumes.

Noxious mine fumes? That doesn’t sound good. And if the shaft collapsed and there were dragons nearby, maybe the cough they have is related to black lung disease (The Other Wiki says I’m looking for Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) as the correct name), which causes chronic bronchitis and is incurable.

As things progress, B’naj gets told that T’reb is going to try and make an alliance with Nabol.

“When they sought help over a family feud, Benden said they couldn’t interfere in Hold matters. Benden—F’lar and Lessa so high and mighty, as if their Weyr rules all the rest! Some leaders, yeah? Left those Nabolese out in the cold just like those other meddlers, the harpers. Honestly, B’naj, I hardly listened to all the details of their silly feud. The nub of it is they want us to help secure a holding promised to their father by Lord Meron.”
“Meron,” B’naj said, enunciating the two syllables slowly and with so much distaste in his voice that Piemur had no difficulty imagining the dragonrider’s facial expression. And no surprise there: the late Lord Meron had been cruel and uncaring: even Piemur had fallen afoul of the Lord Holder. “He was always a sneaky lick of a man. We never should have traded with him.”
“But we did, and strange as it now seems, his kin may actually have thought of an idea that will benefit our Weyr. We just have to assist them in securing lands to hold.”
“They can have plenty of land down here—as much as they like.”
“They won’t travel south.”
“Why not?”
“They say they can’t stomach the sea crossing. And anyway, they want lands in the north—just as we promised to them.”
“And what would we get in return?”
“Exactly what we need, B’naj. New blood.”
“How in the name of the First Egg—” B’naj’s response increased in volume until T’reb cut him short.

There is then a whispered conference which Piemur cannot hear, and at the end of it, T’reb storms out angry at B’naj, saying that he can’t be stopped. (Piemur’s swear here is “Shards and fire blast!” so that’s a new addition to things.)

It’s kind of nice, actually, to see such openly anti-Benden, anti-harper sentiment on display, and that T’reb, despite supposedly getting ready to make an alliance with people, doesn’t really care about why the little people want to do something, just what the dragonriders of Southern can get out of it. B’naj seems like the kind of person who would like to stick to his principles, but understands that surviving to another day is likely going to be more important than standing on principle, and if your dragons are going to die out anyway, you’ll be willing to sacrifice a lot of your principles at any shot of survival. We’ve already gotten a more nuanced picture painted of the exiles of Southern and what this exile is doing to them than we had in the Benden-centric books. It remains to be seen whether this story is going to be still very protagonist-centered in its morality, but at the very least, we don’t have mustache-twirling antagonists, so that’s already an improvement.

Piemur calls Farli to him with a “sharply-pitched, three-tone whistle that sounded just like a birdcall,” which seems an odd choice, given that fire-lizards are, as Piemur will note a couple of paragraphs down from here, telepathic, so presumably Pirmur could just summon Farli with a thought, rather than a noise. Piemur sends Farli to trail T’reb and his dragon, Beth, and report back what sort of information she can find about where they’ve gone, but in spending that much time, apparently, he’s been noticed by B’naj, who calls out to him, and Piemur does a quick act like he’s responding to some other person about an order before disappearing into the forest and trying to put some distance between himself and the dragonriders.
Once he returns to his camp, we find out that he still has Stupid, now a fully-grown runner, and there’s some amount of descripting of getting Stupid ready for travel that sounds a lot like someone who has been raised around horses and how to manage them putting that knowledge to work in an infodump, because sometimes all that research or knowledge feels like it has to go into the book somewhere or it was wasted time.

Piemur made short work of readying the runnerbeast, smoothing the hair on Stupid’s back and quickly checking for any insects that might hae burrowed under the skin.
Finally, he slipped the bridle over Stupid’s head and gently eased the left ear into the loop of the single-ear strap. Then, still hum-buzzing, he placed the saddle pad on Stupid’s back, behind the last neck bone. The runner blew through his muzzle gently, a sure sign he was relaxed, and shifted his weight from one forefoot to the other. Piemur tightened up the saddle pad cinch, which was positioned behind the two pairs of front legs, doing so slowly to ensure that Stupid wouldn’t be pinched by the saddle girth, a seemingly minor injury that could result in the dreaded, hard-to-cure girth galls. Stupid stomped his rear feet, but didn’t seem upset.
Piemur passed a critical eye over his handiwork, still pleased, after all this time, with the way he had modified the design of the saddles he’d grown up with in Crom. His customized saddle suited the specific needs of the Southern Continent’s warmer climate, where a hide-made, wood-framed saddle would be far too hot, heavy, and cumbersome for both rider and mount. Piemur had not been in Southern long before he’d realized that a soft saddle pad would work much better. It was easier to make and maintain, it dried more quickly, and it was far less likely to harbor and pesky bugs or biters that could riddle the back of a runner with poxy ooze-sores and painful lumps.

There are two things I want to note in this, because I am not a horse person and wouldn’t know if this is indeed the right way to saddle a horse (and a quick duck out to The Other Wiki suggests that what Piemur has here is a treeless saddle, which is popular here on Terra but may be trading one set of issues for another set). The first is “front pairs of legs,” which suggests to me that we ma have finally found the difference between runners and Pernese horses, because runners have more than four appendages. How that translates into riding style, cadence, and comfort for the rider, I haven’t a clue, but this is a good example of slipping in a detail for the reader that reminds us that “parallel Earth” doesn’t mean “exactly like Earth”. So, maybe the runners we have here are hybrids between the horses that the colonists brought with them and some native species of Pern. Or, perhaps, the horses have all died out because *handwave* (one of the many plagues that has ripped through the populations) and instead, there’s been a concerted breeding and domestication program of a native Pernese life-form, which like all native Pernese life-forms, is six-limbed instead of four, but it turns out most of the craft of horse-raising and saddling translated adequately to these new life forms.

Or it’s a typo and what was really meant was “pair of limbs” and it didn’t get caught. For worldbuilding purposes, the first is more intriguing.

Second, I’m really annoyed that the idea of Randian superpeople has managed to persist into the third author, because an invention like that shouldn’t be the province of a single person and otherwise something that Piemur came up with and hasn’t done anything with other than to saddle Stupid with. I would have expected something like that to be a thing that would have been discovered long before Piemur comes up with it. Because Southern isn’t the only hot climate where a saddle of that nature would be really useful for someone to use. Also, that means Piemur has also managed to get whatever amount of materials he needs to fashion such a saddle, and I’m pretty sure that means he needed the materials to fashion that kind of saddle multiple times, because there’s no way that Piemur would have gotten that design exactly right the first time. (Yes, we know that he has a beast upbringing, but he was also pretty rubbish at instrument making, since they were trying to teach him how to do it while he was going through puberty and getting bullied.) I can’t imagine Piemur the spy having all that much time to source and prototype different saddles until he got one that he liked, and also to then keep the idea to himself instead of trying to make as much profit off it as he could, because the Piemur I remember would more than happily find a way of profiting off of any sort of invention that he came up with. (Or that someone else came up with.)

As things are, we have an extended sequence of Piemur recounting what’s happened so far, but with an eye toward how it affected the time-skipped as they came through. After pointing out that that Southern is in decline, with no queens rising to mate, “that left only the few smaller females, the green dragons, as an inadequate source of release for the virile males.” Which, of course, as fighting dragons, they’ve already ingested firestone and been sterilized, so they can’t be used to repopulate Southern. From what we’ve experienced, and how common it seems to be for there to be crises of too few dragonriders, it seems like it would be a common practice to keep a green or two fertile in case population needs to ramp up in a hurry or something. But, of course, everything that happened in the past has been long since consigned to the memory hole. Plus, since this is aiming toward the idea of the original generation of dragonstuff, I have a feeling there’s not going to be a whole lot of the Todd era mentioned in this book.

While thinking about the situation at Southern, Piemur is really sympathetic to the idea of people who have been time-displaced, asked by their descendants to come fight Thread once again, right after they finished doing so in their own era, and who probably felt like they couldn’t refuse the call again.

In the four centuries that had elapsed between their time and the current Pass, attitudes, customs, and even aspects of the language had changed, and while most of the [time-skipped] had managed to adapt to their new lives, some of them had collided disastrously with the newer generation of weyrfolk, craftspeople, and holders.
Piemur knew all about the numerous clashes and claims of foul play that had occurred while the [time-skipped] resided in the Weyrs of the north, clashes that had grown so frequent that they culminated in a group of more than two hundred [time-skipped] moving to the Southern Continent where they could live by their old ways, unchallenged. But in a cruel twist of fate, while their northern peers embraced a new life for heroes, the Southerners’ inability to accept change not only made them exiles but also tarnished their reputations, turning them from heroes to castoffs.

That’s a solid point, actually. Think about what would have been common practices in the 1600s CE, in whatever society you would like to imagine, and then pluck them out of that context and drop them into our current environment. Even better, take someone who is used to being in charge and being obeyed and who doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and then drop them into this society.

Now, admittedly, since this is still pre-industrial Pern, it’s much more like taking someone from about the 1200s CE to the 1600s CE. In the “progress” form of history, that’s going from solidly in the Middle Ages to the Italian city-states, and so while a lot of things might look the same, like castles and swords, the whole society involved in how those castles and swords get used would have completely changed. It’s also nice that this time around that even Piemur recognizes that, despite their best attempts to keep the society static, there’s been a significant shift, even in the language. Plus, y’know, they’ve gone from being the top of the heap to slightly not the top of the heap and, worse, everyone else is expecting all sorts of different behaviors from them as if they were born and raised in this era, instead of having to relearn it all.

But also, it’s interesting to see this portrayed as a choice the Southerners made, as opposed to being sent that way by Benden, so this Piemur is also a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the time-skipped, even though he’s supposed to be reporting on them back to Robinton. Which seems like a change in characterization from the Piemur from before, as well, so I’m still having trouble trying to figure out how this fits.

So why is Piemur sympathetic to the time-skipped?

Piemur felt a stab of empathy for the [time-skipped] of Southern—he felt like a discard, too. No longer of any use as an apprentice at the Harper Hall, where his young singing voice had been extraordinary until the dreadful day when it broke, Piemur was now, at the age of just seventeen Turns, a castoff, stuck doing odd-jobber tasks until his Master found an alternative role for him. He clenched his jaw and and shook his head slightly, determined not to let his feelings of misfortune engulf him again. He’d been working hard to get past the loss of his voice and had no wish to wallow in self-pity anymore. What’s done is done, he reflected.

Cocowhat by depizan

Hang on, so this is post-Dragondrums Piemur, because Saneter has arrived as an official Harper, and he’s trained him, but yet this Piemur is feeling like an outcast, rather than having felt like he’s found himself again as the wanderer or as the person who’s foiled the great scheme, so I’m really confused about this characterization of him. And where we are in the timeline and how this book relates to the other ones that have Piemur in them. Because at the end of Dragondrums, Piemur had been installed as a Harper and a journeyman and was well on his way to feeling very fulfilled. And past that point, Piemur seems to be entirely okay with mapping the world, or at least not having to deal with other people for a good long while as he got over his crush on Sharra before ending up being part of the favored class of people to deal with the artificial intelligence. So I guess we really are in a Ninth Pass 3.0, one where things are different between Piemur and Southern and there’s more sympathy for the time-skipped.

Getting back to the plot, since he’s curious about what’s going on, Piemur sneaks on to the Hatching Ground to see what’s got everyone so riled up, and there’s a lot of clumps of tissue, feces, and eggshells, strewn about in defiance of the sparklingly-clean Grounds he’s used to seeing for dragons, and then a malformed egg. There’s something clearly not going well for the Southern dragons here. After he leaves the Hatching Grounds, Farli returns to Piemur, and after reviewing the imagery of where T’reb went, Piemur feels it’s urgent enough that he has to ride quickly to there so that he can learn more about the plan that T’reb is trying to hatch. And that’s the end of the first chapter.

So, be prepared for more alternate universe weirdness, I guess. And maybe, just maybe, we can hope for a Pern that’s more favorable to the audience of 2018.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 12th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is trying not to expend energy watching something that will be infuriating, specifically because the outcome is already predetermined.)

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.

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 thinking about starting something of your own, because I’ve been managing for a few years. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: The Big Finale

Last time, the orbital observation plan worked, with the observers managing to spot an odd thing above the world, and then the observers went at it with a vengeance against the Thread and killed it completely with no casualties by flaming it into dust right when it sheds its spore casing. Having demonstrated her competence yet again, Xhinna was rewarded with even more responsibility, getting six wings worth’ of blue and green riders to continue implementing this strategy, with bronze, brown, and gold riders as their catchers just in case one of the blues or greens passes out from anoxia due to the thin air of their altitude (air that they are burning up by additionally throwing flame at the Thread.) There have been a few close calls, but catching the dragon, then applying rescue breathing to the rider and a mental kickstart or something like that to the dragon has brought them back to consciousness and life.

And, quite possibly because he has a direct line to the author, but also, if we’re feeling charitable, because he might have managed to extrapolate that being so far out of phase before known falls might mean that there are other unknown falls, or possibly because he might have remembered what day it was when this event happened the first time, K’dan has ordered a bigger guard against the possibility that they might get surprised with a Threadfall of their own.

Sky Dragons, Chapters 19, 20, 21, 22, and the Epilogue: Content Notes: Major Character Death, Bury Your Neuroatypicals,

So, for whatever reason it is that K’dan wanted to order more watch, he turns out right, and there’s a surprise Threadfall over Eastern Isle, which the Skies immediately mobilize to defeat while things are high in the air. Xhinna realizes, while she’s in the middle of fighting it with her wings, that she observed the flashes when she was on the ground at Eastern, and now understands that she’s causing the thing that she had already observed, just so that we have one more time trick to show off before we hit the end chapters. And that specifically, this is the day where she warped herself and the fledglings back in time and across to the Western Isle because of the Thread that caught them without fighting dragons. I would have thought that day would have been seared in her mind, because of the panic that came with it. Or, perhaps, in K’dan’s mind, and that would give him an obvious reason to say “we need to really be on the lookout, because Thread falls tomorrow over where we were before, and we need to be sure we catch all of it.” They don’t actually catch all of it, so some of it burrows, but fire breaks get built to contain the damage, and so this particular Fall gets survived without casualties…almost.

“Danirry?” Xhinna said.
“We couldn’t catch her,” Jirana said, the tremble in her voice suddenly loud in Xhinna’s ears. Why hadn’t she heard it before? Why hadn’t she noticed the girl was crying?
“We tried,” Jirana said, lowering herself to her knees in front of Xhinna. “We tried. Laspanth and I almost caught her but—but we couldn’t—she slid off and we—”
“We lost her,” another voice added from the darkness in stone-cold tones. It was Jepara. She came up through the passage from the High Kitchen and sat next to Jirana, looking at Xhinna, her eyes spangled with tears. “I’m sorry, Xhinna, we tried but—we weren’t fast enough and—”
“Where is she?” Xhinna asked softly, trying to concentrate beyond the sound of Taria’s crying.
“She fell into the sea,” Jirana said. “We couldn’t find her.” She turned to Jepara. “They dived into the water, but they couldn’t find her.” She was silent for a moment, and then offered in solace, “I don’t think they felt any pain. Thy were out of air—they’d fainted and they didn’t even know what had happened.”
Xhinna wrapped a hand around Taria’s and clasped it tight. The green rider clenched her hand in return.
Xhinna looked at Jirana, saw the red-rimmed eyes in the dim evening light, saw the darker look in them, and realized—Jirana had known.
Worse, in the young queen rider’s eyes she could plainly see the future. Without words, Jirana’s sad, miserable expression told her: you’re next.

So the authors had a neuroatypical woman, who was a blue rider, at least crushing on Xhinna, at least on par with R’ney for brilliance, and they decided that she was the woman who was going to die from anoxia. And not only that, but she was going to die and neither her nor her dragon’s body was going to be recovered because they fell into the sea and couldn’t be recovered, somehow, despite Jirana and Jepara being right there to direct them as to where Danirry and her dragon entered the water. Which is not to say the current can’t be strong enough to sweep a dragon and their rider away, but the dragons are pretty big, and while these are not the dragons that have learned telekenesis, these are the dragons that are pretty good about warping to various positions, and surely a “we lost Danirry in the sea!” cry would have summoned dragons to find her, especially if she was unconscious at the time, and a whole bunch of dragons would be trying very hard to retrieve her.

But instead, at the end of Chapter 19, the authors have decided that the character to die has to be the brilliant woman, so that everyone else understands what kind of serious business this is. How do I know this?

Chapter 20: Farewell To A Dreamer

“Now we know the worst,” T’mar said as the Weyrleaders gathered in the Conucil Room of Sky Weyr’s stone hall early the next morning.

Yeah. It’s not quite a fridging, since her death isn’t for increasing manpain or getting the characters to go after a villain, but it’s definitely a choice to kill her, when there are so many other characters, nameless redshirts (or blueshirts and greenshirts in this case) or only-there-once characters, like Davissa, who could be used as the sacrificial fodder, if someone really did have to die to demonstrate how serious this problem is. As if the two previous situations where rescue technique had to be used didn’t help with that.

So, yes, Danirry’s dead, killed by the narrative. And I have the strong feeling that this was a choice, rather than something more like “threw a dart, Danirry’s name came up” for something like this.

Chapter 20 starts with the council talking about how hard they had to fight the burrow that landed but also that having this second point in time (that at least some of them should have remembered) means they’ve figured out what their schedule is for when Thread drops are and now they won’t be surprised again. Having achieved this task, K’dan suggests breaking up the Sky Wings and sending them back so they can “spread the knowledge and forget their pain.” H’nez (who has come a long way from the pompous ass his was, apparently, all credit to Jeila for no-nonsensing him until he changed) says that there’s always going to be casualties (which were, even though it was Danirry, much fewer than usually happens in the traditional method of fighting Thread). But K’dan says

“But to have them freeze to death or die by asphyxiation?” He shook his head. “That’s not honorable.”

And, as I’m sure that the Asshole would tell us, honor is much more important than anything else, when it comes to dragonriders.

What happens after this is basically a large outpouring of grief for Danirry’s death, reminding us that Xhinna (and Taria) agreed to raise the kids of any rider who died. Xhinna also wants R’ney to come live with her and Taria, and to think of them as family. (R’ney and Danirry’s child, Davinna, gets spirited off quickly by Mirressa to make sure she has enough milk, since she’s hungry and R’ney isn’t exactly the best option for breastfeeding.) The wing deliberately tries to make sure R’ney is looked after, and that Danirry will be remembered, since she’s saved the planet twice, and eventually Jepara prevails on Xhinna to make it a much bigger affair than the simple thing that Xhinna wanted.

And so now, as the sun matched the point at which Danirry’s final lifesaving cry had been uttered, the six Weyrs were all gathered, their wings arrayed in Flights and the Flights stacked on top of each other as the queens of all flew out to sea, their path lit by the dragons of all five Weyrleaders.
In the center of the V formation a single bright light—a torch to mark the lost rider and dragon—was seen, falling to the sea and sizzling out as it hit the water.
Then, in a brilliant burst of light, all the oldest dragons breathed fire into the air.
And then it was dark, quiet, and cold.
Weyr by Weyr they departed for their homes, until only the Sky wings remained stubbornly behind.
Rest well, blue rider, Xhinna thought, knowing her words would be echoed by Tazith to all the dragons surrounding them. You’ve earned it.

And that’s Chapter 20, with the solemn ceremony for the first (and, peeking ahead, almost only) fatality of the Skies.

Chapter 21: Feast for the Fallen

This chapter opens up with J’keran greeting Xhinna with a cask of beer. The first lines of the chapter are “K’dan approved it,” so we know that this isn’t illicit brew, and J’keran vouches for it being okay by saying it’s “Guaranteed to do the job and no more.” And, basically, for the first part of this chapter, Xhinna and a lot of the leadership gets blitzed. Which then leads to the second scene, where Xhinna has a hangover and Jirana and Jepara admit to being specifically the people who were to make sure that Xhinna never had an empty cup and to make sure that when she inevitably passed out, that she was carried to somewhere where she could sleep it off. Unfortunately, that hasn’t helped the mood all that much on the permanent. And they’ve still got nine months before they can warp back to the future, and there are a lot of tragedies that they’re going to feel along the way, like Lorana losing Arith and The Asshole getting his entire weyr stuck in the time knot that then causes grief for everyone. Which leads to an interlude about how the Asshole’s son didn’t come back when the rest of his Weyr did. We know what happened to D’lin, he’s the rider entombed that later generations will use as a warning about bad warping, but this prompts sympathy, that it “Must have been hard on D’gan” [ASSHOLE] to lose his son, and you know, that makes more sense the more I think about it, because someone can still be an asshole and you can have sympathy for their child dying or vanishing completely.

So, now that they’re back to being sober, the Skies have hatched a plan to go fight a Threadfall without their leader actually going anywhere, under the guise of taking part in training, but because there’s a lot of moving parts in this training exercise, they can’t really be expected to have visuals on everyone all the time, now can they? And so, there will be an entire fighting group that disappears to fight the next Threadfall (so continuity stays preserved) that Xhinna officially doesn’t know exists, but they need an additional wingsecond to make it work. And who presents themselves as a candidate but J’keran? And, at this point, having killed Danirry, it’s apparently time to redeem J’keran.

His life was forfeit to her and she’d given it to the Weyr and, more specifically, to Jirana, whose Mrreow-claw injuries had nearly killed her. Since then, J’keran had slowly transformed from the young girl’s guard to the guard of all the Hatching Grounds for all six Weyrs—and he took his duty very seriously. Since that day when Jirana had touched her queen Laspanth still in the shell and guided the dragonriders to destroy all the ravaging tunnel snakes, not a single egg had been lost. Much—perhaps most—due to J’keran.
Xhinna could sense R’ney’s outrage and Taria’s…challenge—it was not contempt—as clearly as though both were dragons. She understood R’ney’s feelings and spent a few moments coming to grips with Taria’s odd emotions before nodding to the man who stood before her, projecting strength, honesty, and—unless she missed her guess—pure, unadulterated terror.
“Your duty’s done,” Xhinna told him. “You have earned back your honor and your life.” Her eyes strayed to Jirana, who was bouncing on her feet, her throat moving with unspoken words, her eyes silently urging Xhinna on. “If they Weyrwoman is satisfied—”
“More than satisfied!” Jirana cried jubilantly.
“Then, with the Weyrleader’s permission,” Xhinna told J’keran, “I’d be honored to have you fly with us.”

Why J’keran for this? Why does he get a redemption arc at all in this? The attempted murder bit is still a big thing, and even though he’s been an effective and excellent guard, and sober all of this time, it’s all been basically off-screen, and now we’re supposed to believe that, basically, because we haven’t seen him but for tiny bits here and there, he’s changed himself completely to the point where they feel comfortable removing all of his restrictions and forgiving him fully. Which is not something that is impossible here, but because we haven’t seen him grow, we didn’t see him start out as someone who was more embarrassed at his shame and slowly became someone who did care and took his responsibilities seriously, it’s hard for me to believe that’s what’s happened here. It also galls me particularly hard that J’keran, who has done all sorts of bad things, and would have been a really good candidate for being sent on a run that had a high chance of death, gets redeemed and Danirry, who has been smart and the equal of R’ney and bisexual as hell gets killed to signify the difficulty of what’s going to happen. I’m bitter about this.

With this clandestine Threadfall attack arranged, Xhinna is on site. Mirressa’s dragon tumbles, which makes Xhinna realize that there’s nobody up observing things, so she pops up to space to try and find the Threadfall, which is described as “a line of what looked like large pebbles or stones, but dirtier” when it’s spotted. Knowing where to go, Xhinna calls forth the cavalry and sends herself and Tazith to go fight Thread. Something goes wrong for them, though.

A moment later, he and Xhinna were surprised when he opened his huge jaws and no flame burst forth. Warm, the blue said to her.
Xhinna blinked in surprise. Her teeth weren’t chattering anymore. She was warm, as if she were resting in a hot tub after a long day’s flying and flaming. Idly she wondered why the air was so warm. And why didn’t Tazith’s flame burst around the Thread?
It was getting dark, too. The colors were going gray and darkness was closing around from behind her. But she was warm, Tazith was warm. It was nice being warm.
And then the darkness closed in.

So, with all of that teeth chattering, I would be just as inclined to say that Xhinna’s suffering from hypothermia, rather than running out of oxygen, because one of the signs of lacking the appropriate amount of heat in the body is feeling like you have too much heat, instead. And yes, once it gets too pronounced, people do lose consciousness and potentially die if they’re not warmed up properly or left to continue dying. Of course, being Pern, they don’t have the scientific knowledge of how to do such a thing, but if necessary, something would get handwaved in, or it would be one of the secret forms of knowledge that somehow managed to survive so it could be useful here.

Chapter 22: The Kiss of Hope

None of that gets used, though, and I think we’re supposed to believe that Xhinna did a garden-variety passing out that requires rescue breathing.

Someone was crying. They’d been crying a long time because they were in that awful, horrible heaving stage where they could barely breathe and when they did, all they could do was sob some more.
It was cold. The ground was cold. She was freezing.
Someone was kissing her.
“Breathe!” she heard someone beg. “Breathe, please breathe!”
Whoever was kissing her was doing a poor job. Xhinna tried to respond and then—
“Ewwww! Yuk!” another voice cried and the lips were gone as the voice spat, “Ptah, yuk! She tried to kiss me!”
“Move away!” Another voice, the one that had ordered her to breathe, said irritably, and then there were lips on hers once more, lips that she knew, and suddenly Xhinna realized that she was alive, lying on cold, hard stone, and that the first kisser had been—
[…Jepara, as we are about to find out…]
“Ptui, ptui, ptui!” Jepara said, still trying disgustedly to remove the last vestiges of her life-giving kiss from her lips. She eyed Xhinna and said darkly, “Don’t ever expect me to do that again!”
Xhinna heard a gasp and looked up to see Jirana launching herself at her.
“You’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive!” Jirana cried at the top of her lungs, grabbing Xhinna tightly around the middle and kissing her madly with relief. Jirana pulled back, her face crumpling as she said, “You were blue, you were dead. I saw it.”
“And now you’ve seen me breathing the life back into her,” Jepara said sourly. She looked down at Xhinna and ordered, “Don’t ever make me have to do that again!”

And so Jirana turns out not to be wrong, as such, but for the first time in this entire book, her Sight turned out not to have given her a complete picture. And, I suspect, the author is using Jepara as the character for the not-romantic kissing, because Jepara has been characterized throughout as someone who is gruff, grumpy, and crabby, but actually cares a lot about the people she’s with. And, I suspect, because the author finds it funny for the always-het gold rider to be completely grossed out at the idea of being kissed by a woman.

Having finished the final setpiece of Xhinna cheating death, we’re told that both her and Mirressa are perfectly fine, and Xhinna, Jepara, and Taria order Jirana to start talking more about her visions, which Jirana says “can’t break time” over, but the others insist that they’ll keep Jirana’s secrets, with Xhinna saying “If it worries you, try me first.”

Epilogue: Eight Months Later

Having cleared the last hurdle for this book with Xhinna nearly dying, the rest of the time passes without major incident, and the only other fatality, Cliova, also dies of altitude sickness, which prompts Xhinna to change her tactics so that everyone actually stays with their catchers all the time, instead of haring off every now and then. Everything gets wound down properly, the last hatching happen, and many of the dragons have already been transported to Igen for their eventual assignments. All that’s left, of course, is for the last signal to be given, and K’dan has chosen for Xhinna to give the final go, as one last swipe at her.

“He’s twitting you and he’s right,” the ex-dragonrider shouted in her ear. He waved a hand down at the thousands of dragons below them. “It’s your right—you’ve earned it, dragonrider.”
Xhinna groaned, then joined in the ex-dragonrider’s bellow of laughter.
You’d think, Xhinna mused, that by now I’d learn to give in gracefully.
Never, Tazith replied.
Very well, Xhinna said, taking one last, long, wistful look at the broom trees and the Weyr that had given them life. Let’s go.
As one, on her command, the dragons of the Western Isle blinked out between to return, triumphant, to the fight to save Pern.

And that’s the end of this book, with the dragon plague handled, the time knot unraveled, the Skies triumphant, and all of this about to be officially swept under the rug and never mentioned again.

We don’t know what happens with the politics that was happening when Fiona warped back, and whether Fiona will be better able to press her claim to Telgar when she re-arrives with thousands of dragons. And all the records of the women riders, despite there being hundreds of them, possibly thousands of them, are just going to disappear and not be thought of again, apparently, until Mirrim reintroduces them to the idea of women riding fighting dragons many hundreds of years later. This still feels like there was probably at least one more book planned, to have one more crisis appear. Maybe to deal with the Asshole at Telgar trying to reassert himself, or that he causes all sorts of trouble with the people around his Weyr and he has to be removed in some non-obvious way. But, this book having been completed, and the primary author dead, this was the end of the Dragonriders of Pern.

At least, when this series of examinations started, this was the end of the Dragonriders of Pern. Which would have been a lot of a feeling of incompleteness, like many things are when the author dies before the series is completed. That said, Todd had already attempted a series of his own, so there would have been plenty of opportunity to try and get this era done and set in some way that felt a little less “and they warped back into a terrible situation with active Threadfall, an actively hostile Weyrleader, and a completely terrible governmental system, but at least they finally had enough dragons to ride out the Threadfall.” But that doesn’t happen. Instead, Pern stops, and turns itself over to the care of its fans, even with the menacing part that says only the children of Anne are allowed to write in the world of Pern. And then, six years later, the other official writer of Pern produces a novel, so there’s still one more book to go.

I am really very happy to see the Todd era come to an end, and, having gone through it, I can see how many fans of Pern would pretend this era never existed, because of all the ways that it messed with the continuity established in the Ninth Pass books, the decisions to play up the youngness of the protagonists and the decisions and situations they are choosing to engage with, especially regarding dragonrider and watch-wher mating flights, and the incredible events that happen, as well as the development of time-traveling powers and scientific achievements, that all simply vanish into the dustbin of history, rather than being specifically passed down from rider to rider over time. It has not been a good era, especially for gender things, even though there’s all of these women riders around, because there’s a lot of hypercompetence required of them, and none of the authors seem to believe in the idea of a lesbian being solely interested in women, nor for economic issues, as the weaknesses of vassals feudalism are on full display, on addition to the cruelty that comes from people with power being able to arbitrarily designate other people as untouchable and excluded from society. If this were approached with care and intent on how the Pern concept would be nightmarish if brought into reality, I would have said the Todd books would have succeeded mightily as deconstructive works, but they don’t show that kind of self-awareness.

And we still don’t know who Xelinan’s father is, although I suspect we’re supposed to conclude it’s R’ney, because he’s fathered so many children, and he’s one of the few dudes who would not be strutting around the camp bragging about how he nailed Xhinna.

In any case, we’ll start Dragon’s Code next week.

Deconstruction Roundup for February 5th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is caught in a slight panic between hoping the vaccinations arrive in time and when the bosses are going to demand that places start opening up again.)

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

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

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 starting to see the end of a project and wondering what to do next. Or for any other reason, really.

Sky Dragons: Space Force, Go

Last time, more of the details of the orbital plot were revealed to us, and we had our first near-fatality when Mirressa and her dragon passed out and had to be revived with rescue breathing and the combined will of other riders and their dragons to restart hearts from stoppage. And while this was a potentially preventable affair (and there were immediate measures to prevent a repeat of passing out), Jirana confided in Xhinna that there is much more disaster to come, and Xhinna was almost able to have a real moment of empathy for Jirana based on them both being people in exceptional situations and having the entire weight of the survival of the Isle placed on them more than once. The narrative, however, intervened and chose, instead, to suggest that Jirana is somehow being spoiled by all the attention she’s received before going on a long tangent about children, including showcasing that Xhinna seems to have adopted Fiona’s policies about having lots of kids in her and Taria’s bed, even if Taria is less sanguine about the matter.

Sky Dragons: Chapter Nineteen: A Flame In The Void: Content Notes: Standing on someone’s anxiety triggers,

Chapter Nineteen opens up with J’riz coming to talk with Xhinna. He’s brought klah because they’re sending up the first serious orbital observation rotation this morning. While Xhinna hopes that she manages to sneak out of the bed without disturbing anyone, she’s wrong, but Taria and the others eventually settle back down. Early morning waking time settled, Xhinna arrives at the infirmary, where Mirressa and Bekka are having a discussion about who’s going to look after the children while there are dragons up in the sky. Which eventually resolves in a particularly Pernese way.

“Actually,” Xhinna interposed smoothly. “I’ve already arranged with Fiona.”
Mirressa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and she started to protest, but Xhinna cut her off. “It’s not as though she doesn’t owe us, after all.”
“But—”
“You, in particular,” Xhinna cut across the green rider’s incipient objection.
“She’s right, and you know it,” Bekka said. She smiled at the green rider, adding, “And why do you think she’s used you so unmercifully to sit her brood if she didn’t intend return payment?”
Mirressa’s objections died on her lips as she digested Bekka’s words.
“And it’s not as if she won’t pester my mother or Aressil or Colfet or any one of a dozen others to help at it,” J’riz added with a grin.

The particular Pernese way, in this case, being that someone decides that since they’ve been used sufficiently, they’re just going to drop a problem in the lap of the person that’s been using them, without giving them the opportunity to say no. That Fiona is sufficiently able to get others to do what she wants anyway increases their willingness to ditch her, but it’s interesting to see this done without any apparent concern that Fiona will use her gold rider status to exact revenge on them or to escalate after this particular revenge is given. Fiona won’t, because she’s a designated protagonist and Good Person, and if the prediction holds true, she’ll shuck all the kids she doesn’t want to look after on other people, telling them they’ve been volunteered for the job. Given how other dragonriders have been about having things dropped in their lap, depending on what color the person doing the dropping is, I feel like this particular strategy only is going to succeed because it’s Fiona. The Asshole At Telgar certainly wouldn’t be so cheerful or accepting of such a thing were it to happen to him, even if it weren’t also childcare. Appealing to a higher-colored rider’s sense of fairness always seems like a risky proposition to me, especially given what we’ve seen of how the bronze and gold riders can be about what they think is fair.

There’s also some reinforcement of the idea that Bekka likes people who are going to be brats to her.

“I made the boy get it [firestone, in this case],” Bekka said, nodding toward J’riz, who tried his best to look put upon. With any other person, J’riz’s brilliant green eyes and miserable look would have at least won an “Ahhh!” of sympathy, but Bekka merely swatted him on the arm. “Guide them up—I don’t need their broken necks to deal with on top of everything else.”
“As you say, Weyrwoman,” J’riz returned with a low and overly obsequious bow. Bekka snarled at him and he took off like a wounded Meeyu, Xhinna and Mirressa trailing behind, neither of them taken in by the act.

And, of course, our call-back to the idea that J’riz is a heartbreaker who is going to use his cute to the greatest advantage that he has, even if those who are wise to him are less likely to fall for his charms. Seriously, Bekka has the worst bedside manner. But she seems to find people that enjoy working with her and that she seems to enjoy teasing and being the disciplinarian for. Whatever dynamic works for you. Although I kind of wish the authors would have everybody being old enough where this could be made into something more intentional and an adult decision, rather than it being all subtext and for everyone’s ages to have to be thought about rather prominently, because so many of them are not of age to make those decisions as adults, at least to the Terran readership, even if they’re probably well past the marriageable age on Pern.

So! The first day of the orbital tour is, apparently, following the sun around the planet, using the Dawn Sisters as the first reference point and then handing off the coordinate picture to the next group to come up and look, and basically trying to stay squarely in the middle of wherever the sun is shining on the planet. Since Xhinna’s shift goes first, they use the Dawn Sisters as their reference point of where to jump to for observations, going up at sunup and staying there for their shift. The handoff for the sun chase goes smoothly, there’s a lot of post-observation awe and chatter about what they’ve just done, and Jirana and her queen group, as well as plenty of the other queen riders (apparently on orders from Bekka) burst in to demand their turn to go up and see the planet from orbit. Which gets handled relatively quickly and smoothly.

The narrative then says that for this unscheduled trip,

They arrived near the Dawn Sisters when they were midway across the Western Isle

surprising the observers on shift, and then, after this jaunt,

At the start of the next watch, Xhinna and Mirressa got their image from the last pair of Jirelli’s wing and went up to the Dawn Sisters

, and then later, there’s this:

They can’t see us, can they? Mirressa relayed through her Valcanth to Xhinna.
The Dawn Sisters are bright lights in the sky, Xhinna relayed back by way of answer.

which violates the idea that the Dawn Sisters are in a geostationary orbit or any sort, and contradicts earlier books that specifically say the Dawn Sisters do not move across the sky. I understand why this kind of mistake would be made, because, after all, the name “geostationary” makes someone think that the crafts aren’t moving, but it’s about relative movement in orbit, rather than absolute movement. The sort of thing that is easy for us to discover on the World Wide Web at this point in time, using The Other Wiki, for example, as it even has graphics that demonstrate that geostationary orbits are always staring down at the same patch of land. So, as described, this plan definitely does not work. It’s simple enough to fix, by removing the “midway across the Western Isle” part so that Xhinna and company pop up where the Dawn Sisters are to do their observations, or to change the narrative so that Xhinna and company use the imagery provided by the last observation shift to pop up next to the current ones and startle them slightly by being there, and substituting “Rukbat” or “the sun” for the Dawn Sisters as the bright object that’s in the sky. Ground observers wouldn’t be able to see the dragons in the sky if the dragons always put themselves between the planet and the sun, causing a tiny eclipse with their bodies, unless the observer knew exactly what to point their telescope at and used a proper polarizing filter so that looking at the sun didn’t fry their eyeballs.

And then we have information that should have been relayed much earlier, when I was going on for a significant amount of time about how everyone on the ground should be able to successfully calculate the time in which their Threadfalls begin, if they know when Threadfall begins.

“We need to start keeping an eye out for Thread,” Xhinna said to Avarra and Jerilli later as the watch riders took post with the dawn over Telgar Weyr.
“I thought we had a month at least,” Avarra protested.
“We can’t be certain,” Xhinna said. “We know there were dustfalls before the Fall over Benden, Bitra, and Tillek.”

Which would not have been all that hard to include earlier so that the reader was properly informed that there was variability as to when Thread actually started, necessitating this orbital observation plan in the first place, rather than waiting until the plan was underway to provide justification for its existence. Blargh.

With one final wrongness about the Dawn Sisters, phase two of the plan, which makes much more sense and would potentially work to spot Thread, is unveiled.

“So when we’ve followed the Dawn Sisters back here, what’s next?” Avarra asked.
“Then we start our proper watch,” Xhinna told her. “We’ll need a watch stationary over Benden from sunrise to sunset, same with Telgar and High Reaches—”
“That should let us see everything there,” Jerilli agreed.
“And we’ll keep the same length of watch here over the Great Isles.”
“We’ll have fourteen hours over the Northern Continent, but only eleven over our own,” Jerilli noted. When Avarra grunted in confusion, Jerilli explained, “We only get eight hours of sunlight in one place; there’s six hours’ difference between Benden and High Reaches, whereas we’ve only got three at best between the easternmost of Eastern and the westernmost of Western.”

At which point I scream in aggravation, because not only did we not have the information about the dustfalls earlier in time, we didn’t have an indication that the time zones had already been figured out and/or know, both of which would have curbed several of the objections I had to the plan as originally discussed and decided upon. We know they don’t use them, but right now, a beta and an editor really would have helped put the correct information in the correct places so the whole thing would flow better and not contain glaring errors about the ships in orbit around Pern.

Moving on.

Because there’s a time discrepancy, there’s also a shift discrepancy that needs to be ironed out. Xhinna says she’s open for suggestions, which everyone else takes to mean “I have an idea already,” and they’re not wrong. It happens to be that Xhinna and the other wingleaders agree about staying up a little bit longer for each shift and for staggering things properly so there’s always a new pair up to check on the old ones and make sure they’re not extending themselves past their ability. With that ironed out, the observers settle into their schedules to wait. And very quickly (within six days) become bored of staring at the same spot for hours upon end without anything changing. Right after grumbling that there might be a mere nineteen days to go before the first known Threadfall, there’s a Threadfall reported over Bitra, and Xhinna and company pop up to the orbiting space to confirm what’s going on.

Xhinna quickly found Bitra. There, dark smudges seemed to mar the landscape. She looked around, saw the rest of her wing form around her, and called to her blue, Take us there!

And it is, in fact, Thread that is falling, but they’ve spotted it before it fully unspools itself into the silver rain, which means their altitude is too high to effectively ignite the air and the Thread, so Danirry tells the dragons to fall with it and then unleash their flame on the Thread as it makes the transition from space spore to deadly organism, which is effective. And, for the first time in basically all of these books, we get to see the transition.

Xhinna looked at the Thread, so tantalizingly close, deadly, threatening. The clumps were changing, glowing with a heat of their own and—extending, growing, streaming into—
Thread! Tazith bellowed, bursting forth with another belch of firestone—this time it lit and the streaming Thread in front of him caught fire, crisped, and charred into nothingness

Having figured out the effective altitude to wallop Thread at, Xhinna calls Avarra and Jeilli to her and the wings roast the Thread completely, everyone extremely happy that they’re finally getting actual combat practice and breaking the routine they have otherwise been suffering from.

That said, apparently “dark smudges” over somewhere is enough to call down the alarm as to what is being sought after. Everyone who has seen Thread before has seen it as the silvery rain that it becomes after the heat of atmospheric entry causes the spores to shed their space travel covers, so I would have expected the call to be much more “Is this Thread?” rather than “This is Thread!” I am entirely okay with the orbital observers going “That’s not the usual weather patterns, those aren’t the usual clouds, we should go investigate that,” but unless someone has already seen it transform, or someone magically already knows what Thread looks like before it unspools, I can’t really believe they have that kind of certainty.

After jubilation about effectively crushing Thread for the first time, when K’dan and Fiona come by and suggest that perhaps they should report in about what happened, Fiona makes a statement that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Danirry’s Kiarith reported to everyone, and you knew that Xhinna and her—ahem—consorts were going to fight the Thread.

Okay, so who’s present at this hugging session? Xhinna, R’ney, Davissa, Danirry. Of these four, Xhinna’s connected to R’ney through Taria and the children, to Danirry because Danirry, we’ve been told, has a monster crush on Xhinna (and possibly has become intimate with R’ney as well, given that Xhinna blushed when she interrupted them together?) and Davissa is just part of the wing. I don’t believe she has any connection to Xhinna in any intimate way. If there are any jokes about who’s consorting with whom, it should be focused on R’ney, since he’s the one with the demonstrated, or at least insinuated, big ball of polyamory going on. Instead, Fiona makes this crack about Xhinna and insinuates that she’s the one who’s got a partner in every weyr. For this to be seen as a much more joking affair, I feel like Xhinna should swipe back with something like “I learned from the best, clearly,” so that the reader understands there’s no malice in either tease or response.

As it is, Danirry is over the moon about how her plan worked perfectly. However,

“Uh, dear…,” R’ney prompted.
At this, Danirry seemed to realize that she’d left a few important words out—a habit of hers that her fellow blues and greens had come to accept, but which was foreign to most others.
[…Danirry starts her explanation, but it’s not particularly illuminating to the others, apparently…]
“Please explain, blue rider, and assume that we’ve never heard what you’re talking about before,” Fiona said.
“Because we haven’t,” R’ney added, reaching forward to poke the blue rider affectionately on the shoulder. “Once again, dear heart, you forget what you haven’t told us.”
“Oh,” Danirry said, only slightly repentant.

(Okay, so yes, clearly, Danirry and R’ney are a thing together, thank you narrative, and also, see above about how R’ney should be getting the harem joke.)

As I recall, from earlier chapters, this was a thing that R’ney also did, so I’m kind of happy that two people with compatible neuroatypicalities are doing well together and are being supportive of each other. Although I think that R’ney could probably do a little bit better in the supportive department. I’m also glad that the people who are around Danirry have adjusted to this particular thing, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting anyone’s ability to do things or their opinion of Danirry.

That said, Danirry’s explanation is a little strange to the Terran audience.

“Well, it’s just that I thought—well, Thread burns, right?”
K’dan nodded slowly.
“And it grows; it eats things,” Danirry continued. “So it’s something that lives and needs air.” She glanced around, her eyes darting quickly toward K’dan and Fiona before coming to rest on Xhinna as she took a deep breath. “So I figure that it lives, then while it’s in the cold of space it must be dead—”
“Dead?” K’dan repeated, his brows furrowed.
“Asleep, like a seed out of the ground,” Danirry said. “Inert, if you will.”
“I see,” K’dan said.
“So when it falls, something has to wake it, as it were, or it would still be a seed when it hit the soil, wouldn’t it?”
“We’re with you,” R’ney said encouragingly.
“So I figured that when it woke up would be when it was most vulnerable, when it would be smallest and easiest to destroy,” Danirry continued. She looked K’dan full in the eyes as she concluded, “Just when it was spooling out into Thread. Just where there was enough air to slow it down, enough air that we could flame it into dust.”
“By the first Egg!” Fiona swore in awe. She glanced to K’dan.
“It worked?” K’dan asked.
“Perfectly,” Xhinna said, moving to Danirry’s side and hugging the blue rider’s shoulders. She glanced toward Avarra and Jerilli. “Not a dragon or rider injured, and no Thread reached the ground.”

This feels like one of those times where someone who has a scientific mind is trying to explain a concept that she doesn’t actually have the words for. Because it would be a lot easier for her to say “Thread is in a dormant phase until the friction from atmospheric entry removes the spore casing, at which point it becomes vulnerable to dragon fire,” but if she said that, she’d have to go back and explain all of those things all the same, I suspect. And it’s an interesting property of Thread, apparently, that as it loses the casing, it becomes a lot more subject to drag and thermals and other such things. Describing it as “rain” has been a bit of a misnomer throughout all of these books, but I suppose it’s the best thing they have, a rain with clumps that’s affected by wind so it blows in unexpected directions.

Anyway, having discovered a new point to start making calculations from, the entire Western Isle group is a-flutter that they’re way out of sync with what they’ve already experienced, before Danirry suggests that the reason everything is so out of phase, and there’s only dustfall instead of Threadfall is because the Sky Dragons have already cleaned it up using their upper-atmosphere techniques. Which, again, appear to work perfectly well because…Thread doesn’t behave erratically when it’s coming out of the spore shell? Because they’re high enough up that there isn’t any wind? I don’t know, but it sounds like this technique can be used to destroy Thread in neat rows or ways without risking the dragonriders to Thread. So long as they hit the timing and altitude windows correctly, which everyone is very enthusiastic about and resources are rearranged and reallocated to make sure there’s enough catching dragons for the Skies to attempt this new technique multiple times in the future.

Before we go forward to this plan of running several secret high-altitude Thread destruction, Fiona and K’dan have more…teasing isn’t the right word, but it’s close, because what they’re doing is standing hard again on how much Xhinna doesn’t want attention, even if she’s really competent at what she’s being asked to do. (Because all of Xhinna’s life experiences to this point have told her that getting attention is negative attention.)

“Flightleader?” Xhinna exclaimed when Fiona and K’dan sprang their latest surprise on her the next morning in the High Kitchen.
“Well, ‘Weyrleader’ seems a bit much,” K’dan told her, barely able to keep the grin off his face.
“Although Flightleader is an insult, because you’ll be in charge of two Flights,” Fiona added. She turned to K’dan, suggesting “Over-leader?”
“No,” Xhinna said, raising her hands in horror. She knew how persuasive Fiona could be, especially with the Weyrleader. Well, actually, pretty much with all the Weyrleaders. It was absolutely necessary to nip this in the bud. “No, anything but that!”
“So, Flightleader it is,” Fiona said triumphantly.
“Still,” K’dan began, clearly enjoying himself, “it’s not quite right, because you’ll be in charge of six wings.”
Flightleader will do fine,” Xhinna muttered. Shaking her head, she looked across the table at the two of them. Settling her gaze on Fiona, she accused, “You set me up for this.”
“Well, of course,” Fiona agreed easily. “Although far be it from me to suggest that perhaps you actually earned it—”
“No, that would be my job,” K’dan inserted. He grinned at Xhinna. “You’ve got all the qualifications. And, you’ll note, the other Weyrleaders all saw fit to send their best—”
“And not a bronze among them,” Xhinna noted tartly.
“Well, that’s not fair,” Fiona said, her light tone evaporating. “Jirana makes too much sense with her notion of catching falling dragons—”
[…they point out that it has worked when needed, but because of how much help is needed to catch bigger dragons, they’ll stick with the lighter ones in the Sky Wings, which Fiona has also just sprung on Xhinna…”]
“Sky Wings?” Xhinna interrupted.
“Well, I don’t think Space Wings makes much sense,” Fiona continued, thoroughly enjoying herself, “as you’re not really up in space for all that long, after all.”
“Sky Wings,” Xhinna repeated with a long sigh of resignation. She was rewarded with chuckles from the Weyrwoman and Weyrleader, which is what she’d intended.

Specifically, they’re assholes because they should know by now that promoting Fiona and giving her new titles and new names for things is exactly the worst thing to do to her, and they are clearly taking delight in doing this, rather than doing something like this with less flash and fanfare and more asking Xhinna if she’s comfortable with this thing and then just assigning people as needed to her. But it seems like Fiona and K’dan both enjoy torturing Xhinna with these kinds of rewards for her competence that only increase her profile and make her even more of a target for people who think that women shouldn’t be doing any of these things. And increases Xhinna’s pressure on herself, as well. If the authors were trying to show us how terrible these previous protagonists have become in the intervening time, they did an excellent job. After outlining the new plan and the new duties, Fiona can’t help but tease Xhinna one final time.

“Catching wings,” Fiona mumured approvingly and then, with a cry that startled everyone she shouted “Sky wings! Skyleader!”
Xhinna raced out before Fiona could formally pin the appelation on her.

Because, of course, you can’t have this sort of thing happening unless you have a name for it and you can spread that name around as much as possible so that everyone knows it and uses it. As opposed to, say, what the actual situation on the ground might be for this kind of thing:

Reflecting on the numerous times she and Jirana had ridden in Search, she knew that the odds were more than even that any blue or green rider would be female. The older riders, in a distinct but revered minority, found the change both difficult and pleasing.
“At least I don’t have to look at your old scarred face all the time!” was a common refrain among some of them. Several had been skeptical initially, believing that women wouldn’t be up to the rigors of riding a fighting dragon, but Xhinna had been at the forefront of dismantling that concern. Still, she found herself having to fight the fear that these new wingleaders and their wings had been assigned to her because they weren’t good enough to be considered good enough to fight in “proper” wings.
When she thought about it, though, she realized that if fighting Thread at the heights worked as well as it had the first time, it would be these six wings that would bear the brunt of fighting Thread for the foreseeable future—not the “proper” wings flying in the thicker, warmer air near the ground. So it would be up to Xhinna to be sure that these wings could meet the challenge.
All the faces were familiar to her. They looked at her expectantly and almost with awe. She’d Searched them; she’d assured them as young girls and women that they could become dragonriders, that there was a hope for them far beyond the dank confines of their dying cotholds and fallow fields. She, Jirana, Taria, and a few others had been the ones to warn them for the first time about between, to bring them forward in time from the end of the Plague years to the lush Western Isle where they had begun new lives.

So, yet again, we have the situation where Xhinna is not wrong in thinking that the men riders are going to think that the women riders aren’t able to hack it and they’ll have to keep continuously proving it to hem, even though they’ve already been proving that they are able to do things. This is one of those things where I think the authors didn’t intend for their novel to match the reality of their readers, but they nailed it and have been doing so perfectly, repeatedly, to the point that a reader or editor who’s a man might start complaining about how it’s unrealistic that the women keep having to prove themselves and that the men characters seem to be more interested in how pretty the women riders look rather than their competence. Even though it’s completely realistic that this keeps happening and they keep having to do it and that K’dan and Fiona are being completely useless about it, instead coming up with new titles and springing all of this on Fiona for their own amusement while they put a significant amount of new pressure and expectations on her. (We knew K’dan was useless, but Fiona apparently has become the same, and a reader who wanted to could probably claim that the author very specifically decided to make Fiona useless now that she has her children with her again, because gender roles and being a “proper” Weyrwoman or other such bullshit.)

In any case, Xhinna meets with all of the people who are going to lead the wings and help Xhinna achieve the orbital bombardment plan, learns that all the things she needs to plan for have been planned for, save Jepara and Jirana wanting to participate in the flaming plan instead of the catching plan, but the narrative tells us it’s not completely important and is resolved quickly, before moving on to a scene where Jirana gets clingy, Xhinna gets aggravated at her clinginess, and the two of them go off to talk alone, where Xhinna correctly deduces that Jirana is being this way because she’s seen Xhinna die and is trying to spend as much time with her as possible. So Xhinna tells Jirana that she should talk with Seban, since he understands things like death, and for once in the narrative, Jirana admits she could be wrong about this, and Xhinna chooses not to give any credence to that idea.

“I could be wrong,” Jirana said in a small voice. “I hope I’m wrong.”
Xhinna wasn’t sure how much credence to put in the young Seer’s hopes. Thus far, she’d been right about everything.

Because now the drama is in Jirana being right, rather than in Jirana being wrong, so now everyone is certain that Jirana can’t be wrong about anything. This, I think, is also the first time that Jirana has expressed the possibility that she might be wrong, and it’s specifically because she doesn’t want to lose Xhinna.

Right after this, K’dan arrives and wants to double the watch because he’s worried they’re still going to get caught out by Thread falling out of phase. He’s going to be right, making him useful, for once, and Xhinna is going to recognize that a thing that she saw earlier on in her own timeline is something that she’s caused to happen. However, we’re going to wait to talk about the fallout from that particular event until next week, when, hopefully, we finally finish this book and the second author’s run.

Additionally, the catching wings that are going to be on standby are going to contain all of the green queens. As was brought to our attention in the comments earlier, the technique of spotting tunnel snakes is something that can be taught, but there’s still some worry about whether or not this last clutch of eggs is going to be okay if all the green queens are on catch duty. Fiona reassures Xhinna that there’s no need for worry on that, between the guards and the constant contact between queens and eggs. But again, that technique can be taught, so that we don’t need to have worries about queens being away from the eggs if the tunnel snakes attack. The amount of things that get forgotten in this book are pretty impressive.

Deconstruction Roundup for January 29th, 2021

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is currently concerned that people are going to see the preventative measures being rolled out and assume they don’t need more preventative measures after that.)

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.

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 starting to think about what other content is needed. Or for any other reason, really.