Dragonflight: Plot Contrivances

(by Silver Adept)

When we last left our band of protagonists, everyone was converging on Ruatha Hold, ostensibly to look for a candidate to ride a soon-to-be-hatched dragon, even though just about everyone is sure or trying to make sure no suitable candidates are available. Except one woman.

Dragonflight, Part II: Content Notes: Misogyny, murder most foul, classism in spades, abuse, animal abuse, childbirth

This part opens with Lessa doing her drudge work as everyone around her flat-out panics – Fax is coming, and he has dragonriders with him. This perks Lessa’s ears, because, unlike the poor superstitious [Oh la la!] around her, she knows the truth about dragonriders, and intends to use them to retake her rightful lands.

Wait, what?

We’re going to sacrifice a story about a talented woman making a meteoric rise in favor of a hidden princess story, with the Unfortunate Implications that come along with it? So that nobody has to feel uncomfortable about how a member of the untouchable class had exactly what they were looking for, but was able to successfully hide in plain sight because nobody believed that talent could come from such lower-class almost non-humans? How, for all their veneration of Tradition (Traditioooooon!) and of Might Makes Right, neither Fax nor F’lar has been able to conceive that Lessa could exist?

Oh, fine. Onward, then.

Apparently, even though Lessa doesn’t believe any of the more fanciful stories about dragonriders, she does believe that they are somehow incorruptible, unable to be provoked or manipulated in obvious ways, and otherwise Inherently Superior to others. In short, she believes what F’lar believes about himself (although F’lar doesn’t extend that courtesy to other riders, since his ego gets in the way of his compassion). This dragonrider-veneration seems…out of place for Lessa, especially because we are then treated to a rundown of how easily corruptible and manipulatable all the people who have been in charge of her have been to this point – greedy, vain, looking out for their own profits, and incompetent – except for the first one, who showed too much intelligence and ability, so Lessa murdered him. And regrets his death, even though she can’t recall his name.

Onward, though, to Ruatha, where Lessa, revenge-obsessed sociopath, is already adept at guerilla warfare and sabotage. Lessa has apparently been aiding the growing of grass in the Hold, a big no-no for reasons that have yet to be revealed, although we finally get the first mention of Thread, the deadly organism that consumes all organic matter that it touches in single-minded devotion, here. In addition to her high crimes, such as murder and sabotage, we get the impression, and then a litany of proof, that Lessa has a long list of drudgery misdemeanors to her credit as well, starting a lack of fire in the hearth to warm Fax and company and continuing through the complete sabotage of the kitchen, apparently unnoticed by no less than three assistant cooks through the whole sequence, one of which Lessa sabotages directly by picking the wrong spice for him. Then again, considering an assistant cook sets her to a task by beating her and kicking her, perhaps we should be less surprised that things fall apart and people mysteriously end up dead.

Lessa’s sabotage, however, is too good to be real. At least, in a world where the drudges are supposedly only good for menial labor, and apparently require beatings to get them to their tasks, that is. I can’t imagine any cook that beats the kitchen staff would trust them to do something correctly unsupervised. The cook she sabotages with the wrong spice should know immediately that it’s wrong. The other cooks in charge of the bread and the meat should be able to spot or feel too hot of a fire, or notice the spit turning improperly (especially since they use tied-up dogs to turn the spit) or smell things burning and salvage them. Lessa should not be able to do this in this close of quarters, unless everyone around her is spectacularly unobservant. Or there’s something else going in her favor, like allies or friendly folk who see her doing things and turn a blind eye because they hate Fax as much as she does.

As this segment draws to a close, we hear of a few other acts of Lessa’s, where good linens are eaten by bugs, soiled by dogs, and the bedrooms are dirty because someone left the windows open just enough. Those acts I can believe, because they can happen out of sight or be just wrong enough to look right. And it’d not like they can run out to a department store for replacements.

The next segment opens with a suspicious F’lar, who doesn’t buy the story that the watch-wher [orig: watch-wehr] (from Part One) is an old creature and prone to nonsense, because with his special dragon-augmented mental powers, he sees the signs of manipulation, and because he’s certain that Ruatha couldn’t have fallen this far apart in ten Turns of the planet. F’lar has met Fax and seen what kind of asshole he is, and has already been asked by someone to kill Fax, because Fax is that big of an ass to dragonrider traditions, and presumably can see the decay around him. F’lar can’t accept that institutions can crumble rapidly, or that his traditions were probably swiftly superceded by the immediate reality of Fax’s tyrannical rule, because Fax is still both hidebound and possessed of an inflated ego. Since he can’t accept nature, it must be sabotage!

…or that would be the case, if the narrative wasn’t invested in making F’lar out to be always right, and giving him the special “I saw what nobody else does!” badge to burnish said ego with. This scene would work so much better if F’lar believed this [Ay carumba!] happened because of the traditions not being followed and F’nor is the one to notice Lessa’s Jaegermonster-subtle acts of sabotage and start following up on it, leaving F’lar to look for any good-enough excuse to kill Fax in a duel of honor. Instead, F’lar gets to look good and promote his theory that someone in Ruatha survived Fax’s genocide to his brother’s more skeptical and realistic position.

And then there is food. Lessa-sabotaged food, unpalatable to everyone, which only aggravates Fax more and more until he slips and gives F’lar an opening.

The day one of my Holds cannot support itself or the visit of its rightful overlord, I shall renounce it.

And just in case we missed that this is a Very Important Thing, the dragons spontaneously roar, prompted by a flash of whatever special power F’lar has…and with a feminine touch, too. Lessa most likely thought she gave a subtle indication of her unvarnished joy as such a slip-up.

F’lar tries to find whichever woman did such a thing, concluding (surprisingly logically) that the drudges are the most likely people to have that power surge he just felt, but not before some solid misogyny about how all of Fax’s women are vapid airheads, except his dinner partner, Lady Gemma, whom Fax hopes dies by childbirth. Fax continues to lose his temper, until F’lar finds himself calling out Fax on his earlier statement, not entirely sure why he’s picking a fight over this. Despite having been asked to find any excuse possible to kill Fax two chapters earlier. But F’lar can’t admit he’s going to murder Fax, so he assumes it must be this outside force compelling him to be confrontational. Because F’lar’s ego won’t allow him to believe that he has emotions, too.

In the middle of this stand-off, Lady Gemma goes into labor. Fax is delighted by this, proving again that he’s a contemptible ass, and Fax thinks he has a solution to his problem of careless words.

“Aye, renounce it, in favor of her issue, if it is male…and lives!”

“Heard and witnessed!” F’lar snapped, jumping to his feet and pointing at his riders…”Heard and witnessed!” they averred in the traditional manner.

And now, F’lar is in his element. He can enforce tradition on Fax and probably kill him, and nobody who witnesses such a murder will say anything about whether it was just, or even justified. The reader isn’t supposed to, either, because we already know that Fax is several unprintable things, and that Lessa is waiting in the wings to snap up her rightful territory once Fax dies. Except for one tiny issue: the child. Who has to be a boy to set this plot in motion, and whom, based on Lessa’s past, probably doesn’t stand a chance to live to see its first birthday, once it has done the work of getting Fax killed.

That poor kid is [Crikey!]ed.

So now everyone waits while the midwife is fetched and Gemma goes through a painful childbirthing. Apparently, only the midwife has a clue what to do and starts barking orders at the “silly gaggle” of women just watching. Lessa is seething with fury that her plan to provoke F’lar into fighting Fax was derailed by Gemma, and tells Gemma to her face quietly about all of this, while Gemma is racked by the pains of labor.

I think Lessa more than qualifies as a sociopath at this point.

Gemma dies in childbirth, and for a moment, Lessa considers the possibility that she might have had allies in fighting Fax, before burying any feelings from that revelation as she hatches a last, desperate plan. And we’re going to stop there, not because I love cliffhangers, but there’s’s a lot of [Ay carumba!] that has to get sorted out in the next few pages, and I’d rather do that at the beginning of a post instead of the end.

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23 thoughts on “Dragonflight: Plot Contrivances

  1. depizan May 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Well, [bleep]. You weren’t kidding when you said it got worse. This really is another fruit salad of what.

    Lessa doesn’t believe any of the more fanciful stories about dragonriders, she does believe that they are somehow incorruptible

    From what we’ve seen of dragonriders, that is a fanciful story. At least depending on how one’s defining incorruptibility. Dude is a conceited asshat who is willing to kill a guy, not because that guy is a monster and a bully but because he doesn’t respect tradition. I’d say his morals are pretty damn corrupted.

    the first one, who showed too much intelligence and ability, so Lessa murdered him

    What. But…but… why? If she regrets it, he must have also been at least half way decent, so…what????? These are terrible “heroes”!

    one of which Lessa sabotages directly by picking the wrong spice for him.

    Why not poison? It’s not like she seems to care about other people. Her sabotage must be getting people hurt or killed on a regular basis. If she can pull off all this sabotage – even the impossible sabotage – she should be able to dump some iocane powder in Fax’s favorite dish.

    “The day one of my Holds cannot support itself or the visit of its rightful overlord, I shall renounce it.”

    WHAT???? Unless renounce is Fax-speak for slaughter and burn to the ground, that is the most flat out nonsensical stance for an evil overlord to take, ever. Don’t want to be Fax’s subject? Just be (or appear to be) so terrible that he renounces your hold.

    (Of course, there’s the usual evil overlord problem here. How did Fax get power and how does he keep it? He doesn’t seem to be powerful, charismatic, clever, to be offering his followers some great gain… he’s an [Aoooga!] to everyone. And, let me guess, when F’lar kills him, everyone’s all “Woohoo, he’s dead! Thank you so much!” I’m not saying there haven’t been real-life people who had power despite being like Fax, but reality gets to be unrealistic. Fiction doesn’t.)

    Lessa considers the possibility that she might have had allies in fighting Fax

    How could this have never occurred to her!? The guy was horrific to everyone! As a drudge (and thereby part of the furniture), she must have over heard people muttering about how much they’d like it if he just sort of fell on his sword a few times. Never mind that her fellow drudges seem like likely allies if she promised them a better life. (Or would if the author weren’t just as classist as her “heroes”.)

    As an aside: Do you want me to try to come up with a what fruit for you? I’m pretty sure you’re going to need one. (Or twelve.)

  2. Silver Adept May 8, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Oh, it’s a what-fruit-salad, all right. If you can find a Whatfruit that will be suitable, I’ll happily take it. In the interim, I did find a Natalie Dee item that should suffice.

    Lessa killed the competent one because his competence might have exposed her to Fax, and that would have obviously been a problem. No checking to see whether he would be an ally, just offed him because he was too competent.

    I thought about poisoning, too, but I see that it didn’t get written down. My best guess is that Lessa needs the legitimacy a dragonrider would provide to her claim, because, as you can see, it’s not like anyone would accept her on face. She’s a woman, after all. There’s a lot of -ism going on here, and they will continue as regular themes throughout the book.

    Fax is there mostly as a plot device, so there’s not much on how he came to power, other than that he apparently had military strength and used it. We’ll see about the fallout in the next post, but yeah, nobody is really sad to see him go.

  3. depizan May 9, 2014 at 1:19 am

    I guess Fax came to power through the ability to summon military strength as needed. (But not when dragonriders are about.) At least it sounds as though McCaffrey forgot that an army (or whatever) needs some reason to follow a guy and I’m not seeing much sign of Fax having something to offer.

    If Lessa knew she couldn’t win back her hold without the miraculous appearance of a dragonrider, what was the point of trying to get Fax to renounce the hold? At least, I assume that’s why she was sabotaging things. Or was it just pure spite? Do I even want to know?

    Ugh, these people.

    (Your whatfruit salad, or at least several whatfruits, can be found at the google group. I wasn’t sure how else to get them to you.)

  4. Silver Adept May 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Yeah, Fax really doesn’t have a lot going for him as to why people would follow him. Or continue to follow him, if he did have a reason at the outset

    And maybe the other possibility is to have fax renounce and have the someone else die mysteriously so she can take over, but at that point, we’re back at the poisoning angle and it’s a giant cluster[Crikey!]. I guess I don’t really know, and the narrative doesn’t say. Pure spite might be just as good a reason as any.

    And it still gets worse.

  5. Firedrake May 9, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Can you confirm that “watch-wehr” is the spelling used in this edition of the book? Because it’s “watch-wher” in every version I’ve seen. I wonder why it was changed.

    I think that part of the problem here is what I like to call protagonist syndrome. F’lar and Lessa are important (particularly Lessa, when they conflict), and therefore their actions are the correct actions as far as the author’s concerned. But when we look at other people in the book as people rather than as cardboard spear-carriers, we also find ourselves saying “yes, but what if it hadn’t worked out exactly that way”; what if that lucky guess hadn’t been correct; and so on.

    It’s been a while since I read this, but isn’t it the case that Fax is disrespecting tradition to the extent of allowing people to increase the area of farmed land beyond the immediate area of a Hold? In which case that’s something he has to offer his followers.

  6. depizan May 9, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Firedrake, while “protagonist syndrome” probably does explain what McCaffrey was thinking, it seems particularly bad here. It’s not just a matter of lucky guesses or random chance working in favor of the protagonists or making what should be bad decisions come out good – both F’lar and Lessa seem to have wandered into Villain Protagonist territory, only the author hasn’t noticed. They don’t seem to see the other people in the book as people. (Or very few of them, anyway.)

    And you might have hit on how Fax originally got followers, but if he’s really abusing everyone, there’s no reason for them not to bump him off and go right on farming where they want to. (Though “why are they following [insert bad guy here] is hardly a unique problem. Lots of stories suffer from it, probably due to something similar to protagonist syndrome…call it minion syndrome, where in the author forgets that the villain’s minions need a reason not to put iocane powder in his coffee. Or just flat out forgets that they’re people, and must have some motivation for their actions.)

  7. Silver Adept May 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    @ Firedrake –

    Most likely, it’s a typo that the electronic version I was reading off of committed, and I faithfully reproduced – this particular copy is awful about those. I’ll go back and correct the post.

  8. Firedrake May 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    depizan: thanks, and I agree; it’s an extreme case and thus helpful to me in getting this idea into some sort of form that made sense.

    I suppose it might be that hitching their wagon to Fax’s train has worked well so far… but in a world essentially without the concepts of a military or for the most part large-scale leadership, it’s certainly problematic that people seem to be following Fax to their obvious disbenefit.

    SA, fair enough; I don’t mean to put down the work you’re doing, because I’m finding this fascinating.

  9. Silver Adept May 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    No offense taken. I would prefer them spotted than not.

    I think we’re supposed to see Fax as ruling by terror, which will become even more nonsensical than it already is once we learn some of the dragonrider traditions. And a few other things that make us wonder how this came to pass at all.

  10. Brenda A. May 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I have a question, Silver Adept – is this your first time reading Dragonflight? Are we getting your first impressions, with no knowledge of what is coming? I just want some… context, I guess.

  11. Silver Adept May 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

    @ Brenda A –

    I’m sure I read it a long time ago, but it’s been so long that I don’t remember much accurately, excepting that I remember the basic contours of the world and it’s plot-driving mechanisms, so while I have general knowledge of how the world is constructed, and remember key characters and items, I have nearly zero knowledge of how the plot unfolds.

    So I’m not sure if that means it is a first impression, or that it isn’t.

  12. Only Some Stardust May 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    When I was young I read this stuff, and so much of it went completely over my head, though I remember disliking Lessa for being a murderous psycho (or maybe her being an incompetent psycho bothered me more as I do sometimes root for bad guys), and I rather disliked how Impression worked or how despite the dragons being able to speak they didn’t seem to have any existence beyond convenient animals of burden; they didn’t do interesting things on their own, like try to, I dunno, become a poet, or perhaps a more dragon-y pursuit of painting pretty artwork with blood or something.

    I somehow got the impression (x_X no puns intended) that it was progressive, mostly because I think my mother told me that ‘there was little in the way of women in SCiFI back then’ and so much of the misogyny and classism simply went straight over my head in the first chapters; I suppose it was for the time if having women was the only standard it needed to cross. I hated the sex based Impression but (spoiler) females got the ‘best’ dragon even if it just sat there and laid eggs so it made it hard for me to argue against it. I think I just accepted it as fact that the drudges and his women were air heads, but it still made no sense to me that dragons didn’t go and just eat Fax. They were freaking dragons! The guy should be at the least trying to bribe some to his side for military use and at the most cowering in his boots! Would have made a more interesting book too; I remember repeatedly wondering when something interesting would actually happen. And I absolutely hated Flights for reasons I’m sure you’ll cover.

    I read another book when I was an adolescent, Mistress of Dragons (also about dragons!), which also seemed on the surface to be female friendly but has within the first few pages the female warriors referring to the ‘Chosen Mothers’ of a female only group as ‘cows’.

  13. James Haney May 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Then might I suggest you FIRST reacquaint yourself with the series BEFORE you begin?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are issues with Annes work, those of us who are familiar with her work and enjoy it know them as Anneconsitancies 😀 , but despite that we enjoy her work and I personally feel it’s a little on the nose that you haven’t taken the time ro refamiliarise yourself with her works before you began this.

  14. depizan May 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    James Haney,

    No one is saying that you can’t enjoy her work. It’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy problematic things. Most (likely all) people do. However, not everyone will enjoy all problematic things, and some people enjoy examining problematic things critically.

    I can’t see how reading the rest of the many, many Pern books would somehow magically fix the fact that this Pern book has some pretty bad class issues and sexism issues and villain protagonist issues. … Okay, perhaps if later books acknowledge that this one features villain protagonists who are classist and sexist, that would at least lend a different context to this book.

    But you do realize that there are people out there who have never read this book, right? They wouldn’t come to it with extensive knowledge of McCaffrey’s oeurve. A deconstruction from the point of view of a newcomer – taking it a book at a time without extensive knowledge – is quite valid. And more common than what you’re suggesting. Perhaps you should have taken the time to familiarize yourself with deconstructions before making your suggestion.

  15. christhecynic May 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I, personally, take great solace in knowing that nothing I write now will ever be looked at critically until the last installment is published some months after my death.

    Until then there’ll just be praise and people who deal with my Chrisconsitancies.

  16. Randall M. May 11, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    It’s been a while since I read this (or any McCaffrey, tbh), but I think I remember that Lessa’s sabotage goes unnoticed until the crucial time because she’s using her telepathy to hide it (doesn’t she make the undercook pick the wrong spice him/herself?).

    As for why people followed Fax, well, why did people follow Sadam Hussein? Why did they follow Stalin? There’s no leader anywhere who can’t be disposed of, but so often they aren’t.

    Also, I wouldn’t call F’lar killing Fax murder, especially since he ends up doing it in a duel.

  17. Silver Adept May 12, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Randall M. –

    Those questions will be answered in the forthcoming posts, so I’m going to just say, “Spoilers” at this point.

    As for following Fax, well, most dictators of our world don’t exist in a place where there is a group with way more military might existing right with them, who also have the attitude that the world exists to serve them. The Lords Holder and Fax exist only because the dragonriders let them exist, which requires some suspension of disbelief to produce the situation that currently exists.

    I would definitely call F’lar killing Fax murder, regardless of whether it was a duel or not. The witnesses to the murder may all consider it a justifiable homicide and not think of it as a murder, but it does fit the description of murder. Again, when the details play out in the next post, I think it will make more sense.

  18. Firedrake May 12, 2014 at 3:33 am

    I always wonder slightly just what the dragonriders have been up to for the last few decades. Sitting in their castles^Wweyrs accepting tribute of food but not actually doing anything unless it stops coming?

  19. Vyon May 12, 2014 at 6:27 am

    I suggest that you familiarise yourself a little more with the history, cultures and attitudes of medieval life before trying to project a story based on a medieval culture into the twenty-first century. The “corrections” you suggest would make the story inconsistent with itself. Both Fax and F’lar are behaving in a manner consistent with a medieval tyrant.

    Also, your critique would be more balanced if you also mentioned some of the things that Anne was good at.

  20. christhecynic May 12, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Vyon, as a classicist my expertise runs out around the year 300 AD/CE. (I’m not a late classicist.) The history you’re talking about is outside of my area, but I’m always interested in learning.

    You say that they are acting in a manner consistent with actual medieval tyrants. I’m afraid I don’t know the tyrants you’re referring to, but I’d be quite interested in looking them up. Please, do tell, what are some of the names of these real life rulers to which Fax and F’lar are behaving in a similar manner?

  21. Silver Adept May 12, 2014 at 9:11 am

    @ Firedrake –

    Pretty much. I’ll consult my notes to see whether I wrote down the justification given for that, but it was definitely a one-line something that could easily be missed.

    @ Vyon –

    I will mention things that are good, when I notice them. The point of this is not attempting some “fair and balanced” critique that tries to equivocate technical skill of writing with the many prevalent issues in the content, but to point out things in the narrative and characterization that need addressing. If it sounds unilaterally harsh, the fault lies with the content.

    Also, F’lar and Fax are not at all consistent with medieval tyrants. They’re pretty consistent with what a 21st century audience thinks a medieval tyrant is, but their actual characterizations are closer to the protagonist and antagonist of a chivalric romance. (F’lar seems to be Yvain, if I had to say specifically.)

    An actual medieval tyrant would not utter such a blasphemy as ceding or giving away territory from their land without receiving some large benefit in return, like a political or military alliance. The system of vassalage, which is likely what is in place here, basically demands huge tracts of land to be effective, so that every person has their own land to farm in exchange for their tribute, their time farming their lord’s land, and their military service. Giving away land would be reducing Fax’s ability to raise his army, as well as the amount of tribute he can collect. On a world like Pern, which is trying to present itself as a medieval pastiche, land, tribute, and an army that can be raised for the war season are all necessary to living.

    Nor would an actual medieval tyrant be as cruel and avaricious to his own lands, unless he wants a revolt from his landholders and military support. The other part of vassalage is that the overlord promises to administer justice fairly and to protect his vassals from outsiders and each other. With Fax the way he is, his vassals have very little reason to stay with him as opposed to overthrowing him or marginalizing him in such a way that they hold real power and Fax is a convenient figurehead. And it’s very unlikely that Fax has set up an efficient bureaucracy to administer his lands and lords in such a way that his own involvement would be mostly nil, either.

    Now, as we’ll find out, neither Fax nor F’lar is necessarily acting in their full rational capacity, and so their behavior can be handwaved some, when all the details come out. But neither of them comes anywhere close to the actual behavior of a competent medieval tyrant.

  22. Only Some Stardust May 13, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    @ Vyon

    Deconstructions are not quite the same things as critiques. The goal is to ‘deconstruct’ the work and look at all its flaws and underpinnings, and sometimes, for fun, people ‘reconstruct’, suggesting ways to fix the work or new interpretations.

    @ Silver Adept

    I’m going to counter that. Not the ceding land part, that’s plain stupid, but the cruelty part.

    A lot of medieval tyrants did act very callously to peasants; it was only the higher class they really needed to worry about. In fact, Knights (and Samurai) were notorious for using peasants for blade practice and pillaging with abandon! While in theory honor meant administrating justice and such, in practice this often didn’t actually work out so well. Less chivalry and more ‘stabbery’. At times I think something like 1/4th the population in England was composed of Villeins, which, as you can guess by the name, were pretty looked down upon and pretty much slaves. That’s a huge portion of the population you can treat like total crap without any fear of repercussions.

    So, lords can be cruel to their own lands, but, they HAVE to be good to their primary supporters, their ‘knights’ if you will. Peasant or slave revolts often don’t fare very well, so a lord might very well not be afraid of those.

    Assuming Fax has supporters that he doesn’t treat like crap and that he arms verryyy well, he could actually work as a character. Although the ceding land part still makes no sense; why conquer it if you are just going to give it up like that?

  23. Silver Adept May 13, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    @ Only Some Stardust –

    Oh, that’s true, Although, as of about the next post or so, the “common” people whose level Lessa is on now will basically vanish from the narrative, so any continued cruelty to them will no longer be remarked on. So we never get a really accurate picture of what cruelty is inflicted on the peasant class.

    I didn’t really say a whole lot about how Fax treats his trusted flunkies – mostly because the narrative doesn’t, either. What description we get of Fax does describe him as the kind of person who will take any woman he lays eyes on to his bed, and as described above, he basically wants Gemma to die of childbirth, so I can’t really see him as the kind of guy who attracts and retains trusted lieutenants.

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