(by Silver Adept)
When we last left our sociopathic hero Lessa and inflated-ego traditionalist deuteragonist F’lar, Lessa’s sabotage had finally brought the villainous lord Fax to his breaking point, and he made a rash promise to abandon Ruatha Hold to the child of Lady Gemma, if it lived and was a boy. Lady Gemma has died childless from labor complications, and Lessa is setting one final desperate plan in motion.
Dragonflight, Part II: Content Notes: Abuse, Murder, Considered sexual assault, Patriarchy, Classism. Also, most likely, a Whatfruit.
I’m going to note at this point that violence seems to be the default men-on-women interaction here in these first few chapters. I have a sinking feeling it’s going to continue through the rest of the book. I hope I’m wrong.
As Lessa enters the hall, her scheming self carefully covered under the disguise of an uninteresting drudge, Fax has been informed of the death of Lady Gemma. We would assume that he has also been told she died childless, but this is apparently not the case.
“The child lives,” Lessa cried, her voice distorted with anger and hatred. “It is male.”…”Ruatha has a new Lord.”
Which provokes Fax into a flying rage, and he beats Lessa savagely for what she says until she is knocked unconscious. Fax would continue to beat Lessa’s unconscious body, but that F’lar calls him to attend to his oath.
We’ll get to that in just a second. First, though, we should take a look at this Improbability of Improbabilities. Here’s the sequence of events as the narrative runs.
- Gemma dies in childbirth, and her child dies with her.
- The news of Gemma’s death is transmitted to Fax. The news of the child’s death is not.
- A drudge enters the hall and proclaims the live birth of a male heir,
- Fax denies the claim and beats the drudge senseless,
- and F’lar calls on Fax to honor his sworn oath.
And nobody, apparently, thinks to check and verify the claim. That has been boldly asserted by someone of the untouchable class to an assembled gathering of nobles, one of whom has a vested stake in making very sure that this claim is vetted. F’lar may be willing to let such a claim skate on he word of a drudge, because it gives him the excuse he needs to kill Fax, but Fax most definitely wants proof, because if he can prove there’s no heir, then there’s no way that F’lar can challenge him on his oath. Problem solved. Fax is provoked, sure, but his first response should be to find the supposed child, even if his intent is infanticide. That he beats Lessa is in character for him, but that he doesn’t go onward to verify that there is an heir is not credible.
Unless, that is, that Lessa’s power did something to Fax, before she lost consciousness. Let’s do a quick recap of Lessa’s powers.
- Limited telepathy with certain creatures
- Limited precognitive abilities regarding danger
- The ability to influence weaker minds so that she passes unnoticed, even while doing unsubtle things, or to implant feelings and thoughts in others that they believe are their own. (Later on, F’lar will witness Lessa transform herself into an unremarkable person, which is our explanation of how Lessa can commit blatant sabotage and not get caught.)
About the only thing she’s missing is some form of telekenesis, and you have Lessa as a Force user, almost a decade before Star Wars is released into theaters. And given Lessa’s abilities are fueled by rage and hate and her generally sociopathic view of Fax and anyone in the way of her revenge, I think I can safely say that Lessa is a Lady of the Sith Order.
So, Lessa’s announcement comes with all of her angry ball of emotions attached, leaving Fax in such a blind rage that his cognitive functions are temporarily suspended and he acts to hurt the target that sent him such horrible news. Which gives F’lar enough time to act to divert Fax’s attention away from the dubious claim and back onto the oath he swore that now requires satisfaction. Let’s roll the tape.
“It was heard and witnessed, Fax,”…”by dragonmen. Stand by your sworn and witnessed oath!”
“Witnessed? By drangonmen?” cried Fax with a derisive laugh. “Dragonwomen, you mean.”…”Parasites on Pern! The Weyr power is over! Over for good,”…
And here Fax plays straight into Flar’s hands – he insults dragonriders and their traditions in full view of many dragonriders and an audience that probably doesn’t give a [Ay carumba!] about whether Fax lives or dies. F’lar won’t suffer that kind of obvious insult to his pride and ego, and while Lessa is still unconscious, the two men fight. Fax uses his bulk and speed to keep pressing F’lar into a defensive position, although he suffers a Groin Attack from his persistence. Ultimately, F’lar wins because Fax is too aggressive and F’lar is able to step around him and stab him in the heart through the back. With the rather grisly detail of the knife coming back out a touch as Fax hits the floor facefirst.
Oh, and through this fight, F’lar has been able to identify the drudge that made the annoucement as the source of the disturbance in the Force he felt. So when the aftereffects of what he has just done kick in, F’lar leaves crowd control to his brother and takes Lessa back to his chamber. No grand pronoucements, no standing on tradition and the rest, because the details of who the [Crikey!] is going to take over as the Lord of each of Fax’s Holds when we find out there’s no male heir is boring and beneath the dragonrider who just caused a succession crisis and quite possibly a bloody civil war. Let the practical brother deal with all the politics while he focuses on Lessa.
Despite being tired from battle, we find that F’lar can effortlessly carry Lessa to his chambers, because she’s a slight thing with barely any weight at all. He examines her on the bed, revolted at the amount of filth she’s covered in, but still able to see that she’s of noble birth and pure blood despite her very successful-until-now methods of concealing herself from everyone. And then there’s this:
Delighted and fascinated by this unexpected luck, F’lar reached out to tear the dress from the unconscious body and found himself constrained not to. The girl had roused.
Cocowhat by depizan
F’lar is stopped from undressing Lessa because she’s awake. Not because he’s a decent guy, not because he thinks of women as beings worthy of respect, but because she’s awake. And, presumably, F’lar’s ego would not allow him to commit an assault with a live and aware victim, lest there be a witness to his carefully-constructed persona falling apart. Or that someone might object to those aspects of his conservatism that insist that women, no matter how noble, are supposed to be subordinate to him. F’lar, you’re a walking embodiment of rape culture. Why are we supposed to treat you like a hero?
So, with Lessa awake, almost the first thing out of F’lar’s mouth is “Name and rank.” Not asking, of course, because F’lar would never stoop to asking a woman a question, but demanding. Lessa, confronted with this haughty, egotistical prick in his bedchambers, is happy to hear the news of Fax’s death, and reveals her lie in claiming her Hold for her own. F’lar is nonplussed, to say the least, that he’s been tricked and killed another man because of a woman. It hurts having your ego popped like that, doesn’t it, F’lar? And his reaction is pretty much the same as Fax’s – he grabs Lessa’s wrist and does her bodily harm in his anger, with the intent of doing her much more harm. Unlike Fax, though, F’lar intends to publicly shame her.
That is, if he can catch her. Lessa bolts, leaving F’lar to try and pursue her on her home territory, ultimately requiring his dragon to catch her (which I would think is terrifying as [Crikey!] to Lessa, but the narrative insists otherwise). Along the way, he encounters F’nor. Who has done exactly the thing neither Fax nor F’lar did in their dick-swinging contest and clash of egos – he checked to see if there was actually a kid. Lo and behold, there is! And he’s a male, too! F’lar’s ego is saved, and he doesn’t have to admit he was outclassed by a woman and tricked into murder. And, even better, he has Lessa trapped and unable to escape his revenge for her trickery. The narrative gives F’lar everything that he wants.
So of he goes into his tirade, commenting on how foolish Lessa is, and how he would have happily killed Fax, if she had only come to him with her claim right at the beginning. He claims that Lady Gemma would have still been alive if she had done this. Because, of course he would have recognized her as the rightful heir.
Bul[Ay carumba!] F’lar has trouble recognizing the drudges as humans, before being able to conceive of the possibility that a woman could be the rightful heir of a Hold. But Lessa is supposed to have opened up to him with her secrets, trusted him implicitly, and then left him to do his work. Even though he’s the man she’s never met before. F’lar is demanding that Lessa trust him, because he knows he’s a trustworthy guy, regardless of what she thinks about him.
After fluffing his own ego sufficiently and giving Lessa the lesson he believes she deserves, and gloating a bit that Lessa will be accompanying him back for the dragon hatching, F’lar realizes he might do better, or at least get a fig leaf of legitimacy, if Lessa appears to come willingly instead of by force. F’lar makes a hash of that, too, first by appealing to greed (why settle for a Hold when you can have a Weyr?), which goes over about as well as you would expect, since Lessa’s primary motivation is revenge, not avarice. Then F’lar calls Lessa a coward, and in true Marty McFly fashion, it works.
Before everyone leaves, though, F’lar rewards loyalty by putting Lytol, the dragonless rider who told him to kill Fax, as regent of Ruatha, and the watch-wher knocks F’lar flat on his ass and tries to kill him, in a last-ditch effort to stop Lessa from her new life as F’lar’s pet. Lessa calls it off mid-pounce, and the resulting effort breaks its back, making sure that Lessa no longer has any ties to Ruatha to come back to. With the last loose ends tied up, the riders take to the sky.