(by Silver Adept)
(Okay, gloves off, swears turned on. Today’s episode happens to be swear-free, but from here on out, all words will be displayed. If I hear They Changed It, Now It Sucks from you, I will be very cross.)
When we last left our Lady of the Sith and the Jerk who thinks of her as his possession, Lessa’s revenge is complete, except for the part where her Hold is in the care of a young boy and his regent, and F’lar thinks he’s got the right candidate for the queen dragon that is about to hatch.
Dragonflight, Part II: Content Noes: Patriarchy, Deaths of children
The last part of the current segment is getting Lessa settled in with castoffs of clothes from other women that F’lar has had in his bedchambers, getting the dragons fed, and a bit more about how well-matched F’lar and his dragon are (they’re both easily ruffled in matters of honor and saving face). Since the new egg is about to hatch, all the other riders are returning with their candidates as well. There’s also the first mention of between, the hyperspace dimension that the dragons travel through when covering great distances in a short amount of time.
The next scene starts with Lessa taking a bath, after seeing if there are potential escape routes. Not that we needed a ritual symbol of cleansing the body and soul and of transition and newness to drive the point home, of course, but here we are. Lessa luxuriates in the bath and is quite pleased with the feeling of soft clothes in what the narrative wants us to believe is her actual, quite feminine, personality. Her moment of girlish delight is cut short by F’lar’s return, and after catching her reflection in a mirror, Lessa becomes entirely self-conscious about how beautiful she is.
Why, the girl in the reflector was prettier than the Lady Tela, than the clothman’s daughter! But so thin. Her hands dropped of their own volition to her neck, to the protruding collarbones, to her breasts, which did not entirely reflect the gauntness of the rest of her. [Emphasis mine]
So let’s be clear here: Lessa is probably thin in a malnourished sort of way, except, of course, for her boobs, which somehow fare better than the rest of her. Despite an obviously athletic life, despite her lack of nutrition, despite a lack of any indication at all that she lives well enough to have developed fat reserves, Lessa has good-looking breasts. Great Maker forbid that F’lar have brought back an ugly girl as his choice, so reality itself bends to the will of the narrative.
Not that he’ll admit it. F’lar teases Lessa about her attractiveness by saying she’d be good enough for his brother. I think we’re supposed to get a Beatrice-Benedick feel from these two, but Lessa is not, in any sense, F’lar’s equal, nor would F’lar ever permit that to happen, so instead we get F’lar being a condescending ass (his default personality) and Lessa taking it because she knows how trapped she is in this space. F’lar is the sleazy boss that harasses all the female employees and enjoys watching them suffer, knowing they can’t retaliate against him. And to prove that point, F’lar orders Lessa to take care of the wound he received while fighting Fax, and Lessa just can’t bring herself to give as much rough as she’s received from him. We’re supposed to believe it’s because of a burgeoning attraction, with as much description if how virile and muscular and so very male F’lar is. I’d like to think that Lessa is making a cold calculation about what kind of consequences will likely happen if she gives him what he deserves, and she decides that she’s had enough of the physical abuse for now, but maybe later, when she does know all the escape routes, she’ll explain to him in excruciating detail just how much of an ass he really is.
There is food, which is also luxurious compared to Ruatha, and more of this burgeoning attraction between Lessa and F’lar, with her frustration that he gets to see her on full alert at everything and his complete lack of empathy regarding how she must feel in a new and strange place that makes odd sounds and has new ways of everything. F’lar takes delight in Lessa’s fear and suffering and being off-balance, because he’s the kind of guy that enjoys women being put “in their place”. And then, the Hatching starts, and F’lar threatens to strip Lessa if she doesn’t put on the candidate’s dress right this instant. No, he doesn’t make any sort of offer of privacy, or even try to avert his eyes from her. And when she’s done changing, he physically hauls her along to Mnementh and they go off to the Hatching, with F’lar having given her the most basic of advice about how to get through it.
The Hatching itself is horrible. Lessa is placed in yet another group of shrieking girls, and her contempt for them brings back our Sith sociopath of Ruatha Hold. She watches newly-hatched male dragons maul children they don’t match up with (yes, much like the Jedi Order, the dragonriders prefer their candidates young and lacking emotional attachments to the world) before the screams of the still-apparently-hysterical women return her attention to the golden queen egg. The girls don’t fare any better, with one girl’s neck violently broken and another clawed “shoulder to thigh” who will also die. Lessa’s contempt for the others’ inability to dodge puts her eye-to-eye with the new hatchling, and there’s the spark of connection where Lessa pair-bonds with Ramoth, the new queen, and everything else is secondary to making sure that Ramoth is taken care of…despite, as Lessa points out, Ramoth having just killed two children.
So, of course, F’lar is right, yet again, and can have his ego stroked that his single selection was the one who would Impress upon the queen. It must be nice being right all the time.
But let’s leave F’lar of the Immense Ego and go back to the ceremony of the dragons hatching. So dragonriders go out into the world, choosing young men and women from all around the world, bring them back to their Weyr, where, if a dragon doesn’t find them worthy of becoming their lifemate, the children could potentially die. For what the appropriate response is apparently…don’t be afraid. No pressure or anything. I have to think something like this gets downplayed when the parents get told. “It’s a great honor to be chosen! …assuming they survive. But Honor! Glory! Dragonflight!” And nothing is said about what happens to candidates that don’t get dragons but manage to survive. Are they kept for the next clutch? Are they sent to become the support staff for the dragonriders? Not that Lessa cares at this point, but we could stand to know.
Still. Children. Potentially as a fighting force. Or dead. And these are the traditions F’lar wants to uphold.