(by Silver Adept)
When we last left them, F’lar almost admitted to himself, although to nobody else, that he had and continues to traumatize Lessa, who hasn’t been able to recover from the original trauma she suffered at Fax’s hands nearly thirteen years ago – she never got time to decompress and get closure, and the way F’lar treats her is pretty much ensuring she stays in the survival mode she had to adopt for all that time at Ruatha.
Additionally, failing to make the cut for human decency from last week was a comment alleging that sexual assault was so commonplace in the ancient and medieval worlds that we should not be making as big of a deal about it when it appears in a fantasy pastiche-world written into existence in 01968. The exercise of how long and hard to laugh at the premise is left to the reader.
Dragonflight, Part III: Content Notes: Domestic Abuse, Slut-shaming, Classism
We get to put all that aside, though, to finally learn the mechanics of going between and taking advantage of dragons as hyperspace travel entities. Mostly so that F’lar doesn’t have to dwell too long on the wrongness of what he’s doing to Lessa. Apparently, the trick to using the hyperspace drive is to have a very firm picture of where you want to go in your head, and then to command the dragon to go to that spot. So there really isn’t anything stopping dragons from appearing inside holds or other enclosed spaces, except…
“Once we came across a dragon and a rider entombed together in solid rock. They…were…very young.”
So, apparently, there’s either some variance in the actual location relative to the visualization, or the materialization is exactly where the visualization is, without any draconic compensation for size or location. Which, y’know, is kind of stupid that there isn’t a failsafe built in somehow so that situations where the jump is going to be off don’t end so lethally. Also, how do entire wings of dragonriders manage not to telefrag each other if they’re all envisioning the same spot for arrival, if there’s no compensation for where they arrive?
Or, as it turns out, compensation for when they arrive, as Ramoth and Lessa arrive at Ruatha on the day Fax slaughtered everyone but her in her family. And then hop forward to Ruatha on the day Fax dies. And then finally hop back to F’lar in the present. Who is livid, and reacts as F’lar does, by violently shaking Lessa so much that she can’t even organize her thoughts enough to answer his increasingly irate questioning.
She made no move to evade him as he grabbed her shoulders and shook her violently…. He was spitting with anger, punctuating each question that tumbled from his lips with a head-wrenching shake…. She reached out to catch at his arms, but he shook her again….Lessa cried louder, clutching at him distractedly because he kept jerking her off balance. She couldn’t organize her thoughts with him jolting her around.
Lessa is having a time-loop-induced flashback and running a million “what if?” scenarios in her head, but F’lar cannot see her distress, because he has questions that must be answered. Fuck you, F’lar.
Once he finally calms, and Lessa explains, we find ourselves in possession of a time loop – Lessa-of-the-future warns Lessa-of-the-past about Fax, so Lessa saves herself after she’s been saved. Which has us wonder how Lessa saved herself at the initial point of contact, before the loop starts. To stop Lessa from a guilt loop about whether she could have prevented the past, F’lar is callous about her grief. And then runs off to immediately time-jump himself back to a time in his own past and come back. Because anything Lessa can do, F’lar can do better, and the narrative ensures that F’lar always gets what he wants.
The next section is all about studying the records of time past, which is what F’lar uses to reconstruct a general timeline of how Thread will come to fall on Pern. And again, for being a nominal fantasy novel about dragons, there’s an explanation of orbital mechanics (the Red Star has a retrograde rotation compared to Pern), climate effects, and, as it turns out, the ancestors were definitely people of SCIENCE! To the point that they know what Thread actually is – a spore that can apparently survive the cold of space, and then activate at certain temperatures once it reaches Pern. (That information was divulged in the Introduction – see? Spoilers.) And that they have designs of how Thredfall works – up to six hours of attack with a fourteen-hour rest in between attacks. Thus, the placement of Weyrs so that there would always be a fresh complement of dragons, rather, “fire-lizards”, to shoot down the Thread before it touched down.
So F’lar knows a lot about orbital mechanics, instinctively understands the dangers of screwing with the timeline, but is comparably light on metallurgy, biology, and genetics…ish. What, exactly, are they teaching the weyrlings, anyway? Or is F’lar just the special snowflake that understands it all? Again, we find ourselves with gestures and sweeps toward what history is on Pern, but nothing of substance or detail. F’lar is pretty confident that there will be enough dragons and kids for them in time for the Thread, because he assumes Ramoth is going to be exceptionally fertile in the time running up to the Threadfall, and the queens she produces are going to be the same. While again making reference to the promiscuity of green dragons and their riders.
“Some green’s getting herself chased again.”
“And that’s another item your so-called all-knowing Records never mention. Why is it that only the gold dragon can reproduce?”
F’lar did not suppress a lascivious chuckle.
“Well, for one thing, firestone inhibits reproduction. If they never chewed stone, greens could lay, but at best they produce small beasts, and we need big ones. And for another thing – … if the greens could reproduce, considering their amorousness and the numbers we have of them, we’d be up to our ears in dragons in next to no time.”
Well, then, that’s interesting. If you’re a green rider, you can basically count out ever being Weyr-in-charge anywhere, and you’re apparently going to be a slut. If you’re not a bronze rider, there’s probably no chance you’ll ever be Weyrleader. What this does, though, is stratify the dragons into the fighting classes and the noble classes that lead them, but don’t actually flame Thread themselves. And we’re supposed to accept this, basically, because the dragons chose the kids they want to Impress upon.
Which says a lot of things, most of them Unfortunate. If you’re not appropriately-minded, you’ll be killed by a dragon. If you are, though, a dragon will select you based on your innate personality. You’ve impressed a Green? Congratulations, you’re a slut. Gold? Excellent, you’re…pure-blooded? Bronze? You’re…ambitious? Ruthless? Willing to sexually assault your Weyrwoman? This does not look good. We have yet to see what the overarching virtue of the other dragon colors, but I’m not holding my breath that it’s anything good.
And oh, look, a convenient distraction – Ramoth’s laying her eggs! Forty-one, to be exact. And F’lar, Traditionalist Extraordinaire, basically throws out all the traditions out the window regarding eggs and candidates and who’s allowed to watch (fathers only, though – F’lar’s upheaval has limits, after all) and…there are no casualties, because the candidates know what to do with awkward dragons. Ramoth’s queen goes to a rival for F’lar’s affection, so Lessa is able to send off a potential usurper to manage their own Weyr, even though the narrative wants to paint Lessa as jealous of others vying for F’lar’s attention, and everything is running smoothly, and the preparations for Thread are going according to plan.
So here’s a good place to stop, because the next section is where the battle plan meets the actual enemy.