When we last left the narrative, Threadfall happened, dragons and riders were injured, although only one rider died, Lessa completed her transformation from strong-willed independent trauma-sufferer to F’lar’s kept woman, and F’lar gets everything he wants, including (temporarily) a strand of Thread IN THE FAAAAAAACE.
Dragonflight: Parts III-IV: Content Notes: Slut-shaming, Sexism
So part III closes out with F’lar and Lessa suffering insomnia, having now seen what actual Threadfall is like. F’lar is fretting that he doesn’t have enough dragons or ground crews to ensure all the Thread gets burnt up. Lessa is worried about F’lar getting hurt and jealous he let Kylara salve his wounds – she wants Kylara gone. Preferably very far away in space and time. Which gives F’lar an idea – send Kylara’s queen off to the Southern Continent, ten years in the past, where they’ll breed up sufficient numbers to fill up the remaining Weyrs by the time Threadfall arrives in the present.
Which is apparently too much of a paradox for the universe to handle, as it sends F’nor, tanned and clearly suffering from the effects of being too close to himself in the same time, to stop the plot from happening.
“F’lar, it’s not working out! You can’t be alive in two times at once!…I don’t know how much longer we can last like this. We’re all affected. Some days not as badly as others….Your dragons are all right,” F’nor assured the Weyrleader with a bitter laugh. “It doesn’t bother them. They keep all their wits about them. But the riders…all the weyrfolk…we’re shadows, half-alive, like dragonless men, part of us gone forever. Except Kylara….All she wants to do is go back and watch herself. That woman’s egomania will destroy us all, I’m afraid…We’ll stay as long as we can…so it won’t be long enough, but we tried! We tried!”
Suitably warned, F’nor leaves and Part III comes to a close.
Even though it was written a long time after this, I feel like it’s worth mentioning Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality here, specifically the first-year Harry’s plot to produce an Unstable Time Loop and see how the universe resolves it. Using his newly-obtained Time-Turner, Harry intends to go back and place a scrap of paper with the first number of a mathematical sequence inside, then return a little after he left, open the chest, observe the number inside, then go back again with the Time-Turner and replace he number in the trunk wih the next one in the sequence, creating an Infinte Loop that is also unstable. Harry hops back in time to place his first number, opens the chest, and sees a piece of paper already inside the chest, inscribed with “DO NOT MESS WITH TIME TRAVEL” in his own hand. Harry takes the hint, writes “DO NOT MESS WITH TIME TRAVEL” on the blank sheet in his hand, changes it with the one in the chest, and pops home, creating a Stable Time Loop instead.
Part IV opens with F’lar absolutely not taking the hint and ordering Lessa to proceed with the plan as outlined, because it potentially results in more dragons, and that F’nor didn’t say the plan failed entirely, just that it was approaching the breaking point. Normally, we should be shocked that F’lar would throw his half-brother under the bus so easily, but I think that by this point, I’ve demonstrated that F’lar really is that much of an ass. Also, in the bit right before the quotation above, Lessa thinks to herself that F’lar intended to do violence to whomever was interrupting their study, even if it was his half-brother, and didn’t because of the importance of the news. So F’lar really is a fucking monster to everyone. And Lessa, after condemning F’nor to his fate, insists that F’lar and her have sex. Which suggests that Lessa’s probably not going to recover from her Stockholm Syndrome and will eventually be just as monstrous as F’lar. Not because she wants sex, but because she wants sex right after they both decided to hurt a lot of people deliberately.
So F’nor is sent on his secret mission anyway, with lots of ribbing from F’lar about how Kylara is going to try extra hard to put the moves on him, because she’s a slut, according to the narrative, and she tries extra-hard against those men that don’t sleep with her immediately. Which, I might point out, is in addition to her ego that endangers the secret mission. So, of the three named queen riders to this point, Jora was a slob and utterly unconcerned about her appearance, so everything suffered, Kylara is a narcissist and a slut, so her Weyr will suffer as well, and Lessa is…well, was, secretive, avaricious, and cold-hearted toward her true destiny, F’lar. This highly problematic framing reinforces the idea that women are defined by their worst qualiies, which the narrative wants to reinforce at every opportunity, to make the men look wise and virtuous, even when they’re being complete monsters to women and everyone else. Fax was the last unambiguously villainous man, according to the narrative, and he died back in Part I.
The narrative helpfully reminds us of Lessa’s flaw soon after the big reminder of Kylara’s.
She was still overly – and to his mind, foolishly – sensitive at having had to resign her claim at Ruatha Hold for the Lady Gemma’s posthumous son.
Gee, F’lar, why might that be? It couldn’t be that you accepted and enforced the throwaway line of the tyrant that killed her family, installing his son as the Lord Holder, over her older and more legitimate claim to the Hold because he was a man, his son is a man, and Lessa’s just a revenge-crazed woman. It must be something else. Bitches be crazy, amirite? No way they could have control over any land when there is a perfectly good man that could be in charge instead. Women and queen dragons, apparently, should just stay home, run the household, and make babies. Fuck you, F’lar.
So F’lar calls council of the Lords Holder and the Mastercrafters and lays out for them the truth of the matter – Thread is here, it’s going to get worse, and we’ll be able to show you when and where it will strike. Oh, and there aren’t enough dragons to go around, so if you want to make sure your crops are protected, you’re going to have to commit your own people to making sure nothing burrows, or even lands. Which gets the Lords angry until the Masterharper, keeper of lore and tradition (Traditioooooooon!), gives the Lords Holder a telling-off that basically amounts to, “Who was right about this? We were. You’re lucky we don’t leave you to be destroyed by the Thread. Now sit down, shut up, and do as we tell you.” The Crafthalls get on board by mentioning that they have interesting things in their records that could be useful, like “heavy black water” that burns particularly long and well, mechanical designs for machines and flamethrowers, and a lovely etching acid called “agenothree” that, if The Other Wiki is correct, will be perfect for inducing explosive reactions with any Thread it contacts. After the meeting, F’nor of just-laid-eggs time reports on the success of the plan, and F’lar and the Masterharper talk about the plan as F’lar instructs him on the time charts for Threadfall. F’lar is anxious about the results, and the Masterharper, apparently no slouch on the Timey-Wimey Ball, gives him solid advice.
“Send a rider ahead in time to see if it is sufficient,” Robinton suggested helpfully. “Save you a few days’ worrying.”
“I don’t know how to get to a when that has not yet happened. You must give your dragon reference points, you know. How can you refer him to times that have not yet occurred?”
“You have an imagination. Project it.”
I’m sure this will come in handy at some point, when F’lar wants to be on the receiving end of an Unstable Time Loop, instead of causing one.
Then we switch to Lessa and F’nor scouting the Southern Continent, arriving first by a time jump to a familar Weyr, then doing a space jump out into the ocean. Which, if it requires clear references, runs into the issue F’lar raised earlier – how do we get to places we have never been before through hyperspace? Perhaps, indeed, the reference points just need to be imagined in the right places so as to permit the dragon to move. Unforunately, one of the artifacts that appears not to have survived from ancient time are latitude-longitude coordinates and lines, which would make warping to the correct places much easier, once someone arrived at the correct temporal location. Anyway, verdant, lush, vegetation-filled Southern Continent with new foods and fruits and such. They scout an appropriate location and return, where Lessa collapses from the strain and F’lar gives his brother some very strict instructions about not fucking up the timeline, because he doesn’t know what the paradoxes will do if F’nor should observe himself in the same time and location.
And then we get to see that F’lar actually cares about Lessa…
She looked fragile, childlike, and very precious to him. F’lar smiled to himself. So she was jealous of Kylara’s attentions yesterday. He was pleased and flattered. Never would Lessa learn from him that Kylara, for all her bold beauty and sensuous nature, did not have one tenth the attraction that the unpredictable, dark, and delicate Lessa held. Even her stubborn intractableness, her keen and malicious humor, added zest to their relationship. With a tenderness that he would never show her awake, F’lar bent and kissed her lips.
…like an abuser loves his victim. F’lar thinks it’s cute when Lessa gets acid with him, probably because he knows the narrative won’t let him get a shiv in the back. If Lessa were at least as strong as he is, he would not be nearly as tolerant of her as he is now. And because all he has to do is shake Lessa violently and she’ll give in to him. Which he demonstrates again not too soon from now, which we’ll see next time.