The more distance we can put between last chapter and where we are, the better.
Dragonquest, Chapter X: Content Notes: Genocidal intent
Chapter X begins with Masterharper Robinton getting dressed in formal clothes. Because there’s still a wedding for everyone to attend. Which has all sorts of horrible implications considering what’s happened last chapter. Three dragons appear to take the Masterharper to his destination, one from the Weyr that serves the Hold where the wedding is, one from the Weyr the Crafthall is protected by, and one from Benden, because F’lar has no intention of making Robinton feel slighted. The other two riders immediately argue about who gets to take the Masterharper, while the bronze rider from Benden politely waits and asks Robinton his preference. Robinton chooses the bronze and loads his backup band on the other two dragons.
After disembarking, Robinton thanks the dragon, Lioth, for the ride, and is startled to hear a reply. Perhaps Robinton has the potential to be a rider, too? (More likely, the dragons can talk to whomever they want, they just don’t normally do so.)
Through Robinton’s eyes, we get exposition. Mastercraftsmen are all here, the Weaver, Miner, Herder, Tanner, and Farmer seen immediately, and likely Fandarel around. We also get a little about how Holders trend to try and have lots of sons, so that one will hopefully meet with approval by the Conclave of Holders to succeed. They also have to approve the wedding that’s going on, and Holders practice the royal pastime of sending their children off to be fostered at other Holds and accepting other fosters. In our reality, that practice was a good way of making sure that lords didn’t go attacking and razing each other, as well as providing an outside perspective on running a kingdom. Also, possibly, exposure to potential marriage partners. Considering that we’re not that far away from Fax and other attempts by Holders to conquer each other, this was probably a practice swiftly reinstated to ensure some peace in the era of dragonrider power. If for no other reason than to try and keep the Holders united against the riders.
Lytol arrives with news – Fandarel isn’t there, and he fills in Robinton about the fire-lizards that Kylara brought, mentioning that Meron Impressed one. Then one of the Harper apprentices gives him the mood of the crowd with regard to Threadfall, and a rather curious convention that appears to be developing…
“For instance, they refer to ‘that Weyrleader’ meaning their own weyrbound leader. ‘The Weyrleader’ always means F’lar of Benden. ‘The Weyrleader’ had understood. ‘The Weyrleader’ had tried. ‘She’ means Lessa. ‘Her’ means their own Weyrwoman.”
Interesting. It seems like more than just F’lar is noticing the differences, now.
And speaking of “The Weyrleader”, he and Lessa arrive, resplendent and looking good… right until Kylara arrives and basically blows dust and wind into their entrance by flying Prideth on a buzzing pass and having Prideth have to backwing to avoid hitting things. Then Kylara and Meron make their entrance, with their fire-lizards perched, ready to steal F’lar and Lessa’s thunder… and F’lar and Lessa steal it right back by presenting the couple-to-be-married with their own eggs to hatch and Impress. Which works right up until Kylara lets slip that her fire lizard ate Thread.
And then, all hell breaks loose. For a short while, anyway, as the plot demands the Conclave of the Holders to meet. While that happens, Robinton receives another dragon-message, right before a dragonrider arrives with the same message. Which means Robinton steps into the middle of Kylara explaining how she knew the fire-lizard eats Thread – an out-of-phase Threadfall, where Kylara couldn’t convince T’kul to summon the wings, and so she had to use Prideth to summon them instead. After preening a bit from well-deserved praise, the Weyrleaders and Lessa conspire to keep Kylara away from the party, using one of Robinton’s apprentices to keep her occupied. So that they can demonstrate the distance-writer with Fandarel, officially, but most likely also to keep Kylara from sparking something off. Presumably, since F’lar is basically walking on eggshells to try and pull this gambit off, he wants as few uncontrolled variables as possible. Kylara certainly counts as variable.
Fandarel finishes hooking up the device and sends a test message before all the dragons indicate a great disturbance at the Conclave. One of the ancient rooms in Fort Weyr has produced a telescope, and T’ron has gazed upon the surface of the Red Star. Before we can get to that significance, though, the telegraph indicates another out-of-phase Threadfall, right before a dragonrider arrives to confirm. Which creates a full-scramble situation, right until T’ron plants himself in F’lar’s way and makes the most Idiot Ball-enabled declaration I have seen from him yet.
“Since when has Benden Weyr concerned itself with Igen and Ista?[…]And rushed to Nabol’s aid?”
“Thread falls, dragonman. Igen and Ista fly winglight, with riders helping at Telgar Weyr. Should we feast while others fight?”
“Let Ista and Igen fend for themselves!”
Cocowhat by depizan
You have got to be kidding me. A Weyrleader is willing to let people die because…well, apparently, he’s had enough of F’lar being the one everyone is talking about, with his modern notions and willingness to help everyone. So he picks a fight, in the middle of a meeting of the Holders, whole dragonriders are trying to respond to a Threadfall, and goes after F’lar with his belt knife. Unlike his brother, who was caught by surprise when a Fort dragonrider pulled a belt knife on him, F’lar is ready, gives T’ron as much time to abort as possible, and then gives him a fight. Unlike Fax, however, T’ron is still in fighting trim. F’lar is able to deduce the reason for T’ron fighting him publically – to silence him and prevent him from bringing the other Oldtimers to bear on T’kul abandoning Kylara and land to Thread – which, by the way, isn’t a very good strategy, hinging everything on one fight.
There’s no guarantee that the others will fall in line if F’lar dies, there’s no guarantee that the next Weyrleader won’t be just as compassionate and headstrong, and there’s no guarantee the Lords Holder and the Mastercrafters, who are witnessing this, won’t turn completely on T’ron. And, of course, there’s the possibility that T’ron could lose. Now, if T’ron were, say, goaded into it through the mental abilities of one Sith Lady while angered at the Red Star, that would at least have precedent. So, until the text directly contradicts me, I’m going to say Lessa had a mind in this.
In any case, if we weren’t supposed to see how this fight is similar to the one against Fax, the way it proceeds is much the same – lighter, faster F’lar gets taken by surprise to start by how good his opponent is, recovers quickly, manages to talk about the politics while fighting for his life, goes in for a solid hit, finds himself on the receiving end of a much more solid hit to the abdomen, is saved from his death by luck (although in this case, it seems more like Lessa has figured out the telekinetic part of the Force and is able to push T’ron’s strike aside just enough), and takes advantage of the opportunity to stick his knife such that it grates on the ribs. T’ron dies, and after a Bond One-Liner, F’lar intends to fight Thread. He’s not in fighting gear, though, so he moves to collect the nearest set by trying to strip T’ron’s corpse of his gear. Unsurprisingly, Mardra tries to fight him off, because T’ron is still dead and what F’lar is doing looks suspiciously like desecration of a corpse.
Oh, wait, T’ron isn’t dead, because his dragon hasn’t taken a suicide flight. So it’s totally okay to strip him of his stuff now. Instead, we get one of those movie scenes where, after having beaten the Big Bad, or his seemingly-invincible lieutenant, the hero shouts “Who’s with me?” and everyone joins in, naming themselves one by one until it’s a cacophony of alliances. So, really, its just the narrative grandstanding a bit while it gives F’lar everything he wants. Even when F’lar really says that anybody not with him can be exiled to the Southern Weyr. Then F’lar rides off to fight Thread, while Lessa stays behind to manage people, specifically Mardra. Still can’t be giving Lessa credit or glory, even though she might have provoked this whole thing.
And this would be a crowning moment in any other book… except we’re not even halfway through. Clearly T’ron can’t have been the real villain of this book. It’s a bit of a thing in these books so far to have big fights early on.
After fighting Thread, F’lar muses on how awful it was for the telegraph to have worked, but failed because Thread hit the wire and severed it. (See? Bury the wires to have a better chance. Strange that nobody thought that might happen when they have to fight an airborne menace regularly. Fandarel, however, learns from his mistakes and has plans to reinforce or bury the wires for the next incarnation.) Over the careful and tender ministrations of Lessa, we find that Mardra made a stand to stay, but “her arrogance and shrewishness” left her bereft of support, and so she accepted exile. Given the narrative’s track record regarding punishing Weyrwomen, I wonder what Mardra actually did that brought the wrath of the narrative. Asserting her power too strongly, maybe? In any case, since Mardra goes to Southern, Kylara wants to go to Fort and be its Weyrwoman. That can’t happen, because narrative fiat, but Kylara does get the High Reaches Weyr, and one of the other Weyrwomen candidates at Fort will take over, so as to leave the least amount of feathers ruffled as possible.
And then we find out that Southern is intended as a prison and for all the dragonriders there to have their lines die out, because none of the queens there will likely produce any more eggs, and especially not queens. Which runs a bit of a chill up the spine, because either F’lar is a better planner than previously thought (not likely – the narrative thrives on his luck. Also, Lessa.) or is really good at thinking on his feet to take advantage of opportunities (much more likely). Either way, it makes F’lar a strong antagonist to any women who want to escape the narrative’s insistence on gender and sex roles.
Here’s hoping someone gets out without suffering greatly.