Last time, F’lar and Lessa learned a thing or two about empathy…and just how brilliant the Crafters are…before promptly discarding the empathy and keepig the curiosity about fire-lizards in the South.
Dragonquest, Chapter VIII: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny, Patriarchy, intentions of Domestic Abuse
Chapter VIII takes us back to Southern Weyr, where Kylara is nowhere to be found, leaving Brekke and Mirrim to shoulder the workload of running the Weyr. Mirrim objects to this treatment fairly strenuously, as it offends her sense of fairness and justice. Brekke, current example of Womanly Virtue, intends to scold Mirrim for voicing those objections when F’nor calls her away. Thus, Mirrim escapes narrative punishment. Perhaps because, as a fosterling, her place in life has yet to be determined. Brekke, on the other hand, has been patiently fulfilling her ordained role for years, which will either result in her great reward, or being used by the narrative as a chew toy to induce feelings in the audience.
After reassuring F’nor that his message to F’lar was delivered and making some excuses as to why F’lar didn’t drop everything to come see, Brekke realizes that Wirenth, her queen, is preparing for the mating flight, and dashes off to see if it’s true. F’nor sizes up the bronze population at Southern and comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t like any of the prospective mates. His solution is to try and figure out how to arrange for a bronze he does like to happen to be in from another Weyr at the right time, since the more obvious solution would require him to acknowledge that he is attracted to her, and he’s not supposed to be the jealous type, even as he recoils in horror at the thought of any of the Southern bronze riders mating with Brekke. F’nor suggests to Brekke that she might call in some outsiders, but she refuses, and F’nor ignores her visceral reaction to the idea.
Then, Brekke reveals to us that she’s more like Lessa than just also having a queen that can talk to all dragons.
“What I meant was, if the fire-lizards – who seem to be miniature dragons – can be Impressed by anyone who approaches them at the crucial moment, then fighting dragons – not just queens who don’t chew firestone anyhow – could be Impressed by women, too.”
“Fighting Thread is hard work. Leave it to men.”
“You think managing a Weyr isn’t hard work?” Brekke kept her voice even but her eyes darkened angrily. “Or plowing field and hollowing cliffs for Holds? And…”
F’nor whistled. “Why, Brekke, such revolutionary thoughts from a craftbred girl? Where women know there’s only one place for them… Oh, you’ve got Mirrim in mind as a rider?”
“Yes. She’d be as good or better than some of the male weyrlings I know.”
“Hey, backwing a bit, girl. We’ve enough trouble with the Oldtimers as it is without trying to get them to accept a girl riding a fighting dragon! C’mon, Brekke. I know your fondness for the cold, and she seems a good intelligent girl, but you must be realistic.”
“I am,” Brekke replied, so emphatically that F’nor looked at her in surprise. “Some riders should have been crafters or farmers – or – nothing, but they were acceptable to dragons on Hatching. Others are real riders, heart and soul and mind. Dragons are the beginning and end of their ambition.”
I was hoping Brekke would be able to get through things unscathed, but now that the narrative knows, I can only wait in horror to find out what it will do to her. Because she’s right in every particular, to the best of our knowledge. The hatching that we got to see with Lessa had the candidates separated. What could have been if they were all together? Presumably, the Weyr culture on sexuality and relationships wouldn’t change, you’d just have real equality possible in the dragonrider ranks.
Also, Brekke being craftbred, in addition to the chapter we just spent in the Crafthall, suggests that real equality is rapidly becoming a reality in Craft culture due to the outside pressures that require the very best to be put to work at their specialties, regardless of what outdated ideas about gender roles say. This trend should continue and spread and infect every other culture on Pern until equality is seen as entirely normal.
Finally, fuck you, F’nor, you shit-eating excuse for a person. You were supposed to be reasonable and pragmatic and open to new ideas, but you’re apparently just as ensconced in misogyny as your brother is, and for the same wrong reason of tradition. (TRADITION.)
F’lar arrives, and Brekke heads back, which makes F’nor relieved to not have her talking about her wild ideas while he tries to get his brother to support him and Canth to be the arranged partner for Wirenth and Brekke. F’lar is wondering where everyone is (trying to catch fire-lizards, of course), and when T’bor wings in, F’lar gives him the hard truth about the out of phase Threadfall. Then F’lar gets to see Mirrim’s three fire-lizards as she stirs a great kettle of soup. Mirrim does her best impression of a star-struck girl, and F’lar and F’nor talk about the use of fire-lizards as trainable entities, Brekke’s idea about Mirrim (F’lar laughs, but gives the matter no serious consideration), and, oh, wait, a Thread attack is coming.
For supposedly being lazy on the beach, however, the Southern Weyr fighters are excellent scramblers and are already in the air before the warning finishes. F’nor has to sit it out, since he is still injured, Everything appears to go according to plan, except that the vegetation clearly shows signs of having been hit by Thread, but there are no burrows, a lot of grubs, and there is a lot of dead Thread in the water. Something is going on here, and F’lar and T’bor both know it. Yet even a panic sweep looking for Thread finds none at all.
And no Kylara either, which brings out F’lar’s domestic violence instincts, and his regret that he suggested Kylara become a Weyrwoman, which shift to confusion as to why she didn’t appear when the warning call went out. When she does reappear, with her Impressed gold queen fire-lizard, she’s busily being angry and manipulative to T’bor, which invokes F’lar’s sympathy for T’bor in a definite “bros before hos” sort of way, including some delight at the idea that Prideth might get flown by an Oldtimer that would quickly bring her in line. Good to know F’lar’s domestic abuse proclivities haven’t dulled any. Kylara tries to show F’lar her gold, but it scratches her trying to regain balance, which provokes Kylara, sending the fire-lizard disappearing and getting Prideth entirely riled up, too the point where she doesn’t listen to any other dragon. That’s a Bad Thing. F’lar suggests letting someone else have Kylara, but T’bor isn’t having any of it, and then details what he knows of Kylara giving eggs to Holders. Which only adds to F’lar’s worries about everything, including the out-of-pattern Threadfall and the fact that Thread has likely been falling on the Southern Continent for a very long time, but not leaving any marks or burrows to signify that it had been there.
Unable to leave without more investigation, F’lar loops back to his previous investigation site, to see the plant repairing itself from the strike. F’lar is able to put two and two together, hops back in time to watch the Thread fall, then collects a plant with grubs attached to go show the Masterherdsman. Whom he also tells about the likely connection between fire-lizards and dragons, to the Masterherdsman’s utter disbelief. To be fair, the Masterherdsman is being asked to believe that breeding somehow transformed the fire-lizards into dragons over many generations, instead of the idea that fire-lizards may have been genetically altered through splicing, gene manipulation, and recombination into dragons, which would sound equally far-fetched, but at least would be able to explain the wild variance between the two relations.
The Masterherdsman, however, immediately smashes the grubs from the plant, over F’lar’s protests about their utility, because they are “an abomination”, and F’lar leaves, pissed, to end the chapter. Again, we have worldbuilding without foreshadowing. Grubs are abominations? Then F’lar would have had a strong revulsion reaction to them, I would have thought. Unless it’s something that dragonriders are just never told about, because they don’t work with the ground. That, though, would have provoked a reaction of surprise from F’lar at how the grubs were treated, not annoyance. So F’lar knows, but is somehow able to get over what his tradition (Tradition!) has told him about them in this case, when he’s still pretty in favor of doing things the old way if he hasn’t thought up a better reason and new way. F’lar, your characterization is getting inconsistent, it seems. It would have made more sense for it to be F’nor, but he’s still injured, so I guess you’ll have to do?
Next time…things get ugly.