Last chapter, thanks to his friendship with Alemi, Elgion was finally permitted to deduce the circumstances of Menolly’s absence and the nature of the mysteriously absent songwriter that Elgion was sent to find. With everyone finally in place, the action begins.
Dragonsong: Chapter 9: Content Notes: Misgendering.
Chapter 9 returns to Menolly’s troupe, where breakfast is the order of the day, and Menolly’s chief concern is figuring out how to repair her shoes and/or make new ones. On a long-range expedition, Menolly discovers a stream that could make for excellent foraging ground, but her explorer instinct is curbed first by the thought of food, and then secondly by the dread realization that she’s been caught too far from shelter during an advancing Threadfall.
She told herself firmly that now was not the time to panic. She forced herself to swallow the last of the cress juices. Then she had no control over her legs; they took off with her and she was running, toward the sea and toward the rock safety of her cave.
It’s been well-established that Menolly is fast by this point, so part of the convincing part of the drama is that she could make it back. The thought crosses her mind to use the water as safety, but the difficulty of staying under during a Threadfall, and the likelihood of hobbling herself on the rocks nixes that idea. For as fast as Menolly is, and with the fire-lizards flying protective formations above her, though, the leading edge of Threadfall is gaining on her. Menolly doesn’t know that fire-lizards eat Thread, not that it would be useful in the rain oncoming, so this is a good moment of drama. Now, with our previous knowledge of the narrative, there’s no way Menolly would be able to get back in time – women characters are not able to do things under their own power, if their views run contrary to the established male-dominant order, and will be punished for trying. But for someone new to the series, there’s still the possibility of being able to outrun the dangerous advancing curtain.
She heard the whoosh, heard the fire lizards’ startled chirrups, saw the shadow and feel to the ground covering her head instinctively with her hands, her body taut for the first fell off flesh-scoring Thread. She smelled fire-stone, and felt the air heavy against her body.
“Get on your feet, you silly fool! And hurry. Leading edge is nearly on us.”
Incredulous, Menolly looked up, right into the whirling eyes of a brown dragon.
No, thankfully, it is not the Brown Rider Rapist. The rider warps through hyperspace to Benden Weyr, which gives Menolly an experiential lesson on the Teaching Song regarding between.
And a quick reality check on the size of everything, as Benden is big enough to fit the entirety of Half-Circle and about half again. The rider lets Menolly off…
You can relax your death hold, lad,”
“Down you go, lad, I’ve got to rejoin my wing to mop up.”
This was the second time he’d called her “lad.”
“You’ve a fine pace on you. Ever think of going for Hold runner?”
[RECORDSCRATCH.] Bzuh? Not the bit about admiring Menolly’s fleetness of foot, but that a dragonrider didn’t feel or see anything that suggested his passenger was a woman, despite having a good look at her while she was trying to outrun the Thread and her “death grip” on him during the warp? Maybe there’s some allowance for the fact that he’s not really focusing on her past the point of dropping her off and getting back to the fighting, but this also suggests that Menolly is, well, flat. Despite being fifteen, which in a medieval pastiche-world, would be likely well past the point of puberty. And there’s no indication that Half-Circle is somehow food insecure or otherwise being exposed to chemicals that would slow or stunt puberty growth and development. I think we’re supposed to believe that Menolly’s athletic build and lifestyle has given her muscle and strength instead of a curvy figure. (Before continuing, I consulted a go-to collection of pictures of Olympic athletes surrounded by an excellent post about body types and fitness models to make sure what I said next was actually accurate to actual athletic bodies. Unfortunately for my research, most of the athletes are pictured frontally, rather than to the side, but even frontal pictures gives a pretty good clue about what’s going on.) If Menolly has been building an athletic frame, there may not be much there to distinguish her, but the close proximity should have given the rider a fairly accurate picture of things, (maybe the fighting gear reduces his ability to sense things), the dragon doesn’t correct his rider (which may be due to dragons communicating about people by visualizing them, but still, the dragon would know), and Menolly manages to somehow not betray herself through her breathing (which should be heavier due to her run) and doesn’t say anything in the process of being transferred, not even a casual or happy “Thank you” for her rescue. (Panic freeze, maybe, but it takes a while to wing down to the landing zone.) Menolly basically avoids discovery until she tries to step down and nearly faints from the pain.
“My feet!” She’d run the boots to uppers without knowing it, and her lacerated feet were bloody from toe to heel.
He grabbed her by the wrist, gave a practiced yank, and laid her over his shoulder.
“Just look at his feet! He’s run them raw!”
“Saw him trying to outrun Thread down Nerat way. Bloody near did!”
No, no, no, wait, wait. First, the oath “bloody” derives from “God’s blood”, a reference to the Being Represented By The Tetragrammaton, who has been conspicuously absent from all of these books. I can accept references to dragon eggs, but the blood of a deity with no followers? I think not.
Second, T’gran has no reason to keep referring to Menolly as a him, unless he knows something about her gender identity that the rest if us do not. (If this were so, though, this plot would be Mulan, not Rapunzel.) I doubt that Menolly’s pained scream can pass as a dude with an awesome falsetto. (Not that they don’t exist, but seriously, most people can tell the difference between female singers and guys with awesome falsetto.)
Third, T’gran has probably added a dislocated shoulder, sprained wrist, or broken bones to Menolly’s injured feet with that move. I’m not an expert in wrestling maneuvers or other ways of carrying people, but I suspect the wrist joints are not meant to be used in that fashion, and especially not for the one hundred plus pounds of force that had to be exerted just to lift Menolly, much less the extra force applied to put her over the shoulder quickly. The narrative doesn’t mention these use of the other hand as either a support or where all the actual lifting takes place, so my mental picture is that T’gran grabs Menolly by the wrist, throws her into the air toward him, and catches her on his shoulder. Which should hurt, a lot, for everyone. And that’s assuming Menolly is on the small end of size and weight of those athletic women, like the gymnasts, and not on the larger end, like the basketball players, despite being described as both tall and strong, and someone with the ability to run long distances at high speed. To dead lift her in that awkward way would suggest incredible strength. And should hurt like hell for everyone involved.
Back to the plot. Menolly is dosed with fellis juice and quickly fades to black, as we’re told she’s the second person brought in today. The other? Elgion, of course, who went looking for Menolly today and was also caught out in Threadfall. And who also thinks this other person caught out is a boy. I realize that the whole plot hinges around Menolly being thought of as a boy, but this is starting to stain credulity. Elgion doesn’t put two and three together to think about whether this “boy” could be the lost girl. He’s too wrapped up in how he’s going to deal with Yanus when he gets back to Half-Circle, I guess. Yanus has apparently gotten to the Harper as well. But Elgion takes advantage of a delay in getting him back to observe daily Weyr life and to get acquainted with fire-lizards.
When he’s returned, the dragonrider spins the clock back so that Elgion returns to Yanus much earlier in the day that he would normally have gone. There is a discussion of fire-lizard eggs, and Alemi wants to know if Elgion found anything in a specific cave. Which arouses Yanus’s suspicion, but Elgion and Alemi are able to successfully navigate their shared story to prevent any slip-ups. Yanus asks for some words with Elgion, but the Harper has discerned the way to deal with Yanus without having to lie – he can claim just about anything in relation to the Weyr, and Yanus will let it slide because Yanus respects the Weyr more than himself and his Hold. Elgion has found the weak point, finally.
And so chapter 9 concludes, with the Harper still holding the secondary Idiot Ball with regard to Menolly, even if he has figured out how to get Yanus on board with change.