When we last left Menolly, she had attempted to outrun a Threadfall, burning through her shoes and some amount of her foot skin, and was convalescing at Benden Weyr. Elgion found Yanus’s weak point, but remained in the dark about Menolly’s whereabouts and her musical skill, because the plot insists that he not know.
Dragonsong: Chapter 10: Content Notes: Parental Abuse. Fun content: Overcoming an abusive past, having fun.
From here on out, the narrative is going to give us a lot of connective tissue to Dragonquest. It will be, in some ways, like watching a movie with the alternate camera angles feature turned on. This is the first time a newcomer would see these events, so the repetition is necessary.
Chapter 10 opens with the recovery of Menolly. Upon awaking, Menolly feels the comfort of her fire lizard queen for a bit before the queen disappears at the presence of another person. Her nurse asks about her feet, to which Menolly lies, likely reflexively instead of deliberately, but her nurse doesn’t take her word for it. It’s immediately clear, however, that Menolly has stepped into an entirely different world.
“You’d run your feet to ribbons…” The was a slight hesitation in the woman’s voice. “They’ll be fine in a sevenday. No serious cuts.” The quiet voice held a ripple of amusement. “T’gran is convinced you’re the fastest[…]runner in Pern.”
“I’m not a runner. I’m just a girl.”
“Not ‘just’ a girl.”
“I’m Manora,” the woman said add she termed with a bowl of streaming stew and a mug. “You realize you’re at Benden Weyr? Good. You may stay here as long as you wish.”
“I can?” A relief as intense as the pain in her feet flooded Menolly.
“Yes, you can,” and the firmness of that reply made that right inalienable.
Hooray, a person that finally respects Menolly…and that seems to know what’s been going on with her. This may become important later. After another assurance that Menolly can stay and that Half-Circle won’t be told about where she is, Manora departs, and Menolly’s fire lizard queen, Beauty, stops by to see her and to nick some of her stew. Menolly says that Beauty is supposed to stay hidden before sleeping again, but Menolly’s scientific mind is trying to figure out how Beauty knew where to go to find her.
Menolly reawakens to the sound of laughter, and meets her current nurse…Mirrim, Brekke’s caretaker. (At this particular point, Brekke is still suicidally depressed.) After a little sniping at each other about how out of touch Menolly is and how Mirrim doesn’t know about the biggest dock cavern in Pern, the two have a laugh and Mirrim helps Menolly to the toilet, euphemistically “the necessary”. Which is an odd euphemism, unless they’re talking about the act of urination instead of the place, but no, a few sentences later, its clear they’re talking about the place. After “the necessary”, Mirrim changes the bandages on Menolly’s feet, keeping up a running conversation without stopping at any point to let Menolly get a word in edgewise, at least until they discuss the lack of infection in her feet, and Menolly shows Mirrim her hand. Mirrim’s response is noteworthy:
“Well, you are using those fingers. A bit drawn that scar, though.” Mirrim clucked her tongue with professional dismay. “Don’t think much of your Hold’s nursing if that’s any sample.”
That’s an interesting assessment. Menolly, being quite brilliant, draws the logical conclusion from this information.
Definitely Mavi had given her the distinct impression that she’d never be able to use her hand again. Yet Mavi was too skilled a healer not to have known that the knife had missed the finger tendons. She had deliberately let the hands heal with drawn flesh. It was painfully clear to Menolly that Mavi, as well as Yanus, had not wanted her to be able to play again.
Grimly, Menolly vowed that she’d never return to Half-Circle. Her reflections made her doubt Manora’s assurance that she could stay at Benden Weyr. No matter, she could run away again. Run she could, and live holdless. And that’s what she’d do. Why, she’d run all across Pern…And why not? Menolly became pleased with the notion. Indeed, the was nothing to stop her from running right to the Masterharperhall in Fort Hold. Maybe Petiron had sent her songs to Masterharper Robinton. Maybe they were more than just twiddles. Maybe…but there was no maybe about returning to Half-Circle Hold! That she would not do.
Oh, Menolly. How horrible it is to have two parents so willing to abuse you over your talents, even the one that supposedly loves you deliberately letting your hand scar. I hope there’s happiness in store for you yet, even though the narrative has yet to let anyone through with new ideas or non-traditional gender roles without severe damage to them first.
Menolly asks to do something useful the next day, and Mirrim pairs Menolly with Sanra in looking after the fosterlings. Who ruthlessly mine Menolly for every scrap of information she had about fishing and sailing and only leave her be after she teaches them how to build small ships and go sail them in the Weyr lake. Her happiness almost brings her to song, which she cuts short in fear. Afterward, though, she thinks things through, and the lightbulb comes on that she’s not at Half-Circle, she has no intention of going back to Half-Circle, and there are no powers in Pern that can move her back there if she doesn’t want to go. So she starts humming the tune she was composing in her head. Then we get the abbreviated version of the queen fight in Dragonquest. Sanra, in relating the story, reminds us that everyone hates Kylara for what happened. That night, when Mirrim is changing Menolly’s bandages, we have another gentle reminder of how things are changed for Menolly.
“You taught the weyrlings how to make those little boats, didn’t you?”
Menolly flipped over, startled, and wondering if she’d done wrong, but Mirrim was grinning.
“You should have seen the dragons snorting them about the lake.” Mirrim giggled. “Having the grandest time. I haven’t laughed so much in weeks.”
And then the fire lizards arrive the next day as the comic relief. All nine of them, that is, making quite a racket through the Weyr as they look for Menolly. The antics of the nine have attracted Lessa’s attention, and she follows them into the kitchen. For reference, Lessa is described as “A small, slim woman in riding gear” with no mention of the assets Lessa looked at in the mirror all the way back in Dragonflight. The fire lizards have set Ramoth (and by extension, Lessa) on edge, so Ramoth quiets them, which causes the lizards to have an even greater fear reaction, just silently. Menolly identifies her nine, which provokes Lessa to ask about her story, and Menolly spills it all out, including the knowledge of where another egg clutch is. Lessa’s reaction there is to get even more annoyed at not knowing this information beforehand. It’s overwhelming to Menolly.
Menolly hung her head in despair.
“Please, Weyrwoman, don’t send me back to Half-Circle Hold!”
“A girl who can impress nine fire lizards,” said Lessa in a sharp rippling tone that made Menolly look up, “does not belong in a Sea Hold.”
She swept away, leaving the entire cavern breathless. Activity suddenly picked up on all sides of the kitchen. Menolly felt Mirrim pressing her into a chair; she sank weakly down. She found a cup of klah in her hands and heard T’gellan urging her to take a few sips.
“One’s first encounter with Lessa is apt to be unnerving.”
“She’s…she’s so small,” Menolly said dazedly.
“Size is irrelevant.”
That, and Lessa could stand to be more empathetic. Her Sith side must have been showing there, possibly aided by Ramoth’s protectiveness regarding her eggs. Still, it’s not the greatest impression to make on someone, unless you’re the kind of person who wants to be feared, rather than loved. Again, this could be an opportunity to check in with Menolly’s psyche, considering that kind of imperious tone is probably going to dredge up flashbacks of how Mavi or Yanus spoke to her that way, possibly before she got beaten as a child. Menolly is showing signs of mental stress, and right after the quoted part, Mirrim chides T’gellan for joking with Menolly while she’s still frazzled. And Menolly seemed to be more in a panic as Lessa was arriving, but it evaporated in the conversation setting, instead of keeping her so very keyed up in fear that the wrong word would send her back. I would have expected the entire situation to produce more of a reaction on the scale of a PTSD event over the possibility of Lessa being mad at her.
Before the night is over, Menolly is back at her cave, courtesy T’gellan and Monarth, to clean it out in case the old fire lizard queen comes back to lay another clutch.
“D’you want any of these things?”
“Not many,” Menolly said and dove for her sleeping rug. Her pipes were still there, so he hadn’t seen them in his first visit to the cave. “My oil…” she said, grabbing up the pot. “I’ll need that.”
“Not really,” said T’gellan with a grin, “but bring it along. Manora’s always interested in such things.”
She took her dried herbs, too, and made a neat package, which she could tie on her back. Ruthlessly then she began to chuck her homemade crockery out of the cave entrance.
Wait for it…
“Oh!” Aghast, she rushed to the mouth, looking about for Monarth.
“You missed him! He’s got more sense than to stay around when there’s a cleaning.” With that T’gellan launched her boiling pot into the air.
And Chapter Ten ends with them going to look for the clutch of eggs Menolly found earlier.
Notice, though, that Menolly was aware enough of who else was around to go check on Monarth. Menolly and Jaxom still have the highest empathy scores of any of the people around them. T’gellan uses the opportunity to make a sexist joke (the male dragon knows better than to be around when the women’s work is happening, har, har), but that seems par for the course on Pern, and especially among dragonriders.
Stepping just a tiny bit into Chapter 11, they find the clutch. Thirty-one eggs. We’ll see how that affects everything next time.