Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dragondrums: Topsy-Turvy Day

Last chapter, Piemur survived an attempt on his life, for which no real discipline was issued to those who were responsible, or the person who allowed it to happen.

Dragondrums: Chapter 6: Content Notes: Getting Away With Attempted Murder, Victim-Blaming, Gaslighting

Chapter Six resumes the action near the end of Piemur’s enforced convalescence, with Silvina spoon-feeding him broth, since Piemur doesn’t know what his Hall future holds.

Piemur caught her skirt as she made a move. “There was grease on those steps, wasn’t there, Silvina?” Piemur had to ask the question, because he couldn’t really trust what he thought he had heard.
“Indeed and there was!” Silvina frowned, pursing her lips in an angry line. Then she patted his head. “Those little sneaks saw you fall, scampered down and washed the grease off the steps and handrail…but,” she added in a sharper tone, “they forgot there’d be grease on your boot as well!” Another pat on his arm. “You might say, they slipped up there!”
For a moment, Piemur couldn’t believe that Silvina was joshing him, and then he had to giggle.
“There! That’s more like you, Piemur. Now rest! That’ll set you right quicker than you realize. And likely to be the last good rest you’ll get for a while.”

Bit of gallows humor there, eh, Silvina? Also, with Piemur asking about the grease, something tells me that Dirzan has been gaslighting him for quite a while before the murder attempt, off page.

Piemur sleeps for a while until Menolly appears with proper food for him, and they talk about the attempt and his upcoming mission.

She grinned, then, her eyes twinkling. “Clell and the other dimglows are on water rations and they won’t get to the Gather!”
Piemur groaned.
“And why not? They deserve restriction. Pranks are one thing, but deliberately conspiring to injure – and you could have been killed by their mischief – is an entirely different matter. Only…” and Menolly shook her head in perplexity, “…I can’t think what you did to rile them so.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Piemur said so emphatically that he slopped the water glass on his tray.
Rocky chirped anxiously, and Beauty took up the note in her trill.
“I believe you, Piemur.” She squeezed his toes where they poked the sleeping furs. “I do! And, would you also believe, that’s why you had trouble? They kept expecting you to do some typical Piemur tricks, and you were so busy behaving for the first time since you apprenticed here, no one could credit it. Least of all Dirzan, who knew all too much about you and your ways!” She gave his toes another affectionate tweak. “And you, bursting your guts with discretion to the point where you didn’t tell me or Sebell what you bloody ought to have. We didn’t mean for you to stop talking altogether, you know.
“I thought you were testing me.”
“Not that hard, Piemur. When I find out what Dirzan…no, eat all your tubers.”

No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO!

Cocowhat by depizan

[The Loudest Profanity I’ve Ever Heard]…several times.

Before we even get to the content of this exchange, I object in the strongest terms to Menolly being used in this fashion. Yes, she’s Piemur’s friend, but she’s only been three Turns off of her own harrowing Hall experience, and she has her entire lifetime of abuse from her father as experience toward how much pranking and malice can be dangerous and harmful. The Menolly from Dragonsinger would not be satisfied merely with restrictions on liberty and on diet as punishment for attempted murder. She probably doesn’t have the authority to expel them on her own, but she shouldn’t have to make too much of a case for it, either.

I also object to Menolly engaging in victim-blaming here. Firsthand experience of what being yourself results in, and having to work through the issue that such things are not the fault of the victim, no matter how much the bullies insist it is, remember? Menolly is the very last person that would say “You brought this on yourself because everyone expected you to act like your reputation, so when you didn’t, it was open season on you. You should have just conformed to their expectations.” Bullshit. Absolute coprolite.

Finally, although it is minor compared to the flagrant fouls already committed, “bloody” as an oath is derived from “God’s blood”. There is no indication, anywhere, that there is any sort of religious practice on Pern, much less monotheism, and certainly not Christianity. An oath like “bloody” has zero fucking context to appear in, so it should not exist.

So. Plot. Not one to waste opportunity, Menolly informs Piemur of his upcoming trip to a Nabol Gather, where his bruises will provide extra realism to his role as an apprentice herder (a role Piemur is intimately familiar with, as he was part of a herder family before becoming a Harper). Sebell will be playing the role of the herder, and their mission is to discover why there are so many fire lizards at Nabol, whether Meron is trading with Southern Weyr, and which of Meron’s heirs will be the best fit to inherit from him.

Oh, sorry…

“Meron’s trading with the Oldtimers?”
“Lord Meron, lad you don’t forget the title even in your thoughts…and yes, that’s the possibility.”

Because even if he is a slimeball in everyone’s opinion, and he’s done things to piss off most of them, he’s a Lord Holder, dammit, and that means he must be respected with his title. Much like how criticisms of dragonriders must be suppressed to the point of not even becoming conscious thought. Even though Sebell immediately undercuts that respect, Piemur is supposed to give it.

“He is dying then?” He’d [Piemur] been sure the message to Master Oldive was spurious.
“Oh, yes, a wasting disease.” Sebell’s grin was malicious, and there was an unpleasant gleam in his eyes as he met Piemur’s astonished gaze. “You might say, a very proper disease to fit Lord Meron’s…peculiar ways!”

No details are forthcoming about the disease, but we can probably surmise it’s an STD, since what we know of Meron from Dragonquest and this book is that Meron sleeps around a lot (many heirs) and sleeps with dragonrider queen riders (Kylara) who are well above his station, and, oh, is also abusive to those women (also Kylara). The way it’s described by Sebell, the “wasting disease” could be HIV/AIDS, although at the time of publication, I don’t believe it had yet been changed from Gay-Related Immune Disorder. If it is HIV/AIDS, with the implication that Meron is bisexual and collected it from a male partner, then Sebell and all the people, including Harpers and others not quoted in this chapter, who are taking great schadenfreude in someone they hate dying painfully, get an extra “you’re a homophobic asshole” on top of their current astronomical count of sins. So why, again, is Sebell telling Piemur he has to remember to say Lord Meron, since Sebell doesn’t respect Meron at all?

Everyone has promised Master Oldive that Piemur will have a light-duty time at the Gather, so we can expect that not to happen at all as soon as Piemur gets out into the wild. Because of that, though, Piemur gets dropped off by dragon ahead of where Sebell is driving the herdbeasts and told to wait for him. Piemur hears the sounds of people coming, and hides from them to observe.

He curled up small, hugging knees to chest, secure in the belief that he couldn’t be seen.
A chirrup disabused him off that notion and, startled, he glanced up and saw three pairs of fire lizard eyes gleaming at him.
“Go away, you silly creatures. I’m not even here!” To prove this, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the awful nothingness of between.
The fire lizards responded with an agitated chorus.

Piemur escapes discovery because the men with the fire lizards are uninterested in what just caused their fair to squeak frightfully. Which, yeah, moving cart, Gather, so it makes sense. However, it does raise an interesting question: Since fire lizards communicate mostly by images and emotions, is Piemur saying something like “I’m going to kill you.” unintentionally when he tries to communicate that he’s not here? It drove off the fair, but what will happen with a fair that doesn’t have a destination?
After quite the long wait, and enough time to feel somewhat sorry that he’s going to Nabol instead of performing at Fort, Piemur wonders whether Sebell is anywhere nearby. In the middle of a boast about his abilities with drum measures, Piemur gets an idea.

He groped on the ground beside him and found a rock, gave it an experimental whack against the builder that sheltered him. The resultant shins echoed about the small valley. Piemur found another rock and, rising, went to the now visible track. He beat the rocks together in the monotone code for “harper”, adding the be[a]t for “where,” grinning as the sharp staccato sounds reverberated. He repeated the two measures, then waited. He beat his measures again to give Sebell time to find his own rocks. Then in the pause he heard distantly a muffled reply: “journeyman comes.”

Hey, that skill Piemur picked up is going to come in handy after all, not just in sending coded messages on parchment. I’d like to see more of this creative problem-solving, and less of the abuse-because-talented, please.

After another giant fair of fire lizards and humans passes by, with Piemur thinking of nothingness again, but counting and confirming that there are way too many fire lizards about, Sebell arrives and the two go to the Gather. Sebell haggles down the fee for stable space for the animals, then sends Piemur to collect fodder for the animals while others start to bargain with Sebell for the beasts.

They got the beasts enclosed, and Piemur was sent with a worn mark of the Herdsman’s Crafthall to haggle for fodder. He managed to save an eighth on the dealing, which he pocketed as any apprentice would. Sebell was already deep in bargain with one of the men while the others were examining the beasts with pinch and prod.
Trust a Harper to weave words well, and Piemur’s respect for the journeyman increased proportionately to the elaborations of the tale he told. Sebell would have his audience believe that he merely used an old trick handed down from grandsire to grandson: a combination of herbs and grasses sweetened with just the right amount of berries and well-moistened dried fruits.

So, apparently, Piemur and Sebell are cut from the same mischievous, bargaining, advantage-gaining cloth. Which says good things about Piemur’s career trajectory, assuming he doesn’t end up dead from inexplicable reasons or poking his nose somewhere that gets his head cut off. I see promotions in Piemur’s future, and possibly a blue sapphire. Especially since he pockets the savings, “like any apprentice would”, which says a lot about how much everyone intends to take advantage of everyone else at all times. What’s to stop a journeyman from shorting his apprentice and forcing the apprentice to haggle down to ridiculous amounts? And would anybody care?

Also, that thing I talked about in the last book about the Smithcrafthall’s apparent monopoly on mark pieces? Utter bullshit. Which, okay, yes, Italian city-states pastiche, but holy fuck, how do you establish valuation for different Crafthall marks? It’s not like there’s an overarching monetary control authority that establishes the equivalencies. And marks aren’t based in precious metal or gemstone values, to the best of our knowledge (except maybe Miner marks). It seems like there’s no reason for the Crafthalls not to try and screw each other over in the exchange rates. “Oh, you have a Herder mark. That’ll net you a thirty-second of this Smithcraft mark, so I’ll need four more of them for this thing that costs an eighth, since I only deal in Smith marks.” And other such shenanigans. There’s no real rhyme or reason to this, and even a little bit of worldbuilding and thought would have been very welcome.

Sebell sells the beasts at a significant profit, and the two Harpers go off to their real missions. Piemur counts lizards, realizing that most of the lizards are browns, blues, and greens, and listens into a conversation that suggests that Meron is distributing fire lizard eggs, all right, but eggs from green fire-lizards. Piemur puts two and three together and follows the people conversing to the main Hold gates to confirm his suspicions. He can’t see inside, but he does see people leaving, concealing things that could be egg pots under their clothes.

A happy accident gives Piemur another piece in the puzzle.

Then three carts, heavily laden to judge by the straining of the burden beats struggling up the ramp, forced the smithmaster to one side. The guard waved the carts toward the kitchen courtyard. The last cart jammed a wheel against the ramp parapet, the driver thudding his stick against the burden beast’s rump.
“Wheel be jammed.” yelled Piemur, not liking to see any animal beaten for what was not its fault.
He jumped forward to help guide the carter. The man now backed his stolid beast, swinging its head left. Piemur, setting his shoulder to the tailgate, gave a push in the proper direction. He also tried to peek under the to see what on earth was being delivered to the Hold on a Gather day when most business was fine in the Gather meadow. Before he could get a good look, the cart had picked up speed as it reached more level ground.
He was past the guards, arguing with the smith and paying no more attention to the procession of carts. Ducking quickly to the side of the cart away from the carter, Piemur gained access to the Hold proper.

For once, empathy turns out to be useful to the plot, instead of a commodity to be shared only with intimate friends.

(Nitpicking again – to the residents of Pern, Terra doesn’t exist, so the phrase “what on earth” wouldn’t, either. “what on Pern”, perhaps, but not “what on earth.”)

And from here, we step into a boys’ adventure story again. Actually, that’s not true, we’ve always been in a boys’ boarding school story, it’s just that the consequences and the pranking went well beyond what a hazing for that kind of story would have gone through. This looks like it could be the longest attempt at this style of writing, since previously it was limited to a chapter or two as a breather here and there. The previous attempts worked out pretty well, and were good breaks. Considering we’re only a chapter out from a murder attempt, we might need a bigger break this time around.

Once inside the gate, Piemur snags some drudge coveralls and is immediately put to work helping unload the carts, gutting food, doing dishes, and then helping with a scramble when the kitchen is informed that Meron is dining in his quarters, instead of elsewhere. Piemur has confirmed to him that Meron has not picked an heir, and is apparently playing them all against each other. Having cleared out rooms full of an extraordinarily foul funk, confirmation of his theory comes with the largest room.

The foul odor hung heaviest in the last of the four large rooms that comprised the Lord Holder’s private apartments in Nabol. It was then that Piemur blessed the happenstance that had sent him in here ahead of the others. Reposing on the hearth were nine pots of exactly the size in which fire lizard eggs were placed to keep warm and harden. Mastering his urge to gag, Piemur ducked across the room to investigate. One pot was set slightly apart from the others and, lifting the lid, Piemur scraped enough sand away to see the mottled shell before he covered it carefully over. He took a quick look at the contents of the first pot in the other group. Yes, the egg was smaller and of a different hue. He’d rather every mark he owned that the separate pot contained a fire lizard queen egg.

Observation! A useful skill, indeed. What I’d like to know is whether Piemur is currently reinventing the wheel, considering the Weyrs would have many hundreds of years of experience looking at eggs to see what kind of dragons will pop out of them. And everyone else would have the collected experience of all the attendance at Hatchings to also make proper deductions. If fire lizards are kin to dragons, it should follow their egg patterns are kin, as well. So this feels like it should read more definitively, instead of as a very good guess.

So what does Piemur decide to do with this revelation of so many fire lizard eggs?

Quickly he switched pots. Shielding his actions with his body in case Besel [another drudge] ventured this far to check on him, he dumped the sand with deft speed into the cinder shovel, removed the egg and shivers it up under his coverall and into his shirt above his belt. Poking among the cinders, he selected one that had a slightly rounded end and nearly inserted it into the egg pot, replaced sand and lid and stood the rifled put back in line, straightening up just as the woman crossed the threshold.

…Steal one? Huh? Why do that? If someone notices, then there’s a lot of heat to have to avoid until it dies down, and being the new guy, Piemur is going to get immediate suspicion. And a few chapters ago, Menolly told him that she hasn’t forgotten about her promise to give him an egg. Maybe Piemur thinks he needs it to show Sebell as proof? Does he think Sebell is going to behave like Dirzan did toward him about things? I can’t find a credible justification for why Piemur takes the egg anywhere. Unless this is part of that “any apprentice” idea that says everyone is out to gain as much as they can without regard for other people.

As it turns out, the answer is “the plot made him do it”, as best as I can tell. After stealing the egg, Piemur finds a good place to dump it where he can keep it warm, insulated, and away from casually prying eyes, and then goes back to work assisting with the preparation of dinner. Having completed that, Piemur finally gets to eat scraps from the main table as his dinner. Now resolved to get out and report to Sebell, Piemur heads for the gate.

He jauntily approached the main gate, whistling deliberately off-key.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“T’Gather,” Piemur replied as if this was all too obvious.
He was surprised by the man’s guffaw as he was by being swung around and roughly propelled back the way he had come.
“Don’t try that one on me again, guttingman!” called the guard as the force of his push sent Piemur stumbling across the cobbles, trying not to fall and damage the egg. He stopped in the darkest shadow of the wall and stood fuming over this unexpected check to his escape. It was ridiculous! He couldn’t think of any other Holds in all Pern where the drudges were denied the privilege of going to the Hold’s own Gather.
“G’wan back to the ashes, guttingman!”

As if we needed another reason to dislike Meron. This particular reason, though, serves double duty, as it keeps Piemur inside the Hold, with stolen goods. This doesn’t bother Piemur that much – he just thinks he’ll wait it out until there’s some other Hold traffic that he can slip out with, so he finds an out-of-the-way spot by where the coal is collected and the ashes dumped and naps.

And wakes up to the alarm in full fury looking for him and the stolen egg. Which he brought completely on himself by stealing the egg. And we still don’t know why he stole it. Realizing he needs a better place to hide, Piemur manages to climb the walls and slide through a window into a locked storeroom. The lock is tested by the searchers before they move on. Piemur still needs an even better hiding spot than this, and his cleverness provides an answer.

He crawled cautiously over the stacked bundles until he found one with enough slack at the top to admit him. He opened the thing, and just as he was crawling in, wondered how under the sun he was going to tie it up again, the stitching in the side began to give in his hands. Smiling happily at such a solution, he rapidly undid the stitching down the side. Crawling out, he retied the knot about the mouth of the sack, then slid through the undone seam, which, once inside, he could do up slowly, but enough to pass a cursory inspection. It was hard to do, feeding the thick thread though the original holes from the inside, and his hands and fingers were cramped when he finally accomplished the feat.
[…Finally safe…ish, Piemur falls into a deep sleep, then has a moment of panic trying not to suffocate in his bag…]
It was then he realized he wasn’t in Nabol Hold any longer. That the heat was not due to the unventilated stores room beyond Lord Meron’s kitchen, but the sun pouring down from southern skies.

And thus, in one of the more clumsy ways possible, but fitting with the idea of a boy’s adventure story, the narrative deposits Piemur where it wants him – on the Southern Continent, where he will get to have a survival adventure in a land he has no firsthand knowledge of. There’s just the matter of food (he snags an orange fruit from a tree and eats – and it is apparently not poisonous), and of the people who are coming to collect the supplies.

“If we don’t get some of that stuff under cover, it’ll be ruined,” said a tenor voice.
“I can smell the wine, in fact, and that better be taken out of the sun or it will be undrinkable,” said a second male voice with urgency.
“And if Meron’s ignored my order for fabric this time…” The woman’s sharp alto left the threat unspoken.
“I made it a condition of that last shipment of fire lizard eggs, Mardra, so don’t worry.”
“Oh, I won’t worry, but Meron will.”
“Here, this one bears a weaver’s seal.”
“At the very bottom, too. Who piled this so carelessly?”
Piemur, scurrying down the other side as fast as he could, felt the shiver as someone began tugging at the sacks in the front. Then he was sliding and grabbed the egg more tightly, exclaiming as he hit the ground with a thud.
Immediately three fire lizards, a bronze and two browns, appeared in the air about him.
“I’m not here,” he told them in a soundless whisper, gesturing urgently for them to go away. “You haven’t seen me. I’m not here!” He took to his heels, his knees wobbling uncertainly, but add he lurched down a faintly outlined path leading away from the voices and the goods, he thought so fiercely of the Black nothingness of between that the fire lizards gave a shriek and disappeared.
“Who’s not here? What are you talking about?” The strident tones of the woman’s voice followed Piemur as he careened away.

Good piece of writing to have the singer identify unknown voices by their singing ranges. I’m not very fond of Mardra continuing to be painted as evil, although it does make sense that she’s able to casually threaten Meron. It would be interesting to see if Mardra were really in charge at Southern through some form of power that’s not feminine in nature, since we’ve seen enough of that before.

Also, Piemur, your trick scares the fire lizards, but it doesn’t make them forget you. Which means Mardra should know your picture, if not who you are, and be thumping the bushes and posting an overwatch to find you, in case you are a spy, saboteur, or you just know too much about what is going on with the Meron-Southern deals. (Not that anyone in this sequence is being particularly subtle about what’s going on.) Since this is a boy’s adventure story, of course, Piemur will be able to thrive in the new environment and evade any patrols that might be looking for him. He should also probably figure out what it is he’s really saying when he projects between at them.

Chapter Six closes with Piemur finding shade and shelter under a plant and falling deeply asleep from his exhausting day. I’m going to predict that once he wakes up, he’s going to find he has no trouble at all adapting to his new environment. And that he might find a friend or two.

This week in the Slacktiverse, April 26th, 2015

(posted by chris the cynic, sorry for being so late, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • Walmart simultaneously closed five stores on false pretenses (for six months), citing nonexistent plumbing problems, and Fred Clark suggested we come up with explanations less depressing than worker suppression.  So I did.  Pretty standard fiction fragment.
    • Jerry Jenkins never tells us what the mundane, presumably pre-Rapture, messages on Rayford’s answering machine were.  So I wrote some that seemed probable.  Definitely not Skewed Slightly to the Left, more the sort of thing I’d expect from the characters as written.
    • I wrote the eighth installment of Being more than a Simulacrum, in which Leela Place Possible meets some of Kim’s old friends.
    • A few days after my nephew was born I started writing a post about the events surrounding his birth.  There were people in strange costumes (including a man with antlers), there was the thing were we almost burned down the maternity ward (it was an honest popcorn mistake), there were questionable things done with medical equipment, there was music.  It was, in general, the sort of things where you want pictures and or video to prove that you’re not making it up.  Two years ago today I stopped writing the post.  I just got distracted and had to do other things.  The computer the pictures were on broke down, files were misplaced, and nothing happened.  But then, on my nephew’s second birthday, I finally finished that post about the events surrounding his birth.  Complete with pictures and video.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for April 24, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who has been sick for six days and injured for one because of the sick.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragondrums: Only A Plank Between One and Perdition

Last time, the antagonism against Piemur escalated to new heights, and all the adults around who could do something about it were otherwise occupied, unknowing, prevented by the narrative from acting, or actively aiding and abetting the drum apprentices in their campaign against Piemur.

As one might guess, at some point, these things must come to a head.

Dragonflight: Chapter 5: Content Notes: Attempted Murder, Willfully Neglectful Adults

Chapter Five begins with Piemur having to run a message to Master Oldive as Nabol has requested his presence to attend to the dying Lord Meron. Rokayas, the journeyman on duty, is suspicious that Piemur is always running messages, but he ships him off to collect Master Oldive’s reply. After collecting the response, Piemur heads back up the stairs to the heights.

He was halfway up the second flight when he felt his right foot slide on the stone. He tried to catch himself, but his forward motion and the stretch of his legs were such that he hadn’t a hope of saving himself from a fall. He tried to grab the stone railing with his right hand but it, too, was slick. He was thrown hard against the stone risers, wrenching thighs and hips, cracking his ribs painfully as he slid. He could have sworn that he heard a muffled laugh. His last conscious thought as his chin hit the stone and bit his tongue hard was that someone had greased the rail and steps.
[…Dirzan roughly wakes Piemur and is unsympathetic to his plight…]
“Greased! Greased?” Dirzan exclaimed in acid disbelief. “A likely notion. You’re always pelting up and down these steps. It’s a wonder you haven’t hurt yourself before now. Can’t you get up?”
[…Piemur wants to reply, but he’s fighting the urge to vomit over everything…]
“You said it was greased?” Dirzan’s voice came from about his head. The agitated tone hurt Piemur’s skull.
“Step there and handrail…” Piemur gestured with one hand.
“There’s not a sign of grease! On your feet!” Dirzan sounded angrier than ever.
“Did you find him, Dirzan?” Rokayas called. The voice of the duty journeyman made Piemur’s head throb like a message drum. “What happened to him?”
“He fell down the steps and knocked himself between. Dirzan was thoroughly disgusted. “Get up, Piemur!”
“No, Piemur, stay where you are,” said Rokayas, and his voice was unexpectedly concerned.

Freeze it.

Okay, so Dirzan is not, apparently, very smart, or his antagonism to Piemur is so strong that it prevents him from noticing something that Rokayas is able to pick up on immediately – Piemur is concussed. I doubt that Piemur is exhibiting subtle signs of his head injury to both of them and that Rokayas is using a hidden knowledge store collected from Silvina to determine this. Dirzan’s lack of concern for an apprentice in his care should raise big red flags about how he was able to become a journeyman in the first place, and even bigger ones about whether he will be able to maintain that rank in the face of this latest incident. By this point, yes, asshole seems to be the default personality, but there should be at least a little bit of practical or self-serving concern on Dirzan’s part.

“He said it was greased! Feel it yourself, Rokayas, clean as a drum!”
“Too clean! And if Piemur fell on his way back, he was between a long time. Too long for a mere slip. We’d better get him to Silvina.”
[…Dirzan complains, but helps Rokayas get Piemur to Silvina, while Rokayas insinuates Dirzan has been complicit in the bullying of Piemur…]
“He knocked himself between, Silvina, probably for a good twenty minutes or more.” Rokayas was saying, his urgent tine cutting through Dirzan’s petulant complaint.
“He claimed there was grease!”
“There was grease,” said Silvina. “Look at his right shoe, Dirzan. Piemur, do you feel nauseated?”

Yes, yes he does, and he proceeds to vomit all of the contents of his stomach when someone unwisely sits him up. Again, Silvina notices what Dirzan hasn’t or chooses not to. And yet, Dirzan persists in the face of conclusive evidence to the contrary. Like he has ignored the other signs that things are, well, getting out of hand. And in the same manner that the narrative has made Menolly unable to put two and three together, Silvina appears to be not allowed to draw on her own past experience (including Menolly) to drive to the correct conclusion until something flagrant happens that cannot be ignored.

The following blocks take place after Piemur has properly passed out again from his concussion.

“How could you let matters get so out of hand, Dirzan?” she demanded, working on the astonished journeyman. “What sort of prank is that for apprentices to try on anyone? Piemur’s not been himself, but I put that down to losing his voice and adjusting to the disappointment over the music. But this…this is…criminal!” Silvina brandished Piemur’s begreased boot at Dirzan, backing the astonished journeyman against the wall, oblivious to Master Robinton’s repeated query about Piemur’s condition, to Menolly’s precipitous arrival, her face flushed and furrowed with anxiety, and to Rokayas’ delighted and amused observation.

Okay, Rokayas, you’re an asshole, too, for taking schadenfreude in this situation, instead of being concerned about Piemur.

Robinton tries to take control, and Silvina will have none of it, but she does tell everyone assembled that Piemur is not head-injured past shock, concussion, and bruises and scrapes. Modern-sounding medical knowledge in an Italian city-state pastiche is odd, especially since we haven’t really explored the damage a concussion can do at the time of publication for this book, but like so many other things, we’re just supposed to accept it and move on.

“A few days’ rest will see him right, I’m sure. But I mean rest!”[…]”Right there! Nowhere near those murdering louts in the drumheights!”
“Murdering?” Dirzan gasped an objection to her term.
“He could have been killed. You know how Piemur climbs steps,” she said, scowling fiercely at the journeyman.
“But…but there wasn’t a trace of grease on those steps or the railing. I tested them all myself!”
“Too clean,” said Rokayas, and earned a reprimanding glare from Dirzan. “Too clean!” Rokayas reiterated and then said to Silvina, “Piemur’s decidedly [an] odd man. He learns too quickly.”
“And spouts off what he hears!” Dirzan spoke sharply, determined that Piemur should share responsibility for this untoward incident.

And then Dirzan is very quickly corrected on his view about that, being forced to admit Piemur has a knack for learning, with the others understanding that Piemur probably knows more than he lets on.

Here, though, you can see Dirzan’s position cracking, partially because the narrative is now ready for it to do so, but also because the narrative cannot sustain such a persistent denial in the face of the evidence provided. Murderous is exactly the right word to use to describe this scenario, and it doesn’t matter a whit whether Piemur takes the steps one at a time or three at a time. There will be no victim-blaming here.

So, the drumheights are obviously a ways up from ground level. The steps leading up and the railings have been carved out of stone. Someone has greased both steps and rails to ensure that Piemur slips and falls. Starting with the obvious, a head injury against stone, or, for that matter, an untreated broken bone from the fall could easily cause Piemur to bleed internally or externally until he dies. Piemur could break his neck or spinal column in a headfirst strike. Assuming he survives the initial contact, head injuries have the possibility of causing brain swelling, which is likely going to be fatal if untreated, especially with the Master Healer away.

That’s just assuming that Piemur falls and injures himself and stops moving from that point. If Piemur retains momentum, or lands poorly on the steps, since the greased steps are about two-thirds of the way up, it’s possible Piemur can fall off the staircase entirely, if the rails are carved in such a way that there are gaps between the posts. (There’s no detail to this point that says how the rails and steps are carved.) Which is a very swift trip down, risking more injuries or death, depending on how sheer the drop is. Or, Piemur could bounce his way back down all those unyielding stone steps to the bottom, with the attendant risk of broken bones, bleeding, organ damage, or a broken neck with each new impact.

If you’d like to recreate the possibilities of what kind of damage an unconscious person could do to themselves with enough force, I recommend Stair Dismount as a primer – sure, it’s a ragdoll, but even small amounts of force can produce big scores if applied just so.

With the history of malicious pranks leading up to this, I think it wouldn’t be very hard to charge the apprentices with attempted murder and Dirzan with anything from negligence to being an accessory to the attempt. His paper-thin defense (“Piemur blabs!”) is a non-sequitur to the act, and even so, wouldn’t justify things rising to the level of the pissed-on furs. Dirzan intends to victim-blame, first because he believes Piemur deserves it, and then increasingly to save himself from the consequences of his own inaction.

One of the constants of Pern, however, is that you do not get on the bad side of the Headwoman unless you want the full wrath of everyone to rain down upon you. I wish it were something more like “Doing bad things nets you appropriate punishment when found out,” but that’s not anywhere close to the reality that we’ve seen so far, and that injustice will continue as we find out what the punishment is.

“Rokayas, would you help Menolly collect Piemur’s things from the drumheights?” asked the Harper. His voice was mild, his manner unexceptional but, unmistakably his attitude informed Dirzan that he had misjudged Piemur’s standing in the eyes of the most important people of the Hall.
Dirzan offered to do the small task himself, and was denied; offered to help Menolly, who awarded him with a cool look. He desisted then, but the set look in his mouth and the controlled anger in his eyes suggested that he was going to deal sternly with the apprentices who had put him in such an invidious position. When he was unexpectedly placed on duty for the entire Feastday, he knew why the roster had been changed. He also knew better than to blame Piemur.

Oh, for fuck’s sake…

Cocowhat by depizan

Robinton, why haven’t you expelled all of them on the spot? The apprentices attempted murder, and the journeyman responsible for the apprentices let it happen. You can’t get much bigger in terms of misconduct. Expulsion would be the least that you should do to them. If you’re feeling charitable, send them back home. If not, let them work out the issues of living holdless, or send them to work in another Crafthall known for hard labor and very little prestige (the farmers, maybe?) Instead, Dirzan stays in the Harper Hall, just with his customary liberty revoked, and he’s left to discipline the apprentices, which, based on what his outlook appears to be, is probably going to involve a lot of abuse, most likely physical. Because the person who is made to look bad like that, and that had let all that abuse happen already, is not likely to be above getting their hands dirty when it comes to taking out their frustration on the subordinates responsible for making them lose face.

Also, how is it that Dirzan takes away from this encounter that things were only like this because Piemur had an in with the important people of the Hall? That is skull-crushingly Too Dumb To Live territory, which, admittedly, fits Dirzan’s characterization, but someone who had enough smarts to become a journeyman and be trusted with the care of apprentices should be able to draw the correct conclusion from this incident, which had nothing to do with his social status and everything to do with the apprentices in his care trying to kill someone. Of course, it would help if the punishment met the severity of the crime – if all such murder attempts as these are only punished lightly, perhaps Dirzan has a point in thinking the greatest casualty of this affair is his social status.

It really does feel like these chapters are just gender-flipped versions of what Pona, Dunca, and the Men Girl Squad did to Menolly in the last book. The idea isn’t a problem, but the lazy execution that doesn’t take into account the previous characterization established makes this painful to read on top of all the fractal Wrong actually happening.

I don’t think we’re going to see the consequences of that decision, though, because, after some recriminations about how their advice to Piemur to be discreet put the idea in his head that he didn’t have any allies to face the bullying with, the narrative pivots immediately to the next plot point once Silvina and Robinton return to his office. Oldive went to Lord Meron, who is dying, but most irritatingly to the Harpers, he refuses to name a successor, preferring a war between all the possible candidates instead of an orderly transition of power. Also, the logistics problem we mentioned a few chapters ago about T’ron gathering gemstones collects a resolution.

“Several disquieting rumors have come to my notice. The most worrying, the fact that Nabol abounds with fire lizards…”
“Nabol has no shoreline and scarcely any friends in Holds that do acquire what fire lizards are found.”
Robinton agreed. “They have also been ordering, and paying for, large quantities of fine cloth, wines, the delicacies of Nerat, Tillek, and Keroon, not to mention every sort of mongery from the Smithcrafthall that can be bought or bartered, quantities and qualities enough to garb, feed and supply amply every holder, cot and hold in Nabol…and don’t!”
“The Oldtimers!” Silvina emphasized that guess with a snap off her fingers. “T’kul and Meron were always two cuts from the same rib.”
“What I cannot figure out is what besides fire lizards the association gains Meron…”
“You can’t?” Silvina was frankly skeptical. “Spite! Malice! Scoring off Benden!”

Really, Robinton, that’s not hard to guess, in both cases. If someone is buying up large quantities of things, but nobody there appears to be benefiting from them, there are a few logical conclusions to start with:

  • They’re being stockpiled in the belief that those goods will become rare and valuable (which Robinton would likely already know about).
  • It’s an attempt to monopolize the market so that everyone must buy through them (which is unlikely, given the way the Crafthalls scatter themselves).
  • The goods are going somewhere else as their final destination, likely as a smuggling run.

So Meron is acting as the fence, the launderer, and the middleman for the exiled dragonriders. Except, of course, people don’t like and are suspicious of Meron from the last two books. Surely someone else, other than Piemur and Silvina, has come to the correct conclusion or suspicion. Maybe not F’lar, but Lessa-of-Dragonflight certainly would, since that kind of subterfuge was her trade for many years. And with someone being suspicious, they, or someone else, should be able to connect the dots about a story involving an extortion run with regard to gems from the miners and some merchant making a big sale to another that paid in gems. Or any sales at all that are paid in fire lizard eggs, since those are officially rare and tightly controlled objects. Meron would have to have a very impressive network of merchants to obfuscate the transactions enough that suspicion about what he is doing doesn’t connect immediately.

Or, there’s a significant amount of Holders, Crafters, and possibly even dragonriders in the North that are sympathetic to the South and either directly aid them or deliberately don’t care where their goods are going or how they are being paid for. That’s the possibility that Robinton is worried about, and he’s going to send Piemur in to listen at Meron’s Gather. That’s conveniently being held at the same time as the Fort Hold Gather where the new music piece that started this book will be premiered.

That’s how Chapter Five ends – Piemur unconscious, having survived a murder attempt from his peers, Dirzan likely to perpetuate the cycle of abuse that’s endemic to the Harper Hall on those peers, and Robinton, under the guise of empathy at Piemur’s voice change, ready to send Piemur back into dangerous situations as soon as possible. Have I mentioned lately how much this world really should have no reason at all to appeal to people?

Writer Workshop April 22nd, 2015

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

This week in the Slacktiverse, April 19th, 2015

(posted by chris the cynic, sorry for being so late, written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • The only post that wasn’t about distressing aspects of real life that I had this week, was in response to Fred Clark’s call to avoid getting distressed in light of Walmart’s distressing closure of five stores on false pretenses by imagining a more interesting, less “crush the lives and souls of workers,” reason for the action.  Thus I wrote a fiction fragment doing just that.
    • On the distressing parts of real life, I wrote an update to say that I got oil, but things were still bad money-wise, things did get less bad in that I will not starve but, as noted in the post about not starving, the need to pay for previous food out of non-food-related savings has put me significantly behind already.  And when I got to my regularly scheduled begging for money once a month post I noted structural problems, the fact that last month I missed that post because I was too distressed about money problems, the history of the month of April, and stuff like that.
    • Then I wrote a post simply entitled, “Fuck“.  More about hopelessness than money, there.  Fun fact though, I did eventually have get my medication.
    • Not my best week ever.  Hope most of you had a better one.  For those who didn’t, my sympathy.

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for April 17, 2015

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who is less than a week after the death of a dear pet.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Amarie: Amarie’s Dreamjournal

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

InsertAuthorHere: Um… InsertAuthorHere

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Philip Sandifer: Philip Sandifer: Writer

RubyTea: Heathen Critique

Vaka Rangi: Vaka Rangi

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Dragondrums: Stan

Last time, Piemur was run out to play listening ears at a Gather, and was then taken to a Hatching at Benden Weyr, where he got to see Mirrim Impress a green dragon, despite not standing as a candidate, the consequences of which have yet to be seen.

Dragondrums: Chapter Four: Content Notes: Premeditated Malicious Pranks, Neglectful Adults

Piemur’s return to the Harper Hall, after a restful sleep, is greeted by Clell and a gang in the dining hall. (Finger-snapping optional)

“You’re going to get it from Dirzan!” A pleased smirk crossed Clell’s face.
“Why should he get it from Dirzan, Clell?” asked Menolly, quietly coming up behind the drum apprentices. “He’s been on Harper business.”
“He’s always getting off on Harper business,” replied Clell with unexpected anger, “and always with you!”
Piemur raised his fist at such insolence and leaned back to make the swing count in Clell’s sneering face. But Menolly was quicker; she swung the apprentice about and shoved him forcefully toward the main door.
“Insolence to a journeyman means water rations for you, Clell!” she said and, without bothering to see that he’d continued out of the hall, she turned to the other three who gawked at her. “And for you, too, if I should learn of any mischief against Piemur because of this. Have I made myself perfectly clear? Or do I need to mention the incident to Master Olodkey?”
The cowed apprentices murmured the necessary assurances and, at her dismissal, lost themselves in the throng of other apprentices.
“How much trouble have you been having in the drumheights, Piemur?”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” said Piemur, wondering when he could get back at Clell for that insult to Menolly.
“Water rations for you, too, Piemur, if I see so much as a scratch on Clell’s face.”
“But he…”

Umm… that’s unexpected. Not the “poor communication prolongs plot points and causes unnecessary pain” part, but those three years as a journeywoman have clearly changed Menolly. The apprentice in Dragonsinger was reluctant to pull her rank as a noble daughter to take command of the Mean Girl Squad and put their efforts to better use, or even to try and shield herself from the worst of their excesses. This journeywoman has zero hesitation at pulling rank on the apprentice and assigning discipline to him over backtalk. (Not that it’s effective discipline – in the dining hall, Piemur notes the other apprentices smuggling food for their disciplined comrade.) Now, it could be that Menolly could see the brawl about to develop, with Piemur exercising no subtlety about his intent to punch out Clell, and stepped in so as to prevent it, but that’s a significant change of characterization for Menolly. The security of her rank must be contributing quite a bit to this. Too bad we didn’t get to see any of it.

After food, where his normal choir companions ask about whether he’s doing well in the drumheights, Piemur returns to his lessons, and the need to polish the drums, and then finally to his quarters… to find that the other apprentices went into his room and pissed on everything he had there. Since he’s been gone, it’s also had an extra couple of days to ripen and add fragrance to injury. Dirzan allows Piemur to take it all to the washing room, where Piemur plots revenge, even if he has to suffer a month of water rations for staining new clothes. The unexpected laundry attracts Silvina’s attention.

“What are you doing in here at this time of day, Piemur?” asked Silvina, attracted by the splashing and pounding.
“Me?” The force of his tone brought Silvina right into the room. “My roommates play dirty jokes!”
Silvina gave him a long searching look as her nose told her what kind of dirty jokes. “Any reason for them to?”
In a split second Piemur decided. Silvina was once of the few people in the Hall he could trust. She instinctively knew when he was shamming, so she’d know now that he was being put on. And he had an unbearable need and urge to release some of the troubles he had suppressed. This last trick of the apprentices, damaging his good new clothes, hurt more than he had realized in the numbness following his discovery. He’d been so proud of the fine garments, and to have them crudely soiled before he’d worn some of them to acquire honest dirt hit him harder than the slanders at his supposed indiscretions.
“I get to Gathers and Impressions,” Piemur drew a whistling breath through his teeth, “and I’ve made the mistake of learning drum measures too fast and too well.”
Silvina continued to stare at him, her eyes slightly narrowed and her head tilted to one side. Abruptly she moved beside him and took the washpaddle from his hands, skipping it deftly under the soaking furs.
“They probably expected you back right after the Igen Gather!” She chuckled as she plunged the fur back under the water, grinning broadly at him. “So they had to sleep in the stink they caused for two nights!” Her laughter was infectious, and Piemur found his spirits lifting add he grinned back at her.

And it’s good to have a moment of levity, but I don’t believe that the stated reasons are true for a second. This really is the Spear Counterpart of the Mean Girl Squad in the last book, but the reasons there were just as spurious and dismissed as low-grade jealousy as they are here, and both sequences are escalating in the conflict despite nonaggression from the people being victimized. The parallels should be far too uncomfortable for Menolly, even with her limited exposure to the details, to bite on the proposed explanation, since it wasn’t the case for her that ignoring them would make it better.

If this is supposed to be a commentary on how “they’re just jealous” absolutely sucks as a justification, then brava, certainly. Because, no matter how often the adults use that as the excuse, it isn’t. As someone who regularly got pranked by people in the same Boy Scout troop, it was never about jealousy. It was about making someone be an outsider because they were different and “weird” and “not like us”. And really, really, Menolly should be having alarm klaxons the approximate decibel level of a plane taking off right next to her ear sounding off.

So, now that Silvina knows, Piemur has a confidante, but Dirzan is apparently unwilling to make the changes, or is being narratively prevented from doing so.

Afterward, Piemur thought that if Dirzan had ignored the mischief the way Piemur intended to, the whole incident might be forgotten.

It wouldn’t. Really, Piemur, it wouldn’t. And you, of all people, probably know that at heart.

But Dirzan reprimanded the others in front of the journeymen and put them on water rations for three days. The sweet candle cleared the quarters of the stench, but nothing would ever sweeten the apprentices toward Piemur after that. It was almost as if, Piemur thought, Dirzan was determined to ruin any chance Piemur had of making friends with Clell or the others.
Though he did his best to stay out of their vicinities, he was constantly having benches shoved into his shins in the study room, his feet trod on everywhere, his ribs painfully stuck with drumsticks or elbows. His furs were sewn together three nights running, and his clothes so frequently dipped in the roof gutters that he finally asked Brolly to make him a locking mechanism for his press that he alone could open. Apprentices were not supposed to have any private containers, but Dirzan made no mention of the addition to Piemur’s box.
In a way, Piemur found a certain satisfaction in being able to ignore the nuisances, rising above all the pettiness perpetrated on him with massive and complete disdain. He spent as much time as he could studying the drum records, tapping his fingers on his fur even as he was falling asleep to memorize the times and rhythms of the most complicated measures. He knew the others knew exactly what he was doing, and there was nothing they could do to thwart him.

Because, when you have no allies anywhere that can help you, eventually you learn to shell up and ignore the things that are happening, instead of telling people about them. And you stop giving a shit about what other people think of you, too. Which Piemur’s choral mates pick up on and try to get Piemur to talk to them, or to anybody else, about what’s going on. Which he doesn’t. And, as Piemur does, you stop talking to the people who really should be able to help you. Piemur wants to tell Menolly about what’s really going on, but Menolly will only tell Dirzan, and Dirzan has already repeatedly pointed out, in very certain terms, that he has no interest at all in stopping what is happening to Piemur. All his interest apparently lies in not having to see what’s going on, so that he doesn’t have to do anything about it.

Piemur could see clearly now that his well-founded reputation for mischief and game playing were coming back at him when he least expected, or even less, deserved it. He’d no one but himself to fault, so he’d just have to chew it raw and swallow.

This is another issue with the characterization in this novel. The Piemur we met in Dragonsinger was a bit mischievous, who liked to bargain hard and who would scam extra bubbly pies for his friends (and then from his friends), and he always liked to know things and appear in places where he wasn’t supposed to be, but there was never an indication that Piemur was in any way a kind of person that was indiscriminate with his tongue or the knowledge he had – he might use it to better his position or help his friends, but he never comes across as someone who does things without thinking about them. How Piemur has managed to garner his reputation as a blabbermouth would have to have occurred in the three-year interim. If it did, we have yet another case of an informed ability or characteristic appearing, like Menolly’s newfound confidence. This is not good storytelling – things can be time-skipped around, but if things change in that time, there should be some method by which the reader can be signaled that things have changed.

The escalating damage in this scenario is rather far too close to reality, though. The other boys continue to torment the newcomer, the person who should be noticing and stopping it is turning a blind eye, and there’s nobody around that seems to have much of an interest in protecting or listening to Piemur. It’s breeding in him the kind of personality that will be absolutely useless as a Harper, if, that is, one thinks that a Harper is supposed to help others and keep an ear out for discontent or other issues with regard to how the world is operating. If we’re training Piemur to be a member of the senior staff here at the Hall, or even apparently, some of the junior staff, then things are working out just fine.

Admittedly, at this point, it’s now a balance between Poor Communication Exacerbates Problems and All Adults are Useless. Neither is particularly a good way of instilling drama by themselves, and with Menolly right there, it rings extremely hollow and false that Piemur would be going through all of this in the first place.

Chapter 4 closes here, but we haven’t hit the bottom of this yet. The worst is yet to come.

Writer Workshop April 15th, 2015

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: Stuff

(by chris the cynic)

Things.  Anything you feel like bringing up be it a 3d printed two string piezoelectric violin or a pamphlet on the imperialist use of Donald Duck in South America during the Cold War.  Or, you know, things on an entirely different axis.  Things.  Stuff.  Talk amongst yourselves.

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]