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 sunk 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 memorze 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.


26 thoughts on “Dragondrums: Stan

  1. depizan April 16, 2015 at 10:26 am

    So much of this feels just a bit, well, off. I think in large part it’s because a lot of this is built on the implausible idea that Harper Hall – a school of music that has, with one exception, entirely trained men would somehow not have a regular and standard procedure for what to do with apprentices when their voices change. I know how much of a problem that is must vary from person to person, but surely it is something of a problem for every student they’ve ever had. That Piemur was a soprano might make it more of a problem, but that lack of a “when our students hit puberty, then X” means the story is standing on a really implausible foundation.

    (And again we’re back to Harpers must be exceptional, which doesn’t really make sense given the numbers needed.)

    Why are the drummers some kind of separate group? Where did they come from? They’re both part of the Harpers and not and that’s also really confusing. (I know it’s all because we needed Piemur to be a newcomer so he could be abused, but it’s more of the setup feeling very contrived.)

    And, while it’s plausible that Piemur’s tormentors would blame him for them getting in trouble, they did something that was REALLY FUCKING OBVIOUS. Maybe they should consider sticking to subtler torments. (And I can’t help trying to figure out how serious damaging someone’s belongings would be in a psudo-medieval world. I’m thinking though that it’s way more serious than it would be on average in ours. And it’s an affront to the Hall as well as Piemur. (consider Menolly needing and getting better clothing))

    I can buy Piemur feeling that he’s to blame for his bullying. That seems only too plausible. What’s less clear is whether or not the narrative agrees with him. Which is way more problematic if it does.

    (Also water rations???? That’s got to do wonders for his fellow apprentices ability to learn. Nothing like being distracted by hunger and headaches and possibly fainting.)

  2. boutet April 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    “Apprentices were not supposed to have any private containers, ”

    You have to live in common areas but you aren’t allowed even the privacy of a lockable box. Why? Whyyyyyyy? I am assuming that this means that masters do bunk searches regularly and randomly. For what? Drugs? Booze? The students are isolated in the Hall, they can’t go out and acquire any of that.

    I’m married, share a room, a closet, a bed, and I chose this, and I still get privacy of possessions. These kids have zero choice in who they live with and they’re denied even this small protection.

  3. Brenda Appleby April 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I think the drummer apprentices are set aside because their quarters and the tools of their trade are all up on the drum heights, and they have to be conditioned to be on call at any time to take down and send messages.

  4. depizan April 16, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Except when they’re eating with everyone else. (Or is that on some kind of rotation?)

    The problem is…where do the drummer apprentices come from? Are they Harper candidates who wash out? (This could explain their dislike of Piemur, who has a good shot at going back to being a Harper.) Did they choose to be signal drummers? (Which could also explain their dislike of Piemur, if he’s a “dabbler” who seems intent on showing them up for no reason.)

    Have they always been separated? Or were they just Harper apprentices last year (or last month or whatever)? Are they also boys whose voices broke? Are they just jackasses? And why do we trust something as important as messages to a bunch of jackasses?

    Why IS the culture of Harper Hall so toxic? This doesn’t seem like a good idea, considering who and what Harpers are supposed to be.

    Why do we just have unexplained hostile kids again? It feels like a retread of Menolly coming to the Hall.

    Wouldn’t Piemur learning to be a spy and drum signal person and dealing with a plot of rogue Dragonriders be enough of a story?

  5. boutet April 16, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    “Wouldn’t Piemur learning to be a spy and drum signal person and dealing with a plot of rogue Dragonriders be enough of a story?”

    And wouldn’t it be awesome if the other kids in the heights were supporting him? Catching him up on things he missed while he was away on mysterious trips?

    How about Dirzan being up in the heights because he is completely trusted and trustworthy, an agent of Robinton’s. And the heights are the training grounds for spy-harpers (which is why theyr’e separate, so that the trainees can go on missions without being missed by the regular hall students). Dirzan leads his non-spy students in drumming and in the importance of being support staff for the spy-harpers.

    How about one single adult male in the Hall be effective and useful and not awful? (Sebel is arguable but he’s exceptional due to love interest)

  6. genesistrine April 17, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I suspect the reason Menolly jumps on Clell so hard and fast is that it’s a sexual innuendo – bet you anything you like that a major topic of sniggery gossip on Pern these past few years has been about how Robinton’s moved his teenage girlfriend into the Harper Hall and makes everyone call her a journeyman, dirty old git. (“Yeah, he says she wrote that song, but everyone was humming that ages before she turned up, how stupid do these Harpers think we are?”)

    But we’re not going to learn about any problems she’s been having, methods she’s learned of dealing with them or frustrations she has with Pernese patriarchy because yay she’s a journeyman now so nothing more could possibly go wrong for her, time for a new protagonist who can do exciting BOY things hooray!


    @boutet; well, they are right next door to Fort Hold, which is the biggest human habitation on Pern. If there are recreational drugs (other than klah and wine) on Pern that’s where you could get them. Though as far as booze goes they don’t even seem to have figured out distilling….

    @depizan; and if they are dedicated specialist drummers, then yet again we have Our Protagonist being so much super-better than anyone else who’s been doing whatever it is for ages.

  7. Silver Adept April 18, 2015 at 9:06 am

    @ depizan – It really is a retread of Menolly, just more condensed and far more malicious because boy protagonist going through puberty.

    As for clothing damage, that’s a solid point – clothes made by hand are expensive, and fine clothes even more so. Washroom duty under Silvina’s eye would be a more appropriate punishment, if not having to go assist the Weavers in the creation of new clothes so that they can understand what kind of work that were pissing on.

    I think everyone takes a turn on the drumheights, since a non-quoted bit indicates all the journeymen and masters can understand drum code perfectly well and pretend not to know things that aren’t intended for them when the messages roll in – when they aren’t gossiping about them. So it very well could be that when you hit puberty, you get assigned to the drums until your voice settles and you have to audition again for new parts in your choirs and instrument groups. If that were the case, I would expect more apprentices in the Heights at any time.

    @ boutet – no private containers because apprentices have no rank and no expectation of privacy. Strip them of their individuality, and they’re more likely to be loyal to the Hall over anything else. So contraband could be just as easily a snuck extra bit of food or some personal possession they kept from their previous life.

    I would also like to see competent, supportive instructors and caretakers of apprentices in this Hall. Like what Menolly could have been to Audiva, with a little training on effective teaching. Too bad we don’t know what happened to her and her musical talent, or anything else about Menolly’s life at the Hall once she was made journeyman. Because BOYS ARE MORE EXCITING, amirite?

    There is a curious lack of booze on Pern. We only hear about wine, but surely there has to be some distilled or fermented grains or plant life somewhere. Even if native crops don’t survive without crossbreeding, you can’t feed everyone just with meat, and so someone has to have discovered a way to make grain alcohol, or to have found out the psychoactive effects of ergot in the flour, or something else. There’s not enough vice to go around, past drinking wines, dancing, and having lots of unprotected sex. Where’s the gambling and the sport?

  8. depizan April 18, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    clothes made by hand are expensive, and fine clothes even more so

    Are they even truly Piemur’s? I mean, with the whole “no rank, no privacy, no personal stuff,” and Menolly having been given clothing appropriate to Harper Hall (and with no information about PIemur’s background), it’s not clear whether he bought them with money he’d made (how?) himself, his family’s money, or if they were given to him. If the apprentices are regularly clothed by the Hall (which that bit with Menolly kind of implied, what with them having all that clothing to outfit her from), then this is treading dangerously close to pissing on the Hall itself. They’re lucky they didn’t get in more trouble.

    all the journeymen and masters can understand drum code perfectly well

    Of course they do. *massages forehead tiredly*

    Wait, here’s another missed opportunity. Where are the secret codes drummed (or otherwise rhythmed) into songs? As a way of passing information when it wouldn’t be safe to talk directly, as an in-joke, as a middle finger to past authorities who couldn’t be openly challenged, etc, etc.

    Where are apprentices/journeymen giggling over the bawdy song that’s extra bawdy if you know drum code? Or the tender love ballad that’s actually a parody? Or the song about how great Lord Blah was, but that’s actually about what a great asshole he was and everyone hated him? Where’s the story of the Harper who was held prisoner and managed to get important information out by whistling or tapping on the bars of their cell window? Where’s…oh…anything that would likely come of this code?

    and pretend not to know things that aren’t intended for them when the messages roll in – when they aren’t gossiping about them

    Because no one in Harper Hall, where everyone knows drum code would possibly suspect that everyone at Harper Hall knows drum code. Righty then. (Okay, the servants don’t, but they’re increasingly invisible in these stories. Though it would be hilarious if they actually did know it, too, and just didn’t bother to tell anyone.)

    So it very well could be that when you hit puberty, you get assigned to the drums until your voice settles

    This would make the most sense, except that we’re rapidly running out of any explanation for why the other apprentices are awful to Piemur, beyond the Doylist one of “McCaffrey wanted to do Menolly’s story, except with boys for more dicks and pee.” They’re irked he’s taking this seriously instead of just longing to get back to real Harpering like them?

    Where’s the gambling and the sport?

    That might be interesting. I’m beginning to think that McCaffrey is determined to ignore all interesting possibilities in favor of sexism and heaping abuse on her protagonists for ill-explained reasons.

    (Seriously, at this point, I’d take “they’re all secretly Sith Lords” as an explanation. At least it would be an explanation.)

  9. genesistrine April 19, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    @Silver Adept: when you hit puberty, you get assigned to the drums until your voice settles

    It makes sense, but I don’t think it can be true – Clell and his buddies are a gang. Piemur’s kept ties with his friends, anyone else on temporary assignment to the drumheights would presumably do the same, but the drum apprentices are a social unit to themselves. So it looks like you get assigned as a drum apprentice relatively early and stay there. On what criteria is anyone’s guess. Something that prevents them performing or teaching?

    The irritating thing is that could be really cool – they could be an earlier version of Terry Pratchett’s clacksmen. Robinton’s elite squad of communications and code specialists; everyone learns a bit of drum code but they’re the ones who understand the subtleties, memorise the really obscure measures and have the in-jokes. Which would lead to a strong esprit de corps, and even possible bullying of someone perceived as a dilettante who got dumped on them, which could be dealt with sensibly if they hadn’t been designated the Mean Boys for this book.

    Except that can’t work either, since they’re all stated to be worse at drum code than Our Sainted Protagonist.

    Re Pernese drugs: there’s fellis, the soporific, and numbweed, the topical anaesthetic, so there’s some things out there that affect human neurology. Maybe the genetic engineers wiped out opiate receptors etc too….

  10. bekabot April 19, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Except that can’t work either, since they’re all stated to be worse at drum code than Our Sainted Protagonist.

    Nowhere is it written that the drum code has to be a static, unchanging thing. If the drum corps are isolated, and if they are an in-group, and if they are more or less unallied with the rest of the hierarchy of the Hall (I’m stating this in its most extreme form for convenience’s sake) then it would make sense that the drummers (much like hackers of the present day) would invent additional codes and nest them inside “already-known” codes for their own private use and purposes. (And it would make sense that they might try to do other things too with the codes which I will leave up to the reader’s imagination.) Piemur is a danger to them because he’s very bright and because he’s learning the “official” codes at a tearing pace. He’d be the first to notice any funny business, and, because his loyalties are firmly in the Robinton/dragonflyer camp (he gets invited to Hatchings, etc.) he’d be motivated to tell. Clell et al are serious about their persecution: they’re not just pranking Piemur, they want to drive him out. They can’t take a chance on letting him become a part of their in-group culture because they can’t take for granted that he’s on their side (they’re unsure, with reason, that they can come up with blandishments to equal Gathers and dragonets). Ergo they assume the worst, usually a safe thing to do. As a result, they act badly, also no surprise.

  11. genesistrine April 20, 2015 at 2:16 am

    That’s a great point! I think you’ve just found part of the Pernese Resistance Movement.

  12. bekabot April 20, 2015 at 10:13 am

    On the one side, there’s the secret, time-turning dragonrider corps, who make full and conscienceless use of their dragons’ time-trawling potential. On the other, there’s an equally secret squad of artisans (the sort of crafters and small tradesmen who are snubbed by the Smithcrafthall) and small Holders, whose unifying goal is a more open and less regimented society. The Drummer Boys would belong to the second group. The Weyrs want to push their society ahead, but politically they resemble the Libertarians of the present day; if they don’t positively want “them that has to keep” they have no philosophical objection to doing things that way, and they’re more or less indebted to the larger Holders. It’s the Holders who are doing the work of governance on behalf of the Riders and acting as their “line of supply.” The Risorgimento, or whatever you want to call them, on the other hand, would be comprised of people with little stake in Pern-as-is and with no interest in keeping things the way they are. (In fact, given the way Pern even works, they might be engaged in conducting a series of experiments to see whether or not things on their planet can change. Many of the mishaps recorded in the Dragonrider books might be put down to this cause.)

  13. genesistrine April 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I think that’s a bit too simple. Even in the Weyrs we know of the Reform dragonriders like F’lar, who’s pushing his “clean Thread off the Red Star and find something else to do with dragons” agenda, and the exiled Oldtimers, who seem to have a range of reactions, from High Reaches’ “too depressed to even fight Thread” to T’ron’s “kill F’lar and we can get back to the way things ought to be, when Holders had respect for dragonriders”. It’s not a big step to think there’s still a faction in the fighting Weyrs who’d prefer being able to swoop down and help themselves to anything they like, and it’s just the lack of a sympathetic Weyrleader that’s stopping them expressing themselves more forcefully. And that could change any time the oldest queen in a Weyr rises.

    (Fort and High Reaches Weyrleaders are both ex-Benden, thanks to a deliberate bit of politicking by F’lar after the duel. Other Oldtime Weyrleaders have sensibly avoided Benden’s kind offer of spare dragons.)

    In the Holds you have the Lord Holders, who vary a little in their opinions of What Dragonriders Should Do, but are, unsurprisingly, pretty happy with the present political setup providing they can find a way to get rid of all these excess sons. (There are, presumably, a lot of excess daughters as well, but we’re never told what happens to them or why they’re not a problem.)

    But there’s plenty of room for disaffection in the Lord caste; women who don’t want to spend their lives having babies, relatives who think they should have got the lordship, thoughtful people who think the whole system is messed up and are in favour either of Less Dragonrider Interference (“interference” being defined in any number of ways) or Complainers Should Be Flamed To Ashes.

    There are also a lot of small Holders, who we never hear from. They’re presumably the peasants of Pern, the major food producers – farmers and herders – as well as producing whatever woven cloth is woven from. Fleeces? Flax-type plants? And presumably someone’s farming or trapping an awful lot of fur, for sleeping furs. (Washable sleeping furs, at that.)

    Anyway, they don’t get to vote, their education is a matter of – well, who knows? We’re told Harpers deal with education, but is there really a Harper for every tiny croft? Do the kids walk to school? Are they compulsorily boarded in the nearest Hold with a staff Harper? Or do the local Harpers have a visiting schedule?

    But there’s no reason to think they don’t have their own proportion of clever and opinionated people with various agendas; improving things for themselves, improving things for everyone (though not necessarily in a way said “everyone” would appreciate).

    The Crafts, again, must vary a lot more than considering them as a single faction would indicate. The Drummer Boys have a huge advantage in communications, assuming they can encode them well enough to avoid the attention of everyone in the Hall who understands drum code. And with the recent innovation of Smithcraft far-talkers they may be able to spread to the Smithcraft, or find a similar organisation there. But then again, there are drumheights all over Pern and we’ve no idea how long the Drummer Boys have been going for. Maybe they are everywhere by now. Being careful to avoid riding dragons, or even getting near them, in case they read their minds….

  14. bekabot April 20, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    1. I am afraid I got a little bit carried away above and am sorry for it.

    2. That having been said, I’d like to deal with a small matter, which is that I do think the Harpers, local or not, have a visiting schedule, though it’s beyond me to figure out how they work it. “Journeymen” (and “journeywomen”) would be excellent candidates for wandering harpers, and besides that, the Celtic societies Pern seems to be partially modeled on had bards who were itinerant (though not all of them were intinerant — it gets complicated). But besides that we’re on the verge of, um, wandering, into narrative territory in which both Menolly and Piermur set out on their travels.

    Pern doesn’t have an internet, or a phone system*, or radio, or anything like that…not as of yet. The Harpers are in a position in which they have to visit people directly if they want to indoctrinate them…which is why I think they, or at least their junior members, visit people directly…because they have to. Don’t they?

    *not a developed one

  15. genesistrine April 20, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Ahem. I think I should point out that whatever you think you should feel sorry for I did more of immediately afterwards. I like going over the top in speculation personally, though I do apologise to anyone who read my screed above and now wants those minutes of their life back. Sorry.

    (And I didn’t even get into the religious aspect – we’ve seen hymns to dragonriders already, and I think Robinton is a dragon-worshipper, hence his outburst when Piemur dared make a slightly-critical remark about a rider.)

    And yes – it’s actually rather worrying to think about what might happen once the Harpers do get hold of a mass-communication system….

  16. Michael I April 20, 2015 at 4:53 pm


    “Pern doesn’t have an internet, or a phone system*, or radio”

    Although there was a Fax network for a while…


  17. bekabot April 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I think Robinton is a dragon-worshipper too, but only (in the manner of many a cynical medieval churchman) because he knows that’s the side on which his bread is buttered.

    He doesn’t want to get caught out with an apprentice who’s a nascent heretic, not because of his strong convictions about the matter, but because it wouldn’t look right. JMO.

  18. bekabot April 20, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    @Michael I

    Although there was a Fax network for a while…

    …and it lasted about as long and was about as efficient and was certainly every bit as popular as…the one on Earth.


  19. beappleby April 20, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I like to think that the term “sleeping furs” is more of an umbrella term that refers to any type of blanket/quilt/comforter, as well as actual fur rugs.

  20. shuu_iam April 20, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    On Menoly, she might feel better about pulling rank as a journeyman than as a noblewoman because it was something she earned through hard work instead of something she was born with that connected deeply with her abusive family. This still says really good and important things about how much she’s gained in confidence in her years at the hall, but does make a lot of sense.

  21. Silver Adept April 22, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I like the speculative ideas as to why the drummers might be trying to push Piemur out as hard and fast as possible – if the reputation that precedes Piemur is not that he’s a jokester, but that he’s an apprentice that’s very good at finding out secrets that he has no business knowing, then the relatively isolated culture of the drumheights may not want someone investigating what’s going on up there. It doesn’t have to be anything as serious as a communication network trying to create equality – it could be drummers using their position as communicators to blackmail or otherwise. If Robinton assigned Piemur to the drums knowing that his inquisitive nature would result in knowing, then we’re back to the Chessmaster in charge, albeit one that seems to have a high tolerance for injury to his assets, as both Menolly and Piemur are proving.

    At the end of the last book, there were journeyman assignments, so presumably all the Harpers at least visit each Hold on a regular basis, even if they’re assigned to a specific larger Hold as their home base. At this point, though, it seems that there are enough Harpers to have one at every Hold permanently – even Half-Circle has one, despite being out in the middle of nowhere.

  22. boutet April 22, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    @silver Adept: “despite being out in the middle of nowhere” It occurs to me that no place on this world needs to be the middle of nowhere to Harpers. Dragons can get anywhere, right? And Robinton wields a lot of influence at Benden. And the dragons can go to the Hall, grab a Harper, drop them off and then go home 5 minutes after they left in the first place due to time travel, so they neadn’t even lose time shifting Harpers around.

    Prior to the Oldtimers coming forward it probably would have been a different story but now it seems like theBenden leaders benefit from Robinton’s network so it would benefit them to see that his Harpers are placed everywhere.

    Not directly related to your comment but your comment made me think.

  23. bekabot April 23, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I like to think that the term ‘sleeping furs’ is more of an umbrella term that refers to any type of blanket/quilt/comforter, as well as actual fur rugs.

    I think the term “sleeping furs” was borrowed from the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His Martians walk around naked (except for their harnesses, jewels, and weapons) during the day or when they’re awake but they all curl up in “sleeping silks and furs” to sleep (or at night).

  24. genesistrine April 23, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Well, at least the silks would be easier to wash!

  25. bekabot April 23, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Well, at least the silks would be easier to wash!

    Any Barsoomian(s) who played a prank of that nature would understand that they were asking for a swift (or a slow) death. The Burroughs Martians don’t wear clothes (so there’s no way you can mess up their “festival garb”) but they’re very protective about the possessions they have. Dying Planet residents are funny that way…

  26. Silver Adept April 24, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I think it’s a valid point, boutet – if you’re in with the dragonriders, there’s really no place that’s too far away for you to reach and therefore attempt to influence. So you can put Harpers in every hall, craft, and hold, and so long as there’s a reasonably swift way of getting your information back, mission accomplished. And yes, Robinton and Benden are pretty closely allied at this point, presumably because they both believe in the same path forward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: