Dragondrums: Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh

Last chapter, Piemur was sent back out on assignment to Nabol Hold, and ended up being sent to the Southern Weyr in a supply run after a decision to steal a queen fire lizard egg from Meron, because there were too many peasants getting their lizards before Menolly fulfilled her promise to give one to him.

Dragondrums: Chapter 7: Content Notes: Torture

Chapter 7 starts with Sebell going through progressively greater stages of worry as Piemur continues to fail to show up for dinner or dancing. Sebell eventually wonders if Piemur has left the Gather grounds and gotten himself into trouble and sends his fire lizards, Kimi, to look for Piemur on the Gather grounds or at the place Sebell had haggled for as quarters. Kimi returns with an anxious no. So Sebell goes back to where he met Piemur, and searches carefully with Kimi – still nothing.

He sped back to the Hold, retied his borrowed mount, and reached the Gather just as news of the theft of the queen egg rippled through the crowds.
[…Sebell has a sinking feeling…]
By the time Sebell got to the Hold gates, no one was being allowed in or out. Glowbaskets shone on empty courtyards, and every window of the Hold was brilliant with light.
[…Sebell is pretty sure he knows where Piemur is, but…]
An order was circulated, and additional guards posted, to prevent anyone’s leaving the Gather. Sebell positioned himself along the ramp parapet leading to the Hold, where Piemur could easily spot him in the light from the Hold’s glows. Surely if the boy had only fallen asleep, the noise would rouse him.
It was only when word filtered through the crowd that some unknown drudge had made off with the precious egg that Sebell came to the startling conclusion that the drudge could have been Piemur. How the boy had managed to enter the guarded Hold, Sebell couldn’t figure out, but trust Piemur to find a way. Certainly it was like the boy to steal a fire lizard egg, given the opportunity. A queen egg at that! Piemur never did anything by halves.

As things go, Sebell warns off N’ton from staying in the valley using his fire lizard, Kimi, collects N’ton’s lizard (Tris) in return, and witnesses the exchange of goods between Nabol Hold and the dragonriders from Southern (where Piemur is packed in for transport). His nap is interrupted by message drums beating for Oldive and Robinton to come to Nabol – Meron is in the last stages of life. Sebell sends Kimi to Menolly, asking her to come and bring him a change of clothing, and sends Tris back to N’ton, telling him not to come. Oldive, Robinton, and Menolly appear, and Sebell briefs them as he strips and changes clothes.

“Is that why I’ve been summoned? To witness the punishment of a thieving apprentice?” Master Robinton was no longer amused.
“I don’t know, Master. Kimi located Piemur in the Hold, but she couldn’t explain where, said she couldn’t get to him because it was too dark. I know the guards spent hours searching the Hold. Presumably they know it better than Piemur could. But-” Sebell paused. “I’m bloody certain they would have made some sort of commotion if they had found him and recovered that egg.”
[…Oldive confirms for Sebell that Meron is dying…]
“Did you find out who the Nabolese prefer as heir?” asked Master Robinton.
“A grand-nephew, Deckter. A carter who runs a steady business between Nabol and Crom. He’s got four sons that he keeps firmly in line. He’s not a friendly man, but he’s got the grudging respect of those who know him.”

Standard grumble here for Sebell’s “bloody” and the unquoted one that Menolly utters right after. Although the possibility of it being in relation to dragon’s blood, as mentioned in a previous entry, could work out pretty well. Sebell finishes briefing the Harpers about the nature of the fire lizards (green eggs) and the clandestine dragon visit before meeting up with their escort from Nabol, who unintentionally confirm that Piemur was not captured while they fill in Master Oldive about Meron’s condition. When Robinton requests a drum message to the local Lords and the Weyrleader, Sebell takes the opportunity to call for Piemur to report, if he’s within earshot of the message drums. No response, even after taking a lunch to listen and wait for the summoned dignitaries to arrive.

Then comes the meeting with Meron.

Although Sebell had seen Lord Meron the day before, he was appalled by the change in the man propped up in the bed: the eyes were sunken, pain had lined his face deeply, his skin was a pale yellow, and his fingers, plucking nervously at the fur rug that covered him, were claws with hanging bags of flesh between the knuckles. It was as if, Sebell thought, all life was centered in those hands, feebly holding onto life through the hair of the fur.
“So, I’m granted my own private gather, is that it? Well, I’ve no welcome for any of you. Go away. I’m dying. That’s what you all wished me to do these past Turns. Leave me to it.”
“You’ve not named your successor.” said Lord Oterel bluntly.
“I’ll die before I do.”
“I think we must persuade you to change your mind on that count,” said the Masterharper in a quiet, amiable tone.
“How?” Lord Meron’s snarl was smug in his self-assurance.
“There is friendly persuasion….”
“If you think I’ll name a successor just to make things easy for you and those dregs at Benden, think again!” The force of that remark left the man gasping against the props, one hand feebly beckoning to Master Oldive, whose attention was on the Harper.
“…Or unfriendly persuasion,” continued Master Robinton as if Lord Meron hadn’t spoken.
“Ha! You can do nothing to a dying man, Master Robinton! You, Healer, my medicine!”
Master Robinton lifted his arm, effectively barring Berdine [Nabol’s healer] from approaching the sick man.
“That’s precisely it, my Lord Meron,” said the Harper in an implacable voice, “we can do…nothing…to a dying man.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Everyone clear what the plan is, here? Until Meron names a successor in the presence of all the witnesses, Robinton and the witnesses will deny Meron the medicine he gets to dull the pain, essentially hoping the pain will persuade Meron before it kills him. Which would blatantly and flagrantly fly in the face of any medical ethics or other philosophy that says “First, do no harm.” I would wonder whether such things have developed on Pern, but the track record for decisions that require empathy is dismal at best, so I doubt that Master Oldive will protest these actions. Journeyman Berdine has more empathy for the sick man than anyone else in the room.

Sebell heard Menolly’s catch of breath as she understood what Master Robinton had in mind to force this issue with Lord Meron. Berdine started to protest, but was silenced by a growl from Lord Oterel. The healer turned appealingly to Master Oldive, whose eyes had never left the face of the Harper. Although Sebell had known how desperately Master Robinton wished for a peaceful succession in this Hold, he had not appreciated the steel in his pacific Master’s will. Nabol Hold must not come into contention, not with every Holder’s younger sons eager and willing to fight to the death to secure even as ill-managed a Hold as this. Such fighting could go on and on, until no more challengers presented themselves. What little prosperity Nabol enjoyed would have been wasted in the meantime with no one holding the lands properly.
“What do you mean?” Meron’s voice rose to a shriek. “Master Oldive, attend me. Now!”
Master Oldive turned to the Lords Holder and bowed. “I understand, my Lords, that there are many seeking my aid at the Hold gates. I will, of course, return when my presence is required here. Berdine, accompany me!”
When Lord Meron screamed for the two healers to halt, to attend him, Master Oldive took Berdine by the arm and firmly led him out, deaf to Meron’s orders. As the door closed begins him, Meron ceased his entreaties and turned to the impassive faces that watched him.
“You wouldn’t? Can’t you understand? I’m in pain. Agony! Something inside is burning through my vitals. It won’t stop until its eaten me to a shell. I must have medicine. I must have it!
“We must have the name of your successor.” Lord Oterel’s voice was pitiless.
[… The torture begins in earnest, with recitations of the possible successors…]
“You must name your successor.” said T’bor, High Reaches Weyrleader, and Meron’s eyes rested on the man whose private grievance with him ran deepest. For it was Lord Meron’s association with T’bor’s Weyrwoman, Kylara, that had caused the death of both Kylara’s queen dragon, Prideth, and Brekke’s Wirenth.

That’s interesting. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen the narrative try to victim-blame someone other that Kylara for the incident. Perhaps because Kylara already had her narrative punishment exacted on her, the narrative is moving on to the “surviving” partner. And because the narrative still believes Kylara was slumming with Meron, T’bor also believes it and hates Meron for everything that happened. So the narrative has exacted horrible consequences on both members of that pairing.

Sebell watched Meron’s eyes widen with growing horror as he finally realized that he would have no surcease from the pain of his body until he did name a successor, confronted as he was by the men who had excellent reason for hating him.
[…The litany begins again…]
Sebell knew he would always remember this bizarre and macabre scene with horror as well as with a certain awful respect. He had long known that Master Robinton would use unexpected methods to maintain order throughout Pern and to uphold the leadership of Benden Weyr, but he had never expected such ruthlessness in the otherwise gentle and compassionate Robinton. He schooled his mind away from the stink and closeness of the room, from Meron’s pain, by trying to appreciate the tactics that were being used as Lord Meron was deftly maneuvered into choosing the one man the others preferred among his heirs by their seeming to forget Deckter half the time. For a long while afterward, the flickering of glows would remind Sebell and Menolly of those eerie hours while Lord Meron tried to resist the will of his inflexible peers.
It was inevitable that Meron would capitulate: Sebell thought he could almost feel the pulsing of pain through the man’s body as he screamed out Deckter’s name, thinking he had chosen to displease the men who had so tormented him.
The instant he spoke Deckter’s name, Master Oldive, who had gone no further than the next room, came to give the man relief.
“Perhaps it was a terrible cruelty to inflict on anyone,” Master Oldive told the Lords when they left Meron in a drugged stupor, “but the ordeal has also hastened his end. Which can only be a mercy. I don’t think he can last another day.”

Cocowhat by depizan

[The Loudest Profanity I’ve Ever Heard], repeatedly and without end.

The horror of the torture is enough to leave strong memories, but Sebell respects it as utilitarian. But Sebell is wrong about gentle and compassionate Robinton. He’s already seen how wrong he is, with how Menolly was treated when she got here, how Piemur was almost killed when he was sent to the drumheights – hell, that he got sent there in the first place for puberty. That Robinton continues to employ abusers, misogynists, and others that create a hostile environment for the apprentices. This should not be unexpected to you, Sebell. Or, rather, the only thing that should be unexpected is that Robinton was willing to go that far as to deny a dying man comfort to get his way. Sebell, disillusionment would be a good response here.

Also, Oldive, perhaps? Perhaps? PERHAPS, you asshole? What the fuck would remove the qualifier for you? You were just complicit in the torture of a dying man. Now, you can “ends justify the means” it all you like so that everyone can sleep tonight thinking they did what was good and just, but the fact is that the Healer did great harm and should have to account for it, just like everyone else in the room there. Of course, since the only people in the room were the conspirators, and Meron didn’t have enough strength to really make enough noise to alert his own allies (who were being barred from the room) to what was going on, nobody will charge or accuse the conspirators with torture. This is shameful behavior.

Sebell is on his way to rationalization of the whole affair, which leaves Menolly as the only person witnessing what happened that might have conscience issues. Since she’s the only one who has suffered torture, pain, and abuse in that group, aside from her gasp of realization, the narrative carefully ignores what she might be thinking or feeling about all of it while the torture goes on, and hurries us into the next plot points before Sebell can ask. Assuming that Sebell would ask, which appears highly unlikely.

To close out the chapter, Sebell announces the choice of Deckter to the assembled audience waiting outside in the Hold courtyard, and takes the opportunity to try and figure out how Piemur evaded detection.

His glance traveled upward and paused on the small window. “Menolly!” He grabbed her by the hand and started pulling her toward the kitchen yard. “Kimi said it was dark. I wonder what’s…” In his excitement, he reversed back to the guard, hauling the complaining Menolly with him.

Because, as we’ve already noted, the bodily autonomy of women is always subject to the needs of whatever man is around, whether dragonrider, Holder, or Harper. Sebell, why are you dragging Menolly around? You, of all people, should understand how to use your words.

“See that little window above the ashpit?” he asked the guard excitedly. “What does it open on? The kitchen?”
“That one? Naught but a stores room.” And then the guard clamped his teeth shut, looking apprehensively back to the Hold as if he had been indiscreet and feared reprisal.
His reaction told Sebell exactly what he needed to know.
“The supplies for Southern Weyr were stored in that room, weren’t they?”
The guard stared straight ahead of him, lips pressed firmly together, but the flush in his face was a giveaway. Laughing with relief, Sebell half-ran toward the kitchen yard, Menolly eagerly following him.
“You think Piemur hid himself among the stuff for the Oldtimers?” Menolly asked.
“It’s the only answer that suits the circumstances, Menolly,” said Sebell. He halted right in front of the ashpit and pointed to a wall that separated the two pits. “That wouldn’t be too high a jump for an agile lad, would it?”
“No, I wouldn’t think so. And just like Piemur! But, Sebell, that would mean he’s in the Southern Weyr!”

And the actual plot of the chapter closes with Sebell and Menolly planning to ask friends and send fire lizards to find Piemur on Southern.

Sebell, however, is a terrible poker player. In some other novel, without time-traveling dragons, Sebell tipping his hand about knowing would have the guard go back to his commanders, inform them that the Harpers, and thus Benden, had proof that they were dealing with Southern, and that they should probably scrub any further evidence of the affair. Such that when Benden arrived to confront Meron about his involvement, all they would find were the smoking remains of Nabol Hold, where Meron tragically perished after naming his successor. All Sebell really needed to know was where the window led to – the rest would be deducable from there, knowing what he knows at that point.

Then again, as it has been pointed out, the only authority we have that Meron had been doing something wrong is the narrative, the proclamation of Benden, and the active Harper propaganda in favor of that proclamation. There’s no real moral component or justification that accompanies any of this – just that Benden says so and the Harpers work to keep opinion in favor of Benden. The libertarian Galt-world that is Pern seems to find this arrangement just fine and doesn’t provide any more justification as to why people obey Benden and consider trade with the South wrong, but it isn’t really clear or given justification to my satisfaction. And based on the comments on the last two entries, it hasn’t been to your satisfaction, either.

This chapter has been awful. Tune in next time, where we find Piemur has found a civilization of Lost Boys searching for a mother figure…

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33 thoughts on “Dragondrums: Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh

  1. genesistrine May 7, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I reread this recently, and I’m horrified that I didn’t remember it. Robinton is a sadist. Full stop. And everyone else involved just sat and watched.

    The worst thing is that it would have been so easy to write it with shady Robinton manipulation and no torture:

    Robinton: “OK, chaps; I’m reliably informed that the Nabolese prefer Meron’s grand-nephew Deckter as heir. He runs a business and he’s got respect, he seems like a sensible and capable man, and he’s in the line of descent. So all we have to do is agree between us to say that Meron nominated him before he started raving with pain – will you SHUT UP Meron? We gave you every chance to be reasonable, but we’re not going to let you start a civil war; we’ve got enough problems on this shardy planet – sorry, gentlemen, as I was saying, we all witnessed Meron’s nomination of his dear grand-nephew, and if he says anything different the poor man must be raving; we have three Lords, two Craftmasters and a Weyrleader who all clearly heard him say Deckter, and the Masterhealer here has already assured me that the painkillers Meron needs in such high doses can cause severe confusion. Unless anyone wants to propose another candidate for discussion?” (Smiles affably.)

    Nessel/Oterel/Bargen/T’bor (looking nervously at each other): “Uh – no, that seems like the best solution all round.”

    T’bor (mutters): “I was kind of hoping it would hurt more…”

    Oldive: “Believe me, you don’t want to know what’s going on under those bedsheets. There’s some Figure1 shit going on down there.”

    Still dodgy as hell, but at least justifiable as realpolitik/the greater good. And NOT TORTURING A DYING MAN WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU.

    Couple of incidentals as well; there seems to be a bit of plot missing; either that or I’m being dim.

    “Changed their minds early this morning, did they?” said Sebell, grinning at Menolly.

    “Yes, and I can’t figure out why. Every single one of them has done all he could to secure the nomination. Now…”

    Are there any clues to how come all Meron’s heirs changed their minds? I can’t figure out what’s supposed to be going on with that.

    And Oldive is The Masterhealer; the Craftmaster. But he works out of the Harper Hall; there’s no Healer Hall. Which may not be surprising after all, considering the state of medical knowledge on Pern, but conspiracy theorists may like to speculate how come it’s the Harper Hall that has Pern’s top medical expert on site ….

  2. depizan May 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    D:

    Holy protagonist centered morality, Batman!

    I don’t think I can get past that to focus on anything else. The “good” side is straight up evil. What the ever living fuck!? How did this look reasonable to McCaffrey? How did her editor not go WTF!?

    Well, I can give up on trying to make sense out of how the “bad” guys are bad. It’s not about actions, it’s about which team the author decided you play on. Jesus Christ this thing is a mess of horrible. And every time I think we’ve maxed out the holy what the fuck factor, it manages to find a whole new level.

  3. notamolly May 7, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Team thread. So torturing a terminally ill man for not falling in lockstep is Ok? What the actual NO. Is anyone on this dystopian nightmare of a planet in possession of minimum levels of decency? And is it correct to guess that harpers are the power players at this point in time? With big flaming lizards who are controlled by a couple of nutcases at Benden as their muscle? The Mafia would cry at the evil herein.

    I am so confused about this spying and how a big fucking bronze dragon is missed. Lioth is not a random passing dragon: his rider is a Weyrleader and should be a known quantity especially since his rider is from a crafter family in Nabol. So all I can guess (hoping someone has a minimal acquaintance with common decency) maybe just maybe N’ton is looking past the sadistic bastard Robinton and is thinking of his successor and trying to get in good with him (and maybe just maybe change things).

  4. bekabot May 7, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    1. This makes the case for Robinton as a highly functional psychopath better than anything else could.

    2. I agree with genesistrine about what the decent thing to do would have been, assuming all (or most) of the observers had their hearts set on Deckter being declared the next heir. The only reason I can think of that they would not simply dose Meron to (painless) death and then agree that he named Deckter is that one or more of them were afraid of being questioned by some means which is both hard to subvert and easy to predict. In other words, whatever this interrogation method is, if you’re subjected to it, you know that you can’t get away with lying but you (also) know what the protocol will be. You can’t falsify, but you can misdirect. If that’s the case, then everybody in that room has an incentive to go along with Robinton’s plan, because under it, if the question “Did you do anything to influence Lord Meron’s choice of a successor?” ever comes up, they can all declare with complete innocence “No, we did nothing to force his hand.” That’s pure speculation, but it’s my best guess. Take with two tablets of salt (but the tablets should be of the Old Testament and not the medicinal kind).

  5. genesistrine May 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    “No, no, we did – heh – nothing…” (shudders, gives horrible fixed grin) “er – could you excuse me for a minute; I need to throw u-”

    Team Thread, yo. Someday a Thread rain will come and wash all this scum off the planet….

  6. Only Some Stardust May 9, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I called it earlier. Robinton is a psychopath. 😛

    ‘ Nabol Hold must not come into contention, not with every Holder’s younger sons eager and willing to fight to the death to secure even as ill-managed a Hold as this. Such fighting could go on and on, until no more challengers presented themselves.’

    Every Holder’s younger sons, it says.

    So, I gather there IS a way to move up the ranks for the lower class. Wait until there is a vacancy in the hierarchy with no clear heir and fight to the bloody death to every challenger who presents themselves. Last man (or woman, but somehow I doubt that is encouraged) standing wins the title. Perhaps, if there comes some dispute later on, one has to fight later challengers off physically too. Like an elephant seal with a harem or a wanna-be alpha of a wolf pack.

    See, it is a meritocracy! Survival of the fittest.

    This would explain Fax, Lessa had to wait for a big strong male to come in who was masculine enough to challenge him hand to hand.

  7. bekabot May 9, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    @ Only Some Stardust

    Get a load of what Robinton is actually saying here. What he’s saying is: “We’re in for one of those rare occurrences under which a member of the lower ranks has a genuine chance of moving up in status. We must prevent that from happening under any circumstances, even if we have to torture a dying man for hours to stop it. All in favor say aye.”

    (For “member of the lower ranks” read “member of the lower ranks who hasn’t be pre-approved by the inner conclave.”)

  8. Nothing May 9, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I had pretty much forgotten this part. And yes, I agree it’s horrific.

    I believe the gist is supposed to be that war would be terrible for the non-noble people who would be forced into involvement. Food shortages, people dying… It would be ugly. We are supposed to be okay with this smaller atrocity because it’s likely to save many other lives and spare much suffering as opposed to the planet-wide war the lack of an heir may cause.

    BUT.

    The modern world has laws against doing things like this to people like Meron for a reason. For starters, vengeful behavior such as this only inspires further vengeance. Sure, the landed gentry aren’t sending their peasants and serfs (I’m sorry, “small holders and craft holders”) to war, but if they catch wind of this, some might enact vengeance even if they never liked Meron, for reasons such as “the Hold’s honor.”

    Then, there is the off chance that the individual in question has not committed a wrongdoing. In this case, I think dragonriders are the arbiters because they’re meant to be neutral in general, and the Oldtimers, other dragonriders, are involved. But they aren’t neutral, and not everyone has agreed to any trade embargoes etc. Any other actual crimes, we don’t see. He has mismanaged his Hold, we are informed, but his people appear wealthy. He’s blamed for the queen dragon battle, but exactly how was he to know? He might have been abusive, but that’s hard to say; Kylara kept coming back to him.

    Thirdly, there is the moral stricture against wrongdoing even against a wrongdoer. Even if one believes in eye-for-an-eye punishment, it’s wrong to mete that out with no trial, and it’s very difficult to equivocate torture via withholding of medical treatment with anything Meron has done or not done. The argument that such behavior puts one on a level with the wrongdoer (or makes the punisher even worse) is something to strongly consider.

    Re: war giving lower classes opportunity: it is possible, but unlikely. Pern is low on metals, so whoever has the wealth would be fielding the armies (you need metal for weapons, even if you use leather armor). War would not be waged as an endless series of one-on-one duels, but with armies, the same as any other war. The wealthy would be your landed gentry and maybe some high-ranking crafters. If someone of lesser birth challenged the winner, they would likely be dealt with by guards. More likely, you’d have potential heirs battling one another only to have the chaos taken advantage of by younger sons of other major holdings, backed openly or discretely by their parents. So the war would stretch across Pern, people would ally and betray and no one would be able to trust other Holds’ people for decades to come. I suppose someone enterprising might rise up, if they somehow managed to earn enough to field a competing army and also had the cunning to take advantage of the chaos.

    Something of note: McCaffrey left religion (mostly) out of Pern because it has caused so many wars. She also did not allow Pernese folk to have guns, for similar reasons–even though as colonists from Earth, they surely had the tech. So, keeping peace on Pern was clearly very important to her. This may be why her protagonists behave in a completely morally bankrupt way to prevent warfare–even though, as some of you have said, there were other, less objectionable ways the situation could have been handled.

    My guess is that Meron’s crimes were assumed to be so self-evident that we would accept his punishment as just dessert, not be horrified at how evil the protagonists are. The scary thing is, I used to think Robinton was a good guy… Not anymore.

  9. Nothing May 10, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Wanted to add, Kylara returning to Meron does not mean he did not abuse her–I know that–but I am also aware of the theory that she liked it rough. And she did have a queen dragon backing her up if she were unhappy about what was going on. But abusive relationships are complicated, thus it’s impossible to know whether her situation was or wasn’t abusive regardless of her ability to escape at any time. We are given too little evidence to make a conclusion.

  10. depizan May 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

    My guess is that Meron’s crimes were assumed to be so self-evident that we would accept his punishment as just dessert, not be horrified at how evil the protagonists are.

    Which is kind of disturbing, considering I can’t even figure out what the hell his crimes are supposed to be. He traded with the Southern Hold. Woopty doo. This may (or may not, Pern is really mushy when it comes to laws) be against the law, but it’s hard for me to see it as badwrongevil. So far as we know, he isn’t ripping anyone off in his dealings. He may have been abusing Kylara, but that’s handled so unclearly that it’s hard to know. There are all of the weird hints about his sex life, but I can’t figure out what the fuck they’re supposed to be hinting at. (And I can think of some things they could hint at that, again, don’t seem wrong. Maybe he’s bi, or poly, or kinky.) We see one of his people be a jerk to a drudge, but we have no idea if that’s that guy being a jerk or hold policy (and we haven’t seen enough of how drudges are treated in other places to tell if it’s really abnormal or not).

    Where in hell are the self evident crimes that McCaffrey thought she wrote!?

    (I mean, I think you’re right, I’m just really confused by the apparent gap between the actual text and what McCaffrey must have thought was there.)

    I’m also at a loss as to why Meron wouldn’t want to name a successor. Why is he taking the screw you all route? It feels less like an understandable (from his point of view) action and more like McCaffrey thought this horrible bit would work better if he didn’t want to name a successor as opposed to he wanted to name a successor that wouldn’t be good from Bendan Weyr’s point of view.

    And, of course, there’s the fact that straight up murdering Meron would come off less evil.

    The thread can’t eat these people soon enough.

  11. Only Some Stardust May 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Ah, see, in a normal world, straight up war would be the thing for those factors. But in Pern, it’s such a strange, war abhorring place (With Dragonriders to uphold the peace! If they want to, that is.) that I could entirely see a series of one on one bloody duels to the death to decide rank. Clearly, one on one duels aren’t something Dragonriders disapprove of, it’s tradition, even girls get in on it sometimes. War, on the other hand, might be threatening to them, so they would have incentive to say ‘you know what, I am just going to put in place this complacent puppet you never heard of before, you cannot do anything about it’. I’m a little baffled why they don’t do that already, actually, considering they could. I suppose their shreds of morality prevent them.

    It doesn’t really matter if you have the most money with which to buy a huge army, if your army has no flight, fireball unleashing or space-time warping capabilities and one of your enemies does have it. A technological advantage is one money cannot really help you against, in fact, it makes the ones with the advantage even more keen to take from you (tithes, in this case). Now, what I would be worried about in this situation is the South dragonriders allying with someone and the North dragonriders allying with someone else and then real massive civil war would erupt, because each side would have equal fire power.

    Maybe that was Meron’s ‘real crime’. They know if it came to a dragonrider civil war, he’d side South, and maybe (this seems like quite a stretch :P) we’re supposed to take it as a hint that he wants to help trigger a dragon-rider civil war. Of course, if that were the case, you’d think the text would state it, instead of fixating on hinting at his sexual habits or maybe-abuse or maybe-sucky-to-drudges-policies. Nonetheless, it’s the only thing I can think of that at all seems like a plausible motivation for his spite, that he wants to end North rule by causing a civil war where he hopes South will win. It’s also the only thing I can see as a plausible crime that you would start to feel desperate enough to consider torture, unless you’re just a sadist. Which is plausible. Humans are sadistic creatures at times, and tend to lapse into ‘my enemy does not have the same feelings I do’, so it is possible that with these normally supposedly empathic people his pain doesn’t register with them as deeply, they don’t perceive him as feeling as much pain as someone they like.

  12. genesistrine May 10, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    @Only Some Stardust/bekabot:

    I have a distinct suspicion that when she says Holders she means “Holders with the Blood – you know, Real People, not disgusting little peasants who don’t deserve anything nice ever not even a green fire lizard egg.”

    @Nothing:

    As well as guns, they also seem to be lacking printing presses. Another deliberate decision of the ancients? Which means that records are dependent on preservation or hand-recopying of records (as F’lar and Lessa discovered in the first book) or what the Harpers bother to remember and decide is suitable for mass distribution.

    @depizan:

    Meron also forbids his vassals to chop firewood and forces them to buy coal instead. Which is a nasty piece of economic exploitation, but basically a pointless one – what is there to buy on Pern? He doesn’t seem to dress unusually expensively, or decorate his Hold ditto. Does he have a giant money pool to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck?

  13. notamolly May 10, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Benden, Harper Hall and Healers are horrible in 9th Pass Pern. No wonder the Oldtimers snapped mentally.

  14. depizan May 10, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    @genesistrine,

    Meron also forbids his vassals to chop firewood and forces them to buy coal instead.

    Because he has coal mines, I hope, or that makes even less sense than it appears to at first glance.

    Also, whether or not that’s bad (or all bad) depends a bit on information that we probably never get. Are there reasons he might not want people indiscriminately chopping wood? Are there reasons other than financial that he might prefer they use coal? Is buying coal a financial burden on them? And how is he even policing this?

  15. boutet May 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    @depizan I would expect that having a police force devoted to preventing the use of firewood would be an expense that outweighs any advantages that might be gained from cornering the stuff-to-burn market. You’re right, it’s ridiculous to think that anyone could police this.

  16. genesistrine May 11, 2015 at 3:33 am

    @depizan: ahahahaha. No. It’s from Crom.

    Given what little we know of Nabol’s terrain (cold, northerly) maybe the woods have to be left as avalanche-breaks? Habitat for huntable wildlife? (Maybe whatever creatures fur comes from?)

    Going back to Robinton, I wonder what his real-life original thought of this? Did he ever read the books? I can’t imagine the level of WTF I’d feel if someone put me in a book and had my character do something like that.

  17. Michael I May 11, 2015 at 5:16 am

    I does occur to me that Meron is probably viewed as partially responsible for the death of the two Queen dragons (in Dragonquest).

  18. Silver Adept May 11, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Yes, but since one of those dragons belonged to Kylara, who is still the whore to Brekke’s virgin, neither narrative nor Benden gives a fig about her, considering her mental state after the loss of Prideth to be for punishment for her. If only Prideth had been killed, everyone would have thought it appropriate punishment for the queen rider slumming it and the asshole sleeping above his station. But since Brekke had just recently been raped and claimed by the Brown Rider Rapist, the death of Wirenth means lots of time and effort invested in bringing her back to sanity and function so that he can have sexytimes and finish gaslighting her into believing she loves him. That could be the unforgivable sin that puts Meron on everyone’s shit list. (Except maybe T’bor, who would be rightly pissed at Kylara’s condition, since she was his Weyrwoman.)

    As for a succession fight, it seems like a series of duels to determine succession would be the tradition, instead of a multi-man melee. But both of those would seem like the right idea as opposed to a full-out war, since the largest weapons we’ve seen at this point are belt knives and flamethrowers. Holders don’t appear to have guards, much less soldiers, and the planet as described doesn’t seem to have enough metal resources to sustain war weapons enough to field an army. Plus, Holds are systems of caves, for the most part, as Thread protection. Trying to take one of them would be prohibitively bloody if the defender has an iota of tactical knowledge about defending a siege. So what would war even look like on Pern?

    If the dragonriders got involved, that would be the end of it, but since we’ve been repeatedly told there are too many sons and not enough Holds, it seems like the Holders would be tacitly in favor of letting a few of someone else’s sons get knifed so as to bleed off the pressure. Nabol would absorb a lot of hostility, and whomever emerged as the victor would be despised and likely quietly replaced with someone who stayed out of the fracas, but then there would be relative calm until all the Holder men had new batches of heirs. (And again, no birth control in Pern? Seems highly unlikely.)

    Since we already know Robinton is callous enough to torture a person into naming a successor, what’s to stop him from picking up Deckter, transporting him somewhere safe, grooming him for the role of ultimate successor, and then installing him in Nabol after enough of the other sons have killed each other? It seems like that would solve many more problems that just by getting Meron to name him as successor.

  19. genesistrine May 11, 2015 at 11:43 am

    @Silver Adept: So what would war even look like on Pern?

    Fax.

    We even have a description of how he invaded Ruatha; wait till early dawn, bribe the guard(s) on the heights, lower soldiers to the unshuttered windows (apparently Pernese don’t mind cold breezes in the early morning), massacre the ruling family, comfortably ignore complaints from other Lords that that’s really not cricket old chap you’re not playing the game.

    Also worth noting that Fax and his men do have swords. Were they the Ultimate Weapon on Pern? (Barring dragons, of course.) And who has them now?

  20. depizan May 11, 2015 at 11:57 am

    @genesistrine,

    Given what little we know of Nabol’s terrain (cold, northerly) maybe the woods have to be left as avalanche-breaks? Habitat for huntable wildlife? (Maybe whatever creatures fur comes from?)

    And if he were a designated good guy, either of those explanations would turn making his vassals buy coal into a good thing. But since he’s been deemed evil mcevilton, the narrative just expects us to go with…random evil or helping Crom out or something.

    @Silver Adept,

    There is so much about the death of the two Queens in Dragonquest that still doesn’t make sense to me. But it didn’t make sense in the book, so why should it make sense now? (If the Holds are so close together that having Queens in heat at two risks what happened there… the Holds are too close together. But, no, let’s just blame Kylara and Meron.)

    Since we already know Robinton is callous enough to torture a person into naming a successor, what’s to stop him from picking up Deckter, transporting him somewhere safe, grooming him for the role of ultimate successor, and then installing him in Nabol after enough of the other sons have killed each other? It seems like that would solve many more problems that just by getting Meron to name him as successor.

    This is actually what makes the torture bit so disturbing. It’s not just evil, it’s like they picked the nastiest of the ethically questionable (or worse) options and ran with it. There are villains who have more qualms than these “heroes”!

  21. Only Some Stardust May 11, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Steel swords in a mineral poor world are probably like the equal of obsidian blades (which I would also expect to be highly valued in this world). Signals of extreme wealth, depending on how many you can afford. I’d expect some to settle for bronze swords, depending on the rarity of iron.

    So… maybe Meron’s crime isn’t just sleeping with the wrong rank, it’s sleeping with someone else’s woman. To quote:
    ‘For it was Lord Meron’s association with T’bor’s Weyrwoman, Kylara, that had caused the death of both Kylara’s queen dragon, Prideth, and Brekke’s Wirenth.’

    Not ‘a’ weyrwoman, T’bor’s. Because she belongs like property. Even though that makes no real sense when by all rights Golds should be in charge of everyone else. It clicks with the rape culture to have that kind of possessiveness, though.

  22. depizan May 11, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    @genesistrine,

    We even have a description of how he invaded Ruatha; wait till early dawn, bribe the guard(s) on the heights,

    Wait, wait, wait… WHAT??? How did this go overlooked? (Or did it get noticed and I’ve just forgotten.) Fax bribed the guards? Not threatened them off? Not killed them? BRIBED them? This suggests so many things about the ruling family that McCaffrey cannot possibly have meant to suggest.

    I mean their guards took some money and let them die. Wow. Not paying them enough? Being jerks to them? Both? I’m not saying Fax wasn’t a bad guy, but that rather suggested he just replaced other bad guys.

  23. genesistrine May 11, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    It’s from DF; Lessa’s first accidental trip back in time. I’ll quote the whole passage for extra interest; it also states outright that Ruatha was attacked again after Lytol took over as Warder, and implies that territorial war is known, just considered stupid in wintertime.

    Below her in the slowly lifting predawn gloom, she saw the figures of many men toiling over the breast of the cliff from the hills beyond Ruatha, men moving with quiet stealth like criminals.

    She ordered Ramoth to keep as still as possible in the air so as not to direct their attention upward. The dragon was curious but obedient.

    Who would be attacking Ruatha? It seemed incredible. Lytol was, after all, a former dragonman and had savagely repelled one attack already. Could there possibly be a thought of aggression among the Holds now that F’lar was Weyrleader? And what Hold Lord would be foolish enough to mount a territorial war in the winter?

    No, not winter. The air was definitely spring-like.

    The men crept on, over the firepits to the edge of the heights. Suddenly Lessa realized they were lowering rope ladders over the face of the cliff, down toward the open shutters of the Inner Hold.

    Wildly she clutched at Ramoth’s neck, certain of what she saw.

    This was the invader Fax, now dead nearly three Turns–Fax and his men as they began their attack on Ruatha nearly thirteen Turns ago.

    Yes, there was the Tower guard, his face a white blot turned toward the Cliff itself, watching. He had been paid his bribe to stand silent this morning.

  24. genesistrine May 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    @Only Some Stardust: I suggested before that Robinton’s a fanatical dragon-and-dragonman worshipper – maybe this chapter is what he considers a suitable punishment for Meron’s crimes against dragonkind….

  25. depizan May 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I know we’re probably just supposed to think “Evil guard! Boo!” but I maintain that a guard who was paid off – and paid off ahead of time – says that that guard was really dissatisfied with his job and lord.

    And this is the second attempt by someone to take this Hold. WTF was going on that young Lessa was unaware of. (I mean, I’m not saying that the Hold was automatically doing anything, much less anything bad, but it does raise the question. And since people on Pern who we have seen in action have mostly been various degrees of awful…)

  26. notamolly May 11, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    @genesistrine,

    We even have a description of how he invaded Ruatha; wait till early dawn, bribe the guard(s) on the heights,

    @ dezipan, Wait, wait, wait… WHAT??? How did this go overlooked? (Or did it get noticed and I’ve just forgotten.) Fax bribed the guards? Not threatened them off? Not killed them? BRIBED them? This suggests so many things about the ruling family that McCaffrey cannot possibly have meant to suggest.

    I mean their guards took some money and let them die. Wow. Not paying them enough? Being jerks to them? Both? I’m not saying Fax wasn’t a bad guy, but that rather suggested he just replaced other bad guys.

    So basically Lessa may very well be the best of a bad lot. Because one would think a rapacious Lord Holder going after scarce land and resources would have gotten a response from crafts and other Holds. But Fax hated harpers for some reason too. The ruling family clearly had issues with all levels of society in Ruatha since there were a couple decent stewards trying to make a go of the hold. More Benden and Harper Hall epic fail.

  27. Only Some Stardust May 11, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Yeah, also saying wow on the bribery. That’s something real messed up.

    ‘ Could there possibly be a thought of aggression among the Holds now that F’lar was Weyrleader? ‘

    Okay, that seems like an important line. That says dragon riders do get involved in territorial disputes, but implies that weak leaders, somehow despite having fire breathing dragons, can’t stop attacks? Or are just plain too lazy. Or… urgh, let themselves be bribed to stay away.

  28. genesistrine May 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    @Only Some Stardust

    Steel swords in a mineral poor world are probably like the equal of obsidian blades (which I would also expect to be highly valued in this world). Signals of extreme wealth, depending on how many you can afford. I’d expect some to settle for bronze swords, depending on the rarity of iron.

    They do have arrows (T’bor nearly gets perforated when he’s visiting round the High Reaches after taking over), though there’s no mention of whether they’re fired from longbows or crossbows, and if they have knives/swords/axes and lengths of wood then they have spears and polearms as soon as some genius sticks one to the top of the other.

    (T’bor also comments that he sees the High Reaches people running away from dragons, so the previous Weyr inhabitants weren’t just ignoring Thread; they were threatening and possibly attacking people.)

    “Could there possibly be a thought of aggression among the Holds now that F’lar was Weyrleader?”

    Okay, that seems like an important line. That says dragon riders do get involved in territorial disputes, but implies that weak leaders, somehow despite having fire breathing dragons, can’t stop attacks? Or are just plain too lazy. Or… urgh, let themselves be bribed to stay away.

    I think it’s a reference to the previous Weyrleader’s non-intervention policy.

    But dragonriders could easily mess up any armed disputes – there’s that bit in DF where the Lords show up team-handed at Benden Weyr to complain and we find that runnerbeasts are terrified of dragons, so they’d wreck any attempted cavalry battles just by being there.

    But again, it seems really weird that “territorial aggression” is attacks on the Holds. They’re walloping great cavesystems designed for people to hide in. I’d expect raiding across borders, arguments about where borders actually are (rivers that move, passes that get blocked, etc etc), but full-blown attacks on a Hold would need major siege equipment and I bet that would bring the dragonriders out in force….

  29. Silver Adept May 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Arrows are pretty easy – flintknapping, wherry feathers, reasonably straight shafts, and a glue of some sort to hold them all together. They’d only be helpful, though, if battles were fight in big open fields that are presumably free of Thread for the day, which would attract the attention of the dragonriders, presumably.

    Speaking of, the Southern Raiders are exercising better tactical thinking than anyone stupid enough to go after a fortified Hold. They hit the vulnerable targets away from their fort and without any other muscle around to challenge them. Hold fighting should be skirmishes and bandits attacking trade caravans or nobles in carriages, border skirmishes, plausibly deniable raids, and with a lid kept on it enough not to wake up the Weyrs and bring them investigating or to tip off the Harpers that something is going on. Trying to siege a cave system is asking to die. Maybe that’s why it requires bribes to take over.

    Which, again, don’t make much sense, unless the guards really don’t like their employer. If that’s the case, though, we should be hearing about the military government of Ruatha Hold.

    Team Thread forever on these protagonists and their evil, and some duct tape for the worldbuilding.

  30. Only Some Stardust May 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Ah, right, I forgot the previous weyrleader was non-interventionist. Which seriously makes me wonder how they could just stick their heads in the sand when a major siege is going on, but maybe we’re supposed to accept that instead of a siege, attackers just bribe all the guards into looking the other way as they waltz in?

    Which is a full blown WTF in and of itself. As a one time thing by Fax, that I could maybe accept, but as a common tactic, I seriously have to wonder just how badly the Lords are treating their ‘lesser folk’ they depend upon.

    I can kind of see why you would attack a Hold, if it’s a question of your own Hold is too small and you need more living space that will be protected from thread. Of course, I would also expect this to cause lots of attempts at anti-thread barrier innovation, but we don’t see that…

    Maybe arrows could form a major anti-dragon rider offense. After all, you only need to kill the rider, not the dragon (assuming the dragon immediately betweens, not goes on a rampage first), and dragon riders don’t seem smart enough to send their dragons to fight solo. Perhaps highly skilled archers with incredible aiming skills could in fact prove worthy adversaries to dragon riders, especially if there is a dearth of quality armor. IT would still be very difficult, as the dragons would terrify and scare off the cavalry. And any smart dragon rider would be able to fight without getting close enough for an archer to shoot at, simply by staying up in the sky and dropping rocks.

    However, I just remembered something that totally breaks EVERYTHING. They have watchwhers, right? I’d breed the crap out of those and use them for military purposes, even if they aren’t as ‘good’ as dragons or as powerful they can still fly. Or was it they only fly at night because their eyes are too sensitive? Right there, you’ve got your own aerial defense.

    Okay, according to the internet: Whers originally were described as having clipped wings in Dragonflight but Dragonsblood retcons facts from the previous books, such that they can fly, but only at night when the air is thicker to allow their weaker wings that extra lift. They are horse-sized and can carry riders. Presumably they can also between. That would be an incredible advantage for any hold, and null the biggest strength weyrs have over non-weyrs, maneuverability.

    Night air being thicker is kind of nonsensical. A good wind and thermals is a lot more important than air ‘thickness’, so, assume that an experienced rider who knows how to find good drafts and winds along hills can fly them during the day. Using the wher, I’d have a single archer fire at the probably far less agile dragon’s rider and kill him/her before they can utilize their advantage of greater size against my wher. Since whers are smaller, you can breed more of them without using up as much food; they should be much easier to maintain an army of than a bunch of dragons, especially since you don’t have to worry about a single finicky gold deciding flight times for you, you can breed green whers.

    so, there’s my evil plot to take over Pern militarily. :3 Use archers and whers.

  31. genesistrine May 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Archers are handy as snipers off the battlefield too; useful for scaring or killing people in a hijack (either freelance banditry or discreet privateering). Dragons would be useful in an aerial hunt, but fast-striking bandit or commando units should still be able to operate in suitable terrain. Unless dragons can see infrared, I suppose….

    As for guards, subversion would be another possibility. Coercion – threats to family etc. Fifth columnists, maybe? How mobile is the general population of Pern? Will someone from another Hold be treated with suspicion, or will they be able to work themselves up to lookout duty?

  32. genesistrine May 13, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    @Only Some Stardust: It does occur to me that siege engines – ballistas etc – could kill a dragon if they hit it. You’d have to hide it from the air and it’d be a matter of waiting until the dragon was in the right place rather than aiming, but given their fondness for perching on the fireheights and the possibility of places with limited flightpaths desperate people might think it was worth trying….

  33. Firedrake May 14, 2015 at 4:34 am

    I think Holds may have been retconned at some point too. Ruatha in Dragonflight seemed to me basically a dressed-up castle. Castles are pretty lousy for overhead defence: all that effort put into thick walls you don’t use, when all they need is to support their own weight. Definitely nothing like a cave system.

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