Last chapter, Sebell and the Harpers deduced how Piemur escaped the pursuit after stealing a queen egg…after they participated in the torture of the dying Lord Meron until he named a successor.
Dragondrums: Chapter 8: Content Notes: None, surprisingly.
The action returns to Piemur for Chapter 8, who is still adapting to the Southern Continent. Food, water, and heat for the egg are the first order of business, as is getting farther away from Southern Weyr and Hold.
Afterward, he never could figure out why he felt the Weyr and Southern Hold were dangerous to him. He just felt he ought to avoid contact with them, certainly until his egg had hatched and he had Impressed his own fire lizard. It wasn’t logical, really, but he’d endured a harrowing experience, had already been in the time of the hunted, and so he continued to run.
Wait, so we have a golden opportunity to show off the vaunted intellect and ability of Piemur to piece together fragments of information, and we’re going to lay this at the foot of instinct?
Even though, according to Piemur’s timeline, he just recently heard Mardra deliver threats if Meron screwed up her order, and just before that, he escaped from Nabol with a stolen fire lizard egg? Surely he put two and three together and figured that the allied Hold and Weyr might exchange information, and that would put dragonriders on his tail, which would obviously be bad. Considering Piemur’s memetic Trickster God status from the past two books, and how well he put everything together earlier in the book, for this to be “running on instinct” and to not even understand why later seems like a wasted opportunity to do some showing instead of telling.
The next day, Piemur realizes that an only-fruit diet is not sustainable, and recalls Menolly’s fishing exploits from her time outside a Hold, fashions himself a line, and manages to land a fish. Then realizes where the tide line will be and dashes to move the egg away from the incoming water. Which points out that he’s been sunburned quite heavily, as the salt water exacerbates all of those lovely injuries and burns. An inland trip produces giant tubers, with grubs running off them, so he’s set for variety of diet now.
That evening, he began to wonder why he had continued moving away from hold and Weyr. Of course, it was kind of fun, discovering each new cove and the vast stretches of sandy beach and rocky strand. To be accountable to no one except himself was also a new experience. Now that he had enough to eat and some variety of food, he was enjoying his adventure very much indeed. Why, he’d wager anything he’d set foot in places no other person had trod. It was exhilarating to be first at something, instead of following others and doing just what every other apprentice had done before him Turn after Turn after Turn.
Here’s the purest “boy’s adventure story” that we have, the general exhilaration of boy versus nature, no adults, no rules, nothing for danger but what the natural world can throw at you – which, on Pern, also includes otherworldly flesh-devouring spores that rain from the sky in regular intervals.
He had seen neither fire lizards nor dragons in the sky for the past two days, so afterward he thought that might be why he had given no thought to Thread. In hindsight he realized that he had known perfectly well that Thread fell on the southern half of Pern just add it did in the North. His preoccupation with the fire lizard egg and his efforts to supply himself with food had simply divorced him from the concerns and memories of life in craft and hall.
[…Threadfall! Piemur dives into the nearest deep body of water and tries to keep himself submerged by ducking under the water as much as possible and only surfacing as needed…]
He was dizzy with lack of oxygen, pinpointed by Threadscore that burned and stung in the salty water. Menolly had at least had a cave in which to shelter and…
If he could find it, if it were sufficiently above the surface of the lagoon at this time of the tide, there was an overhanging rock….He desperately tried to place its location on the lagoon arm the next time he surfaced, but he could barely see with eyes red and stinging. He was never sure in the mist of panic and anoxia how he found that meager shelter. But he did.
Enough references to Menolly and I finally figured out something important about this story.
Dragondrums is Dragonsong and Dragonsinger in reverse. Menolly starts at a Sea Hold out in the middle of nowhere, ends up holdless to escape the abuse, finds food and shelter and survives Threadfall, gathers fire lizards, then ends up at the Harper Hall, where she has to deal with bullies before she can get what she wants. Piemur starts with everything he wants, then had to deal with bullies, ends up outside his Hall with a fire lizard egg, and survives Threadfall while finding food and shelter. On a coastline, as well. The only thing he’s missing is abuse when he comes back to a Hold or the Hall. I’ll spot him all the abuse from Shonagar and others that have already happened, so that the narrative doesn’t have to make it a complete reversal.
This reversal continues all the way to having to rethink oneself after being outside a Hold, as Menolly did.
He, Piemur of…well, he wasn’t a herdsman’s boy anymore, and he wasn’t a harper’s apprentice either…Piemur…Piemur of Pern. He, Piemur of Pern, he went on more confidently, had survived Threadfall holdless. He straightened his shoulders and smiled broadly as he glanced proudly across his lagoon. Piemur of Pern had survived Threadfall! He had overcome considerable obstacles to secure a queen fire lizard egg. It would hatch, and he would, at long last, have a fire lizard all his own! He glanced fondly at the mound in the sand that was his little queen.
And Piemur has apparently been jealous about getting an egg for this long. Actually, a thought comes to mind. If fire lizards are the cousins of dragons, and the dragons know which of the candidates they want before (or soon after) they hatch, then maybe we can chalk up all this Gollum-like behavior to the dragon inside the egg influencing Piemur into his actions. Menolly would know, I guess, were she here.
Instead, the dragon egg hatches, and Piemur not only has to feed his new queen, he has to keep her safe from a pack of wherries that want to feast. So Piemur goes on a dash to protect his fire lizard from wherries. Sound familiar? The wherries are driven off by dragons, eventually, and Piemur and the fire lizard stay under the cover of the trees.
The narrative then shifts away from Piemur to those looking for him. We learn that Meron held out for eight days after the torture before dying. And that everyone else, save Menolly, is pretty well assured that Piemur will be just fine in Southern and will not show himself until the fire lizard egg is hatched. Menolly is on board with Piemur not appearing, but as the designated female and keeper of empathy, she’s the only one who worries about him.
“Menolly,” said the Harper soothingly, “you’re not responsible for-”
“But I feel responsible for Piemur,” she said, and then shot her Master an apologetic look for interrupting him so rudely. “If I hadn’t encouraged his interest in the fire lizards, if I hadn’t filled his ears with the pleasures they bring, he might not have been tempted to steal the egg and get himself into such a predicament.” She looked up because both men started to laugh, and she exclaimed with exasperation at their callousness.
“Menolly, Piemur has been getting in and out of trouble since long before you arrived here,” said Sebell. “You and your fire lizards calmed him down considerably. But I think you’re right about Piemur not showing himself until Impression’s been made. And Toric is on the alert for him. He’ll show up.”
But rather than tell stories about Piemur’s exploits so that she understands, the chapter finishes with Sebell off to help Deckter get installed. Piemur’s status as a memetic Trickster God stays intact without anyone having to give any details about how he got that way. At this point, I don’t think even the author really knows.
So, that means it’s wild speculation theater time! What’s the reason you think everyone fears Piemur as a prankster?