Last chapter, Piemur survived another round of deadly Thread, likely bending a few laws of nature to do so, collected a pet runnerbeast and a queen dragon, and had serious doubts about returning to the world he left in a sack. Meanwhile, the rescue effort finally got authorized by Robinton with an appropriate cover story.
Dragondrums: Chapter 10: Content Notes: None, again
Chapter Ten stays with Piemur, Farli, and Stupid for the entire time, so no cuts to elsewhere. The action starts with the arrival of red-sailed ships landing on his part of the land.
As Piemur continued to watch the disembarkation, he became aware of a growing sense of indignation that anyone would dare invade his privacy, would have the audacity to make a camp and set up cooking fires with great kettles balanced on spits across the flames, just as if they belonged here. This was his river, and Stupid’s grazing grounds. His! Not theirs to litter with tent, kettle, and fire!
If this is Piemur trying to do an impression of Yertle the Turtle, I’d say he passes. But Piemur is not king of all he sees, and even if he were, there’s one thing that he keeps forgetting in all of this – he hasn’t actually revealed his presence to anyone yet. So nobody knows that he’s staked a claim on the land.
Nor will anyone, because Piemur decides to move inland and erase the traces of his existence rather than go say hi to the work crew, who are here to harvest numbweed. Because Piemur hates the smell of cooking numbweed (as does everyone else, apparently, that isn’t forced into having to make the salve) enough to abandon the shelter he currently has set up. Piemur, as he moves inland, while Farli is scolding at something, starts to construct a story so he could impress the work party, strolling in like he owns the place, and spinning a yarn full of almost-truths with a few key omissions…
“Hello! What are you doing sneaking around here?”
A tall girl stepped into his path, blocking his way. On one shoulder was a bronze fire lizard, on the other a brown, both eyeing Farli intently. She let out an apologetic squeak, as startled as Piemur. As she also dug her talons into his shoulder and tightened her tail about his neck, all that came out of his mouth was a choked cry of astonishment. A quick chirp from the bronze caused Farli to relax her tail. Piemur turned his head toward her, annoyed that she hadn’t warned him.
“It’s not her fault,” said the girl with a wide smile, easing her weight to one leg as she enjoyed Piemur’s discomfiture. She had a pack strapped to her shoulders, a belt with a variety of pouches, some empty; dark hair wrapped with a band tightly about her head so strands wouldn’t tangle in branches; and thick-soled sandals on her feet as well as shin guards tied around her lower legs.
I’m trying to picture this and figure it how it will work in relation to collecting plant material and/or wielding harvesting weaponry. If the plants are thorny, it doesn’t seem to make sense to cover the shins, but leave the tops of the feet open and reinforce the soles. If the trees tangle hair, wouldn’t something like a braid, possibly with weight on the end, be more useful for keeping hair out of the trees? And what happens if this new girl has to climb or crawl? Should we be assuming she’s wearing sturdy full-leg and full-arm coverings, which would make it very hot for her? If not, how does she avoid injury? (Later, we find she has a wherhide jacket for protection.)
“Meer,” and she indicated the bronze, “and Talla know how to be silent when they wish. And when they realized that she was already Impressed, we all we wanted to see who had got a gold. I’m Sharra from the Southern Hold.” She held out her hand, palm up. “How’s you get down here? We didn’t see any wreckage as we came along the coast.”
[…Piemur explains in the Robinton way, letting Sharra think he’s been wrecked…]
“That’s all past history for you, lad,” said Sharra, her deep, musical voice compassionate. “If you survived the southern seas, and three Threadfalls holdless, I’d say you belong in the south.”
“I belong here?” Suddenly, the prospect heartened Piemur. Sharra was as perceptive as the Harper. The thought of being permitted to stay on in this beautiful land, walking where no one else, maybe not even Sharra, had ever trod before, made Piemur’s heart tip over.
“Yes, I’d say you belonged,” said Sharra, wide mouth curled in a smile. “So, what name shall I call you by?”
If she hadn’t given him the opportunity to state a name, any name, not necessarily his own, Piemur might have prevaricated. Instead, he answered her with a grin. “I’m Piemur of Pern.”
I’m wondering if there isn’t something else making Piemur’s heart tip over, considering puberty and such, but for now, we’ll take Piemur at this word that it’s exploration and having a place to call his own that warms his heart.
Piemur introduces the rest of the cast to Sharra, and finds out that she makes very sure to be well away from the numbweed factory, collecting other herbs, because she hates the smell, too. Piemur offers to help her, which she accepts, and then proceeds to shamelessly use him to retrieve difficult-to-collect herbs from trees, thorny bushes, and tight spaces over the next few days.
She was quite ready and prepared to daub him with numbweed whenever necessary, but she did have to point out that his size made him the logical person to pursue the shyest herbs in their protective environment. Nothing would permit Piemur to lose honor in Sharra’s eyes.
For his scratches, Piemur learns a great deal about the medicinal properties of the herbs he’s collecting, as well as quite a bit about the surrounding area, while he admitted to having been a herdsman’s son. He also learns about a better plant to use for bedding while he shares the light blanket Sharra has with her.
In other types of stories, this would be something to be negotiated, because Sharra and Piemur would both be acutely aware of their differing genders and not want to give off an impression of invitation or imposition unless they could be sure the other was receptive. Since we’re still in the boy’s adventure story, though, possibly handwaved by Pern customs outside of Weyrs, there’s no direct mention as to whether either of this pairing finds the other attractive, as there’s still adventure to be had. Maybe if and when Piemur gets back to Southern Hold, there will be some commentary to the matter. Maybe not, though – Menolly didn’t have any crushes she was leaving behind to go out from Half-Circle, after all.
One night’s hunting from the fire-lizards yields an interesting piece of information about the world they both live on. Having dispatched a whersport, something entirely new to Piemur, that the fire lizards brought, Sharra explains a bit more about the local wildlife:
“There’re a lot of strange beasties in this part of the south. As if all the animals you have in the north got mixed up somehow. A whersport isn’t a fire lizard, and it isn’t a wher. For one thing it’s a daytime beast, and whers are nocturnal; sun blinds them. Then there’s far more varieties of snake here than in the north. Or so I’m told….
Hrm, crossed strands in an ancient room, a disturbing connection between fire lizards and dragons, and apparent “mixing-up” of the animals on the north. And grubs. Seems like the ancients had access to some very high-level scientific procedures.
Chapter 10 closes with the cooking of dinner from the whersport and some plants and tubers.