Last time, Jaxom found out that Ruth has a much more accurate time sense than your standard dragon, and may even have the ability to feel pings or read time data out of fire lizard pictures. Jaxom also blew up at the accumulated microaggressions and is feeling without a purpose. Right now, a gathering of students is at the Smithcrafthall.
The White Dragon: Chapter 3: Content Notes: Misogyny
Finally inside the Smithcrafthall, Jaxom joins many others to listen to Wansor, keeper of the telescope, display the star charts that have been crafted from many nights of staring into the sky. Well, everyone else is listening to Wansor. Jaxom is trying to think of ways to get Ruth firestone, since N’ton gave a tacit blessing for them to try it, while maintaining plausible deniability. When Jaxom’s attention returns to Wansor, he finds out that thanks to astronomy being a surviving discipline from the Ancients, it is now possible to chart the path of all the heavenly bodies. Which serves to prove the Benden Weyrleader right from a previous book – a blue star and a yellow star have been interfering with the regular orbit of the Red Star and changing the Threadfall schedules. Once clear of their influences, the timetables Benden distributed will work again. And they will know the next time the Pass begins, and can calculate when interference will happen again.
Everyone here is gathered so that such knowledge gets widely spread and passed down through the generations, so that when it’s needed, there’s no forgetting. The idea of cross-crafting has taken hold and so people from other crafts, as well as dragonriders and Holders, are all supposed to learn from each other, exchange ideas, and learn the scientific method and apply it to their own lives. F’lessan takes the spirit of the idea and runs with it.
“I wonder if we can use Wansor’s equations to go ahead in time safely.” F’lessan mused.
“You deadglow! You can’t go to a time that hasn’t happened!” Mirrim answered him tartly before the others could. “How would you know what’s happening? You’d end up in a cliff or in a crowd, or surrounded by Thread! It’s dangerous enough to go back in time when at least you can check on what happened or on who was there. Even then you could, and you would, muddle things. Forget it, F’lessan!”
“Going ahead could serve no logical purpose at this time,” Benelek remarked in his sententious way.
“It’d be fun,” F’lessan said, undeterred. “Like knowing what the Oldtimers are planning. Flar’s sure they’re going to try something. They’ve been far too quiet down there.”
Of course, having Future Knowledge could change the path that gets taken so that the expected action doesn’t happen. And Mirrim is right about possibly telefragging oneself in the future. Presumably, the equations would prevent appearing in the middle of a Threadfall, but there’s always the possibility of appearing where someone else is. You’d need really clear pictures…or a dragon that can hit their spots with pinpoint accuracy.
Also, F’lessan takes after his mother a lot – immediately finding a possible use for the equations, and having a willingness to give it a run, even with possible consequences, including death or serious injury. So, way back in Dragonquest, I mentioned that Felessan’s role was action to Jaxom’s thinking. As a dragonrider, it appears F’lessan retains the action role, and so he would be a good combination to work and do things that would normally get Jaxom in trouble, but that F’lessan could do to relieve the issues that Jaxom is feeling and dealing with at Ruatha. Fistfights worked for Menolly and Piemur…
As if to prove this division of responsibility is intentional…
F’lessan gave his boyhood friend a long measuring look. “You know, I used to think this school idea was a good one. Now I think it’s turned the whole lot of us into do-nothing talkers! And thinkers!” He rolled his eyes upward in disgust. “We talk, we think everything to death. We never do anything. At least we have to do first and think later when we fight Thread!”
[…F’lessan is distracted by a food tray…]
“That F’lessan!” Menolly said at his ear. “He wants to keep glory in the bloodline. A bit of derring-do…” and her sea-blue eyes danced with laughter as she added, “for me to tune about!” Then she sighed. “And he’s not the type at all. He doesn’t think beyond himself. But he’s got a good heart. C’mon! We’d better lend a hand with the food.”
“Let us do!” Jaxom’s quip was rewarded by Menolly’s smile of appreciation.
There was merit in both viewpoints, Jaxom decided as he relieved an overburdened woman of a tray of steaming meatrolls, but he’d think about it later.
As I was saying, but before we can think too much on how F’lessan is not-thinking like a dragon and Jaxom is thinking like someone with competing responsibilities, F’lessan drags Jaxom off to have a look at the customary gathering of fire lizards chattering with each other and looking at Ruth. Jaxom mentions that the fire lizards have some very “fascinating and unlikely” pictures that they share with Ruth, and Menolly points out that the fire lizards have some form of memory, possibly extending all the way back to the First Shell, and that their fear of the Red Star predates anyone else knowing about its dangers, too. But the construction is odd:
“So, fire-lizards have memories.”
“Ah, leave off, Menolly. You can’t ask me to believe that fire-lizards could remember things Man can’t?”
Which is slang that’s not really in evidence, based on the culture? And is a surprising departure from Jaxom’s usual perceptive and reflective self. Menolly adds on that it’s not just her, but Mirrim as well that’s concerned about fire lizard memories. Which means both experts on fire lizard behavior are worried about this. Jaxom, pay attention.
And then we have this exchange to close out the chapter.
Menolly’s eyes glinted with devilment as she beckoned him closer, as if anyone were near enough to hear what they’d been saying. “I hear Lord Groghe fancies you for that beast-bosomed third daughter of his.”
Jaxom groaned in horror.
“Don’t worry, Jaxom. Robinton squashed the idea. He wouldn’t do you a disservice there. Of course,” Menolly glanced him from the corners of her laughing eyes, “if you have anyone else in mind, now’s the time to say so.”
Jaxom was furious, not with Menolly but with her news, and it was hard to disassociate tidings and bearer.
“The one thing I don’t want just now is a wife.”
“Oh? Got yourself taken care of?”
“Don’t look so shocked. We Harpers understand the frailties of human flesh. And you’re tall, and nice-looking, Jaxom. Lytol’s supposed to be giving you instructions in all the arts…”
“Jaxom!” She mimicked his tone perfectly. “Doesn’t Lytol ever let you off to have some fun on your own? Or do you just think about it? Honestly, Jaxom,” her tone became acerbic and her expression registered impatience with him, “between Robinton, though I love the man, and Lytol, F’lar, Lessa, and Fandarel, I think they’ve turned you into a pale echo of themselves. Where is Jaxom?”
Again with the mishandling of characters. Unless, that is, this is post-Dragondrums Menolly, who had a time on the boat with Sebell because of the fire lizard mating, and who is apparently also completely over her upbringing and the traumatic experiences she had at the Harper Hall when she first arrived. Which, considering the complete lack of mental health professionals…well, it’s unlikely. Not impossible, but Menolly’s trauma line doesn’t seem like it would be fixable just by doing what she loves to do.
So it doesn’t seem like Menolly is the character to be giving Jaxom grief about his lack of women, nor would she, as the victim of bullying about her appearance, be the kind of character to refer to another woman as “beast-bosomed” as an insult. This scene should have been done between F’lessan and Jaxom, and it would read much better – F’lessan, as a dragonrider, is much more likely to have picked up the misogyny run rampant throughout Pernese society. It would still be awful and horrible, but it would at least be consistently characterized. That’s not saying much, though.
Jaxom resolves not to storm off from Menolly’s ribbing, and also resolves to find Ruth firestone secretly as a way of showing how much he’s a man and Ruth is a dragon. Thus ends Chapter 3.