Where we last left Jaxom, he was close to forcing drink on Lytol after the queen dragon at Ista Weyr committed suicide shortly after her rider, Fanna, died.
The White Dragon: Chapter IX: Content Notes: suicidal ideation
(15.7.3 – several sevendays after the death of Fanna)
Where we pick up, however, is with Robinton nearly being bowled over in his office by Menolly’s excitement that the Benden Weyrleader has come to the Harper Hall. Robinton, returned to his role of shrewd and wise Harper, is not convinced yet that this visit is all good.
Robinton sighed again, sadly, as he looked at the empty doorway. She [Menolly] had grieved over the estrangement of the Harper Hall and Benden Weyr. So, in his own way, had he. He brought his thoughts sharply away from that. There’d been no hint of distress in Mnementh’s acknowledgement of the watchdragon’s challenge. What had brought F’lar to [the Hall]? (Benden in my copy, which is clearly not correct.) And, more important, did the Weyrleader come with Lessa’s knowledge? Or consent?
Wait, so now we care about Lessa, after having spent several books ignoring or demeaning her when she tries to get involved? If she had known that all it would take to be taken seriously is to threaten the destruction of the entire draconic way of life and not blink or back down when called on it, she probably would have used a much more convenient excuse, like the exile, or Kylara, to get herself some respect.
The Benden Weyrleader is not here for pleasure, however – he’s here to consult Robinton’s brilliant mind to figure out where and when D’ram and his dragon, Tiroth, have gone to, as they aren’t in the present time, and the general opinion is that neither dragon nor rider could make the hops all the way back to D’ram’s original time point. Which still leaves a large swath of possible space-time to have to cover to try and find him. Robinton is being asked to come up with some likely coordinate possibilities.
So it is in this context we talk, not about the one who is dead, but the one who could be, and by doing so, we start to see a little about what passes for opinions about death.
“Oldive said he was completely in possession of his reason, F’lar, if that’s your worry.”
F’lar made a grimace and impatiently stroked back a forelock which invariably feel into his eyes when he was agitated. “Frankly, Robinton, it’s Lessa. Ramoth can’t find Tiroth. Lessa’s certain he’s gone far enough back in time to suicide without causing us distress. It’s in D’ram’s nature to do so.”
“It is also his option.” Robinton said gently.
“I know, I know. And no one would fault him but Lessa is very worried. D’ram may have stepped down, Robinton, but his knowledge, his opinions are valuable and valued. Right now more than ever. Bluntly, we need him…need him available to us.”
Robinton thought briefly about the possibility that D’ram had realized this and removed himself and Tiroth from easy access. But D’ram would serve Pern, and dragonfolk at any time.
“He perhaps needs time to recover from his grief, F’lar.”
“He was worn out with tending Fanna. You know that. He could also be sick and who would be the to help? We’re both worried.”
Ah, and now some more truth comes out. It’s not just Lessa, even though Lessa may have a different opinion on why D’ram needs to be found. Also, there really does seem to be an expectation that dragons and riders commit some form of suicide when they want to or are about to die, assuming they have the strength to do so.
Robinton asks about fire lizards, not in the traditional sense of pointing them at a destination and asking them to go, but in querying their collective memory for the image of a lone bronze dragon. The Benden Weyrleader is not convinced, but is willing to go along with it.
“If I could relieve Lessa’s fears, I’d even forget my antipathy to those nuisances.”
“I trust you’ll remember that statement.” Robinton grinned to soften the remark.
Curioser and curioser. The Benden Weyrleader I’m used to seeing wouldn’t have cared at all about Lessa’s distress, only his own interest and the consequences to his ego of having a Weyrleader able to sneak off without his knowledge. I guess we’re supposed to accept this as a consequence of Lessa becoming the emotional one, and to prove that he really does love her, not just that he used her to come to power. Of course, lacking tonal clues, this exchange could also be read in the style of “I wish that woman would just shut up, but she keeps going on and on and nag, nag, nag. I came here to do this because I need peace and obedience in my weyr, not because I care.” Which would be a lot more in line with previous characterization.
Robinton and the Benden Weyrleader take a small hyperspace hop to see Ruth, since fire-lizards tell Ruth everything, but not before we’re informed that the telegraph had made it all the way to Crom Mines. And, somehow, in the midst of that and other talk about everyone in the north wanting to go south to get resources and land, Robinton thinks he knows the where of D’ram’s disappearance, but isn’t sure about the when. Upon arrival, Robinton checks to see if there are any signs of scarring on Jaxom (no) before explaining to everyone what he’s looking for – the when in relation to the Noodle Incident referred to in Chapter Two, when Robinton and Menolly were blown off-course and Menolly kept Robinton alive. Robinton asks Lytol if Jaxom will assist, and Lytol defers, saying it’s Jaxom’s decision alone. Jaxom is quite ready to go for it, and so maps are sent for to plan out where the location is to start spinning backward in time to find D’ram.
Also, the Benden Weyrleader wants to know how much Jaxom and Ruth have been time-shifting themselves.
“How much timing it have you done, Jaxom?” F’lar asked suddenly.
A flush suffused Jaxom’s face. With a start, Robinton saw the thin line of scar white against the reddened cheek. Luckily, that side of Jaxom’s face was turned away from the Weyrleader.
“Come, lad. I don’t know any young dragonrider who hasn’t used the trick to be on time. What I want to establish is how accurate Ruth’s time sense is. Some dragons don’t have any at all.”
“Ruth always knows when he is.” Jaxom replied with quick pride. “I’d say he has the best time memory on Pern.”
F’lar considered that for a long moment. “Have you ever tried any long jumps?”
Jaxom nodded slowly, his eyes flicking to Lytol whose face remained impassive.
“No wavering of the leap? No unduly long stay between?”
“No, sir. It’s easy to be accurate anyhow if you jump at night.”
N’ton had mentioned earlier that time-shifting yourself shows in the eyes. While it’s been a few weeks since Jaxom promised (but Ruth didn’t), he shouldn’t be so red in the face about it. Unless he’s thinking about the egg rescue? If so, bravo on the right reaction, but a signpost would be nice. If not the egg, then maybe Ruth has been adjusting Jaxom’s arrival points without telling him? Since we have no information about what this sign is in the eyes, whether it’s reversible by not time-shifting, and how long it takes for the signs to go away if they are reversible, I can’t gather any useful information about why Jaxom is embarrassed except by guessing. This is a missed opportunity for everyone to have descriptive thoughts or speculation. And for the author to show us this new Weyrleader with empathy and understanding.
Resuming where we left off, with Jaxom explaining nighttime jumps are far easier to hit…
“I’m not sure I follow that reasoning.”
“Those star equations Wansor worked out. […] If you work out the position of the dominant stars in the skies, you can position yourself most accurately.”
“If you jump at night,” the Masterharper added, never having thought to put that use to Wansor’s equations.
“Never occurred to me to do that,” F’lar said.
Cocowhat by depizan
I can believe the Benden Weyrleader not thinking about such things, because he’s never really come across as the kind of person who sits and thinks about the applications of the sciences, but Robinton? That seems to be stretching it. Maybe he’s been too busy being caught up in the politics of everything to realize the full implications of the equations. Although…our perspective on what Wansor had to say was cut off because Jaxom stopped paying attention after the parts involving the ability to improve Threadfall predictions. Maybe Wansor mentioned it, or someone else did, and Jaxom is reinventing the wheel here. But that still means both the Benden Weyrleader (who had had two people very close to him do new and interesting, if foolhardy, things regarding their hyperspace time-traveling dragons, as well as a serious incident involving time-travel shenanigans) and the Masterharper (the spymaster-general) to have missed the implications of the knowledge of being able to keep accurate visual time.
This follows what seems to be a general trend with regard to scientific knowledge in these books – a discovery, the application it has to Thread, and then nothing more. Thread is an existential threat, albeit a well-managed one, but it seems to have an outsized influence on the development of Pernese society.
Jaxom hangs an immediate lampshade on the lack of knowledge of star positions by remembering that Lessa used the stars in the tapestry to do the jump backward to pull the time-skipped Weyrs forward. The return of the maps by fire lizards (who are all still skittish about getting flamed by dragons or hurt by dragonriders) starts the planning in earnest. Ruth will receive the right imagery from fire lizard memory (of Southern fire lizards) and do hops, much to the Benden Weyrleader’s consternation (naming it a “conspiracy to get fire lizards back in good odor”). until he finds D’ram, at which point Jaxom is to note the coordinates and return, all in great discretion, of course, which sets Jaxom’s lack of poker face off again. Robinton is sure something’s up, but he doesn’t know yet, and he’s not going to pry.
Back at the Harper Hall, Robinton hopes Menolly won’t object to being sent along with Jaxom to provide the correct picture for Ruth to start from. When he informs her and Jaxom, both are relieved,, but also apparently sharing a private joke of some sort. He wonders whether it’s a love bond, and mulls the prospect of Menolly as Lady Holder, before ultimately dismissing it as just friendship.
And thus, the chapter ends with Robinton turning to the paperwork he’s been putting off.