Last chapter, we spent quite a bit of time with Jaxom recovering from a fever, which resulted in him for deciding to break up with Corana and pursue Sharra, who he didn’t necessarily find attractive in his description.
The White Dragon: Chapter XIV: Content Notes:
The chapter opens with the news of the impending mating flight D’ram had mentioned earlier in the book to the Benden Weyrleaders, delivered to Robinton by Silvina with a cup of klah. Robinton places a wager with the dragonrider come to collect him (by proxy, of course, and a fairly hefty bet – two marks), and the two arrive at the spectacle of a gold dragon getting ready to mate, which is in stark contrast to the way the green dragon took off and had pursuers a few chapters ago. As the young dragons wait, two aging bronzes from Southern arrive, flying low to escape detection for as long as possible. The bronzes take their place, and the riders (T’kul and B’zon) are greeted by a welcoming party of D’ram, Robinton, and the Benden Weyrleader. The three try to dissuade the Southerners from joining in the flight, but T’kul rightly points out that D’ram said it was an open flight, and the options available to the South are pretty limited, now that they have queens that are too old to lay eggs and someone took back the egg they stole.
The Benden Weyrleader then delivers the biggest line of bullshit he could in this situation.
“Had you come to us, we would have helped you.”
You exiled them, remember? If you expected them, proud as they were, to come back to you, hat in hand, asking forgiveness and accepting your leadership, then your optimism alone could power several of Fandarel’s batteries. They attempted to stab you while you were trying to get to Threadfall, O leader of dragons. At what point did you honestly expect them to ask for your help? You engineered this very scenario, and you have the audacity to say that you could have been diverted from your course, had they but asked for help? Bullshit.
The Benden Weyrleader has convinced himself of the lie, though, as he repeats it after realizing he can’t persuade either of the Southerners to give up the opportunity and the mating flight begins.
“If they had come to us…” F’lar began, placing his hand consolingly on D’ram’s. “But those Oldtimer riders always took! That was their error at the outset!” His face hardened.
“They’re still taking,” Robinton said, wanting to ease D’ram’s distress. “They’ve taken what they wanted from the North all along. Here, there. What pleased them. Young girls, material, stone, iron, jewels. They looted with quiet system ever since they were exiled. I have the reports. I’ve given them to F’lar.”
“If only they had asked!” F’lar looked upward at the fast-dwindling specks of dragons in flight.
Oh, that’s incredibly sanctimonious bullshit from the Benden Weyrleader. I think he’s trying very hard here to convince himself of that truth, rather than anybody else. And nobody has yet acknowledged whether or not Lessa would be on board with that kind of help, since she’s now the one with the “irrational” desires and emotions.
Also, the dragonrider really has no leg to stand on talking about taking from people, when he is the recipient of a tribute and taxation program that takes things from other people. That others were taking from his subjects, or from his stores, sure, but not that they were taking, period. And what’s with the list that Robinton provided of what’s being taken? Why are we leading with “young girls” instead of the other things? Are were supposed to believe that the young girls are the most valuable resource for the dragonriders to be stealing? Presumably, if they need a queen rider, then they only really needed one. What are the others being used for? And how does this idea of the girls being valuable square with all the misogyny that’s been on display for all of these books so far? It’s not like anyone has been showing women respect, whether part of Hold, Weyr, or Craft, outside of the Smiths, maybe.
After all of this self-serving justification for everything, the assembled groups settle in to wait out the mating flight. Robinton is observing and puzzling over the remarks made about the return of the egg as he ignores a rather strong and persistent pressure in his side. He realizes nobody from Southern would have returned the egg, but he also wonders why T’kul went South and whether someone neutral should be in the chambers, just in case one of the old dragons dies and their rider does something horrible from the resulting insanity. When he goes to make the suggestion to the Benden Weyrleader, he finds that the Weyrleader has already gone to the chambers, having had similar worries. When the conflagration erupts from the death of T’kul’s dragon, Robinton is trying to get to the queen’s chamber, but has to convince Mnementh to let him and others by to give the Benden Weyrleader help. He’s a bit grateful for the stop, having to catch his breath after running. When they reach the chambers, T’kul and the Benden Weyrleader are locked in mortal combat (again with the Benden Weyrleader getting into knife fights), with T’kul ready to drive his knife into the Weyrleader’s neck, before having his feet knocked out from under him. As the fight continues, it’s pretty clear that T’kul knows exactly who to blame for these circumstances, and who he’s going to get revenge on – for his dragon dying, for his exile, for T’ron, for all of it. This fight ends like all the others have, with the convenient distraction this time provided by the shriek of the Weyrwoman as her dragon is caught, and another antagonist with a knife between his chest.
Oh, and speaking of chests, that persistent pain had migrated from Robinton’s side to his chest, and he can’t understand why he feels so weak at this point. Apparently, the idea of a heart attack hasn’t survived down the generations, so all Robinton can do at this point is call for help. Which arrives, strangely enough, in the form of Lessa, some medicine, and a very insistent set of voices telling him he can’t go to sleep yet.
Harper, Harper, listen to us. Now listen to us. Harper, don’t sleep. Stay with us. Harper, we need you. We love you. Listen to us.
The voices in his head were unfamiliar. He wished they would be silent so that he could think about the pain in his chest and the sleep he so desperately craved.
Harper, you cannot leave us. You must stay. Harper, we love you.
The voices puzzled him. He didn’t know them. It wasn’t Lessa or F’lar speaking. The voices were deep, insistent, and he wasn’t hearing them with his ears. The voices were in his mind where he couldn’t ignore them. He wished they would leave him alone so that he could sleep.
As addled as he is, Robinton doesn’t understand that it is Ramoth and Mnementh keeping him alive and mentally there until Lessa can give him the medicine and Oldive can press some cold instruments to his chest and everyone understands that he’s going to stay alive from his heart attack. The chapter ends with him asking about the mating flight, and he learns that Benden’s and D’ram’s chosen candidate was the winner of the flight, so his bet is also going to come through.
That said, um, the Schizo Tech world that is Pern continues, because while Robinton doesn’t recognize the heart attack while it’s going on (I suppose Pern doesn’t have the benefit of there’s public health campaigns that we do when it comes to things like recognizing the signs of a heart attack), Master Oldive has a stethoscope (most likely the cold instrument) and either nitroglycerin pills or digitalis to give Robinton to counteract the problem. Or the Pernese equivalent thereof, as well as the capacity to convert it to a powdered or otherwise transportable form and then make pills or capsules out of it. Which, you know, suggests some pretty impressive manufacturing ability on this planet. Despite being supposedly a place that’s a pastiche of the Italian city-states. It’s like the author can’t decide on how much old technology survived. Or is making it up as needed to advance the plot.