Last chapter, as seems to be customary in Pern novels, disaster struck at a mating flight. Involving the Benden Weyrleader. Thankfully, the women involved escaped unscathed. However, T’kul sent his bronze to die trying to mate and himself to try and kill the Benden Weyrleader in the post-death rage. He failed, and Robinton suffered a heart attack.
The White Dragon: Chapter XV: Content Notes: Forcing-a-woman feels, male discard of woman’s opinion, patriarchy discarding women
Chapter XV begins back with Jaxom as the news of Salth (T’kul’s dragon) reaches Ruth and Brekke. (This whole cutting away just as the situation resolves thing is getting very old, really.) This sparks off a heated discussion between Sharra, who says “good riddance to the suicidal asshole”, Brekke, who is still on the party line that everyone should be grateful that the time-skipped Weyrs came forward at all, and Jaxom, who is more on Sharra’s side than Brekke’s. They can’t get too far into it, though, because the new news that the dragonriders are fighting and Robinton’s heart attack comes through and causes everyone to get all panicked, but nobody is able to go anywhere to help because Jaxom still needs to recover, and pushing him into hyperspace could cause the same lethal results that another dragonrider suffered. Which was the lost patient Sharra didn’t want to talk about. Until Jaxom says he can send Ruth (the healthy dragon) with Brekke (the healthy rider) to help with the problems. And off goes Brekke. Which leaves Jaxom alone with Sharra, and we know that Jaxom has Feels for Sharra.
Jaxom was intensely aware, at this highly inopportune moment, [Sharra’s great concern that Robinton live] of Sharra’s vibrant body pressing against his. He could feel her warmth through the thin fabric of her shirt, the long line of her thighs against his, the fragrance of her hair, scented with sun and a blossom she had tucked behind her ear. The startled look that crossed her face told him that she, too, was aware of the intimacy of their positions – aware and, for the first time since he had known her, confused.
He eased his grip on her hands, ready to release her completely if necessary. Sharra was not Corana, not a simple Hold girl obedient to the Lord of her Hold. Sharra was not a bed partner for a passing indulgence of desire. Sharra was too important to him to risk destroying their relationship with an ill-timed demonstration. He was also aware that Sharra thought that his feelings for her stemmed from a natural gratitude for her nursing. He’d thought of that possibility in himself and decided that she was wrong. He liked too many things about her, from the sound of her beautiful voice, to the sure touch of her hands: hands he was aching to have caress him. He’d learned a good deal about her in the past few days, but he was aware of a hungry curiosity in himself to know much, much more. Her reaction to the Southerners surprised him; she often surprised him. Part of her attraction, he supposed, was that he never knew what she’d say or how she’d say it.
This does not actually lead to sexytimes, which is restraint not normally seen in Pernese men. It also gives credence to the idea that Jaxom’s behavior previously was a result of his fever, but all that really does is say that Jaxom was uninhibited, not that the things he thinks were different. That said, I still trust Sharra more than I do Jaxom at this point, because Jaxom continues to be a jerk, even here, with the way he’s casually discarding Corana (who he admits was meant to be more of a roll in the hay with a subordinate that couldn’t refuse him than a serious relationship, which means any lessons from Lytol about the power he wields and the great damage he can do to people with it have gone unheeded, if they existed in the first place) in favor of his new infatuation, Sharra. So far, it seems like her novelty is what has him excited, more than any sort of shared bond or elements that would build a lasting friendship or relationship. The one good thing is that a Jaxom in control of himself at least is willing to let Sharra go as needed, rather than trying to keep her like his fevered self did.
While Jaxom and Sharra play the waiting game, Piemur arrives to check up on Jaxom and Sharra, with a string of invective preceding his actual appearance, courtesy Stupid. But before we get to hear anything of that meeting, the action shifts away to the Benden Weyrleaders, who have cleaned up the mess, put everyone who isn’t having a romp in a drunken stupor, and are now sitting down to discuss the day’s issues. The unprecedented event of dragons linking their minds to make sure that Robinton didn’t die and the interesting situation of Brekke arriving on Ruth are given a sentence or two, despite both of these acts clearly crossing the boundaries of what was previously thought possible. Lessa has almost changed her mind on fire-lizards, having seen them at work in helping with Robinton (but only almost). The question of what to do with the Southern Weyr returns, and this will get the biggest treatment.
“…If only you’d killed T’ron at Telgar Hold…”
“Lessa!” He gripped her fingers so tightly she winced. “T’ron’s Fidaranth was very much alive at Telgar Hold. I couldn’t cause his death no matter what insult T’ron had given me. T’kul I could kill with pleasure. Though I admit, he nearly had me. Our Harper’s not the only one who’s Turning old.”
This is weird. Unless you believe in the idea that the dragons exert some form of control over the humans to prevent the deaths of their own kind (the Transtemporal Security Agency determines who acceptable targets are, maybe?), or the Benden Weyrleader has some form of TRADITION so ingrained into him that he can’t kill a dragon, even though he has plenty of reasons to kill dragonriders to consolidate or reassert his station as the leader of the dragonriders. Only T’kul, and only after his dragon is dead, can be killed safely and with pleasure.
“I will go south and take charge of the Weyr,” D’ram said. He’d entered, quiet with weariness, while they were talking. “I am, after all, an Oldtimer…” He gave a deep sigh. “They will accept from me what they would not endure from you, F’lar.”
[…some dithering about whether D’ram is healthy enough to take on the responsibilities…]
“Any help we can give…”
“I’ll take you at your word. I’ll need some greens […from other Weyrleaders, preferably time-skipped…]. I’ll need two younger bronzes, and enough blues and browns to make up two fighting wings.”
“The Southern dragonriders haven’t fought Thread in Turns,” F’lar said with contempt.
“I know that. But it’s time they did. That would give the dragonriders who remain purpose and strength. It would give their riders hope and occupation.” D’ram’s face was stern. “I learned things from B’zon today that grieve me. I have been so blind…”
Not to ask a question in the middle of what is a brilliant political move, but how do T’ron and Mardra feel about that, considering they are still alive as of the last book? I don’t think they’re just going to give up the leadership of the Southern Weyr just because D’ram comes down and says that Benden put him in charge.
Speaking of brilliant politics, why didn’t something like this get done as soon as the initial rage subsided from what T’ron did? Instead of letting things fester in resentment, producing this situation and all the thievery that’s been going on, why not figure out how to get a sympathetic person as administrator of Southern, and then keep them supplied to ensure that exile is a happy thing, maybe with a single queen to keep things going until all the exiled South is dead, and a new, functional, loyal Weyr can be installed? If Benden is able to play the long game, they come out way ahead.
As they talk, Lessa admits that if T’kul had come asking, she would have sent him off with nothing and that she didn’t really want to think about what was going on in the South, so now we know why they let the South stay an enemy. Except that still relies on Lessa as not the revenge-oriented long-term planner that she was in Dragonflight, but this new, hair-trigger temper Lessa that has been in place since Dragonquest. I still prefer old Lessa to new Lessa.
D’ram is also charged with doing this so that the Lords Holder don’t take all that dragonrider land in the South. Because the Benden Weyrleader believes the next Interval will have the same problems this one did with grumbly Holders not sending tribute, and there’s still this odd thing about whoever gets there first gets the land.
The chapter winds down with Sebell arriving to look in at Robinton, as well as Oldive. And everyone ruminating a bit about delegation, as well as the thought that Robinton’s wine habit may have helped keep him alive. (Which, yes, red wine can help with heart health. In moderation, which I’m not sure Robinton ever knew.)