The White Dragon: Profaning The Sacred

Last time, everyone at Benden Weyr contemplated the reality of getting old, while Jaxom spun his wheels with Piemur and Sharra. D’ram accepted the responsibility of going South to make sure stupidity didn’t happen and to keep the Lords Holder from annexing land the dragonriders have already put dibs on.

The White Dragon, Chapter XVI: Content Notes: Sexism, Misogyny

(15.8.28-15.9.7)

The chapter opens with a relay of the news of the last chapters to Piemur, who takes it in stride, by which we mean

the young journeyman treated them to a colorful description of his Master’s follies, shortcomings, stupid loyalties and altruistic hopes that quite stunned the listeners until they saw the tears leaking down Piemur’s cheeks.

Which is par for the course when it comes to someone you admire greatly.

Ruth’s return scatters Stupid to the weeds, and Piemur reminds us that Stupid is not actually stupid, and that his tendency to hide in the presence of dragons has been useful on his secret mission to stomp about the South and explore, precipitated by Toric sending North some very attractive metals, which drew Robinton’s attention to investigate, both for the metal and the likelihood of dragonriders deciding to head South at the next Interval. As usual, Robinton knows what people are going to do, using his extensive spy network of Harpers, long before everyone else has a clue on what to do about it. Piemur mentions the Benden Weyrleader as “the only one that matters” on the upcoming decision, a notion that Sharra removes from him with pointed mention of Toric. (That said, Piemur is right – the people with the large weapons of war are the important people in a land discussion.)

Piemur boasts about the size of Southern, the things that are there, and praises Stupid as an impressive runnerbeast, far better on foraged food than the best stock of Piemur’s family, before mentioning that his final destination is still before him, and casually mentioning and showing a scarred leg while he asks to rest longer.

“I can’t walk any farther on that, now can I, Sharra?”
“No, I don’t think you should, Piemur,” Jaxom said, critically examining the healed wound. “Do you, Sharra?”
She looked from one to the other and then began to shake her head, her eyes dancing.
“No, positively not. It needs soaking in warm salt water, and plenty of sun, and you’re a terrible rascal, Piemur. Just as well you’re not a posted Harper! You’d scandalize any sensible Holder!”

Bzuh? Maybe I’m forgetting something at this point, but aren’t Harpers supposed to be in everybody’s business (discreetly, of course) and regularly traveling between Holds, Weyrs, Crafthalls, and the like so that information and propaganda get spread properly to those that need it? Is it Piemur’s willingness to explore the wilderness and find interesting things that would be scandalous? I’m not understanding what the scandal part is, unless it’s Piemur getting hurt in the first place.

Continuing, Jaxom, our student Holder, asks the important questions about documentation:

“Have you kept any Records of your traveling?” Jaxom asked, keenly interested and just a shade jealous of Piemur’s freedom.
“Have I kept Records?” Piemur snorted derisively. “Most of what Stupid packs is Records! Why do you think I’m wearing rags? I haven’t had room to carry spare clothes.” His voice lowered and he leaned urgently toward Jaxom. “You don’t just happen to have any of Bendarek’s leaves down here, do you? There are a couple of–”
“Plenty of leaves. Drawing tools as well. C’mon!”

And the two of them dart off to where Jaxom has been keeping his drawings and maps. And here, we have another oddity. Piemur comments on Jaxom’s decision to use Ruth as the unit of measurement (I assume this is the length of Ruth, stretched tip to tail) and says that for his maps, he’s using the distance that Farli, his fire-lizard queen, can fly per second (with corrections for wind). Which suggests there is a lack of standardized measurements on Pern.

This seems absurd. If I recall correctly, Weyrs have talked about dragonlengths as a unit of measure before, but if each rider’s measure is keyed to the length of their own dragon, we have a problem. Actually, if it’s keyed to the length of any dragon other than a historical or hypothetical one, we have a problem.

Additionally, Wansor has equations that predict orbital mechanics, Fandarel is building electronics, and there’s an entire Craft system turning out goods for sale and use. I don’t have to know what those units are, I suppose, although it would be an awkward story to tell that had standard units but nobody actually says what they are, but there’s no way they don’t exist. Jaxom and Piemur are both students at the Smithcrafthall. And map-makers. One of the first things they would be taught is what the standard measures of distance are and how to represent them accurately in scale drawings. There should be no reason for variant measures, especially under Mr. Efficiency himself. That way, nobody worries if Ruth grows or Farli hits a headwind.

Beyond this, Piemur explains that between him, Stupid, and Farli, the three of them do well as surveyors, since Farli does well with concepts and Stupid keeps Piemur alive by funding drinkable water and avoiding treacherous ground. We also learn that green fire-lizards abandon their clutches, which makes them ready prey for tunnel snakes, while golds stick around to kill off any would-be predators. It doesn’t make sense to me why two variations of the same species would adopt different strategies for passing on their genes to the next generation, but nature could very well be that odd.

The next day, all three go to a fire lizard clutch to collect the eggs (frightening off the queen, which really should cause an ethical pang about whether it’s okay to raid a sentient being’s nest for your own purposes) and Piemur speculates why the ancients left the South, thinking the earthquakes might have something to do with it. Specifically:

“Not where the earth drops beneath your feet and two paces beyond you lifts above your head half a dragonlength.”

ARGHBLRABJEK ARGELFASTER *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* Tell he again why we’re using nonstandard units?

On the way back, Piemur recounts that he and N’ton watched a volcano spring up above the water line, spew rock and ash, and then build itself an island. Apparently tectonics moves a lot faster on Pern, as even a small volcano wouldn’t just pop up and build itself an island that quickly, would it? Either way, all three appear to have a shared dream of a large volcano erupting and people fleeing from it after they get back to camp, having hacked their way through rather than taken the beach way home.

The next day heralds the arrival of the Brown Rider Rapist, delivering news that a Crafthall is to be built at the spot of the cove for Robinton, who is traveling on Master Idarolan’s (the Mastershipbuilder?) fastest boat, with Menolly and Brekke. Because the last time he traveled by ship, there was turbulence and a lot of illness and that’s totally okay for the man still recovering from a heart attack. Who did Robinton have to charm to get out this early? Did Oldive give his blessing?

Piemur subtly points out that all the beginning mapping probably should have been done by dragonriders, who have no trouble going to destinations or with flying high enough to be able to sketch out things without worrying about scale.

Sharra takes a look at the proposed plans and starts redrawing them in the sand so as to actually make the place comfortable for Robinton, based on her many years of living in the South, where things are hot, breezy, and basically Thread-immune…

“Oh, you dragonriders! This is Southern, not the North. It’s all been grubbed. Thread sears a leaf every sevenday or so, but the plant heals itself. Meanwhile, you’re coming into the hot season and, believe me, you’ll want as much green about you as possible to keep cool. You want to build off the ground, on pilings. There’s plenty of reef rock for foundations. You want wide windows, not the tiny slits, to catch every breeze. All right, you can shutter them if you want to but I’ve lived south all my life, so I know how you should build here. You want windows, and corridors straight through the interior for breezeways…” As she spoke, she was delineating the revised hold with strokes that were strong enough to stay in the hot dry sand. “And you want an outdoor hearth for so many. Brekke and I did most of our baking here in stone pits,” she pointed to the spot on the cove, “and you don’t really need a bathing room with the cove a few steps from the door.”
“You don’t object to piped water, do you?”
“No, that would be handier than lugging it from the stream. Only put another tap in the cooking area as well as one in the house. Perhaps even a tank by the hearth so we can have hot water, too…”
“Anything else, Masterbuilder?” F’nor was more amused and admiring than sarcastic.
“I’ll let you know when the thought occurs to me,” she replied with dignity.
F’nor grinned at her and then frowned down at her drawing.

You know, there’s a couple ways of interpreting this that I can think of, and they’re both potentially bad for Sharra. One is that the Brown Rider Rapist is patronizing Sharra and the narrative is covering for him by telling us that he’s totally impressed with her instead of snarking her because she’s a woman, a Hold woman, no less, telling the great dragonrider how to build things, as if she had a say in anything. He’ll indulge her and then ignore her when it comes to actual building.

The other is that his amusement and admiration are because the Brown Rider Rapist is actually quite turned on by bossy women and enjoys it. Brekke was his nurse and ordered him around on a regular basis before, and from that, he earned his moniker with her. What’s to say he won’t try it again, even with Brekke there?

There’s nothing wrong with him being kinky that way, really. It’s just that he’s chosen to express himself by rape the last time he had a thing for someone.

Sharra is not in a good situation right now – Jaxom, who has shown he can rape, is infatuated with her. The Brown Rider Rapist may be infatuated with her based on this. Piemur seemed like he had an infatuation with Sharra from Dragondrums, and his behavior with her here doesn’t dissuade me from thinking he still has it. Which puts at least three men who might act on their desires without consent (two of which have already acted on desires for others without consent), in close proximity to her. This just sounds like a bad setup.

Also, in the annals of Pern technology, the planet now has access to running water on demand, through some manner of pump, whether manual or electric, and/or the Archimedes screw, none of which was in evidence before this book. I presume the Masterfarmer is thrilled with the new ability to irrigate fields regardless of their proximity to running water, and there have already been fights over water rights with regard to rivers, lakes, streams, and other fresh water sources. Since Piemur mentions having to find fresh water on his journey, desalination and sterilization is not sufficiently advanced to be portable, if it exists at all. I have to assume Fandarel had a hand in this somehow, and his inspiration might be the naturally refreshing pool Lessa took a bath in all the way back in Dragonflight. The presence of outdoor plumbing should make way for some very interesting innovation in the North and the South, and surely indoor plumbing will soon follow.

The construction of the proposed location is going a lot slower than planned, as not even the mighty dragonriders can fell trees with any speed, as the fruit trees resist the axes significantly, and those who have been swinging have blisters after a half day of work dropping six trees. (Except Piemur, who is already presumably calloused from all the axe work he has already done) The Brown Rider Rapist is confused at how supposed softwoods in the grubbed lands resist getting punctured by foreign objects intending to kill them before tactics change to asking the dragons to move the trees and marking out the foundations with rock.

I don’t know much about trees, but I suspect their root systems would probably give the dragons a good strength contest to see who budges first. Maybe the dragons bite the trees and leave a stump? Or excavate with their limbs and then pull up? Or possibly try to touch as many of the trees as possible and pop into hyperspace with them? We’ll never know.

After work is done for the first day, we are reminded that Sharra is still sitting in a dangerous position.

Sharra took pity on their aching muscles and rubbed salve that smelled aromatic and burned pleasantly into the soreness. Jaxom liked to think that she spent more time massaging his back than Piemur’s. He’d been glad to see the young Harper and was fascinated by the Records and the charts he was drawing from his travels, but he did wish that Piemur had taken a day or two before he’d reached the camp. There was no way he could consolidate his hold on her attentions with a third party about.

And we’re right back in creepy stalker-ville, courtesy Jaxom. Exactly what, past the obvious male privilege at work on Pern, makes you think you have a claim on Sharra, Jaxom? Your fantasies have reached a dangerous level, to the point where I expect you to follow in the Brown Rider Rapist’s footsteps for both technique and lack of consent. Brekke should probably be taking Sharra aside and suggesting that she take a flight back to Southern to change out for a new nurse, recognizing the same look on Jaxom’s face that she ignored with her own attacker.

The next morning heralds the arrival of the Mastersmith, the Masterwoodsman, the Fort Weyrleader, and a wingleader from Benden, possibly T’gellan, whose rank is identifiable by his shoulder knots, along with an entourage of apprentices and weyrlings.

*headdesk* *headdesk*

This is the sixth book to involve dragonriders and the first to mention what their identifying insignia are. (The Mastercraft badges for the Harpers only appeared in Dragondrums, so I suppose I should be happy they’re here at all.) We are clearly flying aboard a planet-sized version the USS Make Sh*t Up.

Anyway, the two masters are shown the drawings in place —

–Brekke’s original drawing and the alterations suggested by Sharra. The brown rider retrieved the sheets and showed them to the Craftmasters. “Now, here, Fandarel, Bendarek, this is our idea…”
Acting as one, the two men lifted the sheets from F’nor’s hands and scrutinized first one then the other. Both shook their heads slowly from side to side in disapproval.
“Not very efficient, F’nor, but well meant,” the huge Smith said.
[…the circus in tow is described…]
“First we must correct this design, Master Bendarek…”
“I quite agree. This is a nice enough little cot but not at all suitable accommodation for the Masterharper of Pern.”

Okay, you know what? There’s really one thing that has to be said here about this sequence:

[The Loudest Profanity I’ve Ever Heard]

Now, possibly minor points to the Brown Rider Rapist for saying “our design” and not trying to take all the credit for something he contributed nothing to, and I’m willing to grant, based on what we’ve seen of Pern to this point, that one of the men would have to present for the idea to have more than a snowball’s chance in the Inferno, but everything else about this is fucking stupid.

I note again that the designs that are so apparently inadequate come from Brekke and Sharra, who are both women and both have spent significant time at Southern, but this apparently means nothing in the face of all these men who insist they know better how to build somewhere they’ve never been. It’s not “efficient” and needs correcting. Sorry, women, but you’re always going to be wrong, no matter what, if a man says you are.

Secondly, Robinton is recovering from a heart attack, and presumably is getting older in years. Why wouldn’t he want a small cottage that he can move around in easily and that has short distances between rooms instead of a palace that he will likely use less of each year? The Mastercraftsmen are clearly thinking too much of their own egos to think about what might actually work.

And after Jaxom and Piemur sneak away their respective drawings from prying eyes, Sharra lays into the Mastercraftsmen about the same topics she did yesterday when sketching out the new plans. Points for fearlessness, Sharra, not that they’ll listen to you until they come up with the same idea.

The Brown Rider Rapist provides his assessment of the situation:

F’nor made a clicking noise against his teeth. “She sounds like Brekke. And if she acts at all like my weyrmate when she’s in that sort of mood, I’d rather be elsewhere. You,” F’nor poked Jaxom in the chest, “can show us where to hunt. Food was brought along but since you’re the resident Lord Holder, it’s up to you to play host with some roasting meat…”

Okay, so how are we supposed to reconcile this affectation of being henpecked with the earlier supposed admiration of Sharra’s take-charge female demeanor? Unless, that is, the narrative is lying that the Brown Rider Rapist was more admiring than sarcastic. Patronizing was probably the right word to apply there, and then everything falls into place appropriately and consistently.

Also, what the fuck, springing the obligation of meat and host duties on Jaxom, who is still recovering? Apparently, we’re supposed to remember the scene with Fax and the dragonriders all the way back in Dragonflight as the template to use for hospitality on Pern, even though Lessa was deliberately sabotaging that one to fail. All the other ones we’ve seen to this point have had allies feasting together or otherwise failed to mention any details about hospitality requirements (other than things like “don’t knife another dragonrider in public”). If that was going to be the expectation for Jaxom, he needed advance notice to pull this together.

Especially since apparently just about every Craft, Hold, and Weyr sent representatives to this party. The narrative mentions Jaxom feels like his privacy has been violated. Jaxom’s right. Even if the narrative is spinning it as “he wants to get back to trying to get into Sharra’s pants with nobody around”, Jaxom had every right to feel like he’s been intruded upon – he has.

Hunting goes well (the weapon of choice is a weighted noose that allows for the swift breaking of necks after a dragon accelerates upward), although Jaxom is not actually strong enough to pull the dead carcass on his own (it feels like his arms almost get pulled from their sockets), so Ruth helps transport the kill back to the construction site. Which is already in full swing, with a large clearing made by dragons pulling out trees by the roots (which does not, apparently, disturb the sand and ground around them in any meaningful or dangerous way, despite the big, solid, very old trees being moved) and people hard at work. The Brown Rider Rapist asks Jaxom to focus exploration on moving toward the big volcano, and, to close out the chapter, Jaxom remarks that there aren’t any wild fire-lizards around the site.

The loud, dragon-filled, people-filled, otherwise completely foreign construction site, that is, which would probably set off lots of “steer clear” alarms from the normally-skittish wild fire lizards. But it’s apparently weird that the wild ones aren’t here.

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22 thoughts on “The White Dragon: Profaning The Sacred

  1. JudasFm October 1, 2015 at 4:34 am

    I always took dragonlength to be a standard, established unit of measurement (although I’m not sure on the conversion rate) much like people talk about feet. But since a standard unit is useless unless you have a way to measure it accurately, Jaxom’s using Ruth and Piemur using Farli makes sense, bearing in mind that neither of them would have brought tape measures (or the Pernese equivalent) with them. Both would give consistent results and both could be converted to standard measurements later, by measuring Ruth and seeing just how far Farli can fly in ten seconds.

  2. genesistrine October 1, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Idarolan’s the Masterfisherman, BTW. There don’t seem to be any other uses for ships on Pern; all cargo and/or passengers apparently go by land. And regarding the voyage, a larger ship should be easier on Robinton; the storm with Menolly was in a small boat that Menolly was handling alone.

    Re volcanoes; seismic activity can grow islands really fast – see Surtsey, off Iceland, for an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surtsey

    “… after just a few days the new island, formed mainly of scoria, measured over 500 metres (1640 ft) in length and had reached a height of 45 metres (147 ft).”

    So I can see N’ton and Piemur spending an afternoon watching one grow visibly.

    Re plumbing: Maybe the water’s being aqueducted from higher ground? I don’t remember any cliffs or slopes to the beach being mentioned though. Plumbing may have been one knowledge not Forbidden By The Ancients though, seeing that all the Halls, Weyrs and Crafthalls seem to have good bathing facilities.

  3. Only Some Stardust October 1, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    A volcanic eruption can throw up a heck of a lot of debris, and we are probably talking about already existent underwater volcano that’s almost formed an island but just needs to throw up a bit more material for it to show above the water. Once it reaches the ‘almost there’ point of poking out the water, one eruption could do it.

    On green versus golds mating strategies, their mating strategies are a bit backwards; I might buy feasibility better if more consistency to existing animals had been applied. The golds, who produce more eggs per clutch, should be the ones abandoning them willy-nilly as R-strategists, while the greens should be investing in protecting their young. I know the ‘greens produce lots more clutches’ thing, but if golds produce a lot more eggs and varieties per clutch that actually seems more R-strategist. Sea turtles take a long time to breed and aren’t fast breeders like rats, but rats have fewer young per set (Hard to believe, I know, but sea turtles can lay 200 eggs!) and are much more nurturing parents. Frequency is not super important here, babies per litter is more important, since the idea is actually to overwhelm predators all at once with a huge number of offspring.
    Or, if the cost of protection is low enough, both should be doing some protection. Being that they are both fire breathers and capable of teleporting away from any terrible enough foe*, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that the greens wouldn’t pop up around the nest at least after feedings to discreetly check for predators around and then safely flame any threats.
    As to one species having hugely different strategies, well, the first that pops to mind is eusocial bees, where sometimes workers will lay a single drone egg to try and sneak around the prohibitions of the hive, though notably they will still care for this egg (in fact, they are the only worker inclined to do so; all the others would destroy it if they found it). So perhaps, greens are ‘sneakers’. But the reward has to be pretty big for them, or the cost very severe, to not just take off entirely to raise their own clutches. I’m not sure firelizards have been presented as that eusocial though; firelizard babies all trying to take off to feed themselves (such that Menolly has to rescue-feed them) instead of waiting to be fed by adults isn’t eusocial behavior.

    On trees, if the dragons are sufficiently large and heavy enough, I could see them using their weight to lean on them and knock them over, like elephants. Although it matters a lot just how big a tree we’re talking. If we’re talking ancient trees big enough you could cut a room in it and live inside the tree like a human squirrel, I think it might take a whole team of dragons, if even possible.

    * By all rights, there should be multiple teleporting species, some which would prey on fire lizards (even if very closely related to them). Something that amazing would leave multiple descendant species. Even a primitive animal with ‘slight’ teleport of a few feet or whatever (Whatever the most primitive stage of teleportation is) would do better than one with no teleport. Perhaps with enough time, golds and greens will differ into other species, or are already starting to, and golds will start preying on greens. The ‘turning into different species’ idea is the one that makes the most sense to me, since having such vastly different strategies in different breeding populations doesn’t seem like a recipe for mixing well.
    Really, golds should be dining on green clutches right now, since it helps them much more to force greens to help them take care of their own young (if this is supposed to be a semi eusocial species) rather than having them compete with their own clutches. As well, dining on green eggs would be a tasty treat and help them survive.

  4. genesistrine October 2, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Could also be that people are misinterpreting what they see and greens are actually bullied/coerced away from their clutches by queens/queen-led fairs who don’t want rivals in the laying business.

  5. Brenda Appleby October 2, 2015 at 7:47 am

    I think you’re overreacting to F’nor’s asking Jaxom to show him the hunting spots. It doesn’t read to me like piling responsibilities on the convalescent, it sounds like guys joking around.

  6. Silver Adept October 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

    @ Brenda Appleby –

    I’d be more inclined to see it as boys horsing around if Jaxom didn’t actually go and do it, or if the Brown Rider Rapist immediately said “But we’ll give you a pass because you’re still sick” or some other indication that he wasn’t serious about it. Considering the culture that expects Holders to fete dragonriders any time they come, this reads as a serious request to me.

    @ genesistrine –

    Aqueducts would be a possibility, certainly, but that seems to require engineering capabilities that aren’t in evidence to build a structure that would be vulnerable to Thread, unless all that practice hollowing out caves has generated enough stone to use for public works like that. It really seems like, though, everyone is planning on just using the cove water for this. It’s certainly hot enough there that an evaporation method of purification would work, assuming the technology to do it exists. Maybe there’s an offscreen source of fresh water that can be piped in, though.

    Good to know about the speed that volcanoes can produce land, though – I had no idea.

    @ Only Some Stardust –

    That’s impressive volcano behavior. Good to know, thanks.

    Regarding greens and golds, if I recall correctly, Beauty, Menolly’s queen, has the ability to call her fair to order and get them to do what she wants. If this is a general gold ability, and it’s not restricted to those in the same clutch as you, then what genesistrine says about greens being bullied or coerced is quite possible, and the “abandonment” strategy is basically to prevent gold lizards from mind-whammying the green and her clutch in service of the gold and her fair by not knowing where the clutch is.

    @JudasFM – a dragonlength is probably a standard measure, but I would love to know who the reference dragon is, since it’s unlikely that there’s a rod of iridium that’s used as the official definition of that length. Ruth is potentially not a good measure if he’s not fully grown. And if he is, there still has to be a comparison, which could be inaccurate by not having the reference dragon to compare. Seems like it would be easier just to use dragonlengths from the start, having calculated once that Ruth is 3/4 dragonlength.

    Same thing for Farli – Piemur has to do a lot of calculations and measurements of wind so as to get an accurate picture of what Farli does. Stupid would be the better animal to cover measurements with in terms of linear distance – but if course the rough terrain makes it tough to time him for anything.

    In both cases, though, it seems like it would be easier to make one part of prominence (the cove, maybe), and then send up a fire lizard or dragon to the height that would make that reference an easy scale (1 cove = 10 inches, maybe), and have them send back a picture to be drawn out. Use the one that has the best eye for detail. The surveying part can then be done to check the maps and see if they are accurate, and if they need extra detail put in. It’s working backwards to what I would have thought a society with flying creatures would do.

  7. Funaria October 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Re: Brekke warning Sharra. Brekke and Lessa have both exhibited Stockholm syndrome behaviours in regard to their rapists. Given that both the women who have been raped on screen have fallen in love with their attackers, it can be expected that Sharra will do the same. (Not that this is a good thing, but it probably seems that way to Brekke.)
    The society rulles seem to say that as long as you are a ‘high-ranking’ woman – gold dragonrider or Lord Holder’s daughter – your rapist has to stay with and support you. This eliminates F’nor as a threat, and Piemur is still a young teen at this point, I think, so probably less likely than Jaxom to attack Sharra. Ruatha is one of the largest Holds, so Jaxom’s a ‘good catch’.

    This is all gross, but in universe I doubt Brekke would feel the need to warn Sharra.

  8. Only Some Stardust October 2, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    re greens

    that is a good fix. does require that people are unobservant, but that’s not much of a stretch.

    I also agree with Funaria there would be no warning given.

  9. genesistrine October 3, 2015 at 3:18 am

    @ Silver Adept

    Re plumbing: open aqueducts make more sense than anything except stone/ceramic/metal pipes, since Thread drowns – you’d just need a filter or settling tank to make sure you don’t get dead thread coming out of your taps, and they’re a lot easier to find blockages in than pipes. Hasn’t huge bamboo (split it in half and chute water down it!) already been mentioned as a feature of Southern, or are my old Swiss Family Robinson fantasies showing?

    Come to think of it, mind you, are Pern’s seas even saline?

    Re dragonlengths: come to think of it mk2 it would be fascinating to know how the canonical “dragonlength” compares to the length of the average dragon, since we’re told that Benden dragons are larger than Oldtimer ones. If this is a standard length that dates back to first-fall times it would show us if that’s a continuing trend or just something that happens over a Long Interval.

    @ Only Some Stardust: yeah, Pern is not a culture that encourages naturalists. And it feeds into the reflected misogyny we’ve already seen in the “slutty green dragons always getting themselves chased” thing. “See, green fire lizards are slutty too, and terrible mothers!”

    If I were feeling particularly cynical I might even ask if they’re sure it’s tunnel snakes eating the eggs, rather than golds….

  10. Only Some Stardust October 3, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    I don’t see any reason why the seas wouldn’t be saline, unless salt is very rare (in which case Pernese should be having problems getting enough salt in their diets). Erosion and accumulation of salt should still occur on a smaller tectonically active planet, though I admit my knowledge is a little shaky on the subject.

    Feel free to be cynical. They can’t have observed every time the eggs got eaten, and probably not even most of the times.

  11. Silver Adept October 4, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    @ Funaria – that seems more authorial fiat than some amount of characterization or development, but yes, so far, that is the trend. I still wonder whether Brekke would take Sharra aside, or if the view of the narrative men, and explain what happened to her and to be on guard, because it seems like a thing that should happen.

    I’m not sure that there’s a requirement to stay with the person who assaulted you, given how many half-blooded children there are around, and given how Jaxom treated Corana. There may be a lot of pressure to do so from lots of places if it’s Sharra, but I don’t think there’s a requirement.

    @ genesistrine –

    I don’t remember if such things have been mentioned, but yes, a simple filter system would keep the Thread out of the water, and possibly provide useful nutrition to something, once it’s been properly drowned. There’s not much to suggest this is a thing that happens, though – it seems more like every Hold draws from an underground water source.

  12. genesistrine October 5, 2015 at 6:22 am

    @Silver Adept re staying with your rapist; it seems likelier that the rapist is socially pressured to stay if the woman is high enough status* (similar to the Old Testament-times “the punishment for raping a woman is that the rapist has to marry her; after all no-one else would want to after that would they”). Though Pern has the apparent class-based distinction of “OK, you can dump her if you think you can do better but you should acknowledge/support any children.”

    The woman’s opinion never comes into consideration in either.

    (*Brekke’s social status is somewhat indeterminate, since she’s an ex-queen rider and we haven’t found out what she does these days, but the talking-to-all-dragons thing probably keeps her close to the top of the female-status-ladder.)

    Re plumbing: this is another bit of nitty-gritty world-building AMC has no interest in. It looks like old Holds and Weyrs at least have an old-tech plumbing system that never clogs up or needs maintenance; we’ve seen it provides permanently circulating clean hot water that never runs out (e.g. Lessa’s bath in DF) – even Half-Circle must have had it; when Menolly decides it’s laundry time at Dunca’s there’s no worries about has everyone else used up the hot water/will I use it all up. (How unlike my own student years….)

    Newer Holds; note that the proposed hot-water solution for Robinton’s retirement Hold is “a tank next to the fireplace” and try not to laugh too hard. Unless the Smiths still have the secret of the hot water system there’s going to be a lot of washing dishes in tepid water in Robinton’s drudges’ future.

  13. Silver Adept October 7, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Re: staying with your rapist: I’m still not sure there’s any real requirement to do so, considering all the cases we have to consider, save Corana, are where the rapist is apparently in love with their victim and wants to stay with them. It’s acknowledged as a thing that Holder men will sire some children on women they won’t be marrying, and then there’s Dunca on the other side trying to basically keep all the women at the Harper Hall sealed in a virgin vault so as not to spoil their marriage. I’d like to believe that all cases of children resulted from consent, but Pern is textually acknowledged as being hostile to consent, so no go there. There has to be a case somewhere, but nobody mentions it.

    Maybe there’s also an agreement among Holder sons that one can do whatever they like with their own vassals, but messing with someone else’s is a big no-no. That would potentially cut down on the possibility of assaults that would create feuds and wars.

    Re: plumbing – in Dragondrums we saw the washroom, with kettles and paddles going near-constantly, which suggests there are constant fires in the Hall devoted just to boiling water. Perhaps the drudges of this retirement house will have to do the same to keep all the tanks hot. And who’s going to take that assignment, anyway? It’s basically an exile.

    Yet another part of the world that wasn’t deemed interesting enough to warrant a remark, even though it becomes a point where the handwaving starts to look tiresome.

  14. genesistrine October 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Re the laundry in Dragondrums, I can’t find a mention of kettles and drudges – all I can find is Piemur going down to do his own washing in water that’s warm and on tap. I really feel for the drudges in Robinton’s retirement home if they’re going to have to keep fires going all the time in a tropical climate to provide the on-tap hot water the Pernese elite expect.

  15. Silver Adept October 10, 2015 at 12:23 am

    It was when Piemur went in to wash his pissed-on linens that we saw the washing kettles and the large paddles that Piemur used to try and get the stink out, if I recall correctly. If that’s the way laundry gets done, then there has to be someone making hot water for all of this.

  16. genesistrine October 10, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Unless the hot water’s appearing plotmagically, and since it does that every other time (and Piemur’s gone during off-hours, when you wouldn’t expect people to labour to heat water that’s not likely to be used) I’m not convinced that Harper Hall doesn’t have the old-tech/geothermal/whateverthehellitis boiler system to feed its hand-washing laundry.

    Though given Pern’s attitude to drudges it’s not impossible that there’s a subset of them we’ve never seen whose job it is to make sure that protagonists always have all the hot water they want on tap.

  17. Silver Adept October 11, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Entirely possible, and we’ll probably never know the truth, because drudges are as magically summonable for plot requirements as the hot water is.

    If it is drudges, and the idea of drudges is that they are unmotivated and lazy, then I’m somewhat surprised there are no historical records of the First Drudge Rebellion, when the drudges decided they would much rather be indolent free citizens than serfs and tried to grind all the wheels of production to a halt through a general strike. Because it seems unlikely that supposedly unmotivated people would find happiness in backbreaking manual labor for the entirety of their lives. No example on Terra exists in our history for that.

  18. genesistrine October 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Ah, well, you see, they’re too unmotivated and lazy to organize and rebel. Or even just stage a sit-down strike.

  19. Silver Adept October 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Very convenient. I’m still waiting to see a drudge that fits this description, by the way, and that isn’t portrayed also as having a mental illness.

  20. genesistrine October 14, 2015 at 3:46 am

    I liked the Nabolese ones in Drums, even though AMC felt it necessary to give them funny accents for some reason.

    (Who am I trying to kid; it’s because they’re low-class and Pern is a socially-stratified shithole.)

  21. Silver Adept October 17, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Yeah, I think we’re supposed to substitute Cockney or some other stereotypical working-class accents for the Nabolese drudges, and possibly the same for the people who push the Nabolese drudges around, because they’re Designated Evil due to Meron’s leadership and apparently with agreeing with his (standard Lord Holder) methods about work, rest, and punishment.

    Interesting that those drudges are by far the most fleshed out ones of the series, perhaps because everyone else that had encountered them is from Holder or dragonrider blood, and have thus been trained to treat them as unpersons. Piemur doesn’t have any of that fancy breeding, and so might be the only member of the cast that can understand them on a more fundamental level.

  22. genesistrine October 17, 2015 at 10:39 am

    It’s also the only time we’ve been in a position to hear drudges talking to each other or protagonists – AMC is, as we’ve remarked before, not even slightly interested in the underpinnings of her society. It’s Very Important Protagonists all the way.

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