Last chapter, the solution to the excess Holder population arrived – go South. With everyone looking to Benden for the go-ahead, there’s a full-scale scramble in the wings for the upcoming land rush.
Menolly confessed her feelings for Robinton in a cheek kiss, and Robinton rebuffed her, despite feeling an attraction to her.
And everyone wants Wansor to look at three stars in the sky that don’t behave like stars.
The White Dragon, Chapter XVIII: Content Notes: Sexism, creepy stalkerism, “entitlement” to women and ownership of them
(15.10.14, the day Robinton arrives at the new Cove Hold)
Cove Hold is complete in eleven days, we’re told, although the stonemasons are worried about the structural integrity of the “hardset” used. Mental note: Pernese technology now includes either concrete or cement, or some form of stone mortar. Which is doable, assuming Pern has the correct mineral content, like lime or gypsum, to use to make the mortar, but one wonders how well it survives contact with Thread at high velocity. Also, this is the sixth book in the series, and just now we’re getting to see a rather fundamental part of the society – how do the buildings not fall down?
For the three days after exterior construction finishes, Lessa, Manora, Silvina, and Sharra do the interior decoration, juggling all the gifts received into an effective (“not efficient, Sharra told Jaxom with a wicked grin, but effective”) floor plan.
Not to be a stick in the mud, but that crack about efficiency says that at least Fandarel was involved in trying to generate the floor plan. He may have lost in the face of spirited opposition, but he was involved. Instead, the narrative wants us to believe that the women did all the work in the domestic sphere, while the men did the hard work of construction and clearing the land. Hello, sexism. Are we also to assume that Fandarel and company entirely ignored Sharra from two chapters ago and built the Hold to Northern specifications, because silly girls can’t do architecture?
Jaxom’s frustration at not being able to pursue Sharra is clearly building, and leaking into the narrative:
Piemur rather arrogantly told F’lar that dragons had to be a place first to get there again between-or else get a sharp enough visualization from someone who had. But he, with his two feet and Stupid’s four, had to be first so mere dragonriders could then follow. The dragonriders ignored the somewhat disparaging remarks, but Piemur’s attitude was beginning to get on Jaxom’s nerves.
Piemur may have the tact of Space Durian in his delivery, but he’s essentially right. Dragons need very clear pictures to do their hyperspace hop, which requires someone else to have been there or recorded the image somehow for the dragon to use later. And since the South has effectively been a no-fly zone while T’ron, Mardra, and T’kul have been in charge, that means mapping it all out on foot. With the associated bumps, bruises, scratches, and near-death experiences that entails. The high-and-mighty dragonriders ignore this truth, as it is inconvenient to their self-image, but it remains a truth all the same. So I’m not convinced it’s Piemur talking about his exploits that has Jaxom frazzled, but Piemur’s presence as a potential romantic rival for Sharra. After Sharra shows that she’s fine with methods other than foot travel, refusing to buy into Piemur’s grandstanding, Piemur backs off and things return to the largely one-sided Cold War between Jaxom and Piemur.
The next major event is the arrival of Robinton at the Cove Hold. Oldive sent word ahead forbidding a great feast and party on account of Robinton’s heart, so the welcoming party is small – Jaxom to represent the Holders, Lessa the dragonriders, and Fandarel the Crafts.
To keep up appearances of a healthy old man, when coming into dock, Robinton is standing at the front of the ship, waving to everyone. At least, I assume that it’s to keep up appearances, and that there was a fantastic fight between Robinton, Menolly, and Oldive about whether he should. Robinton has tanned significantly in his travels (“Look, he’s almost black with sun,” Lessa cried, clutching Jaxom’s arm in her excitement.), which makes me wonder how much sun protection was thought of on that ship, and how much sunburn Robinton suffered through before it mellowed out into his tan. And whether that kind of sun-roasting would have been good for his health and his heart.
Neither Robinton nor Brekke were informed of the changes made from the original design, so Lessa has to course-correct Brekke when she heads toward the original site, and Robinton is hesitant about the size of his new dwelling until he’s strongarmed (literally) inside and gets to see the place, including everything that was in his office at the Harper Hall. Welcome to your retirement, Masterharper. We hope you like it.
Ever-observant, Robinton notices Farli among the fire-lizards that have stopped by to say hello, and:
“We didn’t want too many people about, tiring you…” Lessa added in a soothing tone.
“Tiring me? Tiring me! I need a little tiring! PIEMUR!” If his tanned and relaxed face had not been proof enough of his return to health, the bellow he let loose, as vigorous and deafening as ever, left no further doubts of his vitality.
Clearly audible was the distant startled reply: “Master?”
Which brings Piemur into the room at high velocity, worried something dire is happening, only to find that the newest cup in Robinton’s collection had no wine in it and himself sent to get some. After returning and getting distressed at by Robinton for his handling of the wineskin, Robinton gets a glass. After everyone toasts his health, Robinton is pulled along on the rest of the tour, including a custom-built chair for him (also, if your mental picture of Robinton is that he’s short, we’re told he has long legs and long torso here. Still no idea whether that means he’s taller or shorter than Menolly.) and a codex of all the Traditional songs and ballads. There’s exploration and swimming and dinner guests, including the crew of Idarolan’s ship and all the others assembled.
After dinner, the new plot for the Harpers and Jaxom is to move inland, while the dragonriders supervise the land rush. An offhand remark from Menolly about trying to get more information about the possible viewing of the past in dreams (Jaxom realizes his fever dreams might have been a collective visualization of many beings, which is why they were hazy) reminds us that the plot has now been stalled for several chapters while everyone is healing or getting into proper position, and the ensuing discussion sets Piemur off again:
“That’s a nice concept,” Menolly said. “A dream eye unfocused.”
Piemur groaned and flailed at the sand with his fists. “Here comes another song!”
“Oh, do be quiet!” Menolly regarded him with impatience. “All that lone traveling has changed you, Piemur, and I for one don’t like the change.”
“No one says you have to,” Piemur snapped at her and, with a fluid motion, was on his feet and striding into the first, angrily batting the underbrush out of his way.
“How long has he been so touchy?” Menolly asked Jaxom and Sharra.
“Since he arrived here,” Jaxom said, shrugging to indicate that they hadn’t been able to change him.
And yet, nobody has apparently asked Piemur what is happening that he has changed so much. Something is clearly affecting his mood, but nothing on-camera is being done to ascertain what. Piemur seems to be feeling unappreciated for his work (repeatedly mentioning how sick he is of walking), his adventures, and his exploration, instead having his surveying transformed into land for unappreciative Holder brats and Inherently Superior dragonriders without so much as a “Thanks, Piemur, we couldn’t have done this without your hard work of the past three Turns.” Plus, all of these intruders are likely to carve up the relatively unspoiled tropical paradise that is Southern and make it into something else. If Piemur appreciates nature the way that it is, the incoming development might end up pushing him in the direction of “I am the Harper and I speak for the trees.” (And the wild fire-lizards, plants, beasts, wherries, and other such things.)
Menolly doesn’t know what’s going on or how severe it is, so she can’t be engaged as the Designated Empathy character here. Which would leave Jaxom, except Jaxom has been far too busy thinking with his penis and continues to see Piemur as a rival for the control of Sharra instead of the friend he had before going south.
Then he looked off in the direction Sharra had gone. Had he any legitimate reason for following her? He sighed. He liked Piemur, despite his acid tongue. He’d been glad to see the young Harper, grateful for his company and assistance. He just wished that Piemur had taken a day longer, even half a day longer, to reach the Cove. Since his arrival, Jaxom had had no time at all alone with Sharra. Was she avoiding him? Or was it just the circumstances of the building and getting Cove Hold ready for Master Robinson? He must figure out some way to separate Sharra from the others! Or else visit Corana!
I get that Jaxom is supposed to be a horny teenager in a society where is position basically gives him control over people, directly or indirectly, but it’s still fucking creepy, man. And totally stalker territory, for which our last result was the rape of Brekke. There are enough uncomfortable parallels that I’d almost suggest that the plot thread is being recycled from Dragonquest, with new names and taking longer to arrive at the payoff point. The longer we go in this book, the more convinced I am that Jaxom is going to take Sharra down the same path.
I still hope I’m wrong. However, Jaxom admitting he would go see Corana puts the lie to the idea that his intentions are romantic. And Corana is being specifically thought of as an object to be used for Jaxom’s lusts, like she always has been, instead of as a woman with her own life and possible issues that are made more complex when someone who she can’t refuse comes in for a booty call. The narrative is only concerned with Jaxom and whether he’s getting his rocks off, instead of what any of his potential partners thinks about the affair.
Which is, unfortunately, one of the most consistent parts of Holder culture and the narrative.