Last chapter, the vaccination process began, with the order set by the dragonriders and Healers to heal themselves, and then perhaps the Lords Holder as needed. The rest of the chapter was devoted to giving us a glimpse inside Ruatha and showing how it would serve excellently for the set for a season of a zombie show, or any other post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XI: Content Notes: Verbal abuse, emotional abuse
This chapter opens with a fainting dragonrider – Sh’gall, the Weyrleader, has passed out giving blood to have serum made, resulting in the Healer, Jallora, quipping that it tends to be the big strong guys that faint and that are the worst patients. There’s a running gag of storytelling and media that this is the case, because the juxtaposition is great for comedy, and because it occasionally has a basis in reality – ask many of those who run school-based blood drives and those who see lots of people donating, and they will have stories of big burly men who have taken a look at the needle and passed out cold. (And of those barely five feet tall and flirting with the minimum weight requirements who don’t take no for an answer and want to watch the needle go in.) Jallora collects her liter, compliments Moreta’s job on the wing repair Moreta did before falling ill, and gives Sh’gall a gentle ribbing about his fainting.
The journeywoman had interrupted an interview between Moreta and Sh’gall in which he had been determined to find fault with every provision made in the Weyr since the onset of the illness. He utterly discounted the fact that Moreta had not made any of the decisions or that she herself had just recovered.
And Sh’gall continues to be in the great tradition of Weyrleaders that prefer their partners intimidated, abused, and always to blame for anything that isn’t perfect in the way they believe it should be. Sadly, this makes them perfectly normal in our world, too.
Like most people with an overinflated ego and an overinvestment in toxic and performative masculinity, Sh’gall is pouting about how he got blood taken, how Leri took over and didn’t listen to his preferences, that the Masterhealer wasn’t there to personally vaccinate them, that there’s a wingsecond leading a Threadfighting excursion (oh, the horror!), and that, well, he’s still sick with the world so very, very out of whack, and so he can’t do anything to fix it. There could be some sort of unapproved activity going on, or someone might not be showing Sh’gall the correct amount of respect he believes his position demands.
We note that the narrative has been doing a much better job of dryly pointing out to us, often from Moreta’s point of view, that Sh’gall is not Weyrleader because of his abilities to actually lead, save perhaps the ability to lead fighting dragons against Thread.
It seems apt to point out at this moment that dragons mating is no basis for a system of government. Someone distributing swords from water might work better than this.
Moreta spares Sh’gall a charitable thought about his tantrums being about not being able to deal with the pandemic before going to see Leri, who is amused at Sh’gall, and has no intention of letting Moreta curtail her flying with the queen wing, now that she finally has an excuse to do so. As they discuss medicine and suppliers, Moreta has a wave of grief in relation to the new reality of her family’s destruction, and then K’lon arrives.
Of note, although not related to the medicine discussion:
“I sometimes think I have more than two ears and one head.”
I don’t have ears, Orlith remarked.
Um, what? Dragons vocalize in addition to their telepathic abilities, so presumably they have an organ developed to process audio and make sense of it. Which, to humans, would be an ear.
It’s possible, though, that this is a miscommunication – if Moreta visualized a picture of a human pair of heads with extra ears when she quipped, Orlith could be right – she doesn’t have human ears. Still, it’s a very odd remark for a dragon to be making.
K’lon’s arrival comes with news of medicine, but quickly devolves into his personal life as Leri picks up on something that takes Moreta a couple goes-round to figure out:
“Done a lot of sunning with A’murry, haven’t you, K’lon?” Leri asked.
Moreta shot her a quick look for her voice was suspiciously coy.
“When I’ve had the time.” K’lon stammered slightly, fussing nervously with the pack.
“You mean”–Moreta had at last reached Leri’s conclusion–“you’ve taken time to be with A’murry!”
“When I think of how hard I’ve worked-” Rogeth bugled outside the Weyr.
“No one is faulting you, K’lon,” Leri said quickly. Holth crooned reassurance, her eyes whirling bluely. “But, my dear boy, you’ve been taking a dreadful risk timing it. You could meet yourself coming and going-”
“But I haven’t. I’ve been very careful!” K’lon’s tone was defiant and fearful.
Okay, so that theory I had where the Sixth Pass hasn’t discovered time travel so that they can’t just warp back and pull a 12 Monkeys scenario to avoid the plague in the first place? It’s about to get completely destroyed, isn’t it?
So, alternate theories:
- Fixed points, in the vein of Doctor Who, exist. Messing with them brings out the Clock Roaches in such a way that all attempts at avoiding this tragedy result in timeline destruction or worse disasters.
- No warp-capable pictures exist of the necessary time coordinates or something close to it, even after querying the collective fire-lizard memory many Passes later to see if there was one close enough by to have observed the action.
- The aftermath of the plague benefits the dragonriders to such a degree that they are willing to sacrifice their own in history to bring about their superior future.
Make your own theories in the comments!
Admittedly, this is what Firedrake and others have mentioned before – if you introduce time travel into a story, the story becomes about time travel. It seems like there’s a lot that could have been prevented by time travel. Even original disasters like the volcanic eruption that forced the Ancients away seems like it could be fixed or mitigated through the judicious use of dragonriders. And we have yet to see a particularly good reason as to why dragonriders don’t interfere in the timeline more.
“Just how many hours have you been putting into your days?” Leri spoke with great understanding and compassion, even a hint of amusement.
“I don’t know. I never counted hours!” K’lon jerked his chin up, rebellious. “I had to, you know. To get everything done and still make time to be with A’murry. I had promised him that I’d be in Igen every afternoon no matter how busy I was. I had to keep that promise. And I felt compelled to render Master Capiam the assistance he had to have-”
“Believe us, K’lon,” Moreta said when he turned to her in appeal, “we are profoundly grateful to you for your courage and dedication over the past week. But timing is a tricky business.”
“And something our Weyrlingmaster certainly never mentioned,” K’lon replied with an edge to his voice.
“That information is restricted to bronze and queen dragons, K’lon. I presume you discovered it by chance.”
“Yes, rather.” K’lon’s expression mirrored the surprise he must have had. “I was late, I knew A’murry would be worried. I thought of him, waiting for me, anxious, when I didn’t appear on time, and the next thing I knew, I had!”
This doesn’t exactly clear up how the time travel works, although it is consistent with how Lessa discovered everything. It also suggests that there is some physical tell that is apparent to anyone who knows what to look for (although it’s also been suggested in the comments in the last book that this information may be communicated by dragon somehow) when it comes to timing it.
Also, the information is restricted to bronzes and queens only?
Cocowhat by depizan
I can see the Weyrlingmaster not mentioning it, because plenty of young people would use that power in all sorts of dangerous ways, like shaving things too closely and meeting themselves (although Lessa technically saw herself when she did the warp, but perhaps there’s a bit where if you get too close to yourself, your existence collapses as the timeline writes you out to preserve itself from the paradox. Best to hope that you’re not someone critical to the function of history, then.
Since K’lon is, and with the hanging threat of one mistake being fatal for him, Leri forbids K’lon from continuing to time it, using Holth’s power as a queen to ensure compliance, and also forbids him from revealing what he has learned about time travel, while also trying to reassure him that he will be scheduled in to see A’murry on a regular basis.
That said, since this information is clearly regulated, there has to be a method for containing the occasional discovery, but also there really need to be rules about the responsible use of time travel. Anyone who discovers the secret will use it, and if they are careful about not exhibiting obvious signs of timing it, it won’t be as easy to detect them, meaning they could cause great disasters on the timeline. Maybe a dragonrider-specific Teaching Song that’s cryptic enough not to give away the secret, but that of one should discover what gives, that will provide an immediate set of rules and behaviors to observe so as to minimize the potential damage?
As it turns out, the obvious signs of timing it in this case is bleached hair and an obvious tan from the additional sun. Back in Dragonquest, I believe that this was also the sign of being able to tell apart which Brown Rider Rapist was from the current timeline and which one was from the past at Southern. Maybe N’ton saw the same things with Jaxom. Considering all of the characters are generally from the cooler north, the presence of an unexpected tan would be a likely giveaway.
The next active element starts, right after Moreta is amused that her dragon is as indifferent to Sh’gall as she is, when Leri returns from Fall to send Moreta out on Holth to fix a queen dragon’s wing that’s been hurt by Thread. (The rider’s leg is also injured, but Leri assures us that Falga will be fine.) Cruising in, Moreta notices the damage is more extensive than relayed and calls on the associated dragons to hold the thrashing queen still so that the repairs can take place. Which includes the two Healers that have finished with Falga and want to help.
And so, once again, we have Moreta fixing a wing – there’s a small nod to the fact that this has happened before in this story, and this fixing moves at an accelerated narrative pace, with the Healers alternating between looking on in awe at how reconstruction works and helping out with the stitching and other needs. As soon as the work is done, Holth is summoning Moreta back to Fort Hold on extreme urgency.
We don’t find out why until we get back to there, but if there’s a draconic equivalent to “Honey. My water just broke,” then this is it. Orlith really needs to get to the Hatching Ground. And fade out, end of chapter. We get no insight into the process of how dragons actually lay eggs and what the associated emotions and other feelings and sensations are. Considering how much we’ve seen and read about the process of sex, and we’ve seen what happens when the eggs hatch and are ready for Impression, surely by now we could get the other part of the process.
We won’t, of course, because birth is one of those processes that makes all the people who are tuned in for the sexytimes leave, and because birth is generally a messy, smelly, and dirty process, even with hospitals and other things.
A little worldbuilding, it’s all I ask.