Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Time Marches On

The last chapter involved sneaking supplies out where they would be useful, with Capiam unable to do much more than gawk at how one of Tolocamp’s daughters could pull off this kind of ruse. Moreta also went back to check on a patient and discovered (and fixed) complications in their healing, giving us some insight into the nature of the dragons.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XIII: Content Notes: Grief, loss, unintentional triggering, dragon-influence

The beginning of this chapter has Alessan working fields with a plow and the remaining runnerbeasts he has, the prize racers that he had been breeding in defiance of his father’s wishes. It’s a bleak set of responsibilities for him and the Hold, as again, time marches on.

The land had to be tilled, crops sown, the tithe offered, the Hold fed no matter how the Lord Holder managed to accomplish those responsibilities. He came to the edge of the field and wrestled the team into the wide arc, turning back on the furrows. They were uneven but the earth had been turned.
[…There’s a Harper in the distance…]
Alessan had drummed for heavy plowbeasts and been told that no one had any to offer. Neither threats of withholding nor doubling the marks brought better results.

So nobody wants to give or sell anything to Ruatha to help them get their Weyr tithes or the people in the Hold fed. I would think their associated Weyr would have something to say about that. Assuming there are enough healthy and immunized riders and dragons to go out and intimidate the lesser folk into sharing. Even if it were entirely true that there are no runnerbeasts to be shared. Especially since it’s Sh’gall in charge at Fort – he would flip out entirely at any chance that a Hold wouldn’t be able to make the tithe.

Unfortunately, Alessan seems to believe that he’ll have to go it alone against other Holders that will be paranoid their great stocks will just die from the plague that affected the runners before it harmed the humans. Tuero, the Harper, convinces Alessan to send him instead, and while he doesn’t return with lots of beasts, he does come back with confirmation that everyone’s afraid of plague reoccurrence. Which apparently means, according to Tuero, Alessan could trade runner serum for runners, should it be the case that immunity can be transferred in the same way. Because Alessan has an entire stock of those that survived the plague. Alessan says “Why didn’t I think of that?” and plans immediately to make his Hold prosperous enough to fulfill their duties. He needs an expert opinion, and since the Hold that would normally have that is asleep, Alessan says to consult Moreta, indicating that he paid attention to her backstory instead of treating her as a disposable object, like other Lord Holders. So he and Moreta have a face to face meeting, instead of message by drum. Orlith is brooding, and there’s a joke about how nobody would steal a queen egg before Alessan arrives and he asks about runner inoculation. Moreta says it should have been obvious that it was possible and is incensed that it hasn’t happened yet, giving Alessan free rein of the storerooms to collect whatever he needs.

Then Alessan does something stupid, although he probably thought it was noble or an obligation.

“I did not come,” he said with a wry smile, “with an expectation of bounty. I can, however, return your gown.” He took out the carefully folded gold and brown dress and presented it to her with a courteous bow.
She managed to take it from him but her hands trembled. She thought of the racing, the dancing, her joy in a Gather as one should be, her delight in the perfection of that Gather evening as she and Oklina had made their way to the dancing square for an evening she would never forget. The pent-up frustrations, angers, suppressed griefs, the mandatory absences from Orlith that she thought of as betrayals of Impression, the whole accumulation burst the barrier of self-control and she buried her face in the dress, weeping uncontrollably.

Because that’s what Moreta needed at this very moment – a reminder of the event that set off all of the pain and suffering that has been the contents of this book. Way to go, Alessan. Perhaps some time after this has passed, you can return the dress, but now it’s just going to be a trigger.

As Orlith crooned supportively, Moreta was taken into Alessan’s embrace. The touch of his arms, fierce in their hold, the mixed odors of human and animal sweat, of damp earth, combined to free her tears. Abruptly she felt the heave and swell of his body as his grief found expression at last. Together they comforted and were comforted by each other’s release.

Yep. Catharsis is a lot like that, one big ball of emotion unbound and rushing out until it’s done. Having a supportive friend or partner there can really help with making sure it all gets out instead of being bottled back up as soon as it looks like someone else is watching. If this were everything that happened here, and both of them went back to business, it would be a lovely scene and very appropriate.

Instead, we get this.

His hands tightened and he pulled her toward him again, bending his head to one side so that she could evade him if she chose. Moreta tilted her head and accepted the kiss, thinking to put the seal of comfort to their shared sorrow with that age-old benison. Neither expected their emotions to flare to passion – Moreta because she had stopped thinking of relationships outside the Weyr, Alessan because he had thought himself spent from his losses at Ruatha.
Orlith crooned serenely, almost unheard by Moreta, who was caught up by the surge of emotion, the flow of sensuality so remarkably aroused by Alessan’s touch, the hard strength of his thighs against hers, the sensation of being vital again. Not even her girlhood love of Talpan had waked such an uninhibited response, and she clung to Alessan, willing the moment to endure.
Slowly, reluctantly, Alessan raised his mouth from hers, looking down at her with incredulous intensity. Then he, too, became aware of the dragon’s crooning and looked, startled, in the queen’s direction.
“She doesn’t object!” That amazed him further, and he was sensible of the risk he had taken.
“If she did, you’d know about it.” Moreta laughed. His expression of dismay swiftly altering to delight was marvelous. Joy welled up from a long-untapped source in her body.

I call shenanigans! Or at least that Orlith is actively putting influence on both of them to get together, whether because she thinks Moreta needs sex to take her mind off her grief or because Orlith is a queen on her eggs and this wants to make sure everyone around her is happy, too, or some other reason. The emotional swing there is pretty intense, and I think it’s more believable if we take Orlith’s behavior to be the draconic equivalent of “Kiss the Girl”. Plus, that way it makes sense for Alessan, who has been about proper behavior for most of this book, to suddenly realize after the fact that he risked Orlith’s displeasure.
Nothing happens past the kiss, though, as the return of Tuero with supplies gets Alessan and Moreta to both separate and talk about the runnerbeasts as if it were the only conversation they had.

Points to Alessan for giving Moreta an out on his intended behavior, although some vocalization would be better. With potential dragon influence, though, the rest of that sequence of behavior has to stand as possibly him, possibly not him.

Alessan heads back, leaving Moreta, possibly still under Orlith’s influence, to sink down to the couch and wonder how much of that conversation Holth and Leri heard. I’m sure it will be “all of it” in a suitably gossip way. And that’s our chapter.

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11 thoughts on “Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Time Marches On

  1. genesistrine March 12, 2016 at 8:28 am

    I’m not convinced it’s dragon influence – sex is a frequent response to disaster, and both of them have been taking on a lot of responsibility without a lot of support, so….

    Have we had any word yet on why it would be such a terrible thing for a lord holder and a weyrwoman to get their funky thing on if they’re both up for it? Kylara/Meron never seemed to have any explanation other than, “they’re such nasty people!”, so we never found out if it’s because Weyrwomen are supposed to restrict their court to dragonriders-only (and presumably bronze-dragonriders-only at that) or Meron was a jumped-up steward with No Noble Blood Whatsoever or there’s a rule about No Kinky Sex or whatever.

  2. emmy March 12, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    I think we’ve gotten some vague ideas that it would be disapproved of because Moreta, as senior weyrwoman, feels like she has to show public support for Sh’gall, and Alessan is under pressure to marry and start producing legitimate heirs because he’s the Lord Holder.

    Duty vs Love, classic conflict.

    Of course neither of those problems is insurmountable – everyone in the weyr already knows that Moreta is not in love with Sh’gall, and Alessan is hardly challenging him for leadership, so dating a lord holder shouldn’t be THAT bad for her, and Alessan can always put forward a nephew or other relative as heir, it doesn’t have to be his registered son of matrimony. We’ve seen nephews become heirs before, so this doesn’t even require exploring the new territory of acknowledged bastards if he and Moreta had kids.

    But even when there are workarounds, social pressure can be hard to deal with.

  3. Silver Adept March 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    There’s a social stigma – Weyrwomen are supposed to support their Weyrleaders, and there’s the Jaxom problem, although Jaxom hasn’t happened yet in this timeline. Someone with a legitimate claim to a Hold and that could be raised by the dragonriders makes the Holders uncomfortable that they’ll have dragons involved in conflicts, maybe? Because both sides were trying to push Jaxom to the other side.

    I still think there might be some dragon influence, but in the sense that Orlith wants Moreta to be happy. I wish there were more information about whether a dragon on their eggs generally influences things toward more sexytimes or not. It would help explain so much.

  4. genesistrine March 14, 2016 at 3:17 am

    It seemed to be winked at when Mardra had her coterie of dragonriders and expected Lessa to have the same, that’s the problem with the social-pressure theories. The issue may be cross-class relationships – it’s OK to flirt around with dragonriders (presumably bronze-only) but only SLUTS date outside their (adopted) class.

    Watsonically it seems that Whatever Women Do is Wrong, unless they’re heroines and weally twuly in monogamous eternal love with whoever won the dragon/fire-lizard race. Which is very depressing. Just for once can’t we have a relationship that isn’t going to last because both have other responsibilities but gives both a measure of comfort during a crisis without everyone else sticking their noses in? Please?

  5. Firedrake March 14, 2016 at 3:22 am

    The other elephant (or indeed dragon) in the room is that nobody ever seems to be terribly unhappy about the “wrong” dragon winning the race. In fact I don’t think, off-hand, that that’s ever happened.

  6. Silver Adept March 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    You’re right, Firedrake – I think any time there’s the possibility of the wrong dragon winning, the situation gets manipulated so that only the right dragon can win.

    @ genesistrine – Yes, please. A good working relationship where neither Weyrleader or Weyrwoman is in love with the other. Or even sleep with each other, excepting during the mating flight.

    For add much as the dragonriders get painted as the people who have indiscriminate sex and orgies, they’re pretty strongly monogamous, more so than the actual practice of the Lords Holder and their sons.

  7. genesistrine March 16, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I think any time there’s the possibility of the wrong dragon winning, the situation gets manipulated so that only the right dragon can win.

    Or none can – look at what happened with Brekke/Wirenth.

  8. emmy March 17, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Does Sh’gall and (I can’t even remember his dragon’s name) count as the right dragon, then, when Orlith seems to want that but Moreta’s not into him?

  9. Silver Adept March 19, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    @ emmy and genesistrine –

    From the perspective of the narrative, Wirenth / Prideth annihilating each other was correct, because Kylara slumming it with a Holder means she has to be punished and Brekke is destined for the Brown Rider Rapist, so she needs to not have any other man having sex with her.

    And add for Sh’gall, well, the narrative doesn’t really care what a woman thinks, and Sh’gall is the best example of MANLY VIRTUE that the Weyr clearly needs in the time of this crisis. So, according to the narrative, yes, those are just right. Even if we look at them and go WTF.

  10. genesistrine March 20, 2016 at 3:48 am

    I have a horrible feeling that what Sh’gall Doylistically is is The Husband Who Just Doesn’t Understand, which, given the ghastly 70s-romance tropes AMC is so fond of, is worryingly plausible.

    It was theoretically a nice idea to have a Weyrleader and Weyrwoman who don’t and apparently never have had romantic feelings for each other, so how come it comes over as such an exact parallel of a bad marriage where people are tied together by inertia and not wanting to upset the kids/Weyr?

  11. Silver Adept March 22, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I suspect it has to do with how everyone in the Weyr apparently looks up to the Weyrleader couple as the barometer of how the Weyr is running. They can’t be just a good professional pair, because that might mean that dragon mating doesn’t cause or reinforce love and that the humans have basically nothing to do with it. That might say something negative about the dragons, and once said, it probably can’t be unsaid, and the whole conception of dragonriders as the superior group goes out the window.

    Or something similarly suitably ridiculous.

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