Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Super Subterfuge

Last chapter, Moreta proved that it was possible to travel forward from the known present into the future, removing the last known obstacle for dragonriders to control the timeline presumably anywhere they can reach. Now with sufficient supply of everything needed to accomplish simultaneous vaccination of humans and animals, it’s time to recruit dragonriders for the task and put it into action.

Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Chapter XV; Content Notes: Classism, toxic masculinity

(3.21.43-3.22.43)

Moreta’s first stop is Benden, where there is gossip about other Weyrs, but mostly advice and confirmation about which riders are the ones to ask about who has sufficient experience and control with time hopping to be useful to the plan. Ista takes some convincing, although Moreta gets to see the son she had with D’say, M’ray, as she tries to convince him to join up. This gives Moreta a little hope about her bloodline, in that it continues through the other children she has had. Igen is happy to help out, even though the Weyrleader is stuck in a deep depression that people think will be cured by the end of the plague and a good mating flight.

Telgar, however, orders Moreta, M’barak, and Arith grounded well away from the Weyr, as M’tani has quarantined the Weyr from strangers, which includes riders from other Weyrs. Moreta can get no headway with C’ver, the sentry, who mocks her and tells her she’s not welcome, period. Incensed at the discourtesy, Moreta vows to never lift a finger to help Telgar and continues on to High Reaches, where she is “twice and twice times twice welcome”. B’lerion informs her of having taken Desdra and Oklina to Nerat for more needlethorn, before Moreta is beseeched to check in on Tamianth, the dragon whose major surgery she did when she was here last. Things look good, and it seems that Pressen took Moreta’s advice about being a Weyr Healer seriously.

While Falga is examining the plan, Holth relays to Tamianth that Moreta has unfriendly guests.

“Could that be why Tamianth tells me Holth now informs her that Raylinth and his rider have arrived, in great agitation, at Fort?” When Moreta nodded grimly, she added, “M’tani would have none of it?”
“The watchrider made Arith land on the Rim.”
B’lerion cursed with real fervor, all langor gone.
“If I’d been on Orlith, that squatty mildewed brown of C’ver’s would-”
“Consider the source,” Falga said earnestly. “A mere brown rider! Really, Moreta, save your wrath for something worth the energy to spit at. I don’t know what has got into M’tani over the last Turn. Maybe he’s battle-weary from fighting Thread for so many years. He’s gone sour totally, and it’s affecting his whole Weyr. That would be disastrous enough in ordinary times, but this plague has only shown up his deficiencies. Do we have to force a change there? We’ll take up the matter later.
[…logistics of who will help Moreta from High Reaches. As we resume, B’lerion is now speaking instead of Falga…]
“Of course, T’grel’s not the only rider who’s dissatisfied with M’tani’s leadership. I told you, didn’t I, Falga, that once those Telgar riders had had a taste of real leadership, there’d be trouble.” He smiled winningly at Moreta. “I actually do defer to Sh’gall’s abilities. He may be a dull stick in other matters – oh, no, you can’t fool your old friend B’lerion – but he is a bloody fine Leader! Don’t waggle your finger at me, Falga.”

Pern continues to be a place where, if there weren’t any therapists, it would be necessary to invent them. Someone has to have thought of the practice of mental Healing, because this world is pretty crapsack for anyone not a Lord, rider, or Crafter. And, as we keep seeing, there are plenty of people at those levels that need help in coping with disasters or the pressures of their positions. Even if it’s always a crude practice, the planet needs counselors, instead of dragonriders sneering at each other and then thinking about staging a coup of leadership when one of theirs has issues. It’s not coincidental, I think, that the responses to Sh’gall, Tolocamp, and M’tani freaking out about plague have all been basically the same – anger, disapproval, derision, with the idea that they’re just not tough enough to handle it like Real Men(TM). If we can figure out on Terra that the social construction of Masculinity that relies on men being perennially tough and non-emotional is contributing to men dying earlier and committing acts of violence against themselves and others, surely on Pern they can follow suit, especially for the men that are pair-bonded with living weapons.

Additionally, based on this exchange, Come see the violence inherent in the system. Or, for the visual version, Dennis, the anarcho-syndicalist peasant. In any case, we are rather starkly reminded of the strength of the caste system of the dragonriders, despite none of the riders, except perhaps the queen candidates, getting to choose what color of dragon they have. I’m not sure what the official handwave about this is, other than an insistence, true or not, that dragons choose their riders, but it seems like a pretty bad bargain to get “Congratulations! You’ve just joined the mounted class, the highest of classes, but at a rank that makes you front line fodder and that will give you no real respect in that class!” Then again, considering what happens in the other classes, and to them by dragonriders, maybe it’s the best of bad bargains.

Still, if a brown rider isn’t worth frustration on Moreta’s part, then I wonder what they think of the blues and greens. Oh, wait, I don’t have to wonder, I just have to read a little bit further.

“Good fellow, K’lon; and I don’t say that about just any blue rider.”

That’s B’lerion talking, by the way, so we have an idea about what position the blue riders occupy in the minds of the bronze and gold riders.

When Moreta gets back to Fort, we get the rest of what Telgar thought about the visit. And a thought of what the green riders are, too.

Orlith was awake on Moreta’s return to Fort Weyr because Sh’gall had roused her while looking for Moreta. He was pacing up and down in front of the tier and whirled belligerently at her when she entered.
“M’tani sent a green weyrling,” he cried, fuming, “hardly more than a babe, to give our watchrider the most insulting message I gave ever received. He has repudiated any agreement made at the Butte, a meeting at which I was not present.” Sh’gall shook his fist at Moreta and then in the vague direction of the Butte. “And at which arbitrary decisions were made, which I cannot condone, though I’ve been forced to comply with them! M’tani has repudiated any arrangement, agreement, accord, understanding, undertaking. He is not to be bothered – bothered, he says – not to be bothered by problems if any other Weyr. If we are so poor that we have to beg and Search from other Weyrs, then we do not deserve to have a clutch at all.” Sh’gall ended up swinging his arms about like a drum apprentice.
Moreta had never seen him so furious. She listened to what he had to say but offered no response, hoping he would vent his rage and leave. Having repeated himself at length on his displeasure with her shameless venture for the Weyr that had resulted in such an insufferable message from M’tani, he ranted on through his usual grievances, about his illness, about the puny size of the clutch. Finally Moreta could bear no more.
“There is a queen egg, Sh’gall. There have to be enough candidates to give the little queen some choice. I applied to Telgar Weyr as I did to Benden, Igen, Ista, and the High Reaches. No one else thought my appearance or my request importunate. Now leave the Ground. You’ve upset Orlith sufficiently for one day.”
Orlith was visibly upset as Moreta ran across the hot sands to her, but not, Moreta knew very well, by Sh’gall. By Telgar Weyr. She paced in front of her eggs, her eyes wheeling from red to yellow and orange as she recited to her rider a list of the damages she would inflict on bronze Hogarth in such detail that Moreta was torn between laughter and horror. A mating dragon could be savage with the drive of that purpose, but a clutching dragon was usually passive.

Clearly everyone considers the sending of a young green rider to be a most grievous insult. I’m guessing they’re the very lowest on the list, which is why Sh’gall is so riled up, aside from all the other reasons that boil down to “shit keeps happening that I don’t approve of.” Which is at least consistent for him, but calls into question B’lerion’s previous statement that Sh’gall can lead people. If he falls apart like this or throws tantrums every time it doesn’t go his way, there’s no way he’s going to be the leader of his own Weyr, much less unofficially in charge of all the Weyrs. There’s way too much unconstrained testosterone in these groups…Unless he’s in charge because he beats everybody up that crosses him.

Good on Moreta for telling him off, and good on Orlith for demonstrating a knowledge of anatomy and what to do with it. As it turns out, Holth and Leri want in in that action, too. But there’s still enough volunteers to make the plan when it’s time, so the action skips up to the next day and over to Ruatha.

The day of the plan dawns, with Ruatha’s tired centrifuges and bottles upon bottles of already-generated serum stacked carefully. Alessan and his senior staff discuss the plague and its effects, as well as the state of the current herd, before the herders hop off to see if there’s going to be a birth tonight, and others head toward bed, the Benden white wine working on them. Alessan has apparently offered Tuero a permanent post at Ruatha as the Hall Harper. I suspect that if Robinton were to trace his line, he would find Tuero in it, because, well, the list of demands is ridiculous:

“By the first Egg,” Alessan protested, “you’ve already got me to agree to a first-storey apartment on the inside, second tithe of our Crafthalls -”
“When you’ve got them staffed again -”
“Your choice of a runnerbeast, top marks as a journeyman, and leave, if you wish, to take your mastery when the Pass is over. What more can you ask of an impoverished Lord Holder?”
“All I ask is what is fitting for a man of my accomplishments.” Tuero humbly put one hand on his heart.
“So what is this final condition?”
“That you supply me with Benden white.” He spoiled the gravity of his pronouncement by hiccuping and gestured urgently for Alessan to fill his cup. He sipped wine to stop the spasms. “Well?”
“Good journeyman Harper Tuero, if I can procure Benden white, you may have your just share of it.” He raised his cup solemnly and Tuero touched his to it. “Agreed?”
Tuero hiccuped. “Agreed!” He tried to swallow the next hiccup.

Tuero has both Robinton’s avarice for stuff and fondness for Benden white wine, which is still apparently the best stuff on Pern.

With the wine drank, Alessan and the rest head to bed, Alessan wondering in a wine-induced haze whether Desdra is hitting on Oklina, resolving firmly to repaint the Hall, taunting Tuero about never knowing his source of Benden, and receiving news that the mare gave birth to a male foal. (Who we hope survives and can be vaccinated due to the herd immunity.)

There’s also a tease of the readers and the drinkers that Rill, one of the women present, looks familiar to everyone. She also ends up being the person that tucks Alessan and Tuero into bed in their drunken stupor. Alessan tenderly, Tuero much less so.

Then it’s time to fly the mission. Moreta is glad there’s Fall to disguise the real activities of the queen riders today. She’s on Hatching Ground duty today, while Leri and others do the hauling. Moreta is concerned about Leri’s continued flying, and thinks it would be good for Leri to retire to Ista after this run. As if Moreta could convince her of that.

Mostly, though, it’s Moreta at the feeding grounds, looking for good things for Orlith and approving of hunts of wherries now and roundups of stray runners after the plague threat is over, and generally having a good relaxing time, with occasional status updates from Orlith.

Until, of course, something gets in the way. Namely, that M’tani is forbidding his bronze dragons from joining the combined Thread fighting crews. Since part of the plan hinged on vaccinating Telgar’s areas while attention was directed at the Fall, using locals to the area, this is a serious monkey wrench in the plan, bringing Benden’s Weyrwoman to discuss strategy. Others can cover much of the lost territory, but the Keroon Plains would go unprotected, and that would ruin the plan completely. Unless Moreta finds a dragon and covers it herself, that is. Holth is volunteered for Moreta, and the two hop over to Keroon to pick up the vaccine. Then, it’s several runs to various beastholds to deliver the vaccine, timing it such that she reappears to collect a new set every hour, even though the runs themselves take much longer.

The strain of the runs is becoming apparent in both dragon and rider.

And each jump Holth made seemed just that much shallower. Twice Moreta asked the dragon if she wanted to rest. Each time Holth replied firmly that she was able to continue.
[…time ticks and Moreta is getting annoyed at how long it’s taking…]
All during the last round, she kept the sun at a midafternoon position, feeling the strain of timing it in her bones, in Holth’s heaviness. But when she asked Holth if they should stop, the dragon replied that she wished Keroon had a few mountains instead of all these dreadful plains.
[…they deposit the last of the vaccine…]
She watched him go, numbly aware that Holth’s body was shaking under her legs. She stroked the old queen’s neck.
“Orlith is all right?” She had asked that question frequently, too.
I am too tired to think that far.
Moreta looked at the midafternoon sun over Keroon plain and wondered with a terrible lethargy exactly what time it was.
“One last jump, that’s all we have to take, Holth.”
Wearily the old queen gathered herself to spring. Moreta gratefully began her litany.
“Black, blacker, blackest-”
They went between.

Back to a hero’s welcome, too a necessary drink, and to the knowledge that you’ve helped save the world. We’re right near the end of the chapter, so there’s not much more to be done but wind things down, right?

Right?

…where an I going, and why does this look like a handbasket?

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21 thoughts on “Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern: Super Subterfuge

  1. depizan March 31, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    As was pointed out in the comments of another post. They are TIME TRAVELING. There is absolutely no reason not to take a rest whenever and then get back to it. It feels like both false urgency and and a very bad case of tragedy because the plot says so.

  2. beappleby March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Too tired to realize the logic of resting first.

  3. genesistrine March 31, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Do we have to force a change there? is an absolutely fascinating question. So there is a way to remove an incompetent or PTSD-afflicted Weyrleader, though I don’t think we ever get more details on what it is. It’s ambiguous as to who Falga means by “we” – we the other Weyrs? The other Weyrleaders? We the queenriders?

    Also worth noting that the Sixth Pass apparently has none of the Ninth’s horror at the thought of dragon-vs-dragon violence – “If I were on Orlith, C’ver–” Moreta would have launched her queen at the offensive brown rider.

    It’s interesting to compare the lack of counselling/therapy/mental health professionals on Pern with AMC’s first novel, Restoree, which involves a planet that has continually been raided and the population kidnapped en masse by anthropophagous aliens for millenia. The heroine explicitly points out that they desperately need mental health professionals but haven’t developed them. (They don’t even have priests for pastoral care, since their only religion is worship of the man-eating, kidnapping aliens, which went into a permanent decline when they started fighting back. Which isn’t really relevant, but is interesting to compare with explicitly-atheist Pern.)

  4. genesistrine March 31, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    @beappleby: except they explicitly took the time to eat and snooze on the needlethorn-collecting trip a chapter before just so they didn’t turn up suspiciously sweaty and exhausted after an hour away. So it’s an understood thing to do, except when someone has to drive themselves to death from exhaustion for a noble tragic ending.

  5. depizan March 31, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    @genesistrine

    That’s exactly what makes it seem like such a wallbanger. The book has established that time travel allows people time to rest. The person who works herself to death here was there and rested. It doesn’t make any sense that Moreta would work herself to the point of being too exhausted to know she (and the dragon) need to rest here.

    Really, this whole plot would work so much better without the time travel. Then you can build up the urgency of getting everywhere vaccinated better and you don’t have an out to allow Moreta to rest. It’s still a little overdone (do the vaccinations need to be done in SUCH an urgent fashion?), but it seems less like Welp, plot says Moreta dies.

    (But I really, really hate characters dying of “Plot Says So.”)

  6. emmy March 31, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    @genesistrine – you could just as easily say that the needlethorn trip showed that their instinct would be to get back as fast as possible and only the ‘wiser’ head of capiam reminded them to stop and rest… EXCEPT THAT’S NOT WHAT’S WRITTEN! Instead, we have Moreta repeatedly asking if they should stop for a rest.

    THAT is the silly part, to me. That’s what makes it obvious that Moreta should absolutely know better and should have insisted on the rest break.

    In the case of doing the multiple time-layering situation, they are much, much tireder than they were from just one simple needlethorn hop to the future, and have absolutely lost focus on anything but the task they have set themselves. It’s not a completely unknown thing in the real world, either, for people to be focused on doing a good Last Job and then, as soon as they’ve accomplished the hurdle they put all their energy into, running out of steam and dying very shortly afterwards. (Though generally not immediately.)

    If the scene were written to emphasize Moreta and Holth being too focused on their job and the separation from their partners to think clearly, to emphasize the schedule telling them exactly where to go and what to do until the very end… I think this would work better. Instead, the plot makes Moreta see her doom coming and then fail to do anything about it. It’s an attempt at foreshadowing that comes across as idiot ball.

    >Alessan wondering in a wine-induced haze whether Desdra is hitting on Oklina

    I _wish_ I could interpret that line that way but I’m pretty sure that no thought of the very existence of f/f attraction has ever occurred to any character at any point in the entirety of AMC’s Pern. (I don’t know about Todd’s books, of course.)

    Desdra offers to walk Oklina up the stairs because she’s half-asleep, I’m quite certain that Alessan’s use of the word ‘solicitous’ has nothing to do with soliciting, he’s only asking whether Desdra is actually trying to help Oklina or needs the help herself. He’s pondering whether Desdra is weaker than she looks.

  7. Firedrake April 1, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    This whole sequence feels like Anne saying “hey, this book’s working all right, nearly done, oh damn it’s meant to be a great tragedy, I’ll have to kill her off somehow”. There’s no foreshadowing of a personality traits that might lead to Moreta’s death, and it doesn’t grow out of the story in any other way; as depizan says, it’s purely Plot Says So.

  8. Silver Adept April 1, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I think there may be a salvageable reason why Moreta isn’t thinking clearly – based on the experience the Brown Rider Rapist had by going back ten Turns to establish the Southern Weyr, it’s likely that being in the same time period in multiple locations is very stressful to the mind and makes it feel like it is fragmenting apart. Each time Moreta hops back, she adds to that stress.

    That doesn’t explain Holth’s willingness to go along with the plan instead of insisting on rest, since dragons don’t appear to be affected by being in multiple places at once. Somewhere along the way, especially with how tired she is now, Holth should just refuse to go anywhere.

    @ emmy – You’re probably right and here was never a conception of two women together, but considering that part of the world is built on men having relationships with men, even if they are dragon-assisted, it would seem very odd indeed for nobody to be thinking about it, especially if Alessan is as plastered as the narrative says he is. And genesistrine pointed out in an earlier post that Alessan might have already made commentary about Oklina sleeping around. It would be excellent if Oklina were canonically bi.

    @ genesistrine – I think the squeamishness of the Ninth Pass is mostly due to there having been only one Weyr, and so each dragon potentially lost has greater impact than in the Sixth, where all the Weyrs are fully stocked.

  9. genesistrine April 2, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Good thinking, that’s a definite possibility!

    The book just writes it as increasing exhaustion, though, which is a real missed opportunity – F’nor never goes into detail about what they’re experiencing, just “half alive”, “like dragonless men”. The experience of multiple Moretas in such close proximity could be really bizarre.

    “Black, blacker, blackest…”

    But it… wasn’t.

    Between was no longer black. There was a strange pearliness, as if light was shining through multiple layers of dark glass, and a hint of a high, thrilling hum in Moreta’s teeth.

    Orlith, what….

    It is because there are so many of us here now.

    Moreta would have sighed with relief had she had breath in between. Other riders must have recovered enough to join in the airlift. She should, she supposed, give orders that no-one fly themselves to exhaustion delivering Capiam’s cordial, but with its potency declining by the minute and no fresh ingredients available until next spring… they would have to take their chances.

    They burst into sunlight over the Healer Hall, and were nearly knocked out of the air by a queen dragon that almost immediately went between.

    Moreta swore.

    Sorry, Orlith said.

    Not your fault, dear heart. I want words with that clumsy fool! Which queen had it been? Well, she’d find out later who else had recovered enough to fly.

    Orlith braked fast with a clap of wings, and landed perfectly on the already claw-scarred patch of field next to the pile of nets. Every usable container in the Healer Hall and nearby Holds must have been pressed into service – Moreta could see old bottles scabbed with calcium from long storage in damp cellars, wineskins, even vases plugged with waxed cloth.

    A boy ran up to her, and half reached out. “Lady Moreta, please… you’re bringing between through! Please stop!”

    She looked at him, puzzled. He was wearing a thick coat… why, in the Plains heat? And why was there frost on the ground and nets?

    Capiam pounded up after the boy, carrying one of the nets. “Shut up, you!” he snapped, and swung the net towards Moreta. “Can you take this?”

    “Of course.” It seemed strangely slippery and hard to grip. Orlith deftly slipped a claw through the mesh.

    I have it safe. Don’t worry.

    “These are for Dania Hold at Revallon Watersmeet – some 30 miles south-south-west of Ariv Mine in Crom. There’s a peak shaped like….”

    I can see it.

    “We’re good.”

    Capiam was yelling at the shuddering boy as they took off with almost enough force to bowl even the stocky Healer over. “I don’t care! It doesn’t matter! Just load them up as fast as she comes in! The world is dying, whether or not we freeze to death or fall into between! All we can do is save as many as we can and this is our best chance!”

    They leapt, and winged hard upwards. As they went between Moreta saw another queen pop into being, and squinted – in that instant the queen and her rider had seemed almost… transparent. The sun? Or this shattering exhaustion?

    And there was something else. Orlith, we’ve never been to Crom, let alone that Hold.

    I can see it.

    Moreta almost felt she could too. Two rivers in deep, fast channels merging; stone strikingly coloured stripes and a spire shaped by age-long winds into an elegantly fluted candleflower bud. She could see it from all directions in a strangely fractured way… this dragon’s-eye view… this all-dragons’-eyes view… in fact, she could see all of the Continent that way, all the ways it had ever been… in this lighted, singing between…..

    I am sorry for this, Orlith said again.

    Sorry?

    It has to be done this way. If all the humans die there will be no-one to feed and love us. And there is no-one who can do this but us. You must try very hard to keep your mind together. I cannot do this without you.

    I’m all right. Keep going as long as you can.

    I will.

    I love you.

    I love you too.

    [This may also explain what happened to the Healer Hall….]

  10. genesistrine April 2, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Split post, since the fixfic got a bit long…. Should have noted that it’s set in a somewhat different Sixth Pass where time-betweening isn’t known. If I ever lengthen it I’ll add in how she’s puzzled that the sun doesn’t seem to be moving much, but I thought it was long enough already.

    Anyway.

    In some ways Moreta-the-book is actually quite an interesting story, since AMC does seem to be deliberately trying to change things around from the plot of the opera in D’singer – Moreta’s not the only one doing the deliveries, the shortage is of needles rather than seeds… there’s even a comment early in the book about how actual-Moreta isn’t a soprano. Silver Adept mentioned the Ministry of Truth recently, and M:DOL can almost be read as a comment on how the Harper History of Pern simplifies and distorts the history it passes on, transforming what’s basically an industrial accident that could have been prevented by proper health and safety protocols (and my goodness I’d like to see the suppressed Harper ballad written with that slant…) into a Tragic Heroic Narrative.

  11. genesistrine April 2, 2016 at 6:34 am

    Ugh, 3 in a row, sorry.

    @Silver Adept: I think the squeamishness of the Ninth Pass is mostly due to there having been only one Weyr, and so each dragon potentially lost has greater impact than in the Sixth, where all the Weyrs are fully stocked.

    Maybe. But then again they haven’t needed dragons for Thread fighting for centuries, so the only ones they couldn’t afford to lose are the breeding ones – golds in particular and bronzes to a lesser degree. I can’t remember if it’s ever stated outright, but I always assumed that it’s empathy – no-one wants to have to deal with bereaved riders or dragons. So it seems odd that the Sixth Pass, still suffering Threadfall, has a respected and judicious Weyrwoman thinking that she would have attacked another dragon if she’d had her queen with her.

  12. Silver Adept April 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Regarding empathy, Moreta is also currently in an era of mass death and damage to dragons and their riders. One more, or getting to take out frustrations on someone, might be more cathartic than the fallout from a dragon getting hurt.

    That said, there has also been discussion about forcing change in Weyr leadership. Presumably, they would try other methods like sabotaging a mating flight, but maybe it’s also possible that the queens can cause an accident somewhere that destroys both rider and dragon by using their “obey!” powers at exactly the wrong time.

    As for the way that the story gets changed from reality to myth, well, the Harpers have a vested interest in making dragonriders as virtuous and heroic as possible. So simple details like how Moreta actually dies can be explained away and transformed by the monopoly that the Harpers have on musical and cultural composition and dissemination.

    I do like the fixfic idea of having hyperspace bleeding through into reality because Moreta is existing in the same place and time too much. That would be a real reason why dragonriders don’t time it that much, instead of just vague waves at something.

  13. genesistrine April 3, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    It’s not just music and culture the Harpers have a monopoly on, it’s education and quite possibly historical documentation too. There are Hall, Hold and Weyr Records, but from F’lar and Lessa’s experience in DF they seem to be mostly account books – priceless to historians of an analytical bent, but very much lacking in eyewitness accounts. If there are amateur historians or diarists on Pern we’ve never heard of them.

    Which means that whatever version of history the Harpers choose to disseminate is not only the Official Version, it may be the only version that’s survived.

    And thanks! It puzzles me that timing only seems to be used for essentially trivial stuff – extra time with lovers, avoiding being late for appointments – or World-Changing Plot-Critical Protagonist Stuff. Nobody, as far as we know, is trying to save a loved one from dying, or making themselves rich through betting or speculation, etc. (Though I do like Kylara going to watch her younger self. It’s just a pity we’re never told about the logistics of what she did. Did little Kylara have a gold dragon watching her from high altitude whenever she went outside? A mysterious cloaked watcher who knew the layout of the Hold? Did she remember any of this before going back to past-Southern?)

    The explanation could, of course, be that people who try anything more are writing themselves out of history by accident and we’re just seeing the resultant timeline. I like to think that dragons are willing to shave off a few minutes for their riders now and then on the grounds that it won’t change the timeflow enough to make a notable difference, but will refuse any larger leap that won’t cause a stable and useful timeloop. But that’s jjust headcanon.

  14. Silver Adept April 5, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Regrettably, yes, all headcanon. Because dragons aren’t portrayed as being that smart. Because the canon itself is missing very important chunks from it. Because the Harper monopoly.

    It doesn’t seem like Yanus was too far off the norm when he thrashed Menolly for doing Harper things without a license, and Moreta says there are deliberate dragonrider efforts to suppress and classify secrets like time travel, so anyone who happens to start generating their own histories and songs has likely been killed and had their work destroyed. All the answers we seem are probably recorded in the Lost and Destroyed History of Pern. If we could get to them.

  15. Wingsrising April 5, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Re: change in the story in the ballad: At the end of Nerilka’s Story she does mention Tirone mounted Moreta on Orlith instead of Holth. Presumably this is because for some reason riding someone else’s dragon — at least outside the Weyr — seems to be a Thing We Do Not Do. (Notice that Moreta pretended to be Leri several times when leaving on Holth over the course of the story.)

    But remember that Moreta takes place 1,000 years before Dragonsinger. I don’t know that you need any sort of conspiracy to explain a song changing over 1,000 years of being sung and re-sung. How many 1,000-year-old songs do WE sing that have remained unchanged over the years and are still popular today? (None as far as I know, which of course relates to a major issue with not only the Pern books but with many SF novels in general, which is how little the society portrayed changes over vast scopes of time.)

  16. Firedrake April 6, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Closest I can get is “Sumer Is Icumen In”: at least 750 years old, we don’t know how long it was around before that, and I wouldn’t call it “popular” now but many people have heard of it. There are probably Gregorian chants over 1,000 years old still in regular use, but even less popular.

  17. genesistrine April 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    @Silver Adept: would they have to be smart, though? Maybe it’s instinct – well, instinct and practice. Dogs don’t have to understand calculus or geometry to catch balls; they see how they move and they practice catching them. How do dragons perceive time? Maybe avoiding dead-ended timeloops and serious disruptions of the timeflow is as instinctive to them.

    Yes, the Lost History of Pern. Containing such knowledge as “why the labs in the Weyrs were stripped and closed off” and “what happened to the scientists and technicians”.

    I’ve just read Tom Godwin’s Space Prison, which has its problems but is a really interesting contrast. Basic plot: a colonist starship is captured by aliens Earth is at war with. They separate the colonists into “useful knowledge; to enslave” and “not useful”, and dump the rejects on a nearby hellhole planet – 1.5g surface gravity, horrific seasonal swings due to 2 suns and a severe axial tilt, killer wildlife etc. The rejects are having none of this, and are determined to survive and get revenge.

    It takes their descendants 200 years to get enough metal and resources together to build a communicator that brings an alien ship in to see WTF’s going on down there, and they storm it with repeating crossbows and tamed monster wildlife.

    And with the manuals their ancestors wrote about “how to operate blasters” and “how starships are laid out”. They wrote down every single thing they knew, as soon as they had usable paper and ink.

    I like these people so much more than I like the Pernese settlers.

    @Wingsrising: well, yes, true, but on the other hand (slight spoiler) we learn later on in the series that the Harpers have even kept the Pernese language from changing since the Landing. That’s what, 2000 years? These guys are serious about keeping the status quo.

    We’ve seen another example of how strict they are about the performance of the Traditional canon in Dragonsinger, when Domick is nasty to Menolly about the variations she uses in the Ballad of Moreta’s Ride because of her injured hand. He makes it perfectly clear that the Teaching Songs are to be performed as written, no changes, tweaks, omissions or fancy stuff.

  18. beappleby April 7, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Ha! Domick only says that because her performance was so good otherwise that she didn’t leave him anything else to nitpick about! Which she actually finds encouraging, I think.

  19. genesistrine April 7, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    🙂

    But it does still demonstrate how strict the performance of the Teaching Ballads is. No interpretations, no variations, no dubstep remixes. And the Teaching Ballads are… well, the curriculum. It’s right there in the name.

    Which leads me to wonder what the Ballad of Moreta’s Ride is supposed to teach. Presumably the Nobility and Self-Sacrifice of dragonriders?

  20. Wingsrising April 7, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Re: dragons killing dragons. I frequently hear people say things like, “I’m going to kill him” or “I wanted to strangle him” or “If I’d been there I would have kicked his (tuckus) or so forth. Yet people very rarely do it. I’d assumed (and still do) that Orlith’s rant was the same thing: Something she’s saying to vent her anger and not something she would ever actually do.

    Re: time travel. If I’m understanding the thrust of the conversation (and I may not be), while I’m far from an expert, I’m pretty sure that from a physics standpoint whether time-travel follows the self-consistency principle is a property of time and the universe itself, not something that needs to be enforced by any external force. Whatever happens in our universe, the Pern universe follows the self-consistency principle, which would mean you don’t need rules enforced by riders or dragons to avoid changing the past because it’s literally impossible to do so.

    Re: language change. IIRC they hadn’t kept the language from changing and Menolly and Sebel were taken aback by that (because they thought they had). It it might be that they kept the language more consistent than might be expected to happen naturally. I’ll have to check when I get home tonight.

    But I think that’s a pretty common issue in fantasy more generally: the author tells a story, then wants to go back and write a prequel about some famous hero or event from the past or whatnot, but they want to tell the story in a culture that’s still recognizably the same culture as the books set in the “present”, so they end up with a society in which nothing changes across vast sweeps of time.

    The example from Pern that’s always seemed most absurd to me is the idea that fire lizards — an apparently common animal on the Pernese shoreline — would have been forgotten about and viewed as myths for millennia.

  21. genesistrine April 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    It’s not just Orlith letting off steam though – the narrative tells us flat out that Moreta would have attacked if she’d been on her queen:

    “If I were on Orlith, C’ver–” Moreta would have launched her queen at the offensive brown rider.

    That’s the line that’s getting to me. Is it supposed to have some significance (Moreta’s so on edge she’s thinking the unthinkable?), or did AMC just forget about the taboo on dragon-vs-dragon violence?

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