Last time, there was a lot of governance and philosophy around keeping an eye on potential troublemakers, and then the narrative snuck off to watch Sallah drug her otherwise ace love interest with an apparently effective aphrodisiac and then have sex with him. And we’re supposed to be okay with that, like all the other instances of sexual assault and rape in this series.
Dragonsdawn: Part One and Part Two: Content Notes: Depictions of Death
The narrative zips back to Landing, where animal births and dragonets are the order of everything – the dragonets are extremely effective at keeping the sheep and goats protected.
Oh, and Pol and Bay discover what happens when dragonets that are Impressed mate with each other, and then decide to put in for shared housing afterward. Because of this, there’s permission sought and granted to enhance the empathic abilities of the dragonets with “mentasynth” techniques. Which works quite well, and generates some new issues – enhanced dragonets communicate their emotional states very well, for example. And the dragonets can tell without fail when someone is about to give birth, animal or human, so the obstetricians just have to spot dragonets on a roof to know where they’re going to be needed, and can tell how well things are progressing by listening to the intensity of the dragonet songs.
The actual action of this section is a mate giving birth to the colt that will become the copy horse that Sean bargained for. Sean is very happy to see him, but has apparently maintained skepticism about the matter, and continues to do so as to whether this horse will turn out completely the same. Which utterly pisses Sorka off, and she storms away, leaving Sean completely confused as to why. Red offers no help whatsoever on that regard to Sean, but then privately muses about the relationship between the two that he sees. That his daughter has been menstruating for a year at this point, and clearly dotes on Sean, who has improved his reading and writing skills and taken a real shine to animal husbandry. Others are seeing them as a couple, and Red isn’t sure if this exasperation is the beginning of a new phase. Sorka has had sex ed, after all, but Red feels out of his depth and resolves to talk to his wife about the matter. His second trimester pregnant wife that’s working at the day care center, that is. I don’t quite think that anyone has yet figured out that empathic dragonets affect people other than just their impressed partners with their emotional states.
The narrative sends us back into Avril’s perspective, where she is irritated at people not telling her things, somewhat suspicious of her allies, and then lets slip her actual purpose for joining the expedition to us – she wanted to rule the planet. Lest this be seen as legitimate ambition, right after that motivation is revealed, Avril recalls lying her way through the lie detector that was supposed to weed her out. Having failed to secure Benden, Avril now just wants to get away on a ship, and is unafraid of using her sexuality to assemble a cast of useful cronies. And to possibly try and foement sufficient discord to overthrow Benden and rule the planet herself. Which hasn’t happened yet. So, instead, she’s biding her time.
As if anyone on this goody-good world is checking up on anyone else! “We are all equal here.” Our brave and noble leaders have so ordained it. With equal rights to share in Pern’s wealth. You just bet. Only I’ll get my equal share before anyone else and shake this planet’s dirt off my boots!
It seems like this should have been part of the plan – give everyone the option of returning back to the FSP with whatever wealth they have accumulated after a set amount of time, in case they get buyer’s remorse or they find that they can’t hack it in a low technology world. They only have the one opportunity, of course, and nothing else, but it seems like after three to five years, those who want to go will know it.
Avril is meeting with Stev Kimmer at this point, and he shows her emeralds and other gemstones that he has already pulled out. In her calculating way, Avril makes with the politeness and interest, even as she still tries to figure out how she managed to have Benden lose interest in her. And she’s rather miffed about having received a tiny share, despite being the navigator that got the colony ships safely to their destination. Returning out of her reverie at the impatience in Stev’s voice, they both head off to discover and see more of the gemstones. And this ends Part One.
I still feel like much of this part could have been deleted or moved to a place like the Dragonlover’s Guide, as it feels a lot more like the history of the colony, through the perspectives of a few people, than the beginning of a story. Avril hasn’t exactly made a whole lot of progress on her plan, and the bits not involving Sean, Sorka, and the dragonets have mostly been nods to other things and logistics. In terms of having a plot, this segment really doesn’t. And then Part Two starts with Threadfall, right at the beginning.
We also get the earliest recorded date of Pern – 4.5.08, which makes me wonder again what the actual months and years are like on Pern, considering the only official designation so far has been the seven day week. If everything is the same as it is on Terra in terms of rotational period and revolution period, great, but that should probably have been explicitly acknowledged somewhere.
Also, in between the two parts, there has clearly been a time skip, as the child that was still in Sabra’s womb is now three years old.
In any case, Part Two opens with Sabra Stein-Ongola trying to puzzle out why the family dragonet is trying to keep the family inside, after the dolphins have been trying to explain that marine life have been rushing to food and the herders are trying to figure out why the dragonets are trying to keep the animals inside. Nobody understands the danger coming, of course – it looks like a gray cloud off in the distance, threatening rain, perhaps, but not anything more. Sabra notices the conspicuous lack of dragonets, even though there’s a birth impending, and tries to get a hold of someone about it.
The dragonets, on the other hand, go to whom they think will be able to understand best – Sean and Sorka. Who sort the pictures they’re getting from their respective fairs and then notice the oddity of the cloud that is arriving. Before they do anything about it, though, the dragonets spur their horses into a panic gallop back toward shelter, with the dragonets providing stabs and spurs every time the horses try to obey their riders. The available shelter, in this case, is under a ledge in a deep lake in a ravine. Eventually the two get a proper look at what they are running from.
“Why?” Sorka still asked. “It’s only rain coming.” She was swimming beside Doove [her horse], one hand on the pommel of her saddle, the other holding the reins, letting the mare’s efforts drag her forward. “Where’d they all go?”
Sean, swimming alongside Cricket [his horse], turned on his side to look back the way they had come. His eyes widened. “That’s not rain. Swim for it, Sorka! Swim for the ledge!”
She cast a glance over her shoulder and saw what had startled the usually imperturbable young man. Terror lent strength to her arm; tugging on the reins, she urged Doove to greater efforts. They were nearly to the ledge, nearly to what little safety that offered from the hissing silver fall that splatted so ominously across the woods they had only just left.
When it arrives to the lake, the horses are in full panic, the fish are ready to eat their fill, and Sean and Sorka observe the dragonets puffing flames at the Thread as it falls, keeping them and the horses safe.
“Jays, Sean, look what it does to the bushes!” She pointed to the shoreline. The thick clumps of tough bushes they had ridden through only moments before were no longer visible, covered by a writhing mass of “things” that seemed to enlarge as they watched. Sorka felt sick to her stomach, and only intense concentration prevented her from heaving her breakfast up. Sean had gone white about the mouth. His hands, moving rhythmically to keep him in position in the water, clenched into fists.
Watching Thread at work is apparently very nauseating. But here we are again, with someone on Pern in the water, under a ledge, while the Thread rains down around them, and with a runnerbeast, err, horse, that is. And about the right age, too, for both Menolly and her fair and Piemur and his Stupid. History repeats, apparently.
Back at Landing, Bay agrees the behavior of the dragonets is odd to Sabra and goes to get Pol, who doesn’t like the look of the incoming clouds, right before the dragonets return in force and basically herd everyone inside, stinking of sulfur and agitation. They’ve also brought friends to make sure all the life forms get inside. We get another look at what happens when Thread touches a thing.
They could see the individual elongated “raindrops” strike the surface, sometimes meeting only dust, other times writhing about the shrubs and grasses, which disappeared, leaving behind engorged sluglike forms that rapidly attacked anything green in their way. Pol’s nicely sprouting garden became a waste of squirming grayish “things”, bloating larger within seconds on each new feast.
She had been shocked by the sight of a full-grown cow reduced in a few moments to a seared corpse covered by a mass of writhing strings.
Pol observes the inability of Thread to eat stone and the vulnerability of plastics, while Bay points out the firepower the dragonets are bringing and their living shield over the house that is bringing a new life into the world during the Fall. The narrative does a quick flip to Ongola, who is sounding the alarm as he deals with having been hit by Thread, trying to raise all the hunters and fishers out and about, so as to try and get them under shelter, and showing us how he ended up getting hit, the way the Thread ate his wool sweater, and the vulnerability it has to water. The settlements report in and send offers of aid, including one Sallah Telgar-Andiyar. So, apparently, that one night in the caves was enough for both of them to firm a contract partnership. I do really wish we knew what Telgar’s victim had thought about this whole affair and what went into the discussions about partnerships, but I guess we won’t get any of that.
In passing, it’s noted that the Thread cloud didn’t register on any meteorological instruments, so there wasn’t any advance warning before the dragonets started trying to protect everyone. Even with the dragonets, the casualties of everyone who has gone out, and of the nomadic camps, is severe, since Thread eats just about everything, including some of the building materials for houses. It’s a bit convenient to have all the ethnic nomads basically reduced to a tiny fragment of their previous selves, which I’m sure will make the unacknowledged racists a little happier that their planet is no longer contaminated by different groups.
As it is, the main administrators and scientists convene to try and get answers and explanations – the otherwise unexplained pockmarks now have an explanation, and according to those that investigated, the period of time between attacks is about 150 years. Which leaves the only unanswered question as to how long the attack will last. Thus ends the first segment of Part Two.