Last time, a shuttle crashed with the last hope of knowing what Thread is and how it works in deep space, the care and feeding of dragons began to produce a distinct group of people with very different needs than the standard colony population, and some volcanic rumbles convinced everyone that it was time to abandon the original point of Landing in favor of natural cave structures on the northern continent.
Dragonsdawn, Part Three: Content Notes: Population with Idiot Ball
We have a timestamp! 11.18.08 Pern. Which means that the entirety of Part Two took place over seven months. Eight years of inaction, basically, and then seven months of furious action. That makes no sense.
This part begins with Telgar and assistants examining a very large cave system that looks like it can house several hundred chambers, as well as provide air vents, fresh water, and geothermal heating. With a burned-out volcano caldera nearby to house the dragons and their humans, pasture land close to surface caves, and stone that can be used to seal the place up and turn it into “an impregnable fort.” Welcome to the future Fort Hold and Weyr, everyone, which will be built in the caves where Sallah and Tarvi first made love. Lest we spend too much time there, the narrative shifts over to Sorka waking up to both a hum and pain, which she deduces are related, and calls for the midwife, Greta. Who arrives almost as soon as she’s asked for, having properly read the summoning fair of dragonets flying past her window. Sorka is interested that Faranth picked up on an unconscious preference as to which midwife she would like attending her birth, but she can’t pursue the thought much because the pains of labor being her back to being focused on the body. Which has the side effect of agitating Faranth. An epidural calms Faranth by taking away Sorka’s contraction pains, and a little walking around gets her into the next phase.
Sorka’s water burst then, and outside the humming went up a few notes and deepened in intensity.
“I think I’d better check you, Sorka,” Greta said.
Sean stared at her. “Do you deliver to dragonsong?”
Greta gave a low chuckle. “They’ve an instinct for birth, Sean, and I know you vets have been aware of it, too. Let’s get her back to the bed.”
Um, Landing has known about this particular dragonet trait for the majority of this book. There’s no real reason for anyone to be skeptical at anyone who can take those signals and interpret them. Especially not you, Sean.
Sorka’s labor goes without complications, and she gives birth to a son, with very red hair. Then the narrative goes a little bit farther into the future, with Sean’s impatience at not getting to ride the dragons yet. And the news that Wind Blossom is still running the Ping program, although with much less success – her first four attempts have produced no viable eggs. Sean doesn’t have much faith in Wind Blossom, and Paul Benden is anxious about whether or not the current crop can perform according to the specifications.
It also turns out the dragons need both space and distance from Landing so as to be good neighbors, so on the way back from a hunting trip, Sean and Carenath both decide to buck the program a bit and take a short mounted flight.
It was also not the time for second thoughts. He took a compulsive hold with legs made strong from years of riding and shoved his buttocks as deeply into the natural saddle [between two neck ridges] as he could.
“Let’s fly, Carenath. Let’s do it now!”
We will fly, Carenath said with ineffable calm. He tilted forward off the ridge.
Despite years of staying astride bucking horses, sliding horses, and jumping horses, the sensation that Sean Connell experienced in that seemingly endless moment was totally different and completely new. A brief memory of a girl’s voice urging him to think of Spacer Yves flitted through his move. He was falling through space again. A very short space. What sort of a nerd-brain was he to have attempted this?
Faranth wants to know what we are doing, Carenath said calmly.
Before Sean’s staggered mind registered the query, Carenath’s wings had finished their downstroke and they were rising. Sean felt the sudden return of gravity, felt Carenath’s neck under him, felt the weight and the return of the confidence that had been totally in abeyance during the endless-seeming initial drop.
Sean and Carenath fly around a bit, and while Carenath is quite sure he won’t dump Sean, Sean realizes the need for something to keep him firmly attached to the dragon. Sorka tells them both they need to get down right now, even though Carenath doesn’t want to. After reassuring all the dragon riders that assembled quickly after his demonstration that their dragons can fly, Sean sketches out the kind of safety gear they’re going to need to stay firmly seated on the dragons, as well as the need for glasses to protect the eyes from the wind.
Sean is a little less exuberant when called before the council of Landing to account for his reckless behavior, even though it now proves that bronze dragons, at least, can fly at just about a year old, and that the dragons should start having their own clutches at three years of age. Cherry Duff is not happy about the timetable, but everyone else accepts the requirements for flying gear (tanned hide and plastics goggles) and produces them for flight training to start ten days afterward.
The next scene opens with something that continues to have me question the intelligence of the residents of Pern. Beyond all the things that have already been pointed out in the comments all along the way.
Landing had grown accustomed over the past year and a half to the grumblings and rumblings underfoot. In the morning of the second day of the fourth month of their ninth spring on Pern, early risers sleepily noted the curl of smoke, and the significance did not register.
Sean and Sorka, emerging from their cave with Carenath and Faranth, also noticed it.
Why does the mountain smoke? Faranth wanted to know.
“The mountain what?” Sorka demanded, waking up enough to absorb her dragon’s words. “Jays, Sean, look!”
Sean gave a long hard look. “It’s not Garben. It’s Picchu Peak. Patrice de Broglie was wrong! Or was he?”
No, I don’t think people are going to be like “Oh, huh. That volcano that we thought was dormant has started to smoke. Clearly this isn’t important enough or weird enough to make any sort of impact on our brains. Especially not since the ground has been shaking regularly for the last 18 months.” That kind of ignorance of natural disaster impending only happens because the plot demands it. Landing has Thread to deal with already, so I would have thought they would be extra-sensitive to extra disaster incoming. Landing should be on really high alert that they’re going to end up toast before they have the opportunity to get everything out of the path of the volcano. Because Pompeii is hopefully still in their history. But they’ll spend three more days before the council convenes to talk about the increased volcanic activity. In the meantime, Wind Blossom’s fifth attempt at a clutch hatches, but turn out to be afraid of light, signaling them as the ancestors to the watch-whers that guard places at night, and Sean is unsure on how to teach the dragons to teleport, even as they have taught the dragons to chew the phosphine rock that will produce fire to char Thread.
Cherry Duff, magistrate and vox populi for this session, is very concerned about the volcano, but is able to successfully follow the thought of “Landing has to move” to “and there’s a place waiting for us, isn’t there?”, stealing the thunder of Benden and Boll and getting to see the announcement that will talk about the move and the logistics thereof. Cherry moves on to the fighting power of the still maturing dragons and is reassured that everything is progressing according to plan, especially in light of Wind Blossom’s inability to reproduce Kitti Ping’s work. There’s also a report from Telgar on the progress of construction of the fort hold and associated weyr. The only thing that could get in the way would be if the volcano decided it didn’t like their timetables and fired off prematurely.
Now that I look at it, it seems like Landing and its administrators under-react to problems, not actually treating them with the respect they deserve to have. Thread might have been the only one that got proper panic, but only after seeing what it did. Avril, Ted, the volcano, Nabol’s crash, all of those things seem to catch the administrators by surprise. I’d believe it a bit more if Landing had already transitioned to the lower-tech society they were aiming for, but there’s no indication that this has happened in any way, and so everyone should be equipped with sufficient technology to try and anticipate these actions. 18 months of rumbles is more than enough time to figure out the plan of pulling up stakes and getting the fuck out and preparing for it to happen at the first sign that things are getting worse. Like a plume of smoke from a volcano that was thought dead.
Next time, maybe the exodus actually begins?