Last time, Landing’s evacuation timetable was accelerated by the eruption of the main volcano near Landing, and after losing one of their own, the dragonriders successfully figured out how to harness the teleportation power of their dragons. The only untested elements of Kitti Ping’s program are flamethrowing and reproduction.
Ted Tubberman died by his own creations, attempting to breed and genetically manipulate directable cheetahs as tunnel snake defense. Stev Kimmer is still around somewhere, potentially dangerous but not a priority in anyone’s mind because of the need to move and to fight Thread.
Dragonsdawn, Part Three: Content Notes:
It’s the home stretch for us! If there’s anything of ancient Pernese history still to be observed, this is it.
Which is why I’m interested that this segment opens up with Benden putting a gag order on the extent of Boll’s injuries, and even whether or not Boll will survive, when the big sled she was on suffered a severe gyro malfunction and crashed. Everyone working on the sleds and cargo haul blames themselves for the accident, and the stress of everything is only compounded by the accident.
A narrative switch has Sorka winding up to chew Sean out for having done the hyperspace hop, but the truth of how it happened stops her from unloading on him. Instead, it becomes more about training in teleportation, including the need to be able to skip around so as to avoid getting walloped by Thread, and the cargo haul assignment provides perfect cover for practicing the teleportation.
Jumping back to Fort Hold (which has acquired the majuscules by the last chapter), the aerial sled commanders are worried about their power packs for the sleds failing out, and all that Benden has to offer is a request for patience with the dragons – in five years there should be enough to be an aerial fighting force – and the news that Wind Blossom successfully hatched six more dragons. When privately with Ongola, he asks about whether the flotilla that Tillek was commanding grabbed back everything that was lost when a storm capsized nine boats – Tillek is fairly confident they will get it all back. Benden also orders that the staff assisting Wind Blossom be reassigned to other duties, as there’s not enough people now to allow for continued experimentation.
Back to dragonriders, who are about to perform their first live-fire test. Carenath chews carefully, as does Faranth, but Porth bites her tongue trying to chew up the rock, and so does Tenneth, right before Polenth burps a small and stinky flame. Carenath follows suit with a much better attempt, and Manooth charcoals a bush with his exhortation. An hour later, all the male dragons have flamed, but the golds have just thrown up after trying to eat the phosphine rock. Sorka has a sneaking suspicion she knows why…
Sorka was frowning, though, an expression unusual enough to her that Tarrie inquired as to its cause.
“I was just thinking. Kit Ping was such a traditionalist…” Sorka regarded her husband for a long moment, until he ducked his head, unable to maintain the eye contact. “All right, Sean, you know every symbol in that program. Did Kit Ping introduce a gender discrimination?”
“A what?” Tarrie asked. The other queen riders gathered close, while the young men took discreet backward steps.
“A gender inhibition…meaning the queens lay eggs, and the other colors fight!” Sorka was disgusted.
“It may just be that the queens aren’t mature enough yet,” Sean said, temporizing. “I haven’t been able to figure out some of Kit Ping’s equations. Maybe the flame production is a mature ability. I don’t know why the queens all barfed. We’ll have to ask Pol and Bay when we get to Fort. But I tell you what, there’s no reason you girls can’t use flamethrowers. With wands a bit longer, you wouldn’t singe your dragon by mistake.”
His suggestion did much to mollify the queen riders for the time being, but Sean hoped fervently that Pol and Bay could give a more acceptable verdict. Seventeen dragons made a more impressive display than seven. And he was determined to impress when the dragonriders flew into Fort Hold. The only burdens dragons should ever carry again were their riders and firestone!
And there’s the first official notation of firestone. As well as a marked shift in Sean’s attitude – we can now see where dragonriders get their opinion of Inherent Superiority from. And Sorka is also going to throw shade on Kitti Ping’s decision to make queen riders unable to chew firestone, which makes me very happy. A tradition of independent-minded queen riders should have been a thing on Pern. Except for the narrative squelching them and killing them everywhere they appear, they would have been. We’re laying the groundwork fit the social structure of Pern, right here, right now.
Another narrative flit, back to Telgar and two of his subordinates discussing with Benden and Pol that the watch-wher prototypes are excellent in caves, able to discern tunnels and pitfalls that the humans can’t.
Both he [Pol] and his eye had tried to reason with the indignant Wind Blossom when she had been requested to suspend the dragon program. Though she maintained that the emergency transfer from Landing to Fort had damaged many of the eggs in the clutch age had manipulated, Pol and Bay had seen the autopsy reports and knew the claim to be spurious. They had been lucky to hatch six live creatures.
Benden insists that the watch-whers have very controlled breeding, even in the face of knowledge that they guard doorways, can carry more than their own weight, and are basically omnivores. Which will be taken care of, apparently.
So let’s talk about Wind Blossom. The narrative and the characters have been consistently negative and distrustful of her ability to carry on the dragon program, although every time we’ve seen her at work, she is apparently working on trying to improve the program, rather than just trying to replicate it. If Kitti Ping didn’t leave detailed enough instructions on how to replicate her work, that’s Kitti’s fault, not Wind Blossom’s. Kitti was also described as guarding the knowledge she had fairly closely, so it’s possible that the Ping program has things obfuscated or deliberately left out so that others can’t actually use her instructions to replicate or adapt the program. Which would make Ted Tubberman quite smart and qualified if he created both grubs and felines from a program that has deliberate holes in it. Wind Blossom also wasn’t directly trained by the beings that used this kind of genetic power, the narrative has been pointing out every chance it gets, so her knowledge base isn’t the same as Kitti Ping’s.
That her first successes are the watch-whers, whom everyone apparently finds repulsive, doesn’t endear her to anyone, but are signs that she can do the job, as are the six viable dragons. But then there’s this:
“Tom Patrick says Wind Blossom chooses to distrust the male half of this leadership.” Paul grinned. Actually he did find the situation ludicrous, but since Wind Blossom had immured herself in her quarters until she “had a fair hearing,” he had grasped the opportunity to transfer personnel to a more productive employment. Most of them had been grateful.
This sounds like narrative justification of a prejudice that developed from a lack of confidence in Wind Blossom’s abilities. Wind Blossom may not actually know how to run a lab and keep the scientists inside happy – Kitti Ping may have been waiting on that for later, or may have been thinking that others would take over the lead of the dragon program when she passed away. The narrative is been careful only to tell us about the results of what’s going on in there and not to actually spend time inside so that we can see how the lab is being run and what setbacks are plaguing them. There are a lot of reasons why things might not be working out for Wind Blossom that aren’t actually her fault. And if most of that blame is coming from Benden and Pol, then Wind Blossom has a good reason to feel like the men have a bias against her and are looking for excuses to stop her.
After receiving a status update about the dragons from Pol, Bended asks if there are enough grubs to test their effectiveness on northern soil and receives an affirmative, before Pol asks if it’s true that Benden isn’t going to fight the whole Fall. He’s not, because they don’t have the aircraft to roast everything. Benden is also worried about logistics of power and many other things lasting to the end of the Pass.
Narrative flit to the dragonriders, who are receiving their own updates about how things are going at Fort, including Boll’s injuries, and the general idea that Thread over Fort today isn’t going to have a whole lot of defense at all. This gives Sean the opening he’s looking for, so he requisitions ten flamethrowers for the queens, pictures of the new harbor installed on Fort, and starts having the other dragons load up on firestone. The dragonriders go through a preflight check of both equipment and airspace distance, and then vault off and teleport to Fort for their inaugural fighting flight. Which is picked up on by cameras around Fort, so Ongola and Benden get to see the action as it happens. Which springs Benden to the garage to request that the sleds in service get airborne to help the dragons, and that all the cameras record as much as they can, as he hops into one of the sleds and sallies forth to assist. Then we get the actual fighting from Sean and Carenath’s perspective as they flame, dodge, reload (which needs practice) and pop in and out of hyperspace to shake off Thread that finds its way to them. After clearing the airspace above Fort, and exhausting the supplies of firestone they brought with them, Sean calls a halt.
Flit once more to Boll, receiving the news of the dragons fighting and flaming, and trying to sit up so that she can watch it herself. Flit again to the welcome home party that’s turned out for the dragonriders as they land themselves at Fort Hold. After much cheering and rejoicing, there is finally enough order to get the medics in to tend to the wounds of the dragons and their riders, while Sean takes the data of the fight and starts mentally drafting new drills and formations to maximize the effective output of the dragons and the minimization of injuries. Once patched, the seventeen riders step forward to meet with Benden, Ongola, and Keroon, each dressed in their formal military dress, standing at the top of a ramp.
They reached the ramp, and somehow the queen riders had dropped a step behind the others and Sean stood in the center. When they halted, he took a step forward and saluted. It seemed the correct thing to do. Admiral Benden, tears in his eyes, proudly returned the salute.
“Admiral Benden, sir,” said Sean, rider of bronze Carenath, “may I present the Dragonriders of Pern?”
And that’s it. No afterword, nor any major disaster to follow, and, unlike other books, it didn’t end with a Hatching.
I note with amusement that the narrative has decided to use the standard construction for dragonriders here at the end, expressing its approval and satisfaction that this set of riders are fully ready for the title.
I note with suspicion and shade that the dragonriders somehow naturally sorted themselves so that the queen riders, who participated just as much in the fighting as the others, are a step back, diminishing themselves in the formation, as if they believe in Kitti Ping’s gender segregation. I would have expected Sean and Sorka presenting together, especially with the way that Sorka was unhappy about the queen dragons being unable to chew firestone, and the way that they normally did things as a couple before the narrative started ignoring Sorka and treating her as secondary.
The last few segments have focused almost exclusively on Sean, even though Sorka was also elected as a leader. Coming off of both Moreta and Nerilka, it seems like someone slipping back into old habits. But given the construction of the book into parts, instead of explicit chapters, I wonder whether Dragonsdawn was written before Moreta and Nerilka, even though it is published afterward, or whether Dragonsdawn was constructed in the same way that Dragonflight was, by stitching together novellas and/or short stories into a whole. Because a lot of it feels like a throwback in style.
Past the end of the narrative, there is a map of the Stakes of Landing, a map and chronicle of the first twelve Threadfall locations, the dedication, acknowledgement of the assistance of a professor of reproductive biology that helped give science to the myths and a naval engineer that helped configure the patterns of how Thread falls based on piecing together what had been said about them in previous books.
Finally, the ebook version I have been using for this is clearly based on a reprint or updated version, as it lists books by Todd McCaffrey in the back matter and acknowledges the death of Anne McCaffrey in the author biography section. Your versions may differ in the back.
Next time, we take a skip forward in publication order and tag a collection of short stories all around the same time period chronicled here in Dragonsdawn, so as to avoid awkwardly spinning back to it after doing the Renegades of Pern for two books. The problem in trying to keep a coherent narrative now is that publication orders and recommended reading orders are going to start bouncing back and forth between early and later Passes.