Last time, rumors abounded about the placement of another Weyr, a necessity for the burgeoning dragon population. We also learned a lot about how Weyr customs were established (they happen mostly by Sean or by accident), and that Sean should, by rights, have a queen mutiny on his hands based on his administrative practices with them.
And that Sorka’s a bit jealous of another queen rider, and ready for her son to settle down into a relationship by becoming a Weyrleader.
It’s a whole barrel of fun.
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: The Second Weyr: Content Notes: Dragon sex, dubious consent
We last left the plot with the announcement of four new Weyr sites to be founded. Sean, rather than assigning riders to the new locations, has decided to let the Wingleaders and queen riders draw lots to see which of the five Weyrs they will be assigned to, exempting himself and Sorka from the draw, naturally. Torene is the last to draw before the absentees, and she pulls the Weyr she wants to go to, the one that she’s been scouting for a good long while. In addition, Sean says that the first queen to rise to mate at each of the new Weyrs will be the one that has a Weyrwoman in charge, and whatever dragon flies them creates the Weyrleader for that location.
This changes Torene’s delight to suspicion. She knows her queen is going to be the next to mate, and this makes her wonder whether the whole thing has been arranged for her benefit. Faranth is no real help, just saying that Sorka and the dragons think she’ll be a good Weyrwoman. The other queens selected also seem to think that Torene’s been picked specifically to lead a Weyr when everyone gathers to get to know each other. Dagmath’s rider finally gets a name – Martin, David Caterel reveals the Hold tithe plan that everyone is agreed to, and they talk about grubs for a bit:
Everyone knew that it would take several hundred years for grubs – the anti-Thread organism that Ted Tubberman had bioengineered – to spread across the Southern Continent in sufficient density to make ordinary vegetation less vulnerable to destruction by those deadly spores. And only once the new life-form was well-enough established in the south could colonies of it be transferred north.
Nobody mentally or physically spits at the mention of Tubberman’s name, which suggests that he’s been dead long enough for hagiography to replace history.
The meeting also gives us the name of Torene’s Weyr – Benden, suggested by one of the other queen riders, and then agreed on by everyone in memory of the admiral they all loved. The rest of the meeting is the group poring over probe documents and designing the Weyr they will be living in, to the point where they eventually push Torene out. She has a short and very awkward encounter with Mihall about the new Weyr, Alaranth’s upcoming flight, and the fact that Torene really has no reference of what to think about Mihall, along with revealing again that she can hear all the dragons.
The next morning, Torene goes to Telgar Hold to see her mother and father about more copies of the probe data for her new Weyr. They anticipate her arrival, since the news has already spread, and by the time breakfast is finished, she has four copies of everything. Right afterward, she heads on to what will be Benden, meeting Mihall there, who had been informed of their errand. The narrative tells us that Torene is falling for Mihall in the way that one might in a sitcom – by basically having all the confused feels about him and not recognizing it for what it is. While Mihall plays his own emotional state extremely cool and businesslike – if he were a woman, he’d probably be cast in the tsundere role.
The arrival of the other riders cuts the together time short, and the group does a full tour of the space on foot to see how it all works. Once the cutters and diggers arrive, the dragons pitch in with the excavation, over the objections of some of the riders. After a full day of work, everyone settles down to agonize about sore muscles, and eventually gather the numbweed to help the aches and pains go away. Mihall ends up massaging Torene’s shoulders and a few others that night. After that, construction works in two shifts, along with the riders starting to fly against their own Weyr’s Threadfall sequences. Once the Weyr is mostly well constructed, they go help the nearby Hold get constructed and time passes, while Torene gets to know everyone a little better.
Until it’s time for Alaranth to go on the mating flight. Mihall notices the coloration change and calls out for the other queens to clear out, which they do. Then comes Torene’s experience.
Mihall swiveled Torene about again so that she could see the male dragons beginning to gather on the Rim, their eyes taking on the avid orange is arousal. Their riders were converging on Mihall and Torene, and suddenly she was the focus of their awakened sensuality. Despite herself, she recoiled, tearing her hand free of Mihall’s grip. His eyes had turned an intense blue. “Remember,” Mihall said then, “don’t let her-”
“I know, I know, I know!” she cried, resenting each and every one is them for the way they were looking at her. No one had told her about this part of a queen’s mating – especially this flight, when the reward of Weyrleadership went to the winner. She backed up until she was leaning against the stone of the Weyr, her mouth gone dry, even as sweat began to ooze from her pores and a strange sensation enveloped her guts.
Ah, yes, this is a rather candid reminder of what the experience is like from the perspective of someone who’s never done it before. The last time we saw this was all the way back in Dragonflight, so it’s been a while. Alien Sex Pollen is an established trope, but I think this page is finally getting toward how the experience must be fucking terrifying for a queen rider, to be surrounded by all those very horny dragonriders, with everyone feeling the intense emotions of their dragons. It would be very easy for this to be the setup for a traumatic scene – and without the narrative’s reassurance that everything turns out fine, it would be.
Back to Torene.
Not even the calm explicit recital Sorka had given her covered the depth or intensity of the emotions the dragon was feeling, much less Torene’s reluctant but inexorable response to the lust. A blood lust, first, with Alaranth aware of an insatiable hunger.
So there is still at least some information being passed from one queen rider to another, although I wonder what they mean by “explicit”, since it seems like there’s still a lot to experience.
Anyway, Torene keeps control of Alaranth to blood her kills and then the two of them take off for the flight, with the male dragons just an afterthought in the gestalt consciousness. Until, much like Lessa’s experience, Alaranth is grabbed by a flying bronze and the mating experience begins for the dragons.
“Now! Torene, now!”
Torene was no longer aloft with Alaranth in the throes of the dragons’ mating passions; she was naked in the arms of the bronze’s rider – naked, and her body demanding the same glorious orgasm that her dragon had just experienced.
“Damn it, Torene,” the rider was saying as he attempted to penetrate her body, “did you have to wait until now?
She gripped him to her, her nails digging into the muscular flesh of his back. The hurt was a mere moment’s discomfort, immediately forgotten in the powerful surging of lust that rose from some unexpected, limitless depth within her.
As I was saying about narrative reassurance, this is the first time for Torene, which would normally involve a lot more awkward and painful and start and stop situations and, hopefully, communication between partners, but instead, of course, the residual effects from the dragon sex allow everyone to just power through without having to worry about this.
It also suggests to me that it might be possible to have a dragon mating flight that doesn’t actually involve human sex, although it might mean having an ample supply of sex toys on hand to help, and a couple of padded rooms to put all the riders in. So, y’know, that the Weyr leadership could be achieved without the monogamous partnership coupling that seems to be the assumption.
If there was any doubt about who the bronze’s rider is, it’s Mihall, but he gets described in a way that suggests Torene is pretty pissed off about it, as she describes the virtues he supposedly has.
“Deft?” Well, he had certainly been that, both with his bronze’s tactics and with herself. “Controlled?” Oh, no, not a bit controlled. Not polite, and more angry with her virginity than considerate. But then, had she been all that wise, leaving her first experience until her queen’s first flight? Well, it had been her option, and she was glad she had. That way she had been sure that it was her dragon who would choose, not some silly preference of hers.
In the aftermath, Mihall confesses to Torene that he’s been in love with her for a very long time, and that this was the only way that he could have her, since Sean basically told his son to stay very far away from queen riders. And that’s the end of the story, with both sets of riders and dragons apparently satisfied with what has happened. Yes, Mihall and Torene stay together as Weyrleaders for a good long while.
I’d love to see a story at some point where it doesn’t turn out to be a perfect match for the Weyrleadership, and things still go fine. Just once, please.