Last chapter, we followed Thella as she raided a hold in Asgenar’s domain, took a short break to follow Piemur as he expressed admiration for Toric’s otherwise unremarkable ambition and abusive tendencies, and then returned to Thella as she learned about Aramina and then killed the informant that brought her the information. There’s no reason to believe that Thella is actually any sort of competent administrator at all or even a competent leader of raiders.
The Renegades of Pern: Chapter Five: Content Notes: Attempted Child Abduction, Verbal Abuse
(Present Pass 12, Igen and Lemos Holds)
Hooray, we stick with the same person through a second chapter! It’s Thella, and she’s pissed that someone has blocked up the secret entrance to an Igen cavern. It’s not done well, as the “hardset” (cement) holding the stone in place crumbles with some prodding from Giron’s sword. (Is it cement? Or something like quicklime that would hold until poked strongly?) Not too soon after, Thella and Giron see Aramina. Thella isn’t impressed at how Aramina looks, but also wants proof, because Aramina is the wrong age to be kidnapped and brainwashed and too young to be bribed appropriately.
Thella overhears, as she heads for breakfast, that the local Lady is sending healers and food rations to help the holdless, and so resolves that this hold can be burgled more often, since they have resources to spare. Her best informant, who turns out to be the seaman left behind by the captain in the prologue, notes that there are now random patrols through the cavern looking for the thieves that lifted all of the grain from Kadross Hold. They’ll pay handsomely for leads on the organized band that did it, too.
Wait. Thella stole the entire harvest from a Hold for herself? Almost single-handedly ensuring that entire hold will go hungry, excepting the richest, and this creating the holdless…huh. In the hands of a competent villain, destabilizing the society and then recruiting from the recently holdless to continue the destruction would be a brilliant plan.
Anyway, Thella is pleased that people are noticing her skill, displeased that the search is this far out, which causes her to re-evaluate whether or not to raid here. After her informant casually extorts her by dropping her name into an empty room, Thella gets information back out of him about Aramina, where she is, and the skill of her woodcarver father, then gets shooed out. So Thella goes to learn more about the family to see if she can find leverage to use against Barla and Dowell to take Aramina.
Giron returns, signaled by a soft call to announce himself and avoid getting skewered by Thella’s throwing knives, with a portion of bread and soup given by charity.
She wanted to say she did not eat dole food, that Thella, Lady Holdless, did not accept Igenish charity, but the bread looked crusty and was still warm, and the shellfish would be succulent.
I know that it’s a broken record by now, but Thella’s attitude manages to stay intact despite having lived for several Turns as a holdless woman herself. In many other stories, the experience of poverty is humbling. Then again, Thella hasn’t really experienced poverty, either, so she hasn’t had the opportunity to be humble.
Also, because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, the contradiction of Thella, Lady Holdless is one that someone should be either snickering at or asking whether Thella had all of her faculties with her to declare herself ruler of all those without rulers. Then again, it would be a brilliant gambit if you then intended to cause, say, worldwide uprisings against the system and overthrow everything. Which Thella has no intention of. This entire premise is entirely wasted. Blargh.
Anyway, Giron confirms that Aramina’s got the gift, so Thella dresses as a Lady Holder from a low-ranking Hold and asks Dowell for a commission of chairs and offers up a quarter mark for sketches, and then when she comes back for the sketches, she’s actually very impressed with the designs. But she feels a bit annoyed at spending too much, in her opinion, on the chairs, even as she makes sure good wood gets stolen to be provided. And tries very hard to convince Dowell and family to come live with her, but they’re definitely planning on going back to their hold near Ruatha. And, as we know from The Girl Who Heard Dragons, the family leaves before Thella can get them, because Thella has to lay low while people looking to recruit to the mines and for the smiths go through the holdless population and pick up who they can, including people for Fandarel’s distance-writer wire-burying project. Thella had a plan to drug the family, kidnap Aramina, threaten her to compliance, and spirit off.
Thella tries to figure out where everyone went, with Giron’s help, but she still has to be herself in the middle of her anger.
Halfway back to her lair, Thella realized that she had followed Giron’s orders without protest. She was furious with him, and with herself for losing control, and outraged that the meek-mouthed Dowell and his affected wife could have outguessed her. She only hoped he had taken the carved wood with him. She would have those chairs off him for his hide!
[…Giron returns and they prepare pursuit..]
“Watch that, Giron!” She meant both noise and rough-handling. She did not hold with needless mistreatment of animals. She would have expected better management from a dragonless man – or maybe he was revenging his loss on other animals.
Because it’s an affront to her that someone who had a dragon gave orders to someone who was a Lady Holder. The animal treatment would be a better hook to hang that particular hat on.
The pursuit begins…and we switch people again! Now we’re back to Jayge, from the first chapter, who was in the same caverns but is thankfully back on the road again, away from
the constant appeals from the Smithcrafthallers and the Telgarans to “take a hold of himself,” “be useful,” “learn a good craft,” and “make enough credits to bank with a Bitran.”
Cocowhat by depizan
I mean, I probably shouldn’t be throwing a Whatfruit at this. After all, we saw something like moneychangers at the Harper Gather in Dragonsinger, we have a system of currencies where any authority that wants to can issue their own marks or credit chits for their own goods, and yet there is some sort of way that their values are pegged or float against each other, and now we find out that not only are there banks (which operate profitably, generally, through usury of various sorts, a thing that has not ever been alluded to as part of the society), but the residents of Bitra Hold (descendants of that profit-seeking clear villain herself) are renowned for their ability at it. I shouldn’t be surprised at this. I shouldn’t. And yet, I am entirely flabbergasted that there are banks, and I want to know everything there is to know about how they work, whether there are conglomerates across the planet with branches in every Hold, whether there’s an official Usurer’s Craft somewhere, and whether or not the bankers have managed to buy or bribe their way into the Conclave of Lords Holder.
Once again, my model of the universe of Pern is completely kicked over by the presence of what is likely a throwaway line.
Getting back to the plot, Jayge is on his way in metal-covered wagons that can resist Thread, having wondered why his compatriots stayed behind to be functionally drudges so many Turns ago, mused on the things that are worse than Thread, and then enjoys the scenery, the woods, and gets a bit apprehensive any the presence of dragons in the sky. Even though others have been far kinder, Jayge still hasn’t gotten over his first impression of dragonriders. Jayge also wishes someone could breed a beast that has all the tenacity of the herdbeasts and all the intelligence and grace of the runnerbeast. The real reason why we’ve switched to Jayge is so that when Thella and Giron arrive, we don’t have her perspective, and thus Jayge can spot them as people not to be aided, even with their cover story of chasing thieves into the back trails. Jayge does his best to provide noncommittal, not very informative answers to Thella about where Dowell might have gone. Armald, one of the others, recognizes the people as Thella and Giron and tries to direct them in the right direction, explaining after they thunder off that they really wanted to cooperate to avoid Thella’s rage coming back on them. And after they arrive, Thella and Giron leave and the narrative shifts back to them, making this change of perspective POINTLESS.
So, Thella and Giron chase Dowell and family, but are delayed in their pursuit by the presence of enough dragons in the area to signal an immanent Threadfall. Which delays them further, both in the actual Fall and in the increased presence of personnel in the forests. They do find the hidden wagon, but darkness prevents Thella from investigating to find Aramina’s cave. And then there’s more dragonriders and mounted patrols in the area, which frustrates Thella.
“They were looking for us! I know it,” she said, cursing as she veered around a thicket. “C’mon, Giron. We’ll find that girl. We’ll find her. Then we’ll pay back that Lilcamp trader boy. Cripple his beasts, burn the wagons. They won’t get as far as the lake, you can be sure of that. I’ll get him for informing on me. I’ll get him!”
“Lady Holdless,” Giron said in such a derisive time that she paused in her furious progress. “You’ll be got if you’re not quieter moving through this forest. And look, someone’s been this way recently. The bushes are broken. Let’s follow the signs.”
Ah, there’s the snark I was hoping for. And another casual note about how Thella’s temper means she should be basically without allies and otherwise paranoid that the ones she has are going to knife her when they get the chance.
The chapter closes out with the part in The Girl Who Heard Dragons where Thella and Giron briefly have Aramina in their control, before Heth disrupts everything and the two have to flee empty-handed.