The Renegades of Pern: The Girl Who Heard Dragons

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.”

*recordscratch*

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.

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14 thoughts on “The Renegades of Pern: The Girl Who Heard Dragons

  1. genesistrine December 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Thella’s attitude manages to stay intact despite having lived for several Turns as a holdless woman herself.

    Except she didn’t – authorial fiat gave her a furnished hold right from the outset, and enough money to buy what she couldn’t steal.

    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.

    I rather suspect that this is because the author thinks the Holdless are intrinsically lazy etc and need a Superior Kind Of Person to organise them.

    Blargh.

    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

    Both of which – why have they waited more than 12 years to go back to their old Hold? What are the odds that it was given to someone else long since?

    And why do they run? Or is this another plot-change between books and they just leave because get-to-Ruatha-by-winter, instead of TGWHD’s Aramina knowing her parents were running because Thella?

    She did not hold with needless mistreatment of animals.

    Huh. Change-between-chapters now; she was riding runners into the ground in the prologue….

    I am entirely flabbergasted that there are banks

    I must see if I can get you to read the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series sometime. They’re not without problems, but the writer put a great deal of thought into turning standard fantasy cliches over, and I think you’d get a kick out of the Partnership Banks and their Secret Power.

  2. Nothing December 29, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Not only did she ride horses into the ground, she also then wants to cripple Jayge’s animals. Really, she’s hardly one to talk about animal abuse…

  3. depizan77 December 31, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    The more of this you do, the more I sit here trying to figure out why McCaffrey even wrote this. Half of it isn’t even about the main characters, some of it is stories she’s already told from a slightly different perspective, or filling in gaps that really didn’t need filling in (worse, most of that just leaves one with serious questions that I don’t think she wants anyone to think about), and the whole villain protagonist thing works better when the author gives us some reason to root for them and/or makes them interesting enough to be compelling in their villainy. And that’s setting aside the basic problem that Pernish heroes and villains frequently aren’t that different – too often it’s more a matter of who has the author on their side rather than their actions and beliefs. (And how conventionally attractive they are, at least for the women.)

    because Aramina is the wrong age to be kidnapped and brainwashed and too young to be bribed appropriately.

    Which appears to leave threats as her planned method of gaining her obedience. Which seems like a singularly stupid approach for someone you want as your early warning system. The moment they decide they hate you more than they fear you, you are screwed. (I know, this is a problem villains often suffer from.)

    the local Lady is sending healers and food rations to help the holdless

    This is more a worldbuilding question than anything, but why do this rather than take them into her hold? Wouldn’t adding to your staff/vassals/drudges/whatever make more sense in a quasi-medieval world? Some of the holdless are probably trained in various things, and given the way drudges are talked about, the only requirements for being one would appear to be: be alive, and at least semi-mobile. It would seem that with more people you could farm more land, fish for more fish, or whatever the heck Holders do. And, while it would be more beneficial to you to have more people under you, it would also be more beneficial to the people.

    Is it that holds have very limited room for people, so the holdless are an inevitability – everyone must kick some number of people out of their holds in order to not be overcrowded. Lovely thing to hold over your drudges’ heads.

    Also, why aren’t there other outlaw bands of holdless? Because McCaffrey thinks that only nobility has any leadership abilities?

    metal-covered wagons that can resist Thread

    Why did no one think of this ages ago? Especially as this is a lost technology world. And, again, the lethality of Thread is all over the frickin’ place.

  4. MIchael I January 1, 2017 at 11:05 am

    @depizan77 why McCaffrey even wrote this.

    Book contract?

    More structurally, there are some short segments later in the novel that serve as some of the setup for “All the Weyrs of Pern”. One possibility is that she wanted the short segments published and needed to write a novel to do that.

  5. emmy January 1, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    It’s amazing how everyone’s villain detection skills tell them not to trust Thella when she says Dowell’s a thief. Even though he apparently DID take off with the money and the wood she gave him.

    As for why there weren’t metal-covered wagons before, the charitable answer could be that there were but they were dismantled during the long interval.

  6. genesistrine January 2, 2017 at 6:41 am

    @depizan: Which appears to leave threats as her planned method of gaining her obedience. Which seems like a singularly stupid approach for someone you want as your early warning system.

    Plus I don’t see why Aramina’s too young to be bribed. Sweeties, nice food for the family, promises that once the Evil Lord Holders confirm Thella as Lady Holder she’ll have enough clout to make sure Aramina’s family get their Hold back….

    Looks like McCaffrey knows that if she writes villains who at any point aren’t seething with rage and spite no one’ll be able to tell them from her protagonists.

    Also, why aren’t there other outlaw bands of holdless? Because McCaffrey thinks that only nobility has any leadership abilities?

    That’s my bet.

    metal-covered wagons that can resist Thread

    Why did no one think of this ages ago? Especially as this is a lost technology world. And, again, the lethality of Thread is all over the frickin’ place.

    Woo-hoo have I got some stupid for you! Strap yourself in!

    One thing Silver Adept didn’t mention in that last chapter is that sky-broom trees show up in it. And we learn that sky-broom wood is too tough for Thread to eat.

    It’s carvable, because Dowell carved a crutch out of it for ex-fisher-spy-guy, and there was a grove of it just next to where Jayge &co met Thella. And for some reason there aren’t people ALL OVER THAT GROVE shaping growing wood and pruning good-size branches and generally just forestrying all over the place. That shit should be gold dust. Sky-broom groves should be like the Royal Forests of England; a priceless, protected and carefully curated resource.

    But nope. It’s just hanging out there in the middle of nowhere.

  7. genesistrine January 2, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Oops. Could someone fix the bold closing tag at the end of “metal-covered wagons that can resist Thread” please? Thanks.

  8. Silver Adept January 2, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Wait, how did I miss that there’s Thread-proof wood right there? Because that would basically mean being able to build wherever you like, so long as you can get replacement boards on, say, a traveling merchant train on a regular basis.

    In previous books, the holdless gave been a bogeyman, but in this book, we see that a lot of holdless are thought to be like the drudges, and suffer from the author thinking of them as lazy and useless. The nobles don’t want them because they’d be idle. Because it makes sense to be idle in a world where there are feudal relationships, even when there aren’t people-killing spores raining when from the sky.

    Ugh, this series gets worse with scrutiny.

  9. depizan77 January 2, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    @genesistrine

    sky-broom wood is too tough for Thread to eat.

    wat

    I mean, yes, it makes perfect sense that life on Pern would adapt to the threat of Thread (either that or there would be no life on Pern), but we’re right back to what the fuck even is Thread. And, really, there should be lots of plants, animals, and such that adapted to survive it or know how to avoid it.

    And I’m with you and Silver, how are the Pernese not using this wood for all kinds of things? And why wasn’t it discovered and improved upon by the original settlers? I swear in some alternate reality, Pern was settled by sensible people, whose descendants live in sky-broom wood homes and whose crops are protected by grubs and firelizards.

    @Silver Adept

    The nobles don’t want them because they’d be idle.

    Which raises a rather odd question: why are the drudges lazy and useless, then? Being thrown out of the hold should be a horrifying threat that would keep the underclass working. We do see a drudge tossed out for stealing (a whole loaf of bread! Javert must have written the Pernese laws.) but not for failing to work, or failing to work sufficiently. Why aren’t the drudges living in fear of being kicked out? (And or plotting to murder the Holders in their sleep…)

    Nothing about either the world or the quasi-feudal set up really makes much sense.

  10. genesistrine January 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Well, I can see why the original settlers might not notice – they could have discovered these really cool huge sequoia-ish trees pre-Threadfall without realising how hard the wood was, or the botanists never clued in that it was a Threadfall adaptation once it started; they had plenty else on their mind both times.

    Of course, once somebody did discover it the genetic engineers were presumably long gone but that shouldn’t stop people trying to cultivate them, spread them, do the big-tree version of bonsai and train saplings into useful shapes (it would be priceless for boats, for starters – there’s an earlier description of Idarolan’s ship having some sort of metal shutters and I could never visualise how that would work, but build your ship from sky-broom and all you’ve got to do is get the sails, ropes and crew below decks…).

    Re drudges: I think they’re told they’re lazy and useless to keep them under. When you need a large underclass to do the physical labour you don’t want them to think they’re anywhere near as good as you. Since Pern, we’re told, doesn’t have any religion that would conveniently preach that some people are born to work and some to rule*, that basically leaves psychological abuse….

    (*Though since we keep being told about how super the Holds/Crafts/Weyrs system is we can bet our collective arses that the Harpers preach that as gospel….)

  11. Firedrake January 4, 2017 at 3:42 am

    I rather feel the noticing might take the form of “oh noes, this area has been entirely wiped clean of plant life by Thread… except these trees. Hmm, wonder if there might be something different about them?”

    Yeah, I know, anyone with scientific curiosity didn’t sign up for the B Ark.

  12. genesistrine January 6, 2017 at 4:58 am

    No-one’s likely to notice for a while except dragonriders, and they have kind of a vested interest in not noticing other things that kill Thread!

  13. depizan77 January 6, 2017 at 9:47 am

    That depends on how prevalent the trees are. If there were some near the original settlement or on anyone’s original stake, someone would almost certainly notice. If not, it’s less odd that the original settlers didn’t notice them. That people have noticed them since and still aren’t taking advantage of their properties is beyond bizarre.

    It’s also beyond bizarre that these are the first adapted (or lucky) plants that have been mentioned. I mean, how completely planet covering Threadfall is is just one of the many things that should be clear and is super vague instead, but it seems unlikely that Pern would have looked like a settlement possibility and not a barren rock without being home to a number of species that managed to survive Threadfall in one fashion or another.

    That’s beside the fact that trees that can survive Thread due to being too tough to eat once again confuses exactly what the hell Thread is and what it does. Half the time, it seems to be something that eats in the whole mouth, bitey parts, whatever sense and half the time it seems to be something that oozes corrosives and…absorbs the resultant goo through its skin? Could you really have wood that’s immune to corrosives? (And yet, people get Threadscore – burns – not Threadbites.)

  14. genesistrine January 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I always thought of Thread as dissolving, and absorbing what it dissolves, but then I always saw it as sort of thick cotton threads too, tangling round itself, light enough to blow around and freeze/shatter into dust, unlike AMC’s later wormy maggoty wrigglers.

    But yeah, every revision AMC tries seems to make things more confusing and vaguer.

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