Last chapter…things that we have already covered in the short story came to pass, just from Thella’s perspective. We have yet, really, to move into any part where another book hasn’t covered the action already. Maybe now we can go forward with things and resolve the question of the Renegades.
The Renegades of Pern: Chapter Six: Content Notes: Murder
(Southern Continent and Telgar, Present Pass 12)
Chapter breaks, of course, are perfect for cliffhangers, so it should surprise nobody that this chapter opens up with Toric and Mastermariner Rampesi discussing the low quality of the people coming to the south and their inability to avoid getting thrown into the water and require rescue. That, and the persistent rumor that anybody holdless that can make it to the south will be taken in by Toric and put to work. Rampesi also suggests Toric talk to Robinton to get above board on all of his deals done so far. Because Toric sees that Piemur is spending a lot of time with Sharra, which would mess up his plans. Toric asks Piemur to go back to the Harper Hall and talk to Robinton.
“Piemur, a word with you?”
“What have I done wrong?”
Does anyone else have a red flag raise in their head with this exchange? Because most people don’t respond to a request to talk with a question about what has already gone wrong unless most of their previous interactions say quite clearly that Toric only wants to talk when things have gone wrong. And with previous information about Toric’s tendency to abuse, Piemur’s jump to try and start fixing a problem may be to stave off Toric from getting too wound up at anyone.
The conversation is pleasant, with Toric laying out to Piemur the reasons why he should go back North and talk to Robinton about getting some of the interdiction eased, and suggesting that Piemur collect his next rank so that he can replace Saneter as the Southern Hold Harper, making a substitution nobody gets suspicious about and tying Piemur to Toric’s ambition even further. Piemur agrees to go, and the narrative blessedly just points out that Robinton’s journey south, already covered in another book, would have unforseen consequences.
The narrative then goes over to Jayge, who is having recriminations about how he treated Thella, with this interesting thought:
Lady Holders remained Lady Holders, just as traders remained traders.
Cocowhat by depizan
No, you see, the way the titles work is that they stay with the lands, not the people. Thella may think she’s still part of the peerage, and she might be able to trace her lineage to aristocrats, but Thella is quite literally Lady Holdless, the aristocrat without land. There shouldn’t be any reason for anyone to think of her retaining her essential Lady status, since she has no officially registered lands or marriage to someone who has them. If Jayge is talking about Thella’s attitude remaining superior and sneering to people she deems underneath her station, that construction becomes a lot more like “bitches, amirite?” Which would be totally in context for Pern!
Since Jayge’s train has to hole up near a Hold for Threadfall, they offer their people as ground crew, and instead see Lord Asgenar arrive for a meeting about the raiders. Jayge listens in and hears the complaints that if the raiders would just face someone in open battle, things would be great, and the general consensus among the major Lord Holders that the raids are the work of a single group, and that they need to report back when they see suspicious people and to lock up their Holds (not that it helps, says one of the vassals). For the more remote Holds, it’s suggested that if they run out a large colorful cloth onto their snow-covered ground, the dragonriders on patrol will stop by and investigate. After a couple days delay, the train rolls on, we hear that Aramina is in Benden’s care, and that some of the traders are looking to possibly profit some from trading with the interdicted South. A couple days after that, in exactly the right place for an ambush, the train gets hit by Thella’s raiders, including rockslides to tap the train, with several of both the train and the raiders dying in the ensuing sword, spear, and cookware fight. The raiders only leave after one of their own raises an alarm about a dragon in the sky.
The animal casualties are significant as well. Jayge is set to ride on to the nearest Hold to ask for assistance, and has a short and very angry conversation with Readis, his Bloodkin, and also one of Thella’s foot soldiers, about the raid. Readis put up the false alarm about the dragon one he realized who they were hitting, but that’s not going to do much in terms of getting forgiveness.
The Hold sends aid, even as they victim-blame Jayge, and his return to the train produces the sight of dragons helping the train get itself put back together. Searching the area for wounded raiders produces a cache of dead raiders instead, killed because they were wounded and Thella doesn’t leave people behind who could talk. What Jayge does find is a roll of paper with sketches of both Thella and her raiders and himself and the train, marked with an instruction to deliver the lot to Asgenar. Even though Readis just helped hurt them, Jayge removes his portrait from the sketches before giving it over to the Holder that came to help them out. Jayge doesn’t fully understand what this means, but he does deduce that it meant there were spies in Thella’s camp. Jayge is also willing to “bet a Bitran any odds that the raid had been punitive.” Which it was, but again, now that Bitra Hold has been mentioned as the place where the money is, they’ve also inherited the likelihood of being oddsmakers and gamblers, which was Joel’s purview at Landing, not Avril’s. This wouldn’t be so jarring if Bitra had already been established as this in several books before Dragonsdawn, when we finally learned who Bitra was and why there should be no Hold named after her at all.
Jayge tries to puzzle out why Thella went after him, since trying to wreck every train that went through would be ruinous for her, and they didn’t have valuable and easily pilferable goods for her. He doesn’t get any answers, and after several days, the train continues, leaving behind one wagon and twelve graves. And thus ends Chapter Six.
I…can’t see a plot reason for this chapter. We already knew about spies in Thella’s organization, about Piemur coming back northward and what happens there, and so we’re left with an ambush being used to leave paper behind and possibly show us that Thella is evil and willing to kill anyone that angers her… which we already know. There’s nothing in here that is essential, or that even looks like it might be one of Chekov’s Artifacts. So far, the story of Thella has been the only novel thing in the book, but we can’t seem to stick with her as the viewpoint character.
For a book that has been scrupulous about not involving dragonriders strongly in the plot (so far), the narrative has not been doing a great job of fleshing out the world that we haven’t seen. This chapter is not contributing, either. It’s not quite a filler book, but there’s so much more that could have been done with this idea.