Last time, we finally reached the end of The White Dragon and got to see the Humiliation Conga Line from Toric’s perspective as his plan for Sharra unraveled. Which means, hooray, new content!
…what do you mean, there’s only four chapters left?
The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XIII: Content Notes:
(Present Pass, 15.10.23)
The new material starts with Piemur and Robinton – Piemur finally mentions Paradise River Hold to Robinton, and we find out that Piemur is officially reassigned as journeyman to Cove Hold by Sebell. Considering his role in getting Toric humiliated, it’s probably a self-preservation thing for Sebell. The two of them discuss all the excavation going on at Landing (which has apparently regained its name?) and how finding artifacts is great for Fandarel and Wansor to reconstruct, but not so great for Robinton, who wants more information about the culture and life of the Ancients. After a little while of Robinton complaining about being too cooped up for his own liking, both he and Piemur get a friendly dragonrider to take them to Paradise River Hold.
Which switches to Jayge’s perspective as the dragon sweeps in, so that we can observe that it’s a green, and Jayge judges it to be older, based on “whitened muzzle and puckering wing scars” (another contradiction to the assessment of Landing about longevity of dragons. Perhaps they show their rider’s age more than their own.) He’s happy to see Piemur, although a bit afraid of the other guests until Piemur reassures him that they are trustworthy.
Aramina faints. According to Jayge, it’s from the shock of hearing dragon voices again, but considering that the promise from D’ram to Toric about more dragons flying over the continent, I would have thought Aramina would have more opportunities to hear dragon voices again. Even though Paradise River is pretty far away from Southern, as best I can tell, Aramina has pretty good range for hearing. That, and with fighting wings attacking Thread, I would expect the mental traffic to increase in volume, number, and tempo. I’d believe it more if it were some form of PTSD that got invoked any time dragons are near, considering how much that talent caused her stress and danger.
As it turns out, Aramina fainted for another reason.
“Jayge,” she said in a low, constricted voice, “I didn’t hear her!”
“You didn’t?” Jayge thought to keep his voice low. “You didn’t?” he repeated with more confidence. “Then why did you faint?”
“Because I didn’t!” In that pained reply, Aramina managed to convey her conflicting emotions to Jayge.
He pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently and murmuring over and over that it was all right. It did not matter if she did not hear dragons anymore. She had no need to. And she must not be afraid. No one would censure her. She must relax and compose herself. Such a shock was not good for the baby.
Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t think there was a known way of suppressing the telepathic talent, or any known instances where it went away with time. Perhaps we can say that Aramina is out of practice enough, or has trained enough to be able to turn it off and on, albeit unconsciously. Then again, she also has a fair of fire-lizards of her own, trained and helpful, as we find out when everyone gets the tour. Robinton is pleased as punch to get to see all of the artifacts and buildings, and suggests sending Perschar (his spy in Thella’s group) to sketch out everything here. He also offers Zair to carry messages back, which both Jayge and Aramina hesitate on, because they’re not sure what their official status is. Robinton dismisses that worry with a statement that two Harper witnesses have seen they’ve established an excellent Hold here and so they’ll happily back the claim they have to Paradise River Hold.
Which is the first time Jayge has heard the name. Aramina suggests Lilcamp Hold as an alternative, but she likes Paradise River as a name. Jayge thinks naming it after himself might be presumptuous, and asks if Robinton could find a way to bring his relatives here, so that the whole family can go to work building the Hold up into something much more impressive. Robinton offers the services of the dragon that he flew in on to get them there. They also go around and mark the boundaries, create official maps and witness them, and otherwise set Jayge and Aramina up as the people in charge of Paradise River Hold.
Robinton says he’ll talk to Lessa about why Aramina can’t hear dragons any more, and suggests that “moving from girlhood to womanhood” might have something to do with it, which is…a possible explanation. If it were true, though, that would suggest that either dragons or Pernese are set up in such a way that once a candidate ages out, the dragons don’t take any more interest on them any more. Another legacy of Kitti Ping, perhaps.
The next scene is Robinton and Piemur at Landing, where Perschar is sent off to Paradise River after mentioning a curious mound that might be a multi-level building. So Robinton and Piemur go over to the Minercraftmaster in charge, Esselin, to request workers to help excavate. They are also joined by Breide, Toric’s representative, who has an eidetic memory for all the contributions of all the workers for all of the excavations, and is reluctant to spare anyone at all to help, but two men are eventually freed to help the Harpers out. After pointing at a thing and telling Breide to go look over where the commotion is, the Harpers and their miners get to work trying to figure out what kind of building they have, but the “rodmen” can’t provide anything useful in the hour they were given – walls and a hollow spot. Once the rodmen leave, Robinton tells Piemur to dig in the hollow spot, even though all the tools are elsewhere. With the help of branches and fire-lizards, Piemur enlarges the hole enough for both of them to go into. There’s some broken glass on the floor, but there’s a big discovery – maps in plastic of all the settlements the Ancients made on the South, and that give a proper scope of how big the continent is. Naturally, Robinton has Piemur help him pull all the maps off the wall and use the fire-lizards to sneak them back to Cove Hold for further study. All that’s left is to act disappointed (with the assistance of an “Out to lunch” sign) and then go back and study the real things with the Benden Weyrleaders, Fort Weyrleaders, Jaxom, Lytol, Fandarel, Wansor, and Sebell.
With the usual caveat that one does not manage to keep written language any more static than spoken language over the course of two thousand years, let’s see what’s been unearthed.
There were two maps of the Southern Continent, each with different legends on them: the largest one was inscribed with the ancient names and showed clearly defined areas. A second showed the terrain in great detail, including hill and plain contours, and river and ocean depths. The third and smallest continental map, the labels done in minute lettering, had superscriptions of numerals below each name. The fourth map was of “Landing” itself, with each of the squares named and other sections marked INF, HOSP, WRHSE, VET, AGRI, and SLED REP. A fifth plate, which Piemur and N’ton suggested could represent the area to the south of the grid, indicated underground caves. The last one showed several sites, one clearly labeled MONACO BAY, another the pointed peninsula just east of Cove Hold, and the third Paradise River. The wide strand along the sea on both sides was covered with figures in orange, yellow, red, blue, and green.
Okay, so on addition to the improbable that they can read the words on the page, that’s five maps where there were supposedly only two, and furthermore, the odds that the systems for notation would be anything compatible in two thousand years of time, much less with as much lost knowledge as there has been in that time, is even more improbable. There should be no way that these maps are comprehensible at all, much less with the ease in which Robinton and everyone around is interpreting them.
Yes, I know, realism in a dragon story. But someone authorial brought this on themselves when they decided this wasn’t just a fantasy place, but a place of science and degradation of that science over time.
In any case, Robinton and Piemur let slip Paradise River Hold’s existence and that it’s inhabited, and then how nice the place is, and finally, who is actually inhabiting it, which makes both Benden Weyrleaders do their Ricky Ricardo (of I Love Lucy) impressions. After all of that gets squared away, and the assembled leaders appear ready to let Jayge and Aramina Hold what they have, Wansor breaks in with the realization that the dragonless Ancients must have had flying machines, since they don’t have any signs of having made trails or tracks for ground travel. Which just means more questions for everyone. Even though they have time-traveling dragons and could just jump their way back and forth to see what’s going on. Lessa and Jaxom both could manage it, especially with Ruth. And if they landed in Moreta’s time, she’d probably join in.
In any case, Jayge and Aramina are confirmed in their hold, which eventually means that Thella learns they’re alive. And we learn that Thella is alive, but much less healthy than before.
Her mind seethed over that now indisputable fact. Aramina had been rescued and was alive and well in the south, enjoying prestige and comfort while she, Thella, had nearly died from a noxious and debilitating infection that had left her scarred. Had either Dushik or Readis reached the appointed meeting place, she would have fared much better. As it was, it had been weeks before she had recovered from the fever.
Weak and unable to focus her mind on new plans, Thella had drifted, carefully avoiding holds until she found herself a secluded valley in Nerat, where quantities of food easily gathered had somewhat restored her to health. She had been appalled at the scarring on her face and the wisps that were all that was left of her once luxuriant hair. All Thella’s misfortunes could be traced back to that whelp spawned by an insignificant trader, who had prevented her from finding a miserable girl who could have made life so much more predictable.
Periodically she had comforted herself with the torments Aramina would have suffered before succumbing to terror and starvation in that dark and slimy pit. She still had to settle accounts with the trader, and she thought long and pleasantly about how she would wreak her revenge on Jayge and the entire Lilcamp train.
And we’re back to the Toric story being nonessential again, because Thella and Aramina and Jayge aren’t done yet. Until the excavation discovers something like, say, a working interface to a computer system left behind by the original colonists, anything not involved with the Thella plot is fluff for wordcount.
In any case, the chapter finishes with Thella swearing her revenge and trying to get enough recruits to sail south. Because Thella is apparently like the mob, and Pern has no such thing as a witness protection program to help people disappear properly, instead of having let the world think they were dead. It’s harder, but we know Thella will succeed eventually and there will have to be a final reckoning in the South. Maybe in the last chapter.
There’s going to be a certain amount of “this is all your fault, Piemur,” I’m guessing, once Thella and crew appear, since Piemur is the initial reason why anybody even knows they’re alive.