Last chapter, more pieces got moved, dragons died, riders changed, and we got ever closer to the end of The White Dragon and the promise that we might actually go somewhere with this Southern plot.
The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XII: Content Notes:
(Present Pass, 15.10.19)
“Young Lord Jaxom, with Piemur, Sharra, and Menolly, has found a vast settlement, buried under volcanic ash and dirt,” D’ram announced excitedly.
This is where the story should start, after Jayge and Aramina are done with Thella. It’s a little bit before the end of The White Dragon, so it’s good for getting everyone back up to speed with what happened, since we’ve spent nearly a decade in other Passes, expanding the mythos and exploring origin stories. Now we can come back to the story at hand from a different perspective and charge ahead.
This chapter opens, after the announcement of the discovery, with Toric learning how big things really are on the South, as well as the Hold for Robinton, while hoping that he can hold Benden to promises and negotiate with Sebell about who he will and won’t take for Southern, now that he’s official. Sebell takes the opportunity to quote a fragment of a very old record.
“‘When man came to Pern, he established a good Hold in the South,'” Sebell murmured, his eyes shining almost reverently, “‘but found it necessary to move north to shield.'”
Toric isn’t sure he believes it, but everyone troops over to the dig site in the morning all the same. Not before we get some interesting information, though.
“An older man needs interests that involve him in life. Don’t worry, Sebell.”
“At least about your Master’s health,” Toric said sardonically. “He’s got both Menolly and Sharra, hasn’t he?”
D’ram realized that his mention of Toric’s sister had not been as circumspect as it might have been, just as he also remembered that Menolly was Sebell’s wife.
Wait, when did that happen? I remember Menolly and Sebell having a fire-lizard fling, and Menolly declaring her love for Robinton, and Robinton trying to pass Sebell off on Menolly, but there appears to have been a joining while we were faffing about in the South rehashing another book! This, we lose an opportunity to see what sort of ceremony happens when houses get joined, or Crafters marry. It’s a perfect opportunity for worldbuilding and it sailed on by.
As they circle the site, Toric reflects bitterly that he can’t have the whole continent to himself and that he has to let stupid Northerners in. He recognizes that Fax failed because he tried to use fear. He thinks greed works a lot better. Past that, there’s no denying the place was inhabited, but Toric thinks the Ancients were pretty stupid to have built in the shadow of the volcano and out in the open where Thread could get them. Hindsight is always perfect, Toric.
After landing, Toric joins the crew of Craftmasters and Weyrleaders with the intent of stopping encroachment on “his” continent, with a dismissive assessment of Jaxom and the project of excavation. At least until they open up a place and discover artifacts. Then Toric regrets encouraging everyone else, and excuses himself back to Southern.
The action stays with the excavation, with Piemur composing a quick message for Jayge and Aramina, describing what had been found, and gets a short reply before the fire-lizards burst in with Jaxom and Ruth and news of the discovery of the shuttles, which the fire-lizards confirm with imagery of the first settlers arriving, giving us yet more reason to believe that the fire-lizards have a collective memory that outlives each individual one. Assuming, that is, that fire-lizards aren’t as long-lived as the dragons would be without the Impression bond.
Everyone, including Robinton, traipses out again, and the discovery of the maps on the walls of the rooms convinces Piemur that Toric shouldn’t hold the whole continent any more.
Also, somewhere in this time, Toric has kidnapped Sharra, because the next scene starts with Toric in a fight with his other siblings over Sharra and Jaxom. Toric thinks Sharra can match better than the young Jaxom and Ruatha, the siblings think it’s a good match, being to a rider, an intelligent lord, and to someone of her choice, instead of her suppressing her desires for him. Toric dismisses them all with a warning not to interfere, and summons Dorse, Jaxom’s stepbrother (who was mentioned in the last chapter as a person coming south with a good recommendation, but I didn’t think would become important) to stand guard over Sharra, as well as instruct his own fire-lizards in what to do with Sharra’s. Satisfied that Sharra won’t be going anywhere, and thinking he needs to accelerate the plan to be fully confirmed as a Lord Holder, Toric goes to bed.
The next day, Toric goes over to get Jaxom away from Sharra. And now we get to see what happened with Lessa…
“Holder Toric,” the boy said casually, over his shoulder.
“Lord Jaxom,” Toric replied in a drawl that made an insult of a title.
Jaxom turned slowly. “Sharra tells me you do not favor an alliance with Ruatha.”
Toric smiled broadly. This was going to be entertaining. “No, lordling, I do not! She can do better than a table-sized Hold in the North!” He caught the Harper’s surprised look.
Suddenly Lessa, a hint of steel in her eyes, appeared beside Jaxom. “What did I hear, Toric?”
“Holder Toric has other plans for Sharra,” the boy said, more amused than aggrieved. “She can do better, it seems, than a table-sized Hold like Ruatha!”
Toric would have given much to know who exactly had repeated his words to Sharra. “I mean no offense to Ruatha,” he said, catching the flicker of anger in Lessa’s face though her smile remained in place.
“That would be most unwise, considering my pride in my Bloodline and in the present Holder of that title,” the Weyrwoman said.
Toric did not the casual time of her voice.
Wait, hold on. Toric is mad at whomever told Sharra, because somehow that got relayed to Jaxom? When he just insulted Jaxom in front of a Harper (intentionally) and in front of Lessa (unintentionally)? Also, even though he’s small and white, Ruth exists and could be used to make Toric’s life a merry hell. Or bring down dragons who would help with that.
Resuming this uncomfortable situation…
“Surely you might reconsider the matter, Toric,” Robinton said, as affable as ever despite the warning in his eyes. “Such an alliance, so much desired by two young people, would have considerable advantages, I think, aligning yourself with one of the most prestigious Holds on Pern.”
“And be in favor with Benden,” Lessa added, smiling too sweetly.
Toric absently rubbed the back of his neck, trying to keep his smile in place. He felt unaccountably light-headed. The next thing he knew, Lessa had put her arm through his and was escorting him to the privacy of her mound.
“I thought we were here to dig up Pern’s glorious past,” he said, managing a good-natured laugh. His head still swam.
“There’s surely no time like the present,” Lessa continued, “to discuss the future. Your future.”
Ah, there’s that Sith Lord Lessa that I’ve missed for so long, giving Toric a mind-whammy to soften him up so that he can be given everything he has, but not the actual continent itself. Toric talks about what he’s claimed, but, as we know, the meeting is to keep him occupied while Jaxom rescues Sharra. At which point Toric basically loses it.
Toric felt his composure leave him. “You! He thrust his arm out at Jaxom, wanting to do many things at once, especially swat down that — that — impudent excresence. He was livid with the indignation of being under obligation to that — that lordling! That leggy, undeveloped boy! He wanted to rend Jaxom limb from body, but little though the white dragon might be, he was bigger than Toric, stronger than any man, and both dam and sire were not far away. There was nothing Toric could do but swallow his humiliation.
And the rest of this chapter plays out as it did in The White Dragon, with Jaxom getting blessing to marry Sharra and Toric headed back to discuss the size of his actual Hold.
How nice for Toric to finally notice how outgunned he was when things finally blew up in his face with Jaxom and Sharra.
Hooray, we’ve finally made it to the end of the last book in this timeline we left. That means we only have a few chapters left and we will actually start moving forward again from this point. It’s time for some new content! I’m so excited.