The Renegades of Pern: Action in the South, finally!

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.


16 thoughts on “The Renegades of Pern: Action in the South, finally!

  1. depizan77 February 16, 2017 at 11:36 am

    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 has got to be editing fail. Serious editing fail. Even if Lessa was invisible (another Sith power) until she “appeared,” Toric literally just said the words.

    But editing fail aside, this whole bit seems to have some worldbuilding fail baked into it, too. Surely Toric knows that Lessa is from Ruatha Hold? Even if he doesn’t, his “I meant no offense to Ruatha” isn’t remotely plausible. He did. Clearly. And he should be in full Oh Shit mode, given Lessa’s political power, not spouting unbelievable phony apologies.

    And I don’t get his issue with Jaxom. Jaxom is heir to the favored Hold of the leaders of Pern and a dragon rider. He might be young, but he seems to be – by the rules of the world – the best marriage prospect ever. Robinton and Lessa should not have to point this out to him.

    Worse, his meltdown seems utterly bizarre in the world that is Pern. Especially with the personal attention Lessa is showing him. If anything, he should be worried he’s about to become part of the excavation.

    I mean, I know Toric has ideas above his station and all, but he’s seemed at least somewhat capable and aware of the world he lives in until now. (And what the hell is his problem with Jaxom? Does Toric seriously think any other Lord isn’t going to be… … wait… seriously is Jaxom’s youth and size really his entire objection? What the actual fuck? Why doesn’t that make him even more ideal? Someone Toric could possibly mold and control? Did this make more sense in the previous book?)

  2. depizan77 February 16, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I just… absolutely everyone except Toric can see that the match is a great idea. Is Toric just pissed he couldn’t marry Sharra off to someone not of her choosing? This entire subplot seems like the evil uncle in a fairy tale being pissed that the ward he wanted to marry into power and wealth has gone and fallen in love with the god damn heir to the throne! How dare she!

  3. genesistrine February 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Maybe it’s a hyper-controlling thing? It’s objectively the best possible match for Sharra, but since it’s not one he picked then as far as he concerned it’s not gonna happen?

  4. Silver Adept February 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Toric seems to be concerned with the idea of having as much land and political power as possible, so he probably was angling Sharra for Groghe’s sons at Fort or something similar. Even though Jaxom has the ear of Benden, Ruatha is a small hold and so not worth anything.

    And Lessa’s appearance, for all I know, is after a time shift, so that she knows what’s going on and she’s bleeding temporal energy so that Toric thinks of something in his future as something in his past.

    What I think we’re supposed to understand, though, is that Toric has been repeating that phrase in more than a few places and in earshot of others.

    But yes, Toric should be thrilled that he’s getting Jaxom in the family.

  5. Digitalis February 16, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    @Silver Adept: According to the maps from the Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern, Ruatha’s territory is about the same size as Fort’s, maybe a bit larger. There’s only fifteen major holds, and except for Nabol and Ista, they’re all fairly close in size.

    Moreover, Jaxom is a Lord Holder, the same rank as Groghe. Why try for one of Groghe’s sons, who may or may not become his heir, when an already-confirmed lord is right there? So yeah, I have no idea what Toric’s motives are.

  6. Digitalis February 16, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    “‘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.’”

    I thought by this point they’d lost that knowledge, and it was only after AIVAS that the Ninth Pass people learned humans were aliens to Pern. Isn’t that what was said in the spoiler prologues?

  7. Firedrake February 17, 2017 at 3:08 am

    That phrase first shows up in The White Dragon, chapter 19, a Robintonsposition as he is looking for:

    “Traces of the original habitation of this continent. I can’t for the life of me imagine why our long-dead ancestors left this fruitful and beautiful continent for the colder, duller North, but I assume that they had good reasons. The oldest of our Records states: When man came to Pern, he established a good Hold in the South. We used to think,” the Harper smiled apologetically for that error, “that Fort Hold was meant, since it is south in the Northern Continent. But that particular document goes on to state ambiguously: but found it necessary to move north to shield. That never made any sense, but so many of the old Records have deteriorated past deciphering, much less coherence.

  8. genesistrine February 17, 2017 at 4:29 am

    @Silver Adept: Toric seems to be concerned with the idea of having as much land and political power as possible, […] Even though Jaxom has the ear of Benden, Ruatha is a small hold and so not worth anything.

    Absolutely, but it’s land in the South he wants – he’s in the position of owning one of those Australian ranches the size of Scotland; none of the Northern holds are anywhere near the size of the land he’s already holding. And as for political power, having the ear of Benden is as close to having the ear of God as Pern gets.

    It would be nice to be able to read him as concerned for his sister and assuming that Jaxom was only interested in a fling; it would be a perfectly reasonable concern in that society. But that’s very obviously not what’s going on here. Is he incestually obsessed with his sister and unwilling to let her marry anyone? Has he decided that he’s going to give her hand in marriage to whomsoever he decides is suitable to rule East Toricland? Or is he just being a McCaffrey Standard-Issue Antagonist, i.e. obstructive for no sensible reason because Protagonists Are Always Right?

  9. Brenda A February 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    As far as Menolly and Sebell are concerned, there is a key scene in TWD where Jaxom and Menolly are at the Harper Hall, and Jaxom is surprised and a little jealous to see a stranger (to him) come up and swoop Menolly up and swing her around kissing her. Obviously their attraction is not just due to fire lizard hormones!

  10. genesistrine February 19, 2017 at 4:14 am

    It’s not so much the attraction as the marriage, as far as I’m concerned. When did that happen? We’re still in parallel with older books, so… wasn’t it a big deal? Wasn’t Piemur (for example) invited?

    OK, in the context of the world itself a couple of Harper… journeypeople? Journeyfolk? getting married probably isn’t particularly important, but these are characters readers have invested in over a number of books, so it would have been nice to show it, and as Silver Adept says it’s a nice opportunity to worldbuild, flesh out the society – who marries Pernese? Is the marriage recorded anywhere? Hold/Craft records presumably, but is that part of the ceremony? Who officiates? The local Lord? The Craftmaster? Who would officiate in a tiny Hold in the middle of nowhere? What are the vows? What are the expectations, both social and personal? What are the traditions?* Does it have any traces of the original settlers contract marriages? Etc, etc, etc.

    *We know the traditional Pernese wedding dress is shades of red, from the wedding F’lar and T’ron had the fight at, but we never got to see much else of that wedding.

  11. Silver Adept February 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Now that I think about it, this is the second missed opportunity for weddings, because Nerilka got married, too, but that got glossed over as well.

    These are the parts of the world that show up to help make it a better place and more vibrant, and we’re not getting any of this.

  12. depizan77 February 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    This whole book really suffers from that lack of willingness to do new world building stuff. It’s like McCaffrey would rather spend time rewriting bits from other books from a slightly different perspective than actually expand the world she created.

    (And her rewrites mostly just seem to raise questions she’s not interested in answering, like whatever the hell Toric’s problem is.)

  13. genesistrine February 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    @Silver Adept: well, considering the weird powerplay/grieving/etc issues with Nerilka’s marriage I’m kind of glad we missed that. Though it would have given plenty of play for description of what it was, of how it compared with people’s memories of what weddings “should” be, what they were like before the pandemic etc.

    @depizan: the odd thing though, is that that’s really only half true – the Jayge bits are new and do worldbuild; we get to see a bit of what Pern’s like when you’re stuck at ground level without important friends to get involved in case of trouble, without any Craft or Hold affiliation, and I’m still really impressed by the Threadfall scene at the beginning.

    Which makes it even weirder that something like half this damn book is Toric RAAR RAAR RAAR Piemur snide snide snide AMC hey remember this bit from an earlier book? Here it is again!

  14. depizan77 February 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm


    Yeah. She started to go somewhere different and then swerved away into boring rehashing. I wonder if that’s because if she’d continued actually looking at things from Jayge’s point of view, she’d have had to admit that Pern wasn’t so hot, after all.

    I mean, she did let him be a little sour on Pern and dragon riders and all, but the more time she spent on his story, the more right he was going to look. (Because he is right. Pern has serious issues if you’re not a member of the ruling classes.)

  15. genesistrine February 22, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Yeah, it’s like she realized that and that’s why he got a timeskip and suddenly reappeared in his own Hold with his lovely wife and baby and dogs and cool old settler stuff – it’s a bribe! As long as he stops showing Pern up as a horrible place he gets to keep his cool new life…. 😉

  16. Silver Adept February 28, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I wouldn’t put it past the narrative to bribe Jayge offscreen with Aramina and this life and then come back to him so that he can track about how nice everything is, now that he had his land and his bride and a good honest life as a homesteader.

    Because yes, it certainly seems like we were headed in the direction of criticism of the social systems of Pern, and we can’t have that.

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