The Renegades of Pern: Digging For More Artifacts

Last chapter, Piemur and Robinton excavated the communications tower of Landing and absconded with maps of the place left by the Ancients. And everyone confirmed Jayge and Aramina as the people who hold Paradise River, which alerts Thella to their presence. Thella, ravaged by a disease, gathers recruits and heads south to try and get revenge again…

The Renegades of Pern: Chapter XIV: Content Notes: Glass Ceiling Misogyny

(Present Pass, Turns 15-17)

…but we’re not going to stay with that. Instead, it’s Piemur again, and in a montage of sorts as we advance two years, basically, with achievements in circumnavigation of Pern, the dangers of the Southern Continent, aided by Harper stories, drying up the land rush that would have normally happened, (of which I suspect the Conclave of Lords were more than happy to have sent off their excess sons, and possibly daughters, to die and not split their lands), and allowing small holds to be established all over the inhabitable lands there. Another Weyr is designated in the South, called Eastern Weyr, initially led by T’gellan, that also ends up being a training Weyr for new riders and a Weyr for older and convalescent riders, too. K’van takes over Southern from D’ram by succeeding at a mating flight, and D’ram retires to Cove Hold with Robinton and Lytol. Alemi, Menolly’s brother, does good for himself by taking over the seahold attached to Paradise River. The excavations continue, giving Fandarel enough parts to potentially reassemble a flying sled and Robinton much hope that answers will soon be found about the Ancients and how they got to Pern.

Oh, and also, three births, all sons, all on the same day.

According to Silvina, Menolly gave birth to Robse between one note and the next; Sharra had slightly more difficulty producing Jarrol; and Nemekke arrived, two weeks before he was due, just before midnight, Benden Weyr time. Robinton and Lytol, deciding that they were the spiritual grandfathers of Menolly’s and Sharra’s sons, drank to their health, and that of Brekke’s second boy, with sufficient wine to have drowned all three.

Naming conventions of Pern, always interesting – Robse is clearly named after Menolly’s two great loves, Jarrol is named after Jaxom and Lytol, but Nemekke is interesting – Brekke provides the tail, but I would have expected the Brown Rider Rapist to have insisted that his name be present in her son’s naming.

As for Piemur, he keeps busy with Robinton, with Menolly and Brekke sending him pretty girls to help with cataloging everything, although none catch his eye, partially because they’re all making eyes at Robinton, who is still apparently the prettiest man in the Hold. Eventually the Cove Hold gets an annex and an expansion to house the large amounts of records generated, pieces housed, and the staff of apprentice archivists. Robinton’s monomania is contrasted with the problem of his aging body and possible beginnings of senility or memory issues. The fire-lizards aren’t as much help as we think, as they apparently only remember very important events in their history, like Landing, the volcanic eruption, and the stolen egg incident, because dragons flamed fire-lizards. But finally, Robinton asks the right question, the one we’ve been asking since the beginning.

“They can’t have kept so few copies!” the Harper insisted. “And we have the maps as examples of the durability of their materials — so where are the rest?”
“There were lapses in record-keeping,” Lytol agreed solemnly. “We now know there must have been a terrible fire in one portion of Fort Hold’s lowest level; we are also agreed that plague decimated Hall, Hold, and Weyr on three separate occasions. We may never learn our history.” He seemed as resigned to that possibility as the Harper was resistant to it.

We’ve seen two of those plagues – Moreta/Nerilka is one, the one that broke out soon after the move north was mentioned in passing in First Fall, and that leaves us with one major plague as-yet to be discovered. That, at least, accounts for the written record being less than what it could be. Orally, if enough key Craftmasters die before passing on their knowledge, then gaps appear. It still seems like a very long time to be on the decline and not rediscovering or inventing new things, because presumably the problems that need solutions still exist.

Sticking with Piemur, he gets to observe an earthquake, err, earthshake, collapse the map building from dragonback, which aborts his and Robinton’s plans to go digging. Back at Cove Hold, Piemur vents his frustration.

“It’s really rather simple,” Piemur muttered to the girl who was passing around soup and klah. “The next time all the fire-lizards flick off in a storm, you can expect another shake.”
“Are you certain of your facts?” she asked skeptically.
“Yes, on the basis of personal observation,” Piemur replied, not certain if he liked being challenged so quickly. Then he noticed the twinkle in her eye. She was not unattractive, with a mop of very curly black hair, gray eyes, and a fine log nose — he always noticed noses, since he regretted his own snub of a nose. “I’ve been in the South nearly ten Turns and that shock was nothing.”
“I’ve been here ten days, and I found that shock on settling, journeyman. I don’t recognize your colors,” she added, nodding at his shoulder knots.
He winked at her and assumed an arrogant pose. “Cove Hold!” He was extremely proud to be one of a half-dozen entitled to wear those colors.
Her reply brought the gratifying reaction he had expected. “Then you’re journeyman to Master Robinton? Piemur? My grandfa mentions you frequently! I’m Jancis, Telgar Smithcrafthall journey woman.”
He made a disparaging sound. “You don’t look like any Smithcrafter I’ve ever seen.”
A dimple flashed in her right cheek when she smiled. “That’s exactly what my grandfa says,” she said, snapping her fingers.
“And who might your grandfa be?” Piemur asked obediently.
Her smile had a touch of mischief as she turned with her tray to serve others. “Fandarel!”
“Hey Jancis, come back!” Piemur shot to his feet, spilling soup over his hands.

Apparently, Piemur does like being challenged that way. He may have finally found someone that gives as good as he does. Or, perhaps, he’s intrigued by this pretty woman also being a Smith, and therefore strong and capable. Either way, I think we’ve found a match.

Robinton intercepts Piemur before he can pursue Jancis and offers him the opportunity to go examine some new underground ruins discovered when the earthshake collapsed some of what was covering them. While everyone is dithering about who should go in, Piemur shimmies down, which starts a mad scramble to follow. The discovery is lots and lots of plastic-wrapped goods and artifacts, meaning they’ve found the warehouse and stores. This will make more than a few people happy, especially Fandarel.

While they sit around for others to come and see it all, too, the narrative takes a shift over to Toric, who is livid that one of his Holders, Denol, has decided the island he’s administering will do just fine as an independent hold. Toric is having none of this, calls forth his henchmen to go rough them up, and dispatches a message to Benden asking for support.

“Toric,” Kevelon said, “you can’t expect dragonriders to take punitive action against people–”
“No, no, of course not. But this Denol will soon see that he cannot maintain his position on my island!”
[…Ramala arrives with word of the discovery at Landing. Toric dismisses it as unimportant….]
“I want all the single men aboard the Bay Lady by midday, with suitable supplies of weapons, including those barbed spears we’ve been using against the big felines.”
[…Toric dispatches his messages…]
Never had Toric expected to be challenged in his own Hold, and by a jumped-up drudge of a crop picker. He would pick him over, so he would!

Toric’s Berserk Button, then, is any time someone tries to take something from him he considers his. Also, a bit rich that someone who ditched a fisher hold to make his own fortune would be so disparaging of someone else trying to do the same idea.

That said, I always did wonder what would happen when someone made this kind of claim. Since there’s no police force except the dragonriders, and they don’t interfere, matters of contract and who owns what apparently are settled by force of arms. I wonder if Denol has enough witnesses for their own claim, too.

Having shown us where Toric will be, the action goes back to Robinton receiving the message from Toric and delivering it up to the Benden Weyrleaders, while exploration of the storehouses continues apace. Piemur gets drafted by Jancis to help with measurements, and after a little bit, and Jancis wondering how the Ancients cut stone so easily, Piemur gives in a little to his inner misogynist.

“You haven’t actually worked metal, have you?” Piemur finally blurted out, unable to contain himself any longer. She was not a fragile-looking girl, but neither did she have the bulging muscles of most make smiths he knew.

Piemur, comparing men and women on musculature is going to go nearly nowhere. If you want to know how strong she is, you should let her arm-wrestle you or something. But since Pern’s other Crafts have basically said “NO GIRLS”, except the Smithcraft, Piemur has never had to get used to women in the Crafts. Fandarel has been taking women for his craft ever since the Benden Weyrleaders thought it was weird all the way back in the original trilogy, so really, Piemur, you should be used to women Smiths being strong.

Jancis continues.

“Yes, the Crafthall required me to, but not the heavy stuff,” she answered absently, more intent on measuring the archway than on his questions. She gave him the measurements. “There’s a lot more to smithing than working hot metal or glass. I know the principles of my Craft, or I’d not have walked the tables.” She cocked her head at him, the dimple appearing with her grin. “Can you craft every instrument a harper plays?”
“I know the principles,” Piemur said with a laugh and then held up the glowbasket to see into the next chamber. “What have we here?”

And Jancis continues to give as good as she gets, so there’s a clear attraction from Piemur going on. He confirms this for us with a hope to distract Jancis from their purpose.

The discovery of note in this case is a lot more records, like the evacuation plans, and some other important documents. The interesting thing here is that Jancis comments on the “funny shape to these letters”, which suggests that computer printout is different enough to be odd, but not enough to be unreadable, which makes me wonder what typeface printouts came on. And again, the fact that two thousand years plus of culture hasn’t drifted the written language enough to be useless is highly suspicious. To prevent the cavern from being washed out in a storm, the dragons of the Benden Weyrleaders are going to act as umbrellas. There’s a bit of talk about dragons as designed creatures in very old Records over lunch, where the spoils of the morning’s exploration are discussed. And that’s the end of the chapter. Hooray, exploration and exposition with artifacts. And threatened war. With the Thella story still unresolved.

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8 thoughts on “The Renegades of Pern: Digging For More Artifacts

  1. WanderingUndine March 2, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I think Jarrol is a combination of Jaxom, *Sharra,* and Lytol.

  2. genesistrine March 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    There’s an interesting line in the description of Eastern Weyr’s creation:

    With no need any longer to limit mating flights to keep the dragon population down to that which the existing Weyrs could accommodate

    So… mating flights can be limited? How? Why was this never mentioned before?

    And I can see a longterm problem coming if dragons get to breed as much as they want. It was implied in the earlier books that they instinctively breed more when the Red Star’s approaching and less during Interval, so maybe once the Red Star’s dealt with they’ll switch to the Interval breeding cycle, but then again what will the excuse be to keep greens chewing firestone and sterile?

    K’van takes over Southern from D’ram by succeeding at a mating flight,

    To quote: Heth surprised complacent older bronze riders by flying Adrea’s Beljeth in her mating flight

    Adrea, in case anyone still has has some ick that hasn’t outed yet, was the girl who Impressed instead of Aramina. It’s probably best not to think about precisely why she was the queenrider sent to a Weyr full of horny geriatrics.

    Nemekke is interesting – Brekke provides the tail, but I would have expected the Brown Rider Rapist to have insisted that his name be present in her son’s naming.

    Maybe he’s stalking round the Weyr glaring suspiciously at everyone with a name including the syllable “nem”.

    “They can’t have kept so few copies!” the Harper insisted. “And we have the maps as examples of the durability of their materials – so where are the rest?”

    “There were lapses in record-keeping,” Lytol agreed solemnly. “We now know there must have been a terrible fire in one portion of Fort Hold’s lowest level; we are also agreed that plague decimated Hall, Hold, and Weyr on three separate occasions. We may never learn our history.” He seemed as resigned to that possibility as the Harper was resistant to it.

    We’ve seen two of those plagues – Moreta/Nerilka is one, the one that broke out soon after the move north was mentioned in passing in First Fall, and that leaves us with one major plague as-yet to be discovered. That, at least, accounts for the written record being less than what it could be.

    What that doesn’t mention is another thing we saw in Nerilka; deteriorating Records. The ink has faded on the oldest ones she looks at; the only legible ones are from the previous Pass (ie around 300 years old). The older records didn’t survive because the original settlers didn’t know how to make archival-quality paper and ink, and once they ran out of biros and whatever paper they brought with them decay was inevitable.

    If they’d had suitable materials then the epidemics might have caused a blip in new Records as people had more important things to worry about, but the previous Records would still be there. Epidemics are a threat to oral knowledge, but that’s a good reason for having writing in the first place!

    But since Pern’s other Crafts have basically said NO GIRLS, except the Smithcraft,

    AMC seems to be quietly trying to retcon that and hope no-one notices – Jayge got hit on by a journeywoman earlier on, though it was never mentioned which Craft she belonged to, and Sharra’s expressly sent to Oldive to train in this book. (She’s only been called a journeywoman in the Dragondex back matter so far, though, and I don’t know when that was compiled or who by – might be AMC, might have been someone else.)

    Now I come to think of it, “What’s been retconned in this book?” would have been an entertaining game to play if I’d thought of it earlier….

    computer printout is different enough to be odd, but not enough to be unreadable, which makes me wonder what typeface printouts came on.

    Comic Sans. Comic Sans is immortal.

  3. emmy March 3, 2017 at 10:58 am

    So… mating flights can be limited? How? Why was this never mentioned before?

    My vague impression from previous text is that you can force your dragons to fly low, both through mental control and through eating flesh instead of just blooding, which doesn’t prevent the flight but means it won’t create a lot of eggs.

    But they also talked about how Jora’s queen (the pre-lessa one, I can’t remember the dragon’s name) should have been rising much more frequently in the build-up to the interval. Whether that was meant to be dragon instinct or a sign that there WAS a tool for slowing/speeding dragon fertility, I’m not sure.

    Really, in the middle of a Pass, they shouldn’t be needing to limit flights at all? This may be a sign of AMC shying away from the earlier-implied casualty rates of dragonriders in Fall.

  4. Digitalis March 3, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Nemekke is interesting – Brekke provides the tail, but I would have expected the Brown Rider Rapist to have insisted that his name be present in her son’s naming.

    I’m pretty sure at least the N does come from his name; maybe they didn’t like the sound of Normekke? In any case, the beginning letter would be the only important part of the syllable, as presumably it will be elided eventually when/(if) he Impresses.

  5. Firedrake March 3, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    “Robinton, that belongs in a museum!”

    Genesistrine, you beat me to it on the font. Given what we know of the original colonists, I expect that Comic Sans was the official standard font for the expedition. With liberal use of bold and “italics”.

    Technological regression makes a tempting story idea, but it’s hard to justify (and I write as a fan of classic Battletech). Even the historical “Dark Ages” don’t look so much like that when you take a better look at them, and the term is largely falling out of use now.

  6. genesistrine March 4, 2017 at 8:24 am

    @Firedrake: and colours! And lots of clipart! (Probably of knockoff Minions memes from Facebook.)

    I think, to be fair, you could justify a lot of technological regression in Pern’s situation. While Robinton’s complaining about lack of Records Piemur’s looking at a circuit board, trying to figure it out, which a) you’re not going to figure out a circuit board from scratch and b) circuit boards in spaceships, don’t make me laugh. God knows what FSP tech would look like, but it would no doubt be even less figure-out-from-scratch-friendly. They deliberately brought only minimal manufacturing tech, and they used that up making Threadproof hats. After that wears out nothing can be repaired or replaced, and it’s back to blacksmiths and animal power.

    On the other hand, when you look at what’s missing, it has to have been deliberate and concerted suppression by someone. An incredibly important thing I didn’t mention in the decaying Records thing; printing. If you have multiple copies of information it’s more likely to survive. Printing – and historians to read it, curate it, make sure it gets reprinted – doesn’t exist on Pern. And I can’t see how that can be accidental. Someone – someones – made sure that printing was forgotten; that history is only made up of culture heroes with no context or time markers other than “Pass” or “Interval”.

    It has to have been the Harpers….

  7. Stardust March 8, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Not necessarily. Printing requires plants. On an alien planet it could be quite possible the plants/trees you brought over to make paper end up not making it.

  8. genesistrine March 9, 2017 at 4:58 am

    No, they have paper – there’s a big thing about the super-amazing hightech woodpulp sheets someone’s invented (Benelek?) in the earlier books.

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