Last time, Idarolan, T’lion, and Menolly meet dolphins, as Alemi continues to work on getting to communicate and reestablish partnerships. Everyone is apparently too focused on the AI to consider that dolphins are useful to more than Fishers.
The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter VI: Content Notes: Matchmaking, bullying attempts
Chapter VI opens with Aramina’s paranoia fading into the background in the light of Readis learning his ballads, another son joining Readis, and Alemi finally getting a son of his own. Aramina has plans for Readis to be Lord Holder of Paradise River, “though she secretly harbored the thought that he might be Searched for a dragonrider to the Eastern Weyr: He might be what she hadn’t had the courage to pursue.”
Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Not when you spent a couple chapters earlier in in this book detailing to us why Aramina is paranoid about Readis getting involved with dolphins. It’s not a lack of courage that Aramina suffers from, it’s fucking PTSD! Aramina was subjected to torture and murder attempts because of her talent. And yes, Lessa offered to make her a queen rider candidate, but it was right after she was done going through all that trauma. And is there any sort of actual rule that says older women can’t Impress, or is it just a societal thing that women over eighteen don’t get the opportunity any more? Why can’t Aramina try out for it anyway?
Aramina wonders if Readis might follow in the dual-status role of Jaxom, a question complicated by whether or not the Weyrs will disband if they succeed at permanently killing off the threat of Thread. Aramina concludes its good for Readis to have a backup plan, and he’d be able to ride and hold together, since Jayge is likely to live quite a while past the end of Thread.
As things stand, Menolly’s replacement Harper arrives, an Ista fisherhold child named Boskoney, but before he actually gets here, the narrative talks about his choosing, including a very vital bit of information about the Harper Hall:
“They have to have someone as alert, eager, and,” she added with a smile, “as adventurous be understanding of this environment as possible. We do have a lovely girl finishing her apprenticeship, if you wouldn’t mind a woman harper…” Menolly cocked her head at her friends with a slot from and twinkle in her eye.
“Of course we wouldn’t mind,” Jayge and Alemi said in unison, then smiled at each other.
“As well, but Hally won’t walk the tables for another nine or ten months and it’s not good to start the teaching process and then interrupt it for such a long time. The children of this Hold are eager to learn, and I don’t like to put them off.”
Cocowhat by depizan
Good news: we’ve got it officially confirmed that there are other women Harpers following in Menolly’s footsteps who aren’t obvious Doylist inserts.
Bad news: Menolly is selling her as a Harper based on her good looks instead of her musical talent.
Based on this and what happened last chapter, I would like the author to answer one question: Who is this impostor, and what have you done with Menolly?
First, Alemi and Jayge are both married with children. Which would be scandalous here on Terra, but it’s pretty firmly established on Pern that the Lords Holder do not give a flying fuck about monogamy, only about succession rules, so I’m inclined to give it a pass based on the consistency of the worldbuilding.
Second, however, that’s Menolly’s brother and best friend she’s essentially dangling a young beautiful woman in front of. I don’t normally expect siblings, especially sisters, to be deliberately sending subordinates into the presence of guys likely to objectify her with a wink and a nod that it would be okay to do that.
Finally, and most importantly, that’s way out of character for Menolly, who was relentlessly bullied by the popular pretty girls (remember that Menolly was supposedly an ugly giant with no compulsions to modesty in Dunca’s cottage) and then treated as a dumb girl by most, if not all of, the Masters when she finally got sorted out. The last thing that Menolly is going to do is send a woman out for her journey based on whether or not she’s going to look pretty while she’s at it. Especially if she wants someone eager and adventurous and willing to teach.
Either Menolly’s been replaced, or there’s some seriously powerful magic at work once you get married and have a child on Stepf–Pern, I mean. There’s just. no. way.
And it gets worse. While Menolly is briefing Jayge and Aramina on the possible candidates:
“Not at all,” Jayge said. “We’re quiet here and there are not that many children…”
“Yet,” Aramina added with a wink. When the excitement of that admission had abated, she asked if any of the men[, which Aramina and Jayge have sketches of, courtesy Perschar,] were married.
“Not yet.” Menolly grinned. “You’ve several lovely girls here among your holders. We have to give them some choice, too, and not limit it to smelly seamen.” She grinned at her brother.
Cocowhat by depizan
What is this bizarro-world where Menolly is knowingly trying to play matchmaker with the Harpers and commenting on the attractiveness of the young women here?
Unless…. Menolly is bi? It still doesn’t explain why she’s willing to throw a young Harper woman to these wolves, but it might help with why she’s noticing and appreciating the young women here (and perhaps some help in explaining, past “grew up in a sea hold”, why she was so comfortable being naked around the other girls at Dunca’s).
Otherwise, I’ve got nothing as to why the Menolly that’s been reasonably consistent up until now is suddenly desirous of sending the pretty ones instead of the skilled ones.
In any case, Boskoney arrives, exit Menolly, but the plot is actually focusing on T’lion, who usually transports Boskoney to and from Landing. Until he gets called in to see T’gellan, and the presence of his brother and a loud comment from his own dragon lets him in on why they want to see him.
That gave T’lion the clue he needed: K’din had been spying on his evening sessions with the dolphins.
“I believe you have some explaining to do, T’lion,” T’gellan said sternly, cocking an eyebrow at his young rider. Mirrim also looked repressive.
“About the dolphins?” T’lion hoped he sounded more relaxed than he actually was.
“Yes, dolphins is what Aivas called them.” He saw the Weyrleaders exchange glances as he casually dropped in that authority.
Well, there went the idea that Mirrim wasn’t actually the Weyrwoman of Eastern Weyr, which is too bad.
However, what that did is essentially wreck the system that’s been consistent in every other Pern book, because all the other Weyromen have always been gold queen riders and Path is definitely a green. Which makes me want to see how Eastern successfully functions all the more, because I doubt that a gold rider is going to meekly stand aside so that some green [bleep] can rule instead. And the gold queens are what Weyrs definitely need to produce the bronzes that are the backbones of Thread fights. So, really, what we need is a day or five inside Eastern, if we can get it. Too bad that won’t happen.
In any case, T’gellan and Mirrim question T’lion’s involvement with the dolphins, T’lion gives his answers, and the two conclude that it would be a good idea to see the dolphins themselves. T’lion cheerfully invites K’din along, a move that both Weyrleaders agree to while giving K’din what amounts to the stink-eye. The meeting looks like it might go well, with T’lion pleased that the dolphins are saying “we” instead of “oo-ee,” but one of them exuberantly soaks Mirrim and the other says that Mirrim’s pregnant because she can see the baby.
There’s also this bit, which may have been intended harmlessly, or even as a cheer for women, but instead hits a space that should be familiar to most women.
“You woman, not oomans,” Natua said.
Mirrim made an O with her mouth, amazed that he recognized the difference. “Thank you, Natua! C’mon in, T’gellan, you’re missing half the fun and the water’s…warm!”
Yep, women aren’t humans. They’re clearly some other species or alien entity altogether. Men are the default, women are different. Nice going, humans.
In any case, Mirrim is shocked by the announcement of the pregnancy, and the dolphins claim their sonar makes it possible for them to know that the baby is there. Given that ultrasound works on the same principles…well, maybe?
T’lion is mortified at this turn of events, and especially at such an exorbitant claim in front of K’din. T’gellan takes the sensible route and says they’re all flying, without hyperspace, to AIVAS to see if the claims are valid. Which exposes how much research and reporting T’lion has been doing for AIVAS, since everyone, including the AI, knows him by name (and AIVAS says straight up that T’lion has been reporting to him on it.) That said, the AI says the dolphins are right and gives an explanation of what sonar is and how it was used by the Ancients to detect tumors and growths as well as pregnancies. T’gellan and Mirrim have a happy embrace, and then T’gellan wonders if this trick could be put to use, say, in spotting infections, since the Weyr Healer had severe problems trying to save a leg from “blood poisoning” that only manifested after the infection had advanced significantly. AIVAS says it’s possible. Plans are made to send this information to the Healers, through D’ram.
There’s also something that exposes something that I think would be an increased problem (or, perhaps, “problem”, depending on the opinion of the rider involved) now that there’s a queen fighting wing equipped with flamethrowers that sallies out on Threadfall.
“That meeting with your dolphin friends took a most unexpected turn, lad. We thank you. [Mirrim]’s lost two babes because she didn’t know she was pregnant. We don’t want to lose another.
[…the plans to inform the Healers start…]
“It’s always been a problem for Weyrwomen to know when they be conceived…and stay out of between in the first few months. You’ll have women flocking to the shores to speak to dolphins.”
Considering that dragons are essentially the fastest transport around, how do Weyrwomen actually stay out of hyperspace long enough to get visibly pregnant? Are they tied down enough at their own Weyr that they can’t take a trip anywhere for months? If so, then how good are their headwomen? If not, what possibly keeps them out, since now they can fight on their own? Maybe if their dragon is visibly pregnant? That seems like it would ground a Weyrwoman for long enough that her own pregnancy might show. (Moreta, I think, complained about this very phenomenon, although she wasn’t pregnant, just her dragon.) It would be an interesting study to see how many children are born to Weyrwomen within a particular window of a gold dragon hatching a clutch.
I also wonder what the experience of the lost child is, as a biological matter. I’ve only read things about how uteruses expel failed pregnancies, so the only thing I could do is guess as to how they know they’ve failed twice, when supposedly they were both before the point where the baby bump was visible. Maybe the presence of morning sickness or something else before an extra-heavy menstruation?
And also, I think I take issue with the characterization that women will flock to the dolphins, because I think, even as far back as Dragonquest, there was an explicit mention of Hold women and others discreetly seeking the services of dragonriders to provide abortions-by-hyperspace. So clearly not everyone is interested, or maybe might be interested so that they can arrange a hyperspace hop. (This is where it would be nice to know how the mechanics work. Would popping into hyperspace the morning after always work, and thus provide a form of always-effective birth control? When is the window of opportunity best?)
I also would like to know what goes on between T’gellan and Mirrim that she is also happily wanting babies, considering for the longest time everyone, including her, expected her to be a spinster because of her attitude.
Getting to the plot again, the Weyr Healer is skeptical about dolphin abilities including when one of them pinpoints a place where infection is about to begin again, because there’s a needlethorn stuck in the arm of the child, and the headwoman suspected the kids was just faking to get out of chores. Once the dolphins have correctly diagnosed lots of known pregnancies, and then both a broken bone set poorly from a childhood injury and what is likely womb with “growths” that need cleaning, the Healer (after shuddering at the thought of operation, especially in having to go into the uterus through the vagina to do it) is finally convinced.
And then had to perform surgery on a dolphin to stitch up a wound, which will end successfully, despite all the healer’s protests, and which takes is to the end of the chapter. No dolphin segment here, even though I would have expected one about the story of the man who stitched up the dolphin and how this meant that the mans were remembering more of their contract.
The Healer’s reticence to stitch up a dolphin would make more sense, were it not that this is the Weyr Healer from Eastern, and therefore should be much more used to the idea of stitching up living nonhumans. T’lion even calls him out on it, and the Healer still protests. Anyway, maybe next week things will be back to the usual horrible instead of the special horrible.