The Dolphins of Pern: Not As Dumb As You Think

Last time, Toric schemed, decided the hurricane was a good time to put his scheme into action, and expressed hatred for dolphins, Readis helped dolphins after a hurricane and got yelled at and struck by Aramina for it, prompting him to leave Paradise River rather than promise Aramina he wouldn’t have anything to do with the dolphins.

The Dolphins of Pern: Chapters XII and XIII: Content Notes:

In grand Pern tradition, the action shifts over to K’van, at Benden, who is fully aware of all the settlements Toric has been building, and suspects that Toric intends to move on his plans soon. The Benden Weyrleader says there’s not much to do regarding a Holder, but K’van points out that all these settlements are outside the boundary markers of Southern Hold as established, and he and the Benden Weyrleader exchange some knowing glances about what to observe next, as K’van describes the discreet spying being done on Toric, as well as the apparent scheme of Toric selling land he doesn’t own to settlers that will then back him later when the Council comes to meet. The hurricane provided the evidence needed to confirm suspicions by exposing settlements that were previously hidden by the treeline.

Lessa is in favor of a (currently metaphorical) scorched-earth policy regarding Toric, but the Benden Weyrleader and K’van are both in favor of the idea of exposing Toric to the Council of Lord Holders and letting them handle him. Although Benden is not above using dragons to impart a lesson, one that apparently worked rather well the first time it was used on a similar situation. Lessa eventually catches on, and starts laughing, and proclaims that Robinton would be as well.

While we shift over to the return of the injured dolphins at Paradise River, those playing along at home can either research or chuckle at whatever plan Benden has in mind.

Jayge is hoping that three days is enough to get Readis to come back. Unfortunately, neither he nor Aramina is really ready to forgive Readis.

He wished that Aramina had not been so didactic about issuing that ultimatum to Readis. Although he understood her panic, and certainly agreed with her that Readis had acted disgracefully, he also understood his son will enough to know that forcing the boy to promise against his conscience would make him rebel. The boy was of the right age to resent a mother’s restrictions. Jayge earnestly hoped that the three anxious days would be enough for Readis to have made his point and make an honorable return. By this morning, Aramina had been beside herself with remorse at driving her oldest child away. Jayge doubted that she’d renew her demand that Readis stop seeing the dolphins, but he was equally certain she would never cease blaming the creatures for the trouble they’d caused her and hers.

So they’re not actually ready to forgive Readis, they just want him back because they’re worried he’s not going to survive out there. The narrative does acknowledge Jayge and Aramina are here because they think Readis will come back to check on the dolphins, but there’s no indication that they have gone looking for Readis in the time between when they decided to get their child back and this point in time. Which might have been this morning, according to that text block above. And truce would only last until the next time Readis is with the dolphins. This has the hallmarks of being the kind of family relationship between a highly anti-LGBT parent group and a kid that intends to live their life out of the closet. Running away and finding a supportive household may be the best option for everyone involved.

T’lion, T’gellan, and Persellan also arrive to check on the dolphins. T’lion has been unpersoned by Persellan in regard to having destroyed the book, for which Jayge thinks T’lion is lucky to only have been given the silent treatment (although it’s really Persellan addressing the air in front of him and T’lion responding, because T’lion is the only one with firsthand knowledge of what transpired).

As Jayge waits for Readis and the dolphins arrive, we find that “Worry conflicted with a rising and righteous anger that Readis, who had always been treated with respect, would repay their kindness in this fashion!”

Except the part where his mother slapped him and told him to get out if he wouldn’t promise her something and his father didn’t intervene.

This “ungrateful child” narrative might work better if the child didn’t have damn good reasons to repay their “kindness” in such a way. There’s never any real confirmation to Readis that his parents love him just as much despite the injury and that they consider him a fit and fine son. It’s pretty explicit that Aramina takes no interest in his dolphin fascination (because triggers) and Jayge doesn’t seem to have taken any interest, either, because of Aramina’s vehemence. There’s no evidence on camera that we’ve seen to this point that Readis has been treated with any respect, culminating in the slap and dismissal from a few days ago. Even now, Jayge sides with Aramina that Readis is wrong and believes himself that Readis has been out long enough to satisfy his tantrum, but he’s unwilling to examine the idea that he and Aramina are going to have to budge, more than just failing to forbid Readis, if he wants a happy household and a child that feels he’s been treated with respect.

They’re not ready to forgive Readis and welcome him back. They want their son to obey. That’s not a recipe for a successful family. It’s a recipe for an abusive one.

Once Jayge gets a good look at the injury, he admits to himself that Readis was right, and that nobody at the Hold suffered injuries as severe as the dolphins. He doesn’t actually say this out loud, of course. Persellan examines both dolphins, cuts stitches and sends them on their way. One of the mothers of the injured dolphins leaves T’lion with a very pretty shell, and one of the injured dolphins gives Persellan a kiss. After seeing what the two boys used the book for, Persellan forgives T’lion for taking and ruining it.

With no Readis present, T’lion begs Jayge to ask T’gellan if he can go find Readis, although the actual request doesn’t mention that part. T’gellan assets, so long as T’lion is back in time for his required copying so that Persellan gets a new book in short order. T’lion feels confident and happy to tell Readis of the news and a plan to get himself apprenticed to learn Healing so he can use it on the dolphins, but T’lion searches for a while and gets no leads. He promises Jayge and Aramina that he’ll try again tomorrow, and that’s where the chapter ends.

If T’lion finds Readis, and gives him the news, I’m still not sure Readis has any reason to come back. If Readis has found a place that provides shelter, he can make fire, forage, and has dolphins he can call to help with the fishing, he’ll be just fine on his own (until he gets hurt). Menolly proved you could do it, so Readis has precedent. It’s probably going to be up to Jayge to apologize well enough to Readis to bring him back. I’m still not sure he’s in the right frame of mind to do it.

Then we jump into the next chapter. The narrative has a gun on the mantel to fire, and this is the appointed time. Just as the Benden Weyrleaders are sitting down to food, the call comes in that Toric is on the move. And in the same way that they had intimidated the attackers storming Benden all the way back in Dragonflight, the queen dragons get to intimidate the sailing ships into turning around and returning, while the bronze dragonriders transport Lords Holder to the settlements to show the evidence of Toric’s ambition.

The narrative changes to Toric gloating about the profits of his enterprise and planning future settlements.

He disliked resorting to the Ancients’ names–they’d had their chance and lost it to Thread–but since Aivas had identified places by what it had in its memory, the old names for the Southern Continent had been seized upon with great enthusiasm as “a link with their heritage.” Toric was not of that mind. He had the future to plan for and that was what he’d been doing while everyone else on the planet seemed to be wallowing in ancestral accomplishments and striving to reconstruct all sorts of devices. He was probably one of the few who did not regret the silence of Aivas or the demise of the old Harper–who had been a meddler of the first order.

He’s right about Robinton, and if it weren’t for the fact that he’s a designated villain, Toric would totally work as an Ayn Rand hero, pushing forward with progress in the face of all the backward-looking traditionalists obsessed with their past.

As it is, of course, the gloating stops when he realizes there’s too much noise for an empty Hold, right before the Benden Weyrleaders and a select committee of Lord Holders (Groghe, Larad, Asgenar) bid him have a look at his own front yard, where the ships and all the personnel that should have been at the settlements are crowded. Along with the rest of the Lord Holders.

Toric blusters, insinuates Groghe is going along with this because he has pen–Hold size envy, that the South is not for dragonriders to parcel out, and that this is Hold business. The leaders of the Weyrs point out that its not in his Hold they’re interfering, and the Benden Weyrleader promises that at the end of the pass, some twenty-two turns away, nobody will have to tithe to the Weyrs again, because they will have their own lands and halls.

Toric presses the matter of why dragonriders get to choose when places can be settled, because the Charter said everyone gets to choose their own land. To which Asgenar points out that Toric has been charging all of his settlers exorbitant prices for every part of their settlement and any other thing they had, and one of the settlers pipes in the they have not actually been able to go to their settlement sites until now.

As a conciliatory gesture, the Benden Weyrleader promises that if the people who are here to settle can “prove [their] holdings, they will be officially granted [to them,] […] Free and clear,” which elicits a cheer.

Toric’s patience runs out and he charges the Benden Weyrleader to take a swing at him, which is easily dodged, and then Larad, Asgenar, and Jaxom seize Toric and cart him away for a private conference. Before the conference begins, Benden releases the settlers to go settle their lands as they had intended, but with the extra bonus of not being beholden to Toric if they don’t want to be.

The conference itself is the other Lords Holder dressing Toric down about not abiding by the covenant decided, nor figuring out any way of guarding against abuse or foreknowledge of special sites. And explain to him that the reports the dragonriders have collected have been going back to the council of Holders, and that there have been no special favors asked or granted for dragonriders or sons and daughters without land, and that nobody gets to apportion land without the agreement of the dragonriders and the Holders.

Toric has one reasonable question, and it’s one we’ve been asking since we knew the dragonriders would have an end point.

“Is that what you’ll become when you’re no longer needed to char Thread? The guardians of order on Pern?” Toric glared at F’lar.
“That is what some of us will certainly be doing,” F’lar said equably, “when, as, and if“–he paused significantly–“such overseeing is needed.”
“And who decides the when, as, and if, might I ask?”
“You may, and–”
“There will be guidelines for that, too,” Larad interrupted.
“Which we,” Groghe said, “in the Council will decide and refer to the special Gathers that will let everyone, Hold, Hall, and dragonrider, have a vote on the matter. Or will you absent yourself from that meeting as well?”

So the dragonriders will be the police force of Pern in the future, although it’s a remarkably democratic method of determining the guidelines for their use. For a moment, I wondered if Pern were going to go the way of mass democracy, but apparently not.

After Toric receives his final warning about sticking to his own lands and not trying to make himself bigger by sneaky annexation, with R’mart indicating that Toric doesn’t want to know what the penalties will be if he violates those prohibitions, K’van delivers the stinger.

K’van! Toric bellowed, and when the young Weyrleader turned in the doorway to face him, Toric raised his fist. “If I see a single one of your riders anywhere near this Hold…”
“Ah, but you see, you won’t, Lord Toric,” K’van said with a soft smile. “But then you have been too busy to notice that the Weyr is empty and we have settled in a much more congenial location, heretofore unoccupied.”
“With the full consent of the council of Lord Holders,” Larad added. “Good day, Toric of Southern Hold.”

And that’s the end of the chapter, with supposedly another humiliation dealt to Toric. Of course, that’s not likely to stop him, as none of the other ones have, either. In theory, all of his new neighbors should help keep him in check, but it’s probably going to have to be the demonstrated willingness of the dragonriders to physically put him in his place before he’ll actually give in.

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2 thoughts on “The Dolphins of Pern: Not As Dumb As You Think

  1. genesistrine October 13, 2017 at 1:33 am

    And the Dad of the Year award goes to Jayge, for “if only Readis would stop doing what he’s been fascinated by since he was tiny and now wants to make a career of our family life would be perfect!” Hands together for our winner!

    That said, I’m still going to give AMC tentative ups for this, since AFAIR it’s the first time one side in a dispute hasn’t been portrayed as an Evil, Totally-Wrong-And-Nasty-To-Boot, Kicks Fire Lizard Eggs cartoon villain.

  2. Silver Adept October 14, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I think you’re right about that, but I also think it’s a function of being an actual conflict between two heroes of their respective books, and so the old formula doesn’t work. It’s author development!

    (It’s not much, but it’s there.)

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